Chapter 1: Part One
Amazing artwork courtesy of itrustyoutokillme (@artistic-writer)
Dust filled the air as another heavy canvas was removed from the piece of furniture it had been tasked with protecting for many decades. Suppressing a cough, Emma Swan opened a few more windows in order to allow some fresh air in and let the staleness of the room out.
She was well accustomed to the stagnant and musty remnants of disuse in old homes. In fact, she made her livelihood off it. Well, restoring it, anyway. The homes, not the mustiness and decay. That would be weird.
Emma Swan was a sought after restorationist of historical homes and buildings. She loved history, and with the assistance of her handy brother and sister-in-law, she’d been able to turn her love of the past into a successful business that provided for her and her son’s present and future.
Her latest endeavor had brought them all the way to a small port town in England. Misthaven boasted a proud history tied to local lore of pirates and privateers, thanks to the grand three hundred year old manor house that sat upon the cliffs just outside the village that was once reportedly owned by a notorious sea captain.
Over the last several decades, the manor had fallen into disrepair due to its vacancy. Though it was still owned, in trust, by descendents of the original family who built the manor centuries ago, no one had actually lived there for nearly forty years. The family and local historical society wished to see it restored to its original splendor, hoping to draw in some tourism dollars with tours and activities, no doubt.
The manor’s curator, for lack of a better term, had led Emma and her team up to the attic where many of the original furnishings, artworks, and heirlooms resided. It was as good a place as any for Emma to begin her investigative work on the property. Research would have to be done in order to determine the course of decisions made about the restoration. Several remodels and renovations had occurred over the manor’s lifetime, and getting it back to its original state (with some modifications for modern convenience - hello electricity and running water) would take some sleuthing into historical records and references. The more Emma could learn about the manor and its original owners, the better.
Which made the attic’s contents a veritable gold mine of information. Furnishings, portraits, trinkets, knick-knacks, books, personal documents, it was like Christmas morning for Emma as she painstakingly uncovered each piece. Her excitement and intrigue sparked with each fresh discovery, but it was probably the large portrait she had located late in the day that had caught her interest the most.
Her son, Henry, had just arrived with Emma’s sister-in-law, Mary Margaret, telling her that they had picked up dinner, when she’d pulled the last heavy canvas from the framed artwork that was at least a foot taller than she was. Standing before her was the life sized rendering of an incredibly handsome man, garbed in full leather and braced at the helm of a ship. The bronze placard displayed on the ornate frame identified him as Captain Killian Jones.
“You’ve found our local legend, I see,” chirped the curator, a petite blonde woman with a tinkling voice and bubbly exuberance about her.
“Legend?” Emma inquired.
Though she preferred to ground her decisions about a project in fact, Emma knew that legends, tales, and folklore could hold valuable pieces of information as well. The stories had to have a basis of truth behind them somewhere, and those little nuggets could often lead her to revelations about a property and it’s history that records never could.
“Oh, yes,” the curator answered enthusiastically. “His story is well known around these parts. He’s part of the reason we’re eager to have the manor restored. The Legend of Captain Killian Jones is a big draw to the area, his family built the manor.”
“What makes his story so compelling?” Mary Margaret asked.
“Oh, probably the fact that he’s the ghost that haunts this place,” she quipped in reply.
“There’s a ghost?!” Henry exclaimed excitedly.
“There’s no such things as ghosts, kid.”
300 years ago…
Captain Killian Jones loved the sea. The freedom of the open horizon, the promise of adventure it offered while enticing you into uncharted and unknown circumstances that could result in great delight or peril. He never thought he’d find anything as satisfying as the smell of brine in his lungs or the salty spray against his face. Never thought anything could knock him off the perfectly honed balance he had cultivated during his many years on turbulent seas.
Not until he’d met her.
Now he knew better, for her rose scent and light kisses against his cheek were just as satisfying to his senses as that which the sea offered. After their first meeting in the tavern that fateful night he hadn’t been able to regain his bearings until he saw her again. Saw her and convinced her to run away with him, leaving her pathetic excuse of a husband and her lonely life behind. Which she did, happily.
Unfortunately, she hadn’t just left a marriage behind, but a child as well. A son. Too young to endure the trials and hardships of sea-faring, Killian had promised they’d come back for him one day when he was older. So far, that day had not come.
Over their many years together she had not once asked him to return for her son, and he selfishly never offered, too happy with the existence they currently shared, and too unwilling to raise another man’s child. A selfish pirate, indeed. He wanted a child of his own, not some surrogate, so when she confessed to suspecting she might be with child, he had insisted she stay behind at his family’s manor while he went on his latest venture.
Overdue on his return by a fortnight thanks to the garrison in Gibraltar (one country’s privateer is another country’s pirate), Killian was anxious to return and discover the answer to the question that had been plaguing him for five long weeks.
Was he to be a father?
As the lighthouse along the cliffs of his home shores came into view, Captain Jones gave the order to make port at the private dock on his family’s estate. Visions of reuniting with his love, her belly beginning to swell with the evidence of his child danced through his mind. He barely waited for them to dock the ship before barking out his last orders and making haste toward his manor on the clifftop; a sense that everything about his life was about to change surged through him.
He’d never been more right, and had never wished to be more wrong.
They’d started work in the east wing. Emma, Henry, David (Emma’s brother and the project foreman), and Mary Margaret (his wife and their business manager) usually preferred to live on site during their projects, and this one was no different. Though the west wing needed the most work in regards to stripping it back down to its original condition, it was actually the most conducive for comfort when it came to day-to-day living. It was already wired for electricity and had, somewhat, updated bathrooms, and a decent kitchen. So for the past seven weeks, they’d focused on restoring the east wing while making do in the west.
Those first days were like mini treasure hunts as Emma and her team explored the passage of time through layers of paint, wallpaper, flooring, and add-ons. David combed back decades, centuries even, trying to find the true origins of the grand estate through careful excavation of plaster and moldings while Emma scoured the artifacts stored away in the attic in an attempt to discover who and what had made it a home.
Henry delighted in the vastness. Exploring rooms that had been deemed safe, he lost himself to the more imaginative aspects of his ten-year-old nature as he questioned whether or not any hidden passages had been discovered or whether there was truly a ghost that haunted the house and grounds.
Which, of course, there wasn’t.
“There’s no such things as ghosts,” Emma kept affirming to her son. Every odd quirk and strange nuance about the manor could absolutely be explained logically - even if that logical explanation wasn’t completely apparent to her at the time of their occurrences.
Occurrences like the study door always being locked no matter how many times she had expressly stated that all doors needed to remain unlocked, or that the door’s key frequently went missing only to be discovered in the most random of locations. Locations where work had not even begun yet, and therefore had no reason for someone to be traipsing about misplacing keys.
Other strange things tickled the recesses of Emma’s mind and practicality as well. Things she hadn’t mentioned to anyone, and wondered if others had experienced them, too. Things like the faint sound of a piano playing at night. There was a piano in the house, but it looked as though it hadn’t been touched in years. There was also the humming she sometimes thought she heard along one particular corridor in the east wing. Humming that was always accompanied by an intoxicatingly masculine scent. A mixture of leather and sea and spice that she had caught a whiff of on several occasions throughout the manor, and had her covertly sniffing at the male members of the crew like a loon in order to try and identify its origin.
Then there was also the feeling that she was sometimes being watched. It didn’t unnerve her, per se, but it was definitely an acute awareness that times when she thought she was alone she felt as though she wasn’t. These moments usually culminated with a feeling that something might have brushed against her cheek or her hair, sending a shiver of wonder down her spine before the overwhelmingness of the experience vaporized and she was left assuredly alone once again.
Alone, and maybe even a tad lonely. Whatever she was experiencing was comforting, not frightening, which was another mark against the idea of a ghost. Which she absolutely did not believe in. Ghosts were supposed to scare and intimidate you with their presence, weren’t they? This was nothing like that.
Perhaps it was all just a working of her subconscious? Emma found herself feeling quite at home and at peace in the manor in a way she hadn’t experienced anywhere else. She was drawn to the history of the place and had spent many hours pouring over the personal effects and documents of its previous owners.
One owner in particular - one of the estate’s original owners, and the person whose legend was part and parcel the reason she was there in the first place - captivated her more than any other. Captain Killian Jones. While logging the possessions within the attic that first week, Emma had come across a trunk once belonging to the captain himself. Within it contained a number of journals, penned in his own hand, as well as a collection of letters he wrote to and received from the woman, legend said, he loved most dearly and lost so tragically. Milah.
The wife of another, she had left her marriage and a son in order to run off with the dashing sea captain. At times she had accompanied Captain Jones on his travels, and other times she’d remained behind at the manor when his mission was deemed too dangerous for her to accompany him. He was a privateer for England, but a pirate to other nations. A ruthless man by reputation, his name alone striking fear into the hearts of his enemies, to whom he rarely gave quarter or showed mercy, but Emma discovered within his personal journals and letters that Captain Killian Jones was a more complicated man than the legend gave him credit for.
Well… legends. Plural. Depending on who you asked within the small town of Misthaven, there were a few variations of the tale.
One legend spoke of a pirate with a black heart, whose dastardly deeds had earned him a fate worse than death. A man who murdered his lover when he discovered her infidelity, but not before being cursed by her as she lay dying on the rocky shores below the cliffs.
Another tale insisted that it was his infidelity that had caused the woman to fling herself from the cliffs of the estate. An action made even more grievous by the added detail that she may have been pregnant at the time.
Still another spoke of a tragic misunderstanding whereby the woman received word that her lover had been lost at sea, or hung by the garrison of an enemy nation for piracy, and in her despondency, she ended her life in order to reunite with him on the other side. Of course, he had not suffered either such fate and he’d actually arrived only moments later to find her broken body on the rocks.
Many added a spin of some sort of curse or evil spell befalling the captain as a punishment for his dark deeds and selfishness. A curse or spell that, some said, allowed him to become flesh every hundred years so he might have an opportunity to break it. A romantic and sentimental notion that usually had something to do with true love and not repeating mistakes from the past.
One detail remained the same in each tale, however. A detail that, by all accounts, held the merit of truth. The body of Captain Killian Jones had never been found or recovered. His place within the family mausoleum laid empty, further fueling the belief that he’d been cursed or fated to haunt the estate where he lost his love, for all eternity.
Actual historical records documented the return of Captain Jones’ ship in the fall of 1717, with the crew testifying to the fact that the captain had gone ashore at the private dock of the estate. The Jones’ butler had given an account that the captain had arrived at the manor, but then quickly left in search of his lady love. His lover’s body had been discovered the next morning upon the shores beneath the cliff and no one saw or heard from Captain Jones again.
Emma didn’t believe for one moment that the man had murdered his lover. His care, devotion, and love for her poured out through the ink he’d penned on the pages of his love letters. Captain Jones had wanted a future with Milah. Her name may have been lost to time within the recanting of the legend over the centuries, but it had been held with the highest regard and reverence on those yellowed pages where he had addressed her as his dearest or beloved Milah.
The man had wanted a family and a future. It was clear from his last journal entries that he was hopeful at the prospect that Milah might be with child, his eagerness to return to her and learn the truth jumping from the page. Not just that, but a fresh resolve as well. A resolve to set something right. Something he had become consumed with guilt and shame over, but hadn’t had courage enough to actually confess it within his leather bound logbook.
Killian burst through the large doors leading into the grand foyer of the manor.
“Milah?” he called out in happy anticipation.
“Captain? You’re back! How wonderful to see you, sir!” Mathers, the Jones’ butler, greeted.
“It’s good to be back, Mathers. Could you tell me where Ms. Milah is?”
“Certainly, sir. She went walking out by the cliffs. I’m surprised she hasn’t come back by now. Surely she would have seen you make port at the dock? Shall I have one of the servants go fetch her for you?”
“That won’t be necessary,” Killian dismissed as he crossed through to the back of the house and made his way out onto the verandas.
He surveyed the sprawling back lawns for a glimpse of her silhouette in the moonlight, then made his way towards the lower lawn that edged the cliffs when he did not readily see her from the house. His pulse raced in anticipation, for as impatient as he was to hear the news of her condition, Killian had his own news to share. News of a decision he‘d made that would change things every bit as much as a babe. The decision to do the right thing.
Killian had spent many nights at sea contemplating fatherhood these past several weeks, and one such contemplation had dogged every moment of joy he’d allowed himself to feel over the prospect. The knowledge that he had left a child utterly abandoned by its mother. He’d come to consider the possibility that perhaps Milah had wanted to return to her son, but had never pressed him to do so because she thought he would refuse, or would make her choose. His love or her son’s.
He would have gone for the boy if she’d asked, but he’d been content to leave things as they were, so he’d never offered. He’d selfishly wanted her all to himself, and had allowed an innocent boy to suffer the consequences of that self-centeredness. A wrong he aimed to set right, which was why, during his hold over in Gibraltar, he’d sent word to the boy and his father requesting they come to Misthaven. He’d made provision for their passage, and expected they might arrive any day, should they have accepted the offer. He hoped to surprise Milah with the news, and celebrate with her the increase of their family.
If he ever found her, that is. Where could she have gone?
Let’s see her find it this time, Killian challenged silently to himself as he left the key to his study in a long forgotten drawer in the butler’s pantry, a sly smile pulling at his lips as he swept from the room.
When the Swan girl and her team had arrived, Killian had determined to simply stay out of their way. He’d had to contend with the living on and off for the last three hundred years, and the manor provided ample space for avoidance. Usually. This time things were different. These weren’t people attempting to carve out a cozy living space within the vast number of rooms and floors. No. They were there for an altogether different purpose. Restoration.
A project his brother’s descendants, through the family trust, and the local community had spearheaded in order to combat the wasting decay that had befallen the manor in recent decades. A mission to bring back the splendor that had once been prevalent throughout the estate. A splendor Killian felt could never be fully restored, seeing as how a curse held the entire property within its holding. The curse of him - Captain Killian Jones, the legendary ghost of Misthaven that had haunted the Jones Manor for nearly three centuries.
Three centuries of existing just out of step with the living around him.
It had nearly driven him mad those first few decades, watching his brother live out his life with a wife and children at his side. Liam had returned to Misthaven from his station in London after his little brother had gone missing, refusing to give up the search for some sign of Killian’s whereabouts. Killian had yet to acquire the skill of object manipulation, and attempting to communicate with his brother had been useless. No one could see or hear him. He was damned to the audience of his brother’s grief, and then tormented by the life Liam had the privilege to enjoy as he raised a family and experienced the love of the same woman until he took his last breath.
Killian had hoped that when the moment of Liam’s passing came he might have the opportunity to be reunited with him, but his curse made it impossible. Killian realized then that he did not exist on the same plane as the living or the dead. He was isolated. Alone. Forever cursed to walk the halls and grounds of the place where he had lost everything.
In the centuries since, Killian sequestered himself to the parts of the manor far removed from its living occupants. A feat made easier over time as modern conveniences and societal norms called for less servants and less use of rooms deemed outdated in their purpose. In the boredom of his existence he’d learned how to interact with the world around him in limited measure, but drew a line at engaging with actual people. Oh, he’d certainly made his presence known from time to time with his late night compositions at the piano, or his insistence that his study door remained locked, which had vexed a great number of inhabitants over the years. None as entertainingly as the current inhabitant, however.
Killian wasn’t sure what it was about this Emma Swan woman, but her presence within his home had compelled him to emerge into those spaces he’d long since reserved for the living, or had abandoned to the uselessness of the past. At first it had been simple curiosity. He’d watched from the dusty corners of the attic the first day of her arrival as she pulled back the tarps and coverings that had buried the evidence of his life for centuries. Captivated by her intense focus and reverent response to those things he had once held most dear, and transfixed by the gentle and thoughtful nature in which she applied her discoveries to the project at hand, Killian found himself drawn to her in a way he had not been pulled to any other living person.
He tried to tell himself that it was because he’d been alone within the manor for so long. Argued that it was simply her stunning looks and beguiling figure that had him so enthralled. After all, he may be a ghost of a man, but a man he remained. A man that could still appreciate a lovely lass, though a base appreciation didn’t explain the compulsion to always be at her side.
He’d followed her around like some lost puppy that first week. Observed the plans she and her brother had constructed regarding the manor and marveled at her staunch refusal to settle for less than perfect accuracy in its restoration. Touched by her dedication and slightly unnerved by her tenacity, he wasn’t sure what to make of her discovery of his trunk. At first he’d considered hiding away the more damning, or private items contained within its depths, but couldn’t shake the longing he felt at having someone truly know him after all this time.
He knew what the legends said about him, and although many of them held kernels of truth, none of them gave a full accounting of Captain Killian Jones. It was important to him that she would know the truth, though he could not say why.
He did not make it a habit of entering her private rooms. Scoundrel and pirate may have been his reputation, but he had always believed in good form and strived to be a gentleman. The few times he had taken to visiting her rooms he’d found her pouring over his personal effects. Though he warred with the idea that she would be privy to his private thoughts, her response of quiet acceptance and understanding at each passage soothed him. When she reached some of his more heartfelt or heartbreaking entries he could not help but stroke her cheek as unchecked tears fell upon them. An action he tried to quell many times over without much success.
His fingers itched to run through her tresses. His arms longed to hold her. The floral scent of her hair and skin taunted him, as did her radiant smile. She was a tough lass, her authoritative role over the teams of men and women laboring within the manor stirring an appreciation of camaraderie within him as one who was accustomed to command might have for another. Her care and consideration for those within her employ and love displayed for her family stirred his heart. The fire and passion that sparked from her enthusiasm or temper stirred… other things.
Killian let go a long suffering sigh as he moved down the long corridor. Why was he torturing himself with thoughts of this woman? And not just thoughts, but actual attempts at interaction? The key to his study had become a sort of game between them, though she was not fully aware of her participation. He couldn’t deny how enjoyable it was to see her so vexed by it, the way her cheeks would flush with irritation when she was barred from entering the room. Her fists balled up at her sides as she huffed her frustration, demanding to know who had locked the door and where the key was. Some days it only took her a few moments to locate it, other times days would go by before it was discovered.
She may not have been fully cognizant of the game, but it didn’t stop a self-satisfied and slightly victorious smirk from playing at her lips when she was finally able to insert the key into the lock and gain entrance to the room once again. He knew it was childish, but it didn’t stop him from pilfering the key from her every few days only to begin their game again.
The reference wiped the smile from Killian’s features.
She had a child. A son.
A precocious lad full of innocence and wonder. A nature not unlike his mother’s that stirred another sense of longing within Killian, but this longing had compelled him away from interactions, not towards. His guilt and shame regarding another boy long since gone from the world keeping him shackled to the burden of his cursed state, and unwilling to cause the lad any sense of discomfort he might feel at Killian’s ghostly presence. Resigning himself to watch from distant vantage points as the boy explored and played within halls that had not seen such vestiges of life in many long years.
Halls like the one Killian was currently haunting.
Rounding the corner that led back toward the main stairs, Killian spied the lad studying the old portraits hanging along the corridor. His smile renewed at the object of lad’s attention; a rendering of he and Liam as children, resplendent in finery that had made them itch and chafe, their wiggles causing no end of frustration to the artist. Killian gave a soft chuckle at the memory and looked down to see what the lad might make of the image, only to find the boy facing him as if he were looking right at him.
Believing the lad might just be sensing his presence, Killian took a step back with the intention of moving on as to not submit the boy to any feelings of dread when his brown gaze followed the movement causing Killian to freeze. He cocked his head sideways to assess the lad only to have the action mirrored back to him. If he’d had a pulse, Killian was sure it would have been racing in his veins in that moment. He swallowed thickly - an exercise in muscle memory over actual need, but one that naturally applied itself to his apprehensive state - then cleared his throat; a sound that had the lad’s eyes widening with an excited sparkle.
“You’re him, aren’t you?” the boy chimed.
Killian spun around to look behind him, certain that someone else must be present within that hallway. Someone actually alive and visible.
“Captain Jones?” Killian heard the boy question, forcing him to shoot the lad an incredulous look.
“You can see me?”
“Well… yeah. I’ve seen you a couple of times now, actually,” the boy confessed. Killian’s shocked confusion must have been evident as the boy continued, “Do people not normally see you?”
“No one has seen me in this form for three hundred years, lad. Nor do they usually hear me. You can hear me, aye?”
“Yeah, I can hear you,” he shrugged, as if standing in a darkened hallway with the ghost of a three hundred year old pirate, er… privateer, was some sort of everyday, normal occurrence. “How come I’m the only one that can see you?” the lad asked.
“I’ve no bloody idea,” Killian answered honestly, scratching behind his ear as he pondered this new development.
“You look just like your portrait,” the lad stated as his soft and curious gaze swept over Killian’s form. “Is that a sword?”
The corners of Killian’s mouth ticked up at the boy’s wide-eyed enthusiasm over his weapon. “Aye. I was wearing it when I... “ Killian paused, unsure of how to explain, or if he should explain, the circumstances which had led him to his current state. “All the bloody good it does me,” he grumbled as he fingered the hilt. “It’s not as if I need it now.”
“Can you teach me how to use it? Or, you know, how to fight with one?”
Killian contemplated the boy and his question for a long moment. Curious as he was as to how it was possible that this boy could see him when no one else ever had while he was in his ghostly state, Killian wasn’t about to question the good fortune he’d found in finally having someone, anyone, to engage with.
Before Killian could reply, another voice sounded from the end of the hall.
“Henry?” Swan’s inquest echoed down the corridor. “There you are! What are you doing up here?” she questioned as she made her way towards her boy, completely unaware of the additional company.
“Talking with Captain Jones,” the boy answered honestly.
“Captain Jones?” she questioned with a heaping dose of skepticism and raised brow. “Like, the ghost?”
“Yeah. He’s right there,” the lad pointed.
Killian offered the boy a soft, sympathetic smile before he reminded, “She can’t see or hear me, lad.”
“Right…” his mother replied. “Do you talk with Captain Jones often?”
Killian could see she was merely humoring the boy, as could the lad, but it wasn’t in a patronizing sort of way. She seemed to want to encourage his beliefs and imagination, perhaps wishing to stay the coming years of transition from boyhood to manhood for as long as possible. Killian’s smile grew at that realization, and his affection for the woman swelled a bit more.
“No,” the boy shook his head in reply. “We’ve never spoken before, but I’ve seen him plenty of times.”
“He’s the one that plays the piano in the ballroom. Sometimes I watch him from the upper balcony at night.” That news startled Killian every bit as much as it did the boy’s mother. He knew that there were times when his music carried from whatever state of being he existed into the realm of the living, but he’d had no idea that the lad had been watching him play. “Sometimes I see him watching from the corner of a room, or upper levels of the house.”
“Well… you mostly. He seems to like watching you.”
If Killian didn’t know any better, he’d have thought the lad’s revelation had caused him to blush. Surely that wasn’t possible without blood actually coursing through his veins. It didn’t stop him from ducking his head with a sense of bashfulness at being caught admiring the boy’s mother, though.
Killian glanced over at her to gauge her response to the boy’s observation, and found a beguiling blush tinting her cheeks with her bottom lip pulled between her teeth, attempting to suppress a smile. His brow quirked at her reaction and when he turned his attention to the lad he saw a smirk upon the boy’s lips that he was sure matched his own.
“Okay, kid,” she redirected, drawing the conversation back towards her original purpose. “Enough flights of fancy for one day. It’s time for bed.”
She slung an arm over the boy’s shoulders and started leading him back down the hall. After a few steps the lad called out, “Goodnight, Captain Jones!” over his shoulder, pulling a giggle from his mother as she copied her boy with a, “Goodnight, Captain,” of her own.
Killian watched the pair retreat back to their rooms for the evening, a warmth spreading through his chest he wasn’t sure he’d ever experienced - living or otherwise. His grin remained as he considered the lad’s request of sparring lessons, and though Killian had little experience with children, the prospect of spending time with Swan’s boy filled him with a sense of worth he hadn’t experience in centuries.
Killian noticed the silhouette of something small next to the cliff’s edge in his periphery. His stomach dropped as he approached, recognizing it as one of Milah’s slippers. Picking it up from the ground, Killian spun around to look back toward the manor as he continued to frantically call out her name.
Panic coursed through him as he tried to tamp down the instinct that told him to look over the cliff’s edge.
No. No, she couldn’t…
Killian fell to his knees at the sight below. His beloved. His dearest Milah lay upon the rocky shore.
It seemed to take hours to reach her. Sobs choked him as tears blurred his vision. Finally at her side, Killian gathered her broken, lifeless body into his arms and poured out his anguish into her blood soaked hair.
“She didn’t even ask about him,” a voice oiled over the sound of the surf, momentarily pulling Killian from his grief as he looked up to see who had spoken.
“Wha-? You?!” Standing before him was the man Milah had deserted in order to run away with him. The man he’d invited to come to Misthaven with their son. Her husband.
“She only demanded to know why I was here,” the man continued as if the woman with whom they had both shared a special bond wasn’t lying dead between them. “She never even asked about our son,” he sneered.
Their son. Was he here, too? He couldn’t… he shouldn’t see...
“The boy? Where is he?” Killian inquired frantically. “He shouldn’t see his mother like this. Don’t let him see her like this,” he pleaded.
“He’s dead,” the man stated hollowly.
“What?” Killian gasped, his heart dropping once more in torn agony.
“Dead,” the man repeated. “Died last spring. He went down in a storm with the ship he was on. He’d run off to go and find his mother, and perished in his pursuit. She didn’t even ask about him.”
Killian’s eyes fell shut with grief and guilt. He’d been too late. He’d meant to set his mistake right, but he’d been too late. The boy had perished, and his Milah… his Milah…
“What did you do?” Killian seethed as the full realization of how Milah had ended up at the bottom of the cliff settled over him.
“I avenged my son,” the man hissed. “He’d still be alive if it weren’t for you. If Milah had just stayed where she belonged, my son would not have gone to sea trying to find her!”
“Well, what are you waiting for, then?” Killian shouted. “Go on. Kill me!”
“Oh, I’m afraid that’s not in the cards for you sonny boy,” the man mocked. “I want you to suffer, as I have suffered. And I’ve brought someone with me to see that you do.”
Killian’s attention was pulled past the man as someone emerged from the shadows of the cliff wall. The cloaked figure made their way to stand beside the vile man where they slowly lifted the hood from their head, revealing themselves. Killian sucked in a startled breath of recognition.
The Witch of Misthaven.
Emma watched as Henry swung his wooden sword through the air, leaping and dancing about the front lawn, much as he’d done most days over the warm summer months. If he wasn’t honing his sword fighting skills, then he was practicing the little tune he’d started playing on the piano (thank goodness they’d finally gotten it tuned), or challenging members of the work crew to some dice game he’d invented, and usually won, or was simply whiling away the school free days of the season, exploring the grounds of the estate as Emma and her team continued the restoration of the manor.
Five months into the project and Emma could see a light at the end of the plaster coated, revarnished, historically accurate tunnel. To say that it had been a labor of love would have been an understatement. With only two months left before the restoration would be complete, Emma was starting to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of leaving. As ostentatious as the manor was, it had begun to feel like home, and not just to her, but to Henry as well.
She’d always considered Henry to be a happy and energetic child, but their months in Misthaven had unearthed a completely new level of exuberance and joy she’d never before witnessed in him. She supposed she had Captain Killian Jones to thank for that, for ever since that evening when she found Henry talking with the captain, his already overactive imagination had propelled him into a world of all things pirate. Including his current obsession of pretending to sword fight with the legendary captain himself.
At first it had been kind of sweet, but now Emma was starting to wonder if Henry’s imagination was getting a little out of hand.
“Do you think ten is too old to have an imaginary friend?” Emma asked Mary Margaret as the pixie haired woman came up beside her to observe Henry’s antics.
“Henry has an imaginary friend?”
“Yeah. Captain Killian Jones.”
“The ghost?” her brother, David, called out as he joined them.
“There is no ghost,” Emma scoffed. “It’s just his imagination.”
“Of course. Yes. Absolutely,” David teased. “And his imaginary friend is the ghost of Captain Jones?”
Emma sighed. This was why she hadn’t mentioned it before. David got as much of a kick out the idea of a ghost haunting the manor as Henry did. She wouldn’t put it past him to be the one behind the locked study door and endless key search.
“I wouldn’t worry about it, Emma. Henry’s just making do the best he knows how. It isn’t as if there are a lot of kids close by he can play with,” Mary Margaret offered supportively, probably sensing Emma’s growing concern with her son’s preoccupation with a ghost story.
“I know,” Emma replied, “but when I suggest making a play date with some of the friends he made during the school year he refuses and says he has plans with Killian.”
“Killian?” David chortled. “The pirate captain lets him call him by his first name? Impressive. I figured he’d be made to walk the plank for such a presumption.”
“Ha. Ha,” Emma retorted while giving David a withering side eye.
“Henry’s fine, Emma,” David offered with light-hearted confidence. “I’m sure once school starts up again, and he has more time with kids his own age, all this Captain Jones stuff will be forgotten.”
Emma wasn’t so sure about that.
Emma couldn’t really fault Henry for getting caught up in the fantasy and mystery of Captain Killian Jones, not when she’d been guilty of it herself over the past several months. Of course, her interest in the man was purely out of research for the project.
Yeah… she knew that was a load of crap.
There was just something about the man. He had a fascinating personal history of military service and then less than above the board activities that had lent themselves to his becoming a privateer. Personal documents and correspondence testified to a close, and just shy of hero-worshipping, relationship with his older brother, Liam Jones. And, of course, he’d been a man of great passions, willing to risk everything for the love of a woman.
It had been quite scandalous, his taking up with a married woman, living with her, and traveling with her, outside the bonds of marriage. His letters made it clear that he hadn’t given a wit as to what others had thought. Letters that Emma continuingly poured over most nights.
Emma Swan did not swoon, but oh, boy. Those letters. Even the man’s handwriting was romantic and sexy, and the words he’d penned ranged from the purest of love to the purest of sin. She’d never admit to it, aloud or otherwise, but sometimes she imagined that his words were written to or about her. Why she was concocting this crazy fantasy about a man who lived and died three hundred years ago, she’ll never know.
It didn’t help that Henry kept alluding to the ghost’s infatuation with her, or that she probably stared at his portrait every single day marveling over his incredibly handsome features.
Yeah, she had a serious problem, swooning over a man she could never have. Which was probably another thing that made him so appealing. He wasn’t real. It was easy to fall in love with the idea of someone who would never be able to let you down. Let your son down. Less than a zero percent chance of ever getting hurt.
Except that it did hurt.
After all her months of research Emma felt like she really knew Captain Killian Jones, and she’d be lying if she said her heart didn’t ache just a little bit at the thought of never meeting him in person. Which was stupid. The man died centuries ago. But that knowledge, and the fact that she absolutely did not believe in ghosts, didn’t keep her from sometimes imagining that the tingling sensations she continued to feel on her cheeks or in her hair was the loving caress of his hand.
Yeah… she had it bad. For a ghost of a man, no less. Literal or otherwise.
The ballroom was finally done. It had probably been their most extensive project within the manor, and Emma was relieved to have it completed. She took in the magnificent space around her with a sense of pride and then focused her attention on the crew that was getting ready to hang the last of the chandeliers. The finishing touch that would make the space one hundred percent complete.
As she made her way over to the workmen, Emma saw Henry moving about next to the piano. He knew he wasn’t suppose to hang out in work zones, they could be dangerous.
“What are you doing, kid?”
“Okay…” she replied, studying his movements with a more purposeful eye. Huh… it does kind of looks like dance steps.
“Dance with me, Mom,” Henry invited enthusiastically, holding out his hand for her.
“Sorry, kid. I don’t dance.”
“Killian says all you need is a partner who knows what he’s doing.”
“Well, since that’s neither you nor I, I guess we’re out of luck,” she deflected before she put her mom face on and led him back toward the stairs at the end of the ballroom. “Let’s go, kid. You’re not suppose to be in here.”
The men had begun hoisting the final chandelier in place when Emma noticed that the safety line wasn’t secured to wall. She had just stopped to bring it to David’s attention, and didn’t realize that Henry had kept going, when she heard the frantic yells and the sound of thousands of crystals jostling together. Emma watched in slow motioned horror as the massive chandelier began plummeting right on top of where Henry stood. Before she could scream out her son’s name, a miracle happened.
The chandelier just stopped.
Stopped in midair no more than two feet above Henry’s head.
Everyone stood transfixed at the sight before one of the workers shouted, “Thank God we had the safety line tied off!”
Emma ran to her son and wrapped him in her arms, thanking every god she could name that he was safe.
She knew that line hadn’t been tied off. Had been about to tell David that it wasn’t tied off. How could it have been loose one second and tied firm the next? No one would have had the strength to grab the line, stop a plummeting chandelier mid-fall, and then tie it off securely. It wasn’t possible.
“It was Killian,” Henry said with muffled words against her chest.
“It was Killian. Captain Jones. He jumped from the balcony to the safety line and stopped the chandelier from falling.”
“Henry,” Emma exasperated lightly.
“Really, Mom! It was him. Look at the knot if you don’t believe me!”
Henry was clearly in shock. Hell. Emma was in shock. They were all in shock!
“Okay, Henry,” Emma soothed. “Everything’s okay now. Why don’t we get out of the crew’s way and let them finish. Okay?”
She wasn’t quite sure how she made it up the ballroom staircase on such shaky legs, or how her heart hadn’t managed to pound right out of her chest yet, or why she wasn’t more shocked to learn that the knot used to secure the safety line had been the type sailors commonly used to tie off rigging, and that no one owned up to having been the one to do it. What she was sure of, was that the incident had absolutely nothing to do with ghosts.
A certainty she kept repeating over and over in her mind long into the evening and night, and one she felt compelled to announce to an empty ballroom in the wee hours of the morning after she’d laid in bed listening to the sounds of that blasted piano music again.
No one was there when she entered the room, yet she couldn’t help but feel she wasn’t alone. Which only made her more determined to express her certainty.
“I don’t believe in ghosts,” she stated emphatically to the nothingness surrounding her. “I trust in what my eyes can see. What I can feel and touch.”
She began pacing the length of the room, shaking out her hands in an attempt to expel the tension and strain pooling within her chest. A tightness that had been gripping at her heart and lungs and gut for hours.
“There’s no such thing as ghosts,” she repeated into the darkness. “Everything that’s happened around here has a perfectly logical explanation.” Her pace back and forth over the parquet floor quickened even as her strides became shorter and more purposed. “What happened today… there’s a rational explanation. That line had to have been secured beforehand, right? Maybe… maybe I didn’t get as good of a look as I’d thought when it seemed the line wasn’t tied off before it... Maybe-”
Her throat began to tighten up again, breaths coming in shallow bursts as the reality of what could have happened to her son hit her once more. Emma wrapped her arms around herself and squeezed tightly, willing the haunting visions of her son crushed by the massive chandelier to flee her mind.
After drawing in a shaky breath, Emma exhaled a quiet, “Thank you.”
“I don’t believe in ghosts, but just in case… thank you. For Henry. He’s my… he’s my everything, and if I ever lost...” Hot tears made their way down her cheeks, and the emotional dam she’d been fortifying all afternoon and evening finally burst as sobs wracked her body.
She sat down at the piano bench and spent her tears into her hands as they came up to cover her face. After several long moments she wiped her cheeks with the end of her sleeve, her worst nightmare finally laying itself to rest within the far reaches of her mind. She sniffed and sat up, allowing the peace and quiet of the room to soothe her.
Before she could make a move to stand and head back upstairs, a tingling sensation bloomed along her cheeks as if someone were cupping her face in their hands. Emma closed her eyes at the comforting feeling that thought gave her, and felt the sensation spread to her lips. She drew in a sharp breath and was overwhelmed by the now familiar masculine scent filling her senses. As she opened her eyes the tingling sensations vanished. Emma pressed her fingertips to her lips and swallowed.
Killian looked on as workers struggled with the oversized portrait that contained his likeness. Work in the grand foyer was now complete, and member’s of the Jones Family Trust, as well as the Misthaven Historical Society, felt the finishing touch ought to be the portrait of Captain Killian Jones on prominent display as soon as one entered the manor. Several poor, unfortunate souls had been tasked with the job of carting the life-sized artwork from the attic down to the first level for hanging, and Killian chuckled at the relieved looks the men gave when their foreman declared they’d break for lunch before proceeding.
As it usually happened whenever he found himself in Swan’s presence, Killian couldn’t take his eyes off the woman as she stepped forward to appraise his image set upon canvas. The past several months had been a type of sweet torture, and he’d found himself spending more and more time within her company. Indeed, it seemed that if he wasn’t occupying himself with her boy and his ever enthusiastic desire to spar, play dice, practice the simplified tune he’d taught him on the piano, or a vast number of other things the lad talked him into, then he was at Swan’s side tormenting himself with longing. Tormented by the fact that despite all of Henry’s protestations that he was, in fact, real, Emma refused to believe in his existence.
That was until that night in the ballroom.
Killian was certain that if he’d had a heart beating within his chest it would have stopped at the sight of that chandelier crashing down towards Henry before he’d been able to stop it. If he’d been capable of producing tears Killian would have expended them alongside Emma as she sat upon the piano bench that night. All he’d been capable of was to try and offer some measure of comfort. He’d taken her face in his hands and placed a kiss upon her lips, and if he’d had breath in his lungs, he would have lost it when she seemed to look right at him as she whispered her thank you.
The same look she was giving him now. Well, not him, she still couldn’t see or hear him, but the rendering of him framed before her. Killian watched in awe as she stared at his portrait with a smile on her lips and brought her hand up to brush her fingers along his painted cheek. Killian watched the action with great yearning and placed his hand against his own face, wishing with every fiber of his being that he could feel the sensation of her touch.
The workmen made their way back and his portrait was hung in its place of honor, with Emma overseeing the entire affair. As the crews departed once more, she remained appreciating the finished room and his likeness in its proper place. Drawn to her smile and the glint of pride sparkling in her eyes, Killian stood beside her as she took in the fruit of her labors. He was startled to hear her, once again, speak into the seemingly empty room.
“I hope you’re happy with the work we’ve accomplished on your home, Captain,” she whispered softly, and Killian could not stop himself from placing a kiss upon her cheek in response.
Emma smiled and tugged her bottom lip between her teeth as she reached up and caressed the spot his lips had whispered across. She shook off her reaction a moment later, tsking at herself as she made her way toward the main hall. Watching her go, still firmly set in her belief that he couldn’t possibly exist, Killian set firm the resolve he’d determined within himself months ago.
He was going to break his bloody curse, no matter what it took.
“What are you going to do?” Killian asked with trepidation.
“Me?” the man questioned. “Why, I’m not going to do anything. I’ve made a deal, you see. The witch has agreed to curse you for the evil you’ve done. A curse that will ensure you can never tear apart another family again.”
“Please,” Killian pleaded with the woman. The witch he recognized from the village. A petite woman, with wisps of blonde hair framing her face, giving her a fairy like quality that masked her rumored nature of dark magic. “I tried to make it right. I didn’t know about the boy’s fate. When Milah told me she might be with child, I-”
“She was with child?” the witch questioned Killian sharply.
“I don’t know,” he answered, more tears of anguish pooling in his eyes. “She suspected so before I left. I was hoping for her confirmation when I returned. I realized how selfish I’d been. That’s why I invited you and your son here,” he expressed to the man imploringly. “I wanted to try and make it right.”
“Too late for that now, Dearie,” the man spat.
“I know,” Killian responded with weary acceptance. He’d been too late. The boy was dead. Milah had suffered this terrible fate because of him. He deserved whatever the witch was about to do to him.
“Well?” the man prompted, and Killian looked up to face the woman whose hands his fate rested. “What are you waiting for?”
“This man is not who you said he was,” she replied.
“Of course he is! A selfish pirate. The man who stole my wife, and kept her from our son. He’s a villain, undeserving of a happy ending.”
“No,” she stated firmly. “I don’t think he’s truly the villain here.” Her pointed look at the man made Killian’s blood run cold, but the evil little imp seemed impervious to her steely gaze.
“What you think doesn’t matter,” he sneered. “We made a deal. A deal that you are obligated to uphold due to the constraints of your magic.”
The witch narrowed her eyes at the man as she questioned, “How would you know that?”
“Do you really think I hadn’t done my research? I’m not in the business of making deals where I could come out the fool.”
“That’s what this is really about, isn’t it?” she asked with a look of fresh understanding within her eyes. “It isn’t about your wife, or your son, though I can see that her betrayal and his loss have grieved you. It’s about your wounded pride. You don’t hate this man for loving your wife, or sending for your son too late. You hate him because he made you feel like a fool.”
“It doesn’t matter,” he seethed. “We have a deal, and you will honor it.”
The witch sighed and turned back to face Killian, still cradling his love in his arms.
“He’s right. I do have to honor the deal,” she admitted sadly.
Killian’s eyes fell shut at her words and he steeled himself for what was to come next.
“I may be forced to curse you, but,” she said, pausing until he met her gaze once more. “I believe you deserve a second chance. You will be placed under a curse to haunt these grounds and the manor upon it, but every one hundred years you’ll take on a form of flesh and blood so that you might have a chance to find the way to break it.”
Killian swallowed back the bile rising in his throat to ask, “How? How do I break the curse?”
“You don’t,” she replied. “But this will help guide you to the answer.”
She extended her palm and within it appeared a golden compass.
The enraged man beside her snatched it from her grasp and thundered, “This was not part of our deal!”
“Our deal was for me to place a curse on him so he could never again tear apart another family. The curse will ensure that, and it will only be broken if that assurance can remain should he become flesh and blood once more. Now, do you want him cursed or not? I can not break our deal, but you can. It isn’t too late to change your mind.”
“No,” the man scorned. “I won’t change my mind. He deserves to suffer. I want to see him suffer.”
“Very well,” she said. “Give me the compass.”
He placed the artifact back into her outstretched hand and Killian held his breath as the witch waved her other hand over it, causing it to glow. Several things happened at once as Killian began to feel a transformation come over him. He could no longer sustain the weight of Milah’s body, and she passed through his arms to the craggy shore beneath him as her husband began to howl in pain and screamed at the witch, demanding to know what she’d done.
“Do you think it a simple thing to merely curse another?” she mocked. “It seems you made a deal you did not fully understand after all. Spells are alive, you see. They take energy to create. Your energy, in this case. Your life will give this curse its existence.” The compass glowed brighter still, absorbing the very nature of the man within its essence until nothing remained of him.
After the glow of newly birthed magic faded, the witch handed the compass to Killian who despaired at the now translucent quality of his appearance.
“What do I do now?” he asked despondently.
“Nothing,” she replied. “But when the time comes, the compass will guide you.”
One week. One week and Killian would become flesh and blood again, able to enter the world of the living once more. Every one hundred years he was granted corporeal form for a fortnight before turning back into his ghostly self.
The first time it had happened, he’d had to hide away from the family and servants residing within the manor at the time. He learned that even though he was within a tangible body, he was still tied to the manor and grounds of the estate. Unable to leave, and unable to remain in the house undetected, he’d camped out in the woods and spent his time mourning Milah and Liam and everything else lost to him.
The second time the manor stood vacant due to the Great War raging across Europe. With the men away to fight, the house had been closed up. The estate had been in danger of being sold off bit by bit due to the high cost of managing it and the perishing of the way of life that had sustained it for centuries. Killian had been able, through correspondence, the use of the newly installed telephone, and the cache of treasure he’d long ago hidden away on the property, to secure the estate within a trust that would ensure its legacy within the Jones family for perpetuity. For he had no idea what would become of him should the estate be divided or the manor torn down.
He had given little thought to the compass during either of those reprieves from his cursed state. The first time he’d been too consumed with grief and self pity to try and work out the riddle of its breaking, the second time he’d had more pressing matters and no one to confide in.
But this time…
This time he had a reason for wanting it broken other than so he could simply die and be reunited with his loved ones. This time he wanted it broken so that he might have a future. A future with the woman who had stolen his heart and the boy who made him long to be a father.
This time it would be different, because this time he’d have help.
Killian retrieved the compass from its long standing hiding place below the floorboards of his study and made his way to Henry’s room where the lad was waiting for him. Handing over the compass, Killian poured out the entire tale, every detail that led him to his cursed state, culminating with the fact that the compass was supposedly the guide to breaking it.
“I need your help, Henry my boy,” Killian beseeched as he watched the lad turn the compass over in his hands. “I haven’t the faintest bloody idea how to break this curse except that it has something to do with that compass and the riddle etched upon its casing. You’re a clever lad. The cleverest I’ve ever seen. Surely, between the two of us we can work out the riddle. What do you say?”
Henry beamed at his friend as he excitedly answered, “Of course!” and then turned his attention to the engraving upon the compass’ shining surface.
A cursed man needs a guide, the answer inside the compass I’ll hide.
For when the needle starts to spin, your quest for love and life shall begin.
Find a woman that makes you complete, but be careful the past does not repeat.
Life will be restored. Should she choose to trade her truest love for his displayed.
Simply place the compass within her hold, and watch as all your dues unfold.
Henry sat with furrowed brow as he read over the riddle again and again while Killian lost himself in his own ponderings of it. Moments later Killian was pulled from his frustrated musings by Henry’s shaky question.
“Um… Killian? Has it ever done that before?”
Killian looked down at the compass and saw an astonishing sight.
The needle had begun to spin.
End Part One
Killian inhaled the sea air deep into his lungs relishing in the burn of the salty breeze at the back of his throat. His senses were always diminished while in ghost form, numbed as if he’d imbibed in too much rum leaving everything dulled around him. Now that he was corporeal again, Killian marveled in the feel of the cold sand between his toes and whisper of midnight against his skin.
Just as it had happened the times before, Killian found himself upon the shore where his curse had been cast, appearing there in solid form at midnight of his first day back as a flesh and blood man. The first thing he’d done was divest himself of his leathers and other garments, and run head long into the sea allowing the waves to wash over him in order to give proof of his physical form. He now stood at the water’s edge in nothing but his skin and drew in the comfort the moonlight dancing over the waves provided him.
Gods, he missed the sea.
Should he and Henry succeed… no. When. When he and Henry succeeded, Killian would take the lad and his mother sailing up the coast. He still had quite a cache of valuables tucked away, enough to provide him and Emma and Henry a comfortable future. Though he’d never begrudge Swan her work. It was evident just how much her occupation meant to her, and he’d be content to follow after her from one project site to the next for the remainder of his days if that’s what she wanted.
But he was getting ahead of himself, again. An introduction might be warranted first, mate, he chuckled to himself as he collected his garments and made his way to the small cavern within the cliff side.
Tucked away in the back corner was the piece of luggage Henry had been able to procure for him. Within it were articles of clothing the boy had either pilfered from his uncle, or acquired within the last week while in town. They would hopefully meet Killian’s needs over the next two weeks while he’d be staying at the manor.
As fortune would have it, the final stages of the manor’s restoration project were being completed, and to celebrate the Misthaven Historical Society would be hosting a Grand Opening Celebration whilst Killian was in his corporeal form.
Invitations for the event had been sent to members of the Jones Family Trust, who were invited to come and stay at the manor during the festivities. Henry and Killian had launched a plan to contact the manor’s curator in order to gain an earlier invitation to the estate. The lad had sent an electronic communication as Mr. Killian Jones asking if he’d be welcome to arrive two weeks early, under the pretense that he’d be in the area on business anyway.
The truth of it was that the celebration occurred at the tail end of the time in which he would be in flesh and blood form, and he had no wish to hide out in the woods or the cavern until the event in question. Besides, having access to the manor meant having access to Emma and Killian did not want to waste a moment’s opportunity to physically be in her presence.
The curator had happily agreed and had even offered to arrange for the town’s tailor to come up to the manor in order to fit Killian for a suit for the more formal part of the celebration should he have need. Which he did. The appointment would also afford him the opportunity to fill in the gaps in his wardrobe, which now that Killian had chance to see it, he found sadly lacking. Though he would have to ask the lad how it was he’d been able to acquire a leather jacket with his meager means and resources. Clever boy.
All that remained for the time being was to wait for a more acceptable hour in which to present himself, and then he could begin the pleasurable task of wooing his Lady Swan.
Over the past seven days he and Henry had poured over the riddle on the compass and had come up with a few concluding assumptions. The first being that the spinning needle of the compass seemed to signify that the elements by which his curse could be broken were in place. It was clear by the inscription that the love of a woman featured highly in the spell’s intricate design and Killian had not hesitated to confess the love he already held for Emma as he and her boy schemed long into those dark nights in his study. The mention of not repeating past mistakes seemed straightforward enough, so it was the bit about trading their love for one another that Killian and Henry had honed in on. Killian already loved Emma, all they needed now was for her to return that love.
Henry felt certain that his mother already held a love for him. The lad argued that she had come to fall in love with the Captain Jones she’d met through the pages of his journals and letters, and that if they could just get her to believe that he was that man, believe in the curse, then she would embrace the love she already felt for him, and the curse would be broken.
So that had become their mission - Operation Compass Believer - an endeavor to get Swan to believe in the unbelievable and hopefully guide him out of his cursed state within a fortnight. Simple. What could possibly go wrong?
Nervous energy coursed through Killian as he paced the tight quarters of the cave, his heart hammering within his chest in a painful rhythm of which he was not accustomed. He had been anticipating this moment for months. Imagining Swan’s reaction to meeting him in the flesh over and over again.
Would she be as taken with him as he’d been with her at first sight?
Would his and Henry’s Operation be enough to get Emma to believe in the curse? And even if she believed, would it be enough for her to fall in love with him? The true him? Would he be enough?
As the sun crested the horizon, illuminating the walls of his temporary hideout, Killian took a long fortifying breath before emerging from the cavern to make his way to the cliff top. Whatever the outcome, Killian did not intend to waste his moments with Emma and Henry in self-doubt.
He didn’t want Emma’s love merely so he could be free from his curse, but because, before her, he’d had nothing left to fight for. He would fight for her, though. And for Henry. With everything he had, he would fight for her belief and her love and for their future.
After all, he always did love a challenge.
Emma was not a friend of early mornings. Especially early mornings that meant the start of a day where her brother and sister-in-law would be packing up to head to the next project site, while she would have to stay and play hostess to the first stuffy member of the trust she’d been hired by to restore the Jones Manor.
Actual construction had wrapped earlier the previous week, and the work crews were setting up at the next job, which was a restoration of an old Inn the next town over. Emma had to stay behind to oversee the final details of decor and furnishings, and make nice with the members of the Jones Family Trust and Misthaven Historical Society.
Oh, and help plan the soiree they’d insisted on as the Grand Opening Celebration of the project.
Okay, she really wasn’t that grumpy about the whole thing. She just hadn’t had coffee yet. Emma was actually rather excited about the Grand Opening. They’d planned to make it an educational event as much as a celebration, with tours of the estate and actors to serve as members of the staff and household that would have worked and lived in the manor three hundred years ago. Everything would culminate with a formal affair in the evening, complete with an orchestra, servers providing champagne on silver trays, and period dancing.
Okay, yeah. She was pretty excited about it. If only she could find someone to play the role of Captain Killian Jones to haunt the place while the tours were being conducted.
As Emma made her way down the hall towards the foyer, she could hear the voices of her brother and Mary Margaret.
“...must be a direct descendent of the original Killian Jones, huh?” She heard David speculate incorrectly, and couldn’t help but take the opportunity to correct him.
“Actually,” she said as she turned into the entry, “The original Killian Jones had no children, so all of the current descendents are…” Emma’s words fell away as she took in the reason, or the person rather, who had led her brother to make such a speculation.
If Emma didn’t know any better she would have thought that Captain Killian Jones himself was standing in the grand foyer of the very manor his family had originally built. Though the tight jeans, t-shirt, and black leather jacket were a bit of a departure from the pirate aesthetic she usually applied to him in her fantasies.
“Are directly related to his older brother, Liam Jones,” the man supplied when it became apparent that no more words would be forthcoming from Emma’s mouth. Which she was pretty sure was hanging open.
“Emma,” Mary Margaret began, “This is Mr. Killian Jones. Mr. Jones. This is Emma Swan.”
“A pleasure to meet you Miss Swan,” Mr. Jones greeted as he offered his hand with an adorably lopsided smile on his lips.
A tingling sensation shot up Emma’s arm as she took his proffered hand, causing a pleasant shiver to course through her which nearly stole her breath. It almost reminded her of the sensation she’d experienced in the ballroom several weeks ago after Henry’s near accident. She’d broken down and offered up her thanks to whatever unknown force, okay, okay. Fine. She was totally thanking the ghost of Captain Jones. It’s not like she actually believes in ghosts, though, and had a similar moment where the tingling at her cheeks and lips had sent a surge of something just like this right through her; an experience that had stayed with her for days afterward.
Emma mentally shook herself when she realized she still hadn’t responded, her hand held in his as he watched her expectantly. She placed a polite smile on her lips, one that she hoped conveyed a confidence she found herself floundering for in this stunning man’s presence, and greeted him back.
“Nice to meet you, too, Mr. Jones. I’m so pleased you were able to make it to Misthaven for the unveiling of the restoration.”
“Please, love,” he purred warmly in a tone that should positively be outlawed. “You’re about to have a dozen or more Mr. Jones descending upon the manor in a week’s time. Killian will do.”
Did she still have knees? She was pretty sure she’d had knees at one point. They were totally failing her at the moment. And she was still holding his hand. She should probably stop shaking it at some point. Like now. Now would probably be a good time to let go.
She didn’t want to let go.
That could get awkward.
Though, he didn’t seem to be in any hurry to end the friendly gesture either.
The sound of a throat clearing startled both of them back into the moment, and Emma noticed a tint of pink crest at the tip of his ears. He gave her a shy smile as he released her hand, his eyes remaining fixed on her. His very blue eyes. That crinkled handsomely in the corner. With long dark lashes.
Seriously, Emma?! Get it together!
“Um… he’ll probably want to get settled,” Mary Margaret prompted while shooting Emma a knowingly smug look.
“Right. Yes,” Emma agreed as she attempted to further compose herself. “You’d probably like to see your room.”
“I can show him!” Henry enthusiastically offered from behind her.
When did he get here?
“Hello there, lad.” Killian greeted, giving Henry a smile that beamed almost as brightly as her son’s. “Killian Jones, at your service,” he introduced as he stepped forward to shake hands.
“I’m Henry,” her son replied brightly, and Emma marveled at the instant connection the two seemed to share.
Henry was friendly with just about everyone, but this was on a completely different level. It probably shouldn’t have surprised her. Emma’s reaction to the man who appeared to be their infamous pirate captain in the flesh hadn’t exactly been subtle or subdued either, and she hadn’t been pretending to be his best friend for months on end. Her musings and imagination about Captain Killian Jones hadn’t been quite that innocent if she were being honest.
Neither were the ones shaping up about the current Killian Jones.
Wow. Her brain really needed coffee.
“Is it okay if I show Killian to his room, Mom?”
“Um… sure, kid,” she agreed, the eager look on her son’s face rendering her incapable of saying no. “Just come right back down for breakfast when you’re done. You’re welcome to join us if you’re hungry, Mr. J-... Killian.”
She saw him attempt to suppress an amused smirk as he replied, “Thank you, love. I feel like I haven’t eaten in a century.”
Henry tried to cover a snort with the worst fake cough she’d ever heard, and Emma couldn’t help but feel that she was missing some sort of inside joke between the two.
Impossible. They only just met.
Obviously noticing her suspicious side-eye, Killian turned to Henry and said, “Lead the way, lad,” as he grabbed his suitcase and excused himself from the foyer.
Emma watched Henry and Killian Jones disappear up the stairs, and she absolutely did not notice the positively sinful swagger of the man’s ass as he ascended.
“That’s one hell of a family resemblance,” her brother quipped in her ear, making her jump. “Think you could get him to play the part of the ghost captain at the Grand Opening?”
That’s all Emma needed. An actual, physical Killian Jones bedecked in head to toe pirate leather.
She scoffed at her brother and began to turn towards the kitchen when the presence of a familiar scent caught her attention. The scent of leather and the sea and spice. The scent she’d been experiencing for months after moments like the one she’d just shared with Killian Jones. Moments that had left her nerves sparking, her breathing shallow, and her mind vigorously reminding her that there were no such things as ghosts, or cursed pirate captains. She took another deep breath, filling her lungs with the scent and the comfort it had always provided her and wondered if it could have come from him. Killian Jones. The flesh and blood one. She made a mental note to check later.
She really needed that coffee.
Killian lay upon the four post bed in his room replaying the events of the past several days of his corporeal time over in his mind. Things seemed to be going well, though to say it was all a bit overwhelming would be an understatement.
He’d forgotten how unnerving yet exhilarating it was to feel. To be alive. Colors a bit richer, sounds a tad clearer, smells more pungent, tastes wholly decadent, and everything that touched his body was like a shock to his system. None more electrifying than those from Swan herself.
It had taken every measure of control he’d possessed to not pull her into his arms when they’d first been introduced. The sparkle of her viridian eyes that much brighter, the sheen of her golden tresses all the more brilliant, and the lushness of her skin and lips never more enticing than when he’d finally stood before her in physical form. The touch of her hand had sent a current sweeping through him, threatening to steal the newly gained breath from his lungs.
Never in all his centuries of ghostly form had he ever actually floated, but there was no other word to describe the manner in which he’d made it to his room. The moment he’d left her presence he’d been eager to make his way back downstairs in order to be with her once more. Of course, the lad throwing himself around Killian’s waist, attempting to give him a bracing hug had delayed that plan a bit. Not that Killian begrudged the boy’s enthusiasm, he was just as happy to finally be able to bestow a measure of affection upon him as well, and was quite touched that Henry felt the same.
Once they’d finished breakfast, an experience that again stirred every one of his senses into a heightened state (gods had he missed coffee), Emma had offered to give him a tour of the manor in order to show him the work that had been done. Even though he’d been present for the entirety of the restoration, he was able to experience it all with fresh appreciation as Emma pointed out every thoughtful detail and discovery of the project she’d poured her heart and soul into. Which was probably what had affected him the most.
The care and consideration she’d shown for the manor, his home, and how she had taken the time to learn every little quirk and recovered every last detail he’d thought lost to time, even a few that had been lost to his own memory, had astonished him. Her exuberance and passion had endeared him even more to the amazing and brilliant woman he knew her to be and he’d allowed himself to get caught up in her excitement, spending hours by her side as she led him from room to room throughout the expanse of his home.
Killian chuckled to himself as he remembered the indignant sound she’d made when the door to his study was found locked once again. Muttering her brother’s name under her breath, completely unaware that, at that very moment, he was fiddling with the key in his pocket, having pilfered it from her one last time before becoming corporeal.
Though she’d been busy with the final stages of getting the manor ready for the Grand Opening the past several days, Killian had been able to spend time with her over meals and in attendance at various meetings in which she and the Historical Society had wished his input as a member of the Jones family. But so far it hadn’t been enough to get her to believe that he was Captain Killian Jones, nor fall in love with the man she could see and touch.
There was not a doubt in his mind that he had every bit as much of an effect on her as she had on him. The permanent flush to her cheeks and dilated gaze of her eyes whenever she was in his presence, as well as the warm and flirtatious manner in which they related to one another giving proof to his estimation. He hoped.
Desperate as he was to simply confess the truth to her, Killian knew that such declarations would be too much too soon at this juncture. He had to stick to the plan he and Henry had concocted. Allow Emma to get to know him as a flesh and blood man while exposing the all too coincidental similarities between his physical representation and the legendary persona of Captain Killian Jones. Eventually Swan would have to see the truth. Surely, at some point, her mind would no longer be able to deny the reality that stood right in front of her. At some point she would have to believe, he just hoped that when she did it wouldn’t be too late.
With no hope of sleep claiming him due to the turmoil of his thoughts, Killian made his way from his chamber to the ballroom hoping some time at the piano might settle his mind. Foregoing the use of an artificial light source, Killian set the small candelabra he’d used to light his way on the edge of the piano and sat down to play. Losing himself in the solace of the familiar melody, a more complicated arrangement than that which he’d taught Henry, he was unaware of changes to his surroundings, including the added presence of a certain woman who’d been drawn by the sound of his performance.
Emma stood in the doorway of the ballroom watching him play. The soft glow of the candlelight highlighting his features in a wash of timeless elegance made him seem right at home within the grandeur of the three hundred year old ballroom. Indeed, Killian Jones had struck Emma as a man displaced from another time as she’d gotten to know him over the past several days.
There was an old-fashioned nature about him that revealed itself in his customs and manners. Things like pulling out her chair whenever they gathered together for a meal, or opening doors for her, insisting ladies first, with a gentlemanly demeanor that spoke of an intention of respect and deference for her and not some chauvinistic attitude of superiority. He was thoughtful of her comforts and anticipated her needs and desires, like when he’d brought her hot cocoa that evening as she studied the plans for the upcoming inn project, because he’d somehow known that she enjoyed a cup in the evenings. Though how he’d known to add the whipped cream and cinnamon, she wasn’t quite sure.
Which was another astonishing aspect to the character of Killian Jones. His respect, consideration, and affection did not stop with her but had carried itself over in his interactions with her son as well. There had not once been a hint of impatience or attitude of mere tolerance at Henry’s ever present enthusiasm and desire for Killian’s attention. He was content to spend time in either of their presence, and Emma found herself more and more drawn to his as well. Though she hadn’t realized it was his presence she’d find in the ballroom until after she’d arrived.
The melody had sounded like the one Henry had taken to playing, and she had expected to find her son seated on the piano bench. Now that she was there she could distinguish that Killian’s song was a more complicated version of the same tune. His nimble fingers danced over the keys with such practiced precision that he didn’t even need to look at them. His eyes were closed, brows narrating the language of the music as they lifted and arched to the lines of each measure as the hint of a smile captured the spirit of the piece at the corner of his lips.
He opened his eyes to finish out the remaining stanza, his attention solely focused on pouring out the reserve of emotion he had clung to in order to give life to the piece, and Emma could feel the prickling of tears begin to form in the corner of her eyes in response to such beautiful intensity. The sound of the sniffle that had escaped her as she willfully tried to stay the flow of tears must have caught his attention as the piece ended; a chagrined look on his face as he faced her.
“My apologies, Swan. I hope my playing didn’t disturb you.”
“No, no,” she insisted, stepping forward to be closer to him now that he was aware of her presence. “I thought maybe you were Henry. He’s been known to sneak in here at night and play a tune similar to that one. Or a more simplified version of it, anyway.”
“Really?” he replied with a sly smirk and brow playing at his features. “How astonishing. It isn’t a very well known tune. Wherever did he learn it, do you suppose?”
“Well, if you ask him, he’ll tell you that the ghost of Captain Killian Jones taught it to him,” she offered with a light hearted roll of her eyes. “The kid has quite an imagination.”
“So it would seem,” he stated, the mischievous undertone of his words and expression sparking an unresolvable curiosity within her as to how it was her son and this man shared a knowledge for the same piece of obscure music. “Well, this Killian Jones would be happy to teach you the simpler rendition if you’d like,” he offered as he patted the bench, inviting her to join him.
“I don’t know. I’ve never really played before,” she demurred, even as she moved to take the seat beside him.
“First time, then?” he confirmed, his voice softer now that the distance between them had closed. “Well, you never forget your first.” His brows lifted and twitched at his hairline as he pulled his bottom lip between his teeth giving her a playfully seductive look that had her laughing at his ridiculousness.
“Here, Swan,” he said as he took her hands. “Just place your hands right here. There’s a good girl,” he teased as he positioned her hands over the keys, earning him a withering side-eye from Emma; one that lost its effect as she couldn’t help the smile that pulled at her lips.
Emma wasn’t sure how long they’d sat there. Killian patiently demonstrating the notes to be played while she attempted to copy him. At some point he’d positioned himself behind her so their hands could work in tandem over the keys. His strong arms outstretched on either side of her, the warmth of his breath hitting the side of her neck as he gave instruction into her ear.
He kept reminding her to slow her pace, but her racing heart was acting as an internal metronome causing her fingers to move across the keys in a hurried tempo. When she’d finally been able to play the tune without his assistance, and completely in rhythm, they’d both rejoiced in her success with a joyful laugh, his arms circling her waist from his seated position behind her as praise fell from his lips.
“That was brilliant, Swan!”
As their laughter subsided, Emma felt a tangible shift in the room. The humming of the atmosphere around them drawn taut like one of the strings within the piano. Emma felt him nuzzle his face into the hair against her neck, and she leaned back into his chest. His hands were splayed across her abdomen sending sparks across her skin where her shirt did not quite meet her pants as his fingers grazed the open expanse. She shuddered slightly at the murmur of her name against her ear, his breath whispering across her cheek urging her to turn her head and mingle hers with his.
She caught his gaze as she answered the silent plea, and found their depths to be as dark as midnight. His eyes searched hers before briefly flickering their attention down to her lips only to meet her gaze again with a hopeful inquiry.
Before she could answer the sound of footfalls roused them from their mutual longing as Henry made his way across the ballroom, attempting to rub the sleep from his eyes.
Emma jumped out of Killian’s embrace, nearly knocking him over backwards off the piano bench. She offered him an apologetic look as she reached out to steady him by his shoulders, his hands grabbing at her hips to further gain him some stability. He met her look with an understanding expression that she go and tend to her son, and Emma flashed him another smile of gratitude before turning and making her way to Henry.
“What are doing out of bed, kid?”
“I heard music,” he mumbled, not quite coherent in his woken stupor. “Were you playing the piano?”
“Sorry, lad,” Killian chimed as he made his way over to them. “I was playing earlier, and when your mother caught me I convinced her to join me. I’m sorry we woke you.”
“S’okay,” Henry replied through a yawn. “Can I stay up and play, too?”
Killian and Emma both chuckled. Henry could hardly keep his eyes open, but Emma knew the will of a child to cheat bedtime was one of the strongest compulsions in nature.
“Sorry, kid. It’s late. We need to get you back in bed.”
“Alright,” Henry complied sleepily, falling into Emma’s side as she wrapped her arm around his shoulders. “Good night, Killian,” he yawned.
“Good night, lad,” Killian chuckled. “Good night, Swan.”
Emma glanced back over her shoulder to bid him good night as well, her heart rate increasing at the look of hopeful promise in his gaze. She’d been flustered and irritated when Henry had interrupted them, but now she couldn’t help but be a bit relieved. As much as she’d like nothing more than to kiss Killian Jones, she was pretty sure that once she did, she’d never want to stop.
Why did she think that was such a bad thing?
Killian was fairly certain Swan was avoiding him. The morning after their interlude at the piano, she had announced that she and Henry would be going to check in with her brother at their next project site. A venture that seemed to surprise the lad as much as it had him. She’d left the number of the manor’s curator with him in case he needed anything while they were gone and had left later that morning.
That was three days ago.
Having just finished his last appointment for the suit he’d ordered for the Grand Opening and receiving the additional wardrobe pieces he’d requested, Killian had shown the tailor out, and was now standing on the veranda watching the horizon. A storm was coming. He could smell it in the air and feel it in his nerve endings.
He spent the afternoon securing things on the grounds and readying the property for the oncoming weather. He’d hate to see any of Emma’s work tarnished due to broken off tree limbs crashing through an unshuttered window, or carefully selected garden furnishings lost to the winds. As the sun began to set the wind began a whipping pace and he could see the deluge of rain in the distance over the choppy waves of the sea.
Preparations were made inside as well, as he gathered candles and matches into the library in case the manor lost power and started a fire within the hearth for warmth. He’d waited out many a storm in that room when he’d first lived within the home as Captain Killian Jones. Its position within the manor afforded the exterior windows some protection from the driving winds and rains off the ocean, and it provided endless hours of distraction from mother nature’s fury with the sheer volume of reading material it offered.
A distraction was exactly what Killian needed.
He’d gone over that moment with Emma in the ballroom a thousand times. The scent of her hair, the feel of her in his arms, the sigh of her breath against his lips that moment before Henry arrived. The entire experience with her at the piano had been magical. Quiet moments of closeness that teased the promise of something more.
Was it the more that had sent Swan running the next morning? Worried about what expectations he might have after their near dalliance? Did she think him the type of man who would feel entitled to her affections now that she’d shown him a moment’s willingness?
It certainly could have been said of him at one point in his life, but not any longer. Emma wasn’t loot or some conquest. Though he certainly had more to lose, whatever they became was as much up to her as it was to him. He didn’t want to win her heart with trickery or pressure. He wanted her to want him as much as he wanted her. Which was why her belief was so important.
He wouldn’t stop trying to get her to believe. He still had a little more than a week left. He just had to have faith that it would be enough time.
That is, of course, if she ever came back.
She had to come back. Liam’s descendants would start arriving in two days time, and there were a number of final preparations to be made for the Grand Opening. Swan would be back soon. She’d come home to the manor, he’d show her that her initial instincts about him weren’t wrong, and then… that’s when the fun would begin.
Renewed in his mission, Killian settled himself down in front of the fire with a book, though it appeared, upon closer inspection, that the restored library featured a number of book fronts in order to give the illusion of a library, and not many actual books. Thankfully, he found one that suited him well enough but had only gotten a few pages into it when he heard the crash of the front door gusting open.
Arriving in the foyer, Killian saw Emma and Henry struggling to close the massive wooden door against the onslaught of the driving winds. Rain, leaves, and debris littered the floor as Killian slipped and skidded his way toward them to help, putting the full weight of his body against the door until it was firmly closed and locked tight.
“Bloody hell, you’re both soaked to the bone,” Killian exclaimed, assessing the pair as they dripped water all over the carpets, and stood shivering from the chilled bite of the late autumn rain.
“Ugh, we’re going to ruin the rug,” Swan muttered as she attempted to remove the lengths of sodden hair that had plastered themselves across her face and neck.
“Forget the rug, Swan,” Killian chided. “You both need to get out of those wet clothes before you catch your death. Off you go,” he ordered. “Join me back in library so you can warm yourselves by the fire, yeah? I’ll have hot cocoa waiting.”
“Thanks, K-killian,” Henry chattered through his teeth as he stiffly made his way toward the stairs.
“Yeah, um. Thanks,” Emma replied, not quite meeting his eyes as she offered a small smile of gratitude before turning to follow Henry.
Killian sighed as he watched them go. Well, they’re back at least. That’s something, he supposed.
“Seriously?!” Emma shouted.
She’d made it up to her room and had just finished stripping off her wet clothes when all the lights went out. Power outage. Just. Great.
Fumbling in the dark for several minutes, she finally located a flashlight and quickly threw on a pair of yoga pants and a long sweater before hurrying to Henry’s room. She handed him the flashlight through the barely opened door after she’d already barged in on him earning her a, Jeez, Mom! A little privacy!, and backing her way out into the hall.
As she stood against the door waiting for Henry, Emma considered the man waiting for them downstairs. Killian Jones. Her dream man come to life, turning her world completely upside down with his kindness, affection, intensity, and consideration. He was the most attractive man she’d ever met, had offered nothing shy of supportive words and earnest compliments to her, and seemed to care for her son every bit as much as he’d shown care for her.
And she’d run from him.
Of course, she had. She’s Emma Swan. That’s what she does. It’s what she’d always done. She runs and doesn’t look back.
Except this time she had, metaphorically speaking, because as soon as she’d left she’d known it had been a mistake. As soon as she’d left, she missed him.
Which was crazy! She’d known him, what… less than a week?
But something inside her felt as though she’d known him for months, not days. She couldn’t shake the feeling deep down that she just might know him better than anyone, and that he might know her better than she knew herself.
Which completely freaked her out. Hence the running. But also made her feel wanted. He made her feel wanted, when not many people in her life ever had. Hence the coming back.
Though, truth be told, she had to come back sooner or later, people would be swarming the manor in a matter of days. But she’d chosen sooner. Through a storm, with gale force winds, and near zero visibility, and David was absolutely going to kill her the next time he saw her.
But she didn’t care. All she cared about was trying to salvage the mess she’d made. She didn’t know if what she felt for Killian was real, or if she was merely projecting the feelings she had cultivated for Captain Killian Jones over these past months onto the man who happened to bear a striking resemblance to him. But she was willing to find out.
If she hadn’t gone and screwed it all up already.
Henry emerged in warm, dry clothes and the two made their way back down to the library where they were met with a crackling fire, two mugs of hot cocoa (with whipped cream and cinnamon), and one flannel pajama pants clad man lighting the last few candles he’d set out in order to give them some additional light.
“Have a seat in front of the fire, and you’ll be warmed up in no time,” Killian instructed, coming back over toward them with a couple of blankets in his arms, which he promptly draped around their shoulders as soon as they were situated.
He’d just settled himself down next to Henry when a flash of lightening and peel of thunder shook through the manor. Henry buried himself into Killian’s side, shaken by the turbulent sounds (and probably still trying to recover from the harrowing drive back to manor) that were echoing across the cliffs outside.
“It’s alright, lad,” Killian comforted as he draped an arm around her son, pausing to glance her way in order to gain her assurance that his actions with her boy were okay.
She gave him an encouraging smile and nod, and her breath caught at the returned grin he flashed her. Maybe she hadn’t made a complete mess of things after all?
“Killian?” Henry muffled against the man’s side.
“Will you tell us a story?”
“Certainly, my boy. What would you like to hear?” Emma’s heart absolutely did not do that flippy-flop thing you read about when she heard Killian call Henry, my boy, That would be ridiculous.
“Will you tell us the legend of Captain Jones? The way you know the story?”
Killian let out an amused breath, a look of consideration passing over his features before he turned to glance at her as if assessing her in the way one might decide how much of a secret to divulge. His enigmatic demeanor only heightening the anticipation she had for his rendition of the tale.
It began in much the same way as the other versions did. The dashing sea captain convincing a lonely and miserable woman to leave her husband and child to run away with him. Their shared love giving them the courage to stand against scandal and calumny from their peerage.
The middle of his version started to veer from the others, but actually walked the line of truth as Emma knew it from the captain’s journals, when he spoke of Captain Jones’ insistence that his love remain behind when she suspected that she may be with child. The tale went on to express that he’d begun to feel remorse over the fact that he’d allowed her first born to be left without a mother. A show of conscience the other tales never afforded him, and a detail that had her wondering if that was the thing Captain Jones had confessed such shame and guilt over in his final entries.
Other details stood out as well, like the addition of the woman’s husband, and that neither Captain Jones nor his love were to blame for her death, but that it had been a vicious murder at the hand of her estranged husband. Furthermore, that the husband had come with the news of his son’s demise, and an already struck deal with the local witch to curse the captain for his selfishness. A curse that bound him to haunt the estate for all eternity unless he could find a way to break the enchantment while he was granted corporeal form every one hundred years.
Henry had fallen asleep somewhere around the telling of the captain’s arrival back at the estate, his head resting in Killian’s lap. His even breathing the only sound besides the crackling of the dying fire, the storm long since passed over.
Killian stared off into the embers, lost in thought and giving Emma an opportunity to consider the tale he’d just spun, so vastly different from the others, and yet it filled in gaps that had always bothered Emma when she’d studied the legend and compared it with historical accounts.
“Do you think she was really pregnant?” she asked quietly, drawing him from his contemplations.
A somberness passed over him as he cast his gaze down to the floor, and replied, “I hope not. Enough tragedy occurred that night as it was.”
Emma could feel a heaviness settle over the room, a sorrow that seemed to emanate from the man beside her, and one Emma suddenly found herself desperate to relieve.
“I’ve never heard that particular version of the legend before, and believe me, I’ve heard many. Where did you hear that one?”
She saw the corners of his lips tick up as he let out another amused breath, finally meeting her gaze with a fresh glint of mischief in his eyes.
“Who said I heard it? Maybe I’m Captain Killian Jones, enjoying his time in corporeal form, and relaying the truth of my tale to you,” he teased, or at least she assumed he was.
Of course he was.
“Right,” she scoffed. “Then tell me, Captain. How exactly do you go about breaking your curse?”
His smile faltered for the briefest of moments before he sighed dramatically and replied, “If you figure that out, love, please let me know.”
“Well, lucky us,” she continued on in their jesting, “The actual Captain Jones is here to welcome people to his newly restored manor. I should put you to work as host at the Grand Opening.”
“Or he could play the part of the ghost,” Henry offered, his voice thick from slumber.
“I thought you were asleep?”
“Nah,” he yawned. “Just resting my eyes.”
Killian chuckled disturbing Henry’s resting spot and forcing him to sit up.
“Uh, huh. Sure,” she countered. “Time for bed, kid.”
“But Killian should totally dress up like Captain Jones for the Grand Opening!” he pressed.
“Henry, I don’t think Killian is going to want t-”
“No, no, Swan,” Killian interrupted. “I’d be only too happy to assist with your big day.”
Emma stared at the pair of them, once again feeling as if they were colluding on some grand scheme of which she had no awareness of.
“Well… okay then,” she agreed. “We’ll have to see what we can find in the way of a costume.”
That sly smirk and brow were back prominently on his face as he quipped, “Leave that to me, love.”
It had been non-stop chaos for six whole days. Emma was exhausted and the Grand Opening wasn’t even until tomorrow.
Though the effects of the storm hadn’t caused any significant damage or issues, it had taken some time to set everything back to rights the next day. Then she’d been roped into meeting after meeting, weighing in on everything from the logistics of housing members of the Jones family to the historical accuracy of the actors’ costumes and roles they’d be playing during the daytime event. There was also the small matter of research she was still trying to accomplish for her next restoration project, while also actually being an engaged parent.
God bless Killian Jones.
Without any prompting or hesitation, the man threw himself into the supportive roles of assistant and caregiver. Staying by her side to offer his services as she had need, whether it be wrangling members of his extended family as they arrived in droves, or helping Henry with his homework in the evenings and seeing to it that her son ate and made it to bed at a decent hour.
He’d become her supplier of coffee in the mornings and hot cocoa in the evenings. Her respite from tension filled details as he worked out the kinks in her shoulders with his strong hands, or offered her moments of levity with his wit and flirty innuendo. A sounding board and cheerleader to her ideas that would make the Grand Opening even more enjoyable and meaningful to the visitors that would come through, even offering to sacrifice sleep in order to help her sort through the artifacts they’d discovered during the restoration that would be showcased during the event.
Artifacts like Captain Jones’ journals and letters displayed under protective glass that would preserve the man’s thoughts and accounts for years to come. Other bits of memorabilia from the centuries of living that had occurred within the manor, as well. Scraps of documents and handwritten notes that had been discovered in the study dating back to 1917, photos of Joneses that spanned from the mid-1800’s up until the house became vacant forty years ago, and collections of antique items that had been commonplace at one time, but now served as a time capsule for how members of the estate had lived over the centuries; all available for viewing as the public would tour the manor.
It was the organizing of these final displays that had Emma so distracted that she did not hear Killian’s approach as he made his way into the gallery that had been selected to showcase the collection, only becoming aware of his presence when he whispered her name in her ear, causing her to startle.
“Killian! Are you trying to give me a heart attack?”
“On the contrary, love,” he purred. “I’ve come to whisk you away for a few hours so you don’t end up working yourself to death.”
As he stepped back she noticed the basket and blanket sitting at his feet, an expectant look, raised brows, and head cocked to one side as he waited for her reaction.
“This, Swan,” he gestured to the items, “is a picnic. The lad and I are off to enjoy a lunch along the cliffs and we would like you to join us,” he invited softly.
Emma would love nothing more than to spend the next couple of hours lounging on the back lawns of the estate with Killian and her son, but as her eyes swept over all the work yet to do that seemed like an impossibility.
Probably sensing the impending refusal, Killian stepped forward and took her hand in his. “Emma. You’ve done amazing work, and the Grand Opening is going to be huge success. You deserve to take some time for yourself to relax and regroup so that you can enjoy it as well.” Emma felt her resolve (not that she even had much of any) melt away at his words and feel of his thumb brushing over her knuckles. “Put that bloody curator woman in charge of finishing this up,” he suggested as he gestured to the artifacts around them. “She’s lurking about somewhere, isn’t she?”
Emma worried at her lip as she gave his offer one final consideration, looking past him to the beckoning lawns outside the window.
“Alright, Mr. Jones,” she acquiesced in a mocked formal tone. “I will happily accompany you to a picnic on the back lawns.”
He flashed her his most dashing smile, and offered her his free arm after he collected the basket and blanket, which she gladly took as he led her to the spot he and Henry had selected.
He’d certainly gone all out. A platters of meat, cheese, fruit, crackers, and sweets delighted them as they reclined on the quilted blanket spread out to overlook the sea. After they’d satisfied their hunger, Killian produced two wooden swords, offering one to Henry in challenge. Emma laughed as she watched the two duel across the lawn, the sight of which stirred the memories of Henry sparring with the imaginary Captain Jones over the summer. She couldn’t help but note the similarity in her son’s movements as he thrust and parried and danced with a physical foe. Each looked as if they had done this a number of times, learning the techniques of the other’s style through practiced repetition.
Victory hard fought and won, Henry asked if he could go back up to the manor and reward himself with some time on his Gameboy, which Emma granted. Killian laid himself down on the blanket beside her and urged her to turn her attentions to the sea once more.
“What am I looking at?” she asked.
“Is it doing something?”
“No. I just thought you might find it calming,” he mused.
“It is,” she agreed.
“The sea has always been a great source of comfort and inspiration for me,” Killian confessed quietly.
“Inspiration? What does it inspire in you?” Emma asked coyly, expecting a response of flippant wit or bawdy innuendo.
She wasn’t expecting the man to recite poetry to her as she kept a fixed eye on the waters below. Captivating her with the soft lilt and warm timbre of his voice.
“Who is it that appears like the dawn?
As fair as the moon, as bright as the sun?
Show me your face, let me hear your voice.
As I choose you, let me be your choice.
My beautiful one, arise and come with me.
Before the dawn breaks and the shadows flee.
Set me like a seal on your heart,
A forged love that can not be torn apart.
You’ll ravish my heart with just one glance
Until it so desires to take love’s chance.
My beautiful one, arise and come with me.
Let us set sail with our love across the sea.”
Emma became aware of Killian’s caressing glance as he quoted, show me your face, let me hear your voice. Felt the weight of his hand on hers as he asked, let me be your choice. Her heart thundered within her chest as he beseeched, set me like a seal on your heart, and she could no longer avoid his gaze when she finally turned to face him to take love’s chance.
They sat gazing at one another for long moments after his recitation ended before he moved to kneel before her. Taking her face in his hands, he placed a soft kiss on her lips and Emma’s breath caught at the overwhelming rush of sensation that swept over her. The soft, yet earnest press of his mouth against hers, that comforting scent of leather, sea and spice she now attributed to him, the tingling sensation that bloomed beneath his fingers on her cheeks, all working to convey a familiarity at the idea that she had experienced this moment before.
An idea she almost gave a moment’s consideration to before her better judgment reminded her otherwise.
Opening her eyes to look at him as he drew back from her lips, she breathlessly offered, ”That was beautiful. Do you know who wrote it?”
He smiled shyly and reached back to scratch behind his ear as he answered, “Actually, I did. I told you the sea was a source of great inspiration.”
She returned his smile and reached her hand around to the back of his neck, playing with his hair at the nape. “I can think of other things the sea inspires,” she said coyly, drawing him back down toward her mouth.
Which of course would be the exact moment a member of the staff called out for her to come and help with some crisis that had developed in the gallery.
Emma groaned as she placed her head against Killian’s shoulder which shook under his suppressed chuckle.
“Go on, Swan,” he urged. “Go save the day. I’ll tidy up here and see you later.”
Emma gave a long suffering sigh as she stood and made her way back toward the house, catching a glimpse of Killian watching her go over her shoulder. As she entered the gallery she was met with nothing even remotely resembling a crisis, just a few unfinished displays and a need to finalize their placement.
Grumbling under her breath about interrupted moments, she began sorting through the final stack of papers they’d planned to include. Many were scraps of torn, handwritten notes that were to be arranged in a collage style. The familiar script of Captain Jones caught her eye, which widened as she read what appeared to be the final lines of a poem. A poem that had just been recited to her on the back lawn by the man who’d claimed to have written it, though according to the date and initials at the bottom of the page, these particular lines had been penned by K. Jones in 1917.
It was all becoming too much to ignore, but Emma was nothing if not a well traversed patron on the road of denial. She’d been able to look past several things over the recent months, but these past two weeks in the incomprehensible presence of Killian Jones had tested her boundaries of logic in ways she’d never imagined.
She’d still been confused, even a bit shaken when she’d gotten up that morning over the problematic discovery of that scrap of paper. A poem penned in a hand two hundred years after the writer had died, and one hundred years before the author was born. It was a puzzle that had kept her up most of the night.
Maybe the handwritings were just very similar and not truly the same at all. Maybe Killian had heard the poem, first penned by his ancestor, and had subconsciously been inspired by it without realizing the reference when he’d written his version? That had to be it, right? It wasn’t like Captain Killian Jones, Killian Jones the founder of the Jones Family Trust in 1917, and Killian Jones the man she’d come to know over the past two weeks were all the same man.
As Emma came down to the grand foyer she shook off the remaining trepidations that had clung to her throughout the night. It was easy to remind herself of the difference between fantasy and reality in the stark light of day.
She had just finished giving final instructions to some of the actors and staff hired on for the day when she felt a presence come up behind her.
“Boo,” Killian teased in her ear, startling her slightly and causing her to spin around to face him. Her eyes went wide and her mouth fell open at the leather clad, opened shirt sight before her. “What’s the matter, Swan?” he inquired, a smug smirk at his lips and arched brow practically raised to his hairline. “You look as though you’ve seen a ghost.”
He gave her a cheeky wink that earned him an eye roll, but as Emma glanced over his shoulder her gaze fixed itself on the portrait of Captain Jones that hung behind him, and for the first time since she’d arrived at the manor a shiver of unease ran down her spine.
Their outfits were identical. From the embroidered red vest, to the great overcoat, even down to the buckle at his belt, they were as identical as the two men were. Down to the wind swept hair, vivid ocean eyes, and even the small scar each had marring his right cheek.
Emma’s heart began slamming within her chest, and thankfully Killian was being called away at just that moment. He quickly kissed her cheek, wishing her luck for the day, not that you’ll need it, Swan. I’ve yet to see you fail, before he’d had a chance to see her distress.
Their schedules and assigned duties for the day left no real opportunity to interact afterward (though she did take a few moments to appreciate his appearance in all that leather throughout the day), and for that she was grateful. It gave her time to get her head back on straight, so that when she saw Killian later that night at the formal gathering in the ballroom, out of the pirate leather and in a modern (and very well fitted) suit, she’d attributed her earlier insanity to the stress that had been threatening to overtake her all week.
Compliments and praise for the restoration and the Grand Opening flowed as freely as the champagne, and Emma couldn’t have been more delighted or more proud. Killian stayed at her side for most of the evening, and several times she had to laugh at herself for indulging in the ridiculous notion that she could have possibly believed for even a moment that he was actually Captain Killian Jones.
A notion that still had her smirking as the last song of the evening began playing.
“May I have this dance, milady,” Killian inquired formally as he bowed before her and offered his hand, a seductive smirk at his lips.
“I don’t dance,” she informed apologetically. “Especially when I don’t even know what the dance is.”
Undeterred, Killian took her hand and led her onto the dance floor. “It’s called a waltz,” he supplied as he positioned one of her hands at his shoulder and the other within his grasp. “There’s only one rule,” he stated, and then added with a wink, “Pick a partner who knows what he’s doing.”
It wasn’t until the song had nearly finished that the memory of why those words had sounded so familiar crashed over her.
“Dance with me, Mom.”
“Sorry, kid. I don’t dance.”
“Killian says all you need is a partner who knows what he’s doing.”
As the song came to an end Emma stepped hurriedly out of Killian’s embrace, declaring that she had to say her goodbyes to the guests and then oversee the cleanup crews before rushing off in a panic. A little later she made her way out onto the verandas outside the ballroom warring with her own mind, and once again trying to reconcile her experiences with logic.
The cold autumn breeze made her shiver. Her short, low back evening dress offering little protection against the night air, she turned to make her way back inside when she caught sight of Killian making his way towards her.
Tie loosened, collar unbuttoned, shirt sleeves rolled, and jacket slung over his shoulder, the sight of him made Emma’s belly tighten, and not with the unease she’d been fighting off for the past twenty-four hours.
“There you are, Swan,” he said, a casual, but warm expression set upon his face. “Been a long day for you, love. You should head up to bed. Let the members of the Historical Society handle the clean-up.”
Emma gave a noncommittal hum in response. She didn’t want to turn in for the night, not alone anyway, but she still couldn’t shake the feeling that she was teetering on the edge of something significant.
“It’s bloody freezing out here, love.”
Killian stepped forward and draped his coat over her shoulders. It was then that Emma noticed a tattoo she had not seen before on his right forearm. Milah, it read.
The woman Captain Killian Jones was cursed for loving. Why would her name be inked into this man’s forearm? What were the odds that this Killian Jones would have loved a woman enough to brand himself with that exact name?
Suddenly everything clicked into place, unlocking that part of her mind that Emma had been stubbornly refusing to access. The part that maybe did believe that there were such things as ghosts. The part that could no longer reconcile all the similarities and coincidences between the two men she’d come to know and love. The part that realized they weren’t two separate men at all, but that they were one and the same. Captain Killian Jones. A man cursed to exist in ghost form except for a time every one hundred years. A time that, according to her researched accounts of other references of Killian Jones over the centuries, coincided with that exact moment.
Emma let out a startled gasp as the full realization and acceptance of the truth settled over her and she snapped her eyes up to meet Killian’s intense gaze.
“What’s the matter, Swan?” he questioned softly, his expression cautious yet overflowing with a type of hopeful anticipation. “You look as though you’ve seen a ghost.”
His eyes searched hers, his jaw muscle ticking with nervous expectation, and Emma was quite sure they had both forgotten how to breathe. There was no teasing in the words this time. No cheeky wink or smirk to apply his comment as nothing more than flirty banter. No. This was a statement of fact. A challenge to her set belief that the impossible scenario before her might actually be real.
That he was real.
Captain Killian Jones in the flesh. Standing before her in a form she could see and hear and smell and touch. And she very much wanted to touch him.
“Maybe I have,” she admitted as she reached out and grabbed the front of his shirt, pulling him into a kiss before either of them could comprehend her intention.
Killian had no bloody idea how they ever made it back up to his room. He was pretty sure they hadn’t stopped touching one another in some fashion since she’d pulled him into that kiss out on the veranda.
He wanted to ask her what it meant. Wanted her assertion that she well and truly believed that he was, indeed, Captain Killian Jones. Needed to hear her express her belief in him.
Just not as much as he wanted or needed this, though. Needed her.
Needed the feel of her body against his. The taste of her on his tongue as it plundered her mouth and explored the line of her slender neck. The desperate gasps and pants that gave over to groanings in response to his touch that echoed within his ears. The shudder he felt traverse down her spine as he whispered her name in her ear. He needed it all, wanted it all, and was desperate to offer it back to her in equal measure.
Her hands shook as she began to work at the buttons of his shirt.
“Sorry. It’s, uh… it’s been a while,” she muttered against his lips, eliciting a chuckle from deep within his chest.
“Darling, it can’t possibly have been any longer for you than it has been for me.”
She pulled back to stare at him with wide, amused eyes and he knew in that moment that she believed. Could see her acceptance of his words as truth and not just teasing. Though, she did apply a teasing tone to her next words.
“That’s true,” she smirked, as she challenged. “Are you sure you remember what to do?”
Her eyes widened again at the growl that tore past his lips as he turned her and pressed her front against one of the four columns of his bed, pinning her against it with his hips.
“I assure you, love,” he murmured along her ear. “I know exactly what to do with you. And to you.”
He felt her shiver again as his hands roamed the expanse of her body, one finding its way beneath the skirt of her dress as the other began to slide its zipper down the length of her side.
Placing heated kisses against her neck, his mouth followed the line of the strap of her dress as he slid it from her shoulder, repeating the action on the other side until she stood before him in only her panties.
And such lovely panties they were.
They’d be even lovelier on the floor.
Slowly he spun her again to face him and feasted on the sight before him.
“You are bloody beautiful, Emma,” he praised as he brought his mouth to her throat, working the flicker of her pulse with his tongue as his hands cupped her breasts.
Her head tilted back as she arched up against him, beckoning him on in his exploration as his mouth continued down her neck, stopping to nip at her collar bone.
“Killian,” she pleaded, burying her hand in his hair, guiding him lower still until she gasped at the pull of her nipple between his teeth.
His hips bucked when her other hand palmed him through his trousers, becoming painfully aware of his own body’s pleas for the sensation of her touch. Continuing to lavish his attentions on her breasts, he worked with her to undo the fastenings of his belt and trousers until they slipped over his hips and down his legs; he almost came apart when she reached for him again, this time with less of a barrier between them.
“Wait, love,” he groaned against her chest as he took her hand in his. “If you start that now, I’m not going to last. And as a gentleman, I must insist. Ladies first.”
Her smug little giggle was cut off by the moan that escaped her throat when he sank to his knees before her and divested her of those enticing panties. Placing one of her legs over his shoulder he wasted no time in offering up his ministrations of worship to her as he savored the heady tang of her scent and taste and gloried in her cries of completion.
Setting her back steadily on her feet he was met with her fierce response as he stood before her once more. Gone were the shaky fingers that had fumbled over the buttons of his shirt upon entering his room. Indeed she gave them no heed at all as she tore the garment from him, fusing her mouth to his as the buttons scattered across the floor. A hum resonated at the back of her throat as her tongue swept over his, still coated with her essence.
“Bed. Now,” she instructed as she pushed at his chest, her mouth still hungrily devouring his, only pausing long enough to issue the demand.
“As my lady commands,” he replied as they made their way around to the side of the bed, the backs of his knees meeting the edge just before he was pushed back onto it.
Her hands pulled at the elastic band of his last remaining article of clothing, trailing them down his legs and leaving him as bare as she was. His manhood weeping between them and drawing her attention with a wanton gaze that made him flush with fresh desire.
“Come here, love,” he beckoned as he situated himself upon the bed, pulling back the covers to welcome her as she climbed in next to him.
Her skin against his was sublime. The heat of her mouth, the silkiness of her hair, the scent of her skin, all things he’d longed to experience those torturous months when she’d been just out of his reach, and things he’d give anything to experience again and again, hoping with everything in him that they’d be granted more than just this one night together. Praying to the powers that be who held the conditions of his curse within their grasp that he might receive absolution within the love of Emma’s embrace.
For she did love him, of that he was certain. The words may not have been uttered, but there was no mistaking the shine of it in her eyes. A brilliance that left him humbled in its reflection, yet emboldened to display his reciprocation through the action of his love making.
Pressing her onto her back, Killian placed himself within the cradle of her thighs and waited at her entrance.
“May I have you, Emma?”
“Yes, Killian. I’m yours,” she breathed.
It might have been because he had not been with a woman in over three hundred years, or because, though he’d dreamt of this moment often, he’d never quite believed he would have the pleasure of being with Emma so intimately, but as Killian sheathed himself within her tight heat he’d never experienced any other sensation that felt more like home. Surrounded as they were by the very walls of his upbringing, it paled in the comparison of being surrounded by her.
“Gods above, Emma,” he moaned as he set a steady rhythm between them, his gaze sweeping over her stretched form beneath him, marveling at the expression of adoration on her features as she watched him with equal passion.
Pulling him to her lips, she quickened their pace with purpose driven movements of her hips as their bodies came together in a frenzy. She wrapped her legs around his hips allowing him to gain greater purchase within her, and he could feel the build of his release gather at the base of his spine.
“Let go, my love,” he urged. “Come with me, Emma.”
Just as he felt the last vestiges of his control snap, she tightened around him. Cries of ecstasy fell from her lips, as groanings deeper than words escaped from his own as they spent themselves in that moment of shared bliss.
In the soft afterglow of their love making, Emma nestled into Killian’s side caressing nonsensical patterns through the hair at his chest as it rose and fell in an even keel.
Captain Killian Jones.
Emma’s mind still had trouble wrapping itself around the fact that the man lying naked next to her was, in fact, a three hundred year old ghost, but little else in her world had ever felt more real or true. He was real, and the legend was true. The legend, the curse, all the inexplicable occurrences she’d experienced for months finally had an explanation. Him.
The scent, the feeling of being watched, the tingling sensations, Henry’s imaginary friend, the study…
Emma raised her hand and brought it back down in a hard slap against Killian’s chest.
“Ow! Bloody hell, woman! What was that for?!” he exclaimed.
“The key!” she accused, raising up onto her side to stare down at him. “The damn key and locked door to your study! Do you have any idea how crazy that drove me?”
Killian chuckled and pulled her back down to him until she was nestled upon his chest. Wrapping an arm around her waist, he began running his fingertips along the length of her back in an attempt to appease her.
“Darling, do you have any idea how boring it is to haunt a vacant house for forty years? I couldn’t resist a little fun after you arrived,” he confessed. “Besides, I quite fancied our little game, you’re rather lovely when you’re all riled up.”
She pinched his side, which only made him laugh harder. She wasn’t really all that upset with him, she just hated that it took her this long to realize the truth. It seemed foolish now that she’d denied it for so long, especially after everything Henry had tried to tell her.
“The chandelier,” she whispered against his chest, and she felt him go rigid beneath her as she pressed herself up to look him in the eye. “You stopped the chandelier.”
The muscle in his cheek jumped as he clenched his jaw, the memory of the event darkening his gaze the way it did hers when she considered how close she’d been to losing her son. Killian didn’t answer. He didn’t have to. Emma already knew, knew back then even, and had gone so far as to thank him in the ballroom later that night. Now he was here to thank in person, but those words would never be enough to express her gratitude for his actions.
Emma stretched herself up towards him, pressing a soft kiss against his lips. His hand moved to the back of her head burying itself in her hair as she poured out her appreciation. As intense as her emotions were in that moment, their kiss remained soft and tender. An expression of love and affection more than passion and desire, which concluded with her pressing her face into the crook of his neck, content to simply hold him and be held.
“How much longer?” she asked.
“How much longer before… you know.”
“My corporeal time ends tomorrow night at midnight,” he answered softly, placing a kiss against her shoulder as he began to caress the length of her arm.
“So what do we do?” she asked. “How do we break the curse?”
“I’m hoping we may already have,” he replied, his answer causing Emma to sit up so she could face him.
Pointedly ignoring the fact that neither of them had a stitch of clothing on and that he seemed rather happy at having her astride him, she pressed on in her inquiry, “What do you mean?”
She watched in amusement (and a small amount of feminine pride) as his gaze swept over her exposed form before he closed his eyes and forced a swallow as he attempted to gain some semblance of composure before answering.
“There is a riddle,” he explained. “Henry and I have been working on parsing it out. It speaks of me finding someone. A woman with whom I won’t repeat past mistakes. A woman with whom I can... trade my love.”
He looked at her with a tentative expression of hope as he waited for his words to sink in. Words that expressed the depth of his feelings, and the longing he held that they might be returned by her.
Emma offered him a small, but coy smile as she said, “Well, I think what we did tonight adds up to more than just a True Love’s Kiss. Isn’t that how they always break curses in fairy tales?”
Killian shot up to sit before her, wrapping her in his embrace before pulling back slightly to cup her face in his hands. “Emma, does that mean you? That you...?”
Emma leaned in and whispered, “I love you, Captain Killian Jones,” against his lips, and heard his sharp intake of breath before his lips took hers.
“And I love you, Emma,” he confessed, resting his forehead against hers as they caught their breath.
Captain Killian Jones loved her, and she loved him. The curse didn’t stand a chance.
“Bloody hell!” Killian cursed as he took in the familiar scene around him, the familiar form of his ghostly visage.
“It didn’t bloody work,” he muttered to the rocky shore around him. “Why didn’t it bloody work?”
Killian set a purposeful pace back towards the cliff top and the manor beyond as he tried to figure out what they had missed. Emma loved him. They had traded declarations of that love through their words as well as their bodies, so how could the curse not have broken?
Reaching back into the far dredges of his mind, Killian brought forth the memory of the witch’s words when she’d first cursed him.
“How? How do I break the curse?”
“You don’t,” she replied. “But this will help guide you to the answer.”
Killian had thought it was merely a token that would point the way to the person capable of breaking his curse, but now he remembered the section of the riddle that had outlined the part the artifact would play in actually freeing him.
Simply place the compass within her hold, and watch as all your dues unfold.
He had to retrieve the compass and get it to Emma. Perhaps it wasn’t too late.
By the time Killian arrived at his study, Swan and Henry were already there.
“Mom! Killian’s here!” Henry exclaimed, and Killian’s heart clenched at the sight of her red-rimmed eyes and tear stained cheeks.
“The compass, Killian,” Henry continued on excitedly. “We forgot about the part with the compass!”
“Aye, lad,” Killian replied as he knelt down before Emma as she and Henry finished prying up the last of the boards that concealed the compass.
The moment he placed it in her hand, the compass began to glow brightly and Killian could immediately feel the change that came over him. Gradually the floor below him became more solid, the room sharpened in its contrast of light and dark, his senses becoming more attentive to the woman before him.
“It’s working,” he marveled, and Emma’s head snapped up in response.
“I heard that,” she whispered in quiet awe. “I heard you!”
Killian cupped her face and watched her eyes close at the sensation as she brought her free hand up to cover his. “I can feel you.”
It was working!
Emma opened her eyes and they sparkled with delighted wonder and tears as she said, “I can see you!”
Killian’s exhilaration at her assertion was short lived as a deathly pale Henry suddenly collapsed beside them.
“Henry?” Emma exclaimed, as she leaned over her prone son. “Henry?! What’s happened? Henry!”
As Emma tried to revive her son, another terrible memory took hold of Killian’s mind. He focused on the glow of the compass still gripped in Emma’s hand and remembered the similar way it had shone as it took the life force of Milah’s husband in order to give life to the magic that bound him.
The horrific truth settled over Killian as he realized that his life was being restored because it was being taken from Henry.
Life will be restored. Should she choose to trade her truest love for his displayed.
A trading of love; not he and Emma trading their love for one another, but Emma trading the true love of her son for her love of him.
“Swan. The compass. You have to destroy the compass,” he said with quiet resolve.
“What?!” she exclaimed, her heading snapping back up towards him. “But, if I do that you’ll be cursed forever.”
“If you don’t, Henry will die,” he asserted, and her face drained of all color at his words. “This is the compass’ doing. This is the trade the riddle meant. His life for mine. I’m not worth that sacrifice, Emma. Nothing is.”
There was no hesitation in her action as she quickly looked for something substantial enough with which to destroy the compass. Because, of course she’d choose Henry’s life over his, and he was glad. Relieved even. Though it didn’t alleviate the ache of heartbreak he felt, the heartbreak evident on her face.
“I don’t want to lose you,” she sobbed as she held the paper weight she’d grabbed from the desk, readying it in her hand to destroy the evil artifact.
“And I don’t want to lose you,” he confessed, taking her face in his hand one last time as he placed the other over hers. “But I won’t separate another mother from her son ever again. Save Henry. You have to let me go.”
“I love you,” she said, her forehead coming forward to rest against his.
“And I love you,” he replied. “Both of you.”
Together they brought down the paperweight and smashed the compass. A blinding pain shot through Killian as he heard Emma call out his name before everything went black.
“Captain… wake up, Captain,” a voice called, pulling him from the void.
Once again he found himself on the cursed shore, still in his ghostly form.
“Good to see you again, Captain,” the voice greeted, and Killian spun around to find the petite form of a woman standing before him.
“You can see me?”
“Of course,” she stated matter-of-factly with a shrug of her slight shoulders. “I’ve always been able to see you. I just usually don’t let you see me.”
Killian studied her a bit more and recognized her as the woman who served as the manor’s curator.
“Look closer, Captain,” she smirked as she stepped toward him.
Killian sucked in a startled breath of recognition after examining her a bit closer. “The witch!”
The woman tsked at the label and rolled her eyes. “Why must every purveyor of magic share that term?” she muttered.
“How is this possible?” Killian asked. “You should be-”
“Dead?” she supplied. “You can’t take part in a curse and not end up bound to the others involved,” she explained. “We each served a role. You, the purpose. The husband, the means. And I, the resolution.”
“The resolution? What does that mean?”
“It’s been my job to see the magic through to the end,” she stated, as if the answer was quite obvious. “I’ve been tied to the curse and to this manor in much the same way as you. I told you that I believed you deserved a second chance, so I bound myself to the curse in order to resolve it once you proved yourself worthy of being free of it.”
“Proved myself worthy? How-”
“You were willing to sacrifice yourself, Captain. Your happiness, a chance for life. Sacrifice everything so that the woman you love wouldn’t be parted from her son. You were placed under the curse so you could never again tear apart a family, and I believe that if I do not free you from it, then I will be the one guilty of that transgression.”
Killian stood and watched as the restored compass materialized within the witch’s hand, still not quite daring to hope that the moment he longed for with every fiber of his being had finally arrived.
With a wave of her hand the compass shone once more and within moments Killian felt breath fill his lungs as his heart leapt to life within his chest.
Once the glow of the compass subsided, the woman offered him one last smile as she commanded, “Go to them, Captain. Your family is waiting for you.”
Killian did not need telling twice. He turned and ran as fast as his feet would carry him back towards his home.
“Henry? Come on, kid. Wake up,” Emma pleaded. “Henry? Can you hear me?”
A sigh of relief tore from Emma’s lungs as Henry’s eyes fluttered opened.
“Mom?” he rasped as he slowly tried to sit up. “What happened? Where’s… where’s Killian?” he asked as he frantically looked about the room.
“It was a trick, Henry,” she explained thickly. “The compass. It was taking your life to restore Killian’s. We had to...”
She couldn’t go on. Words choked by sobs that demanded to be free from their restraint. Henry buried his face into her shoulder and they held each other as they cried out their heartache.
“Henry?” Emma began hesitantly as they each wiped the last of their tears from their cheeks. “Can you, um… can you see him? Is he here?”
Henry’s downcast eyes were the only response she needed, and a fresh wash of tears threatened as they pooled at the corners of her eyes.
“Wait!” He cried, his head snapping up with sharp focus. “I think… I hear him! It sounds like he’s outside, but I can hear him!”
Emma gripped Henry’s hand as the sound of her name rang in her ears. “Henry,” she replied. “I can hear him, too.”
They locked eyes with one another as the astonishment of that fact settled over them, and then leapt up to race from the room as they both heard their names called once more.
As they reached the upper walkway that overlooked the foyer, the front door burst open as Killian ran in, still crying out for them.
His gaze settled on them, a wide smile breaking over his face before he turned to rush up the stairs to meet them as Emma and Henry raced down towards him. They met at the landing, she and Henry throwing themselves into Killian’s arms as the three laughed and cried and rejoiced.
Emma cupped Killian’s face, peppering it with kisses as she asked, “How? How are you here?”
“It was the curator! Well, the witch really, she-” Emma cut off his explanation with a crushing kiss to his lips.
“I don’t care,” she muttered against his mouth. “It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you’re here.”
Killian chuckled and hugged her tightly, drawing Henry into his side to share in the embrace.
Once Emma was finally convinced that he wasn’t going to disappear again, she pulled back and took his hands into hers as she said, “Welcome home, Captain.”
“Aye, love,” he replied, squeezing her hands. “I am home. Wherever you and Henry are, that’s my home. You’re my home.”
“And you’re ours, Killian.”
“Well, then,” he said as he pulled them both back into his arms. “Welcome home, my loves.”
Killian’s poem borrowed/based on the song lyrics of Arise My Love by Michael Card; inspired by the Song of Solomon.
I had an amazing (ly frustrating) time writing this. I hope you all have enjoyed my little legend. Much love and thanks to @kmomof4 and @artistic-writer again for their encouragement, inspiration, and expertise!
Please drop me a line and let me know what you thought of it. Also, feel free to come flail with me on Tumblr (@hollyethecurious)