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A Wing and a Prayer

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Emma knew it was improper to walk away from her own engagement ball, but she just couldn’t take it anymore. The sounds of music and celebration were muted in the halls, but the quiet didn’t calm the turbulent thoughts echoing around in her head.

The whole kingdom of Misthaven may have been thrilled about the union, but she wasn’t.

Not that she had much of a choice, really.

The truth of the matter was that Misthaven was under threat of war with the Dark Kingdom. Rumplestiltskin, its ruler, had set his sights on Misthaven years ago. Once Emma had come of age he tried using an arranged marriage to take control of her parents’ lands. It wasn’t a gesture of unification, but rather a demand that she marry his son - or face a hostile takeover.

The King and Queen had outright refused.

Though Emma would have done so to ensure the safety of her kingdom, her parents knew that a marriage to the Dark One’s son would only lead to Emma’s doom. While she appreciated the fact that they wanted her to marry for love, a war was on the horizon and Emma knew she needed to act quickly. Misthaven was far from defenseless, but the Dark One was powerful. They had an army, but their men would be no use against a magic user as strong as Rumplestiltskin.  The fact was, when it came to magic, her kingdom was sorely lacking in firepower.

There was a small neighboring kingdom, Oz, that was ruled by a powerful witch. Going to her for help wasn’t something that anyone would recommend, but Emma was desperate. Zelena was one of the few people alive who could hope to face off against the power of the Dark Kingdom.  At least… that’s what Emma hoped.

Zelena was all too happy to help Misthaven. All the witch wanted in return was an alliance of a more permanent nature. It made sense: magical assistance for military power. All Emma had to do was marry Zelena’s second in command: The Wizard of Oz.

Her parents balked at the idea, but the deal had already been struck. Emma would marry Walsh and they’d have Oz’s help in the war.

It wasn’t an ideal match. Emma couldn’t see herself ever falling in love with her husband-to-be. He seemed to lack the spine the witch had and he wasn’t anywhere near the handsome hero that Emma had read about in the books she kept hidden under the loose floorboard in her room.  He seemed nice enough, if a little bit shrewd. However, as far as suitors went, he was a better choice than the Dark One’s son.

At least it seemed that way.

Unfortunately, after all was said and done, Emma learned otherwise. After stumbling upon a conversation she wasn’t supposed to hear, she realized that Zelena had no plans to help Misthaven at all. Instead, she was planning on using the marriage as a way to hand over the kingdom to the Dark One, himself.

Two weeks before the engagement ball, Emma had known that she needed to find a way out of the arrangement. She couldn’t just call everything off - Zelena may have chosen to not honor the treaty after the wedding but if Emma broke it beforehand, Oz would surely declare war. With two magical enemies fighting them on two fronts, Misthaven would surely be destroyed.

She couldn’t go to her parents. It was her mess and she needed to clean it up without worrying them further. Putting them in danger was something she wanted to avoid at all costs. So, while her mother was preparing for the ball, Emma was trying to find a way to run away - without it looking like she’d run away.

At first, she thought she might go to Graham, her parents’ most trusted knight, but quickly realized he might feel obligated to go straight to her parents. She needed to look outside the palace walls.

The stories from her childhood might hold the answer. Her father had often spun tales of magical creatures when she was a little girl. Unfortunately, she found that despite the magic found in the realm, the creatures she’d learned about were either fickle beings or nonexistent entirely. Fairies hadn’t answered her pleas for help and it had been centuries since anyone had seen any sort of beast that kidnapped princesses.

By the time the ball began, Emma realized that she wasn’t going to find a savior in fairy tales. So she took matters into her own hands.

Time was short. At any moment, someone - be it her parents, the palace guards, or even her fiancé - would notice she had been missing for far too long.

Emma sighed and slumped against the wall as hopelessness washed over her. She couldn’t do this alone, and yet she was her only ally.

Just as Emma was about to resign herself to marrying Walsh and hoping for the best, something stopped her. She couldn’t place the strange feeling that had come over her, but it felt similar to the pleasant buzz she got when she drank just a bit too much champagne. Knowing that she didn’t have nearly enough to drink tonight to cause that, Emma couldn’t explain what was going on.

She straightened up and started walking back towards the ballroom only to have the strange feeling overwhelm her. Curious to the pull it seemed to have, she changed her course. Emma wasn’t sure what she was following but she knew whatever it was had to be getting closer. The buzz almost felt as if it was consuming her, sparking just under her skin.

The sounds of the celebration were practically silent as she ventured further away. For a moment, she wondered if this was some sort of dark magic leading her away from anyone who could help her. The thought almost made Emma turn back, but she was too curious to give up now.

Whatever was leading her on changed from a pleasant buzz to something she couldn’t quite describe. It was stronger - almost magnetic - and caused her to move forward with little effort on her part. She halted suddenly when the magic felt the strongest.

And realized she wasn’t alone. 

There was a man crouched just a few feet in front of her. His dark attire left him partially hidden in the dim light but there was no denying his intentions. His concentration was so focused on the lock he was trying to pick that he didn't even notice he was being watched.

Or maybe he just didn't care.

Odd.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she hissed, angry at his actions.

He didn't even startle.

“That would be none of your business, milady,” the man answered without bothering to glance her way.

Emma stomped her foot, demanding his attention. When he refused to do anything but concentrate on the lock he was failing to pick, she cleared her throat. “My palace, my business.”

That seemed to get his attention.

He turned to her, gave her a once over, then smirked. For a brief second she was mesmerized by his too-blue eyes. Then he opened his mouth again and the moment was gone. “Apologies,” he said sarcastically, making an exaggerated bow, “none of your business, Your Highness.”

Emma felt her cheeks grow hot as the man turned back to the task at hand. Never in her life had someone so blatantly disrespected her. To make things even stranger, he seemed fully at ease trying to break into her palace while she was standing right there.

Determined to beat him at his own game, she spoke again. “Would you mind telling me what you’re looking for in the servants’ quarters?”

Once again, he stopped what he was doing and turned to her.

“You’re lying,” he accused. “This has to be a treasury of sorts, and you’re trying to tell me it’s not in hopes that I’ll give up.”

“Suit yourself,” she shrugged. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

The man rolled his eyes and went back to fiddling with the lock. Emma groaned, knowing that they’d be here all night at this rate. Some thief. “Move aside,” she instructed.

He gave her a curious look, then made a grunt of disapproval when she shoved him out of the way. Within seconds, the lock was picked, and Emma swung the door open.

“How did you do that?” He asked, clearly dumbfounded.

“There’s a lot of places that are off limits around here,” she explained matter-of-factly, “even for a princess.”

“You’ve got fire,” he said, “I’ll give you that.”

He moved past her and into the room, only to turn back to her. “That’s impossible!”

Just as Emma had promised, the door led to a living area, not the treasury. He pulled something out of his coat pocket. It let out a soft glow that seemed to match the sensations that were pulling at her. “It should be here. Blasted compass-”

“Maybe you should tell me what… that thing is, and then, what you’re looking for?” she suggested. “Or I could just call the guards.”

“Trust me, love,” he chuckled with a gleam of mischief in his eye, “I’ll be far away by the time they get to you.”

His words gave her an idea. If he was quick at slipping away, maybe he could help her escape. She assessed the thief, wondering how much of a threat he was - then wondering how helpful he could actually be. “Maybe we can help each other out,” she began.

He was quiet for a moment, as if weighing his options, then spoke. “This is an enchanted compass.”

He pulled it away when she reached for it. “It’s not for you!” he exclaimed angrily.

“What’s it for?” she asked, hoping to calm his quick temper.

“The enchantment is supposed to lead me to a relic I need.” He put the compass back into his pocket, and eyed her suspiciously. Whatever he found, it seemed like he was willing to trust her with what he was looking for.

“The product of True Love.”

Emma let out a little gasp and hoped he didn’t notice. “ The product of True Love ?” she parroted.

“Aye, you know of it?” He asked incredulously. “It’s rumored to be the key to saving my kingdom.”

“Maybe we can help each other.” The plot was forming in her head. It was crazy, but since she now had leverage, she could bargain for his assistance. He gestured for her to go on, and she smiled. “I just so happen to know where this relic is. Maybe if I bring it to you, you could help me save my kingdom, too?”

“It seems a fair trade,” he agreed cautiously. “What seems to be plaguing your kingdom?”

“Witches and Wizards,” she said, tiredly. “It’s a long story. I can explain on the way.”

“On the way where?” he asked, raising a curious eyebrow.

“To wherever my kidnapper wishes to take me,” she gave him a hopeful grin.

Kidnapper ?” He shook his head and scowled at her. “Who is kidnapp… I didn’t agree to any such thing.”

“You don’t understand,” she said, her words rushed and desperate. “If I just run away, my fiancé’s kingdom can declare war. I need it to look like I was taken unwillingly. Then my parents and our kingdom appear blameless. If you won’t be a part of it, maybe… maybe you know where I can find someone to help me? I’ve tried to find any of the magical creatures I know of, and none of them seem to even exi-”

“You’ll bring me the relic?” he asked quickly.

The sudden change in attitude towards her half cocked plan was a shock, but she wasn’t going to question her good fortune.  She nodded back just as quickly.

“All right,” he sighed. “Then it has to be public. If I just steal you away here, there’s no evidence that you didn’t run off on your own.”

“The terrace,” she offered, starting to formulate more of a plan in her head. “It’s outside the ballroom and there’s a great view from inside. We can make a scene and everyone will know, without a doubt, that I’ve been kidnapped.”

“And what of me? Surely kidnapping the princess comes with consequences.”

“I’ll take care of that,” she said, hopefully. Her parents would have to understand - once the kingdom had been saved.

The man nodded in agreement, “I’m trusting you, Princess. Don’t double cross me. Meet me on the terrace in an hour. Bring the relic and I’ll see you to safety.” He bowed again, gave her a wink, then brushed by her to take his leave.

“Don’t double cross me ,” she muttered to thin air, hoping she hadn’t just made another mistake.

As she closed the door to the apartment, she realized the buzz she felt had completely disappeared.


Killian couldn’t believe his luck. The princess promised to hand over the relic he had been searching for almost his entire adult life with almost no fuss at all. The product of True Love existed and he would have it in a few short minutes 

He hoped the Princess would forgive him for what he was about to do. After he had a little fun with it, of course.

She was expecting a thief, and while he had no doubt he could be in, and have her out in no time, there was no fun in it.

Maybe next time, the silly little princess wouldn’t make deals with strangers.

He watched from the hillside, waiting for her to come out to the terrace. She would be easy to spot with her dark blue dress and hair that rivaled the sun. He didn't expect the sudden feeling of jealousy that bubbled up when he noticed she wasn't alone. There was no way to be certain, but he was sure it was her fiancé. From this distance, he couldn't tell exactly what was going on, but it seemed to be a disagreement of sorts.

Maybe she was trying to get the man out of the way, just in case he tried any heroics.

Killian chuckled. Now he was going to have even more fun. A common thief might not be a match for her intended, but he wagered the man wouldn’t come across as quite so brave when faced with Killian.

But there wasn't time to dwell on frivolous things, he had a princess to kidnap.

Not wanting to alarm anyone prematurely, he stole down the hillside in full stealth. It always amazed him just how quiet he could be.


“I just don't understand why you're acting so distant,” Walsh said snidely. “Especially when this whole party is just for us.” 

Emma rolled her eyes. Walsh hadn't left her side since she'd returned from her little adventure. It was almost as if he thought she might run. What Emma couldn't understand was why he was so adamant that she act as though she completely adored him 

“I'm doing you a favor,” he reminded her, for the millionth time.

“I'm sure it's such a burden for you,” she said, just as snidely as he had. “Marrying a princess and inheriting a whole kingdom.”

Emma hated that she had to practically sell herself to the highest bidder, and she hated it even more that the highest bidder was Walsh. He knew she didn't have any plans to fall in love with him but he hadn’t seemed to mind. At first, she thought they could possibly come to be friends. But after discovering the plot to double cross and silence her, that went right out the window.

Walsh just gave her the same smug look he’d given her the day Emma asked for Zelena’s help.

“I think I’ve thanked you enough for you generosity, ” she grumbled.

Walsh backed her up against the wall, just out of sight of the party still going on inside. “Oh, you’ll be thanking me plenty after the wedding,” he said with a lecherous grin.

It took every bit of her years of training at her mother’s knee not to gag.

Never in her life had she been so repulsed by a man. Just weeks ago he was the better choice. But now Emma saw him for what he really was: no better than the Dark One’s son.

Emma wasn’t sure if he knew she’d overheard them that day, but he definitely noticed the difference in her attitude towards him. There was nothing more she wanted to do than beat him into a crumpled heap and leave him for dead. But that would blow her plans to hell and her parents - and her people - would suffer dearly.

“That’s what this is about, isn’t it?” he asked. “You’re nervous about the wedding night, aren’t you?”

Emma sneered.

“That’s okay,” Walsh continued, ignoring her completely, “it’ll be fun. For me.”

The sound of a deafening roar distracted Walsh long enough for her to duck away. At the moment, she didn’t care what had made the noise, she was just grateful for the chance to escape. It wasn’t until Walsh made a pathetic whimpering sound that she turned and saw it.

Emma's eyes widened at the sight of the dragon. Before she could react, Walsh shoved her out of his way, and ran back inside. She heard the distinct ‘snick’ of a lock sliding into place.

She was trapped. 

“You coward!” Emma shouted.

She ran towards the doors quickly but Walsh had already managed to shut them. She could see through the windows that guests were fleeing the room. Her parents, she noticed, were doing their best to run towards her, but were getting lost in the shuffle.

She was outmatched by a long shot but she wasn't going to go down without a fight.

If the monster wasn't about to kill her, she might find him beautiful. He moved with a grace one wouldn’t expect from such a large creature. His black scales shimmered in the moonlight, reminding her of the night sky, itself. There was a lighter tone to his underbelly but Emma couldn’t make out the color in the dark. It gave the beast a mysterious air and she found herself pondering where he’d come from. If there were more of them. If they all looked the same. She wondered, briefly, if he would spray fire like they always did in the stories her father told at her bedside. But Emma shut that thought down immediately.

Better not to borrow trouble.

Shaking her head, Emma pulled herself from her thoughts. There wasn't time to admire the beast; she needed to think fast.

Her mother had chastised her earlier for wanting to bring her sword. “This is a ball, not a battle,” the queen had reminded her as her father shrugged helplessly - there were some things even he didn’t cross the queen on.

But Emma was known for her defiance and she was glad she didn't completely adhere to the ‘no weapons’ edict that had been imposed on her.

Still, all she had was a dagger. And there wasn't any part of her that wanted to get close enough to a dragon to fight with such a small weapon.

She grabbed a small potted plant, flung it in his general direction, and missed by a mile. Frustrated, she grabbed another pot and tried again. The dragon seemed irritated, especially when a few of her shots hit him, causing the pots to shatter and dirt and plants to scatter wildly through the air.

He swiped at his eyes with long talons that Emma didn’t want to imagine anywhere near her. She guessed that the dirt had gotten into his eyes, but it barely slowed him down. Within seconds he was standing in front of her. She swore she saw him smirk when he leaned down to eye level. Not wanting to give up just yet, she punched him in the nose.

A burst of fire shot from his nostrils, and Emma barely had time to duck. Quickly, she lifted her skirt and grabbed the dagger she'd strapped to her ankle. As he reached to grab her, she struck, slicing through the pad on his front foot.

“Bloody hell! That hurt!”

Emma dropped her dagger and stared at the dragon in disbelief. Had he just… No. She tried to shake the thought. That was ridiculous.

The dragon was quick to take advantage of her state of shock. He grabbed her roughly around the middle then took to the sky.

“Let me go!” she shouted, pounding her fists on his talons.

He squeezed her a little tighter, but his grip was careful - almost protective - as if he didn’t wish her harm. Once they were in the air, she stopped hitting him, and chose to scream instead.

“I could let you go now, if you’d like,” he grumbled, sounding annoyed.

“Please don’t!” she cried.

He faltered a bit, their smooth flight turning rocky as he seemed to be caught off guard.

And then it sunk in. “Wait… did you just talk to me? Oh no. I’m delusional. I’m imagining a talking dragon. Please just kill me and get it over with.”

“Bloody hell, Princess. I’m not going to kill you,” the dragon snapped. There was something familiar about him, though she couldn’t quite place it. “I’m helping you, remember?”

“Thief?” she asked.


 

 “Name’s Killian, actually,” he informed her, trying to cover the shock of learning she could understand him when he was transformed. Even after centuries, he was still learning what being a dragon truly meant. “Might you indulge me and tell me your name, Princess?”

“Emma,” she said. “My name’s… wait a minute. So you are the thief? Why didn’t you tell me you were a dragon? How… how am I even talking to you?”

She paused for a moment, but it was clear she wasn’t finished. He could almost hear her thinking.

“And if you’re a dragon, why did you waste all that time picking the lock when you could have just burned down the door?”

“Aye,” he answered, trying his best to remember everything she’d asked.

He wasn’t sure how she could understand him, so he skipped that for the time being, hoping she wouldn’t press further. “I am the thief.  But how would it have looked if you’d known I was a dragon.  Were you just going to hop on my back and we could ride off into the sunset together?” he teased.

Emma stammered out something, but it was a mumbled reply at best, and he didn’t catch a word of it.

“Your capture needed to seem realistic,” he reminded her. “And I’d say we gave them quite the show, didn’t we darling?”

When she didn’t respond to his continued teasing, Killian laughed, but answered the rest of her questions. “I didn’t incinerate the door because I just wanted the relic. I wasn’t trying to destroy your palace, or cause a commotion… though… I suppose I wound up causing one anyway.”

She let out a weak laugh at last, and he sighed in relief. A calm princess would hopefully make the confrontation with his brother much easier.

Liam would likely murder him upon his return. Dragons had earned quite the reputation in all the years since they had last been seen among the realm’s inhabitants. Killian often heard stories of them in his travels. Beasts that kidnapped young maidens, villages that sacrificed virgins to the imaginary beings they felt plagued their lands, hoards of treasures that they guarded fiercely.

His brother hated every bit of it.

“They think of us as uncivilized monsters,” he’d often complained. “Father may have been many things, but never once was there a demand for a sacrifice.”

“And what of you, brother?” he’d tease. “Never took an offering?” 

That particular quip had earned him a punch in the face more than once. Liam insisted they were honorable men. They didn’t kidnap people; they were just the product of their own legends.

Perhaps his brother would forgive him when he finally broke the kingdom’s curse. Dóiteán had been his home for centuries, and he was loathe to see it - and his brother’s people - trapped as they were.  He hoped Emma had kept her part of the bargain and brought the relic. Otherwise, he’d wasted a perfectly good evening and would have to go back and find the damned thing on his own.

And maybe leave the bloody princess locked in one of Liam’s dungeons for spite.

They made the rest of the trip in near-silence. Every once in awhile, he'd hear Emma make a frightened sound or feel her shiver against the cold, but for the most part she didn’t speak. He pulled her a little closer, hoping his body heat would keep her from freezing.

She tensed up when the palace came into view and he couldn’t blame her. It was a fairly ominous-looking structure. He knew reassurances wouldn’t help because there was still a small part of him that was just as intimidated as she was - even though it had been his only home for centuries now.

Killian could already hear Liam storming down the hall as he reached the balcony. He set Emma down gently and landed in front of her.

“You’re not going to sacrifice me to some dragon god, right?” she asked.

“I told you I wasn’t going to harm you,” he reminded her. When she seemed unconvinced, he realized he was still very much a ferocious looking dragon.

“Here,” he said, gesturing for her to give him a little space. “Maybe this will make you feel better.”

He transformed back into his smaller, more fragile, but no less devilishly handsome form.

Emma just stared at him, dumbfounded.

“Emma?”

“You… you’re… how?”

He could tell right away that she was on the verge of… something. There was a calm about her, but it was bordering between acceptance and panic.

“Please don’t scream,” he begged. “It’s bad enough my brother already knows I’m home. If he thinks-”

“Killian Jones !”

“Bloody hell,” Killian groaned. “Emma, pleas-”

He didn’t get to finish asking her for assistance as he caught her just before she hit the floor - right as Liam made it to the balcony. “This isn’t what it looks like, brother.”

“So, you didn’t bring a woman back to our home, breach all our laws of secrecy, and have her collapse at your feet?” Liam asked. His arms were crossed, and he looked at Killian expectantly.

“Well… I did,” he admitted, waffling on how - exactly - to explain this.  “You see, she needed me to kidnap h-”

“You kidnapped her?!” His brother was fuming and Killian imagined that if Liam had been in possession of his ability to transform, he’d have smoke curling out his nostrils.

“But she asked me to!” Killian exclaimed.

When Liam answered with a growl, Killian knew he needed to somehow wake up Emma so she could help verify his story.

“Don’t let her freeze out here!” Liam barked. “Get her inside!”

Killian quickly complied and brought Emma into his room.

“She’ll need more blankets,” he said, hoping that sending Liam on a mission would get his brother out of his hair for awhile.

When Liam hesitated, Killian rolled his eyes. “Bloody hell, brother. I’m not going to hurt her!”

Once Liam hurried off to find more blankets, Killian set Emma on his bed. She didn’t move as he bundled her up in the few sheets he had available. When Liam returned a short while later, they layered the heavy wool over her.

Killian felt her face and frowned at the chill. “I didn’t mean to hurt her. I was only trying to help her.”

Liam growled again.

Killian looked up at him, finally. “She’ll be all right, won’t she?” he asked, looking for reassurance. Mortals were such fragile beings.

“We’ll just have to keep an eye on her.” Liam nodded over to the hearth. “Perhaps you should get a fire started?”  

Liam continued to question him while he started the fire and shut the doors to the balcony. His brother wasn’t at all pleased to discover she was the princess of Misthaven, but he seemed amused when Killian told him about the stabbing and being punched in the nose.

“She promised to help me if I would help her,” Killian said. “She caught me looking-”

“You’re not still looking for that damned relic, are you?” Liam groaned. “It doesn’t exist . Whatever the prophecy said can’t be trusted. Consider the source.”

He had considered the source. Numerous times over the past few centuries he’d thought about it. The dryad who’d cursed the kingdom, had informed Liam that Killian would break the curse with the product of True Love. Trusting the word of the creature that caused the trouble wasn’t always the best choice, but there were others Killian had met along the way who he felt he could trust, like Anton.

Anton was a giant that Killian had met on his travels. Though they had a rough start, they'd become close friends since. By the time Killian mentioned the curse, he had been at his wits’ end. He wasn't sure what a giant could do about difficult magic but Anton had surprised him. He handed over a compass and claimed it was enchanted.

Killian couldn’t help trusting the compass he’d been given by his friend. It called to him, even now.

“It will help you find what you seek,” was the giant’s only explanation.

For years, the compass did nothing. Then one afternoon, just about twenty years ago, it began to glow. It was a dull glow that never seemed to change throughout his travels.

Until he happened upon Misthaven.

“Keep watch,” Liam said, breaking him from his thoughts. “We’re far enough away that it might take her family some time to get here, but you don't know who else may have seen you. You need to be on the alert and we need to protect her at all costs.”

Killian looked over at Emma when she suddenly moved, burying herself deeper in her blanket cocoon.

“No funny business,” Liam stated with an expressive jab of his finger, calling Killian’s attention away from Emma.

Killian rolled his eyes in response.

“I'm serious, Killian!” Liam growled. “She'd better be right where we left her when I return.”

Liam turned to leave before he stopped and added, “We'll have words in the morning.”

Killian groaned when Liam stormed out. He'd hoped explaining himself would be enough, but apparently, his brother wanted to hear it from Emma. He figured it was a win, knowing Liam trusted him enough for guard duty, but he was still slightly annoyed that he was being treated like a naughty child.

After Liam left the room, Killian transformed and curled up on the floor next to the bed. He checked Emma once more, then drifted off to sleep.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

A special thank you to my lovely artists (look at me, I'm learning how to put links and stuff in this!) The amazing cover art is by hopeandbeans. Also check out the awesome gifset by couldnthandleit. Don't forget there is more art coming, and I will be adding it's posted!

@couldnthandleit Gifset 1

@hopeandbeansArtwork 1

 


Emma woke in the middle of the night, a bit disoriented from the unfamiliar surroundings.

The room was dark, save for a fire that was slowly dying. She shivered from the chill and looked to see if there were more blankets to add. A flash of something caught her eye and she turned to see a dragon - Killian , she reminded herself - sleeping on the floor. The flickering light of the fire reflected off of him, brilliant oranges dancing across the crimson scales on his belly. Never in her life had she seen such a terrifyingly beautiful creature.

According to the adventure stories her father told her as a child, he was a monster. But now, having met him, Emma could see that wasn't the case. Even though he'd put on quite the show for onlookers, she discovered fairly quickly that he wasn't the brutal beast she'd expected.

Of course, she also hadn't expected the dragon who’d nabbed her to turn out to be the wayward thief she’d struck a deal with, either. Thankfully, the alliance had worked out anyway.

So far.

She shivered again. The room wasn't exactly cold, but Emma still felt a little frozen from the flight. Killian seemed perfectly content though, and she vaguely remembered the warmth coming from him while they were in the air.

Emma untangled herself, grabbed a couple of the heaviest blankets, and slid off the bed. The floor was frigid under her bare feet as she snuck towards the sleeping dragon. He didn’t seem to notice when she curled up next to him. When she laid her head on his arm, she was surprised to find it was a fairly comfortable pillow. She pulled the blankets up around her and snuggled closer. Just as she thought, he was warm. Not overly hot - certainly not like the fire he’d almost singed her with earlier that evening - but cozy. The steady rhythm of his breathing lulled her into a light sleep.

Killian shifted a bit and Emma startled, wondering if he was going to roll right over her. She froze in fear as he grumbled and moved in his sleep, knowing there really wasn’t a quick escape with the way she was positioned, but he subconsciously seemed to be aware of her presence. Eventually, he settled down and Emma closed her eyes again. The last thing she felt before falling into a deep sleep was Killian draping a wing over her.

When sunlight started pouring into the room, Emma forced her eyes open. Her heart jumped when all she could see was Killian’s nose inches from her face. Panic settled in as tiny tendrils of smoke billowed as he breathed.

I'm going to die, was all she could think. One bad dream, or even a sneeze, and I'm a pile of ash.

In spite of the terror that clouded her thoughts, she heard the door swing open. Emma shut her eyes and pretended to be asleep when a man started shouting.

“Where is she?”

She assumed he was the brother Killian had mentioned.

Killian moved his head and Emma let out a small sigh of relief. Death by fire was not on the agenda for today.

“Quiet, brother. She's sleeping,” Killian chastised the intruder.

The brothers began to argue about her. Judging by the tone, Emma guessed that the brother was older, and had likely had a hand in raising Killian. She could feel the muscles beneath her tensing up as if Killian were being lectured like a child who didn't deserve a scolding.

Finally, Emma couldn't take it anymore. Killian had done nothing but help her and now he was getting in trouble for it.

“Enough!” she commanded, used to being obeyed. She untangled herself from the blankets and stood. “He hasn't done anything wrong. Leave him alone!”

“Emma…” Killian warned.

She turned to him.

“Don't ‘Emma’ me! He has no right to talk to you the way he is!”

“I'm Liam,” the other man said, bringing her attention back to him, “His brother and his King .”

He paused, then glanced between her and Killian. “Did you just understand him?”

Emma glanced at Killian, who nodded. “Of course I did.  He’s standing right there.”

“Dragons can’t just carry on conversations when they’re in dragon form. Not with mortals, anyway. We can communicate with one another, but to anyone else, it just sounds like noise.” He eyed Emma suspiciously, scowling heavily. “Are you a dragon?”

“No,” Emma shook her head.

“Then he shouldn’t be able to converse with you,” Liam stated. “It’s not normal.”

She found herself unable to respond as she attempted to let that sink in. There had to be some reason she could understand what others could not. Because she wasn’t a dragon.

Killian, who had taken the opportunity to transform back to his human form, looked as perplexed as she must have.

“It doesn’t matter,” Liam told her in a clearly dismissive tone. He turned his attention back to Killian. “She has to go back.”

“No!” Emma and Killian protested at the same time.

The mutual agreement seemed to shock Liam. Just as quickly as he showed surprise, however, he changed his expression back to the stern, angry one from earlier. “I will not welcome a war, Killian. She goes back and you’d better grovel and hope her parents are the forgiving sort.”

Emma could understand the worry. She knew that her parents wouldn’t stand down - not even to a dragon - but if she went back now, she’d be right where she started. 

I can’t go back,” she said. “Killian made me a promise, and while I can’t promise my parents won’t come after him, we still have time.”

“But you promised me something, too,” he reminded her. “The relic?”

“Bloody hell,” she heard Liam mutter under his breath.

“About tha-”

“You promised, ” Killian snapped, his blue eyes flashing with quicksilver hurt and then was quickly hidden by the same anger that was reflected in his brother’s eyes.

“She’ll probably say anything to get what she wants,” Liam accused. “Killian, the product of true love doesn’t exist. It’s a fairy tale.”

“It does exist,” Emma assured them.

“Well then, where is it?” Killian asked. He was growing impatient, but she wasn’t really sure how to explain it in a way that he’d actually believe. “If you’ve double crossed me-”

“It’s me,” she blurted out. “I’m the product of true love.”

Killian raised an eyebrow. He didn’t have to say anything for her to know that he didn’t believe a single word she’d said. Liam didn’t look as if he believed her claims either. “ You’re the relic?” he finally asked.

“The compass,” Emma remembered aloud. “Why don’t you get your compass?”

Liam scoffed as Killian dug into his coat pocket. When he pulled out the compass, the buzz she’d felt last night returned full force.

“It’s still glowing,” he observed, “and… pointing towards you.”

Emma must have made a sound, because he looked up at her and gave her a curious look. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” she said. “Let me see it.”

She wasn’t sure what would happen but figured if the compass was meant to find her, it would react when she took it. Killian reluctantly handed it over, doubt still in his eyes. As soon as she held the compass in her hands, the needle began to spin and the glow filled the entire room.


Killian felt a burst of energy as the light suddenly dimmed again. Emma was still looking at the compass. He looked down at it, and saw the needle had changed direction.

“Why is it pointing at me ?” he asked. Granted, he didn’t know the specifics when it came to the compass, but he was pretty sure it was supposed to point towards the relic.

To Emma , he corrected.

Emma shrugged, but Liam seemed to think it was normal.

“That makes sense,” Liam agreed with a nod. “Killian’s supposed to be the one to break the curse and, according to the prophecy, he needs the product of true love to accomplish that. So, I’d wager to say it’s going to take both of you to figure this out.”

The fact that his brother had calmed down and was no longer demanding he take Emma back was a relief, but now, off the mark. He couldn’t let Emma stay.

“Absolutely not,” Killian stated, as if the matter were settled already. Both Liam and Emma gave him questioning looks. “She goes home tonight.”

“What?” Emma glared at him, but he wasn’t about to budge. “You promised!”

“No!” he shouted. “You lied to me! I didn’t sign up for… whatever this is!”

He wasn’t about to ruin her life over something his father did. A father that he didn’t even remember at that. “You’re going home, and that’s that.”

She muttered something that Killian swore was an unladylike curse. It didn’t matter, she could swear all she wanted, and it wouldn’t change his mind. Perhaps she would understand if he explained her safet-

-He was staring up at the ceiling. Why was he staring at the ceiling when he’d just been-

“Killian!” Liam was standing over him and Emma was nowhere to be seen. He tried to sit up but his brother easily pushed him back down. His head was aching and he couldn’t seem to stop the world from spinning around him.

“Where is she?” he asked, more concerned with what happened to Emma than with what happened to him.

Liam rolled his eyes.

“She won’t get far,” he stated, “and you’d be a fool to run after her at the moment. Just lie down for a bit, get your head back on straight. Let me worry about the girl.”

His brother helped him onto the bed but didn’t chase off after Emma when he was settled.

Killian groaned. He was in for a lecture.

“You shouldn’t have brought her here,” Liam started, “but you did. I’m not entirely clear on what sort of deal you made with her but if you’d double crossed me, I would have done far more than knock you out with a compass.”

“Bloody hell,” Killian mumbled, the room spinning crazily. “Is that why my ears won’t stop ringing?”

Liam nodded. “What did you promise her?”

“That I’d help her save her kingdom,” Killian confessed. When Liam frowned at him, he knew he wasn’t off the hook. “Liam, we’re bloody dragons. I was under the assumption that she’d give me the relic, we’d break the curse, and then a few of us could take care of the villains that were causing her trouble. I didn’t expect her to be the relic!”

“How does that change things?” Liam asked.

“What generally happens to magical relics when you use them?” He waited until he saw realization hit. “Exactly. They get destroyed. I’m not going to harm her to save our kingdom, brother. It’s not worth it.”

“Maybe there’s another way,” a soft voice floated through the air. Emma walked back into the room and sat next to Killian. “I’m sorry I hit you.”

“I suppose I deserved it,” he said.

“You did.” Liam chuckled.

“But I still shouldn’t have hit you. Now you’re hurt, and…” she stopped and frowned. She brushed some of his hair to the side and winced. “And that is an ugly bruise.”

Killian smirked. “You could kiss it better… if you wanted.” That earned him a smack to the shoulder from his older brother. He laughed, then cringed when his head started pounding again.

Emma didn’t say anything but she also didn’t back away, so she couldn’t have been too annoyed with him. She continued to comb her fingers through his hair and a comforting warmth washed over him as he closed his eyes. The ache in his head began to fade and the dizziness that accompanied it followed. His eyes snapped open when he heard Emma gasp.

“What did you do?” Liam demanded, reaching forward as if to shield Killian from her touch.

“I don't know!” She exclaimed, pulling her hand away quickly. “I didn't mean to!”

“You're a bloody witch!” Liam accused.

“I’m not!” Emma began shaking. “I don’t know what happened.”

Liam’s anger wasn’t helping Emma’s growing concern. Killian sat up and took her hand in his.

“It’s okay,” he assured her, “I’m fine… better even. Thank you.”

“Your bruise is gone,” Emma observed. “I didn’t… I don’t… it just happened…”

“It’s all right-”

“No!” Liam shouted, “it isn’t!”

“She healed me!” Killian protested loudly. “I don’t know why you’re being such an arse about this!”

“She’s a witch,” Liam said, as if that explained anything . “Maybe she’s sweet now, but the minute she loses her temper we could find ourselves under another damned curse! She goes home tonight.”

Killian felt like everything was going in circles. As much as he didn’t want to risk hurting Emma, he knew he should honor his word. She was determined to help, no matter the cost. The least he could do was keep his end of the bargain. Emma was going to stay, and he was going to do everything in his power to protect her - Liam be damned.

“You aren’t going anywhere,” Killian assured her. He heard Liam growl in response, but he ignored his brother. Emma began to calm down, so for the moment, half the problem was solved. He turned to Liam, and scowled. “A word, brother.”

The brothers left the room - leaving a very frightened, and likely confused, Emma behind. He hated leaving her in such a state, but having her in the same room as Liam was even worse. When Killian was certain they were out of earshot, he yelled at Liam. “What the bloody hell is wrong with you?”

“Me?” Liam scoffed. “What the bloody hell is wrong with you? Not only have you defied me-”

“You’re not my father!” He regretted the words the moment he said them. As angry as he was, Liam, the man who had raised him, didn’t deserve to be cast aside as though he meant nothing.

“No,” Liam said. He lowered his voice, but it was by no means calm. “But I am your king, and you’ve disobeyed just about every law of this kingdom with your damned quest!”

“A damned quest that you sent me on!” Ever since the castle had become his home, all Liam could ever talk about was life before the curse, and the prophecies that came after. Killian was the chosen one. Killian was going to fix everything. He had no choice but to do something , and now his brother had a problem with it?

“You kidnapped a princess ,” Liam sighed. “I don’t care if she asked you to. You’ve done the one thing I told you never to do - you’ve exposed us. Not only to war, but to another magic user.”

Nothing made sense. If Emma truly were a witch, why would she be looking for outside help?

“She has magic,” he said, “ but that doesn’t make her a witch.”

“No, I think it does.” Liam argued back.

If there was one thing Killian knew about his brother, it was that the man was stubborn. Once he got something in his head, he refused to let it go.

Killian wouldn’t accept that answer, though. The way Emma reacted when she used magic wasn’t the reaction of someone who knew what they were doing. “She didn’t know,” he mused to himself, knowing his brother was no longer willing to listen to him. He hadn’t dealt with many witches in his life, but he assumed anyone that was capable of a curse wouldn’t have much of a healing touch.

Though, he could be wrong.

Still. Emma was here, she was willing to help, and she just might be their only hope. “Need I remind you that you're getting weaker?” He hoped bringing up Liam's mortality would convince his brother to change his mind.

“Do you think no one will come for her?” Liam asked.

“Her fiancé won't,” Killian growled as he recalled how easily the man used her as a human shield to ensure his own safety. “Her parents may come, but she won't let them harm us.”

“Are you certain?”

“She said she would take care of it.” She hadn't been clear on how, and he knew it was a tricky situation, but he trusted her. Liam didn't seem convinced. He could see that the whole magic situation wasn't going to work out in Emma's favor when it came to his brother. There wasn't a damn thing he could say that would convince Liam to trust her.

“Trust me ,” he said. “Be as suspicious as you want about her, but trust that I know what I'm doing.”

He didn't know what he was doing, and Liam likely knew that, but maybe a little fake confidence would help.

“You'll take full responsibility.” It wasn't a request, it was a command. “I'll have both your heads if she does anything to harm this kingdom.”

“I understand,” he agreed. He’d flirted with the line between Liam’s strict edicts and his own natural defiance enough times in the past to understand how serious his brother was.

“No more funny business, either,” he added. “She's here to break a curse, not to be your personal plaything.”

Killian wanted to come back with a smart remark, but he'd already pushed Liam far enough. “And when she breaks the curse? We’ll still help her?”

Liam nodded. “If she fulfills her end of the bargain, Dóiteán will honor the deal you made.”

Whether Liam liked Emma or not, Killian knew his brother would keep his word. He was strict, stubborn, and sometimes quick to temper, but when it came down to it, Liam was fair.

The words he didn't say aloud were perfectly clear. Killian was completely responsible. Not just for her actions, but for everything. And he would receive no assistance from his brother.  As far as Liam was concerned, they had no guest in the castle.

Killian returned to his room to find Emma still sitting on the bed. She put on a brave face, but he could see right through the facade. He could only imagine how she felt - so far from home, in a strange place, the fate of her people resting solely in her hands.

“Emma?” He approached cautiously, not wanting to upset her further.

When he sat down next to her, her resolve seemed to break, and she looked down at her hands, avoiding him as best she could.

“Just take me home,” she said resignedly. “I’m not worth the risk.”

“Bloody hell,” he groaned, suddenly overcome with guilt. “You heard.”

“I can’t have you putting your own life on the line,” she said. “Not for me.”

“You’re not a risk-”

“-Really?” Suddenly, she was on her feet, facing him. “Did you forget what I did? Don’t tell me it’s okay!”

She started pacing, her nervous energy putting him on edge. “I know what you’re going to say, that I didn’t do anything wrong, that I healed you, and everything is fine. But it’s not, Killian. I have no idea where that came from, and I know I can’t control it. What happens if I get angry? What if I accidentally do something terrible? You heard your brother, he’d execute us both. I’m not worth that risk.”

Though he knew he shouldn’t, Killian laughed. Emma turned towards him and glared.

“Calm down,” he said. “I’m well aware of the severity of the situation, but I assure you I can handle it. You may not be able to control your magic, but that can be taken care of. In the meantime, you should probably know that curses aren’t something you can just cast accidentally.”

Emma rolled her eyes. “And you know this, how?”

“I’ve been around magic my entire life,” he said. “Liam seems to forget sometimes that we’re magical creatures as well.”

He remembered all too well his own struggles with his powers. He knew that if Liam sat down and really thought about it, he’d remember his, too. “I wasn’t always able to control the dragon,” he admitted.

That seemed to catch her attention. She relaxed, and sat back down. “What happened?”

“I-” he stopped, and tried not to choke on his words. He couldn’t tell her the worst of it, that he’d killed his own mother. She’d retreat so far that he’d never get through to her. “I leveled my house.”

When Emma looked around the room, likely for evidence of damage, he shook his head. “My… my first house. “When I lived with my mother.”

“Oh.”

He was relieved when she didn’t press him for further explanation, or ask where his mother was, but it hurt to think about it all the same. “I’m in this for the long haul, Emma - uncontrollable magic and all. We’ll figure it out. Together.”

“Can we figure out how to get me some more comfortable clothes first?” she asked. Her smile was small, but it was a start. “I’ve been wearing this since last night, and it’s really uncomfortable. I think the only reason I slept at all was because I was so disoriented.”

“I would be more than happy to help you out of that dress,” he suggested, with a smirk.

“I would be more than happy to punch you in the face again,” she shot back. There was no bite to her remark, and she even giggled a little, but he knew she wouldn’t hesitate to punch him if he stepped out of line.

“Fair enough, Princess.” Killian held his hands up in mock defeat. “I’ll go find you some more comfortable clothes.”  

He stood and was almost to the door when Emma called out to him. She was fidgeting nervously and looking down at her hands. “What’s wrong, Emma?”

“I actually do need help getting out of this dress,” she said. “All the buttons are in the back.”

“I’ll send someone up,” he promised.  


“This is your fault!” David rushed into the room straight towards Walsh. When the man cowered behind his witch, it only made David angrier. He would have pummeled him, too, had Snow not stopped him.

Zelena stepped forward, shielding Walsh further from any outburst of anger. She gave them a smile, one David could only describe as insincere. “You can’t possibly be implying that my most loyal wizard could have brought the wrath of a dragon upon your castle?”

“I’m just having a hard time understanding why the man my daughter chose to protect her felt the need to use her as bait so he could get away,” David growled.  

“You saw him do this?” Zelena asked. “It seems to me that she just wasn’t quick enough-”

“He slammed the doors on her!” Snow shouted.

Zelena laughed, as if the situation didn’t stink to high heaven. “How on earth could such a small man slam such giant doors?”

“I’m sure he had a little magical help,” David muttered. He hated her. Hated them. Up until now, Misthaven had been the gracious host, but the time for being nice to their guests was over. He was ready to send them packing, no matter the cost. Realistically though, welcoming a war with Oz was not a burden he wanted to shoulder his army with. They were dealing with enough conflict already.

“We could waste time arguing over who’s to blame,” Zelena said, “or we could work together to find a way to save your precious daughter.”

There was no question in David’s mind. He would save Emma. There wasn’t a chance that he’d ever trust Walsh to do the job. “The dragon was too fast for us to chase it, but we have a general direction. I’ll send scouts in the morning to see if we can find its lair.”

If the stories were to be believed, no one had seen a dragon in centuries. Up until now, David wasn’t even sure they existed. He remembered telling Emma about them when she was a little girl, but there was never any proof that they were anything more than legend.

“When we get word,” he continued, “we’ll know whether I need a small team or an army.”

“You?” Snow asked. She looked over at Walsh, who was still trying to remain hidden behind Zelena. “I think Walsh should go.”

“She’s my daughter,” David insisted.

“She’s his fiancée,” Snow reminded him. “It will be up to him to protect our daughter when we’re gone, so maybe it’s time for him to show us that he can.”

“I think that’s a wonderful idea,” Zelena agreed.

“I don’t understand how that’s a good idea,” Walsh squeaked. It was the first time he’d spoken since the attack, and David almost laughed at how ridiculous he sounded.

Regardless, the fact remained that Walsh was not an ideal candidate to rescue Emma. David had been willing to give the man a chance simply because Emma had asked it of him. She’d taken it upon herself to find help for their kingdom, and if anyone was an even match for Rumplestiltskin, it was Zelena. He just hated the stipulations the witch placed on the agreement.

Emma had to marry Walsh and so, by doing that, Oz would have hold over Misthaven. Still, it was better than being under the shadow of the Dark Kingdom.

He couldn’t understand why his wife agreed with Zelena, but when she gave him a look, it hit him.

Snow had a plan.

“Think about it, Walsh,” Snow turned her attention to the coward in the room. “Marrying Emma means you’ll be king someday. What better way to earn the respect of the people than to save their princess?”

David looked over at Walsh and he could practically see the wheels turning. Fame, fortune, and glory. It was something even a man like Walsh couldn’t resist. He still couldn’t understand the reasoning but he decided it was best to give his wife the benefit of the doubt.  With the way she was pandering right to the Wizard’s ego, there was no way she didn’t have some genius scheme in the works.

“You have your witch to back you,” Snow added, “so there isn’t really anything to worry about.”

“She’s right,” Zelena said, playing right into whatever it was Snow was planning. It was almost comical to see the duo from Oz so easily manipulated. “After all, I wouldn’t have offered my services to defeat the Dark One if I didn’t have the means to do so. A lone dragon should be much easier.”

“So I’ll have support?” Walsh asked.

“Of course,” Snow assured him. “You don’t have to go it alone. Bring your soldiers in addition to your witch and you’ve got even more support.”

There it was. Snow wasn’t offering anything from Misthaven, other than motivation. She already had something else in mind for their own troops. He wondered if they would take the bait.

“Come on, wizard,” Zelena nodded towards the door. “We’ve got plans to make.”

Once the two were gone, presumably to plot their attack, David turned to his wife again. “You don’t really think Walsh, of all people, will be able to save Emma, do you?”

“Of course not,” Snow laughed. “But we need those two out of the way so we can actually rescue our daughter.”

There was something she wasn’t telling him but he could understand the caution, given their houseguests.

“They’ll ask for more than just support from Misthaven,” David reminded her. They may have taken the bait, but when the time drew near, he had a feeling Zelena would demand manpower.

“I have a plan for that, too,” Snow said coyly. “Now stop worrying so much.”


 

“Are you insane?” Walsh snapped, once they were out of the room, and out of earshot. “I can’t slay a dragon!”

Zelena was calm and collected with a smug grin on her face. “Do you really think a dragon is any match for me?” she asked.

Walsh fumed. Zelena didn’t seem to understand the severity of the situation. She’d just volunteered him to slay a dragon!

“What do you know of dragons?” If he recalled correctly, one hadn’t been spotted in centuries, and there was absolutely no information on them that was actually reliable. The one thing he was certain of was that they were giant, fire breathing monsters that wouldn’t hesitate to make him lunch.

“What’s to know?” she laughed. “They’re beasts, plain and simple. I’ve dealt with plenty of monsters in my time, this won’t be any different.”

“But-”

“Would you like to go back to your cage?” she threatened.

Walsh shuddered and she shrugged, the smug grin she wore taking on a more evil nature.

“I’m doing you a favor,” she reminded him. “You’re getting a princess, a kingdom, and now, people will remember you as a dragon slayer, not a pathetic minion.”

He didn’t argue. As difficult as it was to be under her thumb now, he couldn’t help but recall how hellish it had been when he was just another one of her winged monkeys. Locked in a cage for days on end, only to be freed when Zelena deemed it necessary to have someone do her bidding. He’d spent years clawing his way to the top as her most trusted minion and he wasn’t going to fall to the bottom of the pile again.  

There were no second chances with Zelena.

“You’ll help me, right?” he asked. Because no matter what she said to the King and Queen, he knew that her promises weren’t always as straightforward when it came to those who were under her.

“As usual,” she huffed, “I’ll be doing all the heavy lifting. But you’ll be the one who comes out victorious. Then, you’ll have Emma and I’ll have my bargaining chip for the Dark One.”

Walsh wanted to ask what it was she was getting in return, but he knew better than to cross that line. If Zelena wanted him to know, then she would have told him. All he needed to know was his role in everything. Stick to the plot so Zelena could get what she wanted and he could have riches beyond his wildest dreams.

He wouldn’t be out of her grasp completely, but he figured after Zelena had her prize, she’d mostly forget about Misthaven. He would be free to do as he pleased and take control of the kingdom by silencing his mouthy wife. It wouldn’t be easy. The people loved her. Regardless, he was sure he could find some way to rule without her fighting him on everything. He would earn the love of the people, too.

Perhaps slaying a dragon wasn’t a bad idea after all.

Chapter Text

Once again, my amazing cover is by @hopeandbeans!

Art Links:

@couldnthandleit

Gifset 1

@hopeandbeans

Artwork 1//Artwork 2

 

 


 

“Killian?”

Killian lifted his head, half in a daze - not quite asleep but not completely awake - and looked over at Emma. She was sitting on the edge of the bed, just looking at him. She seemed unsure of herself, offering a mumbled apology for waking him.

“Is everything all right?” he asked.

“Can I…” she frowned and looked over at the fire that was slowly dying. He couldn’t help noticing how many blankets she had wrapped around her, but she was still shivering. Emma looked back at him, seemed to come to a decision, and sighed. “Can I sleep next to you again?”

“I'm not sure that’s wise, princess.” He hoped the more formal tone would help remind her how inappropriate it would be to share a bed -or in this case- floor space if he were being technical. It was bad enough he was in the same room, but he knew that was only for her safety. Anything more would be crossing a line that would send Liam into a fit of rage.

His answer seemed only to offend her.

“Why?” she asked. “Is it because your brother said so? I'm freezing, Killian. It's obvious a little fire isn't going to warm this place up and you're a natural heat source. Wouldn't it just be easier to let me sleep next to you so I don't wake up as an icicle?”

How was he supposed to argue with that? She had a point about the cold. The castle had always been frigid due to the high mountain location. Emma came from a castle by the sea, and wasn't accustomed to the type of weather they experienced in Dóiteán.

“We must always remember to protect those who cannot protect themselves,” Mother said as they walked along the shore. He watched her guide the water over a pair of sea stars that were stranded in the sand.

“Like the stars. Right, Mama?” Killian asked.

“Like the stars,” she agreed.

That was their calling, to watch over the sea. Mother took it seriously and made sure Killian understood the importance. Their magic could destroy, or it could heal. She was very careful in her teachings to stress they were not to harm anyone out of anger.

“We heal and protect,” she reminded him. “Always, my little Sea Star.”

“Never hurt,” Killian recited from his lessons. “I'll always keep the things littler than me safe,” he promised.

“Always, Mama.”

Killian snapped back to the present, where Emma was trying to catch his attention. Her annoyance with him was replaced by concern. “Are you okay?” she asked.

“Aye,” he said quietly. He tried not to think about how he'd later broken the promise he'd made to his mother. They were supposed to be healers, but she'd forgotten to inform him that there was another side to him. One that was meant to destroy. Two halves that were at constant war with one another.

Liam seemed to believe otherwise and had for as long as Killian had known him.  But no matter what rules his brother tried to impose, there was no questioning the destructive properties of fire.

Still, he always tried to do what he could to help. Right now, the dragon side of him was something Emma needed to keep from freezing to death. It would never make up for the damage he'd caused all those years ago, but she was still smaller than him and he had the means to protect her.

“All right,” he said. He didn't miss the smile she gave him that lit up the room.

She grabbed a pillow and a couple blankets, and made her way over. As she cuddled up next to him, he felt surprised that she was so comfortable with his dragon form. Most shied away - including other magical creatures - even after they'd gotten to know him.

But not Emma. He wasn't sure if she was brave, or just naive, but he was intrigued by her.


 

Fire had a bit of an aftertaste. As if it wanted Killian to remember the power and destruction he could wreak if only he let go of his control.

Smoke filled the room and deep, hacking coughs wracked his body. “Mama!” Killian barely managed the hoarse shout. She would be angry. She always was when he almost burned down the house. As if he had any control over the dreams and the destruction they caused.

The dreams were getting worse, as were the waking result of them. Killian shouted again for his mother, bracing himself for the inevitable splash of water she always brought with her. But she never came. Instead, the door flew open, and his brother came running in.

Brother.

He had a brother .

“Let it out, little brother.” Liam smacked his back, but for what purpose, Killian wasn’t sure.

Shouldn’t they be running for their lives?

“Come on, Killian,” Liam smacked his back again, “don't choke yourself, lad.”

The scorching heat that had filled his lungs finally gave way, and a steady stream of fire shot from his mouth, and engulfed the foot of the bed. Killian scrambled to get away, but found the flames had been doused just as quickly as they’d appeared.

The shutters on the windows had been opened, and as he watched the smoke pour out of the room, he remembered what happened. A sick feeling washed over him, but he did his best to keep it at bay. After all, he’d vomited fire only moments ago, and didn’t want a repeat performance.

“Killian?” Liam sat next to him on the bed as Killian tried to recall the last day or so.

Everything was a blur. He couldn’t remember anything that would be of any use to him. The last memory he had was an argument with mother. Now, he was here - with someone he had somehow known to be his brother Liam - and there was smoke, fire, and one hell of a mess to clean up.

“Where’s Mama?” he asked.

“I was hoping you could answer that,” Liam replied. “How did you get here?”

You shouldn’t be here. Despite the foggy memory, those words rang out plain as day. However, Killian couldn’t understand why his brother didn’t want him there. Had he said something that had fallen into whatever abyss that had claimed his other memories?

“I don’t know,” Killian said. He began to cry quietly as Liam lifted him out of the bed that was now covered with soot and water.

Mother would have scolded him for acting so childish, but what other choice did he have?

“I’m sorry,” he apologized, though he didn’t say for what. There were so many things to apologize for, and he could barely contain his nausea, let alone string together more than a few words, so Liam would just have to settle for a generic apology.

“Nothing to apologize for,” Liam assured him. “Let’s just get you into a clean bed.”

Another wave of nausea kept him from arguing that he’d practically burned down the room they’d just left. Why wasn’t his brother angry? Mother would have been furious. Not that he’d ever burned anything down at their seaside home, the fire was definitely new, but she often complained about the smoke damage whenever he’d had one of his episodes.

Liam got him settled in a new room and swore one ruined bed wasn't anything to fret about.

“I don't understand,” Killian said. “What's happening, and why are you acting like it's completely normal?”

“Because it is completely normal,” Liam informed him. He sighed when Killian refused to believe him. “Has no one explained anything to you, brother?”

Killian shook his head. While an explanation was warranted, he couldn't think of any reasonable situation where fire breathing was ‘completely normal’.

But then again, his life had never truly been reasonable.

“Start with what you do know,” Liam coached.

“You're my brother,” Killian stated, and Liam nodded. He thought for a moment, but he still couldn't make sense of it. “Are we full brothers?”

“We are,” Liam confirmed. He was quiet. Killian could tell he was ready to explain, but was waiting to see what he could piece together on his own.

It made no sense. If they were brothers, then Liam had to know that they were creatures of the sea.

You’re a dragon, like me.

The words were a distant echo. Maybe a memory, maybe a dream. A puzzle piece that didn't quite fit. Fire and water weren't supposed to mix. “Mother is a Nereid,” he said, more in an attempt to reassure himself, but also, to remind Liam that fire breathing wasn't a Nereid trait.

“Father wasn't.”

There was a time, when he was young, that Killian had been fascinated with the fearsome creatures. He couldn't recall having ever seen one, nor did he know how he learned of them, but he thought about them, dreamt about them. Then one day, he made the mistake of telling Mama about them.

His mother had promptly, and fiercely, told him they didn't exist and that he shouldn't fill his mind with such nonsense.

But if he was to believe what Liam was hinting at… “That’s impossible.”

“Please don't tell me Mother never explained where little dragons come from,” he groaned.

“She told me that dragons don't exist,” Killian stated. “Spare me the other talk though. I know where little Nereids come from.”

He refused to believe what Liam was trying to tell him. If Liam was telling the truth, that meant mother lied.

That's why you're here, isn't it? Because Mother lied.

He let the words circle in his mind, not wanting to believe them, but knowing it was the truth. “Mother lied,” Killian said out loud, frowning at the bitterness of the thought.

The events that led to him finding Liam were still unclear, but the argument that set him off was coming into focus.

“Being a Nereid, it’s all I’ve ever known.” He sighed, and looked at his hands. Liam seemed to want to help, but he still didn’t know him. How was he supposed to confide in a stranger?

“I understand,” Liam said. “But there’s so much more to you, Killian.” When Killian didn’t respond, Liam didn’t push.

“Take your time,” he offered. “I’ll be here when you’re ready.”

Killian took a deep breath. They both needed answers, and waiting wasn’t going to make things any more comfortable. Stranger or not, his brother was the first person to truly try and help him make sense of everything. So, he would do his best to meet Liam halfway.

“I’m not quite sure what to say,” he explained. “For as long as I can remember, Mama and I just lived in our little house by the sea. I suppose it was a few months ago that I first awoke to a smoke filled room. That resulted in a bucket of water over my head, and a scolding from her.”

“How did it start?” Liam asked. “The smoke, I mean. I can only assume the fire was a first tonight, seeing as you almost choked yourself to death on it.”

He laughed when Killian’s head snapped up. “No, you can’t actually choke to death on your own fire.”

“I don’t understand,” Killian grumbled, annoyed at his brother’s laughter. “If I’m really a dragon, wouldn’t I have known a long time ago?”

A strange expression crossed Liam’s face, making Killian wonder if maybe he had known a long time ago.

“I suppose she was trying to suppress it,” Liam mused, “but you can’t prevent the natural order of things. A dragon’s powers-”

“I already did that!” Killian protested. Natural order of things? It sounded very much like the uncomfortable talk he’d had with Mother when she noticed he’d sprouted a few stray hairs on his chin. He did not want to have another one of those chats now. “Believe me brother, it was horrible.”

Liam let out a laugh that brought him to tears. He apologized when Killian shot him an annoyed look, and after he calmed himself, he tried to explain again.

“This is a bit different,” he said, “though not really, if you think about it.”

He laughed again when Killian groaned. “It wouldn’t have been as terrifying if someone had only informed you of what was happening, and I doubt it would have been so violent had it never been suppressed in the first place. There would have been far less smoke damage in the long run-”

“And I may have never left home.” Killian covered his face with his hands, and started crying again. “The smoke, it just got worse, and Mother only got angrier. Instead of the life we once had, everything was so tense all the time. I knew she was hiding something, but she was determined to keep me from finding out.”

He never had the intention to snoop, nor did he want to disrupt his happy life any more than he already had, but it happened anyway. Mother had gone away for a weekend, for what purpose, Killian didn’t know. What he did know was that he’d cut himself. Though his wounds seemed to heal quickly, there was still a bloody mess to clean up and the first aid supplies were in her medicine chest.

“I found…”

What had he found? Killian frowned as he tried to remember what had made him so angry. Why had he run off?

“You've likely blocked it out, brother,” Liam said softly. “But it sounds as though mother was trying to keep you from finding out. While there isn't a way to prevent a dragon from being - well - a dragon, there have been some who have tried. If she wanted to hide all of this from you, I can only imagine she was looking for a miracle.”

“Why don't you want me here?” Killian asked, ignoring the fact that his mother thought lying and a miracle cure were her answers to dealing with the dragon side of him. All he could think about now, was that his brother had made it clear that Killian shouldn't have come.

Maybe.

He still wasn't sure if he'd dreamt that or not.

“I do want you here,” Liam answered, “you've no idea how much I've missed you. Mother kept you away, and while the reason wasn't good, it also protected you from the curse that has befallen our kingdom.”

“How did I get here?”

“That's a discussion for tomorrow.” Liam helped him under the covers, and refused to let Killian ask any more questions for the time being. “You're exhausted. Get some rest tonight, and we'll discuss it in the morning. You might remember more after a good night's sleep.”

He nodded towards the door. “I'll leave that open. All you'll need to do is shout if you need me.”

“Don’t leave?” Killian pleaded. “At least stay until I fall asleep. Please?”

The idea that he might wake to find himself in another smoke filled room terrified him. Not that having someone keeping watch would prevent any of it from happening, but being alone and unable to control it was his only other option.

Liam nodded, and pulled a chair over to Killian’s bedside. “Sleep, brother.”

Sleep came easier than he thought it would. Fortunately, there were no more fire incidents and while the sleep wasn’t as peaceful as he would have liked, it was enough for the time being. When he woke, he found his brother still in the chair by his bed, sound asleep. He didn’t look comfortable at all, but Killian was reluctant to disturb him.

Quietly, Killian slipped out of bed, and looked around the room. According to Liam, this had been his home once but he found no memories of his life here. All he’d ever known was the sea and the little home that he and Mother lived in. It was a simple life, but a good one. Now there was this life, the one his brother swore was his birthright, and Killian couldn’t wrap his mind around it.

Was he really a dragon? If the fire was anything to go by, he couldn’t deny that he held some traits, but why now? With a sigh, he thought back to that day he hurt himself. Mother had a whole new set of potions in her medicine chest, some which seemed to have been partially used. They all had strange names that he couldn’t pronounce - or even begin to remember the spellings. It wasn’t until after he read some notes Mother had jotted down that he realized what they were for.

She’d been trying to suppress whatever was happening to him.

“I confronted her,” he said quietly, mostly to himself, as Liam was still snoring on the other side of the room.

Before he’d found his way here, he’d confronted Mother.

“Killian?”

Killian turned around to see Liam rubbing his eyes, and yawning. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“It’s a bit overwhelming, isn’t it?” Liam asked. He stood, and walked across the room to peer out the giant window. “I’ve lived here my whole life and sometimes I can’t even believe it.”

“I don’t want it,” Killian stated. “Mother may have lied. She may have tried to deny what I really am, but… I had a good life, Liam. If anything, the whole dragon thing just ruined it all. This isn’t me. I’m simple, and this extravagant life you’ve led is so far removed from what I know-”

“Killian-”

“I want to go back!” He stomped his foot in defiance. “I don’t want this! I want to go home, and I want to just live my life without all this nonsense you claim I was born into.”

“Brother-”

“No!” he shouted. “You don’t get to call me brother! Where were you all these years? If you really missed me that much, you would have searched for me. And what of this father you speak of? He can’t even be bothered when I’m right here!”

He could feel sparks under his skin, and the distinct smell of smoke filled the room. Wait, was he doing all that? “What's happening?” he asked in a panic.

“Killian, you need to calm down.” Liam said. “You're angry, and rightfully so, but if you don't learn to control your emotions, you'll never learn to control the dragon.”

“I don't want to be a dragon,” he said. He wanted desperately to calm down, to stop what was happening, but found it almost impossible to relax.

“I understand.” Liam slowly moved towards him. His brother, who was apparently a dragon just like him, seemed afraid.

Why would he be fearful if they were the same? Killian filed the thought away as something to explore later. Right now, he was more concerned with the fact that he felt as if he were going to explode in a fiery mess.

“Let's talk.” Liam still had fear in his eyes, but his voice was calm, and almost collected. “You have questions, and I will tell you everything I know.”

Killian took a deep breath and felt everything slow down. The roaring fire turned into a dull flicker, and the smoke began to subside. “Why didn't you come for me?” he asked.

“We’re cursed,” Liam answered. “Everyone in this kingdom is trapped. We can't shift, and we can't leave.”

“Am I trapped?”

“You escaped the curse,” Liam reminded him, “and should have no problem coming or going.”

There was something more that he wasn't saying, but Killian let it go. It wasn't as important as everything else at the moment. “Why isn't father here? Does he not want to see me? Does he even know I exist?”

“Father is dead,” Liam said sadly. “Overcome with grief after losing you and Mother.”

He sighed, and went back his chair to sit. Killian followed, and sat on the bed.

“It's a long story, Killian, and not a pretty one. It's Father’s own damn fault Mother fled and took you with her. And it's his fault Dóiteán is damned.”

Killian didn't press for details. He could only imagine it was terrible if Liam was hesitant to discuss it. “Why didn't she bring you, too?” He didn't remember anything of his previous life, but found it hard to believe their Mother would abandon one of her sons.

“Several reasons.” Liam sighed. “As the first born, I had a duty to the people. I also understood that you were young, and needed to be looked after in a way that I couldn't provide. Father wouldn’t have… I didn't intend to let you go, little brother. I only intended to set things in order here, first.”

“But then you couldn't come after me.” Killian nodded, recalling what he'd been told about the curse.

“No one expected the curse,” Liam explained. “Magic seems to have been stalled here. We're trapped by an invisible barrier in the forms we were in at the time it was cast. Immortality doesn't seem to have changed. Otherwise, I would have passed due to old age by now. But those of us stuck in human form are more vulnerable than those stuck as dragons. I don't know if you've noticed, but we're also sorely lacking dragon power around here…”

“Leaving everyone vulnerable?” Killian asked.

Liam nodded. “We’re lucky, in a way. The mountains protect our kingdom. But that doesn't mean we can't be seen.”

Killian turned his head to look out the window again. Liam was right, Dóiteán did have the protection of the mountains. Most people would turn away rather than take on the treacherous looking peaks. Not to mention they were secluded, meaning the journey alone would likely take a great deal of time.

Which left one unanswered question.

How had he managed to make the journey in a matter of hours, especially since he had no idea this place, his home, even existed? “How did I get here?”

“You flew,” Liam said simply.

It was impossible. Sure, he had the abilities locked away in some recess of wherever dragon abilities remained dormant, but he'd never consciously used them. He didn't know how to use them. Now his brother was implying that he'd transformed and made his way to a place he couldn't even remember, on pure instinct alone?

“I’m not surprised you don’t remember,” Liam said, as if he could hear the thoughts echoing in Killian’s head. “You’re untaught, frightened, and wholly unprepared for everything. I feared the worst when I saw you careening out of control towards the castle, and then when you hit the ground, and transformed… I thought you were dead.”

Killian closed his eyes and tried to remember. Unfortunately, he could only recall waking up a few hours later. His brother was tending to him and attempting to explain as much as Killian’s foggy mind could understand.

“I got into an argument with Mama,” he finally stated. “I’m not sure what happened after, and if what you’re saying is true… then you’re implying that I-”

A knot formed in the pit of his stomach, and he felt like he might throw up. “Bloody hell. Mama.

“Killian?”

Everything came back to him in a rush. He’d lost control, just as he had a few moments ago. Only it had been far worse. The house had been completely destroyed due to his transformation, and he had no idea whether or not Mama had made it out because he was already miles away. Headed towards some pull he couldn’t understand.

Killian shot up and tried to make a break for it, but Liam was just as quick.

“I might have killed Mama!” Killian shouted, in a panic. “Let me go!”

“You can’t!” Liam scolded him. “Killian, you barely made it here, and you still haven’t a clue how to maintain control!”

Killian struggled, but in the end, his brother was stronger, and kept him still.

“You have to trust that she got out,” Liam said.

But Killian knew she was gone. She was gone, and it was all his fault.


 

“Wake up.” A soft, slightly panicked voice begged. “Killian, please…”

He felt someone pushing on his chest.

Still unable to fully shake the memory that haunted his dream, he swatted at the offending intruder. The scream that followed shocked him awake. His eyes snapped open, and he saw Emma pulling herself up off the ground.

“Bloody hell,” he said, once he realized what he'd done. “I'm sorry, love.”

“It's okay,” she said, “I should have known better than to try and wake a sleeping dragon.”

But it wasn't okay. He saw the gash in her leg when she started to walk towards him again.

“Hold still,” he instructed as he transformed, a little shaky on two legs. Killian rushed over and lifted her in his arms to bring her over to the bed, all the while murmuring apologies. She finally noticed the blood, but still tried to convince him that everything was okay.

Killian pushed her sleep clothes up a bit to get a better look at the injury. It wasn't as bad as he initially thought, but still needed attention. He grabbed a sheet, balled it up, and placed it over the wound.

“Hold this,” he said, “and keep pressure on it. I'll be right back.”

 


Emma couldn't understand why Killian was in such a panic. Yes, it was a pretty ugly wound. Yes it hurt, but it wasn't really bleeding all that badly. And it was an accident.

“Don't worry, love,” Killian said as he rushed back into the room with a bucket of water. He removed the blanket and seemed a bit relieved that the bleeding had mostly stopped.

“This is going to sting,” he told her. “But it will fix everything right up.”

She closed her eyes and braced herself.  When the warm water covered her wound, she cried out. The initial touch felt more like being stabbed with ice than the sting he tried to prepare her for. After the pain faded into a dull ache, Emma dared to take a peek out of curiosity.

A tiny gasp escaped when she saw Killian. His total concentration was on the water that he was moving over her injury. He wasn't touching her, or the water, yet it was following his command. Her wound slowly healed underneath. Finally, the last of the gash closed up and Killian sent the water back to the bucket. There was no pain, no blood, not even a scar where the wound had once been.

Emma was no stranger to healing magic. She'd witnessed a few different methods in her short life and, apparently, she had the gift herself. But water was new.

And it didn't make sense.

“You're a dragon,” she stated.

“Perceptive, aren't you?” His tone was teasing, but he looked at the floor when he stood, and wouldn't make eye contact with her.

“I'll uh…” he scratched behind his ear, then hiked his thumb at the door, “I'll find you something new to wear.”

He grabbed the bucket, and turned to leave.

“I thought fire was your thing,” she blurted out before he could make it through the door.

Killian’s shoulders sagged and he let out a sad sigh.  “There's much you don't know about me.”

She wanted to tell him he could trust her, but he left the room quickly after that. After a few moments, an elderly woman came into the room with a bundle of clothes.

“His Highness wanted to make sure you were warm enough.” She handed Emma the clothes and gave her a little smile.

“Where is he?” Emma asked.

“I don't know, miss,” the woman shrugged, “he asked me to give you those, and then skulked off. I've learned the hard way not to question him when he's in one of his moods.”

There was a warning in her words, but the woman didn't explain further. She hurried out, leaving Emma alone once again. Silently, she changed out of her ruined sleep clothes and put on the new ones.

She waited for a few minutes then decided getting some rest was probably a better idea than waiting for Killian. He would come back eventually. It was his room, after all.

Emma shivered a little, the drop in temperature obvious after his departure. The fire was almost completely burnt down to embers now and the distinct lack of firewood in the room wasn’t going to help that situation.

Grabbing a couple new blankets, she sat where Killian had been sleeping. The floor was still fairly warm. It wasn't as comfortable without his warmth surrounding her, but it would do for now.

Time passed slowly as Emma waited. Eventually, she was able to fall into a light sleep. But when the warmth faded and Killian still hadn’t returned, the cold woke her again.

Frustrated, Emma stood. She was determined to find him and give him a piece of her mind. She draped a blanket over her shoulders and stormed out of the room to search for him. The first thing she realized was that the palace was huge.

Not a single torch was lit in the hallway, shrouding everything in darkness.

How was she supposed to find Killian? She didn’t know her way around and the only other person she knew in the castle was Liam. He was also the last person she wanted to see.

“I’m sure the feeling’s mutual,” she grumbled to herself.

Emma closed her eyes and tried to just listen but was met with nothing more than an eerie silence.

“This isn’t doing me any good,” she snapped. Almost as soon as her temper flared the torches on the wall lit up.  The sudden light startled her enough to cause her to stumble. After righting herself, she gave quick glance around proved no one else was in the hall.

Was that me?

She shook her head and focused back on the task at hand. Whatever was going on with her sudden magical ability would have to wait. Right now, she had a dragon to contend with.

She had only gone a short distance when she heard someone coming towards her. “What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing?” came the angry voice from the hall.

Chapter Text

Once again, my amazing cover is by @hopeandbeans!

Art Links: 

@couldnthandleit

Gifset 1

@hopeandbeans

Artwork 1//Artwork 2


 

What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing?

It was Killian shouting at her.

Emma didn’t have time to react. Killian was quick even in his human form. He grabbed her by the arm and not so gently led her back to the bedroom.

“Are you trying to get me killed?” he roared once they were behind closed doors.

Something sparked in Emma. She knew she should be afraid, but his anger only infuriated her. “Me?”

When he growled in response, she fought back. “You’re the one who abandoned me!”

“I was protecting you!”

“By letting me freeze to death?”

He didn’t answer, and that only irritated her more.

“Why are you so angry with me?” she asked. “You left me here all by myself so you could run off and… I don’t know… sulk? Avoid me? It’s cold here, and you left me defenseless.”

“I’ll bring in some more firewood,” he muttered.

“No!” she shouted. “Tell me why you’re so angry with me!”

“I’m not,” he sighed. “I really am just trying to protect you. I… I could have killed you, Emma.”

Suddenly, it all made sense. Killian was pushing her away in hopes of… what exactly? Obviously he was afraid of hurting her, but shutting her out completely wouldn't help either of them accomplish anything.  

“Killian, it was an accident,” she said. Surely he couldn't blame himself for something that was entirely her fault. “I shouldn't have tried to wake you while you were struggling in your sleep.”

Killian hung his head in shame. “It doesn't matter. I hurt you, and it could have been so much worse.”

“But it wasn't,” she said. “And lesson learned. Next time I'll just back off.”

“There won't be a next time.” His words were clipped, and his tone hinted at finality. If there was any doubt that he felt the conversation was over, it died in the pointed look he gave her.

The fire roared back to life when Emma stomped her foot. Killian jumped back a bit, and even though she hadn't intended to set anything ablaze, she couldn't argue with the results.

“Then you can deal with your curse yourself.” She turned and gestured towards the fire. “Apparently, I have magic and no longer need your assistance.”

She didn't dare turn to look at him again. Instead, she held her head high and marched out of the room.

Killian didn't follow and, even though she didn't expect he would, it hurt. It hurt that he would just let her go knowing the likelihood of her survival was slim to none. Magic or not, she was far from home and had never experienced a life outside the palace walls. In this strange part of the world, she had no idea what she was up against.

But Emma refused to let anyone see how scared she was - least of all Killian. She continued to march down the hall towards what she hoped was an exit. As she moved, the torches on the wall began to extinguish behind her. It wasn't anything she intended, but she hoped it would leave a lasting impression on the cranky dragon.


Bloody princess, he thought in annoyance, she was going to get herself killed. At first, Killian thought she just needed to cool off, so he patiently waited for Emma to return. He didn’t think she was so naive that she would believe she could truly make it on her own.

Perhaps she could survive with her magic even if she couldn’t control it. Something told him that as sheltered as she was, she wasn’t completely helpless when it came to defending herself. All she would have to do was escape the castle.

The castle that sat atop a mountain far above the valley that housed his people. If she made it out of the castle alive, the harsh weather and terrain wasn’t going to do her any favors either.

“Bloody hell,” he muttered. If she managed to make it outside, she’d likely fall to her death.

When he stepped out into the hall and saw the darkness had returned, he knew she was headed towards the exit and not coming back. So long as she didn’t change her mind and decide to hide out in a room along the way, there was only one place the hallway headed: to the back entrance, which led straight down.

If she wasn’t paying attention to where she was going-

The terrified shriek that pierced the silence confirmed everything. Without a second thought, Killian ran out and transformed as he jumped off the balcony. He spotted her in a freefall, headed swiftly towards the rocky ground.

He swooped down and heard her give out a little yelp when he nabbed her. She was unusually quiet and made no move to fight him over the rescue. Killian hoped that meant she would be less difficult to deal with now.

When he brought her back up to his room he set her down, then started the fire up right away. She was pale, shaking, and he was pretty certain ready to pass out. He wasn’t sure if it was caused by the cold or the near death experience, but at that moment it didn’t matter. He settled on the floor near her.

She still didn’t move. “Emma?”

Emma shook her head. She remained silent and still, save for the shaking. He couldn’t have her pass out. While falling on the floor wasn’t quite as dangerous as falling to her doom, the impact could still have devastating consequences.

“Come on, love.” He reached out for her and surprisingly, she reached out and grabbed his claw. He pulled her close despite the fact that he felt she would be safer if she kept her distance.

He felt her collapse against him. She was still shaking and he suspected now that she was crying. There was little he could say or do to comfort her, so he gently draped his wing over her. Despite it all, it almost felt as though she belonged there, snuggled up beside him.

The stray thought surprised him, though he hoped to bury it rather than attempt to figure out where it came from or even why it had appeared in the first place. However, he found it difficult to push the feeling away when she was so close.

A small part of him wondered if she felt the same.

Emma still shivered slightly - something that he worried about - but on the whole, she had calmed down. Killian tucked his wing around her a little tighter and listened to her breathing even out as she fell asleep.


The next morning, Killian led Emma down to a well in the courtyard. The sun was out, but there was still a harsh chill surrounding the palace. Killian didn't seem to mind one bit, but she was struggling even though she was bundled up in his heavy leather coat. The thing must have weighed as much as she did.

Complaining was the furthest thing from her mind though. After the previous night’s argument and near death experience, Emma knew they needed to talk. Killian had been fairly quiet that morning, but she could tell he had a lot to say. If he needed to bring her to a well to tell his story, she wasn't going to argue.

“Fire is my thing,” he said, “but it’s not my only thing.”

Emma watched as he manipulated water from the well. Just as it had the night before, the water obeyed his command.

“How-” she interrupted.

His concentration broken, the water fell back to the well.

“Water is my thing, too.” He shrugged. “I know it doesn’t make any sense…”

“Fire and water generally don’t mix,” she agreed.

Killian looked down at the ground and kicked at the dirt. “No, I suppose it doesn’t. Perhaps that’s why my parents’ marriage didn’t last.” Killian didn’t look up at her. His voice was strained and he spoke slowly, as if every memory only brought pain.

“My mother took me away when I was young,” he continued. “I… I don’t remember my father at all.”

“So the water thing...” Emma said, hoping she could get some explanation.

“I’m only half dragon,” Killian said. “Mother was a Nereid.”

Emma raised an eyebrow. What the hell was a Nereid? “I’m assuming the Nereid thing has something to do with the water. Unless you’re a water dragon?”

“I suppose that’s one way to put it.” Killian finally looked up and gave her a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “To put it simply, my mother was a sea nymph. You do know what that is, right?”

He waited for Emma to nod before he continued.

“That’s why I was able to… you know… fix your leg…”

She didn’t quite understand how he wasn’t just a wisp of steam. Somehow, he had mastered power over two opposing elements and, as far as she could tell, there was no difficulty in transition.

It was something he should have been proud of. All Emma could see though, when she looked at him, was the anguish spelled out across his features. “What happened to them? Your parents?”

“They’re gone.” The words were clipped, and he quickly moved on. “This well is what’s keeping Liam alive. As Nereids, he and I belong to the sea. Before the curse, this well was a way to be near the sea and enabled us to travel there quickly.”

“A portal?” Emma asked.

“Aye,” he said, “a connection between realms. When mother and I left though, I was still very young. Liam told me it was because mother was afraid I was too young to understand the instinct to return. That I wouldn’t know how to return, due to the unusual distance she'd put between us and the sea.”

He nodded towards the well. “He was supposed to be able to use the well to join us as his duties here allowed, but the curse cut the kingdom off from the rest of the world. Portals included.”

Emma looked into the well. It ran deep and, even though Killian had pulled water from it, she couldn't see any evidence that it wasn't empty.

“The magic is wearing thin,” Killian said, “and since the person who enchanted the well is no longer with us…”

He never explicitly stated that his mother was the one who enchanted the well, but Emma quickly read between the lines. “She's the only one who could fix it?”

Killian shrugged, then looked over into the well with her. “I've attempted to restore it, but have been unable to. The well is drying up though, and Liam is becoming weaker. He can't leave this place and I can't seem to find a way to save him.”

“Unless you break the curse,” she guessed.

“There’s more to it than that,” he sighed. “It isn’t just my brother… it’s the whole damned kingdom. I’m supposed to save them and I don’t even know how.”

“That makes two of us,” she mumbled. At least he hadn’t screwed up royally and made everything worse. Wasn’t this just another crazy scheme to make up for her latest blunder? Now she’d dragged Killian into her mess, making life even worse for him.

“We’ll figure it out,” he said, trying to sound confident even though she knew he was just as unsure about the task that had been handed to him. “I might know someone who can point us in the right direction.”


Merlin was someone Killian had come to rely on over the centuries. Once a powerful sorcerer, he’d fallen victim to the same curse that had damned everyone else. His powers were bound and so to was his link to the portal that sustained Liam.

But Killian learned quickly that there was much more to the man than his magical abilities. He had spent countless hours in Merlin’s tower going over the prophecy and all the lore that might assist him in his quest. If anyone could shed more light on the situation, it would be him.

According to Liam, Merlin had been one of their father’s most trusted advisors. Because of that, Liam had deemed the man untrustworthy.

Emma sat in silence as Killian discussed the situation with his friend in tones too low for her to make out. Occasionally she would fidget, seemingly annoyed at the fact that she was the topic of discussion. When Merlin turned to her, she frowned. “I can’t… I can’t do what you want me to do.”

“What do I want you to do?” Merlin asked.

“You want me to show you my magic,” she said. “That’s why Killian brought me here, isn’t it? So his friend the sorcerer can tell him… whatever it is you’re going to tell him about my magic. But I can’t do it. I can’t just snap my fingers and make things happen.”

“Relax, Emma.”  Killian moved to kneel next to her chair.

She tensed up even more and he could only assume it was because she felt cornered in some way.

“Merlin’s just going to talk to you,” he promised. “Neither one of us expects you to do anything.”

He wasn’t sure how to comfort her and his words seemed practically useless. The tension in the room only made things worse. Flames flickered and went out, books flew open, and their pages began to flip rapidly. Killian could see Merlin looking around the room as it all happened, powerless to stop it.

“Emma,” Killian warned as calmly as possible, “Merlin can’t help you if you don’t take it down a notch.”

“I’m not doing that,” Emma protested. He could see in her eyes though that she very much knew this was her doing. The fear he saw confirmed what he already knew. This was all new to her and she couldn’t control it.

It was a feeling he knew all too well.

Still, they wouldn’t get anywhere if Emma leveled the place. “Would it help if I left?” A potion bubbled over when she shook her head.

“Emma,” Merlin tried, “I know you’re upset, but the more you worry, the worse it’s going to be.”

“I could always turn into a dragon if it would make you more comfortable,” Killian suggested with a shrug.

“No!” Merlin exclaimed, panic in his eyes. “Killian, we’ve talked about this. There is no room for that sort of nonsense in here!”

Suddenly, everything stopped when Emma giggled. There was the sound of a glass shattering somewhere in the room, signaling what Killian hoped was the end of today’s chaos. She flinched at the sound and he held his breath for a brief moment. When things didn’t pick up again, he let out a relieved sigh. Merlin excused himself, stating he was going to get a drink for Emma, leaving her alone with Killian.

“I don’t understand…” Her voice was so small and hesitant that if he hadn’t been right next to her, he wouldn’t have heard it.

“Never happened before?” Killian asked. Her silence was all the answer he needed. “Perhaps someone suppressed your magic long ago.”

“That isn’t likely,” Merlin stated upon his return. He handed Emma a mug, then pulled up a chair.

They both looked at him in askance.

“You’re the product of True Love,” Merlin continued. “Your magic has been with you since the day you were born.”

It took Killian a moment to let it all sink in. Sure, he’d just told his friend that Emma was the supposed relic he’d been seeking all these years, but the way Merlin had worded his statement just now… “You knew.”

“I know many things, my friend,” he said with a smirk. “I can’t give you all the answers.”

The sorcerer looked back at Emma. “You’ve likely never noticed it. A missing shoe here, overflowing drink there… things you can’t exactly explain, but they happen when you get flustered or upset.”

“I’m pretty sure I would have noticed,” Emma argued.

Killian did nothing to hide his amusement. “I told you she was a spitfire,” he chuckled, shrugging when Emma shot him a dirty look.

Merlin ignored their silent argument and tried to better explain what he meant about accidental magic. Emma still didn’t seem to be buying it.

“Why now?” she asked. “You keep saying that it’s stuff I wouldn’t really notice… but I’m pretty sure everyone noticed when I healed Killian-”

“Or when she set off all the torches in the hall,” Killian added. “Those are both fairly big accidents .”

“I don’t have all the answers,” Merlin said, “but I can help you. It won’t be easy seeing as my powers are bound, but you were born with these abilities, and I’m certain you will do just fine with a little guidance.”

He was hiding something, and Killian knew it. Unfortunately, he’d learned long ago that arguing would do him no good. It was frustrating at times, even though he knew the sorcerer had his reasons. Sometimes, he would try to trick the man into revealing his secrets, but right now, making sure Emma was comfortable was more important than weasling information out of Merlin.

Emma’s magic could prove helpful for all parties involved. Getting her to the point to where she could actually be useful though could take some time. Time was something neither of them seemed to have. Magic was never easy, even he had his problems from time to time.

“What about Killian?” Emma asked. “He still has his magic… can't he teach me?”

“I'm not the teaching type, love.” It wasn't a complete lie. Killian had never been in the position to teach anyone anything. He didn't have the slightest idea how to instruct someone. “Besides, your magic is light magic. It's closer to the type of magic Merlin uses than it is to my water and fire.”

“It's not so different,” Merlin suggested. “The elements may differ, but all magic comes from the same place.”

He paused and thought quietly for a moment.

“I may have an idea.”


Killian didn't seem pleased with the turn of events, but Emma couldn't be more grateful for an opportunity to get out of the castle. Away from the cold. Away from Liam.

While both he and Killian had issues with their tempers, Liam’s frightened Emma more. He had a hatred she just couldn't understand. What had she done that was so wrong? His aversion to her magic was the most confusing, seeing as the brothers had magic of their own.

Despite her fears, Liam had mostly avoided them. It upset her, knowing that she was the wedge that had driven the brothers apart. The way Killian talked about his brother, she could tell that they had been close. She hoped that, after she left, things would settle between them again.

“Are you all right back there, Princess?” Killian asked, derailing her train of thought.

“I’m fine!” Emma shouted back, though there was no need to. Just as she could hear him while he was in dragon form, he could hear her through the harsh wind that they were flying through.

Flying.

She was flying.

Well, Killian was doing the flying, she was just along for the ride.

But there wasn’t anything like it in the world. The trip was far more comfortable this time. Instead of being hauled off by a menacing dragon, she was… hanging on for dear life on the back of a dragon.

Well, there had to be a downside.

Fear of falling aside, she couldn’t help but enjoy it.

When they reached the middle of the ocean, Killian dipped lower. Emma dared to look over into the water as he slowed a bit.

“There it is,” he stated. She looked up and saw a small island coming into view.

His home. At least, what was left of it.

Killian was fairly tight lipped on what happened when he left the island centuries ago. All he told her was that his home had been destroyed.There wasn’t really much to see, he had said, but it was isolated enough that they could work on her magic without being interrupted.

Judging by Merlin’s expression when Killian suggested the place, there was something more. But Emma didn’t ask.

It wasn’t the sorcerer’s story to tell.

Killian transformed after they landed. “Bloody hell…”

She followed him as he made his way to a small house not far from the shore. It was if he had seen a ghost.

“What?” she asked.

“I…” he frowned, “this house was destroyed long ago.”  

He offered no other explanation and fell silent, refusing to even acknowledge that he wasn’t alone.

Emma looked at the house he’d claimed was destroyed. It was small, and a bit weathered in some places, but seemed to be standing strong. Either the house hadn’t been destroyed in the first place, or someone had rebuilt it.

“Do you think anyone lives there now?” she asked.

Killian didn’t answer, nor did he indicate in any way that he’d heard what she said. Instead, he rested his head on the doorframe and continued to ignore her.

After a few minutes of trying to get his attention, Emma grew frustrated. “Will you stop ignoring me?” she demanded.

When he continued to pay her no mind, she kicked the nearest rock she could find in his general direction.

Had he not been wearing that ridiculous leather coat, he might have felt it, but he didn’t even flinch.

Determined to get his attention, she picked up a fistful of sand. “Hey!” she shouted as she threw it at him.

Killian turned just in time to get a fistful of sand in his face. His expression changed from confused to furious in an instant. “What the bloody hell was that for?” he roared.

Though she was frightened, she refused to back down.

“You didn’t bring me here to drop me off and forget about me,” she snapped. “I get that you don’t want to talk about… whatever it is that happened here… but we’re here for a reason!”

He growled and turned back to the house without another word.

When the door swung open, she wanted to tell him they shouldn’t be there. He grumbled something under his breath as he stepped inside, then turned to her and gestured for her to follow.


Everything was just as it had been since the day before he’d left. Before he ruined everything.  Before…

Killian swallowed hard, trying to dislodge the lump in his throat. It was almost as if nothing had ever happened. He slowly went through the house, looking over the small living area and the little bedroom that used to be his.

“Killian?”

“Don’t try my patience, Princess,” he said as evenly as possible. He hadn’t meant to lash out at her, but found it difficult to control his emotions at the moment.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I know this can’t be easy for you-”

“It’s not,” he interrupted, feeling a little guilty when she flinched at the sharpness of his words.

“Apologies,” he sighed. “I’ve been back to this very spot many times over the past few centuries, but I never expected to find this.”

He sat on his bed, still made as if it were waiting for him to return home from a long day of play.

Emma came into the room and examined it. He watched as she looked at all his childhood possessions. Some had been damaged, but others were just as he’d left them.

“You lived here.” It couldn’t have been a question, not with the broken look he knew he couldn’t hide.

“Aye,” he nodded.

It was strange having her in his childhood home, getting a glimpse at his simple beginnings.

“Not exactly a castle, but…” he trailed off, unsure of how to explain to a girl who’d grown up pampered.

“You’d trade all the comforts of your home now to get back to how you felt living here?”

How could she understand something like that?

“I suppose it seems strange to someone like you,” he shrugged.

“Someone like me?” She sounded almost offended.

“I didn’t mean it like that-”

“-Like what?” She crossed her arms and glared at him. Daring him to say another word. When he didn’t, she rolled her eyes, “Right. The stupid, naive little princess just doesn’t get it. I’ve never spent a day outside the palace walls, so of course I could never-”

“-That isn’t what I meant!” he protested. “Most people… they likely don’t see this as the paradise it is. All they see is a hovel, and perhaps a family living in poverty… but Emma… I had this whole bloody island as my playground. I was king of the worlds up on the cliffs, I was an explorer down in the tide pools, a pirate at high tide and the admiral of a navy at low tide. I had everything. I had my mother…”

“It sounds like you may have been close?”  

“Once upon a time…” He shifted uncomfortably when she sat next to him. She was waiting for some sort of story and he knew the truth would change her opinion of him.

Though, he wasn’t quite sure what her opinion was to begin with, nor did he understand why her opinion mattered at all.

“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to,” she said quietly. “But I’m more than willing to listen.”

Killian let out a breath he didn’t realize he had been holding. The only person besides him who knew anything was his brother, and even Liam didn’t have the whole story. It was always something that was swept under the rug. He wasn’t sure if Liam was disappointed or just didn’t know how to process it all.

Hell, he still couldn’t process it all.

The guilt followed him for centuries even though some of his memories never fully returned.

Maybe it was time to let go.

“This house has been put back together,” he said, reminding her that when he’d left it last, it was still a pile of rubble. “I destroyed it. Everything that happened here… it was my fault. I didn’t know I was a dragon.”

He sighed. “To make a painfully long story short, Mother tried to suppress my dragon powers.”

“Can you do that?” she asked.

“Apparently not,” he sighed. “Merlin was right. All magic comes from the same place, and it is something that can be bound. But there’s more to dragons than just magic. It’s what I am. I’m not just someone who has magical abilities, I’m a terrifying beast with wings. You can’t change that.”

He dared to glance at her before he went on with the story. She was quiet, and didn’t look at him, but he could see that she was contemplating something.

“So…” she started, her words slow and careful, “being a dragon doesn’t have anything to do with the curse?”

“‘Fraid not, Princess.” Defeat surged through him. Had she really thought this was something she could change? “Curse or no curse, I’m a monster.”

“You are not,” she argued.

“I killed my mother,” he blurted out.

“What?” She looked at him, confusion in her eyes where he expected to see disgust - or even hatred.

“It was an accident,” he explained. “I lost control, and… bloody hell. I don’t know how to explain it, love. That whole night was a blur. This house collapsed because I lost control and destroyed it. When I woke up, I was with Liam in the castle with no idea where I was or how I got there.”

Emma didn’t say anything for what felt like an eternity. He half expected her to get up and walk out the door even though she had no way off the island without him. When she slid closer to him, he froze, not quite sure what she was planning. Was she going to scold him? Slap him?

Pity him?

“You’ve been holding onto that all this time?” she asked.

“For centuries,” he confirmed.

“And you’re sure you killed her?”

“I don’t remember much, Emma,” he said, “but I remember the look on her face when it all went to hell, and I can still hear her cries.”

He shut his eyes and tried to will the tears away.

“It was years before I was able to return and, when I did, she was gone. Likely returned to the sea-”

“So… maybe not dead,” she suggested.

He could appreciate the fact that she was trying to make him feel better, to give him hope, but as a human, she didn’t quite understand.

“Permanently,” he stated. “She would have become a part of the sea in death.”

“Oh.”

“It’s a Nereid thing,” he said.

“Is that going to happen to you, too?” she asked. “Not that I’m implying you’re going to die any time soon. I just mean… you know what I mean, right?”

“I don’t know what’s going to happen to me,” he admitted. Two different worlds came with two very different sets of rules. Dragons had their own tales of the afterlife that were so far removed from the sea that it hurt to think about it. “Perhaps I shall just have to live forever. Then maybe, I’ll never have to choose.”

Not that he thought he’d have any choice in the matter anyway.

“So, you came back,” Emma said, turning back to the original subject. “But you never rebuilt your home and always returned to the castle even though your heart seems to be here. It’s because of what happened, isn’t it? Is that why you never stayed?”

“Partially,” he nodded. “But I also couldn’t abandon my brother. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but he needs me.”

She hummed in response, then stood to continue looking around the room. The conversation had been painful, but he couldn’t deny that he felt a weight lifting off his shoulders. When Emma didn’t immediately recoil at his confession, he was relieved. It had been so long since he’d had someone who actually listened.

“Thank you,” he said. “For listening… and for not thinking poorly of me.”

“It sounds like you were very young and unable to control what was happening,” she said, her voice soft and reassuring. “I know it’s easier said than done, but you have to stop blaming yourself for something that was an accident.”

He gave her a half-hearted shrug.

“Killian-”

“I could give you a tour,” he offered before she could try to placate him further. “Tomorrow if you’d like. It may be a small house, but the island is huge.”

It took her a moment to respond, as though he’d caught her by surprise.

“Sure,” she finally agreed. “I’d like that.”

Chapter Text

Once again, my amazing cover is by @hopeandbeans!

Art Links:

@couldnthandleit

Gifset 1

@hopeandbeans

Artwork 1//Artwork 2


 

Killian gave her a quick tour of the house before the sun began to set. He only left out one room, which she assumed was his mother’s, but she didn’t feel it was necessary to ask. He seemed in awe, commenting several times that it was just as he’d remembered, as if it had never been destroyed in the first place.

To say it was no castle was an understatement. But Emma couldn’t help but feel like the cozy little house was worth far more than it seemed. Killian was more at ease on the island than he was in the palace. The sound of the waves crashing onto the shore seemed to calm him.

“So…” she looked around the small bedroom and then back at him. “What’s the plan?”

“Plan?” he asked.

“Yeah,” she laughed, “we’ve got this one little room, and this one little bed. Unless you were planning on doing the dragon thing and sleeping on the floor?”

“The dragon thing doesn’t really work well with this house,” he reminded her. When she didn’t say anything, he laughed. “Are you saying you prefer cuddling with a dragon?”

Emma felt her cheeks grow hot, and judging by the smirk on his face, she could only assume she'd turned red. It wasn't a preference, but there was a big difference. She wasn’t sure how to explain it to him, because she couldn’t really figure it out herself.

“I was teasing,” he assured her. “There’s a perfectly good lounge chair in the living area that I can sleep on.”

“No,” she shook her head. “This is your home. I’ll sleep on the lounge chair.”

“You’re the guest,” he argued. “Besides, I'm not entirely sure this can still be called my home. We may be trespassing.”

“Why don’t we just…” she gestured towards the bed, hoping she wouldn’t have to say it.

“Your reputation isn’t going to suffer, Princess.” He seemed fairly amused about the whole situation. “It’s been a long trip,” he said, “so let’s get some rest, and we can start early tomorrow.”

It could have been worse, she tried to remind herself as she went to retrieve their bag of supplies from the living room. We could be sleeping in the sand. She returned to the bedroom to find Killian tossing his shirt into the corner of the room.

“What are you doing?!” she exclaimed when he reached for his belt.

He looked up at her and shrugged, “Getting ready for bed. Why did you bring the bag in here?”

“So we could get our sleeping clothes…” she mumbled.

“Yeah,” he chuckled, “I haven’t got any of those.”

Sharing space with a dragon was one thing, and maybe there was a valid excuse for sharing a bed with a man who wasn’t her husband, but… “You cannot sleep naked.”

“You’re staring.”

Emma quickly covered her eyes and threw the bag at him. “Find something, because you’re not sleeping naked.” She heard him sigh as he rustled through the bag. After a few moments, he proclaimed himself decent. “Shirt too,” she stated when she opened her eyes.

Killian muttered something she didn’t quite catch, then retrieved his shirt from the corner. After putting it on, he did a full turn. “Happy?”

“Better,” she nodded in approval, “Now, get out of here so I can change.”

He opened his mouth to argue, but she shushed him and shooed him out. He complained every step of the way.

She changed quickly and made sure she was well hidden under the covers before she called him back into the room. It was obvious he was grumpy about the whole thing so she wasn’t surprised when he didn’t utter a word to her when he returned.

Just as she thought she might get a peaceful night’s sleep, she felt the blankets move, and suddenly, a very warm body was cuddled up next to her. “What are you doing now?” she hissed.

“Sleeping,” he sassed back.

Fine. There wasn’t much she could do about the cramped conditions, so she figured she’d just let it go. After all, they were both dressed and it was like the whole dragon thing. Completely- “What are you doing?”

Killian just let out a laugh, but Emma was fuming. Did he really have the nerve to put his arm around her waist?

“I don’t appreciate that,” she stated.

“And where would you have me put my arm, darling?” he teased.

“Kindly remove your arm, or I’ll remove it for you.”

His response was to squeeze her a little tighter. She wasn’t going to stand for it. If he wanted to play games, she had her own set of rules. After waiting for him to relax his grip a little, she covered his hand with hers.

“I knew you’d under- yeouch!” He pulled his hand back quickly and hopped out of the bed. “What the bloody hell was that for?”

She couldn’t contain her giggles when she saw him stick his little finger in his mouth. “I told you I didn’t appreciate that,” she said innocently.

Killian glared at her for a moment while she tried to compose herself. “You think you’re so funny,” he grumbled. “I should throw your-”

“Don’t even think about it,” she warned.

He sighed and sat back down. “What do you want me to do?” he asked. “I meant no harm… there’s just nowhere else to put my arm. No matter what position we choose, there is going to be some sort of cuddling involved.”

Emma rolled her eyes and turned her back towards him again. “Just don’t get any ideas,” she muttered.



“Morning, beautiful.”

Emma didn’t have to open her eyes to know that her head was not resting on a pillow anymore.

“Comfortable?”

She shot up, and shoved him away. “I told you no funny business!”

“You were the one doing all the snuggling, sweetheart. Not me.” He had a ridiculous grin that she wanted to smack off his face.

“Go… do something useful!” she snapped.

“As you wish.”

She turned away from him and grumbled in annoyance. It wasn’t until she heard the front door shut that she moved to get out of bed herself. Without Killian hovering over her, she dressed and began to explore.

The room was built for a child. Looking through everything was like getting a glimpse into Killian’s beginnings. The entire room had a nautical theme, which, all things considered, made sense.

A small wooden boat caught her eye. She picked it up off the shelf and ran her fingers over the carefully sanded surfaces. There was a cloth sail that looked weathered from time, yet still held strong.

The sound of a door slamming shut startled her. Before she could hide the fact that she’d been snooping, Killian barged into the room. “I’ve found us some breakfast,” he proclaimed, holding up some sort of dead animal. “So… uh… I caught it, you get to cook it, right?”

“Excuse me?”

“I did something useful,” he explained, “now it’s your turn.”

Emma was about to protest, but he stopped her the minute she raised her hands. “Where did you get that?”

Killian set the dead thing down tentatively and grabbed the little toy boat from her. “Where did you get this?” he demanded.

“I…” Emma turned and pointed behind them to one of the shelves on the wall, “it was behind some things. I didn’t mean to snoop-”

“I never thought I’d see this again,” he mused, turning it over in his hands. His fingers traced over the toy as he examined it. “This was mine,” he told her. “I've had it since before I could even remember…”

There were plenty of toys in the room, but Emma could tell that the boat was special. He held it as if it was sacred, and looked at it like it was more precious than any glittering treasure. He handed it back to her and pointed to a small carving on the deck. “See that?” he asked. “I always wondered why there was a little ‘L’ scratched in the center.”

Emma shook her head, unsure of what he was getting at.

“For Liam,” he said.

The smile on his face was so innocent and childlike that she almost forgot how much she despised his jerk of an older brother. “You think it’s from the castle?” she asked as she handed it back to him.

“That’s his ‘L’,” Killian nodded. “A little messier due to his young age, I’m sure. Maybe it was his first. Maybe he gave it to me when I was born. It’s like he was with me the whole time even when he couldn’t be here…”

Killian hadn’t told her much of his beginnings. Aside from the curse, he’d kept a lot of his own history secret. He didn’t even reveal the fact that he was only half dragon until he had no other choice.

Now, he still didn’t say much, but he seemed more willing to share little bits of his past with her, even the painful ones.

“Killian?”

“I’m sorry,” he said, “I just need a moment.” Dead things long forgotten, he wandered out of the room.

“Wait!” Emma called after him, “you forgot your…” she made a face as she walked past the thing that she was definitely not going to cook. Not that she had that particular skill set anyway. “You left your dead thing in the bedroom,” she said when she met him in the living room.

“Right,” he said without pulling his attention away from his toy. “There’s some pots and pans in the cupboard. I can get the fire started on the stove for you if you’d like.” When she made a face, he frowned. “Is there a problem?”

“I can’t cook something that’s looking back at me,” she stated. “I… can’t cook anything at all.”

He smirked and muttered something that sounded suspiciously like, “sheltered princess.” She put her hand on her hips, ready to argue, but he shook his head and chuckled, “we’ll figure it out.”

Things began to go slightly smoother during breakfast. Killian had managed to turn his dead things into something edible. Once Emma was certain nothing was looking back at her, she felt more comfortable making a meal out of it. They mostly ate in silence, breaking it only occasionally to discuss their plans for the day.

After breakfast, Killian grabbed a few supplies, then gave her the promised grand tour. Despite her reservations about his hunting, Emma found that having a full stomach proved helpful with all the hiking that getting around the island seemed to require. It wasn’t a large island by any stretch of imagination, but it was big enough for two people to need more than a day or two to see it all.

She found herself wondering what it would be like to grow up in such a place.

When they finally reached the top of the cliff, Emma took a peek over the edge to see if she could see the house. Instantly, she realized her mistake as a severe case of vertigo - and the terrifying memory of the last time she’d found her feet falling out from under her without warning - set her to shaking.

“Careful!”

She barely heard the warning and hardly realized she was being lifted up. The edge disappeared from sight, but the dizziness only seemed to get worse as she moved. “Spinning,” she managed to whisper before she clamped a hand over her mouth, silently begging her stomach to calm down.

“You’re okay,” he soothed. He sat her down on the ground and she immediately curled up into a ball next to a large tree. The exposed roots and dirt weren’t the most comfortable, but she found relief in the feel of the earth beneath her.

Emma shut her eyes, hoping to regain her bearings. She was vaguely aware of movement nearby, but Killian didn’t speak to her. She appreciated it, because she really didn’t want to risk vomiting in his general direction.

A few moments passed and the nausea began to settle down. She felt the ground rumble a bit when Killian plopped himself down on the ground next to her.

“Emma?” he asked quietly.

“Hmm?”

“Can I move you, love?”

It was a strange question and she wasn’t sure what to make of it, but she agreed. “Slowly…” she warned.

He shifted a little before slowly uncurling her a bit. He then lifted her head up and placed it in his lap. “Better?”

Maybe she would have punched him if the circumstances were different, but she was grateful to have something more comfortable than the cold, hard ground to rest her head on. “Yeah,” she mumbled.

“Take a nap,” he suggested, “you’ll feel better in a bit.”

She hummed in response and began to doze off, soothed by the cool breeze.

Emma didn’t hear Killian’s chuckle when she started snoring softly.


 

Killian gently brushed back some hair that had fallen into her face, grinning when she grumbled something in her sleep. He leaned his head back against the tree and closed his eyes. Perhaps Merlin was right, he thought. The island had brought back some painful memories, but it was also home. Maybe coming back wasn’t such a bad idea… after all, this was where he grew up… where he learned of the world around him…

“Are you going to sleep all day?”

He opened one eye, and looked down at Emma, who was looking up at him, an amused grin on her face. “Shouldn’t you be resting?”

“I woke up,” she said, “and I’ve been sitting here waiting for you to do the same.”

“I wasn’t sleeping,” he argued.

“You were sleeping,” she assured him. “I’m pretty sure you scared away some of the wildlife with your snoring, too.”

He feigned annoyance, and wiggled the leg she was still using as a pillow. “Get up.” He rolled his eyes when she took her time, teasing that she was going to take another nap, then stretching, then asking ridiculous questions like: “are you going to carry me back down?”

It should have annoyed him, but for some reason, it didn’t… even if he couldn’t feel his leg. She laughed at him when they stood, and he wobbled like he’d polished off the rum. “Maybe I should carry you,” she snarked.

“Very funny.” He made a face and stomped his foot, hoping to will the feeling back into the extremity. When he finally had a bit of balance back, he nodded towards the path. “Shall we?”

There was so much more he wanted to show her, but the impromptu nap robbed them of the time they needed to wander around and return home before dark. “We can get a late lunch,” he said as they made their way down, “and then I can show you the cove.”

The cove would be safer, and it was close enough that they could stay even after the sun set. Perhaps they would, and he could show her the night sky. It was always more brilliant over the island. He found he missed it while he was away, and hope that she would appreciate it too.

By the time they arrived at the house, Killian was starving. As soon as they walked in the door, he began to scramble around in the kitchen. Breakfast had been completely devoured, leaving nothing but the few supplies left from their trek. Judging by the way his stomach was grumbling, he guessed it wouldn’t be enough for either of them.

“We don’t have any dead things,” Emma stated sarcastically, “or much of anything at all.”

“I told you, darling,” he shot back, “it was a rabbit.”

“And I told you that I refuse to acknowledge that I was an accomplice in the murder of an innocent bunny.” She smiled at him, looking the picture of complete innocence, save for the mischievous twinkle in her eyes.

Killian shook his head and laughed. “Well, now I need to go get some more dead things,” he teased, “so, do you think you’ll be okay-”

“Can I help?” she asked. “Not with… you know… cold blooded massacre … but I made you do everything this morning and that wasn’t really fair.”

He thought about it for a moment, unsure of what he could have her do that would keep her out of trouble. She didn’t know the island like he did, and the last thing he needed was for her to get lost or hurt. He didn’t want to upset her by turning down her offer, nor did he want her to think he was coddling her.

“What about digging...” he trailed off as an idea hit him.

“Digging?” Emma raised an eyebrow, making him feel like he was a complete idiot.

“Aye,” he nodded. It was the perfect plan. She wouldn’t have to venture any further than the beach, and if he didn’t wander too far into the woods, he could keep an ear out for her. “I just thought that perhaps clams might make a good lunch.”

“And maybe after… you could show me how to cook them?”

He wasn’t quite sure what to make of her sudden change of heart when it came to food preparation, but he wasn’t going to question his good luck. “As you wish.”

She mumbled a response he couldn’t quite make out, then quickly made her way into the bedroom, shutting the door behind her.

Hoping she hadn’t changed her mind, he fished out an old, dented bucket. He was almost certain it was the same one he dragged around as a child. The tools inside were small, but they would do for now. “Emma?” he called, wondering what she’d gotten into.

The bedroom door swung open, and Emma walked out. “Ready!” she stated proudly.

Killian stared for a moment, his jaw slack. “That’s my shirt,” he commented, “and my pants. Care to explain yourself?” The clothes were entirely too big for her, and she was more likely to trip than anything else. “Come here.”

Emma gave him a confused look, but complied without argument. “Did I do something wrong?” she asked.

“You’re fine,” he said, trying not to laugh. “Why don’t I just…” He wasn’t sure how to say it without upsetting her. “The pants are a bit long,” he suggested.

“Should I change?”

“I’ve got it,” he said. He knelt down and ran his hands down her leg. She didn’t say anything, but he could feel her tensing up. Before she could back away, Killian started rolling up the cuff of the pants. “Relax,” he admonished gently when she jerked her leg, almost kneeing him in the face. Bloody hell, he thought exasperatedly, he was only trying to keep her from hurting herself.

“Killian…” she warned as he began to work on the next cuff.

He heard her breath hitch when his fingers brushed against her calf. Her skin felt unbelievably soft under the rough pads of his fingers. For a moment, he allowed his mind to wander in a less than gentlemanly direction. “Something wrong, princess?” he asked, hoping she didn’t hear the catch in his voice.

“We’re going to starve if you don’t-” she stammered when he started tracing nonsense into her skin. “I mean… we… Killian!” When he chuckled, she threatened to kick him. “Food,” she reminded him, “remember?”

“Too right, love,” he agreed. He stood up and grinned at her. Emma quickly turned and stalked towards the door, but he didn’t fail to notice her cheeks were flushed.

He followed her out of the house, barely remembering to grab the bucket and tools on the way. Once outside, he could see that Emma was making a conscious effort to keep some distance between them.

“I didn’t mean anything by it,” he assured her, “I was only playing around.”

“It was inappropriate,” was her short reply.

“You’ve been sleeping with me ever since the night we met!”

“I have not!” she exclaimed, truly horrified at the implication. “Not like that, anyway…”

Her cheeks were an even darker shade of red than they were before, but this time he knew it was because she was angry and embarrassed. “I apologize, Emma,” he said. “I was just trying to have a bit of fun, and I took it too far. It was… inappropriate.”

“Maybe I overreacted a little…” she offered.

“Everything all right now?” he asked. When she nodded, he let out a sigh of relief. “Then why don’t I show you how to dig us up some dinner?”

The lesson went more smoothly than he thought it would. Emma seemed to take to the task without too much difficulty, but he could tell that she would be at it for awhile. That would give him plenty of time to get some seasonings in the wooded area behind the house.

A small part of him wondered if he should stay. He silently reminded himself that she couldn’t get into much trouble on the shore, and that she likely wouldn’t take kindly to him hovering over her. She would be nearby and within earshot.

“Just call if you need anything,” he informed her. “Once you fill up the bucket, bring it back to the house.”

After he was sure she was okay, he headed towards the woods. The little area behind the house used to be where he and mother kept their garden. After centuries of neglect, the wild seemed to have taken over, leaving the space completely unrecognizable. He gathered what he could use, then searched around to see what else he could find.

The end result wasn’t what he’d hoped it would be. He knew he could go further into the woods for more, but he didn’t want to wander too far from Emma. With a sigh, he hoped she had fared better with the clams. At the very least, they could work up a nice soup.

He decided against bringing back any animals, but kept an eye on a couple spots that seemed to be a gathering place for rabbits and birds. For tomorrow perhaps. Unless Emma still took offense to killing animals for survival. There was still a part of him that was surprised she didn’t protest the fact that he had her digging up sea creatures for food.

Figuring it would probably be best if he got things started, he made his way back to the house. He looked over at the beach and panicked when he saw Emma’s bucket sitting in the sand. He almost ran over until he spotted her climbing up onto some rocks that separated the beach front from the path to the cove.

She seemed to be enjoying herself, so he wasn’t about to interrupt her. He couldn’t help but notice she was different here. Almost as if her worries had been long forgotten. Things would return to normal all too quickly once they found themselves back at the castle. But for now, she seemed almost happy.

That could only be a good thing when it came to magic lessons.

Leaving her to her own devices for the time being, he made his way into the house. He propped the door open so he could keep an ear out for her, though he didn’t expect to see her any time soon.

He had lost himself to the hypnotizing cadence of chopping herbs when an ear piercing shriek made his blood run cold. He made it out the door just in time to hear a sickening crack, followed by a splash.

Killian raced towards the rocks, hoping he wasn’t too late. More splashing gave him hope, but as soon as it stopped, his heart sank. “Emma!” he called, not quite expecting an answer, but hoping to hear something. “Emma?!” he tried again, his heart dropping into his stomach when he was only met with silence.

He launched himself over the rocks, and was surprised to see her floundering a bit, but safely on the shore. “Emma?” he asked. There was a trickle of blood from just behind her ear, mixing with the seawater that soaked her. She looked more scared than hurt though, which offered him a little bit of relief.

She didn’t even protest when he gathered her up in his arms. “Emma…” he tried to get her attention, “please say something?”

“I’m fine,” she said weakly as she began to cough. Her voice was rough, likely from choking down the salt water.

“Come on, love. Let’s get you home.” He couldn’t climb the rocks without the risk of hurting her more, so he made the trek up the beach to the nearest opening. He thought he heard her say something as he headed towards the house, but he didn’t quite catch it. “Say again?”

“Clams,” she mumbled, “don’t forget them?”

“I’ll get them after-”

“-Can we get them now?” she interrupted.

Killian couldn’t find it in him to deny her anything at the moment. He went back for the bucket, then finished the trek to the house. Once inside, he set the bucket on the table then carried Emma into the bedroom and gently set her on the bed.

She was shivering despite the fact that he’d held her as close as possible. Her clothes were still drenched, and there was still a bit of blood staining the skin at the juncture of her neck.

His first thought was that she needed something dry, otherwise, all the warmth in the world wasn’t going to do her any good. He grabbed a spare blanket and draped it around her. “Sit tight,” he told her. There was a fear in her eyes that gave him pause, but she didn’t protest. He promised to return quickly, then ran out of the room.

Emma was curled up in a ball when he came back into the room, her small frame almost completely dwarfed by the blanket that surrounded her like a cape. Killian placed the towels he found next to her, then searched through their bag for some dry clothes.

“Love?”

She turned a bit and looked at him and he tried to help her sit up. The death grip on her blanket tightened as she moved.

“You need to dry off,” he said, “I’ve brought you some towels and some clothes…”

She didn't respond and her gaze seemed to look right through him. “Emma, you need to listen to me,” he pleaded, “you need to dry off and get into something warm.” Finally, she nodded. “I'll be in the kitchen if you need me.” When she started reaching for the towels, he felt comfortable enough to leave her on her own.

“Take it easy,” he reminded her before he left the room. Part of him hoped she would lie down for a bit, relax a little after the trying day she’d already had. But the louder part of his subconscious was yelling at him, trying to make him see things he couldn’t allow himself to wish for.

He couldn’t lose focus on the mission. Liam’s life depended on it.

Not only Liam, he reminded himself. The whole kingdom was in danger. The magic that kept their world hidden from the rest of the realm was weakening just as quickly as the magic keeping his brother alive.

There was already one army headed their way… there should have been two, but he doubted her fiancé gave a damn. The dragons were far from defenseless, but there would be no way to stave off the continuous attacks that were sure to come once the cloak was gone.

Liam was getting weaker as well. His path to the sea blocked, and the magic that kept him going diminishing… an unbroken curse would mean only certain death for his brother. What would Dóiteán do without their king?

What would he do without his brother?

He shook the thought from his mind. They were so close after all these years. He didn’t come all this way just to lose in the end.

He and Emma were here for a reason, and it would be unwise to forget that. If they couldn’t figure out a way to break the curse, everything would be lost.

 

Chapter Text

Once again, my amazing cover is by @hopeandbeans!

Art Links:

@couldnthandleit

Gifset 1

@hopeandbeans

Artwork 1//Artwork 2


 

With Emma safely in the bedroom, Killian’s thoughts moved back to lunch when his stomach growled.  The bucket of clams sat waiting for someone to get started and the herbs he’d abandoned earlier weren’t going to finish chopping themselves.

He started a fire on the stove and the heat quickly warmed the room to an almost unbearable temperature.

A breeze drifted in through the window he’d opened to combat the heat of the oven, but it wasn’t enough to stifle the warmth. Emma would be cold, he thought, after her unfortunate soaking, and he didn’t want to risk opening more windows.

Even his shirt, which was soaked through after carrying Emma back from the water, was offering no relief. It clung to him as he wrestled with it, but he finally managed to remove it. He could almost hear his mother scolding him when he crumpled it up into a ball and threw it in a corner.

The room was still sweltering, but he needed to get to work on their food. He found busying himself wasn't quite as distracting as he hoped it would be. Still, it kept him from dwelling too much on his troubles… and Emma.

There was no denying she was attractive, but there was something else. She was hard headed and naive. She jumped into situations without thinking, often causing trouble for everyone. But even though it was painfully obvious she’d lived a sheltered life, she never let it stop her. When she could have cowered behind her parents, she didn’t. When her plan ultimately failed, she came up with a new one. When her idiot fiancé ran from a ferocious dragon, she stood her ground and fought.

He admired her. She was a force to be reckoned with, of that he was certain.

But he couldn’t think about things like that. They had a deal, and after they’d each fulfilled their end of the bargain, she would be gone. Leaving him behind without a second thought.

Not that it would work anyway. No matter how much he cared for her, at the end of the day, they were from two very different walks in life.

He tried to push the thoughts away, practically mauling ingredients when he found no relief. How could he not think of her? They’d been inseparable since he’d brought her to the castle, and now, they were alone on an island in a house much too small for them and the amount of feelings he was developing for her.

Was she having the same troubles?

Killian had just started sifting through the bucket of clams when Emma emerged from the room. Once again, she was dressed in his clothes, hair knotted in a messy bun at the top of her head. The quiet noise and scent of salt caught Killian’s attention and tore him from his musings. This time, she didn't smile, nor did she look silly in the oversized garments. She looked small, tired, and like she was trying to hide all that from him.

Killian wanted nothing more than to wrap her up in his arms and take away some of the pain that was hidden in her eyes. “You should be resting,” he said instead.

“I’m fine,” she said, though she didn’t sound fine at all. Her voice was still a little rough, and so very small. She shifted her gaze to the table, frowning when she realized he’d started without her. “You said I could help.”

“I just thought you might want to get some rest,” he said. “But you’re more than welcome to help if you’re up to it.”

She still seemed half out of it, but if staying occupied helped, he wasn’t going to stand in her way. He set out an extra knife for her, then went back to the task at hand. He watched out of the corner of his eye as she moved to stand next to him. “They don’t bite,” he teased when she tentatively picked up the knife.

Emma muttered something under her breath, then grabbed a clam from the bucket. He could feel her watching him as he worked. He slowed his movements so she could see what he was doing. It wasn’t long before he could hear her giving it go.

“Dammit!” she snapped when the clam shot out of her hand and went sliding across the table.  

Killian chuckled before he could think long enough to stop himself. If looks could kill, Emma’s glare would have done him in on the spot. “It’s-”

“-harder than it looks!” she snapped.

“I was going to say it’s easier than it seems,” he commented, “but I suppose you’re right.”

“I’m trying,” she pouted. She looked so defeated, he almost hated himself for laughing.

“You’ll get the hang of it,” he assured her. “Come on. Pick it up and try again.”

“I don’t want to.”

“I’m sorry I laughed,” he said, “but you have to understand, I’m not used to hearing princesses cursing.” He waited for her to respond, smiling when she reached over and picked up her clam. “Would you like me to show you?”  

When Emma nodded, he set down his knife and moved to stand behind her. “First things first,” he said, “you need to relax. It’s just a clam.”

“Are we hurting them?” her voice wavered a bit. He thought about the rabbit from earlier that morning, and wondered if she’d ever spared a thought to where her food actually came from. He supposed it was different for her, having someone else taking care of her every need for survival. The island, and to an extent, Dóiteán, didn’t have that luxury.

“They’re fine,” he said, realizing it probably wasn’t the best answer. “Listen,” he tried a different approach. “Don’t worry about all that. Just… think about how good they’ll taste. Think about the all the work you put into everything, and I promise, it’ll taste even better.”

“Okay…” She didn’t sound convinced, but she relaxed a bit. It would do for now.

Her skin was still slightly cool to the touch, causing him to instinctively pull her closer. He expected an elbow to the gut and was caught off guard when Emma just leaned back into him. Her hands however, were still clenched in little fists.

He covered her hands with his, and coaxed her into relaxing the grip she had on both the clam and the knife. “Okay.  This isn’t an armed battle, Emma.” Killian pried the knife from her fist and brandished it a little. “It’s more of a… dance.  And in a waltz, there’s only one rule: pick a partner who knows what he’s doing.”

“So… stepping on your feet is like what… accidentally slicing you with the knife?” she asked. Amused by her own joke, her giggles filled the room.

“Very funny,” he snarked, “I think we’ve had enough blood for one day, don’t you? Try not to slice me.” He laughed when she swore that she made no promises. “Just follow me,” he placed the knife back in her hand and wrapped his grip around hers, “and just hold…” he steadied her other hand, “I meant it when I said no slicing yourself… or me. Just pry open the clamshell.”

“Okay.” she grumbled. He was almost certain she was rolling her eyes at him.

She held her breath as he helped her maneuver the knife. The first little pop startled her, and he bit back a laugh. “Little more…” he said. Emma followed his lead and together they pried the clam open. “That’s it! Now just-”

“This is disgusting,” she commented as she let go of the knife and pulled off the top shell. “Now what?”

“Now we need to get the rest of it.” He took the top shell and tossed it aside, then picked up the knife again and handed it back to her. She made little sounds of disgust as they separated the meat from the bottom half of the shell.

“All that work for that ?”

“Now you know why we have a whole bucket,” he said. “Dump the good stuff in the bowl, and toss the shells to the side… I’ll get those later.” He waited a moment to see if she’d decide to let him do the rest.

“I guess that wasn’t so bad,” she shrugged. “Can I try another one?”

“There’s a whole bucket if you’d like,” he suggested.

“I think I still need help…”

He didn’t think that she really needed much assistance, but he wasn’t about to turn her away if she was asking him for help.  His mother and his brother had raised him to be a gentleman, after all. And if that help meant staying wrapped around her without an elbow to the gut or a stomp on his foot, then who was he to complain?

“Why don’t you try taking charge of the knife this time?” he suggested. “It might be easier without the extra set of hands.”

“But-”

“I’m not going anywhere,” he assured her. “Right here if you need me, love.”

If she wasn’t convinced, she didn’t let on. He watched over her shoulder as she picked out a new clam and started the process over.  Just as he thought, she needed hardly any help from him at all. It was a slow process for her, but eventually, she managed without any gentle reminders from him.

“I did it…” she said, sounding just a little giddy.

He wanted to tell her “I told you so,” but decided it wasn’t for the best and settled for a pleased nod. “Why don’t you give it another go?” he asked instead.

Emma didn’t need any further prompting. She was already reaching in the bucket for another clam. After a couple more landed in the bowl, he knew she didn’t need him anymore, but she wasn’t complaining, and he was reluctant to let go of her.

“Killian?” she asked when he rested his chin on her shoulder.

“Hmmm?”

“What are you doing?” She set everything down, and in an instant, tensed up.

Killian backed away, more than a little disappointed even though he knew he was getting too close to the line he swore to himself that he wouldn’t cross. “Why don’t I just leave you to it, and I’ll get everything else put together.”

“That sounds like a good idea,” she agreed. “Maybe you should put a shirt on too.”

He was wondering when she was going to notice that.

Defeated, Killian started looking around the kitchen to see if he could find anything useful.

“It’s bad enough we’re using someone’s house, are you really going to steal their food too?” Emma asked.

“I’ll replace what I use,” he said. “Besides, if someone actually lived here, I’d imagine they’d have come home by now.”

The answer seemed to appease her and the two went to working in silence. He wasn’t sure if she found it uncomfortable, but he definitely did.

What was he thinking? Wasn’t getting too close the one thing he was trying to prevent? Now he’d gone and upset Emma all over again. He could hear her, working away like she was on a damned mission.

For someone who blindly jumped into things, she was rather skittish. Though, after witnessing what her weasel of a fiancé had done in the face of danger, he couldn’t imagine the man was much good for anything.

She never spoke about him, he realized. Any details she gave at all about the man came only when prompted. Even then, she’d give just the information needed and refused to elaborate.

He knew they weren’t in love.  Emma had made it completely clear that it was nothing more than a political arrangement. Filled with negotiations and promises that one side never intended to keep. Had she known that from the start, Emma had hissed, she wouldn’t have bothered with the arrangement at all.

“I’m sorry,” Emma said, breaking through the silence.

Confused, he turned away from his task to look at her, surprised to see that she had done the same. “You did nothing wrong,” he insisted.

“I overreacted,” she said, “ again.

“I think we’re both just a little hungry and it’s not doing wonders for our moods,” he laughed. “Are you almost done?”

“I have a couple more to get through,” she said.

“Wonderful, I found a few more things we can add,” he held up one whole potato and an almost empty sack of flour. “Finish up, then bring the bowl over here.”


“I told you it wouldn’t be horrible,” Killian teased as they started cleaning up the mess of dishes.

“Very funny,” she rolled her eyes, though she had to admit, he was right. She was pleasantly surprised to find that she not only enjoyed the end result, but that having a hand in preparing it really did seem to make it better.

The mood had lightened now that they weren’t cranky about their empty stomachs. Killian was attentive, keeping an eye on her due to her fall earlier, but he kept a greater distance between them.

Emma hated that she had managed to push him that far, but she couldn’t risk getting too close. She had a kingdom to think about, and he… well… she wasn’t quite sure what he planned on doing after they broke the curse, but she knew those plans didn’t involve her.

“How’s your head?” he asked.

It took a minute to pull out of her thoughts, which seemed to upset him. Before she could respond, he was right there, asking her ridiculous questions and checking her head.

“I’m fine,” she waved him off. She wasn’t sure why he was overreacting.

“Are you sure?” He still seemed to be in a panic, but he backed off a little. “You're not dizzy or nauseated or anything like that?”

“I’m fine, ” she said again. Really, it was sweet that he was worried, but there was nothing to worry about.

“You hit your head,” he reminded her. “Bloody hell… you were bleeding and I just left the room-”

“I wasn’t bleeding,” she said, “it was just a little left over…” She could tell he wasn’t quite following. She’d hoped she wouldn’t have to try and explain, because she wasn’t entirely sure what had happened.

“Emma?”

“I had a little help getting to shore,” she admitted. “There was a lady who dragged me out of the water, and she… I guess she healed me. I don’t remember much… I was half out of it. Then I heard you, and when I turned back to thank her… she was gone.” There was a small part of her that hoped he had seen the woman too, but her rational side was all too eager to inform her that he would have said something.

“You were alone,” he said. “And if someone else was on this island, we would have seen them by now. Maybe it was your imagination-”

“Then how do you explain the healing?”

“Maybe you did it yourself, but can’t remember. I don’t know, Emma!” he shouted.

“Don’t you dare yell at me!” she snapped back. “I saw someone. Just because you didn’t doesn’t mean I’m crazy!”

Killian took a deep breath. When he spoke again, his tone was quiet, calm, and just a little bit cautious. “I never said you were crazy. I just said that it’s not possible.”

“I saw someone,” she protested.

“I don’t doubt that, love,” he assured her, “but I think that person doesn’t exist. It doesn’t mean you’re crazy, it just means you went through a fairly traumatic experience, and your mind was likely playing tricks on you.”

Emma rolled her eyes, and stormed out of the room. Telling her he didn’t see anyone was one thing, but insinuating that she’d made the whole thing up? “Go away!” she demanded when she heard him approaching, his pace just as furious as she felt.

“I never said you were crazy,” he insisted.

“You know what I think it is?” she asked, refusing to look at him. “I think you’re just jealous.”

“Jealous?” he asked, “of a figment of your imagination? Now I think you’re delusional.”

“Am I?” she turned to face him. “You’re obviously upset that someone else rescued me first, and that you didn’t get all that hero worship you think you deserve.”

“Right,” he scoffed, “because I’m in this for the hero worship. It couldn’t possibly be because I might actually give a damn about you.”

His statement caught her off guard, but she refused to dwell on it. “The only person you care about is your stupid brother. Maybe yourself… I don’t know, you seem a bit reckless… maybe you don’t care that much about yourself… you know what? I don’t care!”

“Yes you do!”

That was a strange accusation. So what if she cared? She didn’t. “You’ve been shamelessly flirting with me since the day we met. The only thing you care about is your next conquest, and I can assure you, it’s not me.”

“You are so wrapped up in your own defenses that you can’t see what’s in front of your nose,” he grumbled.

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” She wasn’t really sure what he was trying to get at.

“I don’t bloody know.” He waved off the comment, and turned to leave. “If you need me, I’ll be on the beach.”

She stood there as he left, dumbfounded, and not quite sure what had just happened. She groaned when she realized she’d have to apologize again. Why did she keep doing things like this? Killian had shown her nothing but kindness despite their strange alliance. She hadn’t really been the most grateful guest.

Well, they couldn’t help each other if they weren’t speaking. Maybe if she apologized for her part, he’d take back some of the things he’d said. Or not. He could always change his mind and leave her on the island to perish.

Deciding she wasn’t going to find out by sulking in the house by herself, she swallowed her pride and went to look for him.

The moment she was out the door, she collided with something solid. “Woah there, lass,” Killian said as he steadied her, strong hands gripping her shoulders.  “Are you all right?”

“Killian?” she asked. All she wanted to do was melt into his embrace. But she couldn’t. He didn’t seem angry anymore, but she didn’t have a clue what he’d come back for. What if he didn’t want her to be so close? She took a deep breath; “What are you-”

“I needed to apologize,” he said. “Emma, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said all those things. I let my temper get the better of me, and… I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry too,” she said. They really needed to stop doing this. Every moment was one step forward, and two steps back. She couldn’t understand why she had to overreact to everything, nor why the more she tried to push him away, the harder it got to hold her temper.

“If you’d like… I could still take you to the cove,” he suggested.

Emma moved closer to him. His arms dropped to her waist as hers rose to circle behind his neck. She wasn’t sure what she was thinking, but for some reason, she couldn’t help herself. She stood on her toes, and gently pressed her lips to his. It was a strange feeling, wanting to kiss someone.

With Walsh, it was all about keeping up appearances. With Graham, it was simple curiosity.

With Killian, it was… different.

The thought that he might not appreciate her kissing him crossed her mind briefly. She pulled back, and looked down, a whispered apology on her lips. Being forward wasn’t exactly something she was used to.

He placed his hand under her chin, tilting it up so she would look at him. He looked slightly confused, but there was a small smile on his face. In his eyes, she could see something she recognized immediately.

Hope.

For what, she didn’t know. Hope they would start getting along? Hope that she would kiss him again? Hope that maybe-

No. She couldn’t think that there was any sort of feelings involved. Whatever this was-

He was kissing her again, his hand moving to undo the knot of hair at the top of her head. The arm around her waist pulled her closer, squeezing her just a little tighter.

There was an unexpected smoky taste to him, coupled with something spicy she couldn’t place.

Warmth washed through her, and even with closed eyes, she could tell that the space between them had grown brighter. She felt as if she were engulfed by flames, but it didn’t hurt, and she didn’t dare open her eyes to check.

Emma kissed him back with everything she had, her fingers threading through his hair, tugging lightly. He groaned in response, muttering something that sounded like her name as he pulled away.

She opened her eyes as he kissed her cheek sweetly, and let out a little yelp. They really were on fire. How did he not know that?

“Sorry!” Killian let go of her and jumped back. The flames died the instant he distanced himself. His cheeks were flushed, and his ears were pink. If she wasn’t in the middle of freaking out, she would find it endearing.

“How am I not dead?” she asked. “We were on fire .”

“Not really,” he said. “I didn’t mean to frighten you. That um… happens sometimes.”

She gave him a pointed look, and he shrugged. “It’s complicated.”

“Okay,” she said, “you can explain when we get to the cove.”

They walked to the cove in silence. As they passed the rocks where Emma had fallen, she looked towards the shore. She didn’t expect to see her mysterious rescuer, but couldn’t help searching a bit.

A gentle nudge from Killian made her realize that she’d all but come to a complete stop. Disappointed in her lack of findings, she moved forward again.

It still bothered her that he didn’t believe her. Though he did have a point. No one else had been seen hanging around the island since they’d arrived. Why should he believe her if there was no proof?

Someone had helped her though. For what reason, she didn’t know. But they didn’t even stick around for a ‘thank you’.

Maybe she had imagined the whole thing.

“Here we are,” Killian said with a grin. Emma snapped out of her thoughts and noticed a small cave in front of them. He offered her his hand. “The rocks get a bit slippery,” he explained, “wouldn’t want you falling again.”

She took his hand, and let him lead her into the cave. It wasn’t large by any stretch of the imagination. There was a cozy feel to it, but also an air of mystery. Emma imagined Killian must have had plenty of make believe adventures here as a child.

“Bloody hell,” Killian whispered, shocked.

Emma followed his gaze, and saw someone sleeping against the back wall. In the dim light, it was hard to make out any features. She moved to get closer, but Killian pulled her back.

The person didn’t look to be in any type of distress. Killian however, looked as if he had seen a ghost. It was the same look she saw when he noticed the house had been rebuilt. “Killian-”

He stepped in front of her when the cave’s occupant began to shift and stretch. “If I tell you to run,” he whispered, as the person stood. “you need to listen to me.”

“Okay,” she agreed, though she wasn’t sure running was going to do her any good in this situation. She’d likely die on the rocks before she put any distance between herself and whatever danger he thought she was in.

“Stop!” he shouted when the person, a woman it looked like, began to come towards them. “Don’t come any closer or-”

“Or you’ll what, my seastar?” The woman stepped even closer, coming into full view.

Emma felt Killian tense up, his grip on her hand tightening. She wasn’t clear on who the woman was, but she recognized her immediately. “That’s her,” she whispered. “That’s the lady that saved me.

“It’s a trick, Emma,” Killian growled. “This woman is no savior. She’s a bloody demon.”

“Is that any way to speak of your mother?” She looked hurt, and stopped in her tracks.

“My mother is dead .” It was like the words were poison on his tongue. “Whatever it is you’re trying to do-”

“I wasn’t trying to do anything,” she looked to the ground and shook her head. “That isn’t exactly right. I was trying to stay out of your way”-she looked up at Emma-“that’s why I rushed off when I heard Killian coming for you.”

“If you’re his mom-”

“Don’t talk to her!” He stepped backwards, forcing her to move with him. Her hand came up to wrap around his bare shoulder instinctively.

“She’s not who she says she is, Emma. I told you the story. I… she… I killed my mother”-his voice cracked as he spoke the words-“remember?”

“You didn’t ,” the woman’s voice was pleading. “I was badly hurt, yes. I almost didn’t make it to the sea to heal.”

“Do you have to go to the sea to heal?” Emma asked Killian, trying to bring his attention back to her to calm him.

“Aye,” he nodded. “If it’s bad enough, and there’s no one around to assist you, returning is an option. Only if you’re close enough, mind you.” He turned his attention back to the woman claiming to be his mother. “But that doesn’t explain why you never came back for me.”

“My son ,” she cried, tears in her eyes. Emma thought they were genuine, but Killian still seemed to be on alert. “Do you truly believe that I would abandon you?”

“That is not an explanation,” he informed her.

“I couldn’t get to y-” She choked up for a moment, and Emma felt a pang of regret for her remorse. “The portal wouldn’t let me through. I was too weak to venture too far from the sea, and the one door that would allow me to come for you had been closed. I thought that perhaps…” her voice trailed a bit, as though she was holding something back.

“The curse closed it,” he bit out, as if he had no control over his words. “From what Liam told me-”

“Liam,” she spat, as if the very name were a curse. “He told me he wouldn’t abandon you. That he’d come for us. He left us to rot on this isla-”

“-don’t you dare talk about Liam like that!” he shouted and Emma felt his the muscles in his back tighten. Blinded by rage, he dropped her hand and pulled out of her grasp. “He did nothing of the sort! Because of you, the whole bloody kingdom was cursed! The portal is closed and he had no way of getting to us! No way to get himself to the sea!” He marched up to her until he towered over her menacingly. “You don’t get to say things like that when you’re the one who abandoned both of us !”

Emma wasn’t sure what to do. She’d seen Killian’s temper before, but there was something different going on. She couldn’t be sure he wouldn’t lose control and accidentally hurt everyone.

“You abandoned us, and you killed our father,” he accused.

Emma saw a flash of something followed by smoke. Killian was starting to lose control and he didn’t even realize it.

“Killian,” Emma whispered, but he was far too wrapped up in his grief to hear her.

“Your father killed himself,” his mother shot back. “Whatever story Liam fabricated for you is nothing more than something to ease his own guilt.”

Emma ducked just in time to miss the tail that swung her way. There was a scream, but she didn’t know if it was her or his mother. “Killian!” she shouted, but it was too late. The dragon was too big for the cave, and even though he’d only transformed for a brief moment, it was enough.

“Bloody hell!” he shouted as the cave started crumbling around them.

The ominous sound of earth trembling filled Emma’s ears and she couldn’t help darting her glance to the mouth of the cave. It seemed so far away.

“Get out of here!” his mother shouted. “Get Emma and get”-a rock crashed down on the back of her head, and Emma watched her crumple to the ground soundlessly.

She saw Killian rushing towards her, but he had to jump back as more debris fell. Emma felt a rush of warmth course through her, temporarily shielding her from harm. She didn’t know how long it would last, but she knew that if Killian left his mother to die, he would never forgive himself. “Get your mother!” she instructed, waving him away.

“I can’t leave you!” he tried to move forward again, but it was no use. The crumbling walls created a barrier between them. “Emma!”

Instinct had her throwing her hands in the air, feeling the pressure change as the debris slowed marginally. She couldn’t hold it forever, but she could give him - give them all - time.

“Get your mother!” she shouted again. She was still conscious. There was a chance she could make it out alive. His mother didn’t have that luxury. When she didn’t hear him calling for her anymore, she hoped he’d listened to her.


Killian dragged his mother to safety, leaving her close to the water in hopes that it would help heal her. He turned to rush back to the cave, his eyes trained on where he knew the opening was hidden. “Emma!” He shouted, stumbling as he moved in the loose sand. He was unable to see past all the dust that was billowing in the air. “Emma!” he called again as he searched.

The world went silent as the last of the debris settled. The birds, the wind, the very pulse in his ears, it all seemed to pause as he froze at the sight. There was nothing but dust. Nothing.

No one.

Chapter Text

Once again, my amazing cover is by @hopeandbeans!

Art Links:

@couldnthandleit

Gifset 1

@hopeandbeans

Artwork 1//Artwork 2


 

Killian choked out a sob. He’d lost her, just as he’d lost… as he thought he’d lost his mother all those years ago. All because of his damned temper.

Liam was always on his case about it, and Killian had that firsthand knowledge of how easy it was to lose control. It was something that hadn’t happened in centuries, but the threat was always there. He could feel it simmering in his blood every time he got angry.

After his first night in the castle, both his brother and Merlin helped him learn how to keep the dragon at bay. To control the wild magic he had just discovered to be a part of him.

Control was hard, but he’d been able to get a handle on things… until now.

Now, Emma was dead because of him. A cold feeling of dread washed over him as he called for her in vain. He’d just destroyed another woman he lov-

A loud, hacking cough cut through the silence, forcing him to put away the rogue thought for now. His breath caught as he moved autonomically towards the sound. “Emma?” he asked cautiously, not wanting to get his hopes up too high.

Another cough sounded, and soon, Killian could see a small form moving through the dust. He ran without hesitation. It was her. It was her, and she was alive.

He practically bowled her over when he reached her. She was shaking in his arms, knees buckling under his onslaught or the harrowing experience she’d just survived, Killian wasn’t sure. He just knew she was warm, breathing, alive in his embrace.

Relief made way for absolute joy, and Killian couldn't help himself. He squeezed her tightly as he peppered her with little kisses, reveling in her giggles.

"Killian!" she squeaked. "You're smothering me!"

“Sorry, love,” he loosened his hold on her, giving her a little space, but also making sure she stayed upright.

“You’re okay…” he gasped.

“Yeah,” she let out another little cough.

“Let’s get you out of here.” He lifted her into his arms and carried her away from the wreckage.

Once they were clear from the dust and debris, he sat her down next to his mother, who was still unconscious, then joined her on the sand. “You’re okay…” he said again, wondering if this was just some hopeful delusion. “ How?

“Magic… I think…” Her brow furrowed as she tried to recall what happened.  “I just… I tried to stop everything from caving in, but it was too much. I couldn’t do it. I’m sorry.”

“No, Emma,” he shook his head, “ I’m sorry. None of this would have happened if I hadn't lost my temper. I shouldn’t have put you in that position…”

Emma looked over at his mother, then back at him. “Is she going to be okay?” She asked.

He could see the guilt in her eyes. None of this was her fault, and yet she still carried the burden. The one he placed on her. “She’s healing,” he said, “it will take some time, but she’ll get there.”

“I tried…” she sniffled. She quickly wiped away the lone tear that rolled down her cheek.

“You were bloody brilliant.” He placed a kiss on her cheek. “Amazing,” he punctuated his belief with a kiss to her other cheek. “We never would have made it out alive without you.”

She nervously checked on his mother again. “Are you sure-”

“Emma, she’s fine.” Maybe it sounded cold, but she was worrying too much. “She’ll likely be out a while, but she’ll recover. It’s you I’m worried about.”

“I’m fine,” she protested, “and your mother is passed out-”

“You don’t know her like I do,” he interrupted. “She prefers to heal herself. If she could bring herself back from near death, a simple knock on the head isn’t going to keep her down. You, on the other hand, have had three traumatic experiences just today.”

“I’m okay,” she insisted. “A little dusty maybe, but otherwise unharmed.”

“Glad to hear it.”

“So…” she smirked and gave him a little nudge. “You were supposed to explain that whole fire thing. I mean… if we’re going to just sit around and wait for your mom to wake up… maybe you could tell me now?”

“Right,” he chuckled. He was hoping she’d forget about that. “To be perfectly honest, I don’t really know all that much about it. What I do know, is that it’s not really fire… more of a magic thing. From what I’ve heard, it just has a tendency to happen from time to time.”

“From what you’ve heard ?” she teased. “Are you saying you’ve never actually had that happen before?”  

“Well… ah…” he scratched nervously behind his ear. “No.” He shot her a look, and could tell she had a smart remark just waiting for him.

“Oh…” She barely managed to force the word out without a giggle.

He eyed her suspiciously, but she just shrugged. Judging by her expression, she was trying hard not to laugh. Deciding she wasn’t going to tease him anymore, he turned to look at the water.

“So… virgin, huh?”

“Oh bloody hell!”

Emma fell over in a fit of giggles, making it difficult for Killian to be even the tiniest bit annoyed. “You’re hilarious, darling,” he tried to talk over her laughter. “Go on, insult me for your own amusement. But a bit of advice: when I jab you with my sword, you’ll feel it.”

The giggling stopped, and Killian thought maybe he’d gone too far. Then she was grinning from ear to ear. “So… you’re more experienced with swords than with fire?”

“Are you finished ?”

“Sorry.” She sat back up, and looked as if she was trying her hardest to be on her best behavior. “I do have one… serious question though.” She waited for him to give her the go ahead, smiling when he gestured for her to continue. “I know you’re a little lacking in the experience department-”

“Don’t you dare start again,” he warned, though there was no fight in his words.

Her hands went up in mock surrender. “I was just going to see if… maybe you could do it again, but… on purpose this time.”  

"No promises," he smirked, hoping he looked and sounded more confident than he felt. The thought that he might not be able to get the same results a second time had his stomach tying up in knots. Up until a few hours ago, he'd just assumed fire kisses were a myth. He'd never experienced it, never witnessed it. All his knowledge came from stories that had been passed around for centuries. None of them carried any instructions, nor indication of what caused them in the first place. Now that he knew they were real, he thought that maybe, they were more common before the curse. But that didn't help him now. What if she found him to be boring without his fire?

"Hey," she interrupted his thoughts, "I don't really care about the fire... I just want you to kiss me."

Now that he could do.

He felt it the moment their lips touched. The feeling of his magic sparking just underneath his skin. Emma's once cool skin felt warm to the touch as he pulled her closer.

Killian dared to open his eyes when she moved to settle on his lap. The flames flickered wildly around them, yet he didn't draw attention to it, not wanting to scare Emma. He shut his eyes and wrapped his arms around her waist. She made a little noise when his hand brushed against the bit of skin that was peeking out from under her shirt-

A bit of movement startled them both, and quickly doused the flames. They turned to see his mother starting to sit up. She had a devilish grin on her face, and laughed. “Well don't stop on my account. I can see myself back to the house if you wanted to-”

“Mother!”

Emma hid her face in the crook of his neck. He could feel her shaking with silent laughter and was grateful she was amused rather than mortified.

“Will you be staying?” she asked as she stood.

The quick change of subject caught him off guard. All he could do was shrug.

“You know where to find me,” she said softly.  She started towards the house, leaving him and Emma alone on the shore.

They sat in silence for a bit, Emma's soft breaths tickling his skin. The lack of snoring assured him that she was still awake, but the calm, steady rhythm of her breathing told him she wouldn't be much longer. “Come on, sweetheart,” he gave her a gentle nudge, “let's get back to the house. I can draw you a bath if you'd like.”

“So we're staying?” she asked.

“I'm not sure, love,” he sighed. He knew he should stay. Hear what his mother had to say. But that didn’t make processing everything any easier. She’d let him believe she was dead for centuries, only to show up and act as if nothing had changed.

“You should talk to her,” Emma said. “Calmly. Actually listen to each other. It seems like a lot of this is just… I don’t know… miscommunication?”

“She let me believe she was dead,” he reminded her. “I saved her life. Isn’t that enough?”

“Can’t you at least try?” she asked. “Just give her a chance to explain. If you don’t want to stay after that, then we’ll leave. She’s your mother. The least you can do is hear her out.”

He had to face her anyway. It was getting late, Emma was tired, and he would be a fool to take her on such a trip after all she’d been through that day. “We’ll stay for now, and work on your magic tomorrow.”

“Killian…”

“I’ll talk to her,” he promised.

“Thank you.” Seemingly appeased, she stood, and held out her hand. “Does the old man need any assistance?”

Killian rolled his eyes as he stood. “You’re not as funny as you think you are,” he informed her as she laughed. Before she could pull her hand away, he took it and laced his fingers with hers. “Just to make sure you don’t injure yourself  again,” he teased when she blushed. “Watch where you’re walking?”


Emma sat with Killian’s mother, Marella, she said her name was, while he drew a bath. She couldn’t make any true judgements, after all, she didn’t really know the woman. But she felt at ease around her.

Marella avoided the subject of what happened between her and her sons, and Emma didn’t ask. It wasn’t her place. Instead, she shared stories of Killian’s childhood, making Emma laugh at all his misadventures.

“What’s so funny?” Killian asked as he entered the room.

“Your mom was just telling me about the time you ran into the woods naked,” Emma giggled.

“Bloody hell.” He turned a bright shade of red and didn’t seem amused.

“He fell into the poison plant,” Marella added. “Remember that, Sea Star?”

“Mother!” His ears were just as red as his cheeks. “I’m certain Emma doesn’t want to hear any of these tall tales.”  He looked at Emma, flushed and grumpy, and nodded towards the washroom. “Everything’s ready if you’re done humiliating me.”

Emma stood, and followed him into the washroom. “Killian-”

“You’ve got a little fire going to keep you warm,” he interrupted, “and there’s a soap dish on the table, towels on the hanger, and a robe for when you’re finished.”

“Please don’t be mad,” she begged.

“I’m not,” he sighed. “Slightly annoyed? Embarrassed? Yes. But… I’m sure she’s just happy to have someone who will listen to her go on and on about what a little hellion I was.”

“So you’re not going to yell at her?”

“Of course not,” he smiled and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. “Feel free to join us when you’re finished, or… if you’d rather, you could turn in for the night.”

“Okay,” she nodded. Before he could leave, she called back to him, “Killian?”

“I won’t lose my temper,” he assured her.

She was a little rattled by the fact that he’d pretty much read her mind, but was too relieved to comment on it. “Thank you.”

After the door shut, Emma undressed and slipped into the water, sighing in something akin to bliss as she did so. There were definite perks to having a dragon around. A nice, warm bath was one of them. At home, the water always seemed too cool off way too quickly. Part of that was her mother’s objection to fire outside of the fireplaces, but maybe things would change when she brought Killian home.

Wait a minute…

Emma shook the thought from her mind, reminding herself that Killian had his own home, and likely had no interest in her past their deal.

But that kiss…

She couldn’t help dwelling just a little bit on the kisses they’d shared. Surely they meant something? Would he have really reacted the way he did when she emerged from the wreckage if he didn’t feel anything other than a physical attraction?

Why was she allowing herself to even entertain the thought?

Looking for a distraction, she tried to listen in on the conversation as she cleaned up, disappointed when all she could hear was muffled voices. It calmed her a bit, knowing that although it sounded a little tense, their voices were low and tempers weren't flaring.

She’d seen his temper before, but never quite like today. Seeing him so angry that he lost control was frightening. Within seconds he’d brought down an entire cave, nearly killing them all.

She wondered if her own magic would be that destructive. If it was something she should be afraid of. After all, Killian had had centuries to learn how to handle his magic and he still lost control. How would she be able to put her magic to good use after only a few days?

Shoving the thoughts aside, she ducked under the water and let the warmth wash over her. Right now, she needed to be strong, she reminded herself. This wasn’t easy for Killian. He needed her, whether he wanted to admit it or not.

Emma surfaced, and rinsed the remaining soap away. Reluctantly, she stepped out of the tub, dried off, and wrapped herself in the robe Killian had left for her.

When she walked into the room, she let out a sigh of relief. Killian and his mother seemed relaxed, both with cautious smiles on their faces. It was a start.

“I’m just… going to get changed…” Emma said, not wanting to interrupt, she added, “and maybe go to sleep.”

“I’ll be there shortly,” Killian told her.

With a nod, Emma left the room. She changed and snuggled under the covers, waiting for Killian to show up. She only meant to rest her eyes as she waited, but discovered she’d actually fallen asleep when Killian gently shook her awake.

“Emma…” he whispered.

She opened her eyes and even in the dim light, she could tell something was wrong. “KIllian?” she asked as she started to sit.

“It’s all right,” he said softly, trying to ease her alarm. “I just… I didn’t want you to wake up and worry.”

“What do you mean?”

“I can’t sleep here,” he sighed, “not right now. It’s too… I don’t know.”

Emma patted the space next to her, and Killian sat down. “You can talk to me. I’m not going to run to your mom or anything like that.” The little laugh he let out was a mix of amusement and sadness, but at least it was a step in the right direction. “I thought things were better? You two didn’t seem to be upset with each other.”

“Aye”-he nodded-“we’ll be fine. But right now…” he looked around the room, then back to her and shook his head. “It’s just too soon, love. I can’t pretend that everything is fine just because we managed to smooth things over. I can’t sleep in this house, knowing she’s just down the hall. That tomorrow morning, she’ll be up bright and early, likely making breakfast like the past few centuries never happened. We still have things to discuss, and I… I’m not ready for that familiarity.”

“So what are you going to do?” He’d chosen to stay, but he still wasn’t ready to face some things. She could understand that need to distance himself. But there wasn’t much space on a small island.

“I suppose sleeping under the stars isn’t so bad,” he said. “I’ll be close by-”

“I’m going with you,” Emma decided. Before he could protest, she’d already grabbed her pillow and was waiting for him to move so she could take the blanket he was sitting on.

“You don’t have to do this,” he said. “Stay inside where it’s nice and warm. Get an actual good night’s sleep.”

She rolled her eyes and practically pushed him off the bed. “We both know you’re going to do the dragon thing, so I’ll be plenty warm and comfortable.” When he raised his eyebrow in question, she giggled. “Come on, dragon. Let’s go.”

They were stopped on their way out by his mother, who was still up, busying herself around the house. “You’re leaving?” she asked, her eyes filled with a sadness that broke Emma’s heart.  

“No, Mother,” Killian said, thinking quicker than Emma could. “I just promised Emma a bit of stargazing. We’ll be back in the morning.”

The answer seemed to satisfy her. She quickly bid them goodnight, and went back to her busywork.

“You lied to her,” Emma whispered once they were outside.

“There’s no need to hurt her, love,” Killian said. “And it’s not a complete lie. I do intend  to do a bit of stargazing before nodding off.”

They walked down to the shore and settled a safe distance from the tide. Emma laid out her blanket while Killian transformed. It was a nice, warm night with a cool breeze coming off the water.

“Barring any tsunamis, we should be able to stay dry here,” he teased.

“Ha. Ha,” she sassed as she leaned against him.

“Are you warm enough?” he asked.

“I’m fine,” she said, “show me the stars. I’m sure living out here, you probably spent a lot of time looking at them?”

“Aye,” he said quietly before falling into silence.

She wasn’t sure if he didn’t feel like talking, or if he’d just fallen asleep. Not wanting to disturb him, she looked at the sky. The sound of the waves crashing onto the shore lulled her into a light doze.

“I named some of them,” he said shyly, startling her back to wakefulness. “When I was little…”

“Will you show them to me?”

Killian pulled his lips back in what Emma automatically interpreted as a grin - if a little bit menacing of one with all the sharp, gleaming teeth sparkling at her. He lifted his tail, and used it to point out the various stars he’d named. They both giggled at the sillier ones, and then he showed her how he connected them together to make pictures in the sky.

“That one’s my favorite,” he stated, drawing out the picture with his tail. “It looks like a swan.”

Emma tilted her head until she could see it.

“Graceful creatures,” he commented, “unlike a certain princess I know.”

“Very funny,” she rolled her eyes.

“I think that’s what I’ll call you then,” he said wryly, giving her a little nudge with his nose. “What do you think, Swan?”

Well, she didn’t hate it. In a way, it was kind of sweet, despite the teasing. “Do I get a star too?”

“You can have a star over there,” he pointed to another set of stars. “The big one, at the tip of that hook shaped thing.”

“Then maybe, I’ll just start calling you ‘Hook,’ and you can have a star right there.” she pointed back to the swan and smiled, “that one… on the tail.” She turned and gave him a little kiss on his nose, then snuggled closer.

His long neck wrapped around her, his nose resting just to her side. She wasn’t sure what possessed her to do so, but she slipped her hand behind what she assumed was his ear and started lightly scratching the spot.

Killian didn’t seem to mind, and even tilted his head to give her a little better access.

Emma couldn’t help herself. “Who’s a good dragon?” she giggled.

Killian snorted. “Bloody hell, Swan, I’m not a dog .”

“Sorry,” she pulled her hand away, “I was just messing around. I didn’t mean anything by it.”

They sat for a moment, neither saying a word. Had she insulted him? The once soothing sound of the waves now echoed around in her head. She wanted to apologize again, but Killian didn’t seem to want to talk any more.

Just as she was about to pray for the ocean to swallow her up, she felt Killian’s nose gently nudging her leg. “You don’t have to stop,” he said, “not if you don’t want to.”

Emma turned her head to look at him out of the corner of her eye. “I don’t have to…”

Killian looked away shyly. “It feels nice,” he whispered.

“Come here,” she said, trying not to giggle. He was already sheepish enough, she didn’t want him to close off completely.

Cautiously, he settled his head on her lap, but relaxed when she started scratching behind his ears again. A soft rumbling sound startled her a bit, until she realized it was coming from him, not really a purr, but a content sound.

As he began to fall asleep, his head became heavier in her lap, effectively keeping her from moving too much. Not wanting to wake him, she shifted a little so she could curl up and rest her head on his. “Goodnight, Hook,” she whispered before falling asleep.


Killian woke when the sun began reflecting off the water, the light forcing him to open up his eyes. Just as he realized Emma was using him as a pillow, she sat up and stretched. The sound of her soft yawn was music to his ears.

“Morning,” she said sleepily, giving him a little scratch under his chin as he lifted his head.

He had to admit, he liked chin scratches almost as much as ear scratches.

“We’ve got a long day ahead of us,” he said, “and I smell breakfast. Why don’t you go eat, and I’ll be here when you get back?”

“You need to eat too,” she reminded him.

He shook his head, “I can’t-”

“She’ll be upset,” Emma warned. “I know it’s hard, but you’ll hurt her if you don’t show.”

He didn’t want to hurt his mother, but he wasn’t ready to walk in like nothing had ever happened. “Can you just… assure her that everything will be all right?” He hated asking Emma to cover for him even more than he hated his own cowardice at the moment.

“I can do that,” she said softly.

Killian thanked her as she got up to leave, remembering quickly to remind her to fill up before she took off towards the house.

Magic lessons always exhausted a lot of energy.

Against his own advice, he ignored his grumbling stomach. He couldn’t concentrate on anything with all the confusing thoughts of Emma echoing around in his head.

What happened? One minute, he was doing fine keeping his distance and squashing any ridiculous notions that she might be interested in him. Now, he was in way over his head, imagining a life that could never happen.

Emma seemed to have fallen into the same dilemma, though he wasn’t sure if she realized it or not.

“Dragons mate for life,” he remembered Liam telling him. Losing a mate was a death sentence for a dragon. He’d willingly give up his immortality to spend whatever time he had left with Emma, but would she want that? Would he be able to handle watching the woman he loved grow old and die?

Bloody hell. He loved her.

“I brought you some breakfast,” he heard Emma say.

He transformed and turned to thank her, hoping that he wasn’t giving her any reason to think something was wrong.

Was it wrong?

“She’s okay,” Emma continued, handing him a plate of pancakes. “I told her that maybe we could all talk after magic lessons.”

“Thank you, love,” he said.

Love.

“She braided my hair.” Emma gave a quick spin and smiled. “She said it might be easier if it didn’t get in my way while I was practicing my magic. I borrowed your clothes again…”

Even in the oversized clothes, Emma was a vision. “You look lovely,” was all he could think to say.

She let out a most unladylike snort. “I think you need to eat something. Clearly starvation has clouded your good judgement.” She plopped herself down on the blanket that was still spread out on the sand and patted the space next to her.

“So you think I have good judgment,” he teased as he sat next to her, “I’ll remember that next time you doubt me.”

“Idiot,” she muttered with a little giggle. “Now, are you going to eat those pancakes, or am I getting a second breakfast?”

He made a show of hoarding the pancakes, laughing when she gave him a disappointed pout. “That act might work with your father, but I’m immune to your charms.”

No, he wasn’t.

Emma didn’t seem to notice that he was barely resisting the urge to kiss her senseless. She continued to tease him as he finished his food. He growled a little in warning, but there was no heat behind it, and it only seemed to egg her on more.

She smelled like heaven, all soap and sea salt. Her breath smelled like pancakes, sticky, sweet, and… bloody hell he needed to focus on anything other than abandoning his breakfast in favor of her .

Why was he resisting?

“Are you okay?” Emma asked. “You seem a little… I don’t know… tense. I was just kidding, you know. You don’t have to share your breakfast with me.”

“You can be so clueless sometimes,” he mumbled as he shoved the last of his pancakes in his mouth.

“Did I do something wrong?” Her demeanor quickly changed. Suddenly his playful princess was gone, and Emma was backing away. He could practically see her walls building right back up as she curled into herself.

Bloody hell , he was an idiot.  

“No!” He exclaimed. He set down his plate, and tried to coax her out of her little personal fortress. “Emma, you’ve done nothing wrong. I just…”

He just what? He couldn’t tell her the truth, she’d only retreat further.

“I’m just… tired,” he lied, cringing at how ridiculous it sounded. Emma didn’t seem to believe him. “I didn’t mean to upset you,” he tried again. “I’m… not a morning person.” That sounded dumber than his first attempt.

“Dragon,” she said, a little smile forming as she corrected him. “You’re not a morning dragon.

He let out a sigh of relief as she relaxed. The walls didn’t come completely down though, and he supposed he’d just have to break through them again.

Though he wasn’t exactly sure why he wanted to break through them. Wasn’t he trying to prevent heartache?

“Why don't we get started?” he suggested.

Going over the basics was easy. Killian had no problem when it came to talking about magic. He wasn’t sure what Merlin had in mind when it actually came to showing Emma how to use her magic.

How was he supposed to do that? Up until now, her magic had only been triggered accidentally, and by instinct. Controlling her emotions so she didn’t accidentally level the island was one thing, teaching her to use her magic on purpose was another.

Mother and Liam had been his teachers. Killian had never taught anybody.

Emma’s growing frustration was proof that he was probably the worst teacher in all the realms.

“I’m sorry, love,” he sighed as he sat down. “I don’t understand why Merlin thought this was a good idea. I haven’t got a bloody clue how to teach you something that’s a complete internal process.”

“Maybe I’m just a terrible student,” she said, sitting next to him.

Only… she wasn’t.  Emma was brilliant, and possessed powerful magic. She just needed someone who knew what they were doing to guide her. “You’re not a terrible student,” he assured her. It didn’t make him feel any better, but it seemed to work for her, and that was all that mattered.

“We’ll figure it out,” Emma shrugged.

“Perhaps it’s just time for a break,” he sighed. He knew exactly what he needed to do. Ready or not, he needed to go back to the house and deal with his mother. “It’s still a bit early for lunch, but a snack doesn’t sound so bad, does it?”

“Do you want me to go ask your mom for food?” she offered.

Killian shook his head. “I need to talk to her,” he said, “and I can’t avoid her forever.” Before he could change his mind, he got up and helped Emma to her feet.

She didn’t let go of his hand as they walked up the beach and towards the house. Every now and then, she’d give it a little squeeze. A silent reminder that she was there for him.

He was grateful for that, because he wasn’t prepared for what he saw when he opened the door to the house.

His mother was working over the stove, preparing what was probably going to be lunch. It was like he’d never left. He could practically see a younger version of himself playing with his toys while his mother cooked. She was humming something familiar, yet he couldn’t quite place it.

His heart ached as the memories rushed back to him. Everything else seemed to fade away as Killian choked out a mangled cry.

Emma said something, but he couldn’t catch it. He did feel her wrap her arms around him and he felt his own body going numb. As he crumpled to the ground, he panicked. Emma refused to let him fall on his own, holding him tightly to her side.

He was going to crush her, and there was nothing he could do to stop it.



Chapter Text

Once again, my amazing cover is by @hopeandbeans!

Art Links:

@couldnthandleit

Gifset 1

@hopeandbeans

Artwork 1//Artwork 2


 

A cool breeze wafted across Killian's face, pulling him from his stupor. His eyes blinked open, taking a moment to adjust to the bright light of the sun.

The sun?

Oh no. He'd wrecked the house again, hadn't he?

"Killian," a soft voice soothed, "calm down. It's okay. Just relax for a minute."

Emma. That was Emma. She was alive.

"Mother?" he asked, cringing at how weak his voice sounded. His head was pounding, memories fuzzy. He couldn't recall anything other than his own terror. There had been no screams, no horrified expressions. Perhaps-

"She's fine," Emma promised. "She's still at the house."

So the house was still standing, he assumed. Emma wouldn't have been so calm if it wasn't. He didn't try to speak again as he attempted to piece together what had happened. The fact that Mother was all right was a relief, but… Where was he?

"Relax," Emma insisted, clearly unsatisfied with his half attempt to do as she said.

"What happened?" he asked, trying to stay as calm as possible so as not to alarm her.

She didn't answer right away, instead choosing to comb her fingers through his hair. It wasn't until he actually started to relax that she spoke. "You collapsed."

"Oh…" he mused as he considered her words. He tried to remember what happened when he stepped into the house. All he could remember was seeing Mother, and Emma trying to hold him up and-

"Bloody hell!" He shot up in a panic while she scolded him for not staying put. "Are you all right?" he asked, looking for any sign of an injury.

"You're the one who fainted," she snapped. "And you're not going to feel any better if you don't calm down."

Killian tried to do as she told, settling his head in her lap while she continued to play with his hair. He shut his eyes and waited for the pain and cloudiness to fade. As he began to focus, he realized they were not only not in the house, but up on the cliff that looked over the sea.

"Emma…" he began as he sat up slowly, so as not to anger her again. "How did we get here?" She couldn't have carried him up.

"I…" she looked down at her hands, which were wringing the life out of her- his shirt. Her cheeks flushed when she mumbled, "I used my magic."

"On purpose?" He covered her hands with his, because bloody hell, she was going to stretch out his shirt if she kept at it.

"Yeah," she nodded. "I needed to get you somewhere safe, and this seemed to be as good a place as any…"

He wasn't sure what was more impressive. The fact that she figured out how to use her magic, or that she brought him here. "After what happened yesterday, this was the first place you thought to bring me?"

"We're pretty far from the edge," she pointed out, "and you like it here. I thought it would be easier for you to wake up in a place where you were comfortable…" she began mumbling again, and he couldn't catch the last of her words.

He couldn't recall the last time someone had truly put him first.

His mother and Liam, he supposed, had put him first to some degree. But Mother had her agenda, and Liam had the good of the kingdom to put before everything else. Emma had no reason at all to put him first, and yet, she had, practically ignoring her own well being in favor of caring for him.

She looked exhausted, like using her magic had zapped the energy right from her.

"Swan?" he asked. When she didn't answer, he pulled her into his arms and just held her for a few moments. "You did good, love," he said, hoping it would help.

"I don't know how I did it," she confessed. "I mean… I did it on purpose, but… it's weird." She let out a little sigh before she continued. "Is that all it is? Just knowing what you want?"

He'd never really thought of it that way. "In some cases, I suppose that's all it really is," he guessed. "Your magic is a bit different than mine, but it doesn't take much more than a thought when I wish to transform, so perhaps it's the same with your sudden affinity for… what exactly would you call that?"

"I don't know," she giggled, "we kind of just went 'poof'. Can't you do that?"

"I fly, darling," he reminded her. "If I could 'poof', I'd save a hell of a lot of time."

"Your mom said she'd bring food in a little bit," Emma said, quickly changing the subject, though he was unsure why. "If that's not okay, I can meet her-"

"It's fine," he assured her. "Are you going to 'poof' her up here too?" He wanted her to keep talking about her magic. Something had changed and if he could figure out what it was, teaching her would be much easier.

"I don't think I can," she said. The confidence she'd started to build began to fade, causing her to try and hide in his embrace.

He'd pushed her too far, he realized. She was barely beginning to figure out how to use her powers, and he'd frightened her. "You just need to rest," he said, hoping to fix his mistake. "It takes time, you know," he added, "and you've already proved to be a quicker study than most. While we're up here, why don't we try something small?"

Emma sat up and looked at him, a small frown on her face. She didn't say anything as she considered his proposition. "Define small," she said cautiously.

Thinking quickly, Killian looked around, smiling when he found a small pinecone in the grass next to him. "Why don't you just see if you can lift that pinecone right there?"

She leaned over and grabbed the pinecone, holding it up in front of him like a trophy. "You mean like that?" she asked, a smug little grin on her face.

"Very funny, Swan." He took the cone from her and held it in the palm of his hand. "I meant lift it without actually touching it," he said wryly. "But I'm sure you knew that."

"I don't know how," she stated.

"Did you know how to bring me up here?" he asked, knowing full well what the answer was. When she shook her head, he smiled at her. "But you did bring me up here, and I can only imagine that it wasn't an easy feat to transport me so far." He held up the pine cone and laughed, "surely if you can do that, you can give this little thing a nudge."

She hesitated. "What if I can't do it?"

"You can," he said, "I've yet to see you fail. Now you just need to believe in yourself."

Emma still looked as if she doubted him, but tried to do what he asked. After a few moments of nothing, he felt small movements as the pine cone wiggled a little in his hand.

"Come on, love," he tried to encourage her.

She let out a frustrated huff, and the pine cone flew up and bounced off his forehead before falling back to the ground. "You did that on purpose," he accused her.

"I did nothing of the sort," she protested, though the little smile on her face said otherwise. He raised an eyebrow, and she rolled her eyes and laughed. "Well, if you weren't being so annoying-"

"I wasn't aware my faith in you was such a terrible thing!" he scoffed.

Her laughter faded into whispered words. "It's not…"

For a moment, he thought she might kiss him, but a rustling nearby startled them both. They jumped up, and Killian didn't waste time pushing Emma behind him so he could protect her from whatever creature was coming-

"I'm sorry." It was Mother. "I didn't mean to frighten you… I just thought you might be hungry… Is this okay?"

"Aye Mother, it's fine," he said as he sat back down. It wasn't comfortable, but he asked her to stay anyway. He still needed to talk to her about Emma, and avoidance wasn't going to help that along. Emma sat next to him in silent support. He hated that he needed someone to lean on when it came to talking to his own mother, but he was also grateful that he didn't have to go it alone.

The three of them made awkward small talk over lunch. It was strangely reminiscent of the discussion he and Liam shared shortly after they'd been reunited. Mother or not, she was a stranger to him, just as his brother had been all those years ago.

And it was her fault you never knew your brother. Killian shook the thought from his mind as fast as he could, reminding himself that it was never her intention to hurt them.

But it was, his traitorous thoughts taunted him. She tried to hold you back.

"Killian…" Emma hissed as she elbowed him in the side.

"Sorry," he mumbled. "You were saying?" He didn't know what he'd missed, or even how much he'd missed. A quick glance at Emma told him all he needed to know. She looked unhappy, and her plate was almost empty. Bloody hell, I missed everything.

"Emma said you were having some difficulties with her magic earlier," Mother said. She didn't sound angry or irritated like Emma. She sounded hurt.

Killian dared to look up at her, wincing at the pain he saw in her eyes. It hadn't been his intention to ignore them. "I…" he frowned, unsure of what to say. Another apology would sound stupid, and trying to explain would only hurt Mother more. "Aye," he sighed, "it seems I'm not exactly the best teacher."

"Magic is all about emotion, Sea Star," Mother reminded him. "You know that, but I'll see what I can do to help."

"What do his emotions have to do with anything?" Emma asked. "I'm the one trying to actually do the whole magic thing here."

"I think she was talking about you, love," Killian chuckled.

"I was, and I wasn't," Mother replied enigmatically.

"Either way," Emma snapped, "my emotions are under control."

He found Emma's annoyance amusing, and his mother's cryptic comment frustrating. Just what was she getting at? "We haven't got much time," he said, "so if you can get Emma to fix her emotions quickly-"

"Hey!" Emma pinched his arm. Hard. "You did just level a cave, so if we want to talk about unchecked emotions, I think we should start with you!"

"I think you broke the skin," he muttered as he rubbed his arm.

Emma grumbled something as she waved her arm in his general direction. Instantly, the pain went away. She shrugged him off when he tried to ask if it was an accident, or if she actually intended to heal him. "I guess now you'll never know," she muttered.

"I think both of you have a long way to go," Mother sighed, looking both exasperated and entertained at the same time. "Why don't I work with Emma on her own for a bit? Would it be wrong to assume you two need a break from one another?"

"Why would we need a break?" Emma asked sarcastically.

Marella ignored Emma's tone, and remained calm and gentle in her explanations. "Sometimes it's harder to work with someone we're close to-"

"We're not close." He wasn't sure why he said it, but the words were out of his mouth before he could stop himself. What was he thinking? Of course they were close. They'd spent countless hours cuddled up together, and even more hours… well, trying to break a curse. But they'd spent them together. He enjoyed spending time with her, and...

He loved her. He loved her, and now he'd gone and ruined everything.

He could have sworn he heard a little sniffle from Emma, but he was too ashamed to look at her.

"He's right," Emma said dully, before he could even begin to think about how to make things okay. "We're not close." She turned away from him then, and Killian knew when he'd been dismissed.

He wanted to apologize. Make things right. But he knew Emma didn't want to hear any of it. Likely wouldn't even believe it. Mother gave him a sympathetic glance, and nodded towards the path, silently telling him to give Emma the space she demanded.

He knew mother was right, but the horrible ache in his heart only got worse as he sulked away. They waited until he'd wandered into the woods to start talking, but damn his dragon hearing. He heard every comforting word, and every heart wrenching sob.

He was a damned fool.

Perhaps it was all for the best though. While he might be able to work around Liam's disapproval, he knew Emma's family would never approve. After all, he was the one who kidnapped their daughter. They'd be lucky to avoid a war at this point.


Emma couldn't understand why Killian's words hurt so much. Wasn't he only telling the truth? They weren't close. They hardly knew each other. There was no reason to think that all the time they'd spent together meant anything at all.

But hadn't it?

She refused to dwell on the thought. Obviously he didn't think much of it if he was so quick to throw her away.

To think, she actually thought there was a future with him. That she might actually-

No. She did not love him.

"Emma," Marella said, "maybe we should do this tomorrow. When you're not so upset."

"I'm not upset!" Emma snapped. A tiny fire broke out at her feet. "Sorry!" she stammered as she tried to stomp it out. "I didn't mean to shout at you… I'm just… he's so..." she made some kind of aborted scream and stomped her foot again.

"Infuriating?" Marella suggested.

"Yes!" Emma kicked a little dirt over what remained of the little smouldering pile of ash. She felt like an idiot, losing control over everything over a few stupid words that shouldn't have meant anything.

"We can do this tomorrow," Marella said again.

"I think Killian wanted to get back," Emma said. "Especially since he's pretty sure my parents are going to send an army after him. We weren't supposed to stay here all that long." She kicked at the ground some more, causing a couple little sparks to dance around her feet. "You know what? I should make him go back by himself!"

Marella turned away quickly, but Emma thought she saw a smirk. "And then how would you get back? It's a long way… you might accidentally poof yourself into the middle of the ocean!"

Emma sighed. She would poof herself into the middle of the ocean. Getting Killian up to the cliff had been difficult enough. Going all the way back? Impossible. She grumbled as she stomped out more flames.

"If you don't stop making fires, I'm going to have to douse you," Marella teased. "Now come on, if you want to do this, you can't let what Killian said bother you."

"It… doesn't bother me," Emma lied.

"That explains the tears and the fire," Marella stated. "Because you're not upset about it."

Emma rolled her eyes, and stomped out another spark. "I'm not," she insisted.

"He didn't mean it, you know," she said, taking a seat and resting against a tree. "He's just scared."

"Of what?" Emma muttered. She plopped down on the ground, and stared at the charred remains of it. She really didn't want to know what Marella was getting at, but she was sure she was going to find out anyway.

"Of his feelings."

"Right," she snorted out a laugh. "Listen, I don't want to sound ungrateful or anything, but can we forget about Killian and just get on with the magic stuff?"

"Of course." Marella said with a smile.

She looked more amused than offended, and Emma wondered what she actually thought of Killian's actions. Marella didn't really think Killian, the man who just dismissed the very idea of Emma, had feelings for her. Did she?

Emma didn't have time to dwell on it, didn't want to dwell on it. She didn't want to think of sweet moments and stolen kisses.

She wanted to figure out her magic, break the curse, and go home. Forget all about Killian and his stupid… everything.

Only, she didn't. Not really. There was a part of her that hoped -maybe just a little too much- that he felt as she did. She wasn't exactly sure what she felt, but it was something that had her dreaming of something beyond curses and wars. The after that came when everything was right with the world again.

With a sigh, she did her best to tuck away her sadness and silly ideas of the future. Neither would help her with her magic.


The sun was almost set by the time Emma and Marella returned to the house. Emma just wanted to collapse on the bed and sleep like the dead, but the smell of food caught her attention.

"It looks like Killian made dinner," Marella commented.

As Marella started pulling dishes out, Emma went into the bedroom. She didn't know if she was hoping to find Killian, or hoping to find the room empty.

"You won't find him in the house," she heard Marella call.

Her heart sank even though she knew it shouldn't. She tried to hide her disappointment when she went back into the kitchen. "I wasn't looking for Killian," she lied.

"Of course you weren't," she agreed, "why would you?"

"Right…" Emma said slowly. She didn't know how else to respond to Marella's incredulous tone.

"If you were looking-"

"I'm not," Emma interrupted. She looked at the food in front of her and sighed, "but… even if I wasn't looking for him… it might be polite to see if he wants something to eat. I mean… he did make all this food for us. It would be rude to just eat it all without him."

Marella shook her head, "I'm sure he's already taken his share."

"But we don't know that for sure," Emma insisted. "What if he's out there just hoping someone will bring him food? What if he's starving-"

"For someone who doesn't care, you sure do seem worried about him," she teased.

Emma watched as Marella started preparing a third dish. She didn't say a word as she put everything together, and only smiled when she set it in front of Emma. "I… don't know where to look for him," Emma said when she realized Marella expected her to deliver the food.

"I think you know exactly how to find him," Marella smirked.

"I don't," Emma denied. "I don't know this island like he does. He could be anywhere."

Marella sighed and shook her head. "He isn't far." She made Emma get up, then led her to the door. "I'm sure he's even left a trail for you to follow."

After Marella handed her two servings, Emma was all but forced out the door and into the night. It wasn't completely dark yet, but the light was dim enough to where she definitely wouldn't be able to see any trails in the sand. Why would he leave marks in the sand anyway, she wondered. The wind alone could erase a trail in seconds. If Killian wanted her to follow-

Maybe he didn't. Maybe he meant what he said, and really didn't want to have anything to do with her. Maybe-

The familiar crackling of fire interrupted her thoughts. It wasn't something she expected to hear out on the shore, but the unmistakable sound echoed through the night. She tried to figure out where the sound was coming from, but found it difficult to separate the quiet crackling from the roar of the ocean. There was no telltale sign of smoke either.

Great, she thought, he's probably on the other side of the island or something crazy like that.

She wanted to just forget the whole thing and go back to the house, but she wasn't ready to face Marella's sly comments and confusing looks. Instead, she sat down heavily on a rock and stared at the plates in her hands.

The cove. Killian would go to the cove. She wasn't sure how she knew that, but at least it wasn't halfway across the island or, she thought with a shudder, back up on that cliff.

She took a deep breath and mustered up whatever bit of courage she had left, then headed towards the cove. It was a bit of a challenge, tromping through the sand with both hands full, but as she came closer, she knew she was on the right path. A bit of smoke started to billow up into the sky. Emma followed, letting out a sigh of relief when she arrived.

He was there, hunched over a small fire. His back was to her and he didn't make any indication that he'd noticed her, but she knew he was aware of her presence. He'd have to be, if he felt even half the pull towards her that Emma felt towards him.

"Hook?" When he didn't answer, she inched a little closer. "I brought you some dinner," she tried. He still didn't speak. She figured they'd be there all night if she kept at it this way, so instead of trying to get him to talk, she walked over, and sat next to him.

"Why are you here?" he asked. There was no malice in his tone, just confusion.

"Because I thought you might be hungry," she said, "and to thank you for making us dinner."

"Why are you really here, Swan?"

"I don't understand." She held the plate up for him to see that she really was, in fact, bringing him food.

He poked at the fire and frowned, still refusing to look at her."Why would you go through all that trouble to find me after what I said?"

Emma was pretty sure that 'your mother made me' was the wrong answer - both in what he needed to hear and in why she was out on the beach instead of eating her own dinner. Both meals were getting cold, but Killian - they both - needed her explanation more than they needed food.

"I was worried…" she said softly. "It's been a rough couple of days, and… I don't know. I just didn't want you to be alone." She offered him the plate again, smiling when he took it.

"Thank you," he said, offering her a small smile before quickly looking away again. "I was in such a hurry to get out of the house, that I didn't actually eat."

"I figured."

They ate in silence, neither looking up from their plate. Emma could feel that something was about to snap. She wasn't sure if he felt it too, or what it even was, but it seemed to simmer while they both tried to ignore it.

Emma sighed. They weren't going to accomplish anything this way.

"Emma, I-"

"Look, Killian-"

They both stopped, looking sheepishly anywhere but at each other.

"Sorry," she murmured, "I didn't mean to cut you off. Go ahead."

"I'm sorry," he said, "I didn't mean what I said…"

"Then why did you say it?" She didn't want to get angry all over again, especially since he was apologizing. "I was always told that we don't say things we don't mean."

"Sometimes we do, and we don't always know why. Look, I know that's no excuse, love, but you have to believe me. I didn't mean to hurt you."

Emma tried to keep her voice as steady as possible even though she was on the brink of tears. "But you did hurt me," she reminded him.

"And I will never forgive myself," he whispered. "But Swan, do you really believe after all we've been through, that I would care so little?"

"It caught me by surprise, I guess I didn't really know what to think." There was no denying his words had stung, but she believed him when he said he didn't mean them. "You can't treat me like that again. I'm not nothing; I was never nothing, and that's what you made me feel like."

She looked over and saw he was staring at the ground, head hung in shame.

"Hey," she nudged him until he looked up at her. "It's okay to forgive yourself, you know."

"Why?"

"Because I forgive you," she said with a smile. "It's kind of silly to carry all that guilt once it's over and done with. As long as you don't make a habit out of it."

"I wouldn't dream of it," he swore.

"Good," she nodded, pleasantly surprised that they had worked through it so quickly. "Now, let's get some sleep?"

"You should go inside tonight," he suggested. "It's a bit colder-"

Emma rolled her eyes. "Seriously? I'm not going without you, so either I stay here, or you come with me." She could see both the irritation and indecision in his eyes. "I know it's hard. If you can't go back to the house, I have no problem staying out here. But I am staying with you. One way or the other."

"You're infuriating," he said with a laugh. "You do know that, right?"

"I guess," she giggled. "So what's the plan?"

"Get your things," he grumbled as he stood up, then helped her to her feet. "But I'm not wearing a damn shirt to bed!"

"Fine," she said, "but you have to wear the pants. I'm not budging on that one."

"You drive a hard bargain," he said with feigned annoyance. When the approached the house, he turned to her, "I'll accept your terms if you can-"

"Sneak you in the window so you don't have to deal with your mother?"

"That is not what I was going to say!" She waited a moment as he lowered his head and kicked at the ground. "All right," he confessed. "That was what I was going to say. I just don't want to… you know… like earlier."

Emma felt a little guilty until she reminded herself that it was his choice to come to the house. "I'll open the window for you," she assured him. "Or, if you feel like you'd be more comfortable, I'm not opposed to grabbing a blanket and sleeping outside."

"I appreciate the offer," he said, "but I'd rather you not freeze to death."

"I'll be just a few minutes," she promised, leaving him on the doorstep while she went inside.

The house was dark and quiet. Emma took a quick glance around and found the room completely empty. She almost turned around and let Killian in, but figured even if the coast was clear, he probably didn't want to just walk on in. Not after what happened earlier.

Quietly, she made her way into Killian's room. As she tried to light a couple candles, she heard a light tapping on the window. She started to walk over to open it, but then stopped when she wondered if she could just 'poof' him into the room.

"Emma!" she heard him hiss from outside. "It's getting windy out here!"

Emma shut her eyes and tried to concentrate as she waved her hand. A curse came from Killian… and it still sounded like he was outside. She opened her eyes to find his shirt hanging from her hand.

"Sorry," she whispered, not really sure that he could even hear her. "One more try," she told herself, closing her eyes again and hoping that the next thing she poofed into the room was Killian, and not his pants.

A dull thud - and a muffled curse - were the next things she heard. "Bloody hell…"

She opened her eyes to find Killian sprawled on the floor. He was almost motionless, save for the fact that he was blinking owlishly.

"Killian?" She knelt down beside him and attempted to help him sit up. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you. I was just trying to use my magic, because… I mean, I practiced a lot today, and I thought that maybe I should try-"

"You did this?" he asked. Though he already seemed to know the answer. She figured he was only talking to get her to stop.

"Yeah," she nodded, then tried to change the subject. "We should sleep."

A big, goofy grin spread across his face. "You took my shirt first," he laughed.

"Accident," she said quickly. "Now come on, it's late, and we're leaving tomorrow morning."

"Are you really that eager to get me naked and in bed?" he teased. Her cheeks flushed as he continued. "You're staring, darling."

"I can make you sleep on the floor," she stated, narrowing her eyes in hopes that he'd think she was serious. Her words had no bite to them though, and judging by his raised eyebrow, he knew it. "Stop looking at me like that," she mumbled. "Come on, let's just get some rest."

He stopped taunting her, and tried to stand. It took him a moment, he still seemed a bit wobbly and disoriented at first, but with a little help, he was climbing into the bed, and seconds after that, he was hogging the sheets.

"You can learn to share," she grumbled as she laid down next to him. She grabbed a fistful of blanket and tugged at it until he finally let go.

"Am I allowed to cuddle with you, or are you going to break my fingers?"

"Just go to sleep," she muttered.

Killian fixed the blanket, then cuddled up next to her. She didn't try to break his fingers when he wrapped his arm around her. As she relaxed against him, he placed a soft kiss on her shoulder.

The last thing she heard before drifting off to sleep, was him whispering, "you're bloody brilliant, Swan. Amazing. I hope you know that."

Chapter Text

Once again, my amazing cover is by @hopeandbeans!

Art Links:

@couldnthandleit

Gifset 1

@hopeandbeans

Artwork 1//Artwork 2


 

Arguing with the witch was never in Walsh’s best interest but the information they’d received changed everything. Zelena wasn’t sending him up against a lone dragon, she was pitting him against an army.

“How many dragons are we estimating?” he asked.

“There’s a few,” she answered dismissively.

The witch seemed unfazed and didn't waste a minute in putting her plan into action.

“It's not like you'll be doing anything anyway,” she reminded him with a roll of her eyes.

Right. Because Zelena was just going to magic the dragons into oblivion. No one knew much of anything about the creatures, and while Zelena’s unwavering confidence was usually a relief, this time, it felt as if she might be underestimating her opponent.

“Stop shaking,” she hissed, “we don't need anyone wondering what that racket is.”

Her patience was always thin, especially with him. Zelena never hesitated to remind him what a nuisance she thought he could be, and was always quick to remind Walsh of his place.

If Walsh had any control, he'd have complied. The clanking of his armor was giving him a headache. He could see the disapproval in her eyes, which only made him lose whatever hold he had left.

How was anyone going to see him as a hero? He could barely keep the contents of his stomach where they belonged. Hell, the last time he'd dealt with a dragon, he nearly wet himself. If the dragon had reinforcements…

“Why are we still doing this?” he dared to ask. “Emma's probably dead as it is.”

“We’ve been over this already,” Zelena snapped.

There was something in her voice that felt like a warning rather than a reminder. Walsh didn’t ask another question. He didn’t even grumble under his breath as they started out on their journey. Instead, he silently planned his escape.

This was Zelena’s mission. She wanted Misthaven, she wanted the power. He was nothing more than another pawn in her game. With Emma as a prize, it was worth playing along, but now?

Now he had nothing to gain from it.

Even the idea of being hailed as a hero meant nothing. He would have no reward waiting for him in Misthaven. They weren't going to just hand over the keys to the kingdom, and Zelena would likely dispose of him once she had what she wanted.

Silently, he cursed himself for not trying to rush the wedding.

The journey to the dragon’s lair would take just over a week, if the scouts were to be believed. What Zelena failed to realize though, was that the scouts weren't traveling with quite as big a party.

According to the scouts, the journey wasn't particularly treacherous, but they would have the dragons to contend with as they got closer. The thought made Walsh nauseous on more than one occasion. In addition to that thought weighing on his mind, he found traveling with the troops grating on his nerves. In addition to Zelena’s own minions -a band of flying monkeys who had no choice but to follow- a small platoon of soldiers from Misthaven filled their ranks.

Zelena had made a grand show of false gratitude when the king and queen of Misthaven offered the use of some of their troops. However, Walsh discovered quickly that the hand-selected bunch were most certainly the least likely to survive in battle.

Not that they were incompetent, not all of them at least. No, even he could see that there were some strong soldiers and brilliant minds in the group. However, talent and smarts didn't cover up all the strange quirks most of them seemed to have. At best, they were obnoxious, at worst, the noise would attract any opponent within earshot.

When they King said they would receive the best Misthaven had to offer, Walsh expected a well trained army. Not a bunch of misfits. If this was the best, why did the Dark One need their help to take Misthaven?

After a day and half of travel, Walsh was ready to disappear. He wasn't sure anymore whether he just wished to get away from the troops, or if he wanted to escape the fate that awaited him. At this point, death seemed a much better option than listening to the man beside him whistle tunelessly for hours on end.

But he didn't wish to die, so escape it was.

He knew he couldn’t run back to Misthaven or Oz without running into a world of trouble. Wherever he went, he needed to be outside of their reach as well as the reach of the Dark Kingdom.

He waited until nightfall in hopes of having an easier escape. Zelna had kept an eye on him at all times, but he noticed she let her guard down at night. Even witches needed their beauty sleep.

“Where do you think you’re going?” One of the burlier soldiers stomped his foot in front of Walsh just as he attempted to try and slip out of the camp. The bow and quiver of arrows he’d stolen dropped to the ground, the quiet clattering sounding painfully loud over the silence of the night.

Walsh let out a little groan. Of course it was the damn whistler.

“I umm…” he stood up, and brushed himself off. “I had to um… relieve myself, and I just… silly me. I tripped over my own two feet.” He quickly gathered up his equipment, and shrugged when the soldier raised an eyebrow. “I can’t go out there with no way to defend myself, can I?”

The man eyed him suspiciously before nodding off towards the camp. “She know you left?”

“Do you want to wake her for something trivial?” Walsh made a neck slicing gesture, and gave what he hoped was an innocent grin.

“You come with me,” the soldier ordered.

Great.

The two of them trekked away from the camp. His new companion took it upon himself to whistle tunelessly every step of the way.

He was just about to strangle the man for some peace and quiet when a strong gust of wind almost knocked both of them to the ground. His whistling buddy took one look at the source, a ferocious dragon that had landed a short distance away, and fled.

Walsh made a dash for the treeline and hid in the darkness. The dragon didn’t seem to notice - or maybe he didn’t care - that he wasn’t alone. Walsh took a moment to get a good look at the dragon as it lowered itself to the ground, looking for any kind of weakness he could report back to Zelena. A woman slid down off the dragon’s back and-

Emma.

It was Emma, and the dragon that had kidnapped her!


“Are you all right, love?” Killian asked as Emma slid off his back.

Emma nodded, though the fact that she was shivering uncontrollably said otherwise.

Killian transformed, took one look at her, then wrapped his arms around her. “You are not,” he scolded her for fibbing. “Come on, let’s warm you up, aye?”

“Sorry,” she said through chattering teeth. She hadn’t meant to freeze on the way home, but they’d left later than they’d hoped, and once they were over the ocean, the weather took a turn for the worse.

“No need to apologize,” he assured her. “It’s late though, we should probably get some rest while you’re warming up. We can make the rest of the trip in the morning when it isn’t so frigid.”

He looked around, then shrugged off his coat and draped it over her shoulders. “Stay put”-he instructed-“I’m going to get some wood for a fire.”

“But-”

“Emma, please,” he said. “Just… you’re safe here. Stay warm, and I’ll be right back, okay?”

“Fine,” she huffed.

She had every intention of doing what he instructed after he disappeared in the woods, but it wasn’t long before she grew restless. Why should she have to sit around and wait for him to do everything? She wasn’t helpless!

He would be upset, but one of her biggest problems with Walsh was how he acted like he was ‘keeping’ her. While it may not have been what Killian intended, Emma couldn’t help but feel like she was being mollycoddled.

She held tightly to his coat as she made her way into the woods. It was dark, and she was pretty sure she was being watched, but she reminded herself that she didn’t have to go far, and that she had magic now.

Collecting firewood turned out to be more difficult than she thought it would be. With only the dim light of the moon, it was hard to find what she was looking for.  

The sound of footsteps nearby made her pause. Judging by the noise, Emma guessed that the owner was probably not a forest creature working on a stealth attack. Those footsteps were human. A clumsy one at that.

“Killian?” she whispered, though she was almost positive it wasn’t him.

“Who’s Killian?” a voice asked. One she recognized… but had never wanted to hear again.

Emma whipped around, and jumped back when she saw who it was. “Walsh…”

“Killian,” he said the name again. “Is that the dragon… man… thing that I saw you with?”

“I don’t know what you’re doing here, but you need to leave,” she said. Her heart was racing, and a million horrible thoughts were running through her mind. Killian was going to be angry… if she managed to get out of this alive.

“I’m rescuing you,” he sneered, as if it were painfully obvious. He grabbed hold of her arm and started to pull her away. Away from the woods. Away from Killian.

“No!” Emma pulled out of his grip, and tried to put a bit of distance between them. “I’m not going anywhere with you.”

Something flashed in Walsh’s eyes as he gave chase. It was something she’d never seen before, and was far more frightening than anything she’d faced so far. He quickly closed the gap, and grabbed her again, shoving her harshly against a nearby tree. “I am your fiancé,” he spat, “and you’ll do as I tell you.”

“I think that deal was null and void the instant you left me to die,” she argued as she struggled to get away from him.

“And now I’m rescuing you,” he said, “so you should be thanking me.”

“I don’t need a rescue.” She took a deep breath, and shouted at the top of her lungs, “Ki-”

A hand clasped over her mouth, muffling her shout. “None of that. Wouldn’t want that dragon coming back, now would we?”

Walsh pinned her to the tree, using strength she never knew he had. “I’m rescuing you,” he said again. “Now are you going to be a good little princess and thank me? Or are we going to have to do this the hard way?”

The thought of kissing Walsh for any reason made her stomach turn, but when he didn’t uncover her mouth, she realized he had something much worse in mind. When he let go of her hands, she tried to fight him. “Hold still,” he barked. He leaned into her harder, ensuring that she could hardly move, then grabbed at the hem of her -Killian’s- shirt.

“You know,” he laughed, “I was going to wait for the wedding, but since you’ve decided to call everything off, I think I’ll just take what I want now.”

“You’ll do nothing of the sort!”

A quick look of terror crossed Walsh’s face as he was yanked away from Emma.

“Killian!” she cried out.

He paid her no mind as he proceeded to knock Walsh to the ground. “Who the bloody hell do you think you are?” he growled, punctuating the question with a kick to the gut.

“She’s my fiancée!” Walsh argued, albeit weakly.

“She’s not your anything!” Killian snapped. He lifted Walsh up and shoved him into a tree. “You’ll keep your damned hands off of her if you know what’s good for you!”

Emma could practically feel the magic swirling around Killian. He was losing control, and even though Walsh may have deserved what was coming next, she didn’t want Killian to have to deal with that fallout again.

“Hook!” she shouted. No response. “Killian… come back to me…” Her words were softer, but somehow, they managed to break through.

Killian threw one last punch, then let him go. Walsh slid down, seemingly unconscious, but Emma took a few steps back anyway, knowing that he could get up and give chase at any time.

“Are you all right, love?” Killian asked.

Her “yes” came out as a yelp as he lifted her up and threw her over his shoulder. When he started running through the woods at a high rate of speed, she held on for dear life. “What are you doing?” she asked as soon as she was able to catch her breath. “You knocked him out-”

“It only seems that way,” he said, with very little effort and no shortness of breath. “He may not be getting up, but if he’s here, so are his allies. We need to get to safety.”

They reached the clearing when Emma heard it. Walsh had gotten up, and was following them. Killian set her down and transformed. “Hop on,” he instructed.

Emma wasted no time climbing onto his back, and let out a sigh of relief when he took off. She could hear Walsh shouting something from the ground, but they were safe and-

“Hold on tight!” Killian ordered as the first arrow whizzed by them.

He tried to gain altitude quickly, all the while dodging the arrows flying in their general direction. Emma held tight, the erratic movements jostling her around far too much for her liking. That was when she heard it. The sound of another arrow headed in their direction, except this time, it didn’t just whizz on by. It hit something, making a solid “thwack” as it pierced its target.

Killian roared in pain, and Emma almost lost her grip on him. “Where did it hit?” she asked, afraid to move. When he didn’t answer, she tried shouting. “Killian! You need to land so I can help you!”

There was no response, or even an acknowledgement that he’d heard her. She dared to turn her head slightly to the side, and caught sight of an arrow sticking out right where his wing met his shoulder.

Taking a deep breath, she tightened her grip with one hand, then let go and tried to reach the arrow with the other. She slipped, and barely caught herself when Killian veered wildly.

“You have to stop!” she pleaded. “I can’t help you if you don’t land!”

But it was like she wasn’t even there. It was like he wasn’t even there. Instead of listening to him talk to her, all she could hear was the wind rushing past them and his pained grunts every time he flapped his wings.

The arrow looked like it was wedged in deeply, blood pouring out of the wound at an alarming pace. Emma was mildly transfixed by the way the fletchings bobbed with each wing beat. If only… she held fast to Killian as she tried to work out how to heal him in midair.

Just as she let go with one hand, he dropped. His movements became more turbulent as he lost more blood.

She couldn’t help him like this, but if he kept going, he was going to get them both killed.

“Killian…” she cried, though it was no use. He was so far gone that the only thing seemingly keeping them in the air was instinct.

There was nothing else she could do but hold on tight, and pray they didn’t just fall out of the sky. Though Killian was setting a breakneck pace, time moved by agonizingly slowly. With nothing but sky above them, and unfamiliar territory beneath them, Emma had no real way of telling how much further they had to go.

It took everything she had to not let exhaustion take over.

By the time the mountain was in sight, Walsh was nothing more than a distant memory for her. The only thing she could think of now was Killian, who was slipping further and further away every moment they were in the air.

After hours of silence, he finally started to mumble. “Home…”

“Killian?”

He didn’t answer her, but his mumbling turned into a quiet chant: “Get home. Find Liam. Make sure Emma’s safe…” He said it over and over until the words turned into a jumbled mess. “Liam… Home… Emma… Safe…”

Emma didn’t know much about flying, but as they approached the castle, she knew they were coming in way too fast. She braced herself for impact as he tried to pull up. There was no use though. He hit the ground hard and stumbled, his front leg crumpling beneath him. The fall caused her to let go. She was tossed aside, hitting the ground hard and rolling with the momentum. Luckily, she managed to avoid any major injuries.

When she sat up and looked over to Killian, she saw right away that he hadn’t been so lucky. No longer in dragon from, he lay in a crumpled heap in the courtyard.

“What the bloody hell have you done to my brother?” Liam’s voice boomed as he rushed past her to get to Killian.

“I’m fine, thanks,” she snapped, not really caring what Liam thought. She needed to help Killian, his brother and whatever problem he had with her be damned. She stood as quickly as the disorientation faded, then made her way over to Killian.

Liam growled at her when she pushed him out of the way. “Stay away from him! You’ve done enough !”

“We can argue about this, and he can die,” she said. “Or you can help me, and we can save him!”

“Get your hands off of him, witch!” he bellowed.

Emma sighed. She wasn’t going to get anywhere with Liam breathing down her neck. “I’ll save him myself then,” she muttered.

“What are you-”

She didn’t hear the rest of what he had to say. Within seconds, she and Killian were in his room. He was lying face down on the bed, barely coherent, and still mumbling about getting her to safety.

Quickly, she shut and locked the door, then returned to his side. With a quick flick of her wrist, she poofed his shirt away and gasped at the sight of him. There was so much blood… how was she going to fix that ?

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, “but… this might hurt…”

Whether it would actually hurt or not, she didn’t know. Yanking the arrow out would definitely be the worst of it, but maybe…

Maybe she could use her magic for that, too. Emma closed her eyes and tried to get the arrow out as painlessly as possible. Soon, she could feel it in her hand, and when she opened her eyes, she could see the gaping hole it had left in Killian’s back.

Hot blood bubbled up between her fingers as she automatically tried to stop it from pouring out of him.

She whispered another apology as she started healing the wound, only finding relief when the blood finally stopped. “Killian?” she asked quietly.

“‘M fine…” he said weakly. His eyes fluttered, but didn’t open, and he lay limply on the bed, unable to make any real attempt to move.

“I’m sorry…” she choked back a sob. He didn’t look fine. The color had drained from his face and when she brushed a bit of hair out of his eyes, she felt his forehead. It was like ice. Killian was never cold. What was happening? “I should have listened to you,” she whispered. She’d done everything she could, and she was losing him anyway.

And for what? Because she wanted to prove something?

“I just…” he yawned, and then there was nothing.

“Killian!”

“You let me in, you damn witch!”

Emma spun towards the door. Liam was pounding at it and shouting curses at her.

What was she supposed to do? She couldn’t let him in now. He’d kill her. Not that she didn’t deserve it, but-

“Let him in…” Killian slurred. “He’ll be… a pain in the arse otherwise…”

Liam and his anger forgotten for the moment, Emma turned back to Killian. She could just see the blue of his eyes where they were half-open, tired and lost looking, and he had a silly, sleepy smirk on his face.

“You’re alive!” she exclaimed. He grunted softly when she pulled him up and into a tight embrace. She hadn’t killed him.

“Said I was fine,” he groused, jumping a little when Liam pounded on the door again.

“Your brother…” She loosened her grip on Killian, and looked over at the door nervously. “He’s angry with me.”

“S’alright…” he assured her. “Let him in. I won’t let ‘im hurt you.”

“You can hardly hold yourself up,” she reminded him. “How are you going to protect me?”

He snorted out a laugh, and attempted to sit without her help, only to fall back down onto the bed. “You lost a lot of blood,” she informed him. “Though I’m not sure how you didn’t know that.”

“Bah!” he lazily batted at the air. “Just let him in, Swan.”

Emma didn’t want to risk being strangled the second Liam came in the door, so she opted to try her magic again.

“Bloody hell,” Killian whispered in awe. “You really are getting that down, aren’t you?”

She didn’t have time to dwell on his admiration. The second the door was unlocked, Liam stormed in and headed straight for Emma.

“Don’t you dare touch her!” Killian shouted, coming up off the bed for long enough to glare at his brother before he collapsed against Emma, panting heavily.

Killian’s command didn’t phase Liam at all. He grabbed Emma’s arm and pulled her away from his brother. She tried to reach back, to make sure Killian didn’t fall off the bed and onto the hard floor, but Liam wasn’t having it. He yanked her hard, dragging her towards the door. “I don’t know what sort of damned spell you put on him-”

“Enough!” Emma shouted, as a surge of magic rushed through her.

Liam let go of her and jumped back, examining his hand as if it had been burned. “What the bloody hell did you do?”

“I saved him!” She held her hands up when Liam came for her again, this time, using her magic to shove him against the wall and immobilize him. “If you have a problem with that, then there’s something seriously wrong with you.”

He growled at her, and struggled against the hold of her magic. “You let me down or-”

“Or what?” Emma snarked, “you’ll kill me?”

“Something like that,” he sneered.

She knew he’d kill her whether she let him down willingly or not. There were options, none of them good. She wouldn’t kill him, that would be a monumentally bad idea politically, not to mention Killian would never forgive her. But letting him go wasn’t going to help her own situation either.

“What is going on in here?”

Emma groaned at the sound of another voice. Great, she thought, more trouble.

“Merlin!” Killian exclaimed weakly.

Emma’s head whipped around to check on him, making sure to keep a close tether on the magic pinning his brother in place. Killian was still sprawled out on the bed, his head barely lifted up. He seemed to be slightly amused at what was going on, but also looked as if he was still confused.

Maybe he thought it was just a hallucination.

“Why’ve you got my brother chained to the wall?” he asked before dropping his head again.

“Emma,” Merlin said calmly, “you need to let Liam go.”

She looked over to the wizard, who was glancing between her and Liam.

“I can’t,” she told him. “He’ll kill me.”

“Damn right I will,” Liam growled.

“You’re not going to kill Emma.”

“And why not, exactly?”

“You mean aside from that being a political nightmare, your Highness?”

She could see the change in Liam’s expression, not quite defeat, but close enough. When she was certain he wasn’t going to kill her, she let him go. He didn’t lunge at her again, but he did zero in on Merlin. “Maybe I should just kill you instead.”

“And what good would that do?” Merlin asked.

“What’s so bloody important that you felt the need to come down here?” Liam barked. “You never leave your tower.”

Merlin glanced at Emma, then back at Liam. “We have visitors coming,” he said.

“No,” Emma shook her head, “Walsh is miles from here, and running scared-”

“But his army wasn’t frightened off,” Merlin reminded her. “I believe scouts have already found their way inside the castle.”

“Impossible!” Liam snapped.

Any other time, Emma would have agreed. The dragons lived in a treacherous mountain range. It would be nearly impossible for the average man to navigate without the added bonus of dragons and magical barriers.

But the magic was weakening.

“It isn’t,” Merlin confirmed her thoughts. “You know the magic that protects our kingdom is weakening. It’s much easier for those who wish to harm us to break through its defenses. A guard can only do so much if a scout is sneaky enough.”

“This is all your fault!” Liam accused Emma with a pointed finger in her face. “I should just let them have you!” His rage had her stumbling a few steps back, allowing him to see right through the brave face she’d put on.

“You promised, brother,” Killian mumbled.

Emma let out a sigh of relief when Liam backed off. Merlin visibly relaxed as well. The tension was still thick, and Liam didn’t seem to be in any mood to hear her out, but he left it alone for now, choosing instead to worry about the intruders.

“Come with me,” Liam ordered Merlin, then he turned to Emma. “Fix this,” he demanded, pointing at his brother, who had taken it upon himself to pass out again, “or I will end you.”

Merlin gave her a sympathetic look as he followed Liam out of the room, but offered no direction on exactly how she was supposed to fix anything. Killian needed time and rest, two things magic couldn’t replicate.

She had no doubt that Liam would keep his word and end her if anything happened to his little brother.

Emma went back to Killian, frowning when she saw his hunched over form nearly falling off the bed. The bedding where she had laid him down originally was still saturated with blood. Not wanting to wake him, she decided to try her magic even though the overexertion of it just moments ago had left her physically exhausted.

She moved him to safety first - not an easy feat - only satisfied when he was in the middle of the bed, lying on his stomach and snoring softly.  She focused on the blood next, now drying and sticky on the sheets. If she could just grab all new bedding, things would be much easier, but she didn’t want to risk running into Liam again. With what strength she had left, she waved her hand over the bedding and cleaned up the blood, making sure to clean it off of herself as well.

Emma still felt like something was wrong about it all, but couldn’t think of what might be missing. Shrugging off the thought, she grabbed a quilt that had been bunched up at the foot of the bed and started pulling it over Killian.

Only then did she realize he was still wearing his leather pants. She groaned in frustration. How was she supposed to fix that? He couldn’t be comfortable, but she couldn’t just conjure up something more comfortable. Could she?

It can’t be much harder than healing wounds, she thought. Then again, I don’t want to make things worse… Killian would never let her live it down if she made his pants disappear.

With her eyes shut tight, Emma tried to picture a soft pair of pants on Killian. After she waved her hand and felt the magic rush through her, she opened her eyes and tried not to laugh.

The pants certainly looked comfortable, and Killian continued to sleep undisturbed, so she’d been successful in that endeavor. But the color… when he woke, she was certain he’d be none too pleased to find himself in the bright pink pair of pants she’d conjured up.

Deciding the details weren’t really that big of a deal, she grabbed the quilt again and covered Killian. A little smile tugged at her lips when he grabbed a fistful of blanket and clutched it tightly in his sleep, mumbling something that sounded like he was staking his claim on the quilt. He curled into himself -likely an attempt to warm up- then began snoring softly.

Emma kissed him on the forehead and sat in the chair next to his bed. Carefully, she pried the quilt out of his death grip and slipped her hand into his instead. She tried not to think too much of it when he subconsciously laced their fingers, nor did she acknowledge the skipped beat of her heart when he squeezed her hand gently.

“I’m here if you need me,” she whispered, even though he was sleeping too soundly to hear her.

As expected, he didn't respond.

She watched him for awhile, trying not to panic every time his breathing hitched. He was still shivering slightly, but the color was slowly returning to his face and his skin no longer felt like ice.

Certain that he was going to be okay, Emma curled up in the chair, leaning forward a bit so she could rest her head next to his. Closing her eyes, she listened to his soft snores until the now-familiar sound lulled her to sleep.

 

Chapter Text

Once again, my amazing cover is by @hopeandbeans!

Art Links:

@couldnthandleit

Gifset 1

@hopeandbeans

Artwork 1//Artwork 2//Artwork 3


 

“Are you sure you know where you’re going?” David whispered, grunting when his wife smacked his chest. “I’m just saying,” he argued, “we seem to be going around in circles.”

“Ruby knows what she’s doing,” Snow reminded him.

Of course Ruby knew what she was doing. He never would have trusted anyone else with a task like this. “It’s just…” he sighed, “Merlin said he could only buy us so much time, and Ruby’s already lost the trail twice.”

That was the wrong thing to say. Ruby stopped in her tracks and turned to him. “Do you want to be the one smelling everyone’s business? I’ve been following this trail for days, and now we’re here, and… it just smells like smoke. So excuse me if I’m a little off my game!”

David definitely did not want to be the one sniffing anyone out.

“We need to be quiet,” Snow scolded both of them. “Did you forget that this is a castle in a kingdom of dragons? I for one, do not want to be dinner, so let’s get my daughter and get out of here.”

“She’s my daughter too,” David muttered under his breath as they continued their journey.

Ruby turned down a hallway that was darker than the rest of the castle. There were no windows, and the torches that lined the walls were unlit. The only bit of light that poked through came from a distance… what David presumed to be the exit.

“She’s close,” Ruby announced, “and not alone.”

Snow and David both drew their swords, readying themselves for a fight as Ruby found the room Emma was being held in. She looked back at them and shook her head. “You can’t just barge in there,” she warned, “I can smell a lot of tension in there.”

David didn’t care what Ruby thought about stealth. Emma was in trouble, and he wasn’t going to stand by and wait for the danger to pass. He pushed past Ruby and barreled into the room.

There were many things David was prepared to run into, but Emma, sound asleep in a chair, was not one of them. She didn’t look to be in any sort of trouble, just tired and maybe a little uncomfortable.

The man on the bed though, was about to be dead.

“David, wait!” Snow hissed, grabbing his arm. “What are you doing?”

“I’m defending our daughter,” he informed her.

Snow shook her head and refused to let go of his arm. “They’re sleeping,” she said, “and look at them. They’re huddled together. Does it really look like he’s about to harm her?”

“Guys-” Ruby started to say something, but Snow shushed her too.

“They’re probably both being held here,” she decided. “We can save them both.”

“Snow, you might want to rethink your rescue mission,” Ruby said. “You can’t just grab every random stranger you run into. Let’s get Emma and get out of here.”

David was inclined to go with Ruby’s gut. She seemed uneasy about something in the room, and he doubted that something was Emma. “We don’t have to kill him,” he said reluctantly. “But we’re sure as hell not taking him with us.” After thinking about it another moment, he added: “If he tries to kill us first though, I can’t make any promises about keeping him alive.”

“Fine,” Snow snapped. She gave him a pointed look, just daring him to test her.

He hated that word. It was never good when it came out of his wife’s mouth. Especially when it was clipped and dripping with venom.

He was going to pay for this later, judging by the way she was glaring daggers at him.

But that didn’t matter right now. Right now, his daughter was right in front of him, when he thought he’d never see her again. She was alive and right there and suddenly there was nothing in the world that was more important than that.

He wanted to just grab her and run, but there was no telling what kind of hell she’d been through since her capture. When Snow finally let go of his arm, he put his sword away and walked over to her. “Emma,” he whispered as he gently pushed back the hair that had fallen over her face.

Her eyes fluttered open, and she just looked at him. “Dad?” she finally asked in disbelief.

“It’s okay,” he assured her. “I’m here.” He looked over to Snow and Ruby, then back to Emma. “We’re all here. Come on, let’s get you home.”

“I can’t,” Emma said sleepily. She closed her eyes again and started to go back to sleep.

“Emma…” David shook her a little, trying to get her to open her eyes again. “Come on, princess, we don’t have time for this. We need to get you out of here.” He could feel her tensing up, and noticed the man on the bed had started to stir.

Dammit.

“Emma, we have to go now, ” he said with a little more urgency. He reached for her hand, only to find that someone else already had ahold of it. Emma didn’t seem to be in any hurry to let go either.

“Dad, no!” she shouted when he started to pull their hands apart.

The moment she shrieked, the man on the bed woke up. David didn’t hesitate. He grabbed Emma and made a dash for the door.

Ruby and Snow stood in his way, both with looks of horror on their faces. “What are you waiting for?” David shouted. “Let’s go!”

“David…” Snow pointed back at the man behind him, but there was no need. A deafening roar filled the room and David just knew.

They weren’t dealing with a man at all.

He set Emma down, and pushed her towards her mother. “Run!” he ordered. “I’ve got this!” He heard Emma cry out as he turned to face the beast and it took everything he had not to turn around at the emotion he heard in her voice.

The once large room now felt cramped. How was he supposed to fight a dragon this way? He supposed the lack of room for the monster would give him the advantage, but with the beast so close…

“Killian!” Emma shouted just as the dragon moved to strike.

Killian?

The dragon stopped, but continued to snarl at David.

Thankful for the distraction, David drew his sword and lunged at the dragon. Blinded by his rage, he didn’t see the tail until it was too late. Before he could duck out of the way, he was flying towards the wall.

He closed his eyes and braced himself for an impact that never came.

“Stop it, both of you!” Emma yelled.

David slowly opened his eyes and noticed he was hovering in midair. A quick glance confirmed that the dragon was stuck too, and while it should have been a relief, it only angered him. “Why are you protecting him?” he demanded.

“Because he thinks he’s protecting me from you !” she exclaimed.

David watched as she turned towards the dragon, and raised an eyebrow when she started talking to it. Her voice was low, so he couldn't quite hear what she was saying, but the dragon made a grunt.. seemingly in response. Did it -he- understand her?

“Okay,” Emma said with a sigh. She turned back to David, still refusing to release either of them, but looking a little more at ease about the situation. “Killian said he wouldn’t hurt you. If I let you go, will you promise to hear me out?”

“He kidnapped you,” David reminded her. He felt his sword disappear from his tight grasp and cringed when he heard it clatter on the floor at Emma’s feet. “Emma-”

“You can’t hurt him,” she demanded. “I won’t let you.”

“He kidnapped you!” David said again, a little louder in hopes of driving that point home.

“Because I asked him to!” she yelled. “Now… if I let you down, can you promise you won’t hurt him? Give me a chance to explain everything.”

She what? It took him a moment to process the information. Why would she ask anyone to kidnap her, let alone a dragon. How did she even find a dragon? Last he heard, they were nothing more than fairy tales.

He shook the thoughts from his head. None of that mattered. Right now, Emma was under the spell of some creature, and he needed to save her.

“Emma-”

“David!” Snow snapped.

Emma wasn’t listening any more though. Her attention was back on the dragon. David watched in horror as she released her hold on the beast, and was grateful when it crumpled to the ground, unable to fight any more.

“Killian!” Emma ran over to the monster as it transformed back into a man.

David fell to the ground next, fortunately, without any injury. When he ran to retrieve his sword, however, Snow grabbed it and refused to hand it over.

His stomach turned into knots when he heard the heart-wrenching sobs coming from Emma. The dragon - man - was unconscious, and Emma held him in her arms. David watched as she rocked back and forth, pleading for the man who had kidnapped her to wake up.

He went to Emma and knelt beside her, but was only met with her wrath. “Don’t you dare touch him!” she spat.

“Okay.” He held up his hands in surrender, and tried to keep his voice as calm and as soothing as possible. “Why don’t you… tell me what we can do to help?” It wasn’t the route he wanted to take, but with Emma’s attachment, the options were limited.

“Go home,” she said coldly.

“You don’t mean that, Emma,” Snow cut in and knelt on the other side of their daughter. “Look, why don’t we get your friend back into bed and we can talk-”

“Talk?” Emma shrieked. “ Now you want to talk? I tried to tell you what was going on, but dad was too busy trying to slay dragons to listen!”

“You have to admit, that’s kind of a normal reaction,” David countered.

Snow shot him a dirty look, effectively shutting him up, then she turned her attention back to Emma. “It was a misunderstanding,” she said, “and now, we’re going to help you fix it.”

“Guys…” Ruby interrupted. “I don’t mean to be rude, but we’re about to have-”

“Bloody hell, Merlin!” A voice came from the hall. “We’ve scoured this castle five times and have found nothing! Now, I don’t know why you’re trying to keep me from checking in on-”

“Company?” Ruby finished when the two men walked into the room.

“Who the bloody hell are you three?” the man asked. Then he saw Emma, and became livid. “What did you do to my brother, now , you damn witch?”

“Hey!” Snow and David shouted in unison. The both stood, and David intended to give the man a piece of his mind, but Snow beat him to it.

“Who the hell do you think you are?” she demanded. “You have no right to talk to my daughter like that!” She stepped right up to the man and poked her finger into his chest as she scolded him.

“I highly suggest you back away, before I do something I regret,” the man growled. Snow took a quick step back, but held her stance… and her glare.

“Excuse me?” David interrupted. Snow could handle herself, that much he knew, but he couldn’t just stand by while the man talked to her like that. “Are you threatening my wife?”

The man’s attention moved from Snow to David. “Perhaps,” he spat, “your wife should learn to control her tongue… and her temper.”

Whatever resolve he had left, snapped. David rushed towards the man, more than ready to punch him in the face. Snow stopped him, but just barely. He and the man continued to argue while she attempted to keep them from killing one another.

“Enough!” The once quiet Merlin shouted loud enough to startle everyone. There was no magic this time, but everything came to a screeching halt and no one dared move a muscle.

Just as quickly as he’d angered, Merlin composed himself once again. “I think it’s time we all sit down and sort this out,” he suggested. “Civily. Without any bloodshed.” He smiled coldly at both men, the implied threat that he would make them behave clear even to David. “Do you think we can all do that?”

I can,” David reluctantly agreed. “But if he tries anything, I can’t make any promises.”

The other man grumbled an agreement, but David didn’t trust that he’d be on his best behavior.  

“First,” David said with a sigh, “I need to help my daughter.” He still wasn’t keen on assisting the dragon in any way, but it was important to Emma.

He rushed over to help Emma move the dragon - Killian - back to the bed. There were more questions than answers now.  If Emma wasn’t kidnapped, then what happened? And what about her sudden use of magic?

When she was born, he and Snow had been told that she was special. The product of True Love. He never doubted it for a moment. Emma was special. But she’d never done anything truly out of the ordinary, leaving him to wonder what the prophecy had meant.

Was this it ?

Was her magic something that had always been there? Dormant and lying in wait for the right moment? Or was it something they saw, but chose to ignore?

“Emma-”

“He was hurt saving me,” she said. “We barely made it back here. He lost so much blood… I thought I’d lost him…” She climbed up into the bed with him, and placed his head in her lap. “He didn’t have the strength yet to transform…” she mumbled as she absentmindedly combed her fingers through his hair.

David’s heart broke at the sight of the fresh wave of tears falling down her cheeks. “I’m sorry, Emma.” There was nothing more he could say, nothing more he could do.

“I didn’t mean to frighten you,” she said softly. “But I had to make it look real. I couldn’t make it look like I’d just run away.”

Suddenly, everything made sense. Emma knew what he and Snow had already suspected.

“Zelena was planning on betraying us,” she confirmed.

“Why didn’t you just come to us?” He asked, hurt. Truth be told, they had already started looking for ways to void the deal. The thought of Emma entering into a loveless marriage for nothing more than political reasons made him sick. He wanted better for his baby girl. She deserved better.

“It was my mess,” she explained. “I figured if I staged a kidnapping-”

“We couldn’t be blamed.”

Emma nodded. “Killian and I made a deal,” she said. “He’d help us with Oz, and I’d help him with his curse.”

“And the magic?"

“That’s… new,” she said cautiously.  “New to me anyway. I’m still getting used to it.”

“Unfortunately”-Killian’s brother interrupted-“we can’t keep our end of the deal if she doesn’t keep hers. So long as this kingdom is cursed, its inhabitants cannot leave. There’s no magic, no dragons, and no transport.”

Merlin sighed. “This is not how I imagined everything would play out. But we’ve all met, and have a general idea of things. There isn’t much time for the finer details. War is coming, and we need to discuss what we’re going to do about that.”

“I’m not leaving Killian,” Emma stated.

“We'll discuss it here,” Merlin decided.

David tried to take it all in as Killian’s brother - Liam, the damned king of the dragons - told them about the curse and the prophecy that went with it. Killian had been searching for centuries for the mythical product of true love, and Emma - his Emma - was the one fated to save their kingdom.

As if she didn’t have enough on her plate already.

He wanted to grab Emma and run. Liam and Killian’s problems were none of her concern, but he had to respect that this was a choice his daughter made.

“I told my brother that I would honor the deal he made with Emma,” Liam said. “And I am a man of my word.”

The man was arrogant, and made no effort to hide his distaste for Emma, but for some unknown reason, David was inclined to believe him. “So what do we do?” he asked. It was Liam’s kingdom, so despite their differences, David was willing to follow his lead.

It was something Liam seemed to appreciate. “We have a few dragons,” he said, “if we can lure their forces in-”

“We can’t do that,” Snow interrupted. “Those are our men, and they’re only with Zelena on our orders to rescue Emma. They’re innocent.” She smiled sheepishly as she added, “and not exactly our best soldiers.”

“And our troops will stand down if we tell them to,” David assured her. Zelena had been so quick to agree to taking their soldiers, that she didn’t question anything. “The men we sent with Zelena were meant to stall her,” he explained. He wasn’t trying to call them cowards, but they certainly weren’t his bravest men, nor did they have much experience. If anyone was going to turn tail and run at the sight of a dragon, it would be these men. In fact, run was exactly what they’d been ordered to do if they spotted a beast. “We never wanted to start another conflict with a kingdom. We have enough on our plates.”

“We lure them in,” Liam said again, “because my dragons can’t cross the border. Once they’re inside, you can get your men to safety, provided they listen. I can’t make any promises if they attack my people.”

David could understand that. He only hoped he could get to his men before they did anything stupid.

“What about me?” Emma asked. “I have magic. I can help.”

The last thing he ever wanted was for his daughter to see a war. Especially one that had the potential to be particularly brutal.

Fortunately, Liam beat him to the punch. “Dragons can handle a second rate magician and whatever she thinks she can bring at us.”

“You should stay with Killian,” Snow suggested. “He’s defenseless in his state.  If he wakes up and can’t find you, who knows what he’ll do.”

David didn’t like that idea either, but at the very least, it would keep her out of the middle of things. He could see Emma considering the idea, and could hear Liam muttering under his breath. He tried to keep his temper, and not punch the man when he heard the words “damn witch” loud and clear.

“How much time do we have?” Ruby asked. When all eyes turned to her, she shrugged. “I can be useful if they attack in the next few nights.”

Snow snickered when Liam snorted out a laugh. Ruby didn’t seem to find it at all amusing. When she shot him a dirty look, Liam shook his head. “Apologies, but you don’t look like you could hurt a fly.”

If he only knew.

“Don’t you worry about me,” she snapped. “I can hold my own.”

Liam didn’t look like he believed Ruby, but he didn’t press further. “We should rest,” he said instead. “There’s time before they arrive, right Merlin?”

“We have at least two days,” Merlin confirmed.

“Right then,” Liam nodded. “Then let’s get you three into the guest wing.”

David looked over at Emma, who made no move to follow them. “I’m not leaving my daughter alone with him. It’s… inappropriate!” He didn’t add that he didn’t trust Killian one bit, but the implication was there.

“Believe me, your Highness, if I thought I could pry her away from my brother, I’d do it.” Liam sighed, and grumbled something about stubbornness, then shrugged. “If you wish to sleep in the chair and keep watch, you’re more than welcome, but you’ll regret it in the morning.”

“The guest wing will be fine,” Snow said through gritted teeth. She grabbed David by the arm, and dragged him along as Liam led them out of the room.

“For what it’s worth,” Ruby said once they were in the hall, “he is unconscious. It’s not like-”

“Ruby…” David warned. “Not another word.”


Emma sighed in relief when the doors closed. As happy as she was to see her parents again, she hated the fact that any attempt on her part to help had been dismissed. The group practically talked around her, as though she wasn’t even in the room.

Still, she was worried about Killian, and keeping watch over him wasn’t the worst assignment they could have given her. Though he was definitely still alive, there was no telling if he was actually okay. She supposed the fact that he was snoring was a good sign, but would have felt better if he’d open his eyes or actually say something.

Carefully, she moved his head off of her lap, and onto his pillow, trying to keep from panicking when he didn’t even seem to notice.

“I’m not leaving you,” she told him anyway, as she draped the quilt over him. “I’m right here.”

“Here…”

At first, she thought she was hearing things. “Killian?” she asked hesitantly, hopefully.

The room was silent again, and just when she thought it might be her imagination, she heard him again.

“Too far…” he mumbled. “Come here.”

“I’ll be right in the chair,” she assured him. “Just like before.”

He let out an annoyed grunt, and insisted, “ Here . With me.” Though his voice was weak, she could tell he was ready to argue should she decline.

But he needed to recover. She couldn’t crowd his space-

“Emma,” he interrupted her before she could rationalize, “ I need you.

How was she supposed to argue with that?

“Okay,” she agreed.

“I don’t remember owning a pair of breeches this soft?” he mused as she slipped under the covers. “Did Liam give these to you?”

“Go to sleep, Killian.”

“Did you put them on me?” he asked, the hint of a smirk in his voice. “Just couldn’t resist finding an excuse to see me naked.”

“Do you want me to sleep on the chair?” she snarked, her eyes already closing.

“No…” he whined, “please stay. I didn’t mean anything by it.”

Emma felt the blanket shifting, and just as she was about to scold him for being a hog, he rolled over and snuck his arms around her. “Can’t go anywhere now,” he teased.

The fact was, as soon as she was wrapped up in him, she realized she didn’t want to go anywhere. She snuggled closer, and smiled when he let out a little happy sigh.

She fought sleep, waiting for him to fall asleep first. It didn’t take long for his breathing to even out, and for him to start snoring… right in her ear. She shifted a bit, giggling when he grumbled and pulled her back.

“Goodnight, Hook,” she whispered.


“Swan!”

Emma’s eyes snapped open when she heard Killian’s panic. He wasn’t cuddled up to her anymore, and… no.  She sat up, ready to protect him from-

There was no one there.

She turned to Killian, who was standing at the side of the bed, gesturing wildly at his legs with a horrified look on his face. “What the bloody hell did you dress me in?”

“I…” she smiled sheepishly. “It was an accident. I just thought you might not be comfortable trying to sleep in leather, and I didn't want to rummage through your things, so I tried to conjure up clothes.”

Killian's expression quickly changed from horrified to impressed. “You just made these?” He asked. “Out of thin air?”

Emma nodded. “I didn't intend for them to be so…”

“Comfortable?”

“I was going to say pink….” she mumbled, more than a little embarrassed about her blunder.

“You are bloody amazing…” he mused, no longer upset about the color of his clothes.

There was no time for her to process anything, as at that moment, the door swung open. “A little bit of privacy would be nice!” Killian snapped when Liam walked into the room.

“You don’t need privacy,” Emma heard David retort as he followed Killian’s brother. “You’re alone in a room with my daughter. If you aren’t decent at all times, then you’re doing something wrong.”

Emma could feel her cheeks growing hot.  What exactly did her father think was going on?

Oh no...

Before she could correct him, Killian was going on about her magic, showing everyone the blindingly pink pajamas she'd conjured up. While her mother and Ruby were amazed by her newfound abilities, her father and Liam seemed less than impressed with Killian's enthusiasm.

David eyed Killian suspiciously, in the same way Liam was eyeing her. Like they thought Killian was only going on about her magic to distract them from what they thought they’d interrupted.

Not that there was anything to interrupt.  Not that there would ever be anything to interrupt.

Right?

“Why are you here?” Emma asked, hoping to move the conversation towards a topic that wouldn’t make her want to crawl in a hole and die.

“We need to get you two to safety,” David stated. Though, with the way he sneered at Killian, Emma was sure he didn’t care one way or another about his well-being.

“I’m not helpless,” Killian protested, then nodded towards Emma. “Neither is she.”

While she appreciated the vote of confidence, she didn’t want Killian to put himself at risk so soon after being injured. “You still need to recover,” she reminded him.

Emma turned to her father, hoping to make her point again.  “But I have magic. I can help.”

“Absolutely not,” both David and Liam said at the same time. Why did they have to agree so much ? Neither explained their reasoning, but Emma didn’t have to wonder too hard. Her father wasn’t about to let his only daughter get into harm’s way, and Liam didn’t trust her.

“This is my kingdom, too,” Killian reminded them, ready to argue his own case. “You can’t just expect me to sit around idly while you all risk your lives to fight for it.”

“You won’t be sitting around,” Liam said, “you can protect the stray you dragged in.”

“I’m sorry,” David interrupted. “I must be mistaken.  You couldn’t possibly be referring to my daughter as if she were just some wretched animal he picked up on the side of the road.”

Dammit.

“I’m saying just that.”  Liam was completely unapologetic, the look on his face daring anyone to challenge him. “If it wasn't for her we wouldn't be in this situation right now.”

“Right,” David nodded, “because dragons don't have these types of problems at all.”

“And what is that supposed to mean?” Liam demanded.

“Maybe if you didn’t make a habit of kidnapping princesses, you wouldn’t have people knocking down your door looking for a fight!” David shouted.

“Nobody kidnapped me!” Emma shouted. They’d been over that part already, and while she couldn’t fault her father for wanting to protect her, he needed to tone it down before he drove her crazy.

This time,” David grumbled. “But they’re dragons. Do you really expect me to believe-”

Liam cut him off before he could even think about finishing the statement. “That we aren’t the monsters you make us out to be?” When David tried to argue, Liam shut him down again. “I’ve heard the stories,” he growled. “And I’ll bet whoever started them had never laid eyes on an actual dragon!”

David gestured towards Killian. “I’ve seen one dragon,” he reminded Liam, “and he definitely didn’t come in peace!”

“I didn’t condone that!” Liam countered.

And they were back to shouting.

“You certainly didn’t do anything when he decided to hold my daughter hostage-”

“Daddy!”

The blanket she was holding onto burst into flames. David and Liam stopped bickering as Emma began to panic. The harder she tried to put out the fire, the more wild it became.

“Dammit,” she muttered under her breath.

“I’ve got it, Swan,” she thought she heard Killian reassure.

Just as she was about to ask if he’d actually said something, she was being lifted out of the bed and set safely on the ground. Seconds later, a large splash of water covered the bed and put out the flames.

“I’m sorry…” she mumbled. “I didn’t mean-”

“It’s all right. You’ll fix it when you’ve calmed down,” Killian said, turning to wink at her.

“She’ll… what?” David growled. “What makes you think you have the right to order my daughter around?”

“Oh, bloody hell, mate!” Killian shot back.

“I’m not your mate!”

“I will burn this whole castle to the ground if you don’t knock it off!” Emma threatened. Not that she could actually do it, but maybe it would scare her father into shutting up.

“You’ll do nothing of the sort!” Liam snapped.

“Bloody hell, brother! Shut it!”

“We’re never going to get anywhere if we keep arguing amongst ourselves,” Snow said calmly.

David and Liam reluctantly agreed to remain civil while Snow tried to ignore them. “Emma, Killian,” she said, turning her attention to them. “I know you two don’t want to sit this out, but right now, I think it’s for the best.”

Emma looked over at Killian, who nodded. Hesitantly, but he nodded. “Where do you want us to go?” she asked.

“The tower,” Liam answered. “That way, if it all goes to hell, Killian still has a chance to get the two of you out alive.”

She hated the idea of being hidden away when she could help. But Killian was still weak, and being with him meant he would have someone to look after him. Even if he saw it as the other way around.

“Okay.”

Her parents visibly relaxed at her agreement.

Liam didn’t waste a moment. “Let’s get on with it then,” he said gruffly, as he quickly ushered everyone out of the room.

 

Chapter Text

Once again, my amazing cover is by @hopeandbeans!

Art Links:

@couldnthandleit

Gifset 1

@hopeandbeans

Artwork 1//Artwork 2//Artwork 3


Emma tried to keep her irritation at bay. Her parents -even Liam- meant well in wanting to protect her and Killian. She could even see the advantage of not having to worry about Killian trying to fight in his weakened state.

But she didn’t really think it would go to hell. Zelena was powerful but so were dragons. Arguing that point, however, would only make things worse.

As they filed through the hall, Emma groaned when her father started talking again. “We’re going to stick them in a tower half dressed?”

“Here!” she snapped as she waved her hand in haste.

Killian grumbled at the sight of his new shirt. “Really, Swan?” he asked. “This doesn’t even match .”

Everyone else thought the bright green top was an amusing addition to his already ridiculous attire, and they laughed even harder when she poofed Killian’s coat into his arms. “There,” she snapped. “Black goes with everything.”

She turned to David and shrugged. “He’s covered. Are you happy now?”

“Thrilled,” David rolled his eyes. “Would you mind telling me why he’s calling you Swan?”

Telling him about their time on the island would only anger her father more. “It’s just…” She tried to find the best way to say it without causing another argument. “We-”

“It’s private, Dave,” Killian said, smirking when David turned and shot him a withering glare. “Something between… friends… ” he continued, his tone implying they were much more than just friends.

But they weren’t.

Weren’t they?

It didn’t matter now, because David looked as if he were going to murder Killian on the spot. If he didn’t kill him, she was certainly going to. What was he thinking? “What’s wrong with you?” she hissed once her mother pulled her father away from them.

“Just a bit of fun, Swan,” he teased. “Your father sure is wound tight, isn’t he?”

She shot him a look that she hoped said it all, but judging by Killian’s smirk, it had only fueled the fire. “Try not to get yourself killed,” she snarked. “I put a lot of effort into keeping you alive, and I’d rather not have just wasted my time.”

He muttered something about apples and trees, and it took all her willpower to keep from punching him in the face.

Killian, finally understanding that he was on thin ice with just about everyone, shut his mouth. Emma took the opportunity to look around in the meantime. She knew she shouldn’t lag behind, but couldn’t help but notice scorch marks running along the wall near the floor. They came to a halt at a small door. Part of the wood had been burned away, and what was left was cracked, as if someone had slammed into it rather hard.

“What happened here?” she wondered out loud.

“Killian happened,” Liam said with a chuckle as he came to a stop. It was the first time since she’d arrived that he hadn’t shouted at her. There was a fondness in his tone as he looked at the trail of damage along the wall. “He was a clumsy little thing,” he said, smirking when Killian groaned. “I used to chase him around the castle… it was amusing to watch him skitter about on the stone. His head was much too big-”

“Brother!” Killian snapped.

Liam threw his hands up in mock defeat, and led them further up the stairs.

“Sounds like you were a cute little dragon,” Emma teased quietly.

“It was centuries ago,” Killian grumbled. “He’s had plenty of time to repair the damage he insists I made.”

“Hey-”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

There was more to Killian’s annoyance than he was letting on. It seemed to be less about embarrassment, and more about… something she couldn’t quite place. She wanted to ask, but the pained look in Killian’s eyes stopped her.

“Okay,” she said gently. “We don’t have to.” She grabbed his hand and gave it a quick squeeze, but dropped it just as quickly when Liam turned to tell them they’d arrived.

She could practically feel his disappointment when she let go.

“This is it,” Liam said as he opened the door to a room that Emma recognized. It wasn’t at the top of the tower, but in a small room off to the side. She’d been there once before, when Killian had brought her to see-

“You’re making us stay with Merlin ?” she asked. Not that she had any problems with the sorcerer, but now they wanted them to have a chaperone? Though… Merlin wasn’t with them, and didn’t seem to be present in the room.

David seemed pleased to hear that they wouldn’t be alone, until Liam spoke again. “The bloody sorcerer is with us. He’s waiting in the courtyard and we’ll be meeting with him shortly.”

Snow pinched David when he started to protest, turning whatever he was about to say into a yelp. “And they’ll be safe up here?” she asked.

Liam nodded. “Yes, and we’ll be able to focus on the battle ahead.”

“Don’t worry, mate,” Killian grinned as he spoke to David. “I’ll take good care of your daughter.”

“Oh, I bet you will,” Ruby said so quietly, that only Emma heard.

At least, she thought she was the only one that heard. Killian was snickering, which meant either Liam said something hilarious, or he found Ruby’s comment amusing.

The likelihood of Liam saying anything remotely funny was… well… unlikely.

“You’re blushing,” Killian whispered. His quiet laughter turned into a muffled grunt of pain when she took a page out of her mother’s book and pinched his arm. Hard.

“Well then,” Liam cleared his throat and gave them both a disapproving look. “I suppose that even though it goes without saying, don’t touch anything.”

Killian waited a moment while Liam glared. “What about… this?” He asked, grabbing a book off the table. Emma backed away, not wanting to get caught in the crossfire.

After setting the book down, Killian browsed around the room. “You don’t suppose Merlin would be angry if I redecorated, do you?” He picked up a few items, and moved them around, all the while never taking his eyes off of his brother.

“This is ridiculous,” she heard David mutter. “You want me to trust my daughter with an overgrown man-child?”

“Hey now,” Killian stopped playing around, and looked David in the eye. “I swore I’d protect Emma, and I meant it. No harm will come to your princess.”

His sudden seriousness didn’t seem to appease her father, but her mother was a different story. “Come on, David. She’ll be just fine.”

Liam gave Killian another warning look before they left the room.

Once they were alone again, Emma rolled her eyes. “You just couldn’t help yourself, could you?”

“I was just having a bit of fun,” he argued. When she just rolled her eyes again, he groaned. “You really are your father’s daughter.”

She wanted to ask him what he meant by that, but also didn’t really want to know the answer. “Well,” she sighed, “ now what?” They were going to be stuck in the tower for the time being, so even though she didn’t want to look at him at the moment, tolerating him was probably her best option.

“I could probably still use some rest,” he shrugged. “They’ll bring us some food when it’s time to eat.”

Emma’s stomach grumbled at the thought. She was hungry now. “You sleep,” she instructed, “and I’ll try to use my magic to get some food up here.”

He pouted.

Idiot.

“Are you really going to send me off like an errant toddler without any company?” He kicked at the ground like a child.

“What am I going to do with you?” she groaned.

“Cuddle with me?”

Was he serious?

“I’m hungry,” she snapped.

Killian took her by the hand and led her to a small room in the back of the tower. “See?” he said, gesturing towards the bed. “There’s a bed, and there’s plenty of room for you to conjure up food, and cuddle with me.”

“Fine,” she grumbled. Anything to get him to shut up so she could eat.

He picked up what seemed to be a broken sword as Emma sat down on the bed. “Merlin keeps a lot of magical things around here,” he mused. “Why do you think he mixes all this broken junk in with it?”

“Put that down!” she hissed.

Killian rolled his eyes and leaned the half-sword against the desk where he’d found it. “You’re no fun,” he complained.

“And you’re a menace,” she snapped back, more with humor than any real ire.

“What do you suppose Merlin gets into up in here?” Killian wondered, eyeing the bed with a silly smirk.

“Just shut up and lie down,” Emma said, curling up at the head of the bed when he obeyed. She really didn’t want to think about the sorcerer in bed. “Bet he doesn’t drool half as much as you do,” she teased when Killian curled up next to her.

“I do not drool, Swan,” he scoffed.

“But you do snore,” she reminded him.

“As do you, darling,” he laughed.

He wrapped his arm around her waist, and right then, Emma knew she wouldn’t be conjuring up any food. “How am I supposed to eat-”

“Nap first,” he shushed her, his eyes already beginning to shut.

She sighed when her stomach grumbled again. “If I starve to death, I’m holding you responsible.” But he was already snoring in her ear.

Sure, he was infuriating, enjoyed pushing her buttons, and sometimes… she just wanted to punch him in the face, but for some reason, she found she didn’t hate those things about him. His more obnoxious traits were just as endearing as the sickeningly sweet side that he only seemed to show to her.

The fleeting thought she’d had just days before came back to her, and her stomach fluttered. It wasn’t something she wanted to think about, but it also wasn’t a completely unpleasant idea to entertain.

Did she love him?

Emma let out a frustrated sigh. She didn’t even know what love was, and had even less experience when it came to actually reading people.

What if he was just playing around?

As scary as the thought that she might love him was, the thought that he might not feel the same actually upset her.

Killian mumbled something in his sleep and nuzzled her neck as he held her tighter against him. She wanted to ask if he’d woken up, but he started snoring again.

She closed her eyes and just listened, pushing away all the thoughts she wasn’t quite ready to deal with yet, and drifted off to sleep.


Something wasn’t right.

Emma shivered at the sudden chill she felt. Instinctively, she searched for Killian, trying to find the arm that had been around her waist, or the nose that had been buried in her hair. Where was he?

“Killian?” she asked as she rolled over and opened her eyes. His side of the bed was empty, though still warm, as though he hadn’t been gone long.

“Swan…” came his choked out answer.

She shot up and looked over to see Killian standing on the other side of the room with a dagger to his throat. “Killian!” She jumped out of bed, ready to go to him, when she heard a laugh.

“Not so fast, Emma.”

Walsh.

How did he get in without anyone noticing, and why wasn’t Killian fighting?

“Killian, you have to fight him,” she begged.

Walsh put more pressure on the dagger, pulling a quiet whimper from Killian. “He can’t do anything, Emma,” Walsh chuckled.

“Why not?”

“Squid ink,” Walsh stated as if it were obvious. “It can immobilize even the most powerful of creatures.”

A knot formed in her stomach as he taunted them both some more. She didn’t dare move, in fear that he might finish the job before she could get to Killian. “What do you want?” she asked weakly, knowing that she didn’t want the answer.

“Real simple stuff,” Walsh stated. “You come with me, so I can take you to Zelena. Come quietly, and I won’t hurt your boyfriend.”

“Don’t do it, Swan,” Killian warned.

“Somehow, I knew he’d try something like that,” Walsh groaned. “But you love him too much to just sit there and watch him die, don’t you?”

There was that stupid word again.

“Your family’s lives are at stake too,” Walsh continued, “so if the life of your lover boy isn’t enough to convince you, maybe theirs will.”

But Emma had already made up her mind. Even without the risk to her family, she couldn’t lose Killian. Not after she’d just gotten him back. She could see in Killian’s eyes that he wanted her to fight, no matter his fate, but she just couldn’t do it.

Maybe it was love, maybe it was something else she just couldn’t explain, but she couldn’t let him die for her. Especially not when the only reason he was at risk was because she’d put him there.

“Okay,” Emma agreed. She looked at the ground, refusing to make eye contact with Killian. He made no secret of his disappointment in her decision, and it hurt. Had he forgotten that she had magic? Did he not have any faith in her at all? “I’ll go with you,” she said, making her intentions perfectly clear. “So you can let him go.”

“Just one thing,” Walsh said.

Emma looked up and noticed Walsh was pulling something out of his pocket. He still kept the dagger to Killian, whose gaze she was still trying to avoid.

“We can’t have you blasting me into oblivion the second I let go of your friend here,” he stated, once he’d pulled out the object he’d been looking for. He tossed the small item to Emma, and smirked.

She turned the item over in her hands. It was just a plain looking black cuff. “What do you want me to do with this?”

“Put it on,” he snapped.

She could hear the desperation in his voice, and wondered if the squid ink was coming close to wearing off. “What does it do?”

Killian let out a yelp when the sharp blade pierced his skin. It was the only answer Walsh was going to give her. He wasn’t going to give the ink a chance to wear off. Either she did as he said, or Killian was dead.

Emma slipped the cuff over her wrist. Immediately, she felt the change come over her. “What the hell?” she cried, trying in vain to pry the thing off. “What did you do to me?” she demanded.

To her relief, he let go of Killian after dousing him with another dose of squid ink. “Just so he doesn't do anything stupid,” Walsh explained. “So, how's your magic?”

A wave of nausea washed over her as she realized what the cuff was doing to her. “How did you know?” She didn't even know she had magic until recently, and Walsh had never actually seen her use it.

“Just because you didn’t find out until now, doesn’t mean that there aren’t others out there who already knew,” was all he offered. “Now come on, Zelena’s waiting.”

Emma watched in horror as Walsh transformed into a terrifying monkey with wings.

Well, that explains how he got up here.

She looked at Killian, who was still frozen, fear, anger, and disappointment in his eyes. She wanted to apologize, to promise everything would be okay, but all she could get out before Walsh grabbed her, was: “I love you.”

She screamed when Walsh took flight, only to have a hand clap over her mouth. Not that it mattered if she made any noise. Killian was the only one who would likely hear her, and he wasn’t going to be going anywhere any time soon.

The flight with Walsh was different than her flights with Killian.

Killian talked to her. Walsh screeched. Killian was always attentive to her needs, ensuring she was safe, warm, and comfortable during their time in the sky. Walsh, on the other hand, was rough and uncaring. She wasn't sure he'd do anything if he accidentally dropped her, despite the fact that certain death would be her fate.

Certain death was her only fate no matter how everything played out, she realized. Zelena didn't want to kidnap her for any good reasons.

All she could really think about, though, was Killian. The look on his face was seared into her memory. She had done that to him. She was the reason for his distress… not Walsh.

What was she thinking?

There was no choice but to protect him, of course. But telling him that she loved him? That had only seemed to hurt him even more. She’d meant to comfort him, and only managed to make everything worse. Now she was going to die, and that was going to be the last memory he had of her.

But she wasn’t about to let Walsh - or even Zelena - see her despair. Whatever they had planned for her, at least the people she cared about were safe.

Her thoughts came to an abrupt stop when Walsh landed and pushed her down onto the ground. Emma looked up to see Zelena standing above her, a wicked grin on her face.

The witch didn’t say a word to Emma as she stepped around her to get to Walsh.  “Proud of yourself?” she asked. Her tone was sickeningly sweet, and even though Walsh sounded excited, Emma was wary. There was something off about the way Zelena cooed at the now giddy monkey.

Emma tried to scramble away, not wanting to get caught in the crossfire, but something held her in place. Magic. Of course.

“You’re not going anywhere,” Zelena snapped.

Unable to move, Emma tried to make herself as small and as invisible as possible as Zelena paced nearby. She couldn’t see what was going on, but Walsh still seemed to be unaware that he was in trouble.

“I asked you to do one thing,” she sighed. “All you had to do was marry the princess. It was a simple enough task, really. She was desperate enough to agree to anything, all you had to do was play the gentleman for a few months.”

Walsh suddenly went silent. Emma wondered if it was finally starting to sink in.

“Then, when you couldn’t pull that off,” Zelena continued, “you managed to screw up the rescue that would have indebted the Charmings to us! You would have looked like a hero! Imagine! Getting credit for taking out a kingdom of dragons! It only would have given you everything you’ve ever wanted. But you couldn’t even do that .”

Walsh made a noise that didn’t sound like anything but a squeak.

Zelena laughed, “I know you’ve brought me the princess.” There was a click, and Walsh squealed as if he were in pain. “Did I ask for you to bring me the princess?” she scolded.

Emma wished covering her ears actually worked. Walsh began screeching at Zelena, the sounds echoing off the walls.

“No!” Zelena shouted, “I won’t take it off! You’ve been useless to me as a man, so you can just stay a monkey until I need you again.”

What?

“You stole my magic cuff, and brought me the one thing that can destroy everything!”

Destroy everything? Emma wasn’t sure what Zelena was talking about, but the witch was so angry with her minion, that Emma didn’t want to risk turning that wrath on herself. With her magic, she might have been able to put up a decent fight, but without it, she was powerless against Zelena.

There were more protests from Walsh that Zelena quickly shut down. Emma didn’t dare look to see what happened, but when the room fell silent, she knew the monkey had been dismissed. She almost married a flying monkey.

“I suppose I’ll have to come up with a new plan,” Zelena sighed. Her heels clicked on the ground as she stalked back to Emma. “Tell me,” she laughed as she nudged Emma’s arm with her foot. “Does your dragon know you’re missing?”

Emma looked up and glared at her defiantly. She was a bit relieved to know that Walsh hadn’t disclosed all the details of the kidnapping. Not that it made a difference in the moment. For all she knew, Killian was still frozen where he stood.

“I asked you a question!”

“I don’t answer to you!” She snapped, sounding more confident than she felt.

Zelena threw her head back and laughed. When she settled, she looked back down at Emma. “He’ll never find you,” she said.

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Emma shot back.

“Do you really think I’m afraid of a dragon?” she asked. “I can obliterate him with a flick of my wrist, and you won’t be able to do anything about it.” When Emma didn’t respond, Zelena snarled at her. “You’re acting brave now, but I bet you’ll cower like the rest of them once the Dark One comes for you.”

Emma refused to react to the statement. She wouldn't give Zelena the satisfaction. But behind the false bravery, she was petrified.

There were questions, but no one she could trust for an answer. The Dark One had expressed interest in her kingdom before she was even born, but had never made any attempt to take over.

Until recently.

The moment Emma was old enough, Rumplestiltskin had tried to press the idea of uniting the kingdoms through marriage. Emma hadn’t met the Dark One’s son, but none of it made sense. He’d offered up his heir as part of the deal, which would mean the man would lose his own claim to a throne. Then, there was the fact that he tried to make a deal at all. He could obliterate whole realms without much more than a blink of an eye if he so desired. Stories were told of his conquests, and how he never showed mercy. Why would he try uniting the kingdoms when he was used to just taking what he wanted?

She could feel Zelena’s eyes on her as she lost herself in her thoughts. It took effort, but Emma did her best to remain expressionless, not wanting to give the witch any more ammunition than she already had.

“I’d imagine you have questions,” Zelena teased.

Emma rolled her eyes as she filed away her thoughts. There would be time to ask later, after she made it out of her current predicament. The witch looked at her expectantly, waiting for Emma to say something.

For a moment, she kept her mouth shut. The last thing Zelena needed was something to hold over Emma’s head. But... there was something she wanted to know. Something that only Zelena would have the answer to.

“What do you get out of all of this?” she asked.

“That is none of your concern,” Zelena snapped.

A slow smile spread. She’d struck a nerve. “What does the Dark One have on you?” She continued to prod, finding a bit of amusement in taunting her captor. “Must be big if you’re out doing all his dirty work.”

“That’s enough!”

Emma yelped when Zelena grabbed a fistful of hair and pulled her to her feet. “You’ll hold your tongue if you know what’s good for you!” She dragged Emma towards the back of the small cave and shoved her towards the wall. “The Dark One wasn’t specific about what condition he wanted you in… only that I needed to keep you alive.”

Great, so she was to be tortured.

The cruel grin on Zelena’s face was the answer to the question Emma hadn’t asked. Whatever Zelena had planned for her here would likely be nothing compared to the Hell the Dark One could unleash.

“Don’t even think about escaping,” Zelena laughed. “You’ve no magic, and no dragon to save you.”

She disappeared into a small tunnel, leaving Emma alone. This time, there was no magic holding her back. Emma poked around the tunnel in search of barriers or any sort of resistance to her leaving, and found none. Was it a test? Surely the witch didn’t trust her enough to truly leave her without some sort of chain.

For a brief moment, she contemplated running, but remembered not only Zelena’s warning, but the fact that when they’d flown in, they had entered a cave on the side of a cliff. The plan may have not been to kidnap her, but Zelena picked the perfect spot to hide her away.

Why was she hiding? There was an army headed for Dóiteán, and Zelena was holed up in some cave with her monkey minion. Granted, she knew the witch wouldn’t want to get her hands dirty, and they weren’t exactly far from the kingdom, but it didn’t seem to make any sense.

Why had Walsh disobeyed orders? What exactly were his orders, if he wasn’t supposed to kidnap Emma?

There seemed to be more to it than just a need to disobey. Thinking back, she could make out the scene… Killian, standing helpless, and Walsh…

Walsh was jealous.

Some part of him still believed that Emma was his. He’d made that perfectly clear when he attacked her in the woods.

Whatever Zelena had told him to do, Emma might never know, but she was almost certain he’d changed his mind when he realized what an easy target she and Killian had made of themselves.

Emma sighed as she looked towards the opening of the cave. Her stomach turned at the thought of the look on Killian’s face when she told him she loved him. How he could do nothing but watch as Walsh carried her away.

There would be no rescue this time thanks to the head start Walsh had. If he wanted to rescue her at all...

Screeching sounded from one of the tunnels, silencing Emma’s thoughts. She covered her ears, and tried to drown out the sound by humming to herself, but it was no use. Whatever was happening didn’t sound pleasant, and even though she was relieved it was him and not her, she had the sinking feeling that she would be next.


Bloody hell.  

Killian’s heart was ready to pound out of his chest by the time the effects of the squid ink wore off. The second he could move again, he ran to the window and searched for any sign of Emma.

He stared out the window helplessly, any trace of her long gone. How was he going to find her? It had taken him centuries to track her down the first time and he didn't have that kind of time again. If it hadn’t been for that bloody compass steering him in the wrong direction… servants’ quarters, he was going to kill Anton… but wait. The compass. The bloody compass ! It had led him right to her before. Why hadn’t he realized that?

Where had he abandoned that bloody trinket?

“Coat!” he shouted to… well… whatever creatures made their homes in the walls. He hurried over to where he’d hung his coat earlier and searched through the pockets, grinning when he closed his hand over the compass.

Perfect.

He didn’t bother wasting time changing clothes. As soon as he had the compass, he ran back to the window and leapt out, transforming mid-air and hopefully, away from prying eyes. The last thing he needed was another lecture from his brother.

He tried to ignore the sinking feeling that he might be too late  as he strained to move more quickly than his still recovering body would have liked. The thought of all the hell she was likely enduring numbed his own pain. He wasn’t going to give up, wasn’t going to break his promise.

No harm will come to your princess.

That damned monkey’s days were numbered.

He pushed through everything with only one thought on his mind. Get to Emma . The monkey may have had a head start, but he couldn’t have gone far. The compass confirmed Killian was right when it started spinning wildly. If it was still reacting to her, she had to be alive. He scanned the area, looking for some sign of her, but found nothing.

She had to be close if the compass was acting the way it was, but where was she? “Come on, love,” he murmured, “where are you?”

Just as his frustration was about to take over, an ear piercing screech rang out loud and clear. It wasn’t Emma, but there was no mistaking a sound like that. He’d heard it once before, the shattering shriek of the creature that had stolen Emma. Killian raced towards the it, knowing that wherever Walsh was, Emma would be close.

And maybe the tortured sound meant that Emma was getting her own licks in before Killian decimated the creature for daring to touch her.

Killian chuckled at the thought as he swooped down into the cave. At first glance, he saw nothing. The racket that had drawn him to the cave had ceased, and from the look of things, it hadn’t originated-

Movement at the back of the cave caught his attention. Emma. She looked just as small and weak as her voice sounded. He wanted nothing more than to transform and gather her into his arms, but he needed to get her out of there first.

“Killian?” she asked. Her eyes narrowed as she looked at him, as though she were trying to gauge whether or not he was real.

“Emma,” he whispered. “Are you all right, love?”

“So nice of you to join us, dragon,” a voice called before Emma could answer, followed by a shrill laugh. “Though, I will say that I’m surprised.”

Killian growled in response.

“Don’t be rude,” Zelena sneered.

“Hop on, love,” Killian said, ignoring the witch. “I'm getting you out of here.”  

Zelena’s attention didn’t leave him, giving him a bit of relief. That would buy Emma a little time. If anything, he could just grab her if Zelena tried to stop her.

“Oh, isn’t that sweet?” she laughed. “You’re trying to communicate. Too bad no one here speaks dragon.”

She stopped talking and whirled around just in time to stop Emma from attacking. Killian roared when Zelena flung Emma across the cave.

“No!” Killian howled when she fell to the ground. He lunged at Zelena, only to be thrown against the wall. He could see Emma lying there, unmoving, and he tried to fight but was unable to break through the magic that had him pinned.

“Swan…” he tried to call as the witch used her powers to choke him. As the world started to go dark, he lost sight of Emma. Fight, he thought. Please love, fight!

Chapter Text

Once again, my amazing cover is by @hopeandbeans!

Art Links:

@couldnthandleit

Gifset 1

@hopeandbeans

Artwork 1//Artwork 2//Artwork 3

 


Everything hurt.

Emma hadn’t been in the cave more than a few hours at the most, but Zelena had made sure to torment her as much as possible in that little bit of time. She was exhausted both physically and mentally by the time Killian arrived, and there was a part of her that still believed she was seeing things.

Even when Zelena came out to fight him off, Emma still couldn’t believe he was actually there. But when the witch had him by the throat… when he called out to her… she knew. He was there. He’d come to rescue her.

And Zelena was about to kill him.

The thought snapped her out of the haze she’d found herself in. All she could hear now was Killian calling for her, and Zelena gloating about her kill.

Emma winced as she stood, her muscles tired and sore, but she tried not to focus on her pain. All she had to do was get to Zelena.

As Zelena continued to squeeze the life out of Killian, Emma watched the woman’s pendant. It was something she hadn’t really paid attention to until she was stuck in the cave and subjected to magical torture.

The witch had always worn the gaudy pendant, and Emma assumed it was just something she loved to flaunt about. But Emma started to notice that the emerald seemed to glow whenever Zelena used magic.

Before, she was too exhausted to worry about it. But now that Killian’s life was on the line, she had to try and get it away from Zelena.

A loud screech nearly gave her away. Fortunately, Walsh’s attempt to stop her only served to distract Zelena.

Emma ducked down to avoid Walsh, who crashed right into Zelena instead.

Zelena fussed and shouted at the creature while Killian crumpled back down to all fours. As he gasped for air, Zelena and Walsh continued to fight amongst themselves. Emma tried to get closer, but found it difficult to get through the chaos.

“Killian…” Emma managed to choke out. He was the only one with any real power here. If they were going to make it out alive, he needed to-

She ducked again when she saw Killian bat Walsh out of the way. The monkey flew across the room and hit the wall with a sickening crunch and a squeal. Emma didn’t bother to see if he’d survived the crash.

Killian let out a deafening roar and sent a steady stream of fire in Zelena’s direction. It didn’t make the path to the pendant any easier, but so long as he didn’t let up, Zelena would be too busy defending herself to try and strangle him again.

She started to move towards Zelena again, hoping that Killian might back off long enough for her to make a grab at the pendant, but she didn’t get a chance to find out.

Walsh had survived the attack, and seemed just as determined as ever to impress his boss. He grabbed her, and pulled her away from Killian and Zelena. For someone who’d just been slammed into a wall, he moved surprisingly fast, and didn’t seem to have lost much strength. She didn’t miss the fact that he wasn’t flying, and that he was holding one wing close to his body.

He’s protecting it, she realized. Whether the impact had just injured or actually broken it, she didn’t know. Either way though, she was going to use it to her advantage.

She had to fight. Killian was too busy worrying about Zelena, she couldn’t let his focus get hazy. He couldn’t die because he was looking after her. It was bad enough that he was stuck in the middle already, she couldn’t make it worse.

Emma maneuvered herself so she could elbow Walsh in his stomach. It didn’t feel like much of a connection to her, but he screeched and let go. It was all she needed to unleash everything she’d had on him.

When it came to fighting, she was much better with a bow, like her mother, though she wasn’t an idiot when it came to swords, thanks to her father.

Hand to hand was a bit tougher, not because she was weak, but because her opponents usually had the advantage in size and strength.

“You do whatever you have to do to survive,” her father had told her one day during their training. She’d always been taught to fight fair, but warned that not everyone did. Not that either of her parents thought she would actually be in a situation where she’d have to fight for her life, but Emma had taken the advice to heart.

She kicked Walsh as hard as she could between the legs, unable to keep from smirking when he howled in pain. The victory was short lived though, as he quickly composed himself and lunged at her, barely giving her a chance to make sure the noise hadn’t distracted Killian.

Emma quickly threw a punch, then grabbed at his wounded wing. Walsh thrashed about as he tried to shake her. Their brawl inched closer and closer to the mouth of the cave, something she suspected was a part of his master plan.

It wasn't going to happen. Killian had come all this way to save her, even though he was probably angry with her. She refused to allow him to lose her again.

As they neared the entrance, Emma did all she could to keep behind Walsh. It didn't do her any good, really. Walsh was just as determined to end her as she was to get him off her back. She threw a punch, feeling her fist connecting with his nose. If the noises he was making were any indication, she'd done some damage.

Good.

When he grabbed her and dragged her to the ledge, she kicked and scratched as much as possible, landing a few good hits along the way. She could feel his footing slip.

If he went down while he still had a grip on her, they would both plummet to their deaths. Emma turned her head and bit down on his arm as hard as she could, sighing in relief when he let go of her.

She didn't really want to kill him. As terrible as he was, she just didn't want that weight on her shoulders. But when he lunged at her again, she knew she had no choice. He was so damned determined, that there was no way she could go with any other option.

Her magic gone, all she could do was throw out her fist. It landed squarely on his chest, and she scrambled out of the way before he could grab her again.

Walsh toppled over the ledge, and grabbed for it, but never caught. Emma covered her ears as he screeched the entire way down, the action only slightly muffling the sounds he made. When she couldn't hear him anymore, she uncovered her ears, knowing he was most likely dead. On the off chance he'd survived the fall...

No. She hated the man - monkey - but she didn't want to think of what it was like to suffer an injury like that. He was better off dead.

Distraction gone, she turned her attention back to Killian, who was standing his ground against Zelena, but only barely. She had to get that pendant.

With the fire and magic swirling around the room, she knew it was a fool's errand. She moved towards Killian slowly, suddenly feeling the effects of her own battle.

Her vision began to fade as exhaustion started setting in. Still, she pushed forward.

"Pendant," she whispered. She hoped she'd whispered. It was all she could do before collapsing just a few feet away from the dragon that was currently making Zelena's life hell.


Killian wasn't able to look away, but he knew Emma was in danger. Her quiet whisper though, had reached his ears. He continued to fight Zelena as he zeroed in on the pendant he figured Emma was talking about.

Judging by the way the damned thing was glowing, Emma was onto something. Every time Zelena used her magic, the gaudy jewelry reacted.

He grumbled under his breath. It wouldn't be easy to just grab the pendant and run. Zelena was likely smart enough to protect it, and even if she wasn't, making a grab for it would only tip her off. If he didn't succeed the first time, there wouldn't be a second chance.

But Emma had lost consciousness. He didn't have much time to spare for a good plan.

Zelena unwisely offered him an opening when she turned to glance towards Emma. Taking the opportunity, Killian quickly pressed forward, surrounding her completely with fire.

"What the-" Zelena snapped. her words were cut short when he took hold of her with one hand. "Unhand me, you beast!" she punched at his talons in frustration.

He couldn't help but find humor in her choice of insult. Wasn't she the one with an army of flying monkeys?

Shaking off the thought, he pressed her against the wall and reached up with his claw to rip the pendant from her. It came away with a snap of the chain. That was easy enough.

Zelena screeched and grasped for her pendant, but he'd already placed her back on the ground, and held tight to the jewelry as he backed away. Merlin would know what to do with it. He watched as she tried to summon up her magic, and sighed in relief to discover that Emma had been right.

Leaving Zelena to her tantrum, he turned and grabbed Emma, who didn't even make a sound when he lifted her from the ground.

"It's going to be all right, love," he assured her, even though he knew she couldn't hear.

He pulled Emma close, cradling her against his chest as he leapt off the ledge and took flight. In her condition, he couldn't see her making it all the way back to the castle.

But there was something closer. It wasn't his first choice, but with Emma out cold, he didn't want to take the risk. As fast as his wings could carry them, he made his way to the nearby woods.

Landing amongst all the trees was a bit of a challenge, but as soon as he touched the ground, he set Emma down, and transformed. Picking her back up, he started the short walk to the one place he knew no one would ever think to look for them.

Emma didn't wake. Her shallow breaths were the only indication that she was alive at all. By the time they arrived at the small cabin, Killian was in a panic. What if she never wakes up?

He opened the door with a little struggle, then stepped inside. It had been some time since he'd stepped foot in his home away from home, but it was just as he'd left it. A little dusty, perhaps, but out of the way and cozy enough for Emma to find some time to recover.

He moved aside the cover - relieved to find that the covers underneath looked untouched - then laid her down on the small bed, sighing in relief when her eyes fluttered open.

"Killian?" she asked, her voice small and weak.

He shushed her softly, and gently kissed her forehead. "You need to rest, my love."

Emma held out her hand, revealing the cuff that was still on her wrist. "I can't take it off," she mumbled as her eyes closed again.

Killian frowned at the site. Her wrist had been practically rubbed raw in the struggle to remove the cuff.

It had taken her magic, but was it doing more? Was it part of the reason she couldn't keep her eyes open? With Zelena powerless, he thought, maybe… He held her arm, and slipped his fingers under the cuff, giving a gentle tug. It slid off easily and fell to the floor.

Free from its power, he could almost see her strength returning, but it was slow.

“Stay with me, Emma,” he whispered, placing a soft kiss to her injured wrist. He smiled when she gave him a little nod, then ran outside to grab a small pail of water. When he returned, he quickly set to work, using the water to heal her wounds.

“Like it never happened,” he said, though it was a lie. The physical evidence of her pain might have been washed away, but he knew the memories would never completely fade.

"Thank you," she said before drifting off to sleep again.

Killian watched her for a few moments, trying his best not to panic. Emma was here, safe, and recovering, he reminded himself. As soon as she was well, they could make the rest of their way to the castle. Right now, he just needed to take care of her.

He hated the fact that he had to bring her here now. The cabin was a place he wanted to share with her, but not like this. He imagined that dust wasn't really on her mind at the moment, but it bothered him. His beautiful princess deserved more than an untidy, seemingly abandoned cabin in the woods.

Killian set about cleaning up what he could, running through a mental list of all the things Emma might need.

A bath was likely the first thing she’d ask for. A warm comfort for everything that ailed her. She’d need clean clothing to go with it.

She probably needed food, too. How long had it been since they'd eaten? He didn't think the witch would have fed her, and he hadn't bothered to grab any food before he rushed out to find-

A light snore caught his attention. He looked over at Emma to find she’d curled up into a ball and was slightly shivering. Right. She probably wanted a blanket first.

Killian searched for a decent blanket, thankful that he was lucky enough to find one that wasn't covered in dust. After tucking Emma under the warm fabric, he set to work on getting everything else taken care of.

Not knowing when she'd wake, he cleaned out the small tub in the washroom, and filled it with water, planning on warming it when she was ready. Then, he made his way outside to find something edible for when she inevitably told him she was hungry.

He didn't travel far, and was fortunate enough to find that his little garden hadn't completely gone to waste in his absence. There wasn't much, but enough to make a nice little stew. He brought what he'd found into the house, and then grabbed some traps. If his good luck persisted, they might eat well... so long as he made sure to keep his kill out of her sight.

Once he had everything set up, he made his way back inside to where Emma was sleeping soundly. He didn't want to wake her, but after everything they'd been through that day, he was exhausted, too. Carefully, he slid under the covers next to her, smiling when she snuggled into him without so much as a mumble.

Her light snores had gotten somewhat louder, and he decided he'd have to tease her about scaring their lunch away.

But later. Now, he just wanted her to get the rest she needed.

He could worry about everything else later.


Killian was already awake, just lying in bed when Emma finally began stirring. She made adorable little noises as she stretched out against him.

Bloody hell, she was trying to kill him.

"Where am I?" she asked timidly. She didn't move to sit up, and he wondered if perhaps she was still feeling a bit weak.

"You're safe, sweetheart," he said softly.

"Killian?"

He kissed the top of her head, hoping her confusion would fade away quickly. "It's me," he said, "and you're safe. We're in my cabin. You were too weak to make it back to the castle."

Maybe he was just a bit too weak, too.

"You have a cabin?" She slowly sat up and looked at him, a mischievous grin on her face. "Do you bring all your girls here?" she teased.

Killian chuckled. His Swan was coming back to him. Things were going to be all right.

"Actually," he laughed, "I've never brought anyone here."

"Oh..."

He wanted to explain everything, but didn't want to bother her with the surprisingly boring details. "It's my place to get away," he told her. She didn't say anything, but the look on her face was enough to tell him that she wanted to hear more.

"I came here once when Liam was being particularly... Liam-ish," he explained.

She laughed at that.

"It was a nice area, and the next time I got upset with my brother, I came back." He continued to tell her about each visit, and how he'd built the cabin bit by bit whenever he was angry. "Soon enough, I had a cozy little vacation spot, and I wasn't really open to sharing it with anyone."

"I'm sorry you had to give up your sanctuary for me," she said.

"Don't start that nonsense, Swan," he scolded her playfully. "You're not just anyone. In fact, I would have liked to share this with you under better circumstances... preferably after I'd had a chance to clean up a bit." He gestured around the place, laughing when she took it all in. He’d cleaned up a little bit, but it still needed a lot of work.

“But we’re safe here,” she repeated his words from earlier back to him. “That’s all that matters, right?”

“Aye, love,” he nodded.

She giggled, a nervous little giggle that he couldn't quite decipher. "I... um... thanks," she finally said.

"Look," he changed the subject in hopes of steering her away from her discomfort. "We're going to be here a little while. Both of us need our rest. I've got a bath waiting for you if you'd like it, and I can get a meal started while you're washing up?"

"I'd like that," she nodded. "Thanks, Hook."

He couldn't help but grin when she used the nickname she'd given him. As he sat up, he discovered some of his muscles weren't too happy about his most recent excursion. Once he'd settled in a way that wasn't painful, he pulled Emma close, wanting nothing more than to just kiss her.

She seemed to have the same idea. Just as soon as he'd wrapped his arms around her, she leaned in and pressed her lips to his. It was nothing like their other kisses. It was sweet, innocent, and yet-

A loud grumble had her pulling away just as quickly as she'd kissed him. "I guess I'm a little hungry," she said, her cheeks turning and adorable pink as she looked down in embarrassment. "Sorry."

“Quite all right,” Killian smiled. “Perhaps we should get a move on so neither one of us starves to death.”

Emma nodded, then laughed when Killian pushed the covers off of himself. “You’re still wearing that?”

“They’re quite comfortable, darling,” he said with a smirk. With Emma in danger, there hadn’t been time to change, but he didn’t need to remind her of how worried he’d been. “Perhaps if you were feeling a little generous, you could poof up some clothing that isn’t quite so blinding?”

She bit her lip and shook her head. “I would, but-”

“I was teasing,” he interrupted. “I know you’re still not feeling all too well.” He got out of bed and held his hand out to her. “What do you say we get that bath warmed up for you?”

“Okay,” she agreed, taking his hand.

He led her to the washroom, and started a fire to warm the water for her. After leaving her with towels and a fresh set of clothes, he left her to her own devices, reminding her to just call if she needed him.

It wasn’t until he was just about through fixing their food that he heard from her again. He didn’t turn to her when he heard her quiet footsteps padding across the floor. He waited while she sat down at the table he’d set for the two of them, and listened as she fidgeted with the dishes he’d placed there.

“Everything all right, love?” He asked cautiously, still keeping his attention on not burning their lunch.

“I’m sorry,” she said softly, a few stray tears sliding down her cheeks.

“For what?” He asked. He pulled the pot from the heat, and set it aside for a moment, then he turned to her. She wasn’t looking at him. Instead, her eyes were trained on her hands, which were still fiddling with a fork. “Swan?”

“I…” she let out a shaky sigh. “I hurt you. When I let Walsh take me away… when you told me not to… I just… I couldn't lose you, Killian. But, you don’t have to be nice just because I’m hurt. I know you have to be angry with me.”

He sighed, unsure of what to say. She was right. He was angry. But that wasn’t really what Emma needed to hear. He crossed the room, and crouched down next to her so they could be eye level.

"Emma, can you look at me?" he asked when she stared even harder at her hands.

"I can't..." she mumbled.

"Yes, you can," he assured her, giving her a soft smile when she turned to face him. "I was angry," he admitted, "and I'm probably still angry, but... I understand."

"You do?"

"I would have done the same thing," he confessed, hoping it would help her understand him better. As upset as he was, he couldn’t continue to hold it against her. He would have done the same thing. He’d much rather risk her wrath than lose her forever.

Her eyes widened, as if she couldn't believe what he was saying.

"I would rather you hadn't, but it was truly a no-win scenario," he continued. "No matter what choice you made, the end result wasn't going to be a good one."

She considered his words for a moment, then wrinkled her nose. "So... you're mad... but you're not?"

"Precisely," he nodded with a grin. "Makes plenty of sense, doesn't it?" He laughed again when Emma rolled her eyes and shook her head. "Why don't I get us some food now?"

"Sounds good to me."

"Good." He kissed her cheek before he stood, his heart practically skipping a beat when she gave him a smile that lit up the room.

As he served up lunch, the fog seemed to lift from her mood. She was still quiet, but he supposed that was just due to the fact that she was in recovery mode.

They ate in silence, far too famished to bother with casual conversation. Emma only spoke up once, asking if there was enough for seconds. Killian scraped up the last of it and gave it to her, his heart breaking at the realization that she hadn’t eaten in some time. He at least had been able to snack a bit as he was preparing the food.

"We'll rest up," he said when they finished eating, "and perhaps we'll head on back to the castle in the morning?"

"Okay." she agreed.

He stopped her when she stood with her dishes. "I've got this, Emma," he said, taking her bowl from her. "You go lie down, and I'll join you shortly."

She didn't argue, nor did she silently protest and help anyway. She went right back to the bed and slipped under the covers. Killian cleared the table and set the used dishes on the counter.

Despite the fact that he really hated the clean up part of the meal, he held in his grumbling. After all, he had volunteered, and the last thing he wanted was for Emma to do anything other than rest. With a sigh, he dumped out the remaining food, then filled a small water basin and set to work scrubbing out their dishes.

It wasn't a long, or particularly painful task. Once he was finished, he stacked everything up and looked over to where Emma was sleeping.

Only she wasn't sleeping. She was lying down, but had turned on her side and watching him. The interesting part was that she didn't even try to hide it when he caught her. "You all right?" he asked as he made his way over to her.

"Yeah..." she said slowly. She pulled back the blanket so he could join her. As soon as he did, she cuddled up to him and laid her head on his chest.

"I meant it, you know," she said sleepily.

"Meant what?" he asked, though he had an idea he already knew. When she didn’t speak for a moment, Killian smiled and nodded encouragingly at her.

"What I told you," she said, "back at the castle. It wasn't fair though, telling you like that. But I meant it, and I think you should know that now that we're not being chased or attacked or anything like that."

Killian didn't say a word, even though he wanted to say so many things. But it had to come from her. If she wasn't ready, he wasn't going to push it. He kissed the top of her head, half encouragement, half telling her know she could tell him when she was ready.

For a moment, she was silent. If it weren’t for the fact that she wasn’t snoring, Killian would have assumed she’d fallen back to sleep.

She took a little breath, fell silent again, then spoke.

"I love you," she said. Quiet, timid words that hung in the air. Certain of their meaning, but unsure of his response.

He hummed in response, taking a moment to brush his fingers through her hair. He hoped his pause didn't cause her any further distress, and was pleased to discover that the action seemed to calm her. "And I love you," he said softly.

She propped herself up and looked at him. "You do?"

"Was there any doubt, love?" he chuckled a little.

"Maybe a little," she shrugged, her cheeks turning that adorable shade of pink that he loved.

Bloody hell, he loved her so much.

He never wanted to give her a reason to doubt him ever again.

Fingers still tangled in her hair, he pulled her towards him for a kiss. He hadn't meant for anything to get heated, they were both exhausted, but almost immediately, he felt that familiar warmth that always seemed to follow their kisses.

Emma didn't seem in any mood to stop, and he groaned at the feel of her lips sliding against his.

He shifted so he could sit up, and kiss her properly, likely grinning like an idiot when Emma whined a bit when they separated for a moment.

Her smile matched his as she climbed into his lap and dove right back in, kissing him like... like she loved him.

Killian pulled away for a breath, murmuring about how much he missed her against her lips. They hadn't been separated for long, but bloody hell every second without her was pure torture. Now she was here, in his arms and-

Tugging at his shirt...

"Emma..." he didn't want to upset her, not after she opened her heart the way she did. "What are you doing, sweetheart?"

"Sorry," she whispered, as if she'd done something wrong. "I just thought... I mean... you rescued me... and... never mind."

Bloody hell. Before she could retreat, he wrapped his arms around her, anchoring her to him. "I don't know what you've been told, but a dashing rescue requires no repayment." He loosened his grip when she relaxed a bit. "Swan, I love you, there is no doubt about that. I enjoy spending time with you, and kissing you, and just being with you. But I don't ever want you to think that you are obligated to do anything you're uncomfortable with."

"I want to," she said, pausing for a moment after, looking as if she were considering her words. "Not just because of the whole rescue thing... but... I love you.”

“I love you too,” he said again. “But that doesn’t mean you owe me anything.”

“I know it's going to be uncomfortable no matter what,” she rambled, “but I don't know, maybe it won't be so bad, right?"

"What are you talking about?" He couldn't believe she was describing that as if it were some sort of chore she just had to do. Then again, she was a princess, and maybe no one had been particularly clear with her about things. When Emma shrugged, he had his answer.

"You do know that both parties are supposed to enjoy it, right?" He gave her a soft pinch to her side, smiling when she giggled at the ticklish touch. "If you're with someone who actually gives a damn, then you've nothing to worry about."

"I suppose this is where you tell me you're the guy who gives a damn," she teased.

"I give a hell of a lot more than a damn, Swan." He nudged her nose with his, and gave her a soft kiss. "And that's why I'm not going to agree to this unless you are absolutely sure this is something you want. But I will tell you that whatever palace gossip you've heard is likely exaggerated if not outright false."

"So you're saying the stable boy-"

"Bloody hell, Swan," he chuckled, "I don't want to know who is warming who's bed in your kingdom." The thought of some palace servant complaining about the stable boy was amusing, but not something he wanted to think about right now. Or ever, really.

"I want this, Killian," she said, her mood growing serious again.. "I want us. You, me, and everything that goes with it."

"All right," he agreed. Because, hell, he wanted it all too.

"But..." she fiddled with his shirt, and her cheeks flushed. "I have no idea what I'm doing."

"Do you trust me?" he asked, smiling when she nodded. "Then don't worry, love. I've got you."

 

 

Chapter Text

Once again, my amazing cover is by @hopeandbeans!

Art Links:

@couldnthandleit

Gifset 1

@hopeandbeans

Artwork 1//Artwork 2//Artwork 3


The sun was almost set by the time Emma woke up. She blinked a couple times, willing her eyes to adjust to the now dim light of the cabin. Killian was asleep next to her, snoring softly, as usual.

There was a part of her that couldn't believe what actually happened. Like it was all some sort of really good dream. Then another part of her, the part where just about everything ached, remembered it was very real.

And "not that bad" was the understatement of the century.

She hadn’t thought that it would be something she'd enjoy even the tiniest bit, but damn if it wasn't...

There was nothing to compare it to.

Killian was everything she’d never expected. Sweet, gentle, attentive. He said it was supposed to be good for both of them, and he made sure that it was.

Exhaustion had finally started to settle in after, and Killian had held her close. He'd drawn nonsense on her back as they talked about silly things that she couldn't quite recall now. He'd told her he loved her, so many times, looking at her like she was the sun each time that she said it back.

God, she loved him.

Her stomach grumbled.

Dammit.

“Hungry?” The sound of Killian's sleepy voice was adorable and sexy all at the same time. She just wanted to-

Emma felt her cheeks grow hot.

When had she started thinking things like that?

“Emma?” There was alarm in his tone now.  He sat up, bringing her with him. She grabbed at the blanket to keep covered, suddenly all too aware of how naked they both were. That didn't seem to ease his panic at all.

“Love,” he tipped her chin so she would look at him. “Are you all right?”

“I'm fine,” she assured him with a smile. “Really.” When he didn't seem convinced, she sighed. “I would tell you if something was wrong. I'm just…”

Happy? Sleepy? Incredibly… what was the word she was looking for?

“Hungry?” he tried again, when her stomach let out another loud growl.

“Yeah…” she shrugged, “that too, I guess…”

Emma bit her lip, unsure of how exactly she was supposed to tell him what she wanted to tell him without it sounding stupid and awkward.

"Swan?" He tilted his head to the side in confusion. “You know you can tell me anything, right?”

Her silence was bothering him, and she hated that she couldn't just spit it out. Why was it so difficult? "I just thought that maybe we could... you know..." She lowered her voice, though she wasn't exactly sure why. They were the only two people in the cabin. "Maybe we could do…” she looked down, then back up at him. “ That again."

Wow. Eloquent as always, Emma.

The look on his face was a mix of amusement and confusion, and she wished there was a way to capture it so she could look at it again and again. It was sweet, and a bit silly. His eyebrow quirked in question, and his mouth, that very kissable mouth, twisted into a smirk made her just want to...

Want to what?

She felt her cheeks grow hot, and if Killian hadn't kissed her right then, she probably would have gone right on babbling.

It was just like that first kiss, except she'd come to enjoy the fire, rather than fear it.

Everything was overwhelming and at the same time, not enough.

He was just as gentle as he was before, taking care to ensure she was both comfortable and enjoying herself.

It was everything she never knew she wanted, and nothing would ever compare ever again.

Oh God.

Killian held her close after, just as he had earlier. It took every bit of strength she had not to start crying. Perceptive as always though, he didn't need for her to say anything to know that something was wrong. "Emma?" he asked. "What is it?"

"I love you," she said softly. He knew that, but she had a sneaky suspicion that like her, he hadn't really thought any of this through.

"I love you too, sweetheart," he soothed. "But we both know that's not the problem. Talk to me, love."

How was she supposed to explain? She didn't want him to think that she thought ill of him, when that wasn't the case at all. "You're immortal," she finally said, hoping he'd fill in the blanks from there.

"So?"

He didn't.

"I'm not," she reminded him. "What if this thing we have... I mean... I'm gonna get old, Killian. I'm pretty sure you're not going to find me very attractive when I'm getting on in years and you still look like..." she leaned back and gestured towards him. "Like that ."

"Dragons mate for life," he informed her, brushing her hair out of her face. "So, if you'll have me, Emma, I'm in this for the long haul."

Emma soaked in the new information and frowned. "So that means, when I die..." she couldn't finish that thought.

"Aye," he nodded.

How could he be so determined to have a life with her with all he'd be losing in the process? "That's not fair to you," she said. "Why would you give up everything for me?"

"You think living forever is a good thing?" he asked. When she didn't answer, he sighed. "Immortality has its perks, but I would rather have a few decades with the woman I love than continue on for centuries without her." He smirked at her. "Look at it this way. Your mate will always be devilishly handsome."

She giggled and cuddled up to him again. "But-"

"No buts," he interrupted. "Not yet. You don't have to make any decisions right this moment. We'll talk about it once everything has been settled."

Right. A clear mind would be much better for such a big decision.

"Okay," she agreed, making a silent promise to really think about it in the meantime.

"Why don't I get some food on the table, then we can get a little more rest before we have to leave in the morning." he suggested.

"That's a good idea," she said. "But maybe we can squeeze a bath in there somewhere?"

"I can draw you a bath if you'd like to relax before dinner," he offered.

"I mean..." she felt her face flushing again. "Maybe we could take a bath... after we eat dinner."

He squeezed her tightly and kissed the top of her head. "I'd like that."


Emma was just a little reluctant to return to the castle, and now that it was in sight, all she could think about was how much she wanted to be back at the cabin.

When they landed in the courtyard, there wasn't a soul in sight. As Emma slid off Killian's back, she could feel her panic returning. "What if they went to look for us?" The thought of her parents out there when the situation had only gotten worse frightened her.

"If they've left, I'll find them," he assured her after he transformed. "But we know my brother is stuck here, so if we can find him or Merlin, we can have a better idea of what's going on."

"Emma!"

They both turned to see Emma's parents, Ruby, and Liam rushing towards them. "That makes things a little easier," Killian quipped.

Snow and David pulled Emma into a big hug. As they fussed over her, she could hear Killian explaining what happened. From what she could tell, he left out the part where Emma went by choice, and for that, she was grateful. The last thing she needed was for her parents to become even more overprotective.

"We need Merlin," Killian stated. "Zelena may not have any power, but unless we figure out how to take care of this pendant, she has an opportunity to get it back."

"Do you think she'll send Walsh for it?" David asked.

"Walsh..." Emma frowned. She hated the man, but still had trouble with the fact that she'd actually killed someone. She'd even neglected to get into too much detail when telling Killian, only insinuating that Walsh wouldn't be a problem anymore. He had read between the lines. "He tried to kill me," she said quietly. "So I was just defending myself..."

Snow squeezed her tighter, and though it was little comfort, it was a relief to know that she didn't have to get into much detail with them either.

"You only did what you had to," her father assured her.

"We still need to speak to Merlin," Killian reminded them. "I'm certain her minions have been released from her clutches now that she has no pull, but we aren't out of the woods yet."

Liam spoke next. "He's in his tower working on a tracking spell for you two."

"With all the flying monkeys, I couldn't really hone in," Ruby said. "It was a mad house."

"There were more?" Emma asked. "What happened?"

She'd almost forgotten that before Walsh arrived, they were under threat of war. Had they already won the battle?

"It was almost a non-event," Liam stated. "Your army followed the instructions of their King and turned on Zelena's force. There was a bit of a scuffle, but soon, all the monkeys had turned to men and women who didn't have much of a will to fight after that."

“The pendant,” Emma said as she put the pieces together. When Zelena lost her magic, Killian was able to defeat her, and break through the charms she’d put on Emma’s cuff.  She took a quick glance at her wrist, and vaguely recalled Killian healing the wounds she’d inflicted in her own attempt to remove the cuff.

“When it was taken, everything Zelena had enchanted, everyone she’d enslaved…” She briefly wondered if Walsh had changed back after death, then shook the image from her mind. “it all reversed when she lost her magic.”

“Where are they now?” Killian asked. He wrapped a protective arm around her, as if sensing that she needed comfort.

It only made her love him more. She ignored the looks she received from her parents as she leaned against Killian, taking all the comfort he had to offer.

“Locked away,” Liam answered. He eyed Emma and Killian suspiciously as he continued.  “At least until we can figure out what to do with them. For all we know, they were just unwilling participants.”

“Or, they could just be waiting to return to her,” Killian said. “So the sooner we get up to Merlin’s tower, the better.”

She was surprised when her father actually agreed. “The less we have to worry about Zelena, the happier I’ll be.”

“Let’s not delay then,” Liam said gruffly.

Killian let go of Emma when Ruby grabbed her arm. “I just need to borrow Emma for a minute,” she said.

He nodded, then turned to lead everyone else towards Merlin’s chambers. Once they were out of earshot of the group, she gave her a sly grin and asked, "so... how many times did you thank him for that dashing rescue?"

"W-what?" Emma sputtered. She couldn't possibly mean-

"Oh," Ruby chuckled. "Wolf thing, remember?"

Emma’s cheeks grew hot, and all she wanted to do was hide away from Ruby’s knowing look. How could she possibly know? Wolf thing? Oh no. "Wait, are you saying..."

"That I can smell him all over you? Um, yeah." Ruby was grinning from ear to ear, clearly amused. "I mean, all I can really say is, it's about damn time."

"Ruby..." Emma warned. If Ruby knew, how long would it be before everyone else did? Her father was already looking for an excuse to murder Killian-

"Don't worry," she said, derailing Emma’s thoughts. "I won't tell a soul."

"Thank you." She sighed in relief, and started to go after the group when Ruby stopped her again. "What now?"

"Does this mean I'm going to get little dragon grand-god-children?" she teased.

Emma could only guess that she was bright red. Ruby was howling in laughter, and the racket caught the attention of their group. Her mother appeared around the corner, hands on her hips. "Are you two going to join us some time today?" she snapped.

"Sorry," both Ruby and Emma said.

Though it was really more Ruby's fault than hers, Emma would rather take the heat then get into what was keeping them. They hurried off to catch up, Ruby giggling the entire way.

"Is everything all right, love?" Killian asked when she caught up to him.

When he slipped his hand into hers, she knew her father was seeing red, but she made no move to put distance between them. He gave it a little squeeze when she didn't respond right away, bringing her out of her head and back into the castle.

"Yeah," she said quickly. "Everything's fine."

"Interesting conversation," he murmured. It was quiet enough that only she heard. Well... she and Ruby heard - if the snicker from the rear of the group was any indication.

"I don't want to talk about it," she hissed.

Killian chuckled, but composed himself when they reached the tower. Emma tried to pull back a bit, not really wanting to revisit the events of the past couple days. "It's going to be fine," Killian assured her. "You're safe now."

Was she though?

Zelena had been defeated. Left in a cave to rot while they held her pendant. But she wasn't the only one out there. Now that she was out of the way, and Emma wasn’t going to marry Walsh, the Dark One would either try to get her to marry his son, or he might take the opportunity to just attack.

After all, he'd been waiting for some time, and Emma was sure his patience was running out.

"Killian!" Merlin said, his voice filled with relief. "I was having trouble with the potions," he continued, "and was beginning to worry that I'd never be able to find you."

"But you're the most powerful sorcerer in all the realms," Emma told him.

"Without magic," Merlin  reminded her. "Until this curse lifts, I can only depend on what magical items I have, and some, I'm afraid, have become useless over the years."

"Well," Killian held up Zelena's pendant. "We're one step closer to… well,  I'm not sure, but Zelena's been defeated."

Merlin took the pendant and studied it. "This is powerful magic," he commented. "As long as it exists, there will always be the worry that she, or anyone else who desires its power, will come for it."

"Can we use it against the Dark One?" Snow asked.

Both Merlin and Killian trained their gazes on the Queen. "What do you know of the Dark One?" Merlin asked.

"He's terrorizing our kingdom," David informed him. "Trying to force our daughter to marry his son so he can take over Misthaven."

Emma could tell Killian wasn't too happy hearing that at all. "Why didn't you tell me this?" he asked.

"Would it have made any difference?" Emma shrugged. "I'm not marrying him, so there was really no reason to tell you anything."

"But your kingdom is in trouble," Killian stated.

No. She wouldn't put him at risk again. "Killian, you kept your end of the bargain. This isn't your fight.  I promised I would help you break your curse, and once we figure that out we'll-"

"We'll what?" he growled. "Go our separate ways?"

"That sounds reasonable to me," David said.

"I see no problem with that arrangement," Liam agreed.

Of course Liam was in full agreement.

Killian tried to pull his hand away, but Emma held on tight. "We'll not go our separate ways," she insisted. "But you didn't agree to this."

"What future is there if I lose you to the Dark One?" Killian frowned.

Her father and Liam were seething, and Emma felt as if she were suddenly going to burst into flames. She wasn't ready to bring everyone in, and here she was, holding Killian's hand and discussing the future with him in front of everyone.

Needless to say, it wasn't going over very well at all.

She could hear her mother trying to soothe her father at the same time that Ruby was threatening Liam. If everything wasn't a complete mess, she might even find the situation amusing. But right now, she just wanted to avoid the inevitable fallout.

“Unfortunately,” Merlin cut in, causing everyone to quiet down. “This pendant is dangerous to wield, and the risk isn’t worth it. It isn’t enough to defeat the Dark One, and because of that, I would advise we hide it rather than flaunt it out in the open.”

Emma felt defeated. How were they supposed to stop the unstoppable?

"The Dark One is a problem for all of us," Merlin continued. "It doesn't matter who his current target is, his eventual goal is to cover this realm, and any other he can get his hands on, in darkness. The fact that he hasn't succeeded after being left for centuries unchecked is a miracle.”

Emma knew Rumplestiltskin had been around for centuries, but she didn't know how a man who'd been basically imprisoned for just as long knew anything about him.

"You must be older than you look," she stated.

Merlin laughed at that. "Much older," he replied, "and I've dealt with the Dark One in the past. It's a long, complicated story, and I won't bore you with the details just now. But if he's after Misthaven, then there is no doubt he won't stop there, so we need to act quickly."

"How?" Liam bellowed. "In case you've forgotten, we can't leave this place."

Emma didn't have to turn around to know that Liam was glaring at her.

"Killian can," Merlin reminded him.

She didn't like the fact that both Merlin and Killian seemed more than ready to go ahead with putting Killian back in danger. She could understand the reasons, but there had to be another way.

"And what?" Liam scoffed. "We just sit here and continue to be victims of the curse? He's ventured about long enough-"

"He isn't going to break the curse sitting around here," Merlin argued. "Let him go. Perhaps with a dragon on their side, Misthaven will be able to buy some time. Not to mention, the answer to the curse's problems may not be here, but elsewhere."

It explained why Merlin had wanted them to go to the island, but Emma doubted there was anything useful back home. Still, it was worth a shot, and if Killian was determined to continue to protect her, then she'd much rather they be in Misthaven than have to deal with Liam grumbling about everything.

Though, she wasn't sure her father was going to be any different.

Merlin didn’t seem to pick up on the tension -or maybe he did, and decided to ignore it- and immediately started in on anything he thought would help Emma and Killian in their quest. “Do you recall the sword Killian was playing with?” he asked.

Killian’s eyes grew wide with shock. “How did you-”

“Did you honestly think I wouldn’t notice your personal touches around the place?” Merlin chuckled.

“Will it help us break the curse?” Emma asked, hopeful that the wizard had something to help them.

Merlin frowned. “Unfortunately not. That is all up to you, I’m afraid.”

Of course it was.

“Then what good is a half sword?” Killian barked. Emma elbowed him in the side. Disappointed or not, there was no need to be rude.

If Merlin took offense to Killian’s outburst, he didn’t let on. “Its other half is still out there,” he explained, “and together, they can stop the Dark One.”

That caught everyone’s attention. Merlin explained all he knew about the Dark One, the sword, and the years he’d spent prior to the curse trying to reunite the blades.

At least, he explained what he wanted them to think was all he knew. Emma had the sneaky suspicion that there was a lot he was leaving out. Whenever she tried to bring up his connection to Rumplestiltskin, he dodged the question. After the third attempt, Killian shot her a look.  She pouted in response, but let the sorcerer continue without her input.

Once he was finished with his instructions, Emma turned to her parents. "Killian can take us all back to Misthaven," she explained. "It's the fastest way."

"Do you really think I'm going to put a dragon in charge of my travel?" David asked. "For all I know, he's planning on dropping us from the sky!"

"He'll do no such thing," Snow stated, clearly more at ease with the idea of flying.

Emma pulled Killian away from her bickering parents and whispered, "Do we have to take them?"

Killian let out a loud laugh. "I don't think they'd be too thrilled with us just taking off for the castle without them."

"So how do we do this?" Snow asked, dragging along Emma's reluctant father.

"There's plenty of room if you'd like to join Emma," Killian suggested. "Or, I could carry someone. It might be easier for me to carry you if you think flying might frighten you."

"And risk getting skewered?" David huffed. "No thanks." He stormed out of the room.

"Pardon my husband," Snow groaned. "He can be so stubborn sometimes." She looked towards the door and frowned. "I'm sure he just went to brief the troops on the plan for them to get home. He'll be back... or I'll make him come back."

"The sooner we leave, the better," Killian suggested.

"Like I said," Snow smirked. "He'll be back shortly. One way or another."


Zelena did what she could to put the fire out in the cave, then fell back against the wall.  Everything was gone. She had no magic, and no minions. There wasn't even a way that she could see out of this cave, unless she wanted to take Walsh's way out.

Walsh .

The damned monkey had wound up being more trouble than he was worth. All he was supposed to do was observe and report, and he couldn’t even manage that without screwing up. It was bad enough he couldn't follow simple instructions, but to kidnap the princess with no real thought out plan?

Of course, then the dragon had followed and made everything that much worse.

The Dark One was going to have her head for this.

The Dark One. Damn .

She'd summoned him hours ago. While she had the princess, she'd wondered what was taking so long, and now that the spoiled brat had slipped through her fingers...

Rumplestiltskin was not a man who reacted well to having his time wasted, and now, she had no way to escape.

Right on cue, the imp appeared in a puff of smoke. He took a look around before his eyes settled on Zelena.

"Let me guess," he said, "you've already lost what you've summoned me for."

"Whatever gave you that idea?" she snarked back with a roll of her eyes. It was against her better judgement, but she was already dead so there wasn't an real need to play nice.

He giggled, a strange, high pitched laugh that almost had Zelena covering her ears. She hated that laugh. Nothing good ever followed it. "Choose your words wisely, dearie," he warned. "I can either help you, or make things much, much worse."

How much worse could it get?

But if he was on the fence about it, she figured it might be best to pander to his good side. Not that she thought he had one. She gave him a smile filled with false sweetness, knowing he’d be able to see right through it, but she kept her mouth shut.

"Better," he grinned, seemingly satisfied with her silence.  "Now," he mused, "you've put me in quite the situation. It seems your deal with Misthaven is null and void, meaning... your deal with me is incomplete."

"I can get the princess back!" Zelena insisted.

"How?" he asked. "You've got no magic, and no minions. Why, I wouldn't be surprised if the citizens of Oz have already declared you dead!"

Damn munchkins will probably be celebrating, too. Zelena thought.

"Now, since you're of no use to me, I should leave you in this cave to rot."

"You promised!" she shouted. Dreams of power were slipping through her fingers at an alarming rate.

"A deal is a deal," he agreed. "But you didn't deliver, and therefore, I don't have to uphold my end of the bargain." He watched her for a moment as it all sunk in, his stupid smirk silently taunting her. With no princess and no leverage, she was just another obstacle he could dispose of.

"You're lucky I'm feeling generous," he continued.  "So you won't be meeting your end today. But you'll have to prove yourself useful."

"What do you need me to do?" she asked, knowing that power was no longer a priority. She needed to survive.

"I'm sure I'll think of something," he said.

She didn't get a chance to ask any more questions. With a flick of his wrist, she was out of the cave, and somewhere... else.

"Where the bloody hell am I?" she asked to no one in particular. From the looks of it, she was in a castle, but it wasn't one she was familiar with.

"I'm going to take a wild guess and say you're Zelena," a man stated.

She spun around and saw a man standing in the hall. "That depends on who's asking," she sassed. "Who are you, and where am I?"

"My name's Baelfire," he said, stepping out of the hall and into the foyer. “Papa said he’d be sending you.”

“I don’t know what use he thinks I’ll be here,” she sneered. “I haven’t got any magic.”

Baelfire shrugged. “I don’t need magic. Papa’s going to handle that, and we’re going to take care of the rest.”


Killian paced around the room as he considered the guards just outside his door. Logically, he knew he wasn't a prisoner. He'd expect no less from a man trying to protect his daughter. But it didn't change the fact that he felt as if he'd been locked away.

A small part of him wondered if the guards were plotting to kill him in his sleep.

He wanted nothing more than to go to Emma. She'd complained when her father insisted that Killian sleep in the guest quarters furthest away from her chambers. Killian didn't utter a word. He knew that his compliance had annoyed her, but he valued his life.

Just as he figured it was in his best interest to get some sleep, a poof of smoke surrounded him, and suddenly, he wasn't in his room anymore.

"Oh, that's a relief," he heard Emma breathe out. "I thought you might be naked. Not that that would be a problem for me , but it's a little chilly out here tonight."

"Swan?" He looked around, and guessed they were in a garden of some sort. "What are you doing?"

"I missed you," she admitted, "and my parents were driving me crazy."

"But..." he looked around, wondering how long it would be before someone found them.

"Don't worry," Emma said as though she could read his mind. "We're out of the way here. Just enough out of view of the castle to where we're safe, but semi-hidden."

It was the "semi" part that bothered him. "We can't sleep out here," he informed her, though he took note that she wasn't dressed for bed.

"I know," she shrugged. "I just needed to see you before I went to bed. You know, because you decided it wasn't a good idea to stand up to my father."

"You need to learn how to pick your battles, darling," he teased. He was thankful that she hadn't mentioned they'd been sharing a bed since the day they'd met. The King would have killed him on the spot, no matter how innocent it had started out.

Emma frowned, but didn't comment.

Killian pulled her into a hug, and kissed the top of her head. "There's something else bothering you, isn't there?" he asked.

"How do you know these things?"

"With you, I can just tell," he said. "Now, what is it, love?"

"I'm still not on board with this whole plan," she confessed. "I can't lose you, Killian." She held him tighter, and he could feel her shaking, as if trying to hold back the sobs that should have been accompanying the tears that were beginning to soak through his shirt.

"I'll be just fine," he assured her. "We all will. Once this is all over with... we'll have the rest of our lives to look forward to." He felt her nod against his chest, and he wondered if she noticed that his heart had started racing.

If only she knew just how much he was looking forward to the rest of their lives together. He'd never felt that way about anyone before, and it both frightened and thrilled him.

Silently, he cursed himself for telling her they needed to wait before they made any big decisions. He was already fairly certain they both wanted the same thing, and he would marry her right now if he could. If he hadn't told her they needed to discuss things.

If he didn't have to worry about her father killing him for even thinking about proposing.

No, he'd wait. Wait until she wasn't so afraid of losing him. When they had the Dark One locked away for good.

Then perhaps, they could move forward.

"I guess I should get to bed," she said softly. She looked up, and stood on her toes to give him a quick good night kiss.

"Good night, sweetheart."

In an instant, he found himself back in his room, Emma no longer in his arms. He sighed as he fell back onto his bed.

To hell with waiting , he thought. He would ask tomorrow.

 

Chapter Text

Once again, my amazing cover is by @hopeandbeans!

Art Links:

@couldnthandleit

Gifset 1

@hopeandbeans

Artwork 1//Artwork 2//Artwork 3


Killian meandered through the hall, not quite sure of which direction he wanted to take just yet. Unable to stop his thoughts from echoing around his mind, he found it difficult to pay attention to where he was going.

Dragons mate for life.

It was the loudest thought, screaming at him through the fog. Something Liam told him time and time again, yet he offered little explanation when it came to the actual details. Sometimes he wondered if his brother just assumed that he knew things, or if he kept things from him for... whatever reason.

Merlin hadn't been any help either. Whenever Killian asked the man anything, he was met with some new riddle to decipher.

Dragons mate for life. It sang again, not wanting to be ignored.

From what Killian gathered, it involved some type of magic. A simple promise, or even an extravagant wedding wouldn't be enough to seal that particular bond.

But it was a good start.

Liam would be angry, and Emma's father would likely schedule his execution for even entertaining the thought. Either that, or they would join forces to put a stop to everything. Killian knew he had to face the King eventually, but figured he should try talking to the one person who seemed to be in their corner first.

Someone besides Ruby. Even if she did have any pull over Emma's parents, she had stayed behind. Killian wasn’t exactly sure why.

Aside from the king and queen though, all he knew was Emma, and he couldn’t very well spoil things that way.

The Queen . Why hadn’t he thought of her before?

Emma's mother actually looked to be quite thrilled when Killian mentioned a future. He didn't know the woman very well, but he could guess that she would be the best person to talk to. Even if she wasn't completely on board, at the very least, she would understand better than anyone-

"Bloody hell!" he shouted as he collided with someone in his path. There was dull thud, and he groaned. He'd knocked them down. "Apologies," he said quickly as he hurried to help the person. "I wasn't-"

"Paying attention?" the amused victim asked just as he got a good look at her.

Bloody hell. The Queen.

"Don't worry about it."  She smiled and thanked him when he helped her up.  "If you want to know a secret," she laughed, "I wasn't paying much attention either."

Suddenly, all those years of formal training Liam had forced upon him flew out the window. Killian had become a babbling mess. To make matters worse, the Queen seemed thoroughly amused at his idiocy.

Or maybe that was to his advantage. At least he wouldn't lose his head over his blunder.

Unless Liam happened to find out.

“Are you okay there?” Snow teased. “You’re looking a little pale.”

“Aye, m’lady,” he managed.

“I’ve been meaning to talk to you, Killian,” she said, not giving him a chance to make a bigger fool out of himself. She linked her arm in his, and tugged until they were walking side by side down the hall. “Merlin seemed to know more about the Dark One than he was letting on. You seem to be close, so, maybe he’s told you something he’d rather keep hidden from us?”

His nerves settled somewhat. Even though his intention was to discuss his future with Emma, the less than spectacular impression he’d just made had him on edge. Discussing Merlin was a much safer topic.

“I’m afraid I don’t know any more than you do, your majesty,” he sighed. “Merlin tends to be secretive about some things. He means no harm…” He wasn’t sure what else to say. Up until now, Merlin’s habit of only sharing selective information had been nothing but an annoyance.

Killian was certain the sorcerer wasn’t keeping anything to himself just for the sake of secrecy. That wasn’t how Merlin worked. But if he was keeping something potentially useful…

“I’m sure he has his reasons,” Snow decided. “Being a powerful sorcerer can’t be the easiest job in the world. Especially one whose magic has been taken away.”

“He’s been extremely helpful during my quest,” Killian said. “Even without his magic, he was able to assist me in other ways. If we need anything, he won’t turn us away.”

Of that, he was certain.

"So, what's on your mind?" she asked him.

"I'm sorry?"

"You must have been distracted by something ," she insisted. "Unless you normally don't watch where you're going?"

"I'm actually fairly observant, m'lady," he chuckled. She was right about his distraction, and it was now or never. He couldn't figure out how to approach it though. The Queen very much seemed to be open to the idea of Emma loving him, but an engagement? So soon?

“Would you care to talk about it?” she asked. “My husband says I’m terrible about keeping secrets… and maybe he’s right. But that doesn’t negate the fact that I’m a good listener.”

"I actually… I was looking for you,” he stated, grateful that he didn’t actually need her to keep a secret. In fact, he hoped she’d go to her husband right away. Provided she wasn’t opposed to his intentions-

“Well, that’s a funny coincidence,” she said happily, dragging him back into the conversation and away from his spiraling thoughts.

“Aye,” he chuckled nervously. “I suppose it is.”

“So, what can I help you with, Killian?” she asked.

“It's about Emma," he started cautiously, trying to gauge her reaction. He hoped the large, knowing grin on her face was a good sign. "I... erm... well... I love her." He cringed at how awkward he sounded, and tried desperately to remember the speech he'd worked out and practiced last night.

But his mind was completely blank save for five words:

"I wish to marry her."

"Emma said you had a way with words," Snow laughed.

"I had something much better planned," he admitted. "Perhaps I can try again?"

Most of the royals Killian had met in his long life had been stuffy. They'd much rather look down at someone than treat them as an equal. They never did anything that could be considered uncouth, not in public anyway, and always carried themselves as if they could do no wrong.

Queen Snow was not one of those royals.

Killian winced as Snow let out an inhuman squeal of excitement.

"I've been planning this since the day my daughter was born," she confessed. She continued on about guests and music and place settings, and Killian began to wonder if she'd forgotten that her daughter had already been engaged once.

Best not to bring it up , he warned himself. From what he’d gathered, Snow’s heart really hadn’t been in that wedding to begin with. How could it be? The groom was a bloody monkey! He almost let out a growl of disapproval at the thought of what almost was.

"Do you have a ring?" she interrupted his thoughts about flying monkeys and their propensity for making him see red.

"Uh..." he scratched nervously behind his ear. He didn't have a ring. They were going to wait, and he was going to have all the time in the world to pick something out, but now he'd gone and rushed things, and-

"I have the perfect ring," she went on, ignoring the fact that he hadn’t really answered. "It's been in my family for generations," she explained. “My mother gave it to me, and her mother gave it to her... well, you get the idea. It was supposed to be a wedding present..." she frowned. "Never mind. Let's not talk about that."

"You want me to propose with a family heirloom?" He was blown away by the gesture, and maybe swelled up with a bit of pride. Walsh wasn't given this honor.

Snow's cheeks turned red, and she clasped her hands over her mouth. "I'm sorry," she said. "I shouldn't have assumed. I'll bet you have something all planned out already, don't you? I didn't mean to intrude-"

"You misunderstand," he smiled. "I was simply caught off guard. Knowing you would trust me with something so important to your family... it was just a bit overwhelming. I'd be happy and honored," he assured her.

"You love her," she said. "My husband might not see... or maybe he's trying not to see, but it's obvious. You've also proven you'll do anything to protect her, even if it means taking on great risks to your own well-being. If that doesn't make you worthy of marrying Emma, nothing will."

Bloody Hell. The King.

"It's quite the honor," he said, "knowing that you approve of me. But... what of Emma's father?" He couldn't just take the ring and propose behind the King's back. It wasn't proper.

"You leave him to me." She gave him a sly grin. Suddenly, Killian knew where Emma got it from.

Like mother, like daughter.

The thought made him grin.

"I'll go get that ring," she said, breaking away. "And don't worry about my charming husband."

"I really don't need you to fight my battles, m'lady," he said playfully, hoping she didn't mind him sending a little teasing back her way. "And I'd rather do things right-"

"Don't worry," she assured him. "He's stubborn, but it won't take much convincing to get him on board with the plan." The mischievous glint in her eyes told him all he needed to know. He did not want to know the Queen's battle plans. "Now, go find Emma," she instructed. "She's probably out by the garden where you two met up last night."

She laughed as she left him standing in the hall, with what he assumed must have been a completely dumbfounded look on his face.

How did she know?

It was an equally stupid question. Of course she knew. While Emma seemed to be able to pull the wool over her father's eyes now and then, she was too much like her mother for her antics to go unnoticed.

Killian pulled the compass out of his pocket and watched as the needle spun around a bit before settling on a direction. Not wanting to scare any of the castle's inhabitants, he decided against jumping out the nearest window and flying towards Emma.

He followed the direction the compass gave and, though it took longer than if he'd just transformed, he finally found her.

Right where her mother said she would be.


"Absolutely not!" David paced angrily around the room. He could not believe his wife had practically handed over the kingdom without getting to know the idiot that was bartering for his daughter. "She's not jumping into another engagement when she just got out of the first disaster."

"David!"

He halted his pacing and faced his wife. "How could you say yes? How could you offer him your most prized heirloom? We don't even know this man. Do you remember what happened the last time Emma-"

"Don't you dare finish that sentence," she warned. "What happened with Walsh was not her fault. She was trying to do what was best for the kingdom, and you can’t hold that against her."

He hated to admit that she was right about that. But she was still missing the point he was trying to make now. "How is this any different?"

"They're in love, David," Snow said, her eyes lighting up at the word.

"It's an infatuation," he informed her.

"You choose not to see it," Snow grumbled.

It wasn't a matter of trust. Not really. Killian, by all accounts, seemed to be a decent enough man. The occasional inappropriate comment aside, he did seem to have Emma's best interest at heart. But how long would that really last?

Emma was still young, and her last engagement had almost resulted in her death. This time, the consequences were different, but David thought they might actually be worse.

Whether it was love or infatuation didn't matter. If Killian changed his mind, she would be heartbroken.

David didn't want that for his little girl.

"He loves her," his wife argued, "and she loves him. They're happy together. Isn't that enough?"

Nothing would ever be enough for his daughter.

Snow glared at him when he didn't respond. "You'll never approve of anyone,” she said, "and then where will this kingdom be? We aren't going to live forever!"

She was right again. Neither of them wanted to leave Emma to fend for herself once they were gone, and the kingdom would need a new heir. "I just don't want her to jump into this thinking she needs to hurry up for any ridiculous reason."

"She's not jumping," she assured him. "He only wants to ask. Just... will you hear him out? For me?"

He sighed. The man did rescue their only daughter from a wicked witch and her monkey minion. The least he could do was give him an audience. "Let me guess," he laughed, "he's got some big speech prepared?"

"He might," Snow giggled, "but he gets a little tongue tied when it comes to the subject of marrying Emma."

Oh. This was going to be fun.

Killian arrived a few moments later for the audience Snow had set up. Just as his wife had predicted, Killian did stumble all over his words. David had planned on giving him a hard time about it, but couldn't help but find it somewhat endearing.

That didn't mean he had to go easy on the guy though.

He thought about Killian's words. Emma might not know the difference between love and infatuation, but he got the feeling that Killian did. There was no doubt in his mind now. Killian truly loved his daughter.

But that wasn't enough.

It should have been, but David needed more from the man who wanted his blessing. He stood there, arms crossed, a carefully fixed expression on his face that he hoped looked stern.

For all his nervousness, David was impressed by the fact that Killian did not look away. He kept his eyes fixed on the man whose opinion he was trying to sway. "I love her," Killian said for the fifth time. "I don't know how else I can convince you, your Majesty."

"You swear to always do right by her?" David asked.

"Always," Killian nodded. "She knows I will always be there for her, at her side, for whatever she needs."

"What if I said no?" he asked, ignoring the seething glare he was getting from his wife. "What if I told you to pack your bags and go home?"

He waited. He waited while Killian thought, and tried his best not to shoot an equally annoyed glare back at his wife.

Killian tilted his head to the side and frowned. " Are you saying no?" he asked.

David nodded. "I'm saying no. If you wanna do right by her, the best thing you can do is leave her alone. She might not appreciate it now, but it's what's best."

"Is it now?" Killian asked, his fear seemingly dissipating, replaced by a boldness as he argued. "Is it really what’s best for her? Or is it best for you ?"

He heard Snow giggle, but he'd be lying if he said the defiance was unexpected. "So, you're saying you're not leaving?" he asked. "Even if I told you that I'll have your head if I catch you anywhere near my daughter?"

“David!” Snow hissed, but he ignored his wife.

He could see fire in Killian’s eyes, unrelated to the fact that the man was a dragon. Good.

"Well then, your Majesty," Killian sighed, breaking through the silence that had settled in the room. "I mean no disrespect, but you'll just have to have my head. So long as Emma will have me, I will remain at her side, and I refuse to be sneaky about it."

"I don't like you," David said as he considered the response. As much as he hated the idea of his daughter jumping into another engagement, he had to admit, Killian’s words were exactly what he wanted to hear. A man willing to risk a father’s wrath for love was a rare find. Killian remained silent -nervous once again- and Snow shot him another death glare. "But Emma loves you..."

There were worse things, he imagined, than giving a dragon his blessing. At least he was respectful, and thought to ask first. Unlike Walsh who had practically barged in and announced he was marrying their daughter. Granted, the situations were a little different, but he would have appreciated a bit more tact.

Now he realized that Walsh didn't have a clue what manners were, but that didn't mean he was happy to hand over his daughter to the first guy who had been raised properly.

"I won't be the one to break her heart," David finally said. "But if you do, I will have your head."

"I would expect nothing less," Killian said, his nervous expression melting into a relieved one.

"And I hope you know I'll be keeping an eye on you," he added.

They had enough problems. A wayward dragon was not something he wanted to add to the list, but he couldn't just let him run around with his daughter unchecked. The man needed to know that he wasn't going to just let everything slide simply because Emma was crazy about him.

"That's enough of that," Snow grumbled. She looked thoroughly unamused as she stepped towards Killian to hand him the ring. "Don't worry about him," he heard her say. "He's got a strange sense of humor."

"Humor?" He took offense to that. "It was a test!"

Killian took it in stride. "After the flying monkey incident, I would imagine you'd threaten any man who wished to marry your daughter."

David chuckled, but didn't comment. He'd almost forgotten about the flying monkey thing. From monkey with wings, to lizard with wings. he thought. Only Emma.


Emma sat on her parents’ bed and watched as her mother brushed out her hair. It was something that she'd come to cherish. During the day, her parents could be quite busy, but they always carved a bit of time out for her.

Some days would be filled with riding and sword and archery practice, others would be nights just like this. Mama would brush her hair while they talked.

Sometimes, she let Emma play with her things. Tonight, there was a small jewelry box opened on the bed. Emma went through the fancy trinkets, trying on as much as she could.

When Snow finished with her hair, she looked over and laughed. "I'm surprised you haven't fallen over with all that weight on your neck!" she exclaimed. She moved to sit next to Emma, and began taking the massive amounts of jewelry off of her.

Finally, all that was left was a pretty silver-blue pearl that dangled from a simple silver chain. "Now that," Snow said, "is perfect."

Emma held the little stone between her fingers and examined it carefully. The grey color reminded her of a stormy sea that she'd seen many times from her own window.

"I found that when I was a little girl," her mother explained. "My nanny had grown children of her own. They would visit sometimes, and bring mementos from their travels to show me. One day, they had a bucket of oysters they'd caught, and we sat on the beach for most of the day. They showed me how to open them up and find the pearls inside."

"Did you find lots of pearls, mama?" Emma asked in awe.

"We didn't have much luck," she answered. "But I found this one, and they let me keep it. My mother had it put in a setting for me."

"Oh." The fact that it held special memories made it seem even more precious in Emma's eyes.

"You should have it," Snow said. "But only if you promise to take good care of it."

"I promise, Mama," Emma nodded.  

"This is all going to be yours someday," Snow informed her as they put the jewelry back. "Most of the jewelry in here has been in our family for generations. Some of it is from a bit more recent than that, but it all has special meaning to me." She plucked a ring from the little tray and showed it to Emma.

"A ring?" It was beautiful, but Emma couldn't understand the significance of the ring. It didn't look to have any sort of story attached to it. Not like the necklace she now wore. That, and it was much too big for her tiny fingers.

"This was your grandmother's," she explained. "Her mother gave it to her when she married my father."

Oh. So it was a wedding ring.

"One day, when you find your true love, I'll give it to you."

Emma made a face and her mother burst into laughter.

"There will come a day when you think differently."

Emma didn't think so. Boys were gross.


"Why does my dad seem extra cranky today?" Emma asked as she dangled her legs over the side of the pier.

Killian shrugged as he thought about the ring currently housed in his coat pocket. "I'm afraid I don't know your father very well," he said, "and unfortunately, he's been cranky since the day we met. Not that I blame him, but I've yet to see his good side."

Only he had caught a glimpse of his good side.

He still wasn't completely clear on what had changed the King's mind, but he was glad for it. Now, he only needed to propose to Emma.

Water splashed at his face. As he shook his head, he heard Emma giggling next to him. "You zoned out," she informed him. "What were you thinking about?"

"This!" He waved his arm, and laughed when water splashed over her head.

"Hey!" she sputtered.

She was soaked from head to toe, and he couldn't help but chuckle. "You look quite pathetic, darling," he teased.

"Thanks," she muttered before giving him a little shove, laughing when he struggled a bit to keep his balance.

"So that's how you want to play it," he growled.

He stood and jumped off the pier, transforming before he smacked hard in the shallow water. Emma gave him a dirty look when he safely settled himself.

"Show off," she said with rolled eyes.

The water didn't even make it to his knees when he stood, and he was certain he looked even sillier when he sat down. "A bit shallower than I expected," he commented as he attempted to get comfortable.

"Doesn't really compare to that giant bathtub back home, does it?" she asked.

"We could go out further," he suggested. "Hop on, Swan, let's go for a swim."

The look on her face was panicked, though she kept her voice calm as she declined. She didn't say why, nor did he ask, but he could only guess that she was thinking about her near drowning back on the island.

Bloody hell. He sighed, realizing that his leap off the pier had probably only helped frighten her more.

"It's all right," he assured her. "We don't have to go out."

"I just..." she frowned. "I know you're not going to let anything happen to me-"

She grew quiet when Killian rested his head in her lap. "But if you're afraid, it won't be much fun for you," he said. "Perhaps when the memory isn't so fresh in your mind. Until then, we can stay here. Where you're comfortable."

"Okay," she said softly. She leaned down to give him a little kiss on the forehead, then reached to scratch behind his ears.

Damn, that feels sinfully good. Liam would never let him live it down if he found out, but right now, he just hoped Emma would never stop.

"I love you, Killian," Emma said, though she seemed to be lost in thought, rather than actually speaking to him.

"I love you too," he replied.

"What are we waiting for?" she asked. "I mean, I get that we can't exactly get married tomorrow, but-"

"You stop right there," he cut her off. He meant for his tone to be playful and light, but his words seemed to startle her.

"Did I say something wrong?" she asked, alarmed at his sudden outburst.

"Of course not, love," he said. "But if anyone's going to be doing the proposing, it's going to be me."

"Oh!" she gasped. Her cheeks flushed, turning that shade of pink he adored. "Sorry."

“No, my love,” he sighed, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you. You just… you caught me off guard is all.”

“Apology accepted,” she said gleefully. He chuckled, and she continued to absentmindedly scratch behind his ears as she thought. Being lost in his own thoughts, he didn't interrupt her.

She wanted to get married. Hell, if he hadn't stopped her, she might have even proposed. A small part of him wondered if he shouldn't have just let her continue, but a very selfish part of him already had a plan, and he wanted it to be perfect.

"Were you thinking about proposing?" she asked with a little giggle.

"Perhaps you should just wait and find out," he pretended to scold her. "Honestly, Swan. Do you enjoy ruining surprises?"

"I was just wondering if I should hide all my father's weapons is all," she shot back. 

"Very funny," he grumbled.


Snow wanted to chastise her husband for spying on their daughter, but she couldn't bring herself to do it. She was curious, too.

Even though she had no doubt that Emma and Killian loved one another, the whole dragon thing still had her a little on edge. She tried to hide it from David due to the fact that he was determined to find some sort of fault that wasn't there.

So when Killian transformed, instead of rushing off to ensure her daughter's safety, she waited. She tried to trust her judgement, and Emma's. David made no such attempt and almost dropped everything for an unwarranted rescue.

“He won’t hurt her,” she insisted. She glanced over, and let out a sigh of relief to see the two playing on the pier. “See?” She turned David’s attention towards them. “They’re just having a bit of fun.” It was actually kind of sweet. For the first time in what seemed like an eternity, her daughter didn’t look to be carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders.

She was happy.

“He could hurt her!” David hissed. “Maybe not intentionally, but look at him!”

“I am looking at him, David,” she argued. “Even though we really should leave them alone.” She rolled her eyes when she realized he wasn’t paying attention. “David!”

“What?”

“I know he’s big and ferocious looking, but Emma trusts him, and I’ve yet to see any reason that she shouldn’t. I know she put her faith in the wrong person before, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t placed it in the right person now.” Despite his size, she could see how gentle and careful he was with Emma. If only her husband would find it in him to be rational too.

David grumbled something under his breath, but didn’t try to argue any further. He didn’t stop his spying either.

"This is wrong," Snow complained.

"It's improper for them to just run around without some sort of supervision," David said. "And before you say anything, yes I'm well aware of his intentions. I feel we're being fair here. They have a little space, but not too much."

"Fine," she snapped.

"You don't have to stay."

“I’m not letting you run around unsupervised,” she stated.

David had already tuned her out again, his attention fully on Killian and Emma. “What’s he doing now?”

Snow shut her eyes. She didn’t want to be a part of any of this, but she couldn’t just leave her husband on his own. He’d do more than just sit back and keep an eye on things. No, David would jump right in and make a pest of himself.
An elbow gently nudged her, forcing her to open her eyes so she could glare at David. “I said-”

“I think he’s proposing,” he interrupted her scolding.

There was a silly smile on his face, one she never expected to see when it came to the idea of his daughter falling in love. She expected him to hate any man who captured Emma’s heart, but right now… he seemed almost…

“Happy,” he breathed out, unknowingly finishing her thought. “She looks happy.”

Finally , she thought. He was starting to really see it. Still, it felt wrong to spy, so she let her husband look on while she attempted to give them a little privacy.

“Wait!” He cried out in sudden alarm. Snow followed his gaze and gasped in horror.

Emma was on fire.

David dropped everything, and darted out of the room, Snow right behind him. They raced through the castle and down towards the pier in record time.

She expected to find a charred pier, and a daughter in agony, but what she saw… she couldn’t explain.

Chapter Text

Once again, my amazing cover is by @hopeandbeans!

Art Links:

@couldnthandleit

Gifset 1

@hopeandbeans

Artwork 1//Artwork 2//Artwork 3


Emma was on fire! 

“Emma!” David didn’t try to make sense of any of it. He quickly grabbed Emma and pulled her away from Killian. Instantly, the flames went out. “What… what was that?” He sputtered, looking at his unblemished hands in amazement.

“Oh…” Emma turned bright red, glanced at Killian, then looked down at the ground. “That um… happens sometimes…” She looked back up and frowned at them. “Wait… were you spying on us?”

“Your father was spying,” Snow answered. “ I was trying to keep him in line.”

“Thank you, dear,” David muttered under his breath.

Emma didn't seem to care for the explanation. She was rightfully upset. “I’ve spent my entire life under the watchful eye of… everyone… and you can’t even give me just one moment?”

“They’re only trying to protect you, love,” Killian, who up until now had remained silent, spoke up.

It was surprise enough that he wasn’t filled with rage over the whole situation, like Emma, but the fact that he was defending them?

Emma whirled around to face Killian, also seemingly surprised at his statement. “Are you serious?”

“Aye, Swan. I am. Think about it,” he said. Snow tried not to laugh when Emma grumbled and crossed her arms. If his smirk was any indication, Killian found it amusing too. “Sweetheart, you’re their only child, and for the past couple weeks, all they knew was that some monster kidnapped you. They likely thought you’d been killed. I’m certain it’s been hell for them.”

“But I’m here,” she insisted, turning back to them. “And I’m fine.”

“That doesn't mean we don’t worry,” David said. “You were on fire !”

“The last thing we want to do is invade your privacy,” Snow interrupted David before he could work himself into a state. “But Killian's right. We thought we'd lost you. Now we have you back, but everything’s changed.” She held her hand up when Emma started to protest. “I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. But we do need a little time to adjust.”

David nodded in agreement, another unexpected surprise.

“How much did you see?” Emma asked.

Snow didn’t miss the fact that she hid her hands behind her back, nor did her nervous glance at Killian go unnoticed.

"We didn't see anything we didn't expect," Snow assured her. She wanted Emma to tell them about the engagement in her own time, but maybe knowing that they knew, and even accepted it, would help her feel more at ease when it came to sharing that information.

"Actually," David cut in, "we didn’t expect a bonfire."

"David," Snow whispered, "they're fine-"

"No!" he snapped. "My daughter was on fire, and she's acting like it's completely normal, and no one else is willing to acknowledge it. I want to know what's going on. Why were you on fire, and why... how did it not hurt you at all?"

"Because it's not really fire," Emma said quietly. "It's hard to explain."

"It's magic," Killian tried. "Though... I've never seen it firsthand until recently. I don't know what causes it, and it mostly seems like an involuntary reaction. But it's not harmful to us, or to anything nearby."

Snow was willing to accept that answer. A magical flame that didn't hurt anyone was nothing to worry about. Her husband, however, eyed Killian suspiciously. "You're a dragon," he said, "and I'm assuming that fire is a dragon thing . So how do you not know anything about it?"

"Because I wasn't raised among the dragons," Killian informed him. He was visibly trying to remain calm, but his jaw clenched and his tone wasn't quite as smooth as it had been before. "By the time I even realized I was a dragon, the kingdom was cursed. My brother was more worried about my destiny than he was about trying to explain such inconsequential things."

The answer seemed to satisfy David, at least for the time being. He looked back at Emma, who still kept her hands hidden.  "I'm sorry we - I - was spying... I trust you, Emma." It was genuine, and for that, Snow was glad. He didn't say another word to Killian. If it upset Emma, she didn't let on.

"Why don't we go inside?" Snow suggested. "I think we probably have a lot to talk about." She half expected Emma to decline, so the fact that she didn't made Snow smile.

She only hoped her husband would put his annoyances aside, and be on his best behavior.


Emma sat on her bed and fiddled with her ring as she thought about the conversation from earlier. Her parents had seemed genuinely happy about the engagement. Even her father was smiling, though she knew he still had his reservations about Killian.

Her mother, on the other hand, was likely already planning a wedding. And a gala. And a ball. This time around, she realized she didn’t hate the idea.

Emma looked at the ring again, trying to figure out why it looked so familiar. There was a long-forgotten memory, one that she couldn't quite grasp. Something about too tiny fingers, and a promise of love. Unable to make the connection, she pushed her thoughts aside and went to her vanity.

She wanted to see Killian once more before she went to sleep. Her father would deem it inappropriate for her to visit his room, so she planned on using her magic to bring him to hers.

Opening the small jewelry box on her vanity, she sifted through her jewelry, looking for the necklace she knew she still had somewhere. The one that her mother had given her before she was old enough to even remember. Once she found it, she held it in her hand, looking at the stone the reminded her of the sea. With a smile, she put on the necklace, struggling a little with the tiny clasp. The chain had been too long when she was a girl, but now, it was just right.

It was simple, but beautiful. She didn’t want to get ahead of herself, but became giddy at the thought that she should wear it on her wedding day.

Emma gave herself one last look in the mirror before deeming her appearance suitable, then raised her hand, ready to poof Killian over.

Before she could use her magic, a soft grunt caught her attention. She laughed when she saw Killian climbing up onto her balcony. Quickly, she ran out and helped him up. "Did you forget that you could fly?" she teased.

"I was trying to keep from raising suspicion," he said as he brushed at the dust that had collected during his climb. "And waiting for you to poof me over was taking far too long."

"What makes you think I was going to poof you over?" she asked innocently.

"We did just get engaged, darling." he said as he raised a suggestive eyebrow. 

"I was there," she reminded him. "I remember."

"Are you going to invite me in?" he asked, nodding towards her room. "Or would you rather stay here and subject me to your sarcasm a bit more?"

Oh.

"Well, I guess we should make your little adventure worth the risk," she giggled as she all but dragged him into her room.

“Eager, are we?” he chuckled when she shoved him onto the bed.

Dammit. Had she gone overboard? She tensed up, and took a step back.  “I didn’t mean to…” To what? What had she done exactly?

“You did nothing wrong,” he assured her. When that didn’t help, he sat up and reached for her hand. “Come here, love.”

Emma could feel her cheeks growing hot. “I didn’t want to overstep,” she said quietly.

“I would love for you to continue,” he said, his voice low and rough.

She nodded, and cautiously moved forward. Her movements weren’t fueled by the desperation from before. Now, she felt completely aware of everything, and could only think of one thing.

She had no idea what she was doing.

Killian was waiting for her to take charge, and she didn’t-

“Don’t overthink it,” he whispered, then waited for a moment, only speaking again when she didn’t move. “If you’re uncomfortable-”

“I’m not,” she protested. She wasn’t. It was just that… Well, she wasn't really sure what her hold up was.

He was far too patient for his own good. There he was, sitting there. Wanting her. And all she could do was have an internal debate. Why hadn't he just given up and taken over?

Because he was Killian. Sweet, attentive, and completely fine with sitting back and letting her discover things on her own.

In short, it was because he knew her too well.

She mulled it over as quickly as possible. It wasn't anything they hadn't done before. The only difference now was that he was letting her lead. That, and the very real possibility that they could get caught. The thought thrilled her… probably just a little more than it should have.


Killian hardly had a moment to quirk an eyebrow in question. Emma's demeanor changed so suddenly that there was little he could do to prepare. With a sinful smirk, she shoved him back onto the bed, giggling when he landed with a soft “oof.”

She climbed up onto the bed and straddled him, seemingly amused by the pitiful noise he made at the contact.

“Too many clothes,” she murmured as she leaned down to kiss him.

He felt the fire spark the instant her lips touched his.

She was giggling. He could feel her laughter against his mouth and as her body shook. It wasn't the nervous laughter from earlier. No, Emma was pretty damn sure of herself at the moment, and she had every right to feel that way.

Because everything she was doing felt amazing.

But he couldn't understand the silly, almost playful giggles escaping her.

Until he felt a whoosh of air, and realized she'd poofed his clothes away.

“What did you think of that little trick?” She giggled.

“Impressive,” he said quickly, dragging her back for another kiss.

He wanted to take his time, but Emma had other plans. Plans that involved pinning him down and having her way with him.

There was no way in hell he was going to complain about that.

Bloody hell, he loved her.

“So is that going to happen every time?” She asked once the fire had died down. She snuggled close to him, relaxed and content, almost as if she'd forgotten he couldn't fall asleep with her.

“The fire thing?” He assumed that's what she meant. “It seems as though that would be the case.”

He couldn't make sense of it, and there wasn't time for him to ask Merlin before they had packed up to leave Dóiteán again. It wasn't harmful, but there was no explanation, other than he'd heard of it happening.

But why?

A playful poke to the ribs pulled him out of his thoughts. “Don't worry about it so much,” she teased. “I like it.”

“You never cease to amaze me, Swan,” he said as he toyed with her necklace. It was a pretty little thing, unassuming with an oddly colored pearl that reminded him of home.

It suited her.

“You can't stay here though,” she sighed. “As much as I want you to-”

“I understand,” he said, grateful that she had brought it up first. “I'd like to survive until the wedding. If your father catches me in here, he'll have my head.”

She looked up, and kissed his cheek. “I like your head where it is.” With a sigh, she waved her hand and their clothes reappeared. “What do you think?” she asked. “I’m getting pretty good at the magic thing, right?”

“You’re quick,” he agreed. “Have I told you lately how brilliant you are?”

She sounded embarrassed when she mumbled something in return, and he laughed. “I love you.”

“Love you too,” she murmured.

Killian wanted nothing more than to stay there and wake with her in his arms, but he knew the King wouldn’t stand for it. Reluctantly, he slid out of the bed. “Goodnight, sweetheart,” he said softly as he pulled the covers over Emma. He kissed her temple gently, smiling when he saw she was already drifting off. “I’ll see you in the morning, my love.”


Emma frowned when she awoke to an empty bed. She knew Killian had left, had no choice but to leave, the night before, but it was still a disappointing sight.

“Where is he?”

Emma jumped up at the sound of her doors opening, grateful that she’d thought to dress both Killian and herself the night before. Her father barrelled inside, and had a look on his face that didn’t hide the fact that he was out for blood. Snow followed behind him, trying to calm him down, but he was too busy searching Emma’s room to pay attention.

“Daddy?” Emma asked, wondering what could have her father in such a state so early in the morning.

“The dragon!” he snapped as he stormed towards her. “Where is he hiding?”

“Killian isn’t here,” she informed him.

Her mother made a comment under her breath that sounded like an “I told you so,” but her father only rolled his eyes.

“Where is he, then?” David asked.

The question worried her. Why was he looking for him so early in the morning? Had he not checked-

“He wasn’t in his room?”

“Don’t panic,” Snow said gently. She ran over to Emma’s bedside and sat down. “For all we know, he just went for a walk or something.”

The fact that her mother was trying to calm her down only worried Emma more. Her father’s temper wasn’t doing anything to help either.

David stopped his search and looked at Emma. "When did you last see him?" he asked.

She knew she shouldn't lie, but if her father knew Killian had come to see her in the middle of the night, he'd kill him. Once they found him, of course. "Same as you," she said as casually as possible. "After dinner."

Her father grumbled something, and left the room. Whether or not he believed her was up for debate. Her mother, on the other hand, gave her a knowing grin, and shook her head. "When did you really see him last?"

"Mom-"

"Emma," she interrupted. "Don't lie to me. We need to know the truth, otherwise... if something's happened, we might never be able to find him."

"Do you think something's happened to him?"

"Do you have any reason to believe he'd leave on his own?"

Emma shook her head, and did all she could to hold back the tears that were starting to sting her eyes. "He was here," she admitted, "and before he left, he said he'd see me in the morning." Killian would never leave on his own, not without telling her where he was going. Just walking away? Not after all they'd been through.

But she couldn't figure out what happened. He was a dragon . Sneaking up and kidnapping someone who could transform and crush you wasn't an easy feat. Zelena didn't have her magic, and Walsh was gone.

"Can you use your magic to bring him back?" Snow suggested.

"I can try," she said. Magic was becoming easier every time she used it. She'd poofed Killian around before, why not now? She waved her hand and felt the familiar rush. In an instant, a heavy leather coat landed on her bed.

Without Killian.

She tried again, but this time, nothing happened. "It's like I can't see him," Emma whispered.

"I'll go get your father."  Snow rushed out of the room, leaving Emma alone with her thoughts.

The same thoughts that were currently betraying her. He couldn't have walked away, could he? If he had, could he block her magic so she couldn't bring him back?

Why would he do something like that?

Could he do something like that?

“I’ll see you in the morning, my love.”

Emma ran her hands over the space he'd occupied before he had to go back to his own room. No. He wouldn't walk away from her. He loved her, and had every intention of seeing her the next morning.

She cursed herself for doubting him, even for a moment.

She grabbed his coat and crushed it against her chest. "Where are you, Killian?"

The coat was warm, as though he'd just been wearing it... like he hadn't taken it off after he left her room last night. Her stomach turned when the horrid thought crossed her mind. Someone had to have overpowered him somehow, and they'd taken him right after he'd left her.

Panicked, she jumped out of bed and rushed to her balcony. There was no evidence of a struggle. Had he fallen? She took a deep breath and made a quick glance over the railing. With a shaky sigh, she stepped back, relieved that he hadn't hurt himself.

But that only confirmed that someone else had hurt him.

Emma ran back inside, and dressed quickly, throwing Killian’s coat on before leaving her room. It was heavy, but she couldn’t bear to part with it, especially since it might be helpful in finding him.

“Where are you going?” Snow asked when they almost collided as she rushed down the hall.

“I have to go after him,” Emma answered. She could see the hesitation in her mother’s eyes. “I know you want to stop me, but mom… I have to.”

“Can you at least wait for Ruby?” her mother asked. “We can go get her-”

“And we’ll be losing time!” Emma shouted. Ruby was still in Dóiteán. Sending a messenger and waiting for her to return would take days. Killian might not have hours. “Something’s happened, and I can just sit back and hope for the best. I have to find him.” When Snow still didn’t seem convinced, she sighed. “I have magic, remember?”

“Nothing I say is going to convince you otherwise?”

She shook her head. “You can try and stop me, but I can just as easily poof myself out of this castle.”

She could see her mother considering her options. Emma was just about ready to magic herself out of the castle, when Snow snapped her fingers. “Come with me!” she insisted, grabbing Emma’s hand and dragging her down the hall.

Before she knew it, she was in her parents’ room, and her mother was sitting her on the bed as if she were a child.

“Do you remember this?” Snow asked, bringing out a small jewelry box and setting it next to Emma.

She recognized it immediately. It was the box she used to go through as a little girl. The same one that had once held the necklace that was now housed in her own wardrobe. “Mom,” she laughed, “this is hardly the time to play with jewelry.”

“We’re not playing,” Snow chastised her as she opened the box.  Emma watched as she sifted through everything. “I know it’s in here somewhere,” she mumbled.

She fiddled with the ring on her finger while Snow searched some more.

"One day, when you find your true love, I'll give it to you."

“There it is!” Snow pulled out a chain that had two tiny shells on it. She opened the clasp, pulled one shell off and stuffed it in her pocket. Then, she gave the chain to Emma. “Wear this,” she instructed. “If you need me, all you need to do is talk into the shell, and I’ll hear it through mine.”

“Where did you get these?” Emma asked.

“You remember Ariel?” When Emma nodded, she smiled. “I helped her find her prince, and she gifted them to me. Never thought I’d actually need them.”

Emma zoned out a bit as her mother relayed the short version of the story she’d heard a thousand times before. All she could think about was the ring, her resurfaced memories, and how it was the ring. How it was the one that would symbolize her union with her true love, and her mother had just given it to Killian so he could propose to her…

“Mom?” she asked, cutting the story short. She didn’t look up, just kept her eyes on the ring as she formed the question. “Do you think Killian and I are true love?”

“It really isn't about what I think, is it?” She smiled as she turned the question back on Emma. “What do you think?”

Emma frowned as she contemplated what her mother was trying to say. “I know I love him,” she said slowly. Could it fit the description of true love though? She was always told it was incredibly rare. But wasn't she a product of true love? Did that make her more apt to find it herself? “What's the difference?” She asked. “What makes true love different from just love?”

“Magic, I guess,” Snow said. “Not that your father and I have any sort of magical ability, but the love we share… that's magical. You're kind of living proof of that.”

Emma just hummed in response. The only way she'd really know for sure was to find him.

“How did dad always know where to find you?”

“Some things will never have a proper explanation,” Snow shrugged. “But if you love him, Emma, you'll know how to find him.”

Great. More riddles.

“Thanks, mom,” she said instead. When she stood, she tucked the magic shell into Killian's coat pocket. Something brushed against her hand as she did so, and when she closed her hand around the object, she gasped. The compass.

How could she forget about that?

“Emma?”

“Mom, I have to go,” she said, offering no further explanation.

Her mother nodded, and assured her she'd have a head start before anyone else knew she was gone. After a quick hug goodbye, Emma rushed out of the room.

Snow made good on her promise. No one followed as Emma raced away from the castle on the back of their fastest horse. She waited until she was a good distance from home before she slowed to a stop and pulled out the compass.

She hoped it would work for her, the same way it worked for him. It was what brought him to her in the first place, and there seemed to be a connection ever since she’d touched it.

When the needle started spinning, she frowned, unsure of how that was going to be helpful. Finally, it slowed, and settled in one direction.

Away from Oz.  

Did Rumplestiltskin have him?

How would the Dark One even know he was with her?

Her heart sank. If Rumplestiltskin had Killian, saving him might be impossible.


Killian didn’t know what was worse, the torture or the long hours he was kept in the dark. Perhaps it was merely the fact that he was at the mercy of Zelena and the Dark One’s son.

He wasn’t sure how much time had passed since he was taken. It felt like days, but he assumed it was something closer to hours.

They needed him alive, but Zelena had been all too happy to point out that alive didn’t necessarily mean healthy. He was more than happy to point out the fact that she was powerless without her magic.

The marks he earned for that little comment left him gasping. The witch wasn’t just good at torture, she went at it like she had a score to settle. His foggy mind took far too long to remind him that she did have a score to settle.

Alone now, he tried to think about anything but the pain. The only thoughts that crossed his mind though, were of Emma… and that hurt so much worse.

Would she even think to look for him, or did she think he’d walked away?

Her father was probably thrilled.

He tugged at the collar around his neck, biting back a grimace at the way it chafed at his skin. He could feel it sucking his magic away, tearing a piece at a time from somewhere deep inside him. The damned Dark One had simply giggled and insinuated that he was taming a beast.

Killian didn’t have a chance to snark back. The demon had disappeared in a puff of smoke, leaving him to his two minions.

Why, Killian didn’t know, and he didn’t bother to ask his two wardens. From what he knew of the Dark One though, his prolonged torture wasn’t mercy. The imp wanted him to suffer a fate worse than death.

He was powerless, but it didn’t stop him from trying to escape.

At one point, he’d felt a pull. A call that he couldn’t answer. Deep down, he hoped it was Emma. When his coat disappeared, he prayed she’d know something was wrong, that she’d find the compass, that she’d find him.

But he also felt as if that was asking too much. Not because he didn’t have any faith in her. No, his Emma would rush to his aide if she felt he was in danger. There was no doubt about that.

Unfortunately, that was the problem. She was resourceful, and stronger than she looked, but no real match for the Dark One. He’d never forgive himself if anything happened to her because of him.

The sound of a heavy door dragging across the ground as it was pried open brought him back to the dungeon. He did his best to look as bored as possible as the light started filtering into the room. He wasn’t going to give his captors the satisfaction of knowing he was suffering.

“I've been told I can't let you starve,” Zelena said with a sigh. She set a tray none too gently on the ground next to him.

“I'll be sure to sing praises of your hospitality when I meet with the Dark One,” Killian snarled.

“I'm the reason you're still alive, you know,” she snapped. “Baelfire was more than happy to disobey his father's wishes, but I made sure he didn't kill you.”

He had a hard time believing that someone like Zelena would do anything out of the goodness of her heart. “What's in it for you?” he asked.

“You have something that belongs to me,” she reminded him.

“Let me guess,” he laughed, “you want to make some sort of deal that involves me giving back that pendant.”

“That would be the idea.”

The smile on her face was anything but genuine. He already knew he couldn’t trust her. Now, he was discovering that she thought he was an idiot. “And what would I get in return? Other than my life, of course. As you can see, being alive isn’t exactly useful at the moment.”

“I could always let you go,” she suggested, “and if you’re a good dragon, I might even rid you of that pesky collar.”

“Sounds like quite the deal,”  he mused. “Tell me though, how is it of any benefit to me? The second you have that pendant back, you’ll likely kill me.” Or worse, she’ll go after Emma.

“You’re smarter than you look,” she laughed. “And here I was thinking you were just another dumb animal.” She laughed harder when he lunged at her, only to fall short.

He let out a roar of pain as the metal bit into his skin.

Zelena stepped closer, unaffected by his ire. “You can’t hurt me,” she taunted. “But I can hurt you.” When he didn’t cower, she smirked, and her voice dropped to a menacing whisper. “Brave, aren’t we? I suppose I could have Baelfire come in and break a few bones, but I think I'll try a new tactic."

He didn't speak, and did his best to just glare at her, but his heart felt as if it was going to shatter. She didn't care if she had the pendant or not. She was going after Emma. But how could she? With no magic, she was no match for his princess.

"I wonder if she's on her way to find you?" Zelena asked. "Knowing Emma, she's gone alone. Who will protect her when you're locked up in this dungeon?"

It was his turn to gloat now. "I'm assuming the only reason you're here is because you're being punished for something. Perhaps your blunder in the cave?"

The sharp sting on his cheek came quickly, bringing tears to his eyes. He supposed he should have been grateful she didn't use her fists, but it hurt all the same.

But it was worth it.

He tried not to chuckle when he noticed her rubbing the palm that had smacked him.

She didn't look at him, or taunt him more, much to his relief. If she could see the tears that were starting to fall, she would have continued her torment. He let out a sigh when she stormed out of the room, and grinned when she attempted to slam the heavy door. There was a struggle, some cursing, and then finally, silence and darkness.

Killian sat down in the corner that had become his home for the time being. He picked up the tray and picked at the food, unsure of why they were bothering to feed him. The Dark One may have wanted him alive for now, but he was sure once he was in the imp’s clutches, he wouldn't last more than a few short moments.

He set the tray down and looked out the small window on the other side of the room. It was too far for him to reach, and much too tiny to be of any use in an escape, but it offered a less dismal view than the walls of the dungeon.

The moon offered little light, and even less hope, but he could make out the shape of the stars that glittered brightly in the night sky.

He could just make out the shape of the hook, Emma's star shining brighter than all the others.

"Stay safe, love," he whispered.

 

Chapter Text

Once again, my amazing cover is by @hopeandbeans!

Art Links:

@couldnthandleit

Gifset 1

@hopeandbeans

Artwork 1//Artwork 2//Artwork 3


“Stay safe, love.”

The words rushed by, seemingly carried by the wind as Emma pushed forward. While it couldn’t possibly be him, it sounded like him. Whether it was real, or just wishful thinking, she didn’t care.

Suddenly, her horse came to a stop, refusing to move any further. Emma cried out in frustration, even though she wasn’t upset with the animal. They’d kept a hard pace all day, making as few stops as possible, and she knew he needed his rest.

She was upset with herself.

For all the good everyone thought of her magic, it had proven useless when she actually needed it. She couldn't use it to bring Killian back, and try as she might, even with the compass, she couldn't use it to get to him.

She was useless.

Killian was out there, somewhere, likely being held against his will, and she couldn't do anything to help him. She didn't even know where he was, nor how long it would take to get there.

All she could do was hurry, and hope she wasn’t too late.

As she unpacked her bedroll, she looked up at the sky. It hadn’t been but a few days since she and Killian had laid out on the beach and he’d pointed out the pictures he’d made in the stars.

There were so many. She felt lost as she searched for something familiar. “Hook,” she murmured when she caught sight of it hanging in the sky. Next to it, she could make out the swan he’d named her after. “I will find you,” she promised.

I will always find you.


“Come on little princess,” an annoyed voice grumbled. “Time to wake up.”

Emma woke with a start. She tried to ready herself for an attack, only to find she’d completely tangled herself in her blanket.

The owner of the voice started laughing out loud at the sight. “You look ridiculous!” she giggled.

Ruby.

“What are you… how are you… ” Emma tried to ask as she untangled herself.

“Your mom sent a little bird,” Ruby shrugged. “Now, come on. I’m gonna get you to your dragon.” She looked over at the sleeping horse and frowned. “He’s not going to freak out if we send him home, is he?”

With a smile, Emma waved her hand and magically sent the horse back to the stable.

“Impressive,” Ruby nodded.

“I have a compass,” Emma informed her as she pulled it out of the coat pocket. “It’s enchanted, and can help me find Killian. But I don’t know what awaits us when we get to him.”

“Anything else useful in those pockets?” Ruby asked.

“Just a shell that will help me call my mother if I need to,” Emma answered.

“Perfect,” Ruby smiled. “Now, come on. Pack up that bedroll, or send it home. It’s time to save your dragon.”

“Wait,” Emma looked at her in shock. “Do you mean now?”

“Do you want to save your dragon or not?” She rolled her eyes, then looked expectantly at the bedroll. Once Emma sent it home, Ruby smiled. “Get ready to hop on and hang on for dear life.”

Emma did as she was told after Ruby transformed. The wolf was faster, and much stronger than her horse. They covered ground quickly, and found a castle just as day began to break.

Due to running herself ragged the day before, and the rude awakening in the middle of the night, Emma was exhausted. Ruby seemed to be out of sorts as well. The wolf transformed in the morning light, and the two of them took cover in the nearby woods.

Emma pulled the compass out of her pocket. The arrow pointed towards the castle. She knew there was a possibility that Killian could be further away, beyond the ominous structure, but something told her they were right where they needed to be.

Killian was here. She could feel it.

“I’ll poke around,” Ruby offered, even though she looked as though she was about to crash. “If this is it, we can wait until nightfall.”

“Why nightfall?” Emma asked. If Killian was here, she didn’t want to wait. They needed to get him out of there before it was too late.

“Wolf thing,” Ruby reminded her. “We don’t know if there’s any kind of spell to block magic, or maybe there’s a lot of guards…” She looked at Emma, then frowned. “I know you’re worried. If he’s in there, and there’s any indication that he won’t make it until nightfall, we’ll go now.”

She could agree to that.

“If there’s a protection spell, I can get you out safely,” Ruby continued. “Then you can magic him home, and I’ll run back to Misthaven.”

Misthaven?

“I thought you were-”

“Your parents need me,” Ruby informed her, hinting that there was more to the memo Snow had sent. “Liam will understand.” She laughed when Emma made a face. “Yeah, it’s complicated.”

“I don’t think I want to know,” Emma groaned. Did Killian know?

“Good,” Ruby said. “Because I don’t want to explain. Now, stay put, and I’ll come for you after I’ve had a chance to check the place out.”


Blood, sweat, or tears… With one eye swollen shut, and the other well on its way, Killian wasn’t quite sure what was running down his face. Baelfire had just left, fuming about something. What it was, Killian didn’t know. The man had come in angry, beat the hell out of him, then stormed off.

He waited, refusing to relax until he was certain Zelena wasn’t coming to pay him a visit next.

After a few moments of silence, he took in as deep a breath as his aching chest would let him, exhaling until his breath caught with a twinge of pain.

Zelena’s anger, he could understand. He’d taken something from her. Even though she needed to be stopped, and the only other option was to end her, he could understand it. But Baelfire?

He’d never met the man. Until recently, he wasn’t even aware that the Dark One had a son. Hell, he’d never even had an encounter with the Dark One. There were always rumors, but Killian never knew which ones to believe.

What he did know was that Rumplestiltskin was not someone one wanted to tangle with.

Somehow, he’d found himself in the middle of it all.

The Dark One wanted Misthaven, and Killian supposed that made him guilty by association, but he still couldn’t understand-

Was it because of Emma? The memory seemed so distant now, but he thought she’d said something about an arrangement. Did Baelfire feel as Walsh did? Did he believe Emma to be his? That she was nothing more than a prized possession? He let out a low growl at the thought. If that man laid a hand on Emma-

His thoughts silenced when he heard the door scraping across the floor. On guard, he did his best to look menacing, but realized he probably just looked pathetic. He could barely make out a silhouette sneaking towards him.

Was it…? No. It couldn’t be.

“Killian?”

She sounded so heartbroken, he almost believed he wasn’t hallucinating. Any moment now, Zelena or Baelfire would-

“I’m going to get you out of here,” she said when she reached him.

He flinched when she combed her fingers through his blood soaked hair, but felt the tension dissipate with her gentle touch. “Em-”

She shushed him. “We don’t have a lot of time. I… I’m going to try and use my magic to get us out of here, but if I can’t, you’ll need to help me. Ruby’s keeping watch, but if I can’t poof us out of here, we’ll need to get to her so she can get us to safety.”

It was a lot to take in, and he was sure he’d missed about half of it, but Killian nodded as she wrapped her arms around him and held him tightly against her. He felt a jolt of pain in addition to the rush of magic when she whisked them away.

Suddenly, the ground beneath him was soft, and he could faintly make out the sound of Emma panicking. Another jolt of pain hit him when he felt a rush of magic.

The collar.

It was protesting the magic. Whatever she was doing -or trying to do- was only hurting him more. He opened his mouth to speak, but only a whimper came out. He couldn’t see, he could barely hear, and his body felt as if it were on fire… and not in a good way.


“What the bloody hell is going on in here?” Liam’s voice thundered in the hall. Emma turned to look at him when he entered the room, watching his anger instantly change to horror. “Killian!” He rushed over to the bed, and sat next to Killian.  

It surprised her when he didn’t berate her, or push her out of the way. Instead, he just looked at her, begging. “Save him, lass. Please.

She didn’t want to tell him that she was trying. That using her magic had only made his condition worse. She nodded, and pointed to the collar. “It sparked when I moved us here, and then again when I tried to heal him. I think it’s reacting to my magic and making things terrible for him.”

Killian’s breathing was shallow, and his eyes hadn’t opened since they’d arrived. She wanted to rip the collar off, but she didn’t know if that would work, or if it would kill him.

Liam seemed to sense her hesitation, and looked towards the door. “I can get Merlin. He might know what to do.”

“Please?” Emma begged. She looked back at Killian when Liam rushed out of the room. “Just hang on, okay?” A painful sob escaped when he didn’t respond.

Her mother raised her to have faith, to never give up hope, but right now, all Emma could see was the man she loved slipping away.

He was supposed to be her future. They were supposed to get married, have a family, grow old… together. Neither one of them was supposed to leave so soon. Leave the other to live without them.

“Killian, please,” she whispered, “come back to me.”

She wiped some of the grime from his face, even though it wasn’t any help at all. He still wasn’t moving, was barely breathing, and Liam was taking too damn long. She ran her thumb over the collar. It didn’t look, or even feel, like anything special. Maybe… she could just rip it off.

That could kill him.

Waiting would kill him.

“I’m sorry,” she apologized in advance even though she wasn’t sure if he could hear her anymore. Her tears fell, but he didn’t flinch when they splashed onto his face. “Come back to me,” she pleaded again. She gripped the collar, ready to pull it away, then hesitated.

If this plan failed, he would… she would never get to say goodbye.

She didn’t want to say goodbye.

“I love you,” she whispered instead. She leaned down, and gently pressed her lips to his. He didn’t kiss her back. It did feel as though something was blocking her, making her cold, and something inside of her recoiled. She pressed a little harder, desperate for something, anything to show her that he was still with her.

Nothing. He was slipping away and there was nothing she could do about it.

Unless...

Her hand shook as it stretched over the leather around his neck. She could feel the way its magic tugged at her own, reached past it with a determined shove, and felt the tendrils wrap around the collar. If she did this wrong, if she lost him… but no, she couldn’t think like that. Emma shut her eyes and felt the way she needed to save him. Without thinking too hard about everything she stood to lose, Emma obliterated the dark magic that trapped Killian.

The collar disintegrated and Killian sucked in a sharp breath before beginning to shake. His eyes darted around the room in a panic before he curled in on himself against the pain that must have been assaulting him, still.

Dammit.

“It’s okay,” she tried to reassure him when he whimpered and pulled away from her touch. “Killian… it’s me…”

If he had the strength, she was sure he would run. Despite the rescue, he didn’t seem to realize he was safe. He must have believed was still in the dungeon.

No amount of words would help, so Emma quietly started to heal him as best she could. She could see him relax as his wounds began to fade, but he still recoiled when she placed her hand on his shoulder.

She pulled away,  not wanting to frighten him any more. “It’s okay,” she whispered, trying once again to reassure him. “You’re okay.”

He cautiously relaxed a little more, barely flinching at her touch this time. Emma held herself back, keeping her touch light, hoping to calm him more.

It seemed to be doing the trick, so she kept up a steady stream of soft whispers as she worked, using her voice and her soft touch to bring him back to her.

Slowly, he let out a long, shaky breath. “Emma?” he asked, weak and unsure. He uncurled, and rolled onto his back. She smiled at him when all it seemed he could do was stare at her, not saying anything, looking as if he didn’t believe she was actually there.

“It’s all right now, Killian.  You’re sa-”

“What happened?” Liam shouted as he ran back into the room.

Emma glared at him when Killian flinched, but then ignored Liam in favor of soothing Killian once more. He sat up slowly, swaying as though disoriented, and looking around the room in confusion.

She wanted to just kiss him senseless - among other things -  and just forget about the fear, the sadness, and everything in between, but knew in his state, any sudden movement could be seen as an attack.

Liam wasn’t as cautious as Emma. He rushed over and pulled Killian into what looked like a bone crushing hug, pushing her away in the process. She watched in horror as Killian tensed up again.

“Let him go,” Emma snapped, wincing when Killian flinched. “You’re hurting him!” She wanted to pull Killian away, but knew that would only make things worse. “He’s frightened,” she tried, “You need to let go of him.”

He refused.

“What happened ?” Liam asked again, glaring at Emma over Killian’s shoulder. “Every time I leave him alone with you, he almost gets killed, you bloody witch!”

“Brother,” Killian choked out, and it was Emma’s turn to elbow Liam out of the way.

“Killian!” she cried, throwing her arms around his neck. Despite the upset of Liam’s embrace, Killian didn’t recoil from her. She gently rubbed soothing circles on his back, only relaxing when he did.

After a moment, he sat back and took in a deep breath.“Emma?” he asked. “What… happened?” He mimicked his brother’s words and frowned as he took in his surroundings. “How did we get here? Is this a trick? A dream? What-”

“Magic,” she said softly. She did her best to ignore Liam, but could feel his glare as Killian relaxed against her.

“I’ll not repeat myself again,” Liam warned. “ What happened ?”

“Can you just wait and let her explain later?” Killian asked his brother. “I’m still feeling out of sorts…”

“No, it bloody well can not wait!”

Emma had never hated the man more.

“It’s okay,” she told Killian. She didn’t look at Liam as she began to tell the story. She just focused on keeping her words calm, and skipping over the worst parts.

“Who would be fool enough to kidnap a dragon?” Liam scoffed once Emma was finished.

“Do you truly have no idea?” Merlin spoke up from the doorway.

“Rum-” Killian frowned and shook his head. “The Dark One,” he said instead. “But then…” he furrowed his brow as he started piecing things together. “Emma came for me. She brought me here…”

“Brought you, half-dead, to my doorstep. Again.  I swear, Killian, you’ve got to pick your flings more carefully.”

Killian growled at his brother, but Emma pulled his attention back to her. “And then I just... made the collar go away and healed you.”

His expression softened, and his scowl was replaced by the hint of a proud smile. “You’re bloody brilliant, love. Amazing.”

Emma was vaguely aware that Liam was grumbling something under his breath, but she couldn't be bothered. Killian was gazing at her with such an intensity that she felt she might spontaneously combust.

"I love you," he whispered.

"I love you, too." She closed her eyes and leaned into his touch when he brushed his knuckles across her cheek.

"Killian, we don't have time for this nonsense," she heard Liam grouse.

"Bugger off," Killian snapped.

Whether or not Liam moved, Emma didn't know, nor did she care. All that mattered right now was that Killian was gathering her in his arms, tangling his fingers in her hair, and resting his forehead against hers.

He was alive . Emma still couldn't keep from worrying that it was just a cruel trick. But he felt real, and he was holding her, and telling her he loved her, and-

They had an audience.

Emma's eyes snapped open, then fluttered closed again when Killian closed the space between them and kissed her. Audience long forgotten, she felt the warmth of the flames start to flicker... and something else. Something that had been missing moments before when she’d kissed him and felt something block her. This was something she couldn't place, building until she thought she might burst.

And then she did.

Or rather, that something did.

The swell of what she recognized as magic flowed through her - different than the feel of her own magic, and different than his as well - escaping in a rush that left her just a little lightheaded.

They parted, and the look on Killian's face told her that he was just as confused as she was. This wasn't the fire, it was something else. Something more . The entire room was bathed in a rainbow of light before it dispersed.

Time slowed down immeasurably. What was possibly seconds felt like hours as Emma tried to piece together what had just happened. What she'd just experienced wasn't the flame. That much, she knew. It was something else. Something bigger. Something-

“What the bloody hell was that ?” Liam cried, still trying to right himself from where the magic had nearly bowled him over.

“True love’s kiss,” Merlin supplied helpfully.

Liam glared at him.

She could feel Killian’s gaze on her. Her heart started racing and her belly filled with the flutter of butterflies. He was her true love.

“It can’t be,” Liam growled.

“And why not?” Killian asked and Emma could hear his temper beginning to flare.

She turned back to him and helped him lie back down. “No arguing,” she said in an attempted scolding. However, his smile was too big, and her heart was too full for the words to be of any use. “You need to rest.”

Liam stomped over to the bed, and shot Emma a nasty glare when she tried to keep him from continuing the conversation. “I’ll not have it,” he stated.

“It’s not like you can do anything about it. You’ve seen yourself that our love is True,” Killian shrugged. “And we’re already engaged” - he added cheekily - “so you may as well get used to her.”

Merlin seemed to like this news. He rushed over and congratulated them, then smiled at Liam. “They’ve broken the curse on your people,” he informed Liam. “Surely you’ve felt the difference already. Magic has returned to the kingdom.”

“And now we have a war to worry about,” Liam stated.

Emma felt as if she’d missed something.

“The ceremony doesn’t take long at all,” Merlin said as he grinned at Emma and Killian.

Okay. She had missed something. “Ceremony?” she asked.

“Ceremony?” Liam scoffed. “I’ll perform no such thing!”

“But you’re the king,” Merlin reminded him, “and it’s obvious Killian’s chosen his mate-”

“Absolutely not!” Liam shouted. “I’ll not have my brother tether himself to-”

“To what?” Killian sat up again, smoke starting to come out of his nose. “To a mortal? It doesn’t matter to me. I’ve made my choice, Liam, and I don’t bloody care what you think of her. She’s…” he paused for a moment and calmed down a bit. His gaze became softer, and his tone calmer. “She’s everything to me. I know the consequences, brother, and I understand why you might disagree, but… I love her.” He looked at Emma, took her hand in his, and gave it a squeeze. “There is no life without her, so even if this does shorten my life… I don’t care.”

“What do you mean by that?” Merlin asked. Liam made a growling sound that frightened Emma and only seemed to confuse the sorcerer. “I’m serious,” he said, not quite taking whatever hint Liam was trying to give him. “Why would you think your bond with Emma would shorten your life?”

“She’s a mortal.” Killian gave Merlin a curious look. “When she grows old, and passes away-”

“She won’t,” Merlin interrupted. “The magic of the ceremony will grant your mate immortality, and all the dragon world has to offer. Didn’t Liam ever tell you how any of this actually worked?”

Emma felt the hope that started to curl around her like a warm blanket. Loving him, marrying him wouldn’t be a death sentence for him. She didn’t… couldn’t think about what that meant for her .

“He told me I’d die if I ever tethered myself to a mortal,” Killian stated, holding her tighter to himself. She could see in his eyes that Merlin’s revelation was starting to sink in with him, as well.

All eyes were suddenly on Liam, who was fuming. Emma could see the smoke, and held on to Killian’s hand a little tighter. Magic was back, and if Liam wanted to transform and kill her, there was little anyone could do to stop him with Killian still so weak.

Then, Liam’s demeanor completely changed. His temper calmed, and he smirked at Killian. “What was I supposed to tell you?” he asked, his tone smug. “You were jumping from bed to bed, having relations with anyone who would give you the time of day. The last thing you needed was to be tethered to some mortal floozy, and knowing you, you’d have fallen for any one of them. So… I lied.”

“Emma…” Killian whispered. He wouldn’t meet her eyes. He just stared at their joined hands, his cheeks red, a scowl on his face. It was a look of shame, and Emma hated Liam even more for taunting his brother.

“I bet you didn’t know that,” Liam continued. “My little brother has quite the reputation.”

His words made Emma’s blood boil. “Jealous?” she snapped. “That’s what I think this is all about. You’re just cranky because you were stuck in this stuffy castle, and your brother was able to go out and have a life.”

“Bloody hell…” Killian muttered. “Emma, just let it go.”

Emma ignored the warning and stomped over to Liam until they were almost nose to nose. “You don’t own him.”

“But I am his king,” he said, as though she needed a reminder. “And I’ll not have him tether himself to some bloody witch.”

“She saved my life!” Killian shouted. He was up and by her side before she could stop him, wedging himself between her and his brother. “And I seem to recall you begging her to do so, brother.

He’d heard that?

Liam didn’t say another word. He and Killian glared at one another for what felt like an eternity, then Liam spun around and stormed off.

“I…” Merlin glanced nervously at the door, then back at Killian and Emma. “I think he’ll come around… eventually....”

“I’m marrying Emma whether he wants me to or not,” Killian stated. “And if he doesn’t like it, he can go f-”

“Okay!” Emma exclaimed. “I think you need to lie down for a little bit.” She gave an apologetic look to Merlin, who excused himself as quickly as possible.

Killian slammed the door shut and bolted it. “Who the bloody hell does he think he is?” he ranted as he paced back and forth.

Finally, he came to a stop and faced Emma. “We’re true love,” he told her, swaying slightly under the force of his frustration. “He can’t stop us from doing anything.”

“I really think you need to lie down,” Emma said. She was upset, too, but he was still unsteady on his feet, and the anger certainly wasn't helping him keep his strength. "Why don't I get you some water?" she suggested. Before you burn the castle to the ground , she added silently when she noticed the smoke.

She could sense him stalking after her as she made her way to the door.  By the time she reached it, he was practically breathing down her neck.

"Is there a problem?" she snapped as she whirled around to scold him.

He was right there, crowding her space, backing her against the door, and looking like he wanted to-

Oh God .

"I don't want water," he growled.

A little nervous laugh escaped when she thought about how ridiculous he sounded, all tough and angry, and growling about water. He raised an eyebrow in question, and while that should have made her laugh more, she quieted down.

But her heart wouldn't stop racing.

She placed her hands on his chest, not to push him away, but to grip his shirt and pull him closer. Killian had other ideas though. In one, swift motion, her hands were pinned above her head, and he was kissing her like his life depended on it.

She tried not to think about the fact that just moments ago, it actually had .

It was different... far removed from the sweet and gentle moments they'd shared before. This was fierce, it was demanding, and she only wanted more. She knew the fire was harmless, but she still felt as if they were going to burn right through the door.

He let go of her hands and moved to start undoing her shirt. She could feel him struggling, and soon enough, he was ripping it in half, buttons scattering across the room. His hands were at her waist, his grip strong, his hands warm against her skin. Emma knotted her fingers in his hair, yanking until she heard him gasp.

Suddenly, he was hauling her up and carrying her across the room. Emma let out a surprised squeak when he unceremoniously dropped her on the bed. The fire didn't die, even though he'd let go of her. It continued to burn while she waited.

The look in his eyes was downright predatory, and Emma found herself lost in his gaze. He stood there a moment, watching her.

As if she were his next meal.

The thought sent a shiver down her spine at the same moment he pounced.

She gripped his shirt and let out a cry when he bit down at the juncture of her neck and shoulder. The sting was soothed by kisses that seemed far too sweet for the mood he was in.

Emma tried to remove his shirt, but was having no luck. She let out a whine of frustration - there were far too many clothes - then used her magic to rid them of their layers.

"Bloody hell," he groaned, "I love it when you do that."

"Killian..." she hated how needy and desperate she sounded, but it seemed to do the trick.

There was nothing sweet about it, but Emma loved it. Loved how his anger and frustration transformed into... whatever this was. She reveled in the filth he was whispering in her ear, and it took all she had just to hold on.

But most of all, she loved the after. How he held her close, and kissed her temple as he pulled the blankets around them.

After all that his anger had faded, and he was her incredibly sweet Killian again.

He drew nonsense on her back as she listened to his still slightly rapid heartbeat. "I love you," he murmured. 

She was completely spent, hardly able to keep her eyes open, but she tried. She tried to stay awake long enough to kiss him goodnight. Long enough to tell him she loved him. Looking up at him, she tried to speak, but yawned instead.

Killian chuckled, and gave her a soft kiss. "Sleep well, my love," he said sweetly.

Emma mumbled an "I love you," as she drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Text

Once again, my amazing cover is by @hopeandbeans!

Art Links:

@couldnthandleit

Gifset 1

@hopeandbeans

Artwork 1//Artwork 2//Artwork 3


Sunlight filtered through the window, making it impossible for Killian to continue sleeping. He glanced at Emma, who was still snuggled against him, sleeping peacefully. Well, as peacefully as one could sleep when they were snoring loud enough to wake the dead.  With a quiet chuckle, he kissed the top of her head.

A discontent grumble escaped her as she woke and stretched.

“Good morning, love,” he said playfully, though he was just as irritated about being awake as she was.

“Hmph,” she muttered.

“Someone’s cranky when they wake,” he teased.

Surprisingly, despite everything, he found himself in a decent, if not playful, mood. He kissed Emma’s cheek and then laughed when she whined.

There was a lot to talk about, and even more to deal with after that. Right now, he just wanted to enjoy a quiet moment with his love, no matter how irritated she was.

After she’d complained a bit, Emma rolled onto her back and looked up at him. “I take it you’re feeling better?” she asked.

He was feeling better. Some of his strength had come back, and the dizziness and confusion he’d felt upon waking in Liam’s castle and not Baelfire’s dungeon had all but disappeared.

“I just figured if I couldn’t sleep the whole day away, that you shouldn’t either.” He said with a sparkle of mischief in his eyes.  Then. he looked over at the window and glared at the offending sunlight. “Looks to be mid-afternoon...ish? Perhaps we should get out of bed.” Though, he didn’t want to get out of bed. He would stay here all day with Emma, given the chance.

He wondered if she would be opposed to a repeat performance of their earlier escapades.

“Perhaps we should talk first,” she said with enough reluctance to put him on edge.

Well, that answered that.

“I’ve found that when a woman says that, I’m rarely in for a pleasant conversation,” he frowned.

“Sorry,” she sighed. “But we can’t just ignore the problem.”

There was a problem? “You didn’t enjoy yourself?” he asked, worried. “Was I too-”

“You weren’t too anything,” she shook her head. “I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about Liam.”

Of course she was.

“I really don’t want to talk about my brother right now,” he grumbled, his mood instantly turning sour.

“I love you,” she reminded him. “You know that, right?”

“Aye.” How could he not know?

“Nothing is ever going to change that,” she assured him. “But Killian… I can’t come between you and your brother. It’s not right. If you lose him because of me… because of us… I could never forgive myself. You would never forgive yourself.”

Killian hated that she was right. He wanted to believe Merlin that Liam would come around in time. But a wedge had already been driven between them and it was only getting worse. If he wanted a future with Emma, a good future, he had to clear the air with his brother.

“I want you to come with me,” he said. Because Liam needed to bend, too. He didn’t have to be Emma’s biggest fan, but he needed to accept that she wasn’t going anywhere.

“Okay,” she agreed easily.

“You don’t suppose you could…” he grinned sheepishly as he mimicked her hand wave. “Speed up the dressing process?” Not only did he not want to waste time looking for clothes, he knew that if Emma uncovered herself, he wouldn’t have the strength to get out of bed.

“Lazy,” she teased.

With a flick of her wrist, they were both clothed and, much to Killian's delight, there were no garish colors involved.

“No more stalling,” she said, throwing the covers back. “Let’s go.”

There was no choice but to agree. Emma wasn’t going to let things simmer. He tried to keep from complaining, but couldn't help the grumbling that escaped as they went in search of his brother.

Aside from making amends, Killian needed to get Liam out to sea. It had been far too long, and even though he didn’t show it, Liam was weak. Killian doubted he’d be able to transform.

Getting his brother to agree to Killian flying him there was going to be more difficult that making peace. One thing they had in common was their pride. But until Merlin figured out their mother’s spell, there would be no portal. And it wasn’t likely Mother knew the curse had been broken, otherwise she’d have shown up by now.

Bloody hell, Killian thought. Mother!

“I haven’t told Liam that Mother is alive!” he shouted.

“Killian!” Emma called after him as he and rushed out of the room. He could hear her chasing him through the hall, but he didn’t slow enough for her to catch up.

Dread filled his heart. What if Liam had already found a way to return to the island? He knew his brother was in a weakened state, but that didn’t make everything impossible. If he found Mother first…

No. He couldn’t think like that. Couldn’t think about the anger Liam had harbored against their mother for years. The same anger that, up until a few days ago, Killian shared.

He came to a screeching halt when he reached the well. Liam was standing nearby, looking lost. He looked up when Emma rounded the corner. She slammed right into Killian, who almost toppled over.

“Sorry,” she said quickly.

“Come to taunt me some more, brother?” Liam asked.

Killian could feel his stomach twisting into knots as he watched his brother frown at Emma. He took a deep breath, and reminded himself that he needed to patch things up. Yelling at Liam would only make things worse.

“I just want to talk to you,” Killian said. It wasn’t the best start, but Liam seemed to let his guard down a bit. “I…” he stammered as he tried to find the words. “I don’t want to lose you, Liam. You’re my brother. I spent a good portion of my life not even knowing you existed, and I don’t wish to go back to that.”

“You seemed fairly content to run off with your witch earlier,” Liam stated.

“I’m not running off,” Killian argued, trying not to let his brother’s choice of words anger him. “This is your castle,” he said, “ your kingdom. None of this was ever mine-”

“There you have it, lass,” Liam laughed. “He’s just after your castle.”

“That’s not what he meant,” Emma growled.

Killian was grateful that Emma knew Liam’s words were untrue. “What I mean is… I can’t spend the rest of my life living in your shadow. Did you really expect me to just stay here once the curse was broken? A spare heir for an immortal king?”

Liam didn’t seem to know what to say to that, and remained silent. Killian could see him thinking, though. There was fire in his eyes and wisps of smoke puffed from his nose.

It suddenly all made sense. Emma was right. Liam was jealous.

“That’s what this is all about, isn’t it?” Killian asked. “You think that I’m just coming and going as I please for…” he didn’t know what Liam thought. But he could see that his brother resented him… or at the very least, the fact that he could do things that Liam could not.

“For the hell of it?” Liam supplied.

“I’ve been trying to save your bloody life,” Killian whispered carefully, determined not to give in to his own temper. While there was no denying he’d had a bit of fun along the way, his only intention, and top priority, had always been to save his brother and their people.

“I’ve been sitting here, wasting away while you ran around with whatever riff raff you could get your hands on!”

“The curse is broken,” he tried. “You can leave now, too.”

“I have a kingdom to run!” Liam bellowed.

“Liam, please ,” Killian begged. He needed to get his brother to calm down, to see some reason.

“Please what?” The smoke was getting thick. There’d be fire next. “Please let you marry your stupid mortal? Please just stand by while you abandon me like Mother did?”

In a split second, everything shifted. Before him now was not the brother he’d come to know, but rather an angry beast. He towered over Killian in human form, blue and silver scales shining in the sunlight.

Emma shrieked when Liam let out a roar. Killian’s first instinct was to protect Emma. His brother was upset, his judgement clouded, and with his anger directed at Emma, she would be his prime target.

Given the chance, he would destroy her.

He transformed quickly, and Liam snapped back into his human form just as abruptly. He watched as his brother crumpled to the ground. It took only a moment for him to realize how weak his brother had become, how sick using his magic had just made him.

“I have to get him to the sea,” Killian said, now.

“Go!” Emma shouted.

Killian grabbed Liam and took flight. He cleared the castle grounds quickly and headed towards the kingdom’s border. Liam could leave now, he could return to the sea. Everything would be all right. He repeated it like a mantra, hoping beyond hope he could get Liam to the water in time.

The air went by him in a rush as he strained to move as quickly as possible. Still weak himself, every movement cut through him. When Killian reached the border, he knew something was off, but he discovered it too late and he was going far too fast to stop completely.

He and Liam flattened against an invisible shield, preventing them from leaving. No matter how he struggled, Killian couldn’t get them through. The magic jolted him, almost forcing him to transform. Unable to leave, and barely able to stay in the air, he used the strength he had left to get back to the castle.

Merlin was with Emma when they returned to the well. Killian transformed the instant he touched the ground. The two of them rolled over the stone and as he felt the pain of the rocks jabbing him, he envied Liam. His brother was unconscious and wouldn’t feel a thing.

“The Dark One is here,” Merlin said to Emma over Killian’s prostrate form. “He’s trying to make sure we can’t leave. I need to contend with him. You need to get Killian and Liam to the sea.”

How was Emma going to get them to the sea?

“I’ve got you,” Emma said softly, her hand resting gently on his shoulder. He felt her magic working through him, healing his wounds, but when he sat up, he was still dizzy. Her magic couldn’t right everything.

“I’ll be all right, lass,” he assured her. “Tend to Liam, please.”

She tried, and Liam’s wounds healed up, but his brother didn’t wake. “He needs to get to the water,” he told her, assuring her she hadn’t failed. “He’s been away for so long, it’s the only thing that can help him.”

“I tried using my magic to leave,” she said, “but something is keeping me here. Merlin said we need to open the portal, that your mother used this well to make a passageway from here to the island.”

“Emma-”

“Merlin said your brother was going to die if we couldn’t make it work,” she whispered.

“Aye,” He admitted sadly. After all this time, all he wanted was to save his brother, and now he’d only managed to fail him.

“What do we need to do?” she asked fervently.

We?

“I’m not going to let your brother die,” she said and Killian realized he’d spoken aloud. “No one deserves that. No matter how much of an ass he is.”

Killian looked at his brother, who just moments before would have likely struck Emma down where she stood. Yet, she was still determined to save him, no questions asked.

“I’ve never worked with portals before,” he admitted.

“Neither have I,” she stated, as though it weren’t common knowledge. “But we have to try, Killian.”

He had assumed the portal would reopen once the curse was broken, but it was obvious that wasn’t the case. Nereid magic had made the portal, would it take Mother to reopen it? Liam didn’t have that kind of time. “We need Merlin,” he said.

“We don’t have Merlin,” Emma reminded him. “He can’t fight off the Dark One, and open a portal. He’s protecting the kingdom, we need to protect your brother.” She took Killian’s hand and smiled softly at him. “Maybe together, we can figure it out.”

It was Emma who eventually opened the portal, even though she gave him half the credit. All he could do was stand there and hold her hand as her magic did what she asked of it.

Her magic was growing so quickly, he’d almost forgotten what it was like before she knew how to control her powers.

“Let me go first,” he offered. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust her, but if something went wrong, he would rather be the one to get hurt. When he was sure the portal wasn’t going to close, or lead them somewhere they weren’t intending to go, he returned and grabbed Liam.

Emma followed them into the portal, insisting she wasn’t going to stand around and wait for him to return. It came out near the shore, where she could touch the ground and keep her head above water where she stood.

For her first portal, she’d done rather well with the location.

Mother was there. She’d rushed towards the portal the first time Killian had come through, then waited impatiently for their return.

First, she grabbed Emma, who was in no danger. Given her history with the water, however, Mother seemed to be taking no chances. Next, she helped Killian with Liam. They moved him to a secluded tide pool. It was shallow, and he wouldn’t drift out to sea while he regained consciousness.

Then they would be there to help bring him back to health.

“He doesn’t know you’re alive,” Killian told Mother. “I didn’t get the chance to let him know.” It would likely be an even bigger shock than his insistence on marrying Emma. Killian knowing mother was alive, and keeping that information would be seen as nothing less than a betrayal to Liam.

“Heal your brother, Kilian,” Mother said, “talk to him. I’ll take Emma to the house, and you can bring him up when you both are ready.”

“He’s still angry,” Killian said. Hell, he was still angry. He loved his mother, but there was still a part of him that hurt. But there was little time to worry about healing the heart.

War was coming.

“We’ll figure it out,” Marella smiled. She took Emma by the hand and led her to the house.

Killian turned to Liam.

“Oh, brother,” he sighed. “What a bloody mess we’ve found ourselves in.”


The instant Marella had Emma alone, she pulled her into a tight hug.

“Umm…” Emma stammered, “what… are you okay?”

Marella let her go and laughed as she grabbed Emma’s hand. “Did you think I wouldn’t notice?” she asked, looking at the ring that now decorated Emma’s finger.

“Oh!” she looked at her hand, and felt her cheeks flush. “Yeah… I guess a lot has happened since we last saw you.”

“Well sit down,” Marella insisted, bringing Emma to the dining table, “and tell me everything.

Emma didn’t give her all the details, but guessed that Marella didn’t have much trouble filling in the blanks.

Marella insisted on making a meal to help pass the time. Emma helped as they continued to talk while they waited for Killian to return. Emma wasn’t really sure if Liam would join them. If his anger was anything like Killian described, or anything close to what she saw from Killian when he discovered Marella was alive, things could get complicated.

“I think Liam might stay on the beach,” Emma said cautiously. “Killian… he didn’t get a chance to tell him about you, and-”

“He still thinks I abandoned him.” Marella finished, already aware that her eldest son didn’t know she had survived. “I suppose that’s fair. I made the same assumption about him when he never came for us.”

“What happened?” Emma asked. “I mean… you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to, but… why didn’t you just bring both of your sons?”

“I wish I had,” Marella sighed. “But I can’t see the future. I needed to leave in a hurry, and I had to do what I felt was best for my boys. Liam was older. He had more responsibilities, and was the heir to the kingdom. I couldn’t just take that away from him. He was strong, and could find his way to the sea when he needed to, and stay if he wanted to. Killian… he was still so small. It would have been unfair for me to leave him in his brother’s care.”

If she thought Killian would be Liam’s charge in her absence, Emma could only guess how involved their father was.

“If I had known there was going to be a curse… that it would almost kill my son… I never would have left him,” she insisted. “But I didn’t know, and I felt the best option was to let him choose. After living in a palace your whole life, I can’t imagine being ripped away from it to live in such small quarters would be an ideal situation.”

“Killian didn’t even know he had a brother…” Emma mused, then winced. “I didn’t mean to say that out loud. I’m sorry-”

“A bit of magic,” she said reluctantly. “Killian adored his brother.  Practically idolized him. When Liam didn’t come for us, he didn’t understand.  He wanted to go back. I had to… it was the only way to…”

“Oh…”

She took away his memories?

“I’m not proud of it,” Marella sighed. “I’d do anything to change it, but-”

“You did what you thought you had to do,” Emma said, hoping that would help assuage her guilt.  

“That doesn’t make it right,” Marella said quietly.

They worked in silence for a bit, then Marella turned to her. “I can give them back,” she confessed, “but I don’t know how to tell him. It’s the right thing to do, but I’m afraid he’ll never forgive me.”

“You should wait,” Emma suggested. “Wait until this is all over. After we defeat the Dark One, we’ll have plenty of time to worry about… fixing things.”

“The Dark One?”  The sadness in her voice had given way to fear.

“What do you know about the Dark One?” Emma asked.

Marella looked as if she was about to answer, but was interrupted by the door flying open.

“He’s going to make it,” Killian announced. “I left him down by the shore for the time being. He’s still a bit weak, but he’s already griping about everything, so… won’t be long before he’s his usual, cheerful self.”

Emma giggled when he winked at her, but also couldn’t help but notice how tired he looked. “Maybe you should relax for a bit,” she suggested.

“We can’t stay long,” he reminded her as he took a seat. “I’m sorry, Mother,” he said, staring at the table. “I need to get Emma home. Her parents will be worried. I’ve already talked to Liam, he’s promised to be on his best behavior. I’ll have Merlin come for him later. Then we need to-”

“Go after the Dark One,” Marella nodded. “Do you have a plan?”

Killian and Emma exchanged a glance. They didn’t have a plan.

Marella smacked Killian on the back of the head. “Ow! Mother!”

“Do you really think I’m going to let you leave this island without any sort of plan?” she shouted. “We’ve only just reunited,” she continued, threatening Killian with a wooden spoon when he tried to interrupt. “I’ll not lose you in some damned war because you went off without a plan!”

“She has a point,” Emma agreed.

Killian rubbed the back of his head and scowled. “Merlin can help us-”

“You can’t rely on Merlin for everything,” Marella snapped. She continued muttering something about his father while she busied herself around the kitchen.

“All right, Mother,” Killian relented. “But we have to remember that Merlin…” he looked over at Emma and shrugged.

“Merlin what?” Marella asked.

"He knows more about the Dark One than he lets on," Killian stated, "and he's already got half of a plan put together."

"Half a plan," Marella muttered. "Wonderful."

By half a plan, Killian meant half a sword. A remnant from a battle between Merlin and the Dark One long before either of them had ever been born. In Killian's case, that was saying a lot.

Emma silently questioned Killian. How much could they tell his mother? Did she know more than she was letting on? He shrugged and shook his head, indicating he was just as unsure as she was.

"There's a sword..." Emma started.

"Excalibur?"

Killian's gaze snapped to the back of his mother's head. "What do you know of Excalibur?"

"It is the reason Merlin came to the dragons in the first place." Marella sighed as she rejoined them at the table. "Long before you and your brother were even thought of. I know of the sword, and its other half... but... I'm hesitant to believe it is that easy."

"What do you mean?" Emma asked. She'd only caught a quick glance at the sword in Merlin's tower. He'd quickly explained it was the key to bringing down the Dark One, but there hadn't been enough time to explain how.

She didn't miss the fact that it was broken in half.

"He needs the other half," Marella explained. "The dagger. He believes that if the two are united, he can cut the darkness away."

"You don't believe that?" Emma asked.

"Nothing is ever that easy," she answered. "But it never stopped him from trying to get that dagger."

"The curse made it impossible for him to search," Killian said. "Not that I knew he was searching to begin with. But being unable to leave-"

"I've found it," Marella supplied.

Emma watched as Killian stared at Marella in disbelief.

"How?" she asked, knowing that silence wasn't going to get them anywhere.  "Better yet, if you didn't think it would do anything... why ?"

"It's a long story," Marella said. "But, after Killian left... once I healed? I had nothing. I couldn't open the portal to get back to my sons, and I couldn't make the trip by land in my weakened state. Even at my strongest, it was too far, and would have me away from the sea longer than I could handle. So, I thought, if I could find the dagger, perhaps..." She looked down, and frowned at her hands, unable to finish her sentence.

"You were going to kill him," Killian guessed. "Kill the Dark One... for what? What would that accomplish?"

"I would have his power!" Marella shouted. "I would be stronger, and I could come back to you-"

"You would be filled with darkness!" Killian argued. "Is that what you want? What purpose..." He got up from the table and began to pace. "Bloody hell," he muttered. "You... you were going to use it to hurt father, weren't you?"

"I was angry," she confessed. "I blamed him for taking not one, but both of my sons away. So, I found where he hid the damned dagger. I had plans to retrieve it, but... then, you came back..."

"I've heard enough," Killian growled. He stopped pacing and stormed out of the house, slamming the door behind him.

Marella turned to Emma, who was now wondering what other dark secrets the woman was hiding. “I have made many mistakes,” she said, “and I have not lied about them.”

“I know,” Emma said softly. She had to give her that much. No one was perfect, and when you lived for an eternity, there was plenty of room to screw up.

“His father drove me away,” Marella explained. “I thought he’d taken Liam from me… then when Killian didn’t return… I love my sons…” She began to cry, her words trailing off into mumbles that Emma could no longer understand.

“He just needs time,” she tried.

“I can’t lose them again,” Marella whispered.

Emma hoped that she wouldn’t.


Killian could feel his brother's concerned gaze, but didn't speak. Despite it all, he wanted to patch things up with Mother, wanted to be a family again. Telling Liam of her plans would destroy all hope he had of a peaceful reunion.

"I can always tell when you're troubled, little brother," Liam reminded him.

Still, Killian didn't say a word. Instead, he tried to just listen as the waves crashed onto the shore. Tried to find strength as the water splashed onto their feet as they sat.

"She's going to have secrets," Liam finally said. "Some of them, worse than others. But... she's our mother, Killian."

Killian looked over at his brother and scowled. "You were angry with her for centuries, and now you're willing to let all that go? To defend her?"

"Father destroyed her," Liam said. "I'm not saying I agree with what she did, or denying that I felt… still feel as if she'd abandoned me, but you had a fairly good point earlier..."

He didn't know what surprised him more, the fact that Liam had spoken poorly about their father, or the fact that he thought Killian was right about something. "What..." he frowned, trying to remember what he'd said earlier. "What point did I make?"

"She was broken," he said. "And broken people don't always think clearly."

Was that all it was? She was broken, and looking for a way to make things right? Did she feel that hurting Father was a way to even the score? "I suppose if she knew that her leaving destroyed Father, she might feel differently," he mused. "Perhaps instead of harboring all that anger, she'd feel justice was served."

"We'll never know," Liam shrugged. "Now... I'm not going to ask you what happened in there, and I'm not going to go after Mother, either. It's between the two of you. What I am going to do though, is get off my arse and try and make my own peace with her. Because despite how angry I am, I’ve missed her."

"And what of Emma?" Killian asked after Liam stood. "Will you make your peace with her as well?" Before Liam could argue, he reminded him, "She saved your life. Despite everything, she saved your life. I didn't even ask her to. I mean... I would have, had she given me the time, but before I could get a word out, she was by your side trying to bring you back."

"You wish for my approval," Liam laughed. "I suppose I have no choice, now."

“Brother-”

“I’ll make my peace,” he agreed.

He listened as Liam trekked towards the house, and smiled when he heard Emma's footsteps as she ran towards him. The two met in the middle, and had a murmured conversation that Killian couldn't quite make out, then continued on their paths again.

"Your brother said he still dislikes me," she said, though her tone was light and happy, "but he supposes I can stick around. And he said he’d have to think about the whole wedding thing, but I think it’s a step in the right direction."

He chuckled, then reached for her hand. "I apologize for the way I reacted earlier."

"I get it," she said, kissing him on the cheek. "It was a lot to take in, and not the greatest thing to hear. But... she didn't go through with it. You just have to keep that in mind."

"She didn't go through with it because she discovered father was dead," he reminded her. "But it's over and done with, and you're right. My mother hasn't been consumed by the darkness, and that's a good thing."

"She can help us," Emma said cautiously. "She offered to help us. If she can get the dagger, that-"

"Puts her in danger," Killian muttered.

"Killian-"

"No!" Killian shouted. "If she gets ahold of the dagger, she's a target. Or worse, she gets it and decides to go through with her original plan."

"She won’t ," Emma gave his hand a squeeze. "Look, she's willing to help. Knows how to help. The best we can do is let her. Then we can concentrate on getting everything else done."

By everything else, he knew she meant war. It was something he'd seen much of in his long life, and the last thing he ever wanted Emma to have to live through. But it was coming and there was nothing they could do to stop it.

He vowed he'd protect his love with everything he had.

"Do you think Merlin is right?" he asked. "About the sword and its ability to cut away the darkness. Do you think cutting it away will destroy it?"

His mother would do what she wanted, regardless of his protests. The only thing he could do was hope that her efforts weren't in vain.

"I think," Emma said slowly, "that he knows a lot more than all of us combined. It was his fight first, and probably would have ended centuries ago if he hadn't found himself trapped in a cursed kingdom."

He didn't respond.

"We could use all the help we can get," she said softly. "And your mother isn't naive. She knows the risks, and she can take care of herself."

"Why do you have to be right about everything?" he teased.

"You love me, and you know it,” she sing-songed with a happy smile on her face.

"Aye," he laughed. "I love you. But would it kill you to be wrong once in awhile?”

Chapter Text

Once again, my amazing cover is by @hopeandbeans!

Art Links:

@couldnthandleit

Gifset 1

@hopeandbeans

Artwork 1//Artwork 2//Artwork 3//Artwork 4


As much as Killian wanted to spend time with his family, he knew getting Emma back home safely was important. The trip to Misthaven was long and exhausting, especially since both he and Emma were drained, but finally, they made it.

If he thought they’d have a moment to relax upon their return, he was wrong. Emma's parents didn't give her a chance to breathe when they first caught sight of her. Chaos aside, it was reassuring. Killian let out a sigh of relief, knowing that they would protect her just as much as he would.

Merlin had arrived shortly before they had, and had already set to protecting Misthaven as best he could.

Then, they waited for Mother.

Mother had wanted to wait for Liam to get stronger, and Killian could see before they left that his brother was recovering quickly now that he was close to the sea. After that, they would both work to retrieve the dagger.

Together.

It would take some time, and time was something they had very little of.

Still, they had an army that they once didn't.  Killian didn't know much about life before the curse, but he did know that the Dark One feared the dragons almost as much as he feared Merlin. There wasn't much of an explanation as to why, but it worked in their favor.

"How long do you think we have?" Emma whispered. There was a fear in her voice that he'd never heard before. For as long as he'd known her, even when she was afraid, she was brave. But now...

Now she sounded as though she thought everything was about to come to an end. A final battle.

"We shouldn't worry," Killian reassured, though he was quite worried himself. "With our armies, and the magic, we can put up a good fight. He'd be stupid to try and take us on. Especially once we get that dagger."

"You aren't planning on leaving me behind, are you?" she asked.

There was the brave lass he knew.

"Darling, leaving you behind would be a mistake," he chuckled. "I know you better than that by now. You always find a way. Especially when someone tells you no."

She laughed. That beautiful, room filling laugh that he couldn't help but love. Killian tried to memorize the way her face lit up, the way she threw her head back, and how happy she seemed in that moment.

Almost as if he, too, were afraid that this was the end.

Just as quickly as the thought popped into his head, he shoved it away. They were going to be fine. He refused to believe otherwise.

So, he smiled at Emma, and gathered her into his arms. "You're a bloody menace," he teased, making her laugh even harder.

"I apologize," Merlin interrupted softly as he approached them. "I just need a word with you. Both of you."

Expecting the worst, Killian's heart started racing. Emma untangled herself from his grasp and grabbed his hand. She didn't say anything, but just having her there was better than facing whatever Merlin had to say alone.

Merlin led them far enough away to an empty hallway that no one would hear the quiet discussion the three of them were about to have. The king and queen were discussing plans with their leaders, however, so he kept them all near enough to keep an ear out, just in case someone needed them.

"What do you need to tell us?" Emma asked.

Killian still couldn't find his voice, so he just listened as Merlin explained their current dilemma.

"Between Emma and I, we can stop the Dark One," he started. "But not permanently." He held up his half sword, and frowned. "This sword, it's powerless without its other half. At this point right now, our best option is to immobilize and imprison him."

"How the bloody hell do you imprison the Dark One?" Killian asked, his voice coming back loud and clear.

"We're cut from the same cloth," Merlin stated, "and while I am not about to cast a curse, I do know of ways to... render his magic useless. It's a backup plan at best. I'd much rather cut the darkness from him and destroy it forever. That is what's best for all the realms. But if your mother and brother don't produce that dagger-"

"They will," Killian assured him.

"But we should work on the backup plan," Emma said. She spoke again quickly, not giving him room to argue. "Because we don't know how long it's going to take to get the dagger. If the Dark One comes sooner rather than later, we can hold him until they bring the dagger back."

Killian's head was spinning, but he’d follow Emma’s lead anywhere.

"I'm on board with the backup plan," he finally agreed. Knowing there was a way to render the Dark One useless was better than waiting for him to unleash an army while they searched for a dagger.

"Wonderful," Merlin smiled. "Emma's parents have been gracious enough to give me some work space.”

He poked his head out and saw the troops dispersing.

Seemingly satisfied that they would not be needed, he gestured towards the hall.  “If you'll follow me, I can show you what I've come up with. We have plenty of options. After all, I have been at this for centuries,” he said cheekily.

"So, what happens when they bring back the dagger?" Emma asked as they made their way towards Merlin's chamber. "You just... cut him? Stab him?"

"Oh no," Merlin shook his head. "Killing him with the dagger would only transfer the power. We need to reunite the two halves of the sword, and then I will cut the Darkness from him. He will return to the man he once was and the curse of the Dark One will be no more."

"Is that really possible?" Killian knew Merlin believed it, but he was still skeptical, like Mother had been. Surely it couldn't be that easy.

“I was there when it all began,” Merlin said with a small smirk. “The sword made us immortal, and when it divided, it created the Dark Curse. If I can reunite it-”

“Won’t that take away your magic, too?” Emma asked.

“Only if I cut it away,” Merlin reminded her. “But we need to get the dagger first.  Then, before we can reforge the sword, we’ll need to reignite the Promethean flame…” he paused for a moment, considering his words.

Killian didn’t know how Merlin expected her to light the flame, but he knew one thing for sure.  If anyone could do it, it would be Emma.

“That might take some time,” Merlin admitted, but without reproach. “Until then, I can imprison him. His powers will be bound and he will be harmless. But it’s still risky, and offers a chance to escape. So we’ll need to hurry.”

Killian nodded. “Let’s see what you have, then.”


Emma frowned at the small vial of squid ink. This was supposed to stop the Dark One?

Merlin had absolute faith that the squid ink would stop him, and that the prison he’d enchanted would leave him powerless until they could reforge Excalibur. Liam had returned with the dagger, assuring them that Marella would be along shortly. She had stayed behind in hopes of leading the Dark One astray while Liam made his way to Misthaven.

Now they had two halves of a weapon that refused to become whole again. She looked at the spark that was sitting on her vanity and frowned. Merlin had given it to her, insisting that she would be the one to reignite it. All it seemed to do, though, was mock her.

“Are you all right, love?”

Killian laughed when she let out a little shriek and jumped out of her seat.

“It’s just me,” he informed her, shutting the door behind him. “Your parents were a bit worried, so-”

“Are they coming right now?” she asked. Emma loved her parents, but ever since Merlin started preparing them all for the final battle, they had taken to smothering her more than usual.

“No, sweetheart,” he assured her. “I suggested they might find you in the garden.”

The way he smirked made her giggle. He knew she wouldn’t be in the garden.

"What did you do?" she asked. "Track me down like I was some sort of prey?"

A sheepish grin replaced the smirk as he shrugged. "When you put it that way, it sounds creepy."

"If you think about it, it kind of is." She smiled at him, hoping he understood that she was only teasing.

He let out an exasperated sigh and rolled his eyes.

"I could have just sent your parents after you," he suggested with a wry smirk. "But I thought perhaps you'd rather avoid them for the time being?"

Killian crossed the room and gently took the vial from her hand. "I'm less prone to smothering you."

"You smother me plenty," she giggled, watching as he set the vial on the small bedside table.

Killian wrapped his arms around her and held her tightly. "I do believe you enjoy it."

Of course she enjoyed it.

"How long do you think we have before they realize I'm not in the garden?"

"I sent them on their way a few moments ago," he mused. "They'll have to walk all the way to the garden, have a look around, then realize you aren't there. Then they'll have to come all the way back. So, I think we have plenty of time for just about anything."

She knew what he was thinking, what she was thinking, but all of a sudden, everything hit her again.

She pulled away from him and sat down on the bed. "So we can go over the plan again. Just to make sure we're on the same page? You know, before my parents come in and try to convince me to hide until everything is over."

"Emma," Killian sighed as he sat down next to her. "What do you think rehashing this again will accomplish?"

All she could respond with was a shrug.

"I know you're concerned," he said softly, "but I'll be there. Merlin will be there as well and you're quite powerful on your own. Everything is going to be all right. Now, why don't we stop worrying about the damned Dark One and start thinking about how sadly underused this bed of yours is?"

She hesitated. She wanted to make use of her bed. There was a part of her that wanted to make use of every surface of her damned room, but she couldn't shake her feeling of dread. "I just-"

"Think too much," he finished for her. "Come on, love. I've yet to see you fail. So, let's stop worrying, and start enjoying ourselves while we have a moment."


Killian had just finished helping Emma button up her dress when someone began pounding on the door.

“Emma?” David called. “Are you in there?”

Emma spun around and gave Killian a panicked look. He couldn’t help but chuckle.

“You’re fine,” he whispered. “Just act casual.”

“Yes!” She called back to her father. “I’m in here!”

So much for casual.

The door swung open and both David and Snow rushed inside. Snow immediately wrapped her arms around Emma and hugged her tightly and Killian felt a slight pang of guilt. The two were worried about their daughter, rightfully so, and he’d sent them on a wild goose chase.

David eyed Killian suspiciously. “How did you find her?” he asked.

Killian shrugged.

“I didn’t expect to find her,” he lied. “I thought she’d go to the garden, but found her moping about in her room instead.”

The last part wasn’t a lie. He figured it would be best to leave out the rest.

Snow didn't question him further and stopped David from trying.

Emma stepped away from Snow and looked at both of them. “Is everything okay?” She asked.

“We just wanted to see that you were all right,” David assured her, “and since you insist on participating-”

His words were cut short thanks to a nasty glare from his wife.

“We know you were busy preparing with Merlin earlier, so you missed the meeting.”

Snow held up her hand when Emma apologized.

“There is nothing to be sorry for,” she assured her. “What you’re doing is important. But there were a couple things we thought you might like to know. First, Ruby’s already sniffed out a few scouts, so we can only assume the Dark One’s army isn’t far behind.”

“You need to be careful,” David added. “Because while we managed to capture a few, we’re sure there will be more.”

“I’ll stay with her,” Killian promised. David didn’t seem to like that solution.

Snow ignored her husband’s grumbling.

“His army is close, but his son is missing from its ranks.” Snow jumped a bit when Killian growled, but continued over his grumbling. “We’re looking for him. We have a few leads, but it seems like he’s just vanished.”

“And Zelena?” Killian asked.

“Still with the Dark One,” David supplied.

“They aren’t getting away with anything,” Snow assured him. “We’ll bring them back and they’ll pay for their crimes.”

Satisfied with the answer, he nodded, then glanced over at Emma. Her anxiousness had returned. He could see it in her eyes, though she was trying to hide her fear from her parents.

“Can I talk to Killian? Alone?” She asked suddenly.

“You were alrea-” David made a strangled “oomph” when Snow elbowed him in the ribs.

“We’ll be making final preparations if you need us,” Snow said with a smile.

Emma shut the door after them, then looked back at Killian. “I know we’re prepared, but…”

Killian sighed. Hadn’t they settled this already? “Sweetheart-”

“I mean it, Killian!” she shouted. “ Anything could happen!”

He cupped her face in his hands, and gave her a slow, gentle kiss. “What would you have me do?” he asked, resting his forehead against hers.

She was terrified, but unwilling to let others fight her battles. It was admirable, and he had no doubt she could handle herself. Sometimes though, he just wished that she would let him protect her.

“Marry me?” she asked.

“I think that’s part of the plan,” he teased.

“I mean… now, ” she sighed. “Get your brother to do whatever it is he has to do so we can do that ceremony thing Merlin was talking about.”

“Are you sure?” He was sure, but promising to love and cherish someone wasn’t quite as permanent as bonding for life. Especially when one happened to be immortal. There was a part of him that assumed she would want to wait until after the wedding, yet here she was - ready now.

“Are you sure?” she shot back, looking just a little irritated at the thought that he might have doubts.

He didn’t.

“I didn’t mean it that way, Emma,” he said. If anything happened to either one of them…

It was like signing a death warrant.

“You have my heart,” she whispered.

“And you have mine,” he replied. Her mind was already made up. He’d be lying if he said he wasn’t wary, but he wasn’t opposed to the idea. If it would give her comfort, help her deal with all they had to face, then there was no question. They would face it united.

He had to have faith that everything would work out all right.

And if everything went to Hell, at least he wouldn’t have to bear the thought of a life without her.

“I’ll get Liam,” he stated as he let go of her.

There was still a tension between the three of them, but the hostility had died. Ever since their trip to the island, since he informed Liam of all that Emma had done for him… for them , things had changed.

Killian worried that maybe his brother would still be against the union, or at the very least, would ask them to wait. He hated to think of what that might do to Emma. “Why don’t you wait here?” he suggested.

Once Emma agreed, he left the room to look for Liam. If it came to it, he’d argue, and he knew there was little time to do so.

Fortunately, Liam wasn’t difficult to find. He could hear him talking to Merlin just down the hall.

“Brother!” Liam bellowed when he caught sight of Killian. “We were just talking about you!”

He seemed happy, but that was never a good indication of anything. “Only good things, I hope,” he said, hoping he sounded confident, but knowing he sounded anything but.

“The Dark One is near,” Merlin informed him. “I can feel it. We need to get ready for the attack. The king and queen already have their soldiers, and the dragons are at the ready. But we need to get Emma-”

“About that,” Killian sighed. “She’s frightened, which is to be expected. But she is ready.”

“Then what’s the problem?” Liam asked.

“She would prefer to have the ceremony before the battle,” Killian said. “Does it take long?”

“It’s a major life event!” Liam exclaimed. “Do you really think you can just toss something around like that as though it were nothing more than a simple declaration?”

“That’s really all it is,” Merlin said. “Not much different than a wedding.”

“Weddings take months of preparation-”

“Have you never heard of eloping?” Killian interrupted. He looked at Merlin, “How long will it take?”

Liam was right. Grand weddings took months to prepare. But the actual ceremony was always over in a matter of minutes. There was no need for anything but a ceremony. After the war was over and everything was normal again… then they could celebrate.

“It wouldn't take long at all,” Merlin said, “even with a novice officiating.”

He ended the last part with a chuckle, then inched away from a growling Liam.

“We want this, brother,” Killian pleaded. “I know you have your reservations, but-”

“No,” Liam shook his head. “I’ve been an absolute arse about everything. I’m not saying I’ve suddenly come to adore Emma, but you love her and you could have done a lot worse for yourself in that department.”

The unspoken words about their father’s choices, both with their mother and after, went unsaid.  Apparently, Liam and Mother must have come to some sort of understanding as well.

“So…” Killian said hopefully. “You’ll do it?”

“Yes,” Liam confirmed, following Killian back to Emma’s room.


Emma was just as surprised as he was when she learned Liam was willing to do the ceremony. Killian could only smile and quietly remind her not to question their good fortune. Liam's grumbling indicated he' d heard the exchange.

"I've never done this before," he reminded Killian. "But I used to watch Father..."

“Can you do it?” Emma asked.

He frowned and shook his head. "It's been awhile, but I remember some of it. Merlin can help with the rest."

Merlin made a quick gesture, and with a puff a smoke, an old, ratty book appeared in his hand. "We have everything we need, yes?" he asked as he thumbed through the book. He looked up expectantly when no one answered.

After a moment, he grinned sheepishly. "Right. You don't know what you need."

All Killian could think about was Father and how Liam had memories that he would never have. Whatever life he had before Mother took him away was long forgotten. He couldn't even remember what their father looked like.

"Are you okay?" Emma whispered.

A quick look around the room told him all he needed to know. Somewhere between Liam talking about Father, and Merlin's commentary on the ceremony, he'd zoned out.  "Aye," he told Emma.

There was worry on her face. Did she think she'd changed his mind?

"I just..."

"Jitters," Merlin teased. Liam laughed.

"I'm fine," Killian laughed. While his behavior had nothing to do with nerves at all, the good humor dispelled the tension that had begun to brew. He could ask Liam about Father later, maybe even Mother would-

Mother.

"Bloody hell," he muttered. "We're missing a few people, aren't we?"

"If you're talking about my parents, then no, we're not." Emma shuffled her feet, almost looking like a guilty child. "I love them, but they're getting their wedding. Let's just keep this between us? At least for now. I don't want them trying to stop us."

"They might get upset if we don't include them," Killian said. "Merlin said this is basically a wedding-"

"For us ," she repeated. "For them, it doesn't mean anything. These are dragon traditions, and they're probably a huge deal in your kingdom, but here, no one is going to get it."

"She has a point," Merlin shrugged, "and... for the most part, these types of ceremonies were fairly private." He handed the book off to Liam, then waved his hand again. This time, a beautiful braid of multicolored silk ribbons appeared. "Can't have a ceremony without the ribbons," he grinned.

Killian wanted to ask what the bloody hell the wizard was talking about, but felt slightly embarrassed that he knew next to nothing about what seemed to be one of the most basic dragon customs.

Perhaps he would have been less confused had he been paying attention to Liam, rather than just staring at Emma in awe. But he couldn't help but tune out whatever his brother was saying, in favor of getting lost in her eyes and admiring the sweet smile that seemed to now be permanent.

They didn't have time to write their own vows, so he and Emma both repeated the words Liam fed them as he wound the ribbons around their hands and wrists.

Once Liam secured the ribbons, a warmth flooded through Killian. Emma let out a little gasp, and Killian followed her eyes to where their hands were joined.

"Is... it supposed to do that?" he asked. There was a flicker of fire at the knot that grew in intensity for a moment before it began to spread.  It didn't hurt, and Killian guessed it was similar to the fire that came from their kisses. But it was unnerving.

"That's a good sign," Merlin whispered, amusement in his tone.

He watched as the flames curled around their hands, following the path of the ribbons to wrap around their wrists.  Emma's grip tightened just as he began to feel heat on his left wrist. He could only guess that she was feeling the same thing. Time seemed to slow as the pain increased. It wasn't intolerable, but it was new.

What was going on?

Liam was still talking, but Killian couldn't concentrate on anything but the pain on his wrist. Fire had never burned him before... was this what it felt like?

After what felt like an eternity, the fire vanished, seemingly imbedding itself beneath their skin. He and Emma just stared at each other for a moment. Killian didn't know what to say or do. Part of him wanted to yank her towards him and kiss her senseless, but she looked to be in a state of shock.

He decided sudden movement probably wasn't the best idea.

"That was... different," Emma finally said.

"Are you all right, love?" he asked. She nodded, but still looked uncertain.

Bloody hell, he wanted to kiss her.

"I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to explain everything," Merlin said, "but we were in a bit of a rush."

"We still are ," Liam reminded him.

“Of course,” Merlin agreed.  “But this wasn’t entirely unnecessary, either.  Look.”

They all looked where he was pointing - at the small flame burning brightly on the vanity.  The fire that their union had forged must have been the missing link.

Emma gasped at the flame, but then looked back at their still joined hands. Killian placed a soft kiss to her forehead. He grinned like an idiot when he noticed her lips curling into a slow smile.

Killian knew he couldn't hold her forever, but hated letting go of her hands as she pulled them away. He watched her as she looked at the inside of her left wrist. A small forget-me-not decorated her skin.  

"What's this?" she asked nobody in particular.

"That's the symbol of our house," Killian said, a little awestruck. He ran his thumb over the design, curious about its appearance.

Emma grabbed his hand and turned his wrist up. "I don't understand," she frowned.

His wrist had what looked to be a shepherd's crook. He didn't understand either. From what he gathered, it was a mark from the fire, but...

"Shouldn’t they match?"

"She bears the mark of your family, you bear the mark of hers," Merlin explained.

"Oh!" Emma exclaimed. Killian raised an eyebrow in question. "It makes sense now," she said, running her thumb over the tattoo. "I come from a long line of shepherds."

"But you're-"

"A princess?" she laughed.

"Aye," he nodded.

"Last I checked, I'm still a princess," she assured him. "But my father wasn't always royalty."

"That sounds like quite the tale," Liam said. His sense of urgency faded away slightly with his interest in hearing more from Emma.

"I'll give you all the details," she said, " after we win this war."


War was something Emma didn't think she would ever have to experience. Now, she was preparing for something that felt... final . Her heart ached with guilt. Had she just damned Killian to an early grave?

Merlin had a plan. Even Liam, who had never been quiet about disliking the wizard, was in favor of the plan. Killian didn't like the fact that it would land her right into the hands of the Dark One, but what choice did they have?

"He might not know we have the dagger," Killian said. "Whatever you do-"

"I know," she sighed. It was only the hundredth time he'd told her. "Don't let him know we have it. Let him think Marella is still out looking for it." She frowned when he winced at the mention of his mother's name. "I'm sorry... I-"

"I"m sure she's fine, Swan," he said. The more he tried to act as though he wasn't worried though, the more obvious his fears became.

"I'll be fine too," she tried to reassure, but only managed to coax a small, sad smile out of him. "Merlin isn't going to let anything happen to me," she reminded him, but that didn't do any good either. "You won't be far away, will you?"

"I'll tear out his spine if he so much as thinks of harming you," he growled.

She smiled, then stood on her toes to kiss him on the cheek. "That's exactly why I'm not afraid."

It wasn't a lie; not really. She wasn't scared.

She was terrified .

But she wasn't about to let Killian know that. He had enough to worry about.

The plan was simple enough. She only had to look helpless and desperate. In a way, begging for the Dark One to spare her kingdom wasn't much of an act at all. From the stories Merlin told of the Dark One, there was no doubt that the imp would jump at the chance of making a deal.

"If he wants you to marry that damned son of his-"

"I think we're past that," Emma said. "Besides, I'm technically already married, and according to some sources, damaged goods. Trust me, that offer is no longer on the table."

"You are not damaged!" Killian snapped.

"Okay," Emma reasoned, "I'm just saying that according to-"

"According to outdated standards," he growled. "I don't care what the rest of the world bloody thinks .  You are not damaged, and anyone who says otherwise-"

"Smoke," Emma interrupted.

"What?" he asked, startled.

"You're doing the smoke thing with your nose again," she informed him. "Look, while I appreciate the fact that you want to defend my honor, it really isn't necessary."

He grumbled something under his breath that she chose to ignore, then dropped the matter. At least for the time being.

"Merlin thinks the whole reason the Dark One kidnapped me was to prevent you from breaking the curse," he said, changing back to a somewhat safer subject. "I wasn't around when Merlin first came to our kingdom, but he came to hide from the Dark One, and my father agreed to protect him. By cursing us, Merlin couldn't leave, making whatever plan he had to defeat the Dark One useless. Without Merlin around..."

"He could throw his power around unchecked," Emma realized. "Which is exactly what he's been doing for centuries, and it's only going to get worse unless we can stop him."


Rumplestiltskin sent Zelena first, throwing a wrench in Merlin's carefully crafted plan. After confirming that yes, she was still powerless, she was brought to a tent that Merlin had conjured up. When she sat down, she faced all of them. Liam and Killian took the lead with Merlin working to ensure nothing went sour. Emma stood with her parents at the back of the tent. Her father had decided to stand down in favor of hopefully learning more about the Dark One's war with the dragons before moving in to discuss his own conflict with the demon.

"Look at how far I've fallen," Zelena mused as she looked around the room. "Interrogated in a run down tent... like a common thief."

Killian rolled his eyes.

"You're looking well, dragon ," she continued, cheerfully turning her attention to Killian. "I must say, I'm impressed. After the beating you got from the Dark One's son-"

"That's enough!" Liam bellowed, blowing out a puff of smoke in her direction.

Zelena's mouth snapped shut, a look of terror in her eyes. She watched as Liam paced in front of her, almost as if he was contemplating her fate.

In a way, Emma wanted Zelena to pay for everything she'd done. But she also knew that they needed her alive. At least for the foreseeable future. If anything were to happen to her, any hope of luring out the Dark One was lost.

"Now," Liam said calmly. "I believe you were sent to deliver a message." He looked at her expectantly as she continued to sit in silence. "I would start talking if I were you," he threatened when she refused to speak. "Your usefulness is the only thing keeping you alive. Imagine the price you'll pay if we send you back, and you have to report that you couldn't even do the one simple task the Dark One assigned you."

“Again,” Killian added with a smirk.

"I'm dead either way," Zelena grumbled.

"We happen to be a bit more merciful than your current employer," Liam said. "But only for those who are useful. So, let's try this again. What does the Dark One want?"

Zelena smirked, and glanced at Emma, then Killian. "Well he doesn't want your ruined princess anymore," she teased. "So you can be grateful for that at least."

Emma wanted to disappear. Neither one of her parents commented on the remark, but she just knew her father was glaring at Killian.

"You're trying my patience," Liam growled.

"He wants the dagger," Zelena stated.

Liam didn't let the comment unnerve him. "And I'm assuming," he said instead, "that he sent you here because he thinks we have it?"

"He knows you have it," she answered.

Liam didn't respond.

"Play your games all you like," she shrugged. "It isn't going to do your mother any good." She laughed when smoke started to fill the room. "She sends her love, by the way."

"Take her to the dungeon!" Emma jumped at the sound of her father's booming voice.

Two guards rushed into the tent and grabbed Zelena. David started to follow as they hauled her away, then gestured for Liam to come with him.

Once they were gone, Killian kicked over the chair Zelena had been sitting in. "That damned witch!" he shouted. "I don't care what bloody mercy my brother promised. I'll have her head!"

Chapter Text

Once again, my amazing cover is by @hopeandbeans!

Art Links:

@couldnthandleit

Gifset 1

@hopeandbeans

Artwork 1//Artwork 2//Artwork 3//Artwork 4


 

It took some time, but Emma managed to calm Killian down. Then, Liam and David returned to the tent, and all hell broke loose once again.

"We have an army of dragons," Liam shouted. "I say we rain hellfire onto his damned castle!"

Emma stepped forward to try and calm him down, but Killian grabbed her arm and pulled her back. "I know you mean well, love, but why don't you let me handle this?"

"Okay," she nodded, and stepped aside for him.

"Brother?"

Liam stopped his ranting and looked at Killian. "You disagree?" he asked. "I can see it in your eyes, you disagree-"

"I want to destroy that bloody demon just as much as you do," Killian said. "But he's the Dark One. If we launch an attack, it could ruin everything, and potentially harm the person we're trying to save. We need to stick to the plan."

"The plan has been shot," Liam grumbled. "He knows we have the dagger, and now, he has a hostage!"

Merlin cleared his throat, and everyone looked over at him. "We can use that to our advantage," he suggested. "It's not ideal. I'd prefer he didn't know about the dagger, but we can use it as a distraction at the very least."

“If we can reforge Excalibur-” Emma began.

“Yes,” Merlin agreed before she could finish her statement. “That won’t take long at all, now that the spark has reignited.  But we still need to trap him. He’ll sense me coming, so we still need to go with the plan.  Use the meeting to immobilize him and I will take care of the rest.”


The plan hadn't changed much. Emma would still be meeting with the Dark One, under the guise of seeking out a deal. The leverage had changed, but while she met with the imp, Merlin would be helping Liam rescue Marella. It was risky, and left Emma without Merlin's backup, but Killian would be with her. Out of sight, but close enough to protect her if need be.

She was under strict orders to not turn over the dagger. Not that she could even if she wanted to. Merlin kept it, and the sword magically hidden. The plan wasn't to actually negotiate, but she couldn't help but wonder. Would the dagger be enough to stop Rumplestiltskin's reign of terror? If she just gave it to him, would he go away quietly? Or would having that power again only fuel his wrath?

There was no guarantee that he'd leave Misthaven alone, no matter what promises he made.

"Emma?" Snow poked her head into the room. "They've sent Zelena to go deliver the message."

"Okay."

It wouldn't be long now. Rumplestiltskin would be expecting her to arrive in the morning. She figured he'd humor her, and meet at the neutral place they'd suggested, but would likely try to move it from there.

Success wouldn't be difficult for him.

Something else was bothering her though. The nerves could have explained the nausea that cropped up every time they went over the plan, or when she thought about all the ways it could go wrong, but she couldn't pinpoint any reason the dizziness, or the exhaustion, or the fact that she felt as though she might spontaneously combust at any moment.

"Is everything all right?" Snow was suddenly at her side, lifting her from the chair, and leading her to the bed. "You don't look well. Why don't you get some rest?"

Rest. Yes... she needed that for tomorrow.

It was only mid-afternoon, but she didn't protest as her mother helped her into the bed. "Do you need anything?" she asked. "I can send for the doctor-"

"I'm fine, mom," she mumbled.

Snow place a hand on Emma's forehead and frowned. "You're burning up," she said.

Emma grumbled as she shut her eyes. A fever meant her mother was going to go get the doctor anyway.   Great.

"I just need sleep," she tried, but she could already hear her mother rushing out of the room and running down the hall.

She woke with a hacking cough. Everything burned. Sweat was drenching the sheets, and her throat felt like a furnace.

A pair of strong arms wrapped around her, and pulled her up.

“It's all right, love. I've got you.”

Killian.

She leaned against him as he rubbed her back, taking what little comfort she could get. Had the doctor ever showed up? If anything, it had gotten worse, and Emma didn't even know what was wrong in the first place.

“Killian…” she managed to croak out. “I-”

She gagged and shook her head, almost falling over when Killian got up to retrieve a nearby pail.

Lovely.

“Easy love,” he said gently, handing her the bucket. Then he was holding her again, rubbing her back, and doing his best to comfort her. “Come on, let it out. You’ll feel better, i promise.”

Emma shook her head again as she began to cry softly. The last thing she wanted to do was empty the contents of her stomach. She couldn’t ever remember feeling this awful and she didn’t want to chance feeling any worse.

What the hell was happening?

"Emma-"

Whatever Killian was about to say died when Emma finally let go. He was right about one thing. She did feel better as she got everything out of her system. Her stomach eased, and her throat no longer felt like she'd swallowed the sun.

"Bloody hell!" Killian shouted.

She opened her eyes to see what had startled him, only to be met with a view of her bucket. There was almost nothing left of it. Shaking, she dropped the now misshapen blob and collapsed into his arms.

"It's all right," he soothed.

He was moving her, but she was too frightened to ask where they were going, or even why. Then, the smell of smoke hit her.

What happened?

After Killian set her down on a chair, she looked up to see they were still in her room. He set to work putting out a fire that had started on her bedside rug.

Why had he set fire to the rug?

"Killian?" she asked weakly.

"Everything's fine," he replied, stomping out the last of the flames. His tone implied that everything was not fine, and that he was more worried than he wanted to let on.

Once he seemed satisfied that the fire was out, he returned and scooped her up again. She sought comfort, snuggling against him as he carried her through the halls.

She was starting to feel nauseous again.

"Everything will be all right," he murmured as she started tensing up.

There was a knock, and Emma could only assume he'd brought her to the doctor's quarters. When she heard Merlin's voice, she was confused.  He ushered them into the room, but before Killian could set her down, she was gagging again, and it was all he could do to get her to a window quickly. She thanked her lucky stars that Merlin had a view of the ocean, and that there was no one nearby to singe.

Once Killian was certain she wasn’t going to burn anything else to the ground, he helped her into a chair. “Just let me discuss this with Merlin,” he explained. “Try and get some rest.”

“Okay,” she said weakly.

Killian turned away and he and Merlin spoke in whispers that Emma could hear loud and clear. Like they weren't whispering at all.

The words frightened her. The worried tone in Killian's voice as he described the fire incident frightened her even more than the words.

She had vomited fire?

Merlin didn't seem to understand what was going on, and that didn't put any of her fears at ease. She almost spoke up, and demanded the doctor, but then realized a doctor wouldn't have any answers either.

Because spitting out fire wasn't a normal thing. It wasn't even a rare occurrence. Things like that just didn't happen unless-

Emma's stomach twisted into even more of a knot as she started thinking of all the things that could be wrong with her.

When Killian set her on the chair, she closed her eyes and tried to get some rest.


"Why is my wife breathing fire?" Killian hissed. He cautioned a glance at Emma, afraid he'd disturbed her. When he saw she was sleeping peacefully, he let out a sigh of relief. She was looking better than she had earlier. Her fever had gone down, though she was still drenched with sweat. For now, he supposed that would keep her cool until he could get her into a bath.

"I don't know," Merlin repeated his answer from earlier. "This is something I've never seen before."

Wonderful.

"What do I do?" he asked. "She's supposed to be meeting with the Dark One tomorrow."

"There's time," Merlin reminded him. "It's still early. Let her rest and just take care of her. Right now, it seems as though the worst of it has passed."

Killian sat on the arm of the chair Emma had curled up in. In a strange way, she almost reminded him of himself. Right after he'd found Liam... when everything had gone to Hell and he'd discovered he was a dragon...

"Bloody hell," he muttered as it dawned on him. This was exactly how it had happened for him. But... it was impossible. She was human, not-

"Killian?" Merlin interrupted his thoughts. "What's wrong?"

"Do you suppose she received more than just immortality?" he asked, not sure if Merlin would even catch what he was trying to say. But he didn't know how else to put it. The very idea was ludicrous.

The wizard was silent as he considered it. "I'll look into it," he finally said. "But I can't guarantee an answer. It's been so long since a ceremony like this has been performed, and a dragon choosing a mortal as a mate... it's not a very common occurrence. Based on what we've seen, I can safely assume she's gotten more than immortality, but what shape it may take... of that, I"m uncertain."

"All right," Killian nodded. He stood, and gently lifted Emma into his arms, smiling when she grumbled in her sleep. He wanted nothing more than to get her into a tub to cool her down, but she needed her sleep so he took her back to her room.

He did his best not to disturb her too much as he changed her into dry clothes. A quiet chuckle escaped when she whined as he moved her about. Her eyes never opened; not even when he finished dressing her and moved her under the covers. "Good night, my love," he whispered, kissing her temple.

"Killian..." her hand found his, and she tugged until he was lying next to her. It wasn't his intention to fall asleep, he wanted to keep an eye on her, but Emma refused to let him go. "Stay..." she whispered.

Denying Emma was impossible, especially when she let down her walls and allowed him to take care of her.

Her father was going to kill him.

The thought of the king having his head on a platter was troubling, but the thought of leaving his sick wife unattended was a far worse feeling.

Bloody Hell. His wife.

It was still such a new thing, but he didn't feel as though the idea would ever grow old.  He couldn't wait for the day that he could announce it to the world. That part would have to wait. Though they were married in a sense, it wasn't a ceremony that Misthaven recognized.

He felt the queen might have her suspicions. When he'd come to Emma's bedside after being informed she'd fallen ill, Snow had questioned him. There was a little shame, knowing he'd lied to his almost mother-in-law about the state of their relationship, and a sinking feeling that the woman didn't believe him.

But she didn't seem all that upset, and Emma's condition didn't seem to be related to anything that would have David murdering him, so he supposed he was in the clear.

At least for the time being.


When Emma awoke, she felt better. So much better, that she wasn’t even sure anything had happened at all.

“Are you all right, love?” Killian asked, sounding groggy. He was lying behind her, arm slung over her waist, chest pressed up against her back.

His concern was the only thing that made her think that what she was about to brush off as a weird dream actually had happened.

They needed to talk about it. She didn't want to talk about it. Talking made it real, and making it real frightened her. Was there something wrong with her? Sure, she felt fine now, but that could change in an instant. Just as it had yesterday.

“Sweetheart?”

“Yes,” she said quickly. “I’m fine.”

“You don’t seem fine…” his words were drawn out carefully, as if he were treading dangerous waters.

“What do you want me to say?” She pulled the blanket back, and slid out of bed, putting some distance between them. “Look, we don’t really have time for this right now. I don’t know if you’ve forgotten, but I have to go distract a Dark One.”

“Absolutely not!” He was out of bed and blocking her path before she could open her mouth to argue. “I’ll not have you going out there in your condition!”

“And what is my condition, Killian?” she argued.

“I don’t know!” he shouted. “But if you think that I’ll allow you-”

“That you’ll allow me to what? ” She fell silent and just stared at him, daring him to say another word.

He stood there, transfixed by the smoke that was billowing out of her nose, wondering how she didn’t notice. The words were there… he wanted to tell her, but he knew that if he opened his mouth to speak…

Bloody hell, he’d made a mess of things.

It would have been easy, to just leave well enough alone. To just keep an eye on her, without pressuring her to open up. To just wait until she was ready to talk.

But he had to pry.

“Do you think you own me?” she asked. There was still anger in her eyes, but her voice was soft.  “That you can just tell me what to do because I agreed to marry you?”

Dammit.

“Emma…” he reached for her, but she backed away. “I didn’t mean it like that,” he tried. “I don’t think I own you. I’m just worried. I’d never forgive myself if anything happened-”

“You’ll be right there the whole time,” she reminded him. “And if it all goes to hell…” she looked up at him and shrugged. “This whole new power where I can suddenly spit fire seems pretty unpredictable. Maybe I’ll singe his eyebrows or something.”

“Emma-”

“We’ll talk about it,” she promised. “But this isn’t exactly something we can reschedule. The Dark One is expecting me, and if he gets suspicious… we’re going to have an even bigger problem to deal with.”

There was no denying that. Getting the Dark One to agree to a meeting in the first place was an impossibility that they’d somehow managed. They wouldn’t get a second chance.

“Might I suggest not telling your parents in the meantime?” he asked. “Not only will they worry, we’ll have some explaining to do.” If the queen’s interrogation last night was anything to go by, he could only guess a secret wedding and their only daughter developing the power to throw fire around would not be the type of news they’d enjoy.

Emma nodded, “I think that’s a good plan. Maybe we just won't tell them about yesterday’s ceremony at all?”

“How are you going to explain the immortality and the breathing fire, love?  I think they’ll notice if every time you get angry, you start to billow smoke.  And your mother already saw what was left of your rug.”

“My mother saw the rug?” she groaned.

“She came to check on you shortly after I hauled you off to see Merlin,” he explained. “I'm not sure if either of your parents believed the excuse I made, but they didn't question it. They were too concerned with your well being.” This time, when he reached for her, she didn't back away. She let him hold her, relaxing in his embrace. “I'm sorry,” he apologized. “I didn't mean to shout at you.”

“I'm sorry, too,” she whispered.

There was nothing more to say, yet so many things that still needed to be discussed.  

And they would, he reminded himself; Emma promised they would talk.

He left her to get ready, though he didn't want to. Her parents, the king in particular, were already wary of their closeness. The last thing he wanted to do was give them a reason to have him executed.

There was a list of perfectly valid reasons already available.

“Killian!” He turned to see Snow rushing towards him. David wasn’t far behind. She waved away the formalities when they approached, then looked towards Emma’s door. “Is she awake yet? How is she?”

They’d both panicked the night before when Snow found her daughter was not in her room. After searching any place they thought she’d hide, they returned and found her sleeping peacefully in her bed.

Killian had done his best to explain what happened without giving away too much. He took responsibility for the burned rug, figuring they hadn’t seen her newfound powers, so there would be no reason to question him.

The king had protested when Killian said he’d watch over Emma, and they’d both returned several times during the night to check up on her… though he wasn’t an idiot, and knew they were keeping an eye on him as well. At least… David was. Snow seemed to trust Killian more than her husband did.

“Aye,” he nodded. “She’s awake and feeling much better. Needed a little space to dress and prepare for today though, so-“

“I’m sorry,” David interrupted. “You’re not implying that she’s still going to go through with this, are you?” When Killian nodded, the king shook his head. “You need to stop her.”

Yes, because that went over so well earlier .

“With all due respect, your majesty, she’s not mine to control.”

David didn’t seem to like that answer.

“I want her to stay safe just as much as you do,” he added. “And I’ll protect her with all I have. But you and I both know Emma.”

A look of understanding was on David’s face as he nodded. “You tell her no, and she’ll go do it anyway,” he said with rolled eyes.

“Her intentions are good,” Killian said. “Her reasons are good. I can’t lie and say I’m happy about it, but… she’s strong, brave, and I have no doubt she can do this.”

A loud crash echoed through the hall, followed by what sounded like a struggle.

Emma!

Killian was faster than her parents. They were still catching up when he threw open the door. “Bloody hell,” he muttered.

When they caught up, David gasped, and Snow shrieked.

There was a mess of things that had been knocked onto the floor, and the bed seemed to be broken. In the middle of the room, curled into a ball and shaking was a large, white dragon.

“Emma?” he asked softly.

Silence.

“Is that Emma?” Snow asked.

“I think so,” he answered. “Just… stay back for a moment.” The last thing he needed was for Emma to become even more frightened than she already was. Cautiously, he moved closer. “Sweetheart? It’s me… I’m here. You’re safe. Everything’s all right.”

Her head, which had been hidden under her wing, turned towards him. In the sunlight from the window, her scales reflected brilliant pinks, purples and yellows. When she opened her eyes, he knew. This was Emma, and she was-

“Beautiful…”

He wanted to transform, but there wasn’t enough room, so instead, he sat down. Emma - still silent, still looking just a bit unsure and very frightened - set her head on his lap. She was still shaking.

More sunlight reflected off of her, bringing out greens and blues. “You are gorgeous,” he told her, smiling when she relaxed a bit.

He wished she would speak.

“Can you tell me what happened?” he asked.

Nothing.

Absentmindedly, he scratched at the top of her head. He laughed when she tilted her head so he could scratch behind her ear. “Like that, do you? Perhaps now, you won’t make fun of me anymore.” When he felt she’d calmed down enough, he tried asking her again. “Can you tell me what happened?”

I don’t know ,” she said, sounding as though she were ashamed.

“Let me help you,” he said, placing a kiss to the top of her head. “Just try to relax, darling. Feel the magic, let it bring you back.” He waited patiently, could feel the magic as he continued to scratch her ear.

Snow and David rushed towards them when she transformed. She was still curled up in a ball, head in Killian’s lap. He held up a hand, silently begging them to wait. Anything could set her off. She needed to be handled gently for the time being, until her powers were more stable.

“Emma?” he brushed his fingers through her hair as she sat up slowly. She looked at him and just blinked. “You’re still a bit disoriented,” he observed. “Besides that, are you all right?”

Emma nodded, then turned to look at her parents, who had equal parts awe and terror in their expressions.

He didn’t want this for her. He hated seeing the people she loved the most, the people who were supposed to love her unconditionally, fear her.

There was nothing to fear. She was still the same Emma, just as he was still Killian no matter which form he took. The world never saw it that way though, and until he’d met Emma he’d never met anyone outside Dóiteán who didn’t look at him with fear.

Except perhaps Anton, but the man was a bloody giant and could crush him - even in dragon form - with his thumb.

Thankfully, her parents only hugged her. They didn’t say anything, though he was certain it was only because they were rendered speechless. The questions would come. The fear would take hold. They would never look at their only daughter the same way again.

And it was all his damned fault.

She couldn’t meet with the Dark One now. What if she accidentally transformed? What if she grew weak again? They needed to come up with another plan. “My love-”

“I’ll be okay,” she said cut him off, as though she read his mind. “I can still do this.”

“Are you sure, Emma?” David asked.

“Killian will be with me,” she said. “He isn’t going to let anything happen to me. But we need to hurry.” She pulled out of her parent’s embrace and stood up. “We’re already running late thanks to my little magical blunder.”

“Emma…” Snow sighed. “We can’t just ignore this.”

“We’ll talk about it later,” Emma assured her mother. “When I get back. I promise.”

Killian stood with her, pleased that she wasn’t unsteady on her feet. “Emma’s right,” he agreed. “Conversation can wait. The Dark One won’t be as forgiving when it comes to tardiness.”

They would have to explain everything, he guessed. But at least it was something they could worry about later.


Emma didn’t say anything about the dragon thing, and was grateful when Killian didn’t bring up the subject, either.

They didn't say much of anything really. The only thing Emma mentioned was wanting him closer than they'd originally planned. She wasn't sure how the Dark One would react, but with the accidental fire and transformation, she just couldn't trust herself to make it through alone.

“Are you all right?” He asked, once they landed.

“I’m fine,” she insisted as she slid off of his back.

When her feet were firmly planted on the ground, Killian transformed and gave her a dirty look. “What?”

“Please just be honest with me?” he begged.

She could understand his hesitance to believe her. After being so adamant about everything, and bottling up any fears she had, there was no reason to take her word for it when she said she was fine.

“I am being honest,” she said softly, taking his hand and lacing her fingers with his. “I know you’re worried, and you have every reason to be, but I promise, you will be the first to know if anything changes.”

“Well, isn’t that sweet?”

Killian instinctively pushed her back at the sound of the high-pitched giggle. Emma wanted to remind him that she needed to be the one to con Rumplestiltskin into a deal, but she couldn’t just blurt that out.

“I believe I said to come alone,” the Dark One frowned at them both. “No matter!” He waved his hand in the air, but nothing happened. “I suppose you could say that now we have a witness.” After a quick glance between the two of them, he scowled. “No funny business.”

“You know why we’re here,” Emma said, trying to look around Killian, who was still shielding her.

“Of course I do, dearie,” he giggled, “I arranged this whole thing. I suppose you think we’re going to make a deal?”

He already knew they had the dagger, but Emma was certain they could still use it as a bargaining chip. “A deal,” she nodded. “You leave Misthaven alone, and we’ll-”

“And you’ll what?” he snapped. “Just hand over the dagger? No. That’s too easy. You’ve freed my enemy, unleashed a race of beasts on a realm that’s lived peacefully for centuries-” he looked at Killian, who was tensing up. “Oh, that bothers you, doesn’t it? Having someone remind you exactly what you are.” He gave Killian a nasty grin as he formed the words: “ A monster .”

To say that things weren't going well was an understatement.

“That’s funny,” she laughed, “especially coming from someone like you.”

“Emma,” Killian hissed.

“Are you just going to let him-”

“We need to make the deal,” he reminded her.

Not that they really intended to make a deal, but she understood. Until Liam and Merlin had gotten Marella to safety, she and Killian were on their own. The squid ink would only last so long and, without Merlin to cut the darkness from him, it would be a waste. She supposed she could transport him to the dungeon that had been prepared, but with her magic on the fritz, it wouldn’t be easy.

“I do love a deal,” Rumplestiltskin giggled. “But I make the terms. You give me the dagger and your wizard friend, and I won’t completely obliterate your family. I’ll even throw in a bonus. I’ll let your dragon live, too.”

“And if we don’t agree to those terms?” Killian asked. He let out a little yelp when Emma pinched his side. They couldn’t seem too eager, because they needed to drag this all out, but they couldn’t be outright antagonistic either.

Emma tried a different approach. “Maybe we can negotiate?” She watched as the Dark One crossed his arms impatiently. “There was an offer on the table before,” she started.

Rumplestiltskin barked out a laugh. “Do you really think that offer would still hold any merit? I wouldn’t offer my son a dragon’s used plaything.

Dammit. Killian was starting to smoke.

“Of course not,” she rolled her eyes. “I’m just saying that the price-”

“Went up,” he nodded. “As it does when the stakes are higher, dearie. Now, are you going to give me what I ask, or is your lover here going to meet the same fate as his father?”

“What do you know of my father?” Killian asked hotly.

“More than you ever will,” came the chuckled reply. “Now, do we have a deal?”


Killian growled in response. He could feel Emma slip her arms around him, not in an attempt to hold him back, not that she could if she tried, but to comfort him.

"Later," she whispered.

Right. They needed to imprison the imp first, and then he would have all the time in the world to extract information. He took a deep breath, trying to calm the rage that was itching to get out. He placed a hand over hers, silently letting her know he was fine.

"I need to take care of this, Killian," she said quietly as she let go of him.

As much as it pained him to move away from the protective stance he'd taken, he stepped aside. She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek before moving forward to deal with Rumplestiltskin.

The Dark One looked on, amused. "Well, I guess we know who the boss is, don't we?" he taunted.

Killian rolled his eyes.

"You know we don't have the dagger here," she said, "nor do we have Merlin."

"Then you really are smarter than I anticipated," he said. A sly smirk crossed his face when Killian grunted out a curse.

Just a little longer. He reminded himself. He couldn't risk-

"Well, dearie, I do consider myself a man of honor-"

Killian couldn't help but laugh at that statement.

The Dark One shot him a dirty look, then turned back to Emma. "As I was saying," he continued. "The day is still young. How does nightfall sound?"

"What?" Emma asked.

"Nightfall," the Dark One nodded. "You bring the dagger and the wizard here by nightfall, and we have ourselves a deal."

A long, drawn out silence fell over them as Emma stalled. Acting as though she were considering the offer. Killian frowned. Where was Merlin?

"The clock is ticking," the Dark One reminded them.

Emma looked over at him. All he could do was shrug. The clock was ticking, and Merlin was nowhere to be found. They couldn't stall much longer. "We-"

"One more thing," Rumplestiltskin interrupted. "Since your friends decided to go on their little rescue mission, I'll need something else for collateral."

Bloody hell. He knew!

His attention centered on Killian. "I'm not sure why you'd go through all the trouble though... after what she did to you."

"Killian..."

It was too late. He knew he was being baited, but he took it anyway. "What the bloody hell are you talking about?"

"What if I told you that your mother came to me after she fled?" he asked. "Did you ever wonder why you can't remember anything before the island? Or why your dragon powers took so long to come in?"

Chapter Text

Once again, my amazing cover is by @hopeandbeans!

Art Links:

@couldnthandleit

Gifset 1

@hopeandbeans

Artwork 1//Artwork 2//Artwork 3//Artwork 4


I'm not sure why you'd go through all the trouble though... after what she did to you.  

Killian eyed the Dark One suspiciously. It was likely a lie, but... what if it wasn't?

"I..." he frowned. "I know she suppressed my powers… she was Nereid, she knew how." It was an attempt to both explain to the Dark One, and to justify it to himself. Liam had always believed that being raised so close to the sea had helped Mama to suppress his dragon powers.  That because she was a Nereid, she had already known about the potions she used to keep that side of him completely dormant until he’d grown too strong for them.  That the reason why his first adult transformation had been so violent was because of how long she’d kept him from accepting who he was.   

“She didn’t want to raise a monster,” the Dark One sneered.

Lie.  

“She had her reasons,” Killian argued. Holding his temper was becoming increasingly difficult, and while he knew that, for some reason, Rumplestiltskin was banking on him breaking, he played right into the Dark One’s hands anyway. 

“Killian!” He could hear Emma shouting at him, but ignored her pleas. 

“Her reasons!” the Dark one exclaimed. “She was ready to hand you over if I couldn’t fix you.” 

Merlin be damned, he was ending this here and now.

He lunged at the imp, only to crumple to the ground in agony. Fire lodged in his throat, only allowing him to choke out a scream. He felt as if he were being torn to shreds, his body trying to go in several different directions at once. A quick, pained glance at the Dark One gave him all the answers he needed. 

But the creature had to gloat.

"Your mother was so desperate to fix you," he giggled, "that she was willing to give me anything I asked of her." 

"What did you do to him?" he heard Emma shout.

Killian didn't want to even know what he looked like. Mangled was probably the best word for it. Emma rushed to him anyway, unfazed by his condition. A burst of fire escaped as another wave of pain ripped through him. He cried out, his howls sounding horrifying to his own ears. He could only imagine what they sounded like to everyone else. 

"A closed portal here, a drop of blood there," the Dark One sang, making absolutely no sense to anyone but himself. 

"Emma..." He'd killed her. The Dark One was going to kill him, and he would take Emma along for the ride. "I-”

"Shhh," she kissed his forehead. "You'll be all right."

It was an empty promise, but he knew she meant well. Killian squeezed his eyes shut, trying to will away the torture. He could hear the Dark One chanting, and Emma's soft footsteps in the grass. 

No.  

"Merlin," he tried to whisper, but it was too late. Emma had used the squid ink. The Dark One fell silent and Killian dared to open his eyes. It wouldn't last long, and without Merlin- 

"What the bloody hell happened?" he suddenly heard Liam bellow. 

Aside from the pain he was already in, the swirling magic added dizziness to his list of ailments. 

"I need him in a bed," Emma snapped. "Now!"

He could hear Emma continuing to bark out instructions to anyone within earshot as he faded from consciousness. 


“Where is Merlin?” Emma asked in a panic. 

The plan had been shot the second Killian attempted to transform. They couldn't wait for Merlin, and the element of surprise had long since passed. She had to use the squid ink. 

Fortunately, despite her transformation making her weak, she was able to get the three of them back to the palace. Rumplestiltskin was tucked away in the dungeon, unable to break free of the magical cell Merlin had concocted, and Killian... 

She wasn't sure what was going to happen to Killian. Her heart ached seeing him in such pain, and even though he'd been whisked away to the infirmary, she could still hear his screams. 

She hoped Merlin could fix him. 

"Where is Merlin?" she demanded again when no one answered her the first time. Angrily, she stormed through the halls, looking for her parents. As suspected, they were discussing the next plan of action with the army they'd formed, combining dragons among the ranks of Misthaven's finest. 

Emma hoped it wouldn't come to that.

Snow caught sight of her first, and rushed towards her. "You've returned! Emma, we were so worried!" Her father was a few steps behind, and before she knew it, Emma was trapped in a smothering hug. 

The dizziness from earlier had returned, and she swayed a bit. 

"Emma?" her father asked. 

"I'm fine," she said as she tried to steady herself. "I need Merlin, though. Have you seen him?" 

"He came back with Liam and Marella, then went to meet you and Killian," David said. "You never-"

"No..." she pulled out of their hold and started towards the hall. Something was very wrong. If Merlin arrived and noticed they weren't there... 

He might not assume they'd returned to Misthaven safely.

Her parents called after her, but she ignored them. She couldn't use her magic again, she felt far too weak, and the last thing she needed was a botched teleportation. She ran as fast as she could to the infirmary and found Liam, sitting at his brother's bedside. 

"I need you to take me back," she said.

"Back?" Liam looked at Killian who had, for the most part, been sedated but he still looked... 

Emma didn't want to think about what might happen if Merlin couldn't fix him.  "We need to find Merlin," she insisted. "Preferably before the Dark One's army finds its way here!"

The mention of Merlin caught his attention. Clearly, Liam hadn't realized the wizard was missing. Not that she could blame him, he was worried about his brother. "Just... let me..." He sighed, and looked at Killian again. 

"He's going to be fine," Emma stated. She wasn't going to rest until he was okay again. 

"Emma?" A tired, rough whisper came from Killian.

"I'm here," she said softly as she kissed his temple. "Everything's going to be all right," she assured him.

"Of course it is," Liam agreed. Whether he actually agreed, or was just trying to comfort his brother, she didn't know, but he was going to help her now, and that was all that mattered. "Emma and I are going to bring Merlin back to fix this bloody mess." 


Flying with Liam felt almost wrong. With Killian, there was a closeness in addition to the thrill of being airborne. Plus, she fit just nicely on his back, as though she was always meant to fly with him. 

Liam was rough and uncomfortable. His flight pattern was shaky as well. She assumed it had a lot to do with the fact that he hadn’t been airborne in centuries.  

“Sorry, lass,” Liam apologized.

Had he heard her?  

“I’m a little out of practice,” he said as he began to descend. “Killian told me you’d fallen ill last night. I hope I haven't shaken you too much.” 

Emma sighed in relief. He hadn’t heard her after all.

They landed in the small clearing where she’d met with the Dark One not long ago. Merlin was nowhere to be seen. “Was he ever here?” Emma asked. 

Liam took a moment to observe, then nodded towards the woods. “He hasn’t gone far,” he whispered. He started walking towards the woodline, and Emma followed.

“He’s not expecting friends,” he reminded her, “so be careful.”

Emma nodded, and continued to follow. 

When they found Merlin, he was hunched over, drawing in the dirt. Emma wasn't sure what he was doing, but he was concentrating hard on the task at hand. "Merlin?" she asked softly. Liam shot her a dirty look, and she shrugged. Silence wasn't going to catch the wizard's attention, what else was she supposed to do? 

"Emma?" Merlin asked as he stood slowly. "I thought... I thought something happened to you!"

"We're fine," she said, then frowned. "kind of. Killian tried to transform, and the Dark One did... something to him. He's trapped between forms, and in a lot of pain. I couldn't wait for you, so I did what I could to bring us all back so we could imprison the Dark One."

"I must have arrived shortly after you left," he sighed. "I could sense something terrible happened, but the details were fuzzy. I thought perhaps the Dark One had you back in his castle. After my adventure with Liam, I wasn't able to just sneak in again. I've been working on a spell to break through his defenses, but haven't been very successful."

"How?" Emma asked. "Rumplestiltskin is trapped." 

"Where there's a will, there's a way," Merlin stated. "He has plans in place for scenarios just like this." 

"I also highly doubt he's the only mage in the kingdom," Liam added. "He likely has a trusted few to lead the way in his absence."

Merlin nodded in agreement. "He also has an army, which I'm certain is now headed towards your kingdom. Even if I stop him, we still need to deal with them. So, let's not delay any further."

In an instant, Emma found herself back in her palace. Merlin had brought them right to Killian, who was sleeping now, but none too peacefully.   

"The Dark One mentioned blood," Emma said, as Merlin looked at Killian.  "And I'm assuming that has something to do with it."

"Blood magic," he nodded. "It's possible, but we'd have to talk to Marella to know for sure."

"She's resting," Liam stated, though Emma figured Merlin already knew that. Whatever happened had kept her from running to be with her ailing son, so Emma could only assume she'd endured something horrible at the Dark One's castle.

"Once I strip the Dark One of his powers, Killian should be fine." 

"Should?" Liam and Emma asked at the same time. 

"We'll fix this," he assured them. "There is always a way. Now, Emma, if you'd like to accompany me-" 

"I want to stay with Killian," she said. "So, if you don't absolutely need me for anything... I just want to be here with him."

"I understand," Merlin agreed. "I'll send for you if I need you."

"I might not be of any assistance," Liam said, "but this man harmed my family. If you'd like some company, I'll gladly join you." 

He waited for Merlin to agree, then sighed. "I promise I won't kill him."

"Thank you," Merlin chuckled. "There's still information we'll need from him, so killing him wouldn't be very helpful." 

After Merlin and Liam left the room, Emma grabbed Killian's hand and held it tight. A little whimper escaped him, but he didn't open his eyes or move. "It's going to be okay," she tried to assure him, though she was beginning to have doubts herself. Even Merlin seemed unsure of whether or not stripping the Dark One of his powers would fix things.

She laid her head next to his, and closed her eyes. Each passing second felt like an eternity. How long did it take to cut away someone's darkness? The longer she waited, the more she expected Merlin to come back with bad news.  

Suddenly, Killian let out a groan, and squeezed her hand. She sat up again and did what she could to soothe him. "I'm here," she said softly. 

A bright light filled the room, forcing her to shield her eyes. When the room dimmed again, Killian was lying there, looking at the ceiling in confusion. She let out a laugh, that was more relief than humor.

He blinked a couple times, then turned his head to look at her. "What happened?" he asked. Then, before Emma could answer, he sat up and shook his head. "I'm certain there isn't time to explain. Where's the bloody Dark One?" 

"You need to relax, brother," Liam ordered, his voice echoing through the infirmary and startling Emma. 

She turned to greet Merlin and Liam as they returned. Despite the grim looks on their faces, the fact that Killian was better meant they'd succeeded.

"I need answers!" Killian shouted.

"We'll get them," Emma tried to remain calm, hoping it would help him see reason. "But right now, he can't hurt anyone, and we have other things to think about." 

"His army still approaches," Merlin confirmed. "Though, I have a feeling that once they know their king can't protect them anymore, they won't be so willing to fight for him."

It was a long shot. 

"Wait," Emma turned when she heard Killian shuffling around. His legs were dangling off the bed, and he looked as though he were about to stand. "What do you think you're doing?" 

"What does it look like I'm doing?" He rolled his eyes and hopped off the bed. "I'm not letting you do this on your own." 

She wanted to tell him no. Should tell him no. He might even listen to her. But there was something in his eyes that she couldn't quite decipher.

"I know you're capable, Emma," he said. "You don't need me, but I..."

"Need to protect me," she nodded. 

He shrugged and smiled sheepishly in response. In a way, his overwhelming desire to protect her could get on her nerves. But it came from a good place, and she couldn't fault him for that. 

"I love you," she told him instead of admonishing him. 

Killian pulled her into a tight hug. "I love you, too," he whispered. 

A feigned gag had them both laughing. "I would prefer to not be nauseous while I'm frying my enemies," Liam grumbled.  

"We will need heavy fire power," Merlin said, veering the subject towards their next mission. "Both yours and ours. Emma, I'll need you to help me with their mages. Killian, Liam… I’d like for you to meet with the king and queen. I’ll need both of you to assist us on the battlefield."

“I won’t be far,” Killian gave her a quick kiss, then moved to follow Liam out of the room.

Killian was worried about her, and in the process, seemed to forget about himself.

“He just woke up,” Emma told Merlin. “Is it really wise for him to charge into battle? Even if he is just helping us, that still puts him and Liam in danger.” 

Liam wasn’t at as much a disadvantage as Killian, but he was still getting used to having his powers back. Their rescue mission had proven that he was still a bit unsteady. 

“I promise you, Emma, he’ll be fine.”  When she gave him a look she hoped conveyed her disbelief, he sighed. “I won’t let anything happen to them. Or you.” 

Satisfied that it was the best she was going to get, she nodded in agreement. “After you,” she said, gesturing towards the door.

Merlin still had a protection spell over Misthaven, which held the army back fairly well. Even the mages were having trouble breaking through. Despite the army’s size, the number of mages was small.

Rumplestiltskin truly did have only a trusted few. 

Three trusted advisors and a handful of lower level apprentices were their contenders, leaving Emma and Merlin outnumbered magically. He had given her a spell that would bind their powers but it involved getting up close and personal, which meant seeking out and finding them amongst the crowd. 

They were smart enough to stay hidden.

"They'll need to be close," Merlin had informed her, "but they'll do whatever they can to blend in. Killian and Liam can get us there and they can provide cover for us." 

She didn't have to ask to know what he wasn't saying. They still needed to be careful. Magic and dragons didn't mean an easy fight, and it especially didn't mean an automatic win. 

When she walked in on the conference her parents were meeting with their top ranking soldiers. She listened for a moment, becoming more frustrated as the men spoke. It felt as though some of them may have assumed that they had nothing to fear with the dragons on their side. Killian and Liam attempted to warn them, and her parents tried to caution them, but their warnings went unheeded as the men felt gloating over their victory was already in order. 

"That is exactly the kind of thinking that is going to get you killed!" Emma snapped.

It wasn't appropriate, but it was a better option than knocking their heads. 

Suddenly, she had the attention of everyone in the room. Uncomfortable with having all eyes on her, she looked over at Killian, who offered her an encouraging smile, and nodded for her to continue. 

Emma wasn't a stranger to public appearances, nor was she so sheltered that she didn't understand how these types of meetings worked. Her parents had allowed her to sit in during the discussions of the most recent threats, though she had only observed. 

Now, everyone was expecting something from her.

"I... um..." she felt her cheeks grow hot as she tried to keep from stammering. "I didn't mean to interrupt," she started again. "But... the dragons, as powerful as they are, aren't invulnerable. You need to listen to what Liam and Killian are saying, what my parents are saying. If you just run in there thinking this is going to be easy, you're only going to get yourselves killed, and that's not helping anyone." 

She hoped for the best - that without their leader the army would surrender faster. But she wasn't naive enough to think that was the only outcome. There was a very real chance they would fight to the death. 

"Thank you, Emma," her father said. His words were stern, but somehow, she knew the tone wasn't directed towards her interruption, but to drive in the point she'd just made. Whether or not their men would change their attitude towards the war was debateable, but in that moment, she could see it in her father's eyes... 

He was proud of her.

As frightened as her parents were, as much as they insisted on keeping her safe, they supported her decision to play an active role. 

After the room had cleared, Snow smiled at Emma. "I guess this means we have to push that talk back a little further."

"I almost forgot all about that," Emma sighed. Not that she could ever forget that she'd turned into a dragon, but she hadn't exactly been thinking of how to explain it to her parents.

"Shall we go, love?" Killian asked. 

The sound of the approaching army was getting louder, and Emma knew it wouldn't be long. Already, she could hear the dragons taking off and attacking. 

She nodded, doing all she could to appear brave as Killian led her out of the room. Inside though, her heart was racing, and her fears wouldn't quiet down.

"I'll go fetch Merlin," Liam said as he trailed behind them. "Still where we left him?"

Emma nodded, still unable to find the strength to speak. Liam thanked her and took off, reminding them that he would see them again soon. 

On the battlefield.

"Emma, you don't have to do this," Killian stated. 

"So, I'm supposed to just let you go and hope for the best?" she asked. "I can't do that, Killian. There are people out there who are depending on me. I can't just let Merlin handle everything. We can cover more ground with two people. They still outnumber us, but our odds are a little better this way." 

Merlin had told her how to find the mages and having a dragon transport would help them move quickly.

But then, there was Killian, who had only just recovered from his latest injury. "What about you?"

"I wouldn't dare put your life in danger, Swan," he said. "If I didn't feel as though I could handle it, you would have a different dragon flying you all over creation."

That made her feel slightly better.

"Guess it's time to go then, don't you think?" she asked. 

There wasn't much room to transform in the hall, so Killian led her to the nearest balcony. Emma distanced herself until he transformed, then climbed up onto his back. Within seconds, they were airborne, headed straight for the thick of things. 

A quick glance confirmed that Merlin and Liam were out, too. 

Perfect. 

"Lead the way, Swan," Killian said as he swooped down towards the battlefield. Men were running, leaving him to wonder how much of their loyalty was voluntary, and how much was magical hold.  

"Focus on those who aren't fleeing for the hills," he told Emma. The mages would be more arrogant. He'd witnessed firsthand the invincibility a novice mage felt once they'd cast their first spell.  

The more experienced mages knew better, likely due to being knocked on their arses a few times. 

While Emma focused, he did what he could to clear a path for the army below, careful to avoid injuring Misthaven's soldiers.

Finally, Emma found what she was looking for. She guided him closer to a group of three men. They didn't run at the sight of a dragon coming straight towards them. In fact, they didn't look fearful at all. Killian dodged the magical blasts they fired at him as he tried to get close enough for Emma to do what she needed to do.

He almost let out a triumphant roar when the three mages suddenly found they were without powers, but kept calm.

There was still more to do. They hadn't won yet.

He veered up into the sky and away from the men as two more dragons went in for the capture. The mages, along with any other survivors, would meet the same fate as the Dark One. Imprisonment. Merlin had magically reinforced more cells to ensure the mages would not be getting their powers back. 

They continued, working their way through the battlefield. Killian kept count of each mage Emma stopped, knowing full well he wanted to gloat about it when everything was over.

"Two more!" Emma shouted. 

They were actually running away. 

Killian gave chase, catching up with them in seconds.  Just as he moved to swoop down, he felt it. Emma let go too soon, and instead of firing a spell at the two mages, she slipped away from him. 

"No!" 

His despair was short lived, and his rescue unnecessary. Just beneath him, was Emma... transformed. 

She was staying airborne, though her motions were clumsy. This was no place for a dragon with no experience, but he was grateful she found some sort of footing. Now he only hoped she didn't snap out of the transformation just as quickly.

"Stay with me, love," he instructed, getting lower so he could attempt to guide her. 

"We need to get those two," she said, still focused on the task at hand.  

"Can you still use your magic?" he asked. 

"We're about to find out!"  

He watched as she stopped the two mages. How she managed, she wasn't sure, but their powers were bound, and they were ready for capture. "I'll just grab these two, and we'll head back to the castle," Killian said. "What do you say, love?" 

"I can grab one," she protested. 

"Too dangerous." He swooped down and grabbed the two men, then rejoined her. "You need to learn how to fly a bit better before you start adding extra weight." 

To his surprise, she didn't protest. She followed him as best she could, while he tried to instruct her on how to move, and how to dodge attacks without crash landing. By the time the reached the palace, he could see she was having trouble. 

He dropped down so he could leave the men with the guards, then returned to Emma. "You need space, love," he said. "Landings are tricky." 

Killian did what he could to guide her to the courtyard. It wasn't ideal, but it was the best they had at the moment. He only needed to make sure she didn't crash into the building.

If her flying was clumsy, her landing was a complete disaster. She hit the ground hard, barely missing landing on - and injuring - her wings. She transformed as she came to a skidding halt, not letting out a single sound, despite the pain she must have felt. 

"Emma!"

Killian transformed, and picked her up off the ground. "Emma, love, are you all right?" 

She was bruised and bloody from the impact, but he could see she was still breathing. Finally, her eyes fluttered open, and she gave him a weak smile. "I think I need to work on my landing," she said with a soft giggle.

He wasn’t sure if he wanted to yell at her or kiss her. 


In the end, Killian forgot the numbers he'd collected during their battle. Emma insisted they didn't matter. 

She was right, of course. After her crash landing, she'd spent a night under the close watch of her family. Killian did what he could to heal her, but neither he nor her parents were comfortable until Doc cleared her.

Killian, Snow, and David all sat by her bedside, much to the Doctor’s dismay as he insisted she needed rest. 

"Graceful as always, Swan," Killian teased when she woke the next morning.

"Did we win?" she asked. 

"You're in the infirmary, not the dungeon," he informed her. "Of course we won." 

"We'll need time to repair things," Merlin said. Killian turned to see him standing in the doorway. "We now have a kingdom without a king. While the Dark One will never again have the power he once did, another will take his throne at some point. It will likely be his son, Baelfire." 

"He has no magic," David stated, worry apparent in his tone. "Unless something's changed?"

"No," Merlin confirmed. "But he won't be pleased with the outcome here, and could possibly seek revenge."

Baelfire's rage was no matter. He didn't have magic, and the one dark wizard with enough power to potentially best Merlin had been defeated.

“We’ll deal with that when we need to,” Snow said. “Right now, I need to talk to my daughter.”

And, ” Charming added, “her dragon.”

“I believe that’s my cue to leave,” Merlin chuckled. He grinned at Killian, “Good luck, my friend.” 

Good luck indeed.

Killian kept his expression as neutral as possible, then looked over at Emma’s parents. They didn’t look angry, or even mildly upset, just curious. It was a bit of relief, even if he didn’t know what to say. He and Emma hadn’t had the chance to discuss it amongst themselves, and now they likely had to explain something neither of them really understood. 

“It was my idea,” Emma began. She then explained it all, though she left out a few of the more personal details. By the end of it, he expected to meet the same fate as the Dark One. He tried to take some of the blame, after all, he had been a willing participant, but Emma was quick to shush him. 

But her parents weren’t naive. They knew she was covering for him, if even just a little bit.

There were things they couldn’t quite explain, such as why Emma seemed to take on a whole new set of powers, but Snow and David seemed to take most of that rather well. 

It was the secret wedding that they couldn’t stomach. It helped that neither he, nor Emma, described it as such, but he got the feeling her parents made the connection. 

David looked hurt, and Snow looked unsure of what to say.

“You didn’t think to include us?” David asked. The question was directed at Emma, but Killian couldn’t help but feel guilty. 

“Dad...” Emma sighed. “You would have tried to talk me out of it.”

“She has a point,” Snow agreed. 

“And isn’t that my right as her father?” David snapped. “To try and stop her from making poor decisions?” 

Snow placed a hand on her husband’s arm in an attempt to calm him down. Judging by the look he gave her, it wasn’t working. “David-”

“Don’t David me!” he shouted.

“Do you not remember that she was engaged to a flying monkey? That we let her get engaged to a flying monkey? Look at where that landed us. Now, you want me to just be okay with the fact that she’s gotten herself eternally bound to…” he looked at Killian, and changed his mind about whatever he was planning on saying.  

“You were engaged ,” he said. “Wasn’t that enough for you? You couldn’t wait until after-”

“I said it was my idea!” Emma shouted. “Blame me!”

“I could have said no,” Killian interjected. 

He could have sworn he heard David mutter, “Damn right,” under his breath. 

“I thought we were going to die,” Emma said softly. “I figured if we lived through it, we could have the wedding that I know you and mom have been planning since I was a little girl. But if we didn’t…” 

She shook her head, unable to finish the statement. 

“We love each other.” She grabbed Killian’s hand and smiled at him. 

David seemed to accept that answer, and even apologized for his outburst. 

“So…” Snow sounded almost excited. “Does this mean you still want a wedding?” 

The pain that was still evident in David’s eyes all but melted away when Emma nodded enthusiastically. 


Emma looked stunning in red. 

She looked stunning in anything, really, but red? Red suited her. 

“Swan,” he grinned as she joined him on the terrace. 

“Hook,” she teased. “Are you planning on staying out here for the entire celebration? It looks pretty bad when I’m in there, and my fiance is out here sulking.” 

“Apologies, my love, I had no intention of making you look bad. Nor was I sulking.” He slipped an arm around her waist, and pulled her close to his side. She giggled when he kissed the top of her head.

It truly wasn’t any way to behave at a royal ball, but he didn’t care. Emma was safe and in his arms. To him, nothing else mattered. 

Two months had passed. Two long, rough months. Rumplestiltskin still sat in a prison cell. His kingdom looked to be on the way to ruin, his son mysteriously vanished.  Zelena had disappeared as well, though Killian assumed she’d met her fate at the hands of the Dark One.

Emma was getting stronger when it came to both her magic and her newfound dragon powers. Any evidence that she had been knocked about in her first crash landing had long since vanished, though Killian knew that beneath her dress was a nasty scrape on her elbow from her latest flying lesson.

Liam and Mother returned to Dóiteán shortly after the war had ended. There were things the two of them wanted to patch up and Killian had stepped aside, knowing Liam needed it.

They had come to visit for the engagement ball, but save for a short conversation here and there, Killian had yet to truly settle things with her. It wasn’t for lack of effort. At the heart of it all, he’d forgiven her, but he still wanted answers. 

It would all take time. 

“Hey,” she nudged him a bit to get his attention. “Everything’s going to be okay. You know that, right?” 

“Aye love, I do.”

“I don’t remember much from my last engagement ball,” she said as she rested her head on his shoulder, “but I do remember not wanting to be there.”

He chuckled at that, and realized that it wasn’t so long ago that she’d found him hopelessly in over his head, trying to break into the servant's quarters.

“And now?” he asked. “Is this something you wish to escape?”

“Not a chance.”

“Perhaps once we’re wed… again … your father will let us spend some actual time together.” He turned to her and raised a suggestive eyebrow. “Or should I say, we’ll no longer have to sneak around?”

David had been relentless in defending his daughter’s honor, insisting that if Killian was to stay in the palace, he’d be staying as far away from Emma’s room as possible.

“Knowing my father? We’ll still have to sneak around.” she quipped. “But he’s the least of our worries.”

She gave him a silly smile. “I think there are dragons in these parts. As a matter of fact, one showed up at the last ball, and stole me right off of this very terrace.”

“No,” he feigned disbelief.

“I hope some magical beast doesn’t carry me off on an adventure this time…”

“Darling,” he laughed, “your adventures with this magical beast have only just begun.”