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"Emma, can you bring this to table six, please?"

"On it!" The waitress said, grabbing the dishes and tankards her boss was handing her.

A plate poised on her right hand, another balanced on her forearm and the beer mugs in the left one, Emma Swan made her way through the crowded tavern to obey the order that her boss, Matt, had just given her.

She knew that this entire situation was a risky exercise. She could drop anything at the slightest wrong move, and it was something she wasn't willing to experience. She didn't want to fix the potential damage. Her wage wasn't that high, she couldn't afford to pay for the broken plates, and she already had enough work without adding on it.

Ans she trusted herself on this. She was doing this job for ten years now. An actual decade. She'd had her fair share of broken plates and mistakes in her beginnings, but not anymore. She knew what she was doing. It was perhaps the only thing she was good at, she thought.

She didn't linger on those unpleasant thoughts. She placed the order in front of the client on said table six, and rushed back to the counter to attend to the bar, behind which she was working that night. Matt was looking for new employees, they were understaffed, and the tavern was crowded. No wonder, it was the best establishment of the kind in a hundred miles radius.

Emma suddenly felt like she was doing twenty things all at once. She was exhausted, and it was only starting to get dark outside. She still had hours to go before being allowed to get a bit of rest. But she was used to this by now. And she wouldn't complain : as long as she wasn't starving and had a roof above her head, she was happy.

The tavern would usually close around midnight, except for one special night a week, where it was open until dawn. Those days, she was allowed to finish early. Her boss knew her for so long, he liked her a lot, and she had a reason. She had a ten-year-old son awaiting for her to go to bed. Matt didn't really have a choice but to let her take this weekly day off. She was working extra-hours almost every day anyway, and she really thought she deserved this.

She sighed, smoothing the regulatory dress she had to wear every day. Then she turned to the bar to answer a client asking for her.

Her wage wasn't high for the hard job she did, but Henry and herself had been housed, free of charge, in a little room above the tavern for years. Things were a bit different, now. She'd indeed moved from the small room she'd shared with her son, what allowed her to have a bit more money, and to buy more things for her little boy. She liked that a lot. She just wanted her son to have the life he deserved.

She could easily remember all those nights she'd spent on the cold, wooden floor of the room, to let her kid sleep on the only bed they owned. Her comfort had drastically improved since then. She would certainly not complain about this. As an orphan, she'd always been used to that kind of rough treatments, but it was still nice to be able to sleep in a real bed, with real blankets. She finally felt safe, after all those years of fear and despair. And all of this was because of a very special someone. The only one with her son who'd never given up on her.

"Swan, stop daydreaming and serve the freaking clients!"

That charming comment was coming from Calvin, Matt's son. Emma tried really hard not to roll her eyes, knowing it would only make things worse, and obeyed without a word. The both of them had never gotten along. He was barely older than she was, but it wasn't stopping him from treating her like dirt. Needless to say she didn't really like that behavior.

Sure, her clothes were old and a bit damaged. Sure, she barely had enough money to feed her own son, and without that job, she would be panhandling right now. But it wasn't an excuse to treat her as if she were nothing. She was strong, she was a warrior. She just hadn't been lucky.

Her parents had abandoned her in a dark spot of the Enchanted Forest as she was barely a few hours old. To that bad start, she had to add years spent in the streets, some bad meetings, a past as a criminal and having to take care of a baby had barely seventeen.

Calvin couldn't judge her for this, because he'd been born at the right place at the right time. He couldn't even begin to imagine what she'd had to go through to survive. He would never know what true hunger was like, he only knew the softness of the silk on his skin and the love of adoring parents, and he didn't get what it was like to be left alone over and over again.

She didn't give herself a lot of credit, but she knew she was strong. She'd survived all of this, the hunger, the fear, the coldness, she'd raised a baby all by herself, and happiness had finally seemed to have found her after years of broken hopes and heartaches. Calvin couldn't get any of this. And she wouldn't waste her breath on him.

"He's a pain in the ass." Old Sam whispered as she was handing him his beer.

That made her chuckle, but she tried to hide it behind a fake cough so she wouldn't have to deal with another one of Calvin's rude comment. The old man winked at her, and took a long sip out of his drink. Sam was a regular costumer in the Howling Wolf tavern, and he'd always been really nice to her.

She knew he felt a kind of paternal affection toward her, given how young she'd been when she'd started to work there. He liked the fact she would never complain about anything. She just shrugged at him, cleaning the counter all at the same time. Glancing at Calvin to make sure he was too busy yelling at another waitress to pay attention to her, she answered :

"I'm used to it, don't worry. I won't let him get to me."

"Good, kiddo." He said. "Still, he shouldn't behave like that."

"He's just a jerk." She said with a small smile. "What about you, Sam? How are you?" She added, stopping her task to talk to the old man.

"As good as I could possibly be. We were talking about the Dark Curse with Berny." He said, gesturing to the other man sitting on his left.

"Sam, it's been almost thirty years. You should get over it sometimes." She gently teased him.

The Dark Curse. How often had she heard those words. It was the favorite subject of the older population, in the Enchanted forest. It had literally traumatized an entire generation. Emma had always lived in a Forest touched by the Dark Curse, and she liked to tease old Sam, but deep down, she could easily imagine what the citizens had felt back when the curse had hit their homes.

Overnight, the Evil Queen's threats had become real. She'd imprisoned Snow White and Prince Charming's entire kingdom, and they were now stuck in time. Without notice, what everyone now called the Black Dome had appeared around the castle, the city and everything surrounding it. Every soul that had tried to cross the Dome had ended up transforming into dust. Rumors said those touched by the curse had no idea of what was happening to them. They were living the same day over and over again, without aging, desperately stuck in their own lives.

What had been until then the capital of the Enchanted Forest had literally disappeared, erased from life, time and space, along with the kingdoms around it. People had long stopped trying to cross the damn Dome, too scared to get killed by the black mass. Finding a solution had been given up long ago.

Because if this entire situation was traumatizing, if a good part of the Forest had been touched, Emma lived in one of the remote areas, one of those places that had been almost forgotten for centuries as the capital was going strong. Through time, as the main kingdoms were nowhere to be seen, these lost places had developed to become towns, cities, ruled by lords and ladies.

Emma lived in the far north of the forest, directly opposite to the Black Dome that stood in the south. She'd never known anything else than this little village she was living in. She'd been abandoned by her parents right here. She'd come into age here, she'd panhandled here, and she'd finally found a life here.

"It's not the same for you, kiddo. You can't remember how it was like to wake up in a world where the capital was gone. People were panicking. There were riots, most of the citizens were trying to cross realms and reach another world, because everyone thought the Dark Curse was going to hit them as well." He explained as she was trying not to smile, hearing him telling her the same story for the hundredth time. "Remind me, how old are you again?"

"I'm twenty eight." She said with a small smile.

He looked a bit surprised "Oh, so you're born the year of the curse, then?"

"Not only the same year. The same day as well." She smiled with a little shrug.

"Wait, today is your birthday?" He said, opening his eyes wide.

Indeed, this cold day of fall was not only the Dark Curse's twenty-eighth birthday, but also her own. She'd been found in the woods the same morning the citizens had discovered, terrified, the new Black Dome obstructing a good part of their world. When she was little, she liked to think that her parents hadn't abandoned her willingly, but had been forced to because of the events that had occurred that night.

She'd dreamed about a woman with the same blonde her as hers, a warm smile on her face as she was singing her a lullaby and holding her close, making her feel safe. She would tell her she loved her more than anything in the world and was the most precious princess to ever live on this planet. She'd imagined a dad with green eyes and a soft grin, who would teach her how to horse ride and would take her on his strong shoulders so she could see the world from up high. A little brother or sister, maybe, with whom she could play in their big yard.

But with time, she'd understood that these were only stories she'd imagined to help her find sleep at night, curled up in a dark street, her rags for only blankets to keep warm. Because if they'd loved her, they would have come to get her way sooner. And this had never happened. She was just an orphan, unwanted, unloved for so long. But she'd finally managed to build her own perfect little family, and she was so happy. It was the best victory she could have imagined.

"Something I didn't know about you, kiddo!" Sam said with a wide smile. "And what are you doing here instead of celebrating this with your family?"

"No rest for the waitress." She joked. "My birthday isn't anything important, really. And I need the money, for my son. I certainly won't take any day off."

"Would you at least let me buy you a drink, then?" He kindly offered.

"That's so sweet of you." She smiled, touched by the gesture. "but if Calvin catches me with a glass in my hand, I won't ever hear the end of it."

"Swan, what the hell are you doing again?" The boss's son then shouted, as if to illustrate her words. "We don't pay you to talk to the costumers, are you serious right now?"

"Talking about the devil." She sighed, walking a bit away from Sam and aware that her short break was already over.

"You shouldn't let him talk to you like that. You deserve better" The old man told her, before lifting his glass up in the air. "Happy birthday, kiddo. You're brave. It's a rare quality in this crazy world."

"Thanks, Sam." She said with a smile.

And, without further ado, she started to clean the counter again. She was now well aware that if she stopped once again during the evening, Calvin would do anything to make her life a living hell, and she wasn't about to let him do this the night of her birthday.

 The moon had replaced the sun for a long time already. The tavern stood right at the village's entrance, a few miles from the main city that was so much bigger than where Emma lived. The place wasn't protected by any fence and was surrounded by a thick forest, but the tavern was pretty famous in the area. The citizens were all regular costumers of the only real good tavern they could find nearby, and the village was almost right next to the harbor. The travelers had to cross the place to reach the bigger city, and were often taking a deserved break in the establishment. The Howling Wolf was therefore always crowded, and Emma was never left without something to do.

She walked out of the tavern, wrapping her old cape tighter around her shoulders to try and protect herself from the freezing cold. The place was empty. As always, she was the last one to get out. She'd worked extra-hours again to try and earn a bit more gold.

She looked around her for a few moments, and her heart fastened, as it would every night. Excited to see him, mostly. But also scared. Scared that he wasn't there, that something had happened to him, that he was gone and she'd lost him. She trusted him more than anyone, she trusted him more than she trusted herself and yet, she couldn't help herself but to be afraid. Too many abandons, too many tears and too much pain. Her past was catching up on her sometimes, and she couldn't do anything about it.

But then she noticed the dark figure walking toward her, his thumb looped in his belt, his steps assured and fast. She saw him smiling at her in the distance, and felt her entire being relaxing underneath his familiar gaze.

He was there. He was always there.

She didn't wait any longer. She rushed to the handsome man with dark hair and eyes as blue as the ocean in summer, smiling up at him. Killian Jones, former Captain Hook. Killian Jones, who had given up his pirate life for her. Killian Jones, who was taking care of her son – their son – while she was working. Killian Jones, with whom she'd decided to build a life. The man she loved. Her rock. Her soulmate.

He wrapped his left arm around her waist, hook resting on the small of her back, and she placed herself on her tiptoe to kiss him senseless on the spot. After two years spent together, after everything they'd been through, they were still more in love than ever.

She loved him so damn much. They'd both been broken by life and were a bit lost when they'd met. They'd found comfort in each other's arms. He'd given her everything, he'd given up his revenge on the Dark One, who'd killed the woman he loved back then, for her, for them. He was taking care of Henry as if he were his own son. He'd brought her walls down, same walls that she'd put around her heart to try and protect herself, because she'd been so hurt in the past. He'd proved to her that she could still trust people in this world.

They'd built a family, a home. They'd found happiness on the Jolly Roger, where they lived together, all three of them. Thanks to him, she could say that she was finally happy.

"Hey, handsome." She said, pulling a bit away to look up at him, her hand resting on his stomach.

"Hey, gorgeous." He replied in the same charming tone, what made her snort.

"Stop it already. I'm anything but pretty right now." She groaned, stretching a bit as his arm was still wrapped around her. "The tavern was crowded. I'm exhausted."

"Oh, believe me, Swan. You'd be wearing a burlap sack and still be the most stunning woman I've ever laid my eyes on." He answered softly, placing his hand on her cheek, making her smile and blush a little, because he always knew what to say to make her feel good. "Good day, today?" he continued, gesturing to the bag she was wearing on her shoulder.

She grinned widely and raised her eyebrows at him, opening the pouch to show him her treasure. Six little loaves of bread, three oranges, one ration of rice and two chicken legs. Every night, as the tavern was closing up, the employees were allowed to share the leftovers of the day between them, and since they were understaffed for a while now, she was able to bring more food back home.

The couple would generally let their son eat what he wanted, and would share what was left. It happened quite often for them to be happy with this amount of food. They would most of the time use her wage only to buy a complete meal for the little boy. Because she wasn't earning much, and money was disappearing like crazy. Especially since Henry was growing like weeds and was eating twice as much as he used to, growing out of his clothes so fast it would astonish her every time.

And they both had a dream. A wonderful dream, and they needed to save in order to live it. It was what would give them the strength to keep going, when they would both be exhausted, hungry or cold. This prospect of a better life awaiting for them at the end of the road was worth everything.

Leading a nomadic life on the Jolly Roger. Sailing from harbor to harbor. Buying products from one town to sell it back in another, and make a living out of this. Showing the world to their son. Just be happy, the three of them, forever.

Except that, to start this wonderful dream, they needed money. Lots of it, since they didn't wish to starve to death during the first few days. And her wage as a waitress, despite all her extra-hours, wasn't high. Saving wasn't easy.

Of course, Killian would help her financially every time he could. He would take small jobs here and there, woodsman, helping travelers to build their camp for the night, passing a message from one village to another. But he wasn't managing to find somewhere to work full time, since no one here wanted to hire a former pirate.

She hated that, she hated these people who couldn't see behind his past. He'd changed so much. He was so loving and kind and caring, he had the biggest heart she knew, and the citizens still couldn't understand how good of a man he was. His reputation was pursuing him, stressed by the hook he was still wearing as his left hand.

She knew how guilty he felt for not being able to bring more money back home. But she would comfort him, every time, with a soft word, a hug or a kiss. One day, they'd reach their dream. Maybe in a few years, sure, but she was willing to wait. For now, they were together, all three of them, and that was all that really mattered.

"We'll be able to last for an entire day with this." He noticed, leaning to press a gentle kiss on her forehead.

"Henry is gonna be so happy." She said, grabbing an orange, knowing just how much her son liked the fruit.

"He's waiting for you, by the way." He stated, looking at her with a playful smile, knowing all too well how she was going to react to these information.

She opened her eyes wide. "Are you kidding me? He's not in bed yet? Killian, it's one in the morning. He's ten years old..."

"Don't look at me like that, I can assure you this is not my fault!" He laughed quietly. "The lad insisted to stay awake and wait for you. Who could blame him, he didn't want to miss his mum's birthday."

"Oh, babe." She said, resting her head on his shoulder as he was holding her tightly against his chest for a few seconds. "You know that, technically, it's not my birthday anymore."

"We've barely had the time to see you today, love. We needed to celebrate this sooner than later." He said, stroking her spine and making her shiver. "And we do have a few surprises for you."

"What?!" She said, looking back up at him and slowly shaking her head. "What do you mean by surprises? You know we don't have the money for this..."

"Let's say that I've taken a few more jobs lately to be able to offer you what you deserve, darling."

She felt her eyes filling with tears, hearing him say those kind words. For as far as she could remember, before meeting Killian, she'd never received anything for her birthday. When they'd got together, they'd never really had the money to do anything special. He would always figure something out, taking her to a restaurant or spending an afternoon on the beach, so she would feel special and wanted and loved, but quite frankly, having him and her son by her side was all she needed to be happy.

She looked into his eyes to try and make him understand just how much this gesture was touching her soul. He'd always been the one good for big speeches in their relationship, and she didn't know how to make him understand how much she loved him. Him and her son were the center of her world.

She absently played with her necklace, on which was hanging his brother's ring, that he'd given her all those years before. It'd become one of her quirk when she was moved. He just smiled and held her even closer for a moment. An open book, he'd always called her. She knew he could understand her without words, he could guess how she was feeling in a heartbeat and always knew what to say. God, she was so in love with him. He ended up interlacing their fingers together and said softly :

"Shall we go? The lad is waiting for us."

She nodded and followed him in the dark of the forest. In the fifteen-minute walk they took to join the ship, he managed to make her laugh several times. They talked about anything, without having to force themselves, as always. He knew everything about her, just like she knew him by heart. They even stopped walking for a few seconds, as he was answering one of her teasing with a tickle fight that made her shriek. They were often behaving like two teenagers when they were together. Because Killian Jones wasn't only her lover and soulmate : he was also her best friend.

They ended up reaching the little harbor where the Jolly Roger was tied up. At first sight, you could think it wasn't such a safe place to raise a kid, but appearances could be deceptive. Nobody would have dared to attack Captain Hook's son. Even if Emma and Henry knew him as such a gentle and kind man, she knew what he could be like when he was angry. He would have killed anyone who would have made her or Henry suffer.

She wasn't that fond of that kind of violent behavior, but she was getting him. She would have done the same if someone had attacked any of her two boys. And the threat he seemed to be to those who didn't know him personally was allowing them to raise their son in a safe place. She wasn't going to complain about that.

As the good gentleman he always was, he made her climb on the deck first, then took her hand to lead her to the captain's cabin, where they both slept every night. Henry had inherited one of the other cabin, a bit smaller, but it gave them all the privacy they needed.

As soon as Emma entered the quarters, she noticed that the table that was standing in the middle of the little room had been all set for a dinner. Candles were lightened up, laying on a light red tablecloth, and three plates were neatly placed on it. She pressed Killian's fingers between her own to quietly thank him for all of this. She was feeling so touched, she was feeling loved and wanted, and she could never thank this wonderful man enough for making her feel that way. That's when her eyes fell on her son, who, his arms folded and used as pillows, had fallen asleep on the table while waiting for them.

She had a little tenderized smile, approaching Henry to kneel on the ground and watch him sleep. He wanted to pretend he was all grown-up already, but he was still looking so young for his age. Yet, he was the most mature, clever little boy she'd ever met.

He wasn't like the other kids of his age. He liked his books more than most of his peers, and she did everything she could to offer him as much books as possible with the little savings she had. It was the least she could do, she thought, he liked reading so much and she just wanted to make him happy. She gently pushed a strand of dark hair away from his face, running her fingers through his locks, like she used to do when he was little and she would help him find sleep.

The touch of her hand woke him up. Henry looked up and blinked with a sleepy expression that made her smile, slowly coming back to reality. He immediately grinned when he saw her, and wrapped his arms around her neck for a hug. As she was faltering because of the strength if his cuddle, chuckling a bit, he exclaimed enthusiastically :

"Happy birthday, mom!"

"Thanks, kid." She answered, dropping a kiss to his hair and still smiling at how happy he seemed.

She kept him against her for a while, just enjoying his presence by her side. She would often feel guilty for not being able to spend more time with him. Her job was stopping her from watching him grow up. Of course, she would always take a day off for his birthday and would do the best she could to be with him, but she wished she could have done more. She usually left the ship around nine to make everything ready at the tavern for lunchtime, and stayed there until it was dark.

She only saw her son a few hours a day, since he was most of the time already sleeping when she was coming back, and she hated that. She loved him so much. He was astonishing her every day with his cleverness, his kindness and humor, and she would have wanted to spend each minute of her life with him and Killian. But she also had to bring some money home and put food on the table. So she knew she didn't have a choice. She was just doing her best.

Henry ended up pulling away from her to turn to Killian with a wide smile. Her boyfriend chuckled because of how happy their son looked, and protectively placed his hand on his shoulder. She smiled, happy to see them so close. Henry's birth father was long gone. He'd disappeared, leaving her heart broken and letting her deal with another abandon. He didn't even know about his son.

She'd raised him all alone for seven years, exhausting herself to try and offer her son a decent life in their little room back at the tavern. And then, Killian had arrived and everything had changed. He'd always gotten along great with the little boy, that was actually what had made him and Emma get close at first, and Henry had finally found the paternal figure he'd been lacking for so long.

Killian was so wonderful with him, advising him, listening to him, making him laugh and chasing away his nightmares. He was his son too. It wasn't the biological bound that really mattered after all. Killian had always been there. And they were a perfect little family, close and as happy as they could be. She loved both of them beyond words.

"Killian, can we give mom her gifts, now that she's here?" Henry asked, eyes sparkling with excitement.

"Of course, lad." Killian said. "You first."

Emma got back on her feet to go join Killian as Henry was proudly getting something out of the cupboard, standing opposite to the bed. She shared a questioning glance with her boyfriend, who just smiled back at her and placed his hand on the small of her back. When she turned her attention to her son again, she saw him faltering under the weight of the biggest chocolate cake she'd ever seen, and she felt her lips parting in surprise, her mouth already watering at the sight in front of her.

She couldn't even remember the last time she'd eaten something that sweet and delicious. As a kid, she used to stare at the sweets disposed in the bakeries windows, until the manager came out to chase the dirty looking little girl dressed in rags, who disturbed the costumers. Then, when she'd had Henry, all her strengths had been gathered to give him a good life. She would always buy something of the sort for his birthday, but would never really eat it to leave him enjoy it on his own. And if Killian had brought her to some really good restaurants in their relationship and she'd had a taste of what it was like to eat what she wanted, it was the biggest cake she'd ever laid her eyes on.

She was a bit out of breath, and looked at her son placing the cake on the table and smiling up at her with pure happiness. Killian chuckled, amused by her awestruck expression, and briefly buried his nose in her hair to breathe her in. He then kissed her temple, what made her come back to reality :

"What… How..." She stuttered, unable to form an articulate sentence.

"I told you, Swan. I took some jobs." Killian simply shrugged as if it were nothing.

"What kind of jobs? And how many? That kind of stuff cost a fortune!"

"Don't you worry about this, lass. Let's say that I'm preparing for this date for a few months." He simply said, making her understand that he wasn't going to give her more information.

"Thank you." She said, approaching both of them to ask for a hug, so touched by their gesture. "Thank you so much."

"Wait." Killian chuckled slightly. "The surprises aren't over yet."

"Are you insane?" She tried to protest, wondering where he'd found all that money and what she'd ever done that was so good in her life to deserve such a loving and perfect family.

He cut her off with a quick peck on her lips, making her smile. "No buts allowed, Swan. Just enjoy it. And turn around."

She stopped trying to protest and just did as he'd told, while Henry was almost bouncing up and down in excitement. Killian gently made her blonde hair fall over one of her shoulder, tickling her neck and making her shiver. As she was trying to understand what was happening and was really starting to think that her family had turned crazy, he said softly :

"We've gone together to choose it, the lad and I. I Hope you'll like it."

And, before she could answer, the cold touch of a necklace reached her skin, about three inches above the ring Killian had offered her. Intrigued, she looked down to discover a beautiful silver necklace, and three little pendants hanging on it. One was a book, the other an anchor and the last one a feather. Henry and his passion for reading. Killian and the ocean. Herself and the swan, because of her last name. Their little family, represented in a single marvel.

She turned back to them, eyes wet with tears and not even trying to imagine how much he'd payed for this beautiful necklace, because she knew it'd had to cost a damn fortune. Father and son both looked at her with questioning gazes, waiting for her to say something. They shared a playful glance when they noticed they'd made her speechless.

"So, what do you think?" Killian simply encouraged her.

"I… it's… Thank you." She said, feeling a bit lost, because before meeting Killian, she'd never been used to being put first. "Thank you so much. It'll never leave my side."

They smiled at that, and she approached them, arms wide open to hug them both, trying to make them understand how happy she was and how much she loved them. And in the dim light of their room, she held her boys tight against her for a long, long time.

 "Would you tell me a story?" Henry asked, one arm under his neck to lift his head up more easily.

Killian and Emma were sitting on the edge of his bed. It was so late, their son should have been asleep for a long time, but they had lost track of time. Henry was already half-asleep despite his request, exhausted by the late hour and the amount of food he'd just ingested. Emma had to admit being full was making her pretty sleepy as well, as she'd never been used to that sensation. She smiled at her son and gently placed his blankets back so he wouldn't get cold. Then she said, turning to look at Killian :

"Sure thing, kid. What do you wanna hear?"

"Can you tell me the story of the lost princess, please?" He asked with his most adorable smile.

She narrowed his eyes at him to make him understand she wouldn't step into his trap, and he only smiled at her as an answer, still trying to coax her. She shook her head as Killian was quietly laughing, amused by their silent conversation.

The story of the lost princess was her son's favorite. It was a myth, saying that Snow White and Prince Charming had actually had a daughter the night of the Dark Curse, and that the baby was the only one who'd managed to escape the curse. Except it was nothing more than a legend to her. There was no proof of the existence of this little girl. Sure, Snow White had been pregnant right before the curse, but since no one had ever been able to cross the dome, there was no evidence of the princess ever being born.

It was just a glimpse of hope for those who thought everything could still change and the lost kingdom could one day come back to life. Because the story wasn't stopping there. It was said that the princess was destined to save her parents' kingdom. The savior, they all called her, someone capable of such powerful white magic it could break any curse. No one even knew the name of the kid.

This story shouldn't have had any kind of importance for her or her family, but it was without Henry, who had imagined since he was a toddler that Emma was actually the lost princess.

Sure, it was making sense and Emma could understand why he'd thought such a thing in the first place. He'd imagined this entire story because she was an orphan born the day of the Dark Curse, and never knew her parents. He just wanted to think himself to be a little prince and not a poor child, barely seeing his mom because she was working her life away.

It was normal and she hadn't tried to contradict him at first, thinking he was going to give up on this idea soon enough. But he'd carried on with it, claiming several times a week that she was the princess and had to go save her poor parents, that they were going to live happily ever after in a castle and everything would be okay. Like she was some kind of royalty. This kid had read way too many books.

She was starting to get really worried. He was ten now, and she didn't know if it was normal to still be holding on to such ideas at this age. And she didn't want him to live in this imaginary world and be disappointed at the end. She wasn't some kind of princess or Savior. She wasn't destined to do anything. She was just an orphan, exhausting herself at work to try and feed the family she'd managed to build over the years. She was never going to be more than that.

"It's a myth, Henry, not a story." She sighed.

"But mom..." He tried to protest.

"No, kid." She gently cut him off. "I'm not a princess. I'm not a Savior. It's not me. We don't even know of this kid ever existed in the first place. It's time to let it go, now."

He just shrugged at her, looking a bit disapproving at her protests and giving him the sassy look she had gotten used to every time she would say those words. Killian came to help her then, agreeing with her on this, and tried to make their son smile again by saying :

"Your mum is right, lad. But choose another story. Anything, I promise."

"Can you tell me the story of how you both met, then?" He said, grinning back at them.

Emma and Killian both shared an amused smile. The story of their meeting, as long and complicated as it was, was also one of Henry's favorite. It was eventful and full of twists, and he loved to hear his parents telling him how their lives had been turned upside down. Killian wrapped his arm around Emma's waist, pulling her close, and she started with a big smile, resting her head against her boyfriend's shoulder.

"Once Upon a time..."

Chapter Text

Almost 3 years ago...

"Looking vey seductive, tonight, Swan."

"I'm repeating myself, but it seems like you don't understand, so here we go again. I'm not interested, Jerry. And I will never be." Emma replied without really paying attention to the man's comment. She was too focused on picking up the empty beer mugs laying in front of him, placing them on the tray she was carrying.

"C'mon." He insisted in a slurred speech. "Only for one night. I swear, you'll spend a great time. I'm not asking for much."

"I'm not an object" She rolled her eyes at the obviously drunk man, finally walking away as she was starting to feel oppressed.

"You're going to regret this..."

"I really doubt that" She cut him off, disappearing behind the counter to wash the mugs, feeling more and more annoyed.

She sighed in relief as she reached the safety of the bar, and started to work immediately. She was used to that kind of rude behavior. She was young, and that drew the attention of older men. More often than not, the indelicate blokes would let go after hearing her sharp sarcasm, not used to someone putting them in their place. But Jerry was a regular costumer, and he just wouldn't stop.

He was in his forties, with dirty blond hair, twisted teeth and gray eyes shinning with a cruel spark. She didn't trust him but, despite her uneasiness, she wasn't scared of him. She knew how to deal with that kind of jerks who didn't get the word no. And her room was just above the tavern, he couldn't follow her there without someone noticing. She locked herself in every night, anyway. He wasn't representing any danger, she thought. He was just incredibly annoying.

"Swan, can you bring the rum to table eight?"

"Right away, Matt!" She answered, grabbing the tray her boss was handing her.

She made her way through the crowded tavern to reach said table eight. A bunch of people were sitting there, talking loudly and looking mildly drunk. A few men were playing a dice game, and were shouting words of joy at each other. Two women were surrounding a handsome thirty-something man, who was obviously the leader of the group if she could refer to his assured way of speaking. A sword was hanging on his belt, and he had a hook for a left hand.

Everything in these people yelled pirates.

She wasn't impressed. It wasn't rare for pirates to come in the tavern and drink some rum before going back to their plundering – or whatever it was that they were doing. She didn't flinch and leaned to place the tray on the table and go on with her shift.

Looking back up, she accidentally met the leader's gaze. She suddenly felt unsettled by how clear his eyes were. She didn't look away, and a shiver ran up her spine. He smiled at her, surprisingly softly for someone who was supposed to be a criminal. She stared at him for a few more seconds, before realizing the stupidity of her behavior, and finally walking away to go back to the bar.

It's getting weird if you start staring at strangers like that. You really do need some sleep, girl, she thought to herself. She shook her head and rubbed her arms to try and clear her mind up, trying to erase the pirate's gentle expression from her mind

Little did she knew she'd just shared her first moment with the man who was going to turn her life upside down.

She got back to work quite quickly after that, trying to move on from this strange encounter. And she managed to forget for a while how weird this stranger had made her feel, how fast her heart had started to beat at his sight and how connected she'd immediately felt to him.

It's only much later that reality caught up on her. It was more than one in the morning, now. Henry was asleep for a long time in their little room, locked from the outside with the key that was hanging on a chain and that never left her neck. The second key was in the room for Henry to use it, in case of emergencies. She knew they were safe up there, but she wasn't going to leave her seven-year-old without any protection. He was her entire world, she loved him more than anything, and she would have given everything to protect him. She just needed him to be safe.

It was so cold outside in the midst of winter. Coming back from the well, she was carrying a bucket of water. It was the third trip she took there that night. The first two buckets had been intended for the tavern, and she'd finally allowed herself to take some water for herself and her son.

The touch of her freezing fingers against the pail handle was hurting her. There was only two hundred yards between the well and the tavern, but it seemed like an eternity to walk there, outside in this weather. She tried to give herself some strength, sighing heavily. She had to keep on walking. Her teeth were clashing in her mouth, and she couldn't wait to be inside.

She was almost there, and she would finally be able to curl up under her old blankets on the floor of the room. It'd been weeks since she'd had a restful night. Henry would always wake up, screaming in fear because of some nightmares, and she would often spend a good part of the night trying to comfort him back to sleep.

She was doing her best, but she knew that at this pace, she would end up breaking at some point. She was only twenty-five and was still so young, but she felt like her mind and body were so much older. Broken by the long hours at work, the hard floor of the room, the sleepless nights and the lack of food, her body didn't answer as well as it'd once had. And her soul had been torn apart so many times, she felt like she'd lived for a thousand years already. But she had to go on. For her son, because he deserved a future, a better life than hers. She wanted nothing more but to give him that.

Finally, she saw the light of the tavern getting brighter in the distance. She fastened her pace, eager to find the warm of the building, but a noise behind her made her startle.

She turned back, sensing a danger. And she found herself face to face with a hooded figure. Her heart started to beat faster in fear. Her entire being stiffened, ready for a fight. She couldn't see the stranger's face, but could guess the figure belonged to a man. He took advantage of her surprise to grab her shoulders, and pushed her against the tavern's wall. She let go of the bucket, and the water spilled all over the floor.

She didn't know what to do. She couldn't scream. The tavern was empty at this late hour, she was the one closing it every night, and nobody would hear her except for Henry. She refused to entangle her son in this. Her surroundings were silent and still. She could feel her chest raising up and down at the fast pace of her breathing, and her heartbeats rang loudly in her ears.

The man's nails dug into the skin of her shoulders, as she was trying to move and get away from him. The stranger let go of a muffled sound, his hood fell because of the movement, and she could finally see his face.

It was Jerry. She should have known it. The guy just couldn't let it go. It was dark, but she could see at the light of the lantern hanging above their head and smell at his breath that he was drunk. His pupils were dilated, covering the gray of his eyes, and a cruel grin was distorting his face, divulging his twisted teeth. He got even closer to her, gluing his leg to her thigh, and she felt a shot of pure terror running through her veins.

She suddenly felt frozen by the fear. He had obviously not liked being rejected, and wanted a revenge. He was so damn drunk, and he could do anything to her. She knew that if she didn't get out of this state of panic quickly, he would hurt her, badly. Years in the streets had taught her what people could do.

God knows what he would do to her, before ditching her lifeless body in a dark corner of the forest. Henry would grow up without her, without never knowing what had happened to his mom. An orphan, just like her. She wouldn't let that happen. And this thought managed to wake her up.

She grabbed her attacker's arm, and put all the strength she could muster to kick the most sensitive part of his body. Her fear was heightening her force. She knew how to fight, living in the streets had taught her that as well. He leaned forward, trying to catch his breath, hands cupping where her knee had been seconds earlier.

She took advantage of that position to push him away, and tried to run to the front door, hoping to close it before he could reach her. The day after, she would tell Matt about what had happened, and he would never let Jerry set foot in the tavern again. But he managed to grab her sleeve, and he twisted her arm, pinning the limb behind her back and stopping her from moving.

She groaned in pain and tried to get away from him, but she was scared he would end up breaking her limb. They struggled for a bit, then everything changed.

As she was still wriggling, knowing that a broken arm would be nothing compared to what he would do to her if she didn't get away from there, Jerry suddenly let go of her. Not understanding what was going on, she turned on her heels, and what she saw made her frown in confusion.

Jerry was now laying on the ground, his nose bleeding heavily. Above him was standing the figure of a tall man with dark hair. The stranger leaned forward and grabbed his collar, forcing him to get back up. As Jerry's feet were searching for balance on the floor, the man said in a threatening groan :

"If I see you around here again, mate, you're dead."

His surprisingly pleasant voice was contrasting with his harsh words. It was deep, with an accent. He lifted his left arm a bit, and she was surprised to see a hook there instead of a hand. Exhausted and shaken up, she didn't realize right away the stranger was the man she'd served at the tavern a bit earlier. This same man who had made her feel so strange.

The dark-haired pirate let go of Jerry, and her attacker ran away as fast as he could, given his state. Then the man turned back to her. His beautiful blue eyes, somehow still shinning in the dark, met hers, and she finally realized who he was. Frozen on the spot, her heart beating so fast against her ribs, holding her painful arm, she couldn't move. And if she was being honest with herself, she didn't know if it was all because of what had just happened, or also because of this oh so beautiful gaze staring at her.

"Are you all right, love?" He asked, reaching forward in a thoughtful gesture.

She reacted right away. She stepped back, not ready to let someone touch her after what she'd just lived. And the way this man made her feel was scaring her to death. She didn't know why she felt so connected to a perfect stranger. And she was a bit upset that he'd had to help her. She knew she should have thanked him for his intervention, but she knew how to fight. She should have been able to defend herself. She'd always managed on her own, and she felt like she'd failed. And as she didn't know how to react, she put on her tough armor and said :

"I was doing great without you, thanks."

"Clearly" he simply replied, raising an eyebrow at her

She just shrugged at him and folded her arms, a bit wounded. He didn't seem to hold a grudge against her because of her rudeness, and continued with a smirk that made her heart do something quite strange.

"A simple thank you would have sufficed."

"Right. Make fun of me." She said, rolling her eyes.

"I wouldn't dare. Are you sure you all right?" He insisted without being impressed by her cold behavior. "I could walk you home if you want me to."

"Do you really think the fact you made Jerry go gives you the right to come into my bed?" She attacked him, ready for a fight.

Her comment wasn't hard to understand if you knew her story. Her past had taught her to be afraid of kindness. They all wanted something in return. And she'd learned quite early – way too early – that if a man made that kind of offer, he wanted something more. She'd had to protect herself since her childhood, and never really felt safe.

But she'd been wrong that time. The pirate's lips parted in outrage, and she immediately understood that she'd been mistaken about him. He really had wanted to help her. She felt herself blushing, thanking the darkness around that prevented him from seeing her.

"Are you being serious?" He said, frowning and smirk long gone. "Are you saying this because I'm a pirate? Think whatever you want about my kind, lass, but I do have a code. I respect women, and this is not about to change."

"Sorry." She mumbled, forced to apologize since she knew she'd been completely wrong and he was being sincere.

"My offer still stands." He said in a deep, serious voice. "If I can be of any assistance..."

"That's fine. I live here."

He nodded and his eyes fell on the empty bucket at her feet. The spilled water had started to freeze, making the floor shine. He leaned to grab the handle and said :

"Would that help if I went to fill this at the well?"

"I can go myself." She answered a bit more gently, surprised by this stranger's kindness, but still a bit mistrustful. "It's not far."

"After what you just lived, it might be best if you stayed inside and got warmed up, love. I'll be back soon."

And, without waiting for an answer, he disappeared into the darkness of the night. She stayed still for a bit, completely taken aback. Her body was shaking because of the attack, and she was so confused by the pirate's behavior. She'd got scared, because life had broken her so many times. She'd attacked him, had been incredibly obnoxious when he'd just wanted to help, and he was still offering his kindness. Those kind of things never happened.

She'd put those walls around her heart to push away those who wanted to enter her life, because she'd been too hurt in the past and didn't think her heart could take another wound. These people would usually run away without a second thought. But not him. He was different, he'd stayed. And this was without talking about the strange things her heart had done as she was talking to him.

She finally walked back into the safety of the tavern, her head spinning a bit. She didn't know if it was because of Jerry and the terror she was still feeling at the idea of what could have happened, or because this pirate was behaving so kindly. Why was he being so nice? She took her head in her hands, trying to ignore the little voice at the back of her mind, yelling that she could trust him. She just couldn't.

She wouldn't allow herself to open her heart to someone else who would just break it all over again. She couldn't take another abandon. That was the reason why she didn't have any friends, any lovers. Only a few acquaintances here and there. Because she knew that if she let them too close to her heart, they would hurt her. And she couldn't let that happen again. She needed to protect herself, if it was the only lesson she'd learned from her troubled past.

The stranger was back a few minutes later, as she was tortured by unsettling contradictory thoughts. Her heart was yelling she could trust him, while her mind was answering she would get hurt again. She so wanted to have someone she could count on, deep down, someone she could confide in, a friend. But suffering again wasn't a possibility. And she couldn't trust a pirate, of all people. He was going to hurt her.

So she put her armor back on, and forced herself to keep calm. Looking up at him, she carefully avoided his eyes and felt victorious when her heart didn't skip a beat. She whispered a cold "thanks", grabbing the bucket he was handing her, not knowing what to do next.

"It was no troubles." He answered with a kind smile. "Are you sure you'll be all right? You didn't even tell me your name."

She wavered for a second, and felt his stare burning on her skin. She wanted to seem insensitive and cold, but this bloke intrigued her. She wanted to understand why he was making her feel this way, and why she felt like she could trust him while she didn't even know him.

And then she decided that giving her name couldn't do her any wrong, anyway. He couldn't hurt her with these information. So she finally met his eyes again, felt a shiver running up her spine, and said in a low voice :

"Swan. Emma Swan."

"Captain Hook." He answered, smiling. That name rang a bell, and she remembered all the rumors she'd heard about this man, saying that he was a feared, cruel pirate. She had never had the time to pay attention to those said rumors, but he certainly didn't seem as bad as the people said. "But you can call me Killian Jones if you'd like. It's a pleasure to meet you, Swan."

And, once again, not giving her the time to answer, he turned back and left the tavern. She stayed still for a while in the middle of the empty room, perplexed and her heart beating strangely fast in her chest.

"Swan, clean this mess right now! The first clients are already in. Do you really think I pay you to do nothing?" Calvin barked, throwing a cloth at Emma's face. She luckily managed to grab it before it hit her, and her jaw clenched in anger.

"Your father is the one who pays me, asshole." She replied, narrowing her eyes.

She was used to his rude comments and would usually let it go without a fight, but she was nervous and tired, and she couldn't take it anymore. Henry had been tortured by nightmares all night long, calling for her in panic. When he'd finally calmed down, she'd laid back down on the floor, but hadn't been able to find sleep. Despite the days that had passed since Jerry's attack, she was still tortured by the idea of what could have happened if she hadn't been able to get away from him, and the images that had flashed behind her eyelids had made her unwilling to close her eyes. She was exhausted, almost falling asleep on the spot.

Calvin raised his eyebrows, looking at her defiantly. He wasn't used to her replying something. It was one of the first time she'd actually insulted him. He took three steps toward her, and looked down at her face. She forced herself not to shrink. He was incredibly tall and seemed so threatening.

"Oh, so you want to play, you little bitch?"

And on that lovely note, he spilled the entirety of his ale on the table she'd just cleaned. She didn't say anything back, staring at him, her heart thumping in rage. She stayed silent and waited for him to walk away, pretending she didn't care while she'd been on the edge of actually punching him for a second.

She was sick of his disrespect. The worst was that she couldn't do anything about it, anything at all. His father was her boss, and if he liked her, he wouldn't accept her doing something to his son. She couldn't lose that job, she couldn't even imagine this possibility. She needed it to survive, to make Henry happy. Her son was the most important person in her life. She loved him more than anything in this world, and she felt able to bear anything for him.

But it didn't mean that she wasn't upset. As he was turning back and walking to the kitchen, she finally allowed her tears of rage to fall. She quickly wiped them off her face so no one could guess she'd been crying. She had more important things to do. So she leaned once again to clean the dirty table with a sigh of exhaustion.

"Are you okay, love?" Said a familiar voice, coming from the closest table.

She looked up, but knew who had talked without having to see him. Only a few clients were sitting in the tavern as it was still early, but Hook was there, looking at her with a concerned frown. They'd met the week prior, and he'd come every single day since. She was starting to think his ship had a problem for him to stay that long in the same area.

He would try to start conversations with her, but she would always push him away. She was scared, scared of getting attached to him, and mostly of the fact she felt so connected to him, as if they'd known each other for years. He was a pirate, she would tell herself at night, when she was trying not to think about the attack and the desire of letting him in just a little bit was the strongest. He was hurting people for a living and would only add scars to the dozens ones already distorting her heart.

But he wouldn't pay attention to her cold answers or her eyes rolls. He would continue to try and talk to her, and she would always walk away, and they seemed stuck in this endless dance. She was tired of this, tired of being afraid, but she couldn't allow anyone else to get close to her. The best way she'd found to do so had been to form a true armor around herself, armor that she would only take off with her son. Because he was her world, and she didn't have to protect herself while being with him.

She didn't even try to mumble something in return, a lump stuck in her throat and knowing the only thing that could come out of her mouth right now was a sob. She just nodded to reassure him, since his concern seemed genuine. Hook looked at her without seeming convinced, and offered :

"I could make him regret his behavior, if you want to."

"It would only worsen things." She managed to say.

"As you wish." He only replied with a soft smile.

As she was about to thank him anyway, because no one had ever paid attention to how she was feeling before and she felt suddenly so grateful, a shriek coming from the stairs made her startle and turn. A little brown head rushed toward her, and she squatted just in time to welcome her son in her arms.

"Mommy, Mommy!" He said, looking horribly panicked.

"What's the matter, kid?" She asked in a soft voice, all her anger long forgotten as comforting her son was the only thing that mattered anymore.

"There is a mouse in the room!"

"Again? Are you sure?" She asked, biting her bottom lip.

"I swear, Mommy!" He said, snuggling a bit closer to her.

She frowned and gently stroked his back to console him. Her son was deathly scared of rodents, and she'd tried to chase the same mouse away several times without any result. She sighed at that, thinking that everything was going wrong lately. She kissed her little boy's hair and promised :

"It's okay, Henry, I'm going to make it go away, I promise. Calm down, kid, everything's all right..."

"Emma, what's going on, again?!" Calvin exclaimed, getting out of the kitchen, alerted by Henry's sobs. "Your son isn't supposed to be here!"

"He's afraid, Calvin." She sighed, still trying to comfort her little boy.

"That doesn't matter! Teach him how to be a man!" He answered, and she clenched her jaw so she wouldn't start insulting him again. She hated that kind of comments.

"I'm taking a break." She said instead of the insults burning her tongue. "I need to find this mouse."

"Are you kidding me?" He immediately shouted, but she cut him off, getting back on her feet and scowling at him.

"Give me a break! I'll skip dinner time to redeem myself, okay? I have a son to comfort and this is the only important thing right now."

He seemed about to explode because of her insolence, but she didn't give him the time to do so. Her son didn't need to hear this jerk insult her on top of everything. She gently led Henry a bit further into the tavern, and knelt in front of him. Wiping off the tears rolling down his cheeks, she said with a soft smile :

"I promise I'll make things better, kid. But you're gonna have to come with me to the room, okay?"

"Oh no, Mommy, please!" He protested, looking at her with big sad eyes. "I don't wanna see the mouse again!"

She sighed, feeling guilty for scaring her son like that. But she didn't have a choice. It wasn't unusual for Henry to go out and play in the forest in summer, but it was so cold outside and he couldn't get sick. And she just couldn't leave him at the tavern with Calvin. If Matt had been there, she would have done so, because he liked her son and Calvin was behaving when his dad was around, but her boss was absent that afternoon. She was scared that he would hurt Henry because he hated her, and she couldn't take that risk.

"I'm so sorry, kid. I don't know what else to do." She apologized, feeling tears filling her eyes at her son's distress. All she wanted was for him to be happy, and she felt like she'd failed him.

"No, please, don't make me go back there!" He whined, wrapping his arms around her and burying his face in the crook of her neck.

She held him close to her, wondering how she would be able to calm her son down and convince him to come with her. She just wanted him to stop crying, his sobs were breaking her heart. Hook's voice suddenly rang from above her head, and he kindly offered :

'I could keep an eye on him if you want me to."

She raised an eyebrow, taken aback by this unexpected offer. She looked up at him to see if he was being serious, and got back on her feet, Henry grabbing her waist to stay close to her. There was no hint of mockery in his blue eyes, and his gentle smile made them look even brighter. Had that pirate just offered to watch her son? What did he want in return?

"I don't have anything to give you." She said, a bit mistrustful as she'd learned a long time ago that everything came with a price in this world.

"I'm not asking for anything in return." He shrugged. "I'm staying here anyway. I could as well be useful."

"You want to watch my seven-year-old for me?" She asked, wondering if she'd understood correctly. They obviously didn't have the same definition of the word pirate. She thought he would have been better at plundering and killing than at watching little kids. "Do you even have any experience taking care of kids?"

"A bit." he said vaguely, and she would only learn much later that he wasn't lying and that he'd had to take care of a teenager once.

"I'm not sure..." She hesitated, biting the inside of her cheek.

She just couldn't trust an almost stranger with the most important person in her life. Especially since this said stranger had a hook for a left hand and was making a living out of stealing. But she also knew that she didn't really have a choice. And something in his bright blue eyes, a spark of softness, yelled that she could trust him. That he wouldn't hurt her, ever. She wanted to trust her instinct, but she was also scared. Scared to lose her entire world if something happened to Henry.

"I don't think you could find another solution." He said, looking almost sorry.

"All right then, Jones." She surrendered, deciding to use her special ability to see if she could trust him, because he was right and she needed someone to take care of Henry for a little while. "Look at me in the eyes, and promise me that you won't hurt my son. I have a superpower, you see." She added, seeing his questioning gaze. "I know when people aye lying to me. You can't fool me."

"I'll look after your lad and protect him on my life, Swan. I promise." He said, not a hint of teasing in his voice, and looking absolutely serious.

She narrowed her eyes, stared at him for a few seconds, but finally had to admit the obvious. He was telling the truth. As far as she could remember, she'd always had this power. It was the only thing that had never betrayed her. And he was being honest : he wasn't going to hurt Henry.

And he couldn't really do something to her son anyway. More clients had come in the tavern during their conversation, and her son knew damn well that he couldn't go out without telling her. He would start yelling if the pirate tried anything. She then nodded and took a deep breath, placing her hand on Henry's shoulder to say :

"Okay, Henry. This is Killian. He's going to take care of you while I go chase the mouse, okay?"

"Hi, Killian." Henry said a bit shyly, and Jones squatted to be on eye-level with him and smiled.

"Hi, lad" He answered so softly it made her blink in surprise, because she wouldn't have expected that coming from a pirate.

"Kid, if something goes wrong, just yell and I'll be there in a heartbeat, alright?" She said, glaring at her son, who nodded in understatement.

"Still have troubles trusting me, Swan?" Hook asked with a somewhat teasing smile.

"Oh, believe me, Jones. It's been a long time since I last trusted someone." She just answered, and he lost his smirk to look at her in concern.

She didn't give him the time to add anything and make her heart skip a beat again. She leaned to drop a kiss to Henry's head, promising him she would be right back. She was feeling strange. Hook's soft gaze was unbalancing her, and she was mostly surprised that she wasn't even worried about leaving her son with an almost stranger, who was on top of everything a feared pirate.

After half an hour spent at chasing the mouse, Emma finally managed to catch it thanks to a trick including a little chunk of cheese she'd stolen in one of the plate in the kitchen. She immediately went to free the poor animal outside, trapping it in a little box for the trip. She really didn't want to kill the rodent, the mouse hadn't done anything wrong after all.

She came back inside the tavern, exhausted but knowing that the rest she desired so much was nowhere to be seen. On top of everything, she wasn't going to be able to eat a real meal since she'd taken her break earlier. But she was relieved to have caught the mouse, and wasn't going to complain. She never did, after all.

Before going back to work, she approached Henry and Hook so she could free the pirate from his watch. They were both sitting at a table in a corner of the tavern, and she stopped for a second, surprised. Her son had a wide smile on his face, and was enthusiastically talking to Jones.

She tilted her head, perplexed. Her son was a shy little boy, it wasn't in his habits to trust strangers so easily. It was definitely unexpected to see him behaving so naturally with the pirate, as if he'd known him for years.

But she was glad to see her boy so happy and cheerful, and she felt a smile spreading on her lips, her exhaustion long forgotten. She approached them, placing her hands on the table to talk to Henry.

"I fixed it, kid." She stated, sitting next to him for a minute. He looked up from the piece of paper he was looking at, on which were written strange scribbles she couldn't decipher. "The mouse is gone. How is it going?"

"That's great!" He said, turning to look at Hook with a smile. "And we're fine! Killian's awesome!"

She placed her hand on her son's back and turned to look at Jones and mouth a quiet "thank you", offering him a real smile, maybe for the first time. He nodded with a grin, as if to show her it had been his pleasure, and she felt strangely lighter. Because she felt like she could finally listen to her instinct, and trust this man. He'd taken care of her son while not asking for anything in return, he'd made him smile, and she was feeling so grateful. Seeing Henry happy was all that she wanted. And if Jones could make him grin so widely, she was glad to let him in just a little bit.

"You can go back to the room, now." She added. "But you'll have to eat alone tonight. Yesterday's leftovers are in the cupboard, as usual. Call me if you need anything, all right? I'll stay here."

"Oh, Mommy, could I stay with Killian for a bit?" he pouted. "Please? He's teaching me how to recognize the constellations" He added, showing the sheet laying on the table.

"Henry, I'm sure Hook is very busy and has a lot of things to do." She gently tried, assuming that Jones wouldn't want a kid to cling to him.

"I'm staying here all night long." The pirate then answered, and she turned to him, raising her eyebrows in surprise. "I can continue with my lesson. Come on, Swan." he added, seeing that she didn't seem convinced. "I promise it's no bother. And what could go wrong? You're staying right there."

"Well, okay then." She ended up sighing after a minute of hesitation, encouraged by the hopeful smile her little boy was offering. "I guess you can stay."

"Oh, thank you, Mommy!" Henry shouted, looking so happy, and she smiled at that, a bit surprised because her son had never been that enthusiastic about spending time with someone he barely knew.

"All right, kid. I have to go back to work." She then said, pressing a kiss on his forehead before getting off the chair she was sitting on. "Be good while I'm gone."

"Promise." He answered with a wide grin.

She gave Hook a grateful look as she walked past him, and he just answered with a kind wink, clearly meaning that he was happy to help her. A bit unbalanced by this constant kindness he seemed to be displaying, and by how glad her son looked, she got back to work, trying to make Calvin forget about the half an hour she'd spent chasing the mouse.

During her shift, she regularly glanced at Hook and Henry to make sure that everything was going okay, but they both seemed to be having a great time. Jones seemed good with Henry, making him laugh all the time, and her heart did that strange thing it seemed to always be doing at the pirate's presence again. He even bought a meal to Henry, and they spent their time chuckling at private jokes they shared, until her son fell asleep on the table, his arms used as pillow.

It was late already, and she'd been working for hours. She gestured towards Matt, who'd finally arrived, to tell him she was taking a two-minute break, and she joined Jones to go take her sleeping son in her room. She smiled at Hook again to thank him for being so nice with her son. He'd really made his day brighter, she could see it at the little smile Henry still had while sleeping. As she was about to take her son in her arms to carry him upstairs, Jones suddenly stopped her :

"Let me, Swan. I'll do it."

She didn't try to refuse the offer. It was as if these hours spent with Henry had made them grow closer as well. She trusted him, now, a real trust that had appeared with seeing her son laugh with the pirate. It's only as she was guiding him towards her room that she realized the importance of what she was doing.

Nobody aside from Matt had ever entered their room. She would never bring anyone up there. It was their place, herself and her son were the only ones allowed to come in. Sure, she'd had a few one-night stands through the years, usually with travellers she was sure she would never see again, but she would always go at their place, and would never stay. She always preferred to spend her night beside her son. And she was about to let a man she knew for barely a week enter their special place.

The more surprising was that she didn't even feel scared about it.

Hook didn't make any comment about how small and mere the room was. He only leaned to place a still sound asleep Henry on the only bed, and she tucked him in, kissing his head in a tender gesture. They both got out, and she carefully locked the door behind her to keep her son safe.

Jones stopped in the hallway to wait for her. She leaned against the wall and faced him for a while, not really knowing what to say to thank him. He'd been wonderful, and he'd won her entire trust with this simple gesture. She didn't know how to say this with words, especially since she hadn't trusted anybody for so long. Luckily, she didn't need to. He smiled at her and started talking.

"So, you live here?"

"Yeah, it's been seven years. I came to work here right after Henry was born."

"Where are you sleeping? I only saw one bed." He frowned.

"On the floor. I let Henry have is own bed. He sleeps better that way."

"It's brave." He said with a gentle smile.

"It's only fair. I'm his mother. It's my duty to take care of him."

"And the father…?"

"Gone for a very long time." She sighed, shaking her head, trying not to dive into those painful memories.

"Your son is a wonderful lad." He continued, changing the subject as he'd guessed she wasn't comfortable talking about her past, and she felt grateful once again.

"He seems to like you. And it's a rare thing, he's usually quite shy."

"I didn't do much." He shrugged, and she smiled.

"Thank you, Killian." She then said, using his name for the first time without even realizing it. "Really. What can I do to thank you? Will a drink be enough?"

"You don't owe me anything, Swan." He replied, refusing the offer. "It was my pleasure to take care of Henry."

She felt her smile widening a little bit more, and gently bit her bottom lip, feeling suddenly so surprisingly and incredibly happy. This guy was definitely full of surprises. She wondered for a second if it was the pirate stereotype that was false, or if he would only behave that way with her and her son.

She would only learn much later that, outside of the tavern, he was this feared pirate everybody talked about. It was only with them that he became his true tender self. She couldn't understand so early that she helped him be the best version of himself, just like he'd managed without that much time to break a small part of her walls.

"I never thought I'd see one of those, one day." He said playfully, drawing her away from her thoughts.

"See what?" She asked, amused by his teasing tone.

"A smile." He said, making her chuckle. "You should do it more often. It suits you."

She blushed at that, she wasn't used to compliments. But she didn't say anything back, she just walked him to the tavern as he was sitting back at his table, looking at her as she was working. She felt a bit dizzy while cleaning the tables and serving the clients. She couldn't think about anything else than Killian and his tender smile.

She didn't know then that this man would soon become the center of her world.


Henry was carefully listening to them. Emma could see that he was fighting sleep, just to listen a little bit longer to this story he yet knew by heart. The story of how they'd become a family. She smiled at him, and ran her hand through his hair. Killian kissed her shoulder, holding her close, and she finally resumed her tale.

Chapter Text

2 and a half years ago…

And Killian continued to come to the tavern every day after that. He would spend a lot of time with Henry, listening to the little boy telling him stories or teaching him about the ocean and the sky. He would tease Emma and make her laugh several times a day, what had been highly unusual before he came into her life.

Back then, she didn't wonder why he was always alone, far from his crew and the group she'd seen the night she'd met him. It's only much later that she learned the truth. He was neglecting his pirate life for Henry and herself. Because Henry was bringing back the man he'd once been a long time ago, and he'd thought before meeting them that this soft, paternal side of him was long gone. And because the idea of Emma losing her smile was making him physically sick. It was the reason why he'd dedicated himself to making her laugh, every day. He was doing a great job at it.

He didn't know back then that it was love. It'd been too long since he'd loved someone. As she didn't want to believe that she was having feelings for this man she was getting closer to by the second. She just enjoyed his presence by her side, making her day brighter. His help to take care of Henry, and his smile when he would insist to pay her a real meal. Their conversation during her breaks, during which she would often end up laughing louder than she'd ever done.

And one day, she realized she was waiting for his arrival. She would regularly glance at the door as soon as the tavern was open, expecting him to arrive and feeling her heart skipping beats. A little knot in her stomach at the idea he'd had enough of her, and wouldn't come anymore.

But he would always arrive eventually. And the knot would disappear when she would see his smile, and tell a joke to make her chuckle. She'd never had a real friend before, not for years anyway. She'd been so broken and hadn't wanted to get attached for so long, but it was before Killian. He was making her days so much brighter, and she wasn't ashamed to admit that she liked his company. She felt good about herself, more confident maybe, she was less tired and Calvin's rude comments weren't reaching her anymore. Everything was good.

They knew each other for a little over a month when, after putting Henry to bed, he offered his help to close the tavern. It wasn't unusual for him to stay with her until the end, and she accepted with a smile. As the last clients had just gone and she'd closed the door for the night, she walked to the bar to place two glasses and a bottle of rum on the table before him. Smiling down at his surprised expression, she said :

"Want a drink?"

"Swan, I already told you you didn't owe me anything. It's with pleasure that I stayed with you tonight..."

"I want to do this!" She chuckled, sitting down face to him. "Henry's asleep, and we're alone. We should as well enjoy it, don't you think?"

"Let me pay, then." He said, always the gentleman. "At least for my own drinks."

"We'll see after" She replied, waving her hand in the air, before filling in his drink. "Cheers, captain."

She was in such a good mood, that night. Killian had been even funnier than usual, and Henry had smiled all day long. On top of everything, Calvin hadn't come to the tavern, and she hadn't had to bear with his unpleasant presence. She was feeling good, and just wanted to have fun with the man she now considered to be her closest friend. She didn't take the time to have fun, usually, and she really wanted to enjoy that night. She deserved it.

He winked at the nickname she'd given him, and placed his glass against hers before drinking his rum in one big sip. They drank a few glasses, and she started to feel a bit lighter. They were talking about anything, as always, and he was playfully teasing her, making her roll her eyes in a falsely annoyed way.

Her head was spinning a little, and she hadn't felt that good for a very long time. The alcohol made her laugh more easily, and Killian seemed to enjoy this cheerful side of her she'd thought long forgotten. Then, he suddenly turned serious. He placed his empty glass on the table before him, and asked in a low, gentle voice :

"Tell me something, Swan..."

"Yeah?" She answered, curious to know the reason why he was suddenly looking at her so seriously.

"I don't wish to make you uncomfortable, and I wouldn't take it badly if you decided not to answer me, so don't feel forced. But we know each other for a while, now. And I was wondering : How is it that you're all alone to take care of the lad?"

Far from being upset by his question, she smiled to erase his embarrassed look, and filled both their glasses once again. She would usually have put her armor back on, right there. She didn't talk about her past, it was too painful, and diving into those memories was always making her feel stupid. But the alcohol helped. And it was Killian she was talking to. She trusted him, she trusted someone for the first time in years. And she wanted to know what it felt like to confide in somebody.

"So, the famous captain wants to know more about me, huh?" She asked playfully, making him smile a little.

"Only if you wish to, of course." He answered almost shyly, scratching the back of his ear, as always when he was embarrassed. "But aye. I'd like to know more about your beginnings."

"All right, then. But brace yourself, Jones. Because this is a long story."

He placed his elbows on the table to show her he was listening, what made her smile. She took a deep breath, knowing diving back into those memories was going to be painful. And, finally, she started :

"It all began a bit more than twenty-five years ago, the same morning the people of the Enchanted Forest discovered that the Dark Curse had hit Snow White's kingdom. Yeah, that's right. The Curse and I share the same birthday." She laughed a bit, seeing that his eyes had opened wide in surprise. "I was barely a few hours old when a young woman found me in the middle of the woods. I was wrapped in a blanket and the name Emma was etched on it. This is how I know my name, and this is the only thing I have left of my birth parents. They didn't even bother to leave me near a house for someone to take care of me. They just left me to die in the dark of the forest. Luckily, this woman found me, or this would already be the end of my story."

"Bloody hell, Swan, I had no idea. This is horrible." Killian said, looking genuinely shocked, and Emma just shrugged at him and smiled to show him she was all right.

"Wait. If you already react that way, I can't even imagine for the rest." She joked. "So, this woman took me in her arms, and tried to calm my tears down for a while. I don't know what happened exactly, but she decided to adopt me. She couldn't have children, and she wanted to be a mother so badly. Finding an orphan in the woods was a gift from the gods for her. But her husband wasn't agreeing with this decision. You see, it was making him secretly really glad that his wife couldn't have children. He hated them more than anything, and he hated me even more for not being his. And this is how I became Judy and Eric's daughter. It's Judy who took care of me during my first years. I know that she taught me how to read and write, and that she was so gentle, the best mom I could have wished for. I can't remember much about her, except that she had long red hair, and I can still recall her voice sometimes, when she was singing me a lullaby to help me fall asleep. Eric wasn't paying any attention to me, but I didn't care. I loved Judy, and for a few years, I had a mommy. And then she died when I was five."

Emma took a sip out of her rum to give herself some courage to keep going. She was still missing Judy sometimes, even if she'd lost her so long ago. She had been such a good mom to her. Killian was still listening carefully, head titled to show her he was all hers :

"A disease got her in a few weeks. No healer knew what was wrong with her, and she just faded away. She was so young, so sweet. She told me stories until the very end, because she didn't want me to worry. I was beside her when she died. And I can recall her funeral. I remember how Eric dragged me by the hand to get me home as I was crying, begging him to let me stay by her grave, just for a little bit longer. He told me that everything was going to change. He sold my clothes and toys. He dressed me with rags. And he forced me to go panhandle, making me look like the orphan he told me I was, so I could bring some money home. He told me I had to pay my rent. I couldn't understand what he meant back then, but it was ironic since he barely fed me. I spent three years in this situation. I grew up in that loveless life, and I finally realized it wasn't right. I thought for a long time about what to do, and I finally decided that running away wouldn't change anything, except that I would keep the money I earned panhandling, to buy me something to eat, and not keep Eric rich."

She had no idea of what Eric had become, or if he was even still alive. She didn't want to know, deep down. She despised this man, who had made her feel unloved and worthless. She was just a kid, searching for a place in this world. She couldn't understand how such a sweet, loving woman such as Judy had been able to fall in love with this animal that Eric was.

"So when I turned eight, I ran away." She resumed. "I took the blanket my birth parents had left me, and the bootlace Judy had given me just before dying. I'm still wearing it to this day." She said, showing Killian the old, faded shoelace tied around her wrist. "In memory of the only mother I've ever had. And then I walked, trying to put some distance between me and Eric, while staying in the same area, because it was the only thing I knew. I just went to the other side of the village, and he never found me, or never looked for me. I guess I'll never know. I chose myself a last name, Swan because it was my favorite animal and I hoped that, one day, I could be as majestic as one of those. I sat there, and panhandled, like I had done every day for three years. I could buy myself some food, even if it wasn't much, and I would sleep in dark streets, under pieces of cardboard to keep warm at night. And I survived, and I kept growing. Except I grew up maybe a little bit too much. When I reached my teenage years, people didn't want to give me money without anything in return."

She shivered, remembering the wanting expression of the older men, staring at her as she was still just a kid. Some people were sick. She'd had to learn that way too soon.

"So I started to take small jobs here and there, trying to earn a bit of gold. I managed to avoid the men wanting for me to give them more. My body is mine, and mine only, and this is the limit I've set so long ago. And, while working, I got better at what I was doing. Since I looked more than my actual age, I lied, and I convinced a merchant to hire me as his helper. He thought I was at least fifteen, while I was only thirteen, still just a little kid. It worked for a few years. I had a roof above my head. I was housed, fed, and I learned how to do something I actually liked. I was starting to think I had a future outside of the streets, I was going to be happy. But, once again, everything changed in the span of a few minutes. The merchant – Mark – was an honest man, and he ended up realizing I wasn't as old as I pretended to be. I was fifteen then, I was working there for a couple of years. He was ready to give me his shop when he would be too old to work. But he thought I was much older. When he learned the truth, he was furious. He hated liars. He told me it wouldn't have bothered him to hire someone as young as I was, but he wouldn't work with someone who had lied. He didn't trust me anymore. I couldn't do anything to defend myself, to convince him to keep me, because he was right, I had lied. I found myself in the streets again, unable to find another job. So I started to steal."

She sighed, taking another sip out of her drink. She was ashamed of her years as a thief. She'd done so to survive, but she wasn't proud of what she had become back then. "I was good at it, you know? I was discreet and fast, and it was easy, to steal for a living. I took jewelry, to sell them back on the black market. When it wasn't that, it was gold from the nobles' pockets, or food on the markets. And… that's when I met Neal."

She wavered for a second. It was the first time she talked with someone about that part of her life. It was strange to do so, and to see how interested Killian was, not seeming to judge her. She could trust him, she knew it. It was just painful to talk about.

"Before I keep going, I have to warn you about something. I lied to Henry. I told him his dad died in a bar fight, trying to defend an innocent man, right before I discovered I was pregnant. I hate lying, but he couldn't know the truth. It would have been too painful for him. It's too much. Here's what really happened : Neal was a thief, just like I was. Older, more confident. We got along right away. We understood each other, or at least I thought we did. He didn't know anything about my past, and I didn't know anything about his. We were just two fugitives keeping each other warm at night. Our little love story went on for a few months. I felt like I finally belonged somewhere. One day, we decided to turn our lives around. We made a plan. We were meant to steal a suitcase of marvels from a jeweler. I was the one who had to go, because I was faster. He was supposed to join me after the operation, in a corner of the forest. The suitcase was worth millions, and we had planned to ran away with the gold we would earn selling it, go to another town and start a new life, with money this time. Except he never came."

She blinked, focusing on Killian's gentle gaze to be able to go on. She hated that part of her story. Because she had trusted the wrong person, again. "Instead of finding him, like I should have, I found the sheriff. He didn't even let me speak, and threw me in a cell. I was seventeen, and there was a trial, led by the lord of the city. I was destined to spend seven months in a dark, cold cell, all alone. I was freezing there for two long weeks when I discovered I was pregnant with Henry. I'm not gonna waste your time with this part of the story. A pregnant teenager in a cell isn't anything interesting. I was just so desperate, and didn't know what to do, didn't know how I would manage with a child. And then I was freed. I was about to give birth, didn't have a job, had nowhere to go and no one to help me while still being a kid myself."

She could still remember the fear, the feeling of pure terror as she'd seen her body change, her bump grow, because she had no idea of how she could take care of a child. She'd never had real parents to teach her how to, and she was all alone in the world. But she'd managed. And, if Neal had broken her, she could tell now that Henry was the best thing that had ever happened to her. Because he had become her entire world, and she couldn't imagine her life without him.

"I felt the first contractions as I was sleeping in a little cavern, a bit outside of town. It's an old man who found me there in the morning, alerted by my cries of pain. He led me to his cabin in the woods, and helped me give birth there. He saved my life, and my son's. I wouldn't have been able to do it on my own. Without him, we would have died in the darkness of this cavern. His name was Henry. That's why I called my son that way. Because we're both alive today thanks to him. He was the first person in such a long time who had actually helped me without expecting anything in return. He offered me his home and I stayed there for a few weeks. But then he died. Just like that, he was old and one morning, he didn't wake up. I buried him, crying because I'd gotten attached to him and he'd been such an angel in my life. He didn't have any family left. I stayed in his house, not knowing what to do with a baby to raise all alone, but when I realized I'd finished his last food reserves, I've been forced to get back out there and find a job, anything to keep my son alive. I wasn't alone anymore. My two-month-old was counting on me, and I already loved him with all I had."

Killian was still listening carefully. She could see he had hundreds of questions in mind, but he was careful not to interrupt her. He was just listening and, god, it felt so good to have someone to talk to for once.

"And that's how I got here. I can still remember the exact moment, it was night. The tavern was about to close. I arrived here, drenched by the rain, Henry yelling in my arms. I begged Matt to hire me, I promised I would do anything to save my baby, anything he would ask me to do. And he accepted. He gave me a room, and a job so I could feed my son. And here we are now. Safe. I have this little boy who is my entire life and I love him more than anything. I may hate his father for letting me rot in prison, but I could never regret what happened between us. Because he gave me Henry and I wouldn't change that for a thing."

She stopped talking in a low and soft voice. She took another sip of her rum, feeling a bit strange now that she'd finished. She'd never said those things aloud before. Killian was the first person she'd opened up to. And she was surprised to notice it wasn't even painful. It seemed easy, natural. She was actually happy to have shared her story with this man.

He was looking at her, eyes shinning, looking a bit stunned. He seemed genuinely shocked by what she'd told him. Without thinking, he approached his hand from hers, and the tip of his index finger touched hers, making her shiver a little. In a low voice, he said :

"Gods, Swan, I… I'm sorry this happened to you."

"It's in the past, now." She shrugged, smiling at him. "Now I have Henry, a roof above my head, food on the table… I survived this, and I'm proud I did."

"You can be. You're so strong." He answered, making her smile widen. "Since you told me, love, I'm going to tell you about my story as well. So we're even, all right?"

She nodded, eager to know more about her new friend. And he told her. He told her about his father, who had abandoned his brother and himself to serve on a ship. He told her about entering the royal navy, and the death of his older brother, that had broken him. He talked about his life being turned upside down when he had become a pirate, then about Milah, while his eyes turned a bit darker at those painful memories. He told her about how her death had made him chase his revenge for decades. And then his years in Nerveland, and his come back in the Enchanted Forest a few months prior, that had led to their meeting.

His story touched her soul in a way she hadn't expected. They were both orphans, they had both lost countless of people. They'd lived abandons, grieves and betrayals. That was why she felt so close to him. It was so strange, to find someone who'd felt unloved and worthless, just like she once had.

"To be fair." He ended with a smile. "I've retrieved my youthful glow. Time doesn't pass in Neverland. I'm 300 years old."

"No way!" She laughed, guessing that he wanted them to talk about something else now that they'd finished with the story of their lives. "You don't look old, that's for sure."

She didn't ask any question, as he hadn't asked her anything. She didn't ask if he still wanted his revenge, what he'd planned for now and why he was in this tavern with her instead of being with his crew. She just smiled at him, enjoying his pleasant, familiar presence. And they continued to speak for hours, until the dark sky started to clear up outside.

During this all time, their hands continued to shyly touch on the used wood of the table.

After this conversation, her relationship with Killian became so much stronger. They were closer, as if they'd known each other for years. She trusted him beyond words, with everything that she had. She couldn't see him often outside of the tavern since she worked a lot, but they would always manage to have moments together, with Henry most of the time.

She would spend her breaks with the both of them. Killian would stay with her as she was closing the tavern, keeping her company. They were together as soon as they could. And, once a week, when she finished earlier, he would take Henry and her on little adventures. A trip on his ship. A walk on the beach. A diner in a restaurant.

Each time she would see him walk the door to enter the tavern, a smile would appear on her face, and she would walk to greet him. They would only touch rarely. It was only smiles, talks, laughter, and with time, she now realized they didn't have to touch to be intimate, because it was so strong between them.

And Henry loved spending time with Killian. He truly looked up to him, and she trusted the pirate so much she would let him take Henry out of the tavern for a visit on the Jolly Roger or for a lesson about sailing. She was happy, for the first time in such a long time. Her life had been turned upside down on this winter night where a drunk client had tried to attack her. She had met Killian Jones, and nothing would ever be the same.

This blind trust had been born from a very special event. After their night spent at talking in the tavern, encouraged by the alcohol, she had woken up with a knot in her stomach and the strong desire to throw up. And it wasn't only because of the rum she had drunk. She'd realized, once sober, that she should never have told him about her past. She'd never done so with anyone before, and she didn't know what had gotten into her.

He was going to run from her. These things that had happened to her, it was going to scare him and he was going to walk away. He'd been so kind the night before, because he was a nice man and hadn't wanted to hurt her, but he wouldn't come back. She'd scared him. She'd gotten attached, and she'd lost him, another person who was gone. And it was all her fault.

She'd spent the morning trying not to cry, she'd wanted to seem all right in front of her little boy. She'd started to work, eyes fill with tears and head bent in defeat. She couldn't believe she'd lost someone again. She was a failure, never able to keep someone by her side.

Then she'd heard a familiar voice calling her surname. And when she'd looked up, he was there, in front of her, smiling at her as always. She had felt her heart skipping a wonderful beat. When he'd noticed her red eyes, he'd asked what was wrong with a concerned expression. And she'd just told him everything was good. She hadn't lied. He'd come back, he hadn't abandoned her. And he wouldn't do so.

And the months went by. The snow disappeared and the trees regained their color. Spring passed, allowing the summer to settle in. Their walks became longer, their talks even happier, and they formed a true little family, the three of them. She loved those moments spent together. For the first time, she could look toward the future, confident things would be okay. Because she wasn't alone anymore. And, somehow, Killian had managed to make her understand she was a good person, and something better was awaiting for her out there.

"Oh, Mommy, you're so pretty!" Henry cried out in joy when he saw Emma walking down the stairs, finding the tavern crowded.

She smiled at his comment. It was warm outside, the summer well settled. She'd put on the dress she would wear for special occasions, probably the only one that wasn't damaged. It was light, clear blue, with a belt made out of braided ropes that stressed her waistline.

She had tied her hair into a long blond braid, what drew her looks from several clients. Ignoring them, she walked to her son to take him in her arms. She dropped a kiss to the top of his head, and he smiled, looking genuinely happy.

She'd taken a day off, as always for her son's birthday. He was turning eight, and she'd rarely seen him that excited. Killian was supposed to meet them, and had planned to take them both to a restaurant to celebrate the big day.

She knew that her son was overexcited about this little adventure. Before Killian, she'd never had the money to offer him these kind of big meals. But Hook was a pirate, and he had tons of gold. He wanted to make Emma and Henry happy, and she wasn't about to complain. She couldn't thank him enough for making her son smile like that.

"Let's go wait for Killian outside, kid." She said, and Henry nodded enthusiastically, grabbing her hand.

In the midst of summer, it was really hot without being unpleasant, a little wind shaking the leaves on the trees. The sun had begun to set in the sky, coloring the surroundings in red and orange. It was truly beautiful, and she couldn't have wished for a better day.

They'd barely set foot outside of the tavern that they noticed Killian's figure walking to them in the evening light. Henry let go of an excited cry, and ran to Emma's friend, who squatted to welcome him in his arms. The little boy wrapped his hands around his neck, laughing at the sky. She chuckled at that and joined them, her steps light and a smile on her face. She was so happy to spend the night with the two most important people in her life.

Killian got back on his feet when he heard her approaching, but his teasing smirk disappeared when he saw her. He stared at her face, eyes wide and lips parted, and she blushed a little bit. She knew that face. He was about to compliment her, and she never knew how to react to that.

"You look stunning, Swan." He finally said in a low voice.

She looked down, a bit embarrassed, but her smile widened a bit more. Killian liked to give her compliments. It was like he saw every qualities in her. She never really knew what to answer. She'd been called hot, sexy and seductive before, but never stunning or beautiful, like he would always call her. It made her feel strange, her heart pounding weirdly fast at his words.

But it also made her feel good. And she felt a bit guilty to never know what to answer back. She wasn't good with words, and she would have liked to tell him how amazing she thought he was too. But he knew that, and he would always change the subject right after his compliments, so she wouldn't feel uncomfortable. He did so once again. He turned to Henry and said, a hand resting on his shoulder :

"Shall we go, lad?"

"Yeah!" the little boy said, overexcited. "Where are we going?"

"That's a surprise." He replied, and Henry giggled. "Come with me."

The walk they took to the mysterious place happened in pure happiness. Henry talked about anything, so fast because he was so excited. He seemed like the happiest little boy on earth, to spend the day with Killian and his mom. Emma stayed a bit back, smiling slightly, so glad to see her son grinning so widely.

Henry had always been shy, a bit self-contained, without real friends of his age. Since Killian had come into their lives, he seemed so much happier and more confident. Her friend taught him how to sail, and told him about tales of ocean and ships. They spent a lot of time together, and Killian seemed to like being this paternal figure for Henry. His birth dad gone for long, he now had Killian. And they were a family.

"Wow!" Henry cried out, what made Emma come back to reality.

She looked up, surprised by her son's exclamation, and her lips parted in awe as Killian was chuckling because of their reaction. They were standing in front of The Treasure, a restaurant that was part of the bigger city. It was probably the most expensive establishment of the kind in this part of the Enchanted Forest. People were crazy about this place, and they would normally have had to wait months before making a reservation.

She would never have imagined to find herself in this position one day. A meal in this place probably cost more than she dared to think about. She couldn't believe that Killian had brought them here. She turned to him, eyes widened, as he seemed quite amused by their bewildered expressions.

"Are you insane?" She asked, what made him laugh again. "You can't bring us here, it costs a fortune!"

"I'm a pirate, love. The least I could do is to offer both of you a meal for Henry's birthday."

"But..." She tried to protest, because no one had ever done that kind of things for them before, and she didn't know how to react.

"No buts allowed." He laughed. "Come on."

Her son had already run to the entrance and was staring at the big building with bright eyes, looking absolutely awestruck. Seeing that she wasn't going to move forward, all confused that she was because of his surprise, he placed his hand on the small of her back to gently encourage her.

A shiver ran up her spine. Since the start of their friendship, they had only touched a few times, and it would always make her feel the same. Her heart would start pounding and she would shiver, somehow wanting to bury herself deeper in his embrace. But she was feeling strange, and didn't know how to react to that.

The few times they'd touched, the one who had made the first move without thinking about it, would always walk away quickly, realizing what they'd done. The conversation would switch so they wouldn't feel uncomfortable, and they would pretend that nothing had happened. Neither of them were feeling comfortable with someone touching them given their past, and the way he would make her feel was scaring her a little.

He realized what he was doing and got stiff, moving to take his hand away. Except this time, she didn't blush. She was in such a good mood, and she was suddenly feeling all right with him being close to her. She actually wanted to feel his touch. So, as he was moving to get away from her, she placed her hand on his stomach, resting her head on his shoulder so he would stay close.

She knew now that being close to him wasn't going to hurt her. He knew everything about her, and he wasn't about to let her down. She trusted him, with all that she had. He looked at her, seeming a bit surprised, and she just smiled at him to show him it was okay. He smiled back, and placed his hand on her back once again.

The diner was simply perfect. Seeing her son eat this meal she never would have imagined he could have in the near future, and being able to eat properly for once, made her feel so good. Killian made them both laugh so much it drew the attention of the next tables, but she couldn't bring herself to care. They were both teasing each other like little kids. It was playful and tender, and it seemed to make Henry so happy.

At the end of the meal, as Henry had calmed down a bit, exhausted by the late hour and the amount of food, she leaned toward Killian with a smile. Feeling more confident because of the physical touch they'd shared earlier, she placed her hand above his and felt him shiver under her touch. She whispered so Henry couldn't hear them talking :

"Thank you, Killian. I owe you one."

"No, you don't, darling." he replied, smiling back at her. "It's for the lad's birthday."

"But it's not my birthday." She said, chuckling. "You didn't have any reason to offer me something."

"Being my closest friend isn't reason enough?" He defended himself. "It was my pleasure, love. I wasn't going to let a lady, especially one as beautiful as you, watch us eat without doing anything. I may be a pirate, but I'm a gentleman, princess."

She laughed at that. She'd talked to him about how Henry thought she was the Lost Princess, and he liked to tease her about it. She would always protest, telling him not to encourage her son, but not that night. She enjoyed his presence way too much. She didn't want to get angry, even if it was only pretend.

They came home late. He got up to her room to put Henry to bed, as he'd fallen asleep in his arms during the walk back to the tavern. Once in the hall, they faced each other, feeling a bit strange. They both didn't know how to say goodbye. Their touches during the night had seemed to draw them even closer, but none of them wanted to make the other uncomfortable by trying for a hug.

He ended up smiling at her, and took her hand in his, looking at her like she was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen. He brought it to his lips, and pressed a little kiss on her knuckles. She grinned back, feeling a pleasant shiver in her spine, and feeling like a princess as he was treating her so gently.

"Until tomorrow, Swan." He said, keeping her hand in his for a few wonderful seconds.

"See you tomorrow, Killian." She answered, lost in the blue of his eyes.

He let go a couple of seconds later, looked at her one last time, and she watched him disappear into the staircase. She laid down on the room floor with a silly smile on her face. She could still feel the touch of his lips on her skin, and how his hand had felt while holding hers.

She slept well that night.

Then, without notice, everything crumbled.

The next day, Emma impatiently waited for Killian's arrival. She denied it back then, because she was too scared to get hurt, but her feelings for him grew a bit more with each passing day. She would have liked to spend all her time with him. She would have wanted him to join them in their room so they would never have to be apart again, and she never wanted to watch him go away, even if it was for a few hours only. She woulds have wanted the three of them to be a true family, because Killian and her son were the two most important people in her life.

Except she'd forgotten about an important detail. He was a pirate. And all of that was impossible, because he was going to leave.

He came to the tavern not long after the opening. Henry ran to him for a hug, as always, but as he was greeting her son, Emma noticed right away that something was off with her friend. He was smiling, but it didn't reach his eyes, and the blue of his gaze stayed darker than usual. He looked up at her and the sadness in his features made her want to cry.

Her chest tightened in worry. She didn't know what was happening, but she knew it was going to hurt her, a lot. Without knowing the truth, she could already feel her little world crumbling around her. Once again. And she couldn't do anything to stop what was coming.

She guessed that he didn't want to tell her anything with Henry beside them. He didn't want to hurt the little boy. So she took her break early, and approached the table they were sitting at. She offered a sad smile to Henry, and said :

"Kid, could you stay there for a little while? I need to talk with Killian about something important."

"What's going on?" The little boy asked, his eyes shinning with curiosity.

"It's grown-up stuffs." She shrugged, using the universal excuse of every parents in the world. "We're coming right back, don't you worry." She added, winking to erase his disappointed look.

"Okay." He mumbled, looking a bit annoyed.

She kissed his forehead to make him feel better, and gestured for Killian to follow her outside. They found themselves alone under the summer sun, and he immediately lost his smile, running his fingers through his dark locks and looking horribly desperate. She felt the knot in her chest becoming even tighter. She'd never seen him so sad before.

"What's wrong?" She asked in a somewhat shaky voice.

"I… I have bad news, Swan." he stated, stuttering a bit and his eyes searching for hers.

"What's happening?" She said, feeling like the ground was crumbling under her feet.

He took a deep breath before answering. He knew it was going to hurt her, and he didn't want that, she could read it in his eyes. She bit her bottom lip to stop the tears she felt in her eyes from rolling down her cheeks.

"You know that I'm a pirate. I've never stayed that long on land before. But I'm happy here, with you and Henry. And I have gold, so I didn't think it would matter. But my first mate came to see me yesterday night, right after I left, and… We have nothing left. We spent all the gold. The crew wants to go back on the ship, and Smee told me what they plan on doing if I don't come back quickly. They're going to take the Jolly Roger and disappear. I have to go with them."

Emma had to lean against the wall in order not to fall over. Her legs were shaking beneath her, and couldn't bear her weight anymore. She felt so stupid. She should have expected it to happen. She hated herself for not thinking about that earlier. She'd gotten attached, despite the promises she'd made to herself. And now he was leaving. It was meant to happen sooner than later, but he was abandoning them.

For a horrible second, she felt a huge rage taking its place in her guts. So, his ship was more important than them in his eyes ? But she calmed down right away. She knew his story. The Jolly Roger was his home, the last memory he had of his lost brother. She got that it was important to him, and that he couldn't lose the ship. And he had to find gold. She didn't even have the strength to be mad at him. Her heart was pounding so painfully in her chest at the idea he was going to leave, and she didn't know when or if she would see him again.

"You… You're leaving?" She finally said in a muffled voice.

"Not forever." he answered, looking so appalled by these news. "Believe me, I do not wish to go. I would rather stay here with you and Henry, but..."

"You can't lose the Jolly, it's your home. I know." She nodded, trying to stop her tears from falling because crying wouldn't solve a thing. "When are you leaving?"

"Tomorrow, before dawn." He said, and she had to swallow to hold back her sob.

"So soon?"

"I'll come back. As soon as I can. I'm so sorry, Swan. But I'm not leaving you. I promise. I would never do something like that."

"I know." She replied, trying to reassure him, because despite her own sadness seeing him in such distress was unbearable. "You don't have a choice."

He looked taken aback by her answer. "You're not mad at me?"

"How could I?" She said, sniffing. "Even if I was, it wouldn't change a thing. It wouldn't change your mind. I should as well enjoy your presence while I still can."

He had a small smile that didn't reach his eyes. He seemed as overwhelmed as she was, even if, just like her, he didn't want to show it. He was honestly sad to leave her. She stared at him for a few seconds, as if to etch his features in her memory. And then she asked in a low voice :

"I assume you didn't say anything to Henry?"

"I didn't. I wanted you to be the first to know. And I think we should tell him together."

"How are we going to tell him that you're going away?" She sighed, knowing all too well that her son was going to be shattered, since he loved Killian so much. "He does consider you as a father to him, you know?"

"And I consider him as my own son." He answered, what made her want to smile and cry at the same time. "You're both my family."

A single tear rolled down her cheek. He looked at her, and for an insane second, she thought he was going to kiss her. But instead, he took her hand and squeezed it, as if to show her just how much her cared.

"No!" Henry shouted, starting to cry. "You can't leave!"

"He doesn't have a choice, kid." She said in a shaky voice.

She tried to reach for him and take him in her arms, so sad to see her son's reaction. But he pushed her away, almost violently, and wrapped his arms around Killian, sobbing. She bit her lip to try not to start crying as well. Her son had never pushed her away before, and that meant he was hurt, badly. Killian gave her a worried look from behind Henry's shoulder, gently stroking his back to comfort him.

"I am truly sorry, lad. I promise I'll do everything I can to come back to you as soon as possible."

"But you can't leave us!" Her little boy sobbed against her best friend's shoulder. "Please!"

"I don't wish to go either, Henry. Believe me." He answered, his voice muffled as if he were about to cry as well.

Emma didn't know what to do to calm her son down. After a little while, he ended up pulling away from Killian to bury himself in her embrace, searching for his mother's familiar touch and comforting words. She whispered nonsense to his ear while hugging him tightly, until he'd finally stopped crying. Exhausted by all of these tears, he ended up falling asleep against her chest, his cheeks wet and his eyes red.

She gently laid him back down on the bed so he wouldn't wake up, then she got up. She didn't know what to do. She wanted to cry, but she didn't want to do so in front of Killian. He would only feel worse. He was looking at her, blue eyes shinning in worry as she was standing in the middle of the room, not knowing what to do with herself. She felt as if something had broken inside of her.

She ended up leaning against the wall, and sitting down on the ground. Curled up on the floor, knees to her chest, she tried to stay calm. Killian kept quiet for a few minutes, then approached her and asked in a whisper, wondering if she wanted to be alone :

"Do you want me to go?"

"Don't you dare leave this room." She said in a low, broken voice.

He nodded and sat down next to her. Their shoulders touching, they didn't say a word. They were both feeling too much to put words on the moment. They just watched Henry sleeping, their jerky breaths ringing into the room. She couldn't believe their friendship was over, gone. Sure, he'd promised he would come back, but she wasn't so sure of it. Not that he was lying, of course, he would never do that. But he was a pirate, and he couldn't live that life, he had to go.

He was going to leave them. This man who had brightened every minute of her life for six months was going away. And she was changed, deeply. Slowly, he'd managed to break the walls she'd put around her heart to protect herself, and she hadn't even realized what it meant. He'd come too close, and he could hurt her. That was what he was doing by leaving. Not on purpose, sure, but she was suffering.

And yet, she couldn't regret opening up to him. She was aching, so much, but the few months they'd spent together had been the best of her entire life. She'd felt enough for a little while. And she wouldn't have traded that feeling for the world.

After a long while, hours maybe, she couldn't tell, her tears got stronger than her will to stay calm. She started crying in silence, tears rolling down her cheeks and wetting her lips. In the dark, she didn't know if Killian could hear her sobs. But it had to be the case, because he wrapped his arm around her waist and guided her to his chest. She rested her head on his shoulder, burying herself into his embrace. He placed a kiss on her temple and whispered :

"You're the most amazing woman I've ever met."

She had so much to say that she didn't say a thing. She just buried her face into the crook of his neck, breathing in his comforting smell. Leather and the salt of the sea. And, somehow, she managed to fall asleep in his arms as he was still holding her close, unable to let her go.

"Swan… Wake up, darling. It's time." Killian whispered to her ear, gently stroking her shoulder.

She opened her eyes, feeling dizzy and sick, and she needed a little while to remember what was happening. It was still dark outside, but she knew that Killian had waited as long as he could before waking her up. She would have wanted to stay asleep in his arms forever. Never get out of this wonderful sleep. Keep him by her side, always. But he had to go, and there was nothing she could do about it.

So she accepted their fate. She nodded, meeting his eyes shinning with unshed tears. The blue shadows under them told the tale of a restless night, spent at watching her sleep. They gently woke Henry up, knowing he wanted to say goodbye to this man he loved like a dad.

And then, they went to walk Killian to his ship. They wanted to spend the bit of time they had left together, even if it was only for a few minutes. Emma felt numb, empty. She wanted to cry, but stayed strong for her son. Her heart was beating painfully against her ribs. She didn't want to let him go, and yet she knew she had no choice.

They walked in silence, all lost in their world of sadness. The landscape had lost its color, and everything seemed gray around them. Henry was grabbing Killian's hand, as if to tell him not to go, and silent tears were rolling down his cheeks. Emma walked beside them with the feeling that what she was living wasn't real. She wished to wake up from this nightmare, but knew it wasn't possible. She was feeling like a part of her was disappearing with Killian.

He stopped a bit before entering the harbor, and turned back to them with a sigh of pure sadness. She guessed he didn't want them to see him with his crew. He didn't want them to see the feared, cruel captain, but to keep the memory of the gentle and caring man he truly was. Emma and Henry, and his life as a pirate were incompatible. He didn't want to ruin everything they shared by mixing these parts of his life, and she understood.

He squatted first to hug Henry. Her son started to sob again and the embrace lasted for a very long time. The bound they were sharing was so strong, and it was shattering a little at this exact moment. She knew how sad her son was, and she was feeling awful, seeing the both of them so desperate.

When he finally got back up, he turned to her and took her hand. Their fingers interlaced naturally, as if they'd always been destined to be linked together. They stared at each other's face for a long while under the sky that was starting to clear up, trying to etch the other's features in their memory.

He pressed her fingers between his, then, with a sigh, he let her go. He took something from his neck, and she frowned, confused and her mind blurred because of what was happening. She ended up realizing he was holding a ring, hanging on a necklace. Gently, he placed the chain around her own neck and said :

"This ring belonged to a much better man than I am. My brother. It never leaves me, but I want you to have it. It's a reminder that I'm not leaving you. I'm coming back, I promise."

She had a small, sad smile at his gesture. He knew her story, and wanted to make sure she knew he wasn't abandoning them and would come back as soon as possible. She thought this day wasn't about to come, and she didn't know if she would ever see this man again, but the gesture touched her soul. He really did care.

She squeezed the ring between her fingers during a few seconds, thinking about what to do next. Then she moved, and slowly took away the bootlace Judy had given her all those years ago before dying, and that she'd never taken off since. She felt like giving this to him was the right thing to do.

A little part of her was disappearing with him. And a little part of him was staying with her.

She tied the lace around his wrist and he stared at it for a second. When he looked up, and seemed about to start crying. He blinked, and said in a voice so muffled it made her heart ache :

"There's not a day that will go by that I won't think of you."

"Good" She simply whispered, swallowing the lump in her throat.

Then, without notice, he took a step forward and took her in his arms. She wrapped her arms around him and buried her face in his neck as his fingers were gently tickling her spine. They stayed for a very long time in that position, and when he pulled away, leaving his arms wrapped one more second around her body, she felt like she was going to cry for good. In a broken voice, he said :

"Take care of yourself, Emma."

In the six months they knew each other, it was the first time he called her by her first name. She liked how it sounded in his mouth. It resembled a song, a poem. She suddenly wanted to grab his arm and beg. Please don't go! But she knew he didn't have a choice, and it would only make things harder.

He looked at her for a while, and she did the same, trying to remember every little details about him. His eyes as blue as the ocean, always so comforting. The necklace he wore around his neck. The scar he had on the right cheek. His gentle, soothing voice.

He approached her once more and cupped her cheek with his large hand to press a kiss on her forehead. This soft gesture made her shiver, and she held his wrist for a second, just to feel him close one more time. Then, he pulled away and placed his hand on Henry's shoulder. And just like that, he was gone. Because they all knew that if they waited any longer, he would never go. And he had to.

She stared at the emptiness he'd left behind him for a second, then squatted to hug her sobbing son and comfort him. She didn't even realize she was crying as well.


Henry had fallen asleep long ago. Emma watched him breathe peacefully with a smile. Her son looked so happy. She tucked him in to make sure he wouldn't get cold. Killian pressed a kiss on the little boy's forehead, and they shared a glance, smirking at each other. Then he took her hand and led her to the captain's quarter.

On the little bed they shared, they made love, slowly and gently. She felt loved and beautiful and wanted, and the way he looked at her always made her heart beat faster. His face in her neck to stifle his sighs, her nails dinging in the skin of his back as she was finding herself on the edge. They both fell in the depth of their orgasm at the same time, and he collapsed above her.

They stayed against one another for a long time, naked bodies so close she couldn't tell where he was beginning and where she was ending anymore. They both took the time to catch their breath, enjoying that wonderful night. Then he kissed her collarbone and she snuggled against his chest. She offered in a whisper :

"Do you want me to go on?"

"Always, love. You know this is my favorite story."

She smiled and he kissed her forehead to encourage her. And she started her tale back where it had ended.

Chapter Text

Emma was crying, but managed to hide her tears from her son until he was in his bed. She didn't want him to see her in such distress. He was already suffering way too much. He was sobbing, shaking, and she carried him all the way back to the tavern, his face buried in her neck and his arms wrapped around her, tightly, as if he were trying to make sure she wasn't going to disappear as well.

She did her best to stay calm, and kept on crying silently. She had to stay strong for her little boy. She just kept on stroking his back, not complaining once about her back aching from having to carry him for so long. She placed him in his bed, and stayed by his side until he'd calmed down.

He needed a long time to fall back asleep, and after what seemed like hours, she ended up laying back down on the floor of her room. The sky had cleared up again, which meant that she would have to get to work quite quickly. She didn't know how she would be able to pretend that everything was all right.

Curled up on the floor, she finally allowed herself to sob. He was gone. She couldn't believe she wouldn't see his smile, hear his laughter, wait for his arrival or pretend to be mad when he teased her again. She hated herself for not enjoying his presence while she still could, for not allowing any physical contact between them, because it'd deprived her of his strong and comforting embrace. She felt loved against him, safe, more than ever, and she was already missing him so much.


She startled, surprised. She was sure her son was asleep, and hearing him call her in this fragile voice broke her heart in half. She quickly wiped away her tears, and took a second to answer, wanting her voice to seem steady and assured.

"What's wrong, kid?"

"Can you come please? I can't sleep." He asked, sniffing.

She sighed, looking up at the ceiling to stop herself from crying again. Hearing her baby boy being so sad was unbearable. She got up and went to lay down next to her son. He immediately buried his face in her hair, and she stroked his back, trying to comfort him. As he was holding her close, he said in a broken voice.

"I miss Killian."

"I know, baby." She said, her voice thick with sobs. "I miss him too."

She didn't fall back asleep before going to work. But after a while, they both stopped crying, not having any tears left to shed.

"Why the hell is it so hot?" Emma grumbled to herself, wiping off the drop of sweat rolling down the side of her face.

The bucket she was trying to rise from the bottom of the well seemed to weigh a tonne in her hands. She didn't have any difficulty doing this task every day, yet the heatwave that was hitting the Enchanted Forest was making her life a living hell. She forced herself to ignore the painful burn the rope was leaving on her fingers, and ended up finally reaching the bucket. She sighed while grabbing it, wincing at the heat of the handle, and started to walk toward the tavern.

It was late, but it was still incredibly hot and it was making every little task almost impossible to accomplish. Her hair was sticking to the back of her neck, and she limped in the darkness. The tavern was closing, and she was the last one there, once again. Her everyday life. This life that seemed so empty without Killian by her side.

He was gone for a bit over two weeks, and Henry was still inconsolable. She wasn't feeling that good either, she had to admit it. She couldn't bring herself to eat anything anymore. Killian's absence was weighing on her stomach, and she got nauseous each time she tried to eat something. And it was without talking about her nights. She was barely sleeping, exhausting herself. Every time she would close her eyes, Killian's memory was coming back to life and making her want to cry.

His deep voice, his bright smile, his beautiful eyes, the touch of his hand against hers. She'd lost countless of people in her life, but she could never get used to this feeling of emptiness. It was so hard. Especially because seeing Henry so sad was horribly painful. He'd finally found a father, and this man was gone too. They would always leave.

He would fall asleep crying at night, and it was breaking her heart over and over again. She was feeling like Killian had left a huge hole in their lives, and they weren't able to cover it. She was feeling helpless. And she was missing him like crazy.

She brushed her long blonde hair behind her shoulder, walking so slowly and tripping on invisible obstacles. She was too hot, and was feeling weak. Maybe because of the lack of food or sleep, or maybe because Killian's absence was too much to bear. She was feeling like this hell would never stop. And it was horrifying.

She finally arrived to the tavern after what seemed like hours. Se looked up and suddenly slowed down and frowned, seeing a dark figure leaning against the closest wall. Arms folded, she could see it was a man, but was too far to see his face.

Her breath got stuck in her throat for a second. The memory of Jerry's attack would come back to her sometimes, and she felt a danger. She placed her hand against the dagger she was wearing on her belt since this accident. She didn't want someone to find her lifeless body in the middle of the forest the next morning, and Henry to grow up without a mother.

She silently approached the tavern, ready for a fight. The figure wasn't moving, standing completely still. She could see that the man was wearing a long coat that seemed to be made out of leather, and it made her shiver. This detail reminded her of Killian. She still wasn't close enough to see the stranger's face, but he started to talk and she startled :

"Missed me?"

The question didn't sound threatening at all. On the contrary, it was warm and playful. And this voice… She knew this deep, soothing tone. Her eyes almost unconsciously searched for the man's left hand, trying to make sense of what was happening. And instead of a palm, her gaze met a hook.

She blinked. It was impossible. She was dreaming, or the heat had reached her troubled mind. It couldn't be true. She'd gone insane because of the exhaustion, and was in the middle of a cruel hallucination.

But the stranger suddenly stood up to pull away from the wall. He walked to her, and she could finally see his smile. His face got out of the darkness, and she was able to look at him.

It was him. It was Killian. He was gently smiling at her, his beautiful baby blues staring at her face, and she let go of a gasp of pure surprise, not getting what was happening.

Killian Jones was back. She didn't know how, she didn't know why, but on that moment, she didn't care. He was there, facing her, and her heart skipped a beat while the world disappeared around them.

Without thinking, she let go of the bucket, which crashed on the floor, and threw herself in his arms, enjoying this embrace she'd missed so much. He laughed under the impact, almost losing his balance, but he held her close against him and buried his face in her hair to breathe her in. She herself took in his familiar smell, without really realizing what was going on. She was feeling a bit lost, and her heart was pounding so fast in her chest she was sure it could be heard into the entire forest.

It's only when his hand got up from her back to run through her hair that she realized she was actually crying. She held him for a long, long time, as if he were about to disappear again. Dozens of questions were running through her mind, and she didn't know where to begin with. Finally, she pulled away just a little bit to look at him, leaving her arms wrapped around him, and asked :

"What… How…?"

"It's a long story." He answered with a soft smile that made her heart grew about twice its size. She could see that he was as happy as she was to find her again. His eyes were shinning strangely, as if he were about to start crying with her. "I'm going to tell you everything, just… Let me look at you."

She laughed between her tears, and he took her hand in his, staring at her. She took a step back with a smile, but kept her grip on his fingers to make sure he was staying close. He was carefully studying her, and an inch of worry crossed his beautiful gaze. She wanted to ask him what was wrong, but the lump in her throat seemed too thick, and he finally started to talk again :

"Gods, you're even more beautiful than I remember." He said, making her blush. "But you seem exhausted. Is everything all right?"

"I'm fine." She said in a whisper, waving her free hand in the air to erase his concern. "These past couple of weeks have been quite difficult, that's all."

"Is there something wrong?" He got worried. "Is Henry okay?"

"He's all right, don't worry. He's missing you. We both missed you so much."

"I could tell you the same thing." He whispered, pulling her to him for another hug.

She closed her eyes to enjoy his embrace. She couldn't believe that he was there, against her. They stayed for a long time holding each other in the dark, her face in the crook of his neck, his hand in her hair. Her world had shrunk to the two of them, snuggled in this embrace they'd missed so much.

After a while, he ended up pulling away from her, but kept her hand in his, fingers interlaced naturally. Showing the bucket of water on the ground behind her, he offered :

"Do you want me to go to the well so I can bring water? It's my fault if you let it fall in the first place."

"That's okay. It's no big deal." She answered with a chuckle, because this moment was reminding her of their first conversation, all those months ago.

Except this time, she trusted him, and she didn't want him to go for a completely different reason. She really didn't want to see him walk away again, even if she knew he would come back this time. She just wished she could have brought him to her room to fall asleep in his arms. Being apart from him was way too hard, she was realizing it even more now that he was beside her again. He smiled at her answer and said :

"I'll have to insist, love. But come with me. I'm going to tell you why I'm here."

She nodded, knowing he wasn't going to take no for an answer, because he was always such a gentleman. She knew him so well, now, as he knew her by heart. She leaned to grab the bucket on the floor, her left hand still holding his. There were a few seconds of silence before he started to talk again, both a bit stunned to find themselves next to each other again. She immediately frowned when she realized his voice was a bit deeper than usual :

"I had a problem with the Jolly Roger."

She knew he was lying in the span of a second. This skill she had since she was a little girl, what Henry liked to call her super-power, it always worked. But for some reason, she didn't get mad. She could tell he was doing it for a good cause, and not out of selfishness. She didn't even try to make him tell the truth. She was too happy to have him by her side. She pretended to be surprised, opening her eyes wide :

"Is it bad?" She asked, to pretend she was believing him.

"We don't know yet, but she's unable to go back at sea for now." He answered, not meeting her eyes, and she had to hold back a smile because he definitely was a very bad liar.

"You're staying for a while, then?" She said, squeezing his fingers between hers as if to convince him to stay by her side and never go away again.

"I am." He nodded with a smile, and she grinned back, deeply happy.

"Wait a minute." She said, frowning and losing her smirk. "Didn't you have to go because you don't have any money left? How are you gonna manage, now?"

"I'll figure it out." He shrugged, but she could see at the stiffness of his neck that he was deeply worried. "I'll find another job. And meanwhile..."

"Meanwhile, I'll help you." She cut him off.

"Swan!" He cried out, looking completely taken aback. "Are you joking, love? You're working day and night. I'm not going to ask you to pay for me, never..."

"You've helped me for so long, Killian. It's my turn, now. I insist. It's what friends are for, right?"

He seemed about to protest again, but she raised her eyebrows to show him she wouldn't accept a refusal. He seemed to think about her offer, and finally shrugged, not giving her a real acceptance, but showing that he was letting go. She laughed at that, and they kept on walking, finally arriving to the well. She was so happy even the heatwave and her exhaustion couldn't reach her anymore.

"And how are you, darling?" He asked as they were watching the bucket slowly filling in with water.

"I'm okay, I guess." She smiled, so close to him their shoulders were touching, because she didn't want to pull away now that they were together again. "Henry too. He's going to be so happy to see you."

Killian seemed so glad to hear those words, she knew how he considered Henry as a son, and that made her want to cry in joy. She was so happy to have met this wonderful man. They kept on talking until arriving to the tavern. She made him enter, and closed the door behind her, not able to stop smiling as she was imagining her little boy's face when he would see Killian.

She led her friend to her room in silence, and he sat on the edge of Henry's bed as she was kneeling on the floor. The little boy was peacefully sleeping, breath even and eyes closed. She gently stroked his shoulder to wake him up, saying :

"Kid, can you hear me?"

"Mmm" He groaned without opening his eyes. "Is it morning, already?"

"No, but there's a surprise for you." She answered with laughter in her voice.

He opened his eyes at the words, seeming suddenly completely awake and looking at her, intrigued. She turned her head to smile at her friend, who was looking absolutely tenderized by the scene he was witnessing. Henry got the clue and followed her lead, finally seeing Killian next to them.

He didn't react right away, blinking in surprise. He rubbed his eyes, as if to make sure he wasn't dreaming. Then, a huge smile appeared on his face, and he sat down to threw himself into Killian's arms, laughing. Her friend chuckled because of the gesture, and tightly hugged Henry back.

"You came back!" Her son said, looking like the happiest little boy on earth.

They kept on hugging for a long while, as Henry didn't want to let Killian go. It brought tears to her eyes, to see the two most important people in her life so close. When he finally decided to pull away, he lost his grin, staring at Killian with a maturity that made both adults blink in surprise.

"You're going to leave again, aren't you?"

She felt her heart tightening in her chest, seeing her son's saddened expression. He thought that this visit was temporary, and that Killian was going to break both their hearts once again. He was only eight, he was still so young, but he was already so mature and perceptive. Killian tried to smile at him, but she could see Henry's words had touched him deeply.

"I don't know, lad." He answered honestly. "But I won't leave for a couple of months. I'm staying here with you. I promise."

Henry smiled at this answer, looking satisfied, and snuggled back against Killian for a long while, as her friend was telling him the tales of all the adventures they could go to, the three of them, while he was there. Emma's son ended up falling back asleep, and she gently laid him back down on the bed, careful not to wake him up. She was so happy to see him smile again, she felt like she could start bouncing up and down in joy.

She turned back to Killian, and a strange silence settled between them. Him sitting on the bed, her still on the floor, they were staring at each other, and she didn't know what to say anymore. She knew he had to get out of this room, but she didn't want to see him go. Now that he was there, she didn't want to leave him ever again. She felt almost sick at the idea of him being far away. He was the one who started to talk, his hand scratching the back of his ear.

"I suppose… I Should go, maybe?"

It was dark in the room, but she could see him blushing at his own awkwardness. It made her heart do strange things again, to see him so shy around her. She held back a smile, and answered honestly, all fears gone because of her happiness.

"I don't want you to go."

"Me neither." He admitted with a small smile.

"You can stay." She said with a shrug, but she knew she'd turned bright red. "I have, hum… Spare blankets, if you want to."

He smiled, a smile brighter than the sun that made her want to hug him again. "It's very sweet of you, Swan. If I'm no bother, I'll stay."

"It's not completely selfless" She admitted with half a smile. "I'd do anything to keep you here right now. I don't want to lose you right after finding you again."

He smiled, and suddenly moved to sit on the ground next to her and take her in his arms. They stayed there for a long time, just enjoying the comforting, tender embrace. When they pulled away, she gave him a blanket, and they both laid down on the floor, so close to each other she could see his features in the dark.

Both laying on their side to face each other, they continued to talk in a whisper for hours, trying not to wake Henry up. She had to place a hand against her mouth several times as he was making her laugh, and she felt so complete now that he was with her. They talked as if to catch up on the time they'd wasted not being together, convincing themselves nothing could ever bring them apart again.

And she ended up falling asleep, her head resting on his chest, his arm wrapped around her and their legs tangled beneath the blankets.

Life seemed to start all over again, as if it'd stopped while they were apart. Things were a bit different, though. Killian couldn't stay all day at the tavern anymore, because he didn't have any gold left to pay for his drinks. He was taking small jobs to try and survive, but always took the time to come at night to talk a bit with her and Henry.

He would tell her son stories about his adventures until he'd fallen asleep, and then Emma and him would both talk for hours without ever running out of subjects. Before leaving for the Jolly Roger, where he was still sleeping even though he'd told her the ship couldn't go back at sea, he would always take a few minutes to say goodbye. A kiss on the forehead or on her knuckles, that would make her melt on the spot.

"Good night, Swan. See you tomorrow." He would say with that small smirk that made her heart pound faster.

When he wasn't working, he would take Henry to show him places of the Enchanted Forest or take him on his ship, since the little boy loved the Jolly Roger. Her son would come home from these trips with a huge smile on his face and dozens things to tell her, and it made her so happy. She felt like she could never thank Killian enough for making her son smile so widely.

Her wage was now used to feed three people, sometimes. Killian and Emma would let Henry eat first, and when they were sure he wasn't hungry anymore, they would share the leftovers. Killian wasn't that fond of this plan. He was feeling guilty for making her friend pay for his food, and would invite both Henry and Emma for a meal in town, when he'd earned a bit of money. They were functioning like a real family without even realizing it, sharing their money that way.

And he took such good care of her. Even though they were both poor now, he would always make sure she wasn't starving, wasn't too hot or too cold, was sleeping correctly. He would look at her with pure adoration in her eyes, making butterflies appear in the pit of her stomach. Emma was feeling good. She didn't even realize that she wasn't supposed to feel so dizzy and complete when her friend kissed her forehead or wrapped his arm around her waist.

But they were so deeply happy.

She even managed to forget that he was supposed to go away again some day.

Emma was nimbly moving between the tables of the tavern. She was in such a good mood, that day. The weather was finally more bearable, and the heatwave that had made her suffer so much was definitely over. The sun was slowly setting in the sky, and she quickly glanced at the window to make sure that Henry was okay.

Her son was reading, leaning against the trunk of a tree, and Killian was working next to the little boy. He'd managed to get a job that day, and was busy slicing pieces of wood, being incredibly good at it for a man who only had one hand. He was back for two weeks, and she was happier than ever. Biting her bottom lip, she kept on staring at him for a few seconds, somehow distracted by the muscles she could see playing under his black shirt, his leather coat folded on the ground next to him.

Feeling watched, he looked up and smiled at her, making her heart skip a beat. It wasn't unusual to see that kind of things happen between them. They seemed so connected that when one of them was watching, the other would feel it instantly. She waved at him, blushing a little, and he answered with a playful wink. Henry, too busy reading the book she'd offered him with the dozen of extra-hours she'd done lately, didn't look up, blissfully unaware of what was happening around him.

"Swan, what the hell are you doing ?" Calvin got mad as she'd stopped for barely a minute.

"I'm enjoying this beautiful day, Calvin." She shrugged, not feeling upset at all. "You should try one of these days. Maybe it would relax you. I heard it's perfect when you're a bit cranky."

Without waiting for an answer, she made her way to the kitchen, leaving a stunned Calvin, lips parted and eyes wide, behind her. She wasn't as impressed by the little bastard as she'd once been. She refused to let him reach her anymore. His comments would now slide on her without getting to her head, and since Killian had come back, she even allowed herself to tease him a bit as a revenge.

His lack of replies told her that, if he had a big mouth, he didn't have a mind as sharp as he would have wanted her to think. She was feeling good now that she was freed from this constant anger she'd once had toward him. And leaving him speechless amused her a lot.

She kept on working, offering smiles and nice comments to the clients and ignoring the exhaustion that was slowly taking place in her limbs. The night was settling, the sky getting darker and the birds quieter. As she was about to take her break to go eat with Killian and Henry, a cry coming from the outside of the tavern made her startle :


Killian's voice seemed worried, almost panicked, and her heart sank in her chest. She didn't wait any longer to rush outside, placing the tray she was carrying in a table under the questioning gaze of the men sitting there. She knew at the tone her friend had used that something was very wrong. She had to make sure her boys were all right.

Her heart was beating so fast she could hear it in her own ears. Arriving under the dark sky, she found Killian kneeling on the floor, a few feet from her. He looked up at her with concerned eyes, and her breath got stuck in her throat for a horrible second. He was holding a sobbing Henry in his arms, and thousands of terrible ideas suddenly ran through her mind as she had no clue of what was happening.

He could be hurt, badly, and she had to make sure it wasn't the case. She ran to them and threw herself on her knees without paying attention to the pain going up her leg as it was hitting the ground. Henry immediately turned to her when he felt her presence, and she held him close to her heart, feeling her eyes filling with tears because seeing him in such distress was unbearable.

"Calm down, baby, it's okay..." She whispered to her little boy's ear without even knowing what was going on. At least he didn't seem physically hurt, she noted. "What's wrong?" She then asked, looking up at Killian as he was gently rubbing Henry's back, looking absolutely distraught.

"I walked away for a minute to go bring the wood to my boss and get the gold I earned. When I came back, other children were attacking the lad." He explained, looking so sorry. "I made them go away, but they've had the time to ruin the book." He added, showing the remains of the object scattered on the floor. "I'm so sorry I couldn't be there sooner, to stop them from doing any harm..."

"Oh my god." She said, biting her bottom lip to try and avoid crying, feeling so guilty for not having heard anything and for having let this happen. God knows what could have happened with these damn bullies if Killian hadn't come right on time. "Don't apologize, Killian." She added, noting his eyes shinning with unshed tears. "You were just doing your job."

Henry's sobs had become even stronger in her neck as he'd heard Killian tell the story of what had happened. She tried to console him, rocking him against her chest, doing her best not to cry as well. This was breaking her heart, and she knew they didn't know the entire story yet. Henry wouldn't have been that sad if the book had been the only thing that had been ruined. When he finally calmed down a bit, she asked kindly, trying to understand :

"What have they done to you, kid?"

"They told me I was nothing." He sniffed, panting a little, and she ran her fingers through his hair in a sweet gesture. "They told me I'll never have any friends because I'm weird and boring, and that no one will ever love me. And then they took my book and they made fun of me while ruining it, because they said that… That I could never have others anyway because you don't have any money."

And he started to sob again as she was holding him even tighter against her. The words these kids had told her son were upsetting her beyond words. It was horribly mean, of course, but that wasn't it. She also knew that, on the last part, they were right. She would never be able to give him another book for a long, long time. She'd worked her ass off to offer him this little gift. They had no savings at all, and she would have liked to prove these little assholes wrong, but it wasn't possible. She was the one who was nothing, she thought. She couldn't even offer her own son a damn book.

Killian guessed how bad she felt, because he moved his hand and placed it on the small of her back. They stayed knelt on the dust for another few minutes, before finally managing to calm Henry down. He pulled away from her, and she gently wiped his tears off, kissing the crown of his head. Killian smiled at him for reassurance, and she turned her face away to hide the tears in her eyes. Her little boy didn't need to see her cry in addition to what he'd just gone through.

Her friend took care of everything. He lifted her son up in his arms, and gently led him to their room as she was following them, chest tight and eyes wet. She didn't even hear Calvin yelling that, since she'd left the tray in the middle of the tavern and since it was unacceptable, she would have to wipe the floor clean again before going to bed, to make up for her mistake.

Killian laid Henry down in his bed as she was leaning against the opposite wall. With a comforting smile, her friend started to tell her son stories about the ocean and treasure hunts in mysterious islands. He even managed to make him chuckle twice. Then, when the little boy had finally fallen asleep, he gestured for her to come in the hallway with him, and she followed him, closing the door behind her back.

As soon as they found themselves alone in the dim light of the hall, her last barriers gave up and she started to cry. She was feeling so bad. These kids had hurt her son because he wasn't like the other kids of his age, he liked to read and they thought it was wrong while it was making her little boy so happy. In addition to that, she couldn't even prove them wrong about the fact she didn't have any gold.

She knew that most of these comments the other kids had made were because she was a single mom, working her life away, who had, on top of everything, once been a thief. She would not be able to replace the damn book for a few weeks, and it was making her crazy. It was the only thing that would have consoled Henry.

Killian didn't wait any longer to take her in the comfort of his strong arms. With so much softness her heart did a strange thing, he kissed her hair and didn't ask her one thing. He knew what she was feeling without her having to say anything. He knew her so well. She ended up starting to talk anyway, her words interrupted by long sobs.

"It's all my fault… They… These kids… They told these things to Henry because I don't have any money."

"Oh, Emma, don't say that." He answered gently, still rocking her against his chest as she was holding onto his coat for dear life. "It's not your fault."

"I know I'm not good at anything." She kept on panting. "I just want him to be happy, but I can't even repay him another book..."

"Shh, darling. We're going to find a solution, I promise. But please, do not say those things about yourself. You're brave. You're beautiful. You're smart, strong, amazing. You raised the lad all by yourself while you were still just a child. Everything you do, you do it for him. You're the most wonderful woman I know, and you're the best mother in all the realms."

His words managed to comfort her, as only his voice could soothe her in this moment. He kept on holding her until she'd calmed down, then kissed her forehead when she'd finally stopped crying, promising her once again that everything would be okay.

She got back to work a few minutes later as he was sitting in a corner of the tavern, ordering the less expensive drink and sipping it slowly to stay with her for the entire night and make sure she was all right. The feeling of his gaze in her back was the only thing that kept her up for all these hours, while she had to pretend that everything was okay. Deep down, she just wanted to snuggle in his arms again to shed all these tears she was keeping in her chest.

She woke up the next morning, heart heavy and eyes painful from all the tears she'd shed. But she was feeling a bit better than the night before. Killian had stayed with her after the tavern had closed, to make sure she was all right. Calvin's threats had been all too real, and she'd had to clean the floor, but he'd helped her, even if she'd tried to convince him not to. He just didn't want to leave her alone while she was that sad.

She didn't cry often, and he knew that if her tears were so strong, it was because the situation was incredibly painful. He'd come with her to her room, and he'd stroked her hair, whispering comforting words to her ear until she'd fallen asleep. When she'd woken up in the middle of the night, the print of his lips was still etched on her forehead, but he wasn't there anymore. She didn't worry. She knew he would come back. He always did.

Henry was still looking quite upset because of what had happened the day before. She forced herself to smile all morning in order not to show him that she was hurt as well. He needed her to be strong. He clung to her as she was making the tavern ready to greet the clients. Luckily, Matt was the only one in the Howling Wolf that day, and he greeted Henry with a kind wink. She often wondered how an honest, nice man such as Matt could have raised an asshole like Calvin. The mystery would always stay unresolved in her mind.

As soon as Killian arrived to the tavern, Henry ran to him, and her friend lifted him up from the ground. He took the time to come and greet her with a tight hug, gaze silently asking her if she was all right. She just smiled and nodded, and he cupped her cheek for a second to show his support. She felt about to melt on the spot. As he was about to take her son for a walk, he said to them both with a mysterious smile :

"Lad, I have a surprise for you. But you'll have to wait for your mum to take her break before knowing what it is, all right?"

"Oh, really?" Henry asked with eyes shinning in excitement, looking so cheerful all of the sudden.

"What kind of surprise?" Emma asked, a small smile on her lips at how happy Henry suddenly looked.

"You'll see." Killian answered with a playful wink.

And on that note, he left the tavern, a still babbling Henry in his arms asking him questions about this upcoming surprise. It's only minutes later that she realized she was grinning for real now, a silly smile that had come at Killian's words and gestures. This man definitely always managed to make her happy, even when she was at her worst.

It's only much later that she was able to take a well-deserved break. She was indeed trying to work as much as she physically could, so she could pay another book to her son, just wanting to make him happy. Matt almost had to force her to stop working. Her legs were hurting and her eyes were painful because of her exhaustion.

"Don't exhaust yourself, Emma. Take a break. Really. I insist." He said with a concerned frown.

She thanked him with a grateful smile, and finally got out, barely standing on her feet because of how tired she was. The sun was setting in the sky, giving the landscape a pretty orange color. She hadn't even realized she'd worked that long. She hadn't even had lunch.

Killian was sitting under a tree with Henry. They were both talking with big smiles, and her son finally seemed more like himself. When the little boy saw her approaching, he got on his feet to run toward her. Killian's face illuminated completely at her sight, as he was standing up more slowly.

"We missed you, mommy!"

"I missed you too, kid." She answered with a tired smile, running her fingers through his hair.

"Can I have my surprise now?" Henry then asked, looking up at Killian with a hopeful smile as he was standing next to them.

"So, that's why you were so happy to see me, huh? That makes sense." She joked, feeling her good mood coming right back at being next to the two people who were her everything.

Killian laughed at that, and teased Henry for a few seconds as the little boy was chuckling. Finally, he placed his hand in the satchel he was wearing around his shoulders. Emma leaned forward, a bit intrigued, wondering what was this surprise her friend seemed so happy about. With a raise of his eyebrows and a proud smirk on his face, Killian finally got a beautiful book out of the bag.

She needed a few seconds to realize what this meant. It was the same book that had been ruined by the kids the day before. He'd gone to pay another book to her son, while he didn't have any money left. He'd probably used the entirety of the gold he'd earned thanks to his job the day before, just to please her little boy. He'd done the impossible to make her kid happy.

She couldn't believe it. She knew Killian always took good care of Henry, and he had already offered him so much when he was rich, but this was different. This book meant something, especially since he was as poor as she was, now. He'd wanted to help this little boy he knew for barely a few months, so he would regain his smile. This same little boy that considered him as his own father. It was beautiful, overwhelming, and she didn't know what to do anymore.

The cry of joy that crossed Henry's lips made her come back to reality, but she was still speechless. Her son wrapped his arms around Killian's neck, thanking him over and over again, bouncing up and down in excitement. The situation seemed surreal. She didn't even manage to answer the questioning, and frankly a bit worried glance that Killian was throwing her way. Henry kept on screaming his joy, and she kept on staring at her friend with her heart pounding incredibly fast in her chest.

"It's too dark to read outside." The little boy said. "I'm going back to the room. Thank you, Killian! I'm so happy!"

He got back to the tavern, almost running, so glad to be able to continue this story that had seemed to passionate him. She was still too surprised to do anything. She was slowly realizing what Killian had done for her baby boy. He'd made him so damn happy. Henry's sadness had gone away, as if the last events had never happened. The gesture was so beautiful she didn't know what to say or do anymore.

When he was sure that Henry was gone, Killian took her hand in his, looking deeply worried because of her silence. The touch of his hand sent a shiver up her arm and down her spine. She didn't know how to thank him properly. It was just a book, sure, but it meant so much more to her. Because it'd brought back her son's smile. Every words she could think of seemed meaningless, and she didn't know what to say.

Her heartbeats suddenly fastened a bit more. An insane idea had just crossed her mind. But, somehow, she really wanted for that crazy desire to become real.

"Swan, are you all right, love?" He asked, before adding because of her lack of reaction, not having a clue that she was trying to fight against this desire that had taken its place in her entire being. "I apologize, darling. I hope you're not angry with me. I know you wanted to give this book to Henry yourself. But I saw it in the marketplace today, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity. I'm..."

Tired to fight against herself, because she just wanted to do what she desired for once, trying not to think too much about what she was doing, she took a step forward. Wrapping her arm around Killian's neck, she invaded his personal space, and broke the distance between them to press her mouth against his.

He tasted sweet, with a hint of salt on his lips. He seemed surprised at first, then cupped her head and kissed her back. She needed one more moment, too dizzy because of the things his tongue against hers made her feel, to realize what this gesture meant. She stepped back, breaking their embrace before it'd had the chance to really start.

She couldn't believe herself, panting. She also couldn't help herself but to lick her lips to get one last taste of him. She'd just kissed her best friend, without asking him if it was okay. And the worst part was that she had liked it, and she didn't want to think about what this meant. His beautiful eyes were staring at her, looking stunned and confused, but his pupils were dilated and he was panting as well. She stuttered, appalled by the realization of what she'd done :

"Oh my god. Oh my god, Killian. Please, forgive me. I'm sorry. I don't know what's got into me. I'm..."

This time, he was the one who interrupted her before she'd had to chance to finish. He wrapped his arms around her, glued his body to hers, sending shivers to places she didn't even know were there, and kissed her once more. Her back hit the trunk of the tree behind her, but they didn't care. The kiss lasted for a very long time. He was everywhere, his smell invading her, his hand carefully traveling the curves of her shoulders and neck, their tongues dancing in perfect harmony, as if they'd always been destined to find themselves there.

They only parted when they found themselves panting, their lungs screaming for oxygen. She blinked a few times, trying to clear up her blurry vision. She couldn't see anything else but him anymore. Him and these beautiful eyes, this scar on his cheek, the taste of his lips. She was wondering if she'd turned crazy. The idea of kissing her best friend seemed so surreal, and yet so natural.

His left arm still wrapped around her waist, his hand gripped at the ring he'd offered her, which she'd never taken off. He gently tug at it and said with a wide smile, lips brushing against hers. "Please, do not apologize."

"Wait, what does that mean?" She said breathlessly, trying to think clearly but failing, because he was everywhere and she felt so complete. "You mean that… You agree?"

"Agree with what?" He simply asked.

"Well, this. Us. Whatever this is that's happening right now."

"Oh, love." He slightly shook his head, as if he were stating the obvious. "Don't you know for how long I've been dreaming of this moment?"

This sentence would have normally made her run without a second thought. It meant he wanted this, he wanted this intimacy they'd just shared together. But at her own surprise, she just felt herself smile and blush a bit. Because she hadn't ruined anything by kissing him. Because he wanted this too. And because she felt so safe, and loved, and beautiful in his arms.

"Is it all right if I keep kissing you?" He asked, making her chuckle as his knuckles were gently brushing against her cheekbone.

"I would like that very much." She just answered, making him smile.

He approached her once again, and started to kiss her with so much softness her heart grew about twice its size. His hand running through her hair, back, neck, his hook on the small of her back, everything was making her feel things she'd never felt before. It was bigger than desire, bigger than lust. It was a pure connection to each other. She was almost feeling on the edge, just sensing his lips and tongue against hers.

She didn't know for how long the kiss lasted. Hours, maybe, or a few minutes, but she didn't care. Nothing existed anymore, but him and the touch of his hand, the dance of his mouth. After a while, he pulled away, making her moan in disagreement. He pressed his forehead against hers, noses brushing against one another, chuckling a bit at her reaction. In a whisper, he said :

"Maybe we should go back inside."

"Maybe we should, yeah." She said, feeling dizzy, but none of them moved an inch.

It made him laugh out loud. He moved to press a path of little kisses down her jaw and neck, stopping on her collarbone and gently nibbling at her skin. She laughed as well, grabbing his shoulders for balance. But then he pulled away for good, pressing one last kiss on the tip of her nose and holding her hand to say.

"I'll be upstairs with the lad. See you later, Swan."

"See you later, Killian." She just answered, still feeling like she was floating above the ground.

She watched him disappear in the dark, and he kept on looking at her until he was unable to. She stayed there for a long while, back still pressed against the tree, still feeling his taste in her mouth. Her heart was pounding so fast it could get out of her chest at any given moment. Then she smiled, and walked back into the tavern, not knowing what was about to happen, but incredibly happy.


Killian's lips were on hers the moment she finished that part of the story. Their first kiss was such a special memory in her mind, the first time she'd felt so loved in her entire life, and she'd felt the same way every day ever since. Dizzy, safe, just deeply happy.

"I'm so lucky to have you in my life, my Swan." he whispered against her lips.

"I'm the lucky one" She just answered, gently stroking his cheek and looking at this face she knew by heart.

He shook his head and looked at her like she was an angel coming straight from heaven to bless him. She kissed his lips once again, then started back where she had stopped for the last part of this story. The story of how they'd become a family.

Chapter Text

Two years ago

She tried not to think too much about what was happening between her and Killian, after their first kiss. She'd promised herself not to trust anyone ever again after Neal, but this felt so different. He was always there, always making sure she was okay, always telling her she was beautiful and amazing. And she felt complete with him.

After their moment in the forest, she'd joined him in her room, and despite her cheeks that had turned red at the sight of his kiss swollen lips, they'd quietly decided not to talk to Henry about what had happened yet. She didn't know what it meant herself, explaining it to her son would have been too complicated. And she didn't want to put words on the situation. What they shared was too beautiful to be named. And she was scared of her own reaction if she started to think about what this kiss really meant.

The following days were punctuated by stolen kisses, shared when they thought that no one was watching. Behind a tree, not far from the tavern, his tongue gently dancing with hers, or in the hall, next to her room, after Henry had gone to bed. She would often laugh at their little elopements, and moan at the way his hand would touch her neck and hair. She felt like a teenager all over again, except this time it felt right.

The best part was that, aside from this new intimacy and this desire to kiss him whenever she could, nothing felt different between them. As if they'd always been destined to live that kind of relationship. She couldn't understand back then that they'd been a couple long before sharing their first kiss. You don't need to kiss someone to be intimate, after all.

It's only a couple of weeks later that they found themselves forced to stop hiding. They were both tucking Henry in for the night, kneeling before his bed. Right after yawning loudly and as Emma was sure that he was about to fall asleep, he said :

"Killian, you wanna stay here tonight?"

"Huh?" They both answered at the same time, and they shared a glance, looking both completely taken aback by her son's offer.

"What makes you say that, kid?" She blinked in surprise.

"Well, isn't that what couples usually do?"

She choked on the air around her. "Couples?" She repeated, feeling Killian's gaze burning on her skin, as if he were anxiously waiting for her reaction. They'd never put a label on their relationship, and Henry wasn't supposed to know what was going on. "What do you mean?"

"Seriously?" Henry laughed, definitely quite perceptive for an eight-year-old. "You both think you're so discreet, don't you?"

On that note, he turned his back to them, as if he were about to fall asleep and what he'd said hadn't been of any kind of importance. Emma looked at Killian, eyes wide and shaking her head. He was looking as surprised as she was. Neither of them had noticed that her son knew about them, whatever that statement meant.

The fact that her son had called them a couple had made her feel a bit strange. But at the same time and at her own surprise, she wasn't scared. It felt good, to think about Killian as her partner. She held back a small smile, and gently grabbed Henry's shoulder so she could see his face. He looked at her with one eyebrow raised, and it suddenly hit her how much her little boy had grown up.

"Henry, for how long do you know?" She asked.

She was sincerely hoping that he was okay with what was going on between Killian and her. A great part of this decision to hide their new intimacy had been because they didn't want to make the little boy suffer. She also knew deep down that she'd decided to hide everything because she hadn't wanted to name this relationship just yet. But not anymore. She felt ready, assured, happy. And damn, that felt so good.

"Since the day after Killian offered me the book." He said as if it were nothing, but her lips parted in surprise.

"You knew all along?" Killian said, expressing her thoughts out loud.

"Of course." Henry answered with a small smirk. "As I said, you both think you're so discreet..."

"Oh, God, kid." Emma whispered, biting her bottom lip in worry, feeling guilty all of the sudden. "I'm sorry you had to learn this that way. How do you feel about it? Be honest. We won't get mad, I promise."

"What kind of question is that, mom?" He kindly scoffed. "How do you want me to feel? I think this is awesome! You seem happy, and Killian is officially a member of our family, now."

She turned to Killian, suddenly a bit worried. This was a big step for them. They'd never talked about what they were, just enjoying the other's' presence, and even if she knew that they were more than friends, she'd never considered them as a couple before. But it sounded so good. Even though it was scary, she was feeling a part of her walls coming down to finally let him in a bit more. Neal had abandoned her. Being in a relationship was hard. But, somehow, she knew he wasn't going to hurt her. Not him.

This was because of her troubled past that they hadn't gone any further than kissing yet. They had the opportunity to, Henry was old enough to stay in the room alone for a couple of hours as they were going to the Jolly Roger, but they hadn't even talked about this possibility. He was showing her that he would wait until she was ready, by his tender gestures and sweet kisses, because he would never pressure her to do anything she didn't want to. She was a bit scared of herself, scared to take that big leap of faith. Because she knew how she could react.

This possible event could bring her old instincts back to life. Every time she'd slept with someone since Neal, she had never seen them again, never giving herself a chance to live a real relationship. With Killian, it was different. She wouldn't stand not having him in her life. And she didn't want to run away anymore.

She was scared about his reaction to Henry's words, too. He'd lost Milah, and he'd never really overcome her death. She didn't know if he wanted to be a part of this family. She didn't know if he was ready.

But the silly smile he gave her told her the opposite. He seemed so damn happy, it made butterflies appear in the pit of her stomach. He looked at Henry with shinning eyes, and pulled her closer to press a tender kiss on her cheek. She felt her entire body relaxing as he was holding her close, and smiled as their fingers were interlacing naturally. If she could have doubts when he wasn't there, as soon as he was by her side, everything seemed so natural, obvious. Couple. She really did like that idea, after all.

"It would be an honor to become a part of this amazing family, lad." Killian said, his left arm wrapped around her and still holding her close.

"Well, if we're being honest, you're a part of this family since the moment we met you." Her son said, and she sighed in surprise, because he was so mature for his young age. "Now, if you two don't mind, I'm tired and would like to sleep." He added, what made her snort. "But my offer still stands. If you wanna stay, Killian, you're more than welcome."

"I'll see this with your mum." Killian answered in a chuckle, leaning to press a kiss on Henry's forehead. "Good night, lad."

Her son simply smiled as an answer, and she stayed snuggled in Killian's arms until Henry had fallen asleep. When his breathing had gotten steady, Killian turned to her, an eyebrow raised and silently asking her what she wanted to do. As always, he was waiting for her opinion, not wanting to push her to do anything. He had so much respect for her, it made her want to kiss him senseless.

So that's what she did. Leaning to press her lips against his for a few seconds, she said. "I want you to stay."

The smile he offered her was worth everything in the world. She briefly parted from him to go fetch another blanket in the corner of the room. Silently, she took his hand and made him lay down on the ground next to her. She rested her head on his chest as he was wrapping his arm around her. They both knew that they couldn't do anything with Henry in the room, obviously. But she was just happy to sleep in the comfort of his arms.

"I'm sorry, the floor isn't really comfortable." She whispered, gently tickling the skin of his neck and making him shiver.

"Don't apologize, love. Thanks for accepting me here."

She smiled and looked up to press a sweet kiss on his jaw, before snuggling a bit more closer to him. She was grinning. She thought for a moment about what had just happened, about this name that Henry had chosen for them and that she liked so much, that seemed so natural. She didn't feel ready to tell him how she felt when he looked at her, how everything disappeared and how she was only left with his blue eyes and this deep feeling of pure happiness, not yet anyway. But she could tell him something else, something simpler.

"I'm happy you're here." She whispered against his skin.

He kissed the top of her head, and she could feel how his heart had fastened at her words. "I'm glad to be here, too. Good night, Swan."

"Good night, Killian."

It was the start of numerous nights spent in each others' arms.

"You're crazy." Emma said in awe, finally discovering the restaurant in front of which she was standing, Killian and Henry by her side.

The building was huge, even if it was a bit less fancy than the one they'd gone to for Henry's birthday. Her reaction made her son laugh, and Killian held her even closer to him, arm wrapped around her waist and a smirk on his lips. He gently dropped a kiss to her temple, burying his nose in her hair for a moment to breathe her in.

"We need to celebrate this day, don't we?" He kindly answered, and she turned to press a quick peck on his lips.

It was her twenty-sixth birthday, and Killian had insisted to take them out for dinner, her and her son. If the restaurant was a bit less luxurious than The Treasure had been, it was still huge and she didn't know how he would be able to offer them a meal in this establishment. Then she remembered how hard he'd worked lately, probably to prepare for this date.

She smiled at this thought and snuggled a bit closer to him to thank him silently. Even though they didn't have a lot of money, he was truly spoiling her every time he could. A month had passed since they'd shared their first kiss, and if they still hadn't talked about what their relationship meant, she knew now that they were a real couple. They'd already been one way before their first kiss, but that was official, now. They were together against the world, forming their little family with Henry.

He'd always been there, since the moment she'd met him. He'd supported her, and their tender gestures toward each others had become even more constant, now that they could show to the world the reality of their feelings. At the time, she still couldn't admit to herself that she was deeply, head over heels in love with Killian Jones. Even if she'd come a long way, some of her walls were still there, and she couldn't bring them down all at once. Her past had been too rough and painful.

But he was helping her, day after day. And he was patiently waiting for her to be ready to go any further with him. They still hadn't done anything more than kissing, despite sleeping almost every night in each others' arms, on the floor of her little room. He was silently making her understand that he would wait for as long as she wanted him to. Because he loved her, so much, even if he knew that telling her those words would scare her. So he was doing his best to show her how much he cared without saying it out loud.

"For how many hours have you worked to be able to offer us this?" She sighed as they were walking to the building.

"Stop asking questions and enjoy the well-deserved gift." He said playfully, then regained his seriousness to add : "You deserve the world, Swan. This meal isn't much."

She offered him a small smile. She was used to his compliments by now, and he just pressed a kiss to her cheek to encourage her. Sighing once again, she ran her palms against the fabric of her dress, regretting to have put on something so simple. She hadn't expected him to take her to such a fancy place when she'd gotten dressed.

"God, I'm so not dressed for this."

"You're the most beautiful woman in this restaurant, or in all the realms, if I'm being honest. Stop worrying. You're stunning."

It made her blush and she took his hand in hers to walk to the restaurant, suddenly feeling more assured. He was actually looking at her like she was brighter than the sun, and it was making her feel so much better. That night was going to be a good one.

The time they spent at the restaurant was absolutely perfect, reminding her of the moments they'd shared for Henry's birthday. Except so many things had changed in the span of two months. They were together, now, he was almost living with them in their little room, and the gestures of affection they showed weren't shy, but tender and loving. And he was offering them this meal with the gold he'd earned working. It meant so much to her. No one had never done anything like that for her before, and she didn't know how to express how she was feeling with words.

It's only later that she found a way to silently tell her feelings to this wonderful man.

They'd decided to go back to the Jolly Roger for the night, for the very first time. Killian had told them there was a room for Henry, and he'd insisted for her to sleep in a real bed for her birthday. She'd accepted the offer without much of a thought. Henry seemed happy to spend the night on the ship, and the Jolly wasn't far from the tavern, she could walk to work in the morning.

And she had to admit that sleeping on a real mattress was tempting. She was only twenty-six, but her long hours spent at work and these nights on the wooden floor of the room, had already damaged her back quite a bit. It wasn't unusual for her to feel uncomfortable, and she wanted to enjoy this opportunity that was offered to her. And besides, spending the night on the ship meant that they could have a bit of intimacy, this time. It could only do them good.

After tucking Henry into one of the vacant bed, Killian took her hand and led her to the captain's quarter. She sat on the table in the middle of the room, letting her legs dangle, and watched him take a flask of rum out of his leather coat. He smirked at her and handed it to her with a raise of his eyebrows that made her chuckle.

"Would you try to get me drunk, captain?"

He laughed at that, wrapping one arm around her to stroke her back. "I wouldn't dare. And you don't need rum to find me devilishly handsome."

"That's for sure." she winked at him, before taking a big sip out of the flask.

They talked for a long time as the alcohol was slowly infiltrating their veins and blurring their mind. Watching him, she was wondering what she'd done that was so good in her life to deserve such a wonderful man by her side. He'd always been there for her, since day one, even though she'd pushed him away at first. She didn't know what to say to show him how much she cared about him. She felt complete next to him, but the words wouldn't come out of her mouth when she was trying to tell him.

It's as the room was beginning to slightly spin around her that she found the solution to her problem. She was going to show him how she felt. She'd always been better at acting than at talking, anyway.

The alcohol was only strengthening this desire to kiss every inch of his body. She'd had to restrain herself from this idea several times already, too scared about her own reaction when they would take that step in their relationship. But she wasn't afraid anymore, and it wasn't only because of the rum. She trusted him, more than anyone. So, without asking herself more questions, she approached him and pressed her mouth against his, her tongue asking for an entrance he allowed immediately.

Then, everything fastened. They kissed and kissed for a very long time, then found themselves settled on the bed of the room. She was straddling his legs, trying to unfasten the buttons of his vest while still kissing him, because she didn't want to stop, even for a second.

As she was about to take the piece of clothing off him, shaky hands sliding down his shoulders and jerky breath at the desire she was feeling blooming in her lower stomach, he gently pulled away from her. He kept his hand pressed against her back as she was still above him, and tried to meet her eyes. She could watch him more carefully, then. His hair was messy and his swollen lips made her want to kiss him even more. But he started in a very low, raspy voice, his fingers tracing little shivers down her back.

"Swan, I don't know if this is a good idea. We drank, and..."

"You don't want to?" She cut him off, feeling a crippling fear invading her chest at the idea that she'd been wrong, and that, after all, they weren't anything more than friends. Her insecurities were surfacing again, and she pulled away a bit, but he wrapped both his arms around her to hold her close.

"Are you joking, darling? Of course I want this" He said, staring at her with wide eyes, and she sighed in relief, allowing him to tug her close again. "I want you. Always. But… Are you certain you agree with what we're doing here? I'm afraid it's the rum making you want this, right now. I know your past, love. I don't want you to regret this tomorrow. I want you to be ready, whenever this time may come, and I'll wait as long as you need me to."

"I want you, too, Killian." She whispered, her right hand going up his neck to run through his dark locks. "It's not the rum talking. I've wanted you for a very long time."

"Are you absolutely sure of that?" He insisted looking worried, and she thought that this man was so wonderful, taking care of her that way. "I'm only human, love. I can only restrain myself for a little while, when you're looking at me that way."

She leaned to press her forehead against his for a second, and placed a little kiss on his lips. Then she brushed her nose against his and whispered against his mouth, enjoying the dark shade his blue eyes had taken at his lust.

"Don't hold back, then. It's bad form to discuss the wish of a birthday girl, isn't it?"

He laughed at the words she'd chosen, and held her close, bringing her mouth back against his. Then, all of the sudden, still kissing her, he shifted them so she was laying on her back. He was above her now, and whispered, leaning to kiss her again and again.

"As you wish, my darling. I'm all yours."

His mouth started to move, getting a bit lower, tracing a path down her jaw, neck, collarbone, and leaving traces on her cleavage. Little moans were escaping her lips, but she couldn't control them anymore. He found himself bare chest quite quickly. Running her hands down his arms and chest, she marveled at the strength and comfort of him, at his taste in her mouth, at his hand over her body.

She was arching her back to glue herself to him, just a little bit more, when he suddenly stopped. When she looked up at him, she noticed that he was frowning. She was about to ask him what was wrong, suddenly worried, when she understood. He was looking at his hook, and she got his quiet questions and insecurities. He didn't know if he had to keep it or not. He was wondering if she accepted everything about him, the pirate in him and the scars on his body. He didn't know that she admired every single part of him. She placed her hand on his brace and looked into his eyes to say :

"It's whatever you prefer, Killian. It doesn't matter to me. I want you. All of you."

He had a small smile, then, with a sigh, he took of his brace and placed it on the floor of the room. "With you, I don't want to be Hook. I want to be Killian."

She could feel at the way he was now looking at her, and the tip of his ears that had turned red, that he was feeling incredibly insecure about this decision. As if her feelings could lessen because of his scars, because of his past. She smiled at him reassuringly, and gently brought his left arm to her lips. There, on his stump, where his brace had been seconds before, she pressed a bunch of little kisses, showing him that she loved all of him, since she couldn't say it out loud, not yet.

He seemed absolutely awestruck, staring at her for a few seconds before starting to kiss her again, even more lovingly if it was even possible. He stopped one last time to take her dress off and toss it on the floor. She was naked before his eyes, but she didn't feel self-conscious or insecure. She felt good, and when he pulled himself up a bit to look at every inch of her skin, she felt like she was about to melt on the spot. His thumb was slowly drawing circles on the skin of her stomach, and he finally said, looking at her like she was an angel coming right from heaven to bless him.

"You're so beautiful, Emma."

Before she could answer anything, he let his mouth get lower and lower down her stomach, to finally reach her center and make her moan. This was the first of many nights where, at the edge of her orgasm, she would think that he was incredibly good with his tongue and remaining hand.

He was everywhere, hand tracing her body, worshiping her like she was a true goddess and whispering against her skin how beautiful, amazing she was. When he entered her, she felt as if they'd always been destined to find themselves there, as if everything they'd had to go through in their lives had been to bring them to this moment. And as he was moving gently inside of her, lovingly and gracefully, she felt like all this pain had been worth it, if it'd brought her to be living these incredible feelings right now.

The night was already well settled when they laid back down in the bed, sweaty and panting, still holding onto each other and naked bodies glued together. She had her head against his shoulder and his arm was around her and she felt like she belonged. She felt so incredibly, deeply happy she didn't want to move an inch, taking in his scent and everything that was making him the incredible man he was.

She wasn't scared anymore. Despite the rum that was starting to fade away, she felt safe. What he'd made her feel that night, nobody had never done it before. It'd been bigger than physical pleasure. Sure, it'd been without a doubt the best night of her life, but the harmony she'd felt as they were moving together, the words whispered to her ear as she was grabbing his back for balance, had only made her feelings grow for him, if it was even possible.

She kissed him one last time on his collarbone before diving into her dreams, a smile still dancing on her lips

And the days, the months went by. The bound they shared grew even stronger, and their story went on. They would never spend a night apart anymore. Every two nights, they would go on the Jolly Roger to have the intimacy they were lacking when they were sleeping in her little room. Because if their first time had been incredible, the nights that had followed had been even better. They knew each other by heart, now, they knew what they liked and their moments together were so intense it felt like a dream.

They spent all their time together, the three of them with Henry. They talked, laughed, joked, and she'd never been this happy in her entire life. But her happiness was so strong that, for a moment, she'd forgotten about who Killian was and what was going to happen eventually.

He was going to leave, when the Jolly Roger would be able to go back at sea. And this realization hit her like a punch in the stomach after months spent in her little bubble of happiness.

Three months had passed since her birthday. They'd spent the night on the ship, and she was walking by herself to the tavern. Killian and Henry usually came with her, but he'd gotten a job that day, and her son had wanted to come with him. She was feeling good, that morning, a silly smile on her face. She could still remember how Killian's lips had felt on her body the night before.

And then, she realized it. Nothing particular happened, she just came back to reality while walking the way they'd taken to say goodbye the first time he'd left. She had to stop moving, her breathing stuck in her throat, feeling suddenly sick. He was a pirate. He was going to leave, sooner than later. He'd already stayed for a very long time. His departure was going to happen soon, she knew it. She couldn't believe she hadn't thought about this sooner. She couldn't believe she was going to get hurt again.

Her legs were shaking, and she had to lean against a tree for balance. She was dizzy, and something in her stomach felt wrong. She couldn't believe herself. She'd actually forgotten who Killian was, because of her feelings for him. She'd gotten attached to the man who was going to leave her, again.

It wasn't his fault. He needed gold to survive. And he would lose his crew and the Jolly Roger if he refused to go back at sea when the ship would be fixed. On that moment, panicking, she didn't realize that she'd never seen one member of his crew anywhere near the Jolly Roger, and that he'd never worked on fixing his ship. She was too freaked out and hurt.

She couldn't follow him at sea, she thought. She wanted to, badly, but she just couldn't. She wouldn't drag Henry into a life of constant danger. And she was in a relationship with this wonderful, amazing man, her feelings were so strong she couldn't imagine spending a day without him. Hell, she was in love with him. She loved him so damn much, and he was going to walk away. He only wanted her happiness, but he was going to break her heart. And her little boy's along with hers.

She could feel her panic coming at her in waves. She couldn't breathe, and she didn't know what to do to fix this situation. She should have remembered that Killian was a pirate, and what he would be forced to do sooner or later. She couldn't fall out in love with him. She loved everything about him, every little details. And she couldn't talk to him, because he would just tell her that everything would be okay, but it would be a lie. Nothing would be fine if he wasn't by her side. She was going to get hurt again, and she didn't know how she would be able to overcome a new abandon.

So, she chose the only solution that seemed logical in her mind. Her walls got right back up as she was shaking, and the only thing she could do to protect herself was what she'd always done since the day of her birth.

Running away.

Not literally, of course. She had a life there, a job, and she couldn't take Henry and disappear without a word. But she could do something. Pushing Killian away was the only solution. She couldn't get hurt when he would leave again. She had to break this incredible bound between them in order to preserve her heart and feel like she had some control over the situation.

When Killian came back to the tavern that night, carrying her son, her eyes were red from all the tears she'd shed when no one was watching. She was exhausted, but she knew she didn't have a choice, she had to break what they had. Even if it was going to be incredibly painful, she would be fine later on.

She barely smiled at his sight, but the grin he offered her almost made her give up on everything and kiss him senseless. She didn't approach him and his smile disappeared when he realized she wasn't coming to greet him.

She hugged her son, trying to find strength in his embrace and telling herself that she was protecting Henry from a heartbreak too, as Killian was frowning at her. He placed his hand on her shoulder, silently asking her what was wrong, but she didn't say a thing. She didn't want to talk to him. She knew she would start crying again, or she would tell him what she had in mind and he would reassure her while he was going to leave them, and none of them could do something about that.

But she also knew that he wasn't going to let go before knowing what was wrong with her. He could feel she was miserable, she could tell, and she had to find an excuse to get away from him. She sighed, blinked a few times to keep her tears at bay, and said to her son :

"Would you go up in the room for a bit, kid? I'd like to talk with Killian."

Her son seemed to guess right away that something was happening. He looked at her for a minute, then obeyed without trying to protest, knowing that something important was going on there. She watched him go up the stairs, then turned back to look at Killian.

She felt it even harder not to cry when she noticed his blue eyes shinning with worry and a bit of fear. He was confused to be hitting a wall instead of finding the woman he loved. He was used to the soft, affectionate Emma. But now, she had to be tough and cold. She didn't want to hurt him, tough. She loved him, so much. But she had to protect herself, she wouldn't survive another abandon, and she had to walk away from this.

"What's the matter, Emma?" He asked, taking a step forward to wrap his arm around her waist, resting his hook on the small of her back.

"It's nothing, Killian. I'm just… tired." That wasn't a total lie, but she had to go on, she had to run away, now, or her heart would shatter in a thousand pieces.

"You're not feeling well?" He worried immediately. "Can I do anything to help you? Did you eat, today? Aren't you feeling that way because you're hungry?"

"I don't need anything." She said in a whisper, tears in her eyes. "But I do have something to ask you."

"Anything, darling." He said, pulling her to him for a hug.

She didn't resist, and rested her head on his shoulder. It was too much, to walk away from him. She had to push him away, and yet she didn't know how to. Because she wanted him, and it was scaring her to death. He was going to leave. She couldn't love him. She'd let him too close to her heart.

It was her own fault, she couldn't blame anyone but herself, but she had to run so she wouldn't crumble. She had a little boy who needed her more than anything, and she couldn't let him down. She had to be strong, for him, and staying with Killian wouldn't allow her to be a good mom, because she would be left broken when he would disappear, and Henry needed her whole.

"Could you sleep on your ship instead of here, tonight?" She whispered in his shoulder. "I need to rest, be alone for a bit."

The grip he had on her loosened a bit, and she reluctantly looked up to meet his hurt expression. She almost started to sob. He felt rejected, and she just wanted to tell him that she had to, even if she didn't want to live without him. But she couldn't, she had to go on with her plan. She had to protect her heart.

He pulled himself together in a matter of second, and offered her a kind smile, nodding to show his support. He wasn't even mad at her, and she felt like a terrible person. She didn't deserve him anyway, she thought. He was better off without her, wasn't he? He leaned to press a quick peck on her lips, and she wanted to deepen the kiss, but restrain herself at the last second.

"I understand, Swan. Don't you worry. Get some rest, you need it. I'll be there tomorrow for the opening"

'Okay." She said in a muffled voice.

She let him go, feeling like her heart was breaking. She waited for him to have disappeared before leaning against a wall and starting to cry. Her sobs were so violent she bent a little from the pain. The worst was the she knew he was the only one who would have been able to comfort her in that moment. He was the only one able to make her happy. But she just had to run away. For her own good.

Emma tried for days to push the man she loved away. But her feelings were too strong and she failed every single time. He tried to make her tell him what was wrong, when she would find herself on the edge of crying at the idea that she was losing him but that she had to, and he would take her in his arms to kiss the top of her head.

She couldn't resist his embrace in these moments. She needed his strong arms to comfort her, but she always felt guilty afterwards. She was suffering, she was hurting him as well, and she didn't want to, she didn't want him to be in pain. But she had to leave him. It couldn't go on or her heart would break once again.

She was sad and mad all the time. She didn't know what to do anymore. She felt like she was drowning in a vicious circle. She was angry at Killian for being so loving with her, because she couldn't push him away when he was that sweet. And she hated herself for being mad at him, because he was amazing and she was hurting him. This situation seemed hopeless. God, it would have been so much easier if she hadn't fallen in love with him in the first place. Feelings always ended up hurting her. She should have learned her lessons way sooner.

Exhausted, she took the first occasion she found to break this bound they were sharing. She couldn't go on that way. The sooner the better, right? She didn't want to suffer anymore. And she lied to herself, thinking that he would be better off without her anyway, while she knew that it wasn't true at all.

Four days had passed since she'd realized that he was going to leave her. She was feeling sick, she couldn't eat anymore and she hadn't slept for two days. She was feeling like she was turning insane, like she was about to crumble at any given moments. On top of everything, Calvin had been awful for the entire day, seeing that she was already feeling down. This little asshole really wanted to make her life a living hell.

She was now waiting outside of the tavern, during one of her break. The sun was starting to slowly set in the sky, and it was cold outside. Killian and Henry were late. They were supposed to get back to eat with her – even though she knew she wouldn't be able to ingest a thing – but she was standing there for a few minutes already and they still hadn't come back. She was furious.

Killian had brought her son for a walk on the beach, despite the cold weather. It was the first time they weren't there to greet her after one of her shift. Killian was usually incredibly punctual, he knew what time it was by simply glancing at the sky. Their delay was worrying and pissing her off at the same time. She was feeling like she was about to implode from the stress, and she didn't know what to do to calm herself down.

The figures of Killian and her son only appeared a few minutes later. Henry ran to her for a hug, but she only absently embraced him. Her heart was pounding, and she scowled at Killian, her jaw clenched. She had the opportunity to get mad at him, even if the situation was only an excuse, and she needed to put an end to this, because she was turning crazy. She needed to stop hurting, and getting angry was the only solution she'd found to push Killian away.

His smile disappeared when he met her gaze, and he frowned, looking deeply worried by her reaction. She didn't answer right away, trying to stop her heart from exploding. She said in a voice as cold as ice, that surprised her herself :

"You're late."

He blinked in surprise because of her dry comment. He opened his mouth, maybe to apologize, but she didn't let him. Turning to Henry, who was looking at her with wide eyes, obviously worried, she said :

"Can you go up to the room, kid?"

"But, Mom!" He protested, wanting to know what was happening to her. "I wanna tell you what we saw at the beach with Killian."

"You can tell me everything later, I promise. I need to talk to Killian alone, first."

"Why?" He frowned, knowing that something was wrong.

"It's grown-ups stuffs, Henry." She said, feeling more and more annoyed, and she understood there that she was even more furious than she'd realized, because she never got mad at her son for no reason.

"But..." He tried again.

She cut him off there, almost screaming : "Henry! Go to your room!"

He startled at that, and looked at her as if to make sure he'd heard correctly. She never screamed at him. Even when he'd done something bad, which only happened rarely, she would explain to him why it was wrong instead of shouting. She realized one second too late that she'd messed up. Her son hadn't done anything to deserve this, and yelling at him because she was in pain wasn't right. She opened her mouth to apologize, but he suddenly seemed incredibly mad, and she felt a lump appear in her throat.

"Kid, I'm..."

He didn't give her the time to finish. He turned away and ran to the tavern, walking up the stairs loudly, as if to show her just how mad he was. Appalled by her own behavior, she sank her head into her hands. She was doing everything wrong, lately, and she hated herself. Seeing that she was about to start crying, Killian took a step forward, but she didn't let him touch her. The pain in his features felt like a stab in her guts.

"Listen, Swan, I'm really sorry." He started in a broken voice. "We were watching the sunset, and I didn't see the time pass."

"You can be sorry." She said coldly, but the sobs in her throat were also audible. "I was worried."

"Forgive me, love. I didn't wish to concern you..."

"But I didn't know where my own son was!" She cried out, avoiding his gaze. "I thought I was turning crazy!"

"Emma!" He frowned, losing his apologetic expression to defend himself against accusations she herself knew were undue. "You knew he was with me! I'd never let anything happen to the lad, you know that. You know how much I care, and that I would give my life to protect him. You trust me, right?"

She knew he was anxiously waiting for a validation, and she was going to hurt him, but she couldn't stop, or she would throw herself in his arms again and she would only suffer more. "Maybe I shouldn't." She said in a muffled voice, and he took a step back. "You promised me to always be there on time!"

"All right, I see." He replied in a dry tone that he'd never used before with her, and she felt like she was going to cry, because she was ruining everything, and if it was her goal it was also killing her. "I know what's really happening here."

"Oh yeah?" She scoffed, and she hated herself for it. "That's right. I'm an open book to you, right? You think you know me so well. Please, tell me what's going on, then."

"I know this hides something bigger, Swan. I'm not an idiot. You just yelled at Henry, and it's never happened before. You're pushing me away, while everything was great a few days ago. What's really going on in the head of yours? Why are you running? What are you afraid of? I know this argument is only an excuse to push me away."

She felt so furious, that he could read her so well. "That's not it, not at all!"

"Oh, is that right?" He groaned, looking more and more annoyed "You know what, Swan? I don't believe you."

"Well, okay then, since you insist on knowing!" She knew she was going to tell things she would regret, but she needed to do this, even more than before because he knew her by heart and it couldn't go on that way. "You wanna know why I'm so angry at you?"

"I'm listening."

"It's because I've realized who you really were! You're a pirate, Hook" She knew how low it was to call him by his moniker, but she kept on going anyway. "You hurt people for a living! I can't show to my son that this is okay, to be a criminal!"

She'd spit out the last words as they were burning her throat. His eyes grew dark with rage and pain. Her chest was raising quickly, and she was already regretting her words. She hadn't wanted to hurt him. But he loved her so much, he was insisting on knowing what was wrong, and telling those horrible things had been the only way she'd found to make him give up on her.

She knew she was wrong, and she felt like a terrible person. She knew how much he suffered from what he'd done in his past. He'd trusted her with his story, and she was using it against him. God, she hated herself. She could still apologize, but she was frozen on the spot. She had to restrain herself from grabbing his arm and telling him she was sorry over and over again when he turned away from her, tears in his eyes. She watched him walk away without doing anything to hold him back.

She waited for him to be far away before sitting on the ground, her back against a tree. She was broken by her own actions, now. She'd been awful. But at least, she couldn't get hurt again if she was alone, right? She couldn't let him break her heart, but she'd just broken his. She didn't deserve him anyway, she thought. He was a much better man than her.

She bent her knees against her chest and started to sob, her shoulders shaking with the strength of her tears. She grabbed his brother's ring, that she was still wearing after all those months. She squeezed it hard, as if to keep a little part of him with her. He was gone for five minutes, and she was already missing him.

She didn't see Killian for days after that. Without surprise, he didn't show up after their argument, probably staying on the Jolly Roger, incredibly mad at this woman he'd once loved. Because she knew he didn't love her anymore. How could he? She'd ruined everything. It'd been her goal, but she'd never wanted to hurt him. And the worst part was that she didn't feel any better, now that she'd protected her heart from their upcoming separation. She was so miserable, after being so happy. And she hated herself.

She couldn't eat anymore, and would only pass out from exhaustion after crying too much. She'd made him suffer, while he'd done everything for her. She was a terrible person. She missed him so much. She missed his voice, his embraces, his smiles, his kisses, feeling him inside of her at night. She missed everything about him. And she couldn't go find him. She wanted to apologize, to tell him that she hadn't meant what she'd said. But he was going to leave, and she couldn't approach him to lose him all over again.

But because of her actions, she hadn't only lost her lover. She'd also lost her best friend.

She'd tried to apologize to Henry after getting mad at him, but he'd refused to listen to her. To have hurt her son as well made her even more unhappy. God, she was wrong about everything. She was just good at hurting people, and she wanted to punch a wall to punish herself.

But two nights after her argument with Killian, Henry finally forgave her. She didn't deserve this little boy, she thought, as he was coming to snuggle beside her on the floor. He'd probably heard her crying, curled up beneath her blankets. She hadn't wanted him to see her so sad, but keeping her sobs to herself had been too hard, because she was so hurt. He took her in his arms, and feeling her baby boy next to her helped her to feel just a little bit better.

"Did you fight with Killian?" He whispered.

"I'm so sorry, kid." She answered, sniffing and trying to stop her tears from falling. "I'm sorry about yelling at you. I shouldn't have, you'd done nothing wrong. And you shouldn't suffer because of my mistakes."

"It's okay, Mom. I forgive you. And whatever happened, I'm sure Killian is going to forgive you too."

"That's sweet, baby. But he won't. I've been awful. I've set the worst example for you."

"No, you haven't. You're the best mom I could have wished for. I love you, Mommy."

Tears appeared in her eyes, but for a completely different reason. She was so proud of her son. "I love you too, kiddo."

He fell asleep in her arms that night, and managed to calm her down a bit. Henry was probably the only good thing she'd done in her life, and he had the biggest, kindest heart.

The days passed, Henry the only person who could cheer her up in this world that seemed gray and tasteless without Killian in it. She was barely standing on her feet at the tavern, and she even found it difficult to talk because of her exhaustion. And during one of her sleepless night, she took a big decision.

She could feel that Henry was missing Killian. He'd always been so attached to him, and considered him as a father. She couldn't forbid him from seeing this man that he loved so much. Of course, Killian was going to leave sooner or later, but Henry could enjoy the time they still had left together. She just wanted to make him happy, and she knew that Killian would be so glad to see the little boy.

One morning, a week after their big fight and as the sun had risen in a gray, clouded sky, the floor covered with snow, she took her son by the hand, refusing to answer his questions and telling him that she had a surprise. She led him to the Jolly Roger, without approaching the ship too much, and she squatted before him to explain what she had in mind.

"Look, kid. I've thought about this a lot, and I'm trying to do what's right. Killian is mad at me and he has every reason to be, but I won't stop you from seeing him. I trust him, and I know you're safe with him. Would you like to spend some time with him today?"

"Really?" He asked, eyes shinning with pure joy and she knew she'd taken the right decision. "Thank you, Mommy! You're the best, you know that?"

"Have fun, baby." She whispered as he was hugging her tight to show how glad he was. "Be safe, and don't come back too late, okay?"

He nodded, and ran to the ship, so happy to see Killian again. She watched him from a distance, to make sure that he was finding the pirate, and heard him calling his name. Her heart skipped a painful beat when she saw Killian's familiar figure appearing into the morning light. She couldn't see his face, but could easily imagine this smile she'd missed so much. It was painful and relieving to see him all at the same time. It was as if she hadn't completely lost him.

He squatted and hugged Henry, and she saw them talking without being able to hear what they were saying. Then Killian turned to her, maybe because Henry had told him she was there, or because he'd simply felt her gaze on him. She froze on the stop, not knowing what to do. She so wanted to walk to him and apologize for what she'd said, but he hated her and she still had to keep her distance. But hell, how she despised herself.

He looked at her for a few seconds, then turned back to Henry and she felt a tear rolling down her cheek. Wiping it off, she turned away, heart heavy, to go back to work while all she wanted to do was to beg Killian to forgive her for everything that she'd done.

Henry went to see Killian every day, after that. Her son was so happy, and she was allowing him to see the pirate as much as he wanted to. She would walk with him to the ship, and Killian would bring him back in the afternoon, without getting close to the tavern once. He would only watch Henry to make sure that he was home safe. Sometimes, their gaze would meet, and he would turn away from her. Her heart would break all over again, but she knew it was all her fault.

One night, as her son was coming back from the ship, she couldn't hep but ask him the question that was burning her lips for days. She was crouching in front of him, and could feel Killian's gaze burning on her skin as he was standing so far away from her.

"How is Killian?"

"Not that great." Henry admitted with a sigh. "But he always makes sure to smile when he's with me. I think he doesn't want me to worry."

She bit her bottom lip to try and keep her tears at bay. He was suffering, and it was all because of her. She was so stupid. She should have told him the truth and explained to him that she just couldn't stay with him because he would leave eventually. But instead, she'd gotten scared, and she'd been awful. She couldn't come back from this. She was so mad at herself she wanted to bang her head against a wall.

"I think he misses you." Her son whispered.

"Oh, Henry. It's sweet of you to try to make me feel better. But after what I've told him, I really doubt that he's missing me."

"I'm telling the truth." He shrugged. "You wanna know how I know that?"

"Tell me."

"He's always asking how you are as well."

Her heart skipped a beat, and she looked up to stare at Killian from afar, but he was gone. She spent the entire night thinking about those words, squeezing his ring tight and pretending that it was him that she was holding.

It's only two long weeks after their argument that the situation finally shifted. As she was walking with Henry to the Jolly Roger by a cold morning of winter, everything changed. They were moving into the snow, shivering, and as she'd bent her head to try and protect herself from the coldness of the air, she didn't realize she'd arrived right next to the Jolly Roger.

She would usually be careful not to approach the ship too much, to stay far from Killian, and she startled when she realized where she was. She was about to turn around and run from there, panicked and cursing herself under her breath, when Henry grabbed her arm to stop her from moving. She looked at him, surprised. He had a big smile on his face, as if he'd just come up with a wonderful idea. Still holding her hand firmly, he started to scream before she could free herself from his grip.

"Killian! Killian, come quick!"

"What the hell are you doing?" She groaned, but she gave up on the idea of freeing herself, too scared to hurt him by accident.

"I know it's none of my business and I should stay out of it, but you're both miserable, okay?" He replied, looking at her with sad eyes. "I just want things to be the way they were before, when you were both happy. I'm only asking you to talk to him. And if you still don't wanna see each other after that, it's fine, but at least maybe you'll both feel better. I don't want you to be sad anymore."

"Henry." She started, kneeling in the snow to face him and deeply moved by her son's words. "I assure you I'm okay."

"Mom, I'm not stupid. I can see you're not eating anymore, and I hear you when you cry at night. I just want you to be happy again. Killian!" He insisted before she could answer anything.

She looked up to see the pirate leaning over the handrail to look at the little boy, seeming deeply worried. "What's wrong, lad?"

"Come quick! I need you!" He answered before she could tell Killian that it was all a trap and that she was going to go away.

She let go of a little whimper of panic when she saw Killian running toward them. She couldn't talk to him, it was just going to hurt them both even more. And she was missing him so much she wanted to cry. But she couldn't let him get close. It wasn't only because she needed to protect herself, but also because she'd realized that she would only hurt him. And she didn't want to read hate in his gaze when he would look at her, instead of the absolute adoration she'd seen in the same blue eyes once upon a time.

Killian had obviously not noticed her yet, as he'd only glanced at Henry in worry. When he arrived next to them, he stopped and took a step back. He seemed surprised and shocked to see her there. She looked down at the snow, not allowing herself to meet his gaze because she was going to cry. She couldn't start sobbing. She had to stay strong.

"Now that you're both here, talk." Her son said. "I'm going to my room."

He'd insisted on the possessive, as if to make them understand that they had to explain themselves. He walked away with a smirk on his face, looking pretty proud of himself. She couldn't even be mad at him, he'd just wanted her to feel better. But this was only going to worsen things, and she didn't know what to do with herself.

A thick silence settled between them, full of anger and misunderstanding. She stayed knelt on the ground for a while, still looking down. Then she finally got up, running her hands against her dress to get rid of the snowflakes. A deep desire to run away from there was taking its place in her chest. She couldn't fight against that. She wanted to please her son, but she just couldn't.

So she turned and took a step to start running. But against all odds, Killian firmly grabbed her elbow, forcing her to turn back and face him. She finally looked up at his eyes, and was surprised to see everything but hate in it. He just seemed so sad. He seemed exhausted and his eyes were a bit red. He was suffering too. And it hurt her even more than hate would have, because she'd done this to him.

"Emma, wait." He said in a muffled but surprisingly gentle voice.

She felt a sob obstructing her throat and swallowed to make it disappear. She couldn't cry, not now. She couldn't look away from his blue eyes, and she felt the strong need to apologize for everything that she'd done. To kiss him everywhere and caress every inch of his body, so he could maybe forgive her. But nothing wanted to come out of her mouth, and she just stood there, speechless.

"Listen, I don't want to get mad. I would just like to understand what happened. Could you tell me why you pushed me away, all of the sudden? Swan, please..." He added as she was freeing herself from his grip, because the touch of his fingers was too much to bear in that moment.

She stayed silent for a few seconds, not knowing what to do. She wanted to go away, to escape from this situation, but he deserved better than that. Her eyes were still staring at his, she couldn't get away from his beautiful gaze. Her heart was painfully pounding against her ribs at the feeling of his presence. She knew she needed to explain herself. She couldn't bear seeing him so hurt. She should have told him the truth, so she would have been the only one in pain. She knew it was too late to apologize, but she didn't want their story to end like this.

"There's nothing to say." She answered, finally able to look away from him.

"I don't believe that for a second." He corrected gently. "I just want to know. Did I do something wrong? Did I make you suffer without realizing it? Can we fix this, between us? Please, Emma, look at me." He said, and she obeyed because she just couldn't say no to his pleading voice.

"I already told you. Please, don't make me repeat my words." She said, on the edge of crying because she couldn't break his heart all over again.

"Darling, you won't be able to make me angry, not today." He said very softly, and the fact that he'd called her that way made butterflies appear in the pit of her stomach. It meant he didn't hate her, right? "I know those words only were excuses, to make me mad and push me away. If you truly hated me, you wouldn't bring Henry here anymore. You wouldn't still be wearing my necklace." He added, pulling at the ring on her neck.

She didn't try to push him away this time. She cursed him silently for always being so perceptive, because he knew now that she'd lied to him. Maybe it was for the best, maybe she could tell him that she was sorry. She sighed, feeling tears in her eyes. His hand was still resting on her chest and she just wanted to bury herself in his embrace and forget about her pain.

"Swan, I deserve the truth. I'm not asking for much. Everything was going just fine, and then you walked away."

"It wasn't working between us." She shrugged, but her lie didn't sound anything near convincing.

"You know that's not it." He replied, and his hand went up, briefly brushing against her cheekbone before pulling away, and she felt horribly empty when his fingers left her skin. "We were happy."

"You were. I wasn't." Her lies were more and more absurd, but she couldn't help it.

"Come on, love. I just want to know. Please."

"I don't have anything to tell you." She said in a high-pitched voice.

"I don't believe you."

"But I'm telling you the truth!" She cried out, feeling like she was about to cry and not wanting to tell him what was going on, because it would make him feel guilty and she just wanted him to stop suffering. "I don't deserve you, anyway. You're better off without me."

"That's not true, and you know it." He said, looking deeply pained by her words. "How many times have I told you how amazing you are? Just tell me, Swan."

His last words made her want to sob, because he sounded so hurt. So, finally she gave up and said, almost screaming "All right, then! You wanna know the truth? I'm pushing you away because you're going to leave me. I can't let you break my heart!"

The quiet settled between them. He stared at her, looking like he was about to cry, but still standing so strong in front of her. He finally asked, frowning and his hand going right up to run through her tangled locks, and she did nothing to stop him :

"What makes you say that? Did I say anything that could have made you think that I was going to leave?"

He was feeling guilty now, and she just wanted to tell him that it was all her fault, that he shouldn't be mad at himself. "I'm not an idiot, Killian. You're a pirate. Your ship will end up being able to go back at sea. You're going to go, and leave Henry and I behind, because we can't follow you. I know how sad I was when you left us the first time. Seeing you go now if we're together is going to break me. Again."

"Bloody hell, Swan." He said, still holding her. "I'm not going to leave."

"Look." She said in a voice thick with sobs. "I know it's not your fault, okay? I know you care about us, and you don't want to hurt us. But you don't have much of a choice. You're going to leave, like everyone before you."

"No, love, you don't understand." He insisted. "I'm not leaving you."

"You're forced to." She said without understanding, and he answered very gently, looking down at the snow as if he were ashamed.

"I lied to you when I said the Jolly Roger was broken. She's fine."

She frowned, completely confused. She'd guessed that he was lying to her back then, she'd felt it in her guts, but she couldn't understand why. What was he hiding from her ? He dropped his hand from her hair when he saw she wasn't reacting, scratching the back of his ear in embarrassment. This gave her the strong desire to smash her mouth against his for a kiss.

"All right. I didn't want to tell you what really happened, but I don't have a choice anymore. You told me the truth, now it's my turn. I lied to you, because it was easier back then. I fired my entire crew, Swan. I found a new ship for them, to give them another job. Nobody works on the ship, there's just me left. I'm not a pirate anymore."

"What do you mean?" She asked, not understanding a word of what he was saying. "Why would you do that? What happened?"

"Don't you know, Emma?" He sighed, blinking, and his exhaustion hit her like a punch in the face. "I couldn't tell you back then, because it would have scared you. But I was missing my life here, with you and Henry. I knew I couldn't live far away from you for long, I couldn't stand your absence. I did it because I already had feelings for you. I did it to stay with you."

"Wait… You traded your pirate life… For me?" She said in a muffled voice, feeling like the world was disappearing around them to only leave Killian and her, standing there in the snow.


She felt like she couldn't breathe anymore. She'd been so wrong, the all time. She'd made him suffer, because she'd thought he was going to leave. But all of this had been a lie, because he'd left everything, for her. And she'd hurt him in return. Not knowing what to do, only seeing his blue eyes and feeling her heart pounding so fast it could explode, she finally approached him to press her lips against his.

Everything seemed right in the world again as they were kissing, as if they'd always been destined to be together. He kissed her back for a few seconds, his hand going up to run through her hair once again, but he pulled away quite quickly. His eyes were shinning and he'd turned a bit red, but he said, fighting against the lust she could read in his gaze :

"Wait, please. This is too big to be resolved by a kiss and a hug. I want us to talk about this. I want you to understand that I won't leave you, ever. I'm in this for the long haul, Emma. For as long as you wish me to. I need you to trust me."

"I love you." She cut him off, without even thinking about her words.

He froze, blinking in surprise, as she was shivering because of her own statement. But it was simply the truth. She loved him, deeply, and if she'd been too scared to tell him before, the rest of her walls had just crumbled before her eyes, because no one had never done something as beautiful for her before. He'd abandoned everything for her. She finally understood the immensity of her mistake. They belonged together. She knew it, she could feel it. Nothing made sense unless she was with him.

"Excuse me?" He stuttered, wrapping his arms around her waist to hold her, as if to make sure he'd heard correctly.

"I love you." She repeated in a whisper.

Saying these words a second time relaxed her. It seemed so natural. She ran her hand through his dark locks, staring at him. They were now so close she just had to lean to kiss him. The last time she'd said that to someone other than Henry, it'd been to Neal, and it'd ended badly. She'd promised herself not to get attached to anyone again. But with Killian, everything was different. They were meant to be together. She could feel it now.

It's there that the reality of what she'd done hit her like a punch in the stomach. By trying to protect herself, she'd hurt him, badly. She couldn't understand why he was still there, holding her, why he hadn't walked away yet, why he didn't hate her. Tears she'd tried to hold back until then started to roll down her cheeks, and she said, sobbing :

"God, I love you so much. I'm so sorry. I… I thought I was gonna get hurt, and the only thing I found was to push you away. And I hurt you. I didn't want to, I promise. I just… I was wrong. I didn't mean what I told you, at all. You're amazing. And you must hate me, now..."

"Don't say that." He whispered, pulling her closer, and she buried her face in his neck to breathe him in. "Even if I wanted to, I could never hate you. Bloody hell, Emma. I love you, too."

"Even after what I did?" She sobbed as he was stroking her back, trying to comfort her.

"Darling, I fell in love with you the moment I saw you. I know your past. I've accepted it, entirely. I've accepted you, and I understand why you acted that way. I won't give up on you. I promise. I love you so much."

"But… what I said..." She felt like she couldn't breathe, and he held her even closer.

"I know you didn't mean it. I forgive you. I'm all yours, and I never want us to be apart again."

"Me neither." She whispered as he was dropping a kiss to her temple. "I missed you so much. I'm sorry."

"Stop apologizing, please. I know you're sorry. And I missed you too, my beautiful lass. So much."

They stayed there, in each others' arms, for a very long time. He rocked her against him until she'd finally calmed down, and he gently wiped her tears away, as if nothing had never happened. Then he leaned forward for a gentle kiss, as if to promise her they would never have to live far from each other again.

She never really understood how they managed to join the captain's quarter without pulling away from each other once, but when she found herself laying above him on his bed, nothing mattered anymore. Feeling his body against hers was all that she wanted, and he whispered to her ear that he loved her again and again, her sighs muffled in his neck and her nails digging into his skin.

It's only much later, as her head was resting against his chest, his hand in hers, that she realized how late it was. The time had seemed to stop, but it'd only been an illusion. Still against him, she whispered :

"Damn it, I'm late for work."

"Tell them that you're sick." He replied, kissing her neck, and it made her chuckle, all pain forgotten as she was laying in his arms.

"I can't, babe. Calvin is going to kill me. But I'll come back right after my shift, I promise."

"I don't want you to go." He said with a little pout as she was finally getting up to go put on her dress.

"I don't want to leave either. Come with me? I just wanna be close to you."

He smiled at her offer, and got up to get dressed as well, leaving thousands of little kisses on her face and neck as she was trying to get out of his room, what made her laugh out loud. They were so happy to be back together. She couldn't believe that everything had changed so fast. The night before, she hadn't slept a bit and had cried until exhaustion. She was now her happiest self, in the arms of the man she loved. And it was all thanks to her wonderful little boy.

She needed to do one last thing before going back to work. She entered Henry's room, and knelt next to his bed to hug him for a long, long time. He understood what was happening right away, and grinned widely. Looking at Killian from above her shoulder, he asked :

"You're back together, right?"

Killian nodded, and Henry let out of a shriek of pure joy. Tears in her eyes, Emma whispered to his ear, so thankful to have this amazing kid in her life :

"Thank you so much, Henry."

Everything seemed to make sense again after that day. A month after that, she found herself moving the last bits of their belongings to the Jolly Roger, without even realizing it. They'd started to spend all their nights on the ship, never wanting to be far away from each other anymore, and liking the intimacy the Jolly Roger provided. It's only when Matt asked her if she still wanted the room, that she realized she'd actually moved in with Killian.

"You're never sleeping here anymore, Emma." He said with a kind smile. "I was wondering if you still wanted the room? If it's not of any use to you, I could offer you a raise. Would you be interested?"

She talked about it with Killian the same night. She wasn't even nervous about the situation. She wasn't scared anymore. He took her in his arms and said with a big smile on his face.

"If you're all right with this, Swan, it'd be an honor to see you move in with me."

"Of course it's all right with me." She replied in his neck. "I love you. We're a family, now."

"Emma?" he asked her that night, as they were laying in each others' arms.

"Yeah?" She answered, knowing that something important was about to happen.

"Why do you love me?"

"What do you mean?" She asked, a bit worried by his broken voice.

"Why do you love me?" He repeated, and she could hear that his tone was thick with sobs. "Why do you, an angel coming right from heaven, love someone like me, a pirate?"

"You're not a pirate anymore, babe."

"I don't deserve you."

She moved to hold him close to her, and he rested his head on her naked chest to hear her heartbeats. She could feel the fear in his words. He was ashamed, ashamed of his past that she'd thrown at his face during their argument, ashamed of what he'd done in his life. She felt so guilty that she'd made him suffer so much out of fear. But he was different now. He was a hero, her hero, and she loved him so much.

"Don't you dare say that." She ran her fingers through his hair, feeling at his jerky breath that he was on the edge of crying. "You're the most wonderful man I've ever met. I'm sorry, Killian. I'm so sorry for the things I've said during our fight, because they were unfair, and anything but true. You're amazing. You changed my life, you made me the happiest I've ever been. And I love you. You're perfect to me. I love everything about you, your fears, your doubts, your strength, your smiles. I accepted your past, because it made you who you are today. I love you. I love you so much, you wonderful man."

She kept on whispering those three words in his ear, until she was sure he was believing her.

And that's how her wage had improved a bit, and she'd found herself able to feed her little family more easily. A little routine settled between them. In the morning, Killian would walk with her to the tavern, kissing her lips as a goodbye. He would be back for lunch, and would always be there to greet her at night. During the day, when he wasn't working, he would teach Henry how to sail and tell him about the geography of their world.

They were so close she was feeling like they knew each other forever. They quarreled sometimes, of course. But they would always apologize almost directly after yelling at each other, because being apart was unbearable to them. They were together. And they were happy.


"And here we are, now." Emma whispered, as the sun was slowly starting to rise in the sky, the morning light coming through the window of the room.

"I love you so much, my angel." He said, holding her even closer to his heart.

"I love you too, captain." She answered, pressing a kiss to the skin of his neck.

Unable to resist their shared desire, they made love one last time, before falling asleep, still wrapped in a tight embrace.

Chapter Text

Emma leaned against the counter, bending her legs a few times to try and relieve the cramps that were making her wince. She sighed, running her hand through her tangled hair, trying to enjoy these few seconds of rest before going back to work. Calvin had just disappeared inside the kitchen for a bit, and she was taking advantage of his absence to take a well-deserved break. But she knew all too well what her boss's son would say, when he would see her standing there. This was just the calm before the storm.

She shrugged. It was definitely worth it, because she was exhausted. She hadn't really slept the night before because of her birthday celebration, and the tavern had just closed. The sky had grown dark hours ago, but she still had a long time before going back to her family. They still had the entire place to tidy up before leaving. Or she had to, because Calvin wasn't going to lift his little finger. He was just going to yell at her because she wasn't fast enough for him. How she despised those days where they were the only one in the tavern.

She was working extra hours again. Her shift was already pretty long, but she'd offered her help to clean the main room after the closing. She needed this money, and she didn't care about her exhaustion. And the tavern had financial problems for a while, now. Matt wanted to hire new waitresses, but didn't have the money to do so, and they were highly understaffed. She was the only one available to close the place.

But she just couldn't ignore the pain going up her limbs anymore, because of the long hours spent at walking between the tables to satisfy the clients. Stretching, she let go of another sigh, of relief this time. Killian was most probably going to offer her a massage when she would be back on the Jolly Roger, and she just couldn't wait. She'd told him to stay on the ship and not to wait up for her that night, because she knew she had to work late, but she also knew him by heart. He would wait for her to fall asleep.

"For the love of God! We don't pay you so you can rest! How many times do I have to tell you this? You really are good for nothing, do you know that?"

Emma just rolled her eyes at Calvin's lovely comment. He'd come back way too soon, but she would just have to go with it. His insults didn't even reach her anymore, she was too used to them, and she simply pulled away from the counter, knowing that her moment of quiet was over. She didn't bother replying to his attack, despite the hundreds of remarks burning her lips. It would just put her in trouble, and he wasn't worth it.

She grabbed the cloth she had used to clean the tables before her little break, ready to go back to work. But as she was moving past Calvin, he took the rag directly from her hands. Looking up, she met his cruel smile and shivered, knowing all too well that something unpleasant was awaiting for her.

"Oh, no. Since you've decided to stop working while I wasn't watching you, like the lazy little bitch you are, you're going to clean the fireplace. Cleaning the tables is even too good for you. And if I see you look up before you've finished, you're going to regret it."

She held back a groan of frustration, and a reply that would have put him in a rage. She managed to calm herself down as she was burning inside, imagining all the names she would be able to call him when she would be back on the Jolly Roger, with her wonderful boyfriend and her amazing son by her side.

She hated Calvin so much for treating her like an animal, but she also knew that she didn't have a choice but to obey him. She needed the money, and she couldn't get in trouble. But cleaning up the fireplace was one of the thing she hated doing the most. She always ended up covered in soot, sore, with bruises on her knees and a pain in her throat. She felt humiliated every single time, and he knew that she hated that task. That was the reason why he liked to make her do it so much.

She took a deep breath, trying to calm her anger down. It wouldn't be of any use to get mad. One day, Calvin would regret his behavior. She didn't know how, she didn't know when, but she would show him that he'd been wrong to treat her that way. And she wouldn't have to work all her life there. Killian and herself would end up going away for their dream life, and Calvin would be off her back. She couldn't wait for this day to come, but she had to work to reach it first. And it was all worth it.

She knelt before the fireplace, looking up at it with a groan, and worked for a few minutes that seemed like hours. The ashes were burning her throat, and she was feeling like she couldn't breathe. After a long while spent at trying to stay still, because she knew that if Calvin saw her getting out of the chimney, he would most definitely give her a hard time, she couldn't take it anymore. She sneezed violently because of the dust, the movement hurting her chest. She startled, and hit the back of her head against the edge of the fireplace, letting go of several furious curses.

She placed her hand against her skull, trying to ease the pain. She still had trouble breathing, and didn't think about it while pulling away from the chimney. She could feel her face covered in soot, and just needed a few seconds to calm herself down and try not to choke in that damn place.

Everything crumbled there. If she'd sneezed one minute sooner or later, everything would have been so different. The future that was awaiting for her would probably have been changed forever. It's something she would think about a lot, after that night, when she couldn't find sleep. She would wonder what would have changed if she'd hit herself at a different moment. But at the time, she didn't know that her life was about to take a huge twist.

Trying to ease her painful lungs screaming for oxygen, she turned her head toward the main room. She immediately noticed Calvin's tall figure, focused on doing something behind the counter. She didn't see anything out of the ordinary at first, but frowned quite quickly, a bit puzzled by his behavior. Something strange was definitely happening. He was bending a bit, and was nervously glancing around him, as if he were scared to be seen. He didn't notice her, though, convinced that she wasn't a threat.

She didn't know what to do. To go see what the hell was going on, or to go on with her life like nothing had happened. Her curiosity ended up being stronger than her instinct, and she ignored the little voice at the back of her head, yelling that she should stay out of this entire situation. She got up silently to approach her colleague from behind, careful not to be heard. She had a bad feeling about all of this.

She almost let go of a cry of pure surprise when she realized what Calvin was actually doing. After counting several coins of gold that he'd taken directly from the box where his father kept the tavern's money, he hastily placed them in the pocket of his pants.

This wasn't normal. Nobody had the right to take money from the box aside from Matt. Calvin had never had his father's approval to do such a thing, at least not that she knew of. And she was sure that her boss would have told her, if something had changed in these rules. Everything seemed really wrong, and her feelings were only increased by Calvin's guilty behavior. The tavern had financial problems for months, after all, while it was the most famous establishment of the kind in the village. This couldn't be a coincidence.

Forgetting about her desire to stay invisible, she opened her mouth to talk. Calvin startled when he heard her voice coming from behind him, and placed his hand in his pocket, as if to make sure that he was hiding the money from her eyes. This only made her think that he'd actually just done something bad.

"What are you doing?"

"Emma!" He yelled immediately, as he was turning bright red, but she couldn't tell whether it was because of his anger, his shame of having been busted, or his fear of what could happen next. "I told you not to get out of there before being done! Do you really want to see what I'm capable of?"

"What the hell are you doing with the tavern's gold?" She continued, far from being impressed and just wanting to know what was going on. "You know this money is to buy the food and to pay the employees. It's not for you. Your father takes your own part home."

"This is none of your business!" he said, but he was looking much less convincing than he would have wanted to.

He was avoiding her gaze, and she understood right there that she'd been right all along. He was stealing from his father, and she felt her lips parting as she was standing there, speechless. She knew that Calvin wasn't a good guy, but she would never have imagined that he was capable of hurting his own dad. The tavern was on the edge of bankruptcy because of him, and she couldn't let him get away with this.

"For how long are you stealing in the tavern's finances, tell me?" She asked, jaw clenched in anger, because she couldn't believe him. Matt had always given him everything he wanted, and that was his way of thanking him?

"How dare you?" He threatened, but she continued, ignoring the rage in his voice.

"You should be ashamed of yourself. This is your fault if the tavern has financial issues!"

"Shut up, you little bitch!"

He was about to keep on insulting her, but closed his mouth when he heard the tavern's door opening. His eyes grew wide, as they both knew that it was Matt coming in, to find them in the middle of this argument. He knew that she was about to expose him, and he got incredibly stiff. But it only lasted for barely a second, and he pulled himself together unbelievably quickly.

So fast that she barely saw him moving, he placed the money back into the wooden box, taking advantage of the fact that his father was still too far away to see what was happening. He wasn't pretending to be innocent anymore, she noticed. He knew that she was aware of his crimes, and didn't find it of any use to lie to her and tell her that she was wrong. He grabbed her elbow then, so hard that it hurt her, and as she was trying to free herself from his painful grip, he whispered in her ear.

"You better shut your mouth, or I swear that I will get you fired."

He let her go as Matt was approaching them, utterly oblivious of what had just occurred. Her arm was aching, and she didn't know what to do anymore. Her heart was pounding so fast it was painful. She knew what she should be doing. She had to tell Matt what was going on behind his back, she couldn't let Calvin keep on like this. The tavern was in danger, and it was all his fault, because he wanted more, always.

But at the same time, her instinct was yelling she had to pretend that everything was fine. She knew that he was capable of manipulating his father to get her fired. He was cruel, clever, and Matt was his dad. Even if her boss liked her, who was he going to believe between one of his employees and his own son? She already knew the answer to this question. He was blinded by the love he had for him, he couldn't see who Calvin really was. And she had to keep her job, she didn't have a choice.

"Emma, you're still here?" Matt asked cheerfully, and she felt her heart tightening in her chest, because his own son was betraying him while he was such a good, kind man. "You should go home, you're working a lot, lately. Go get some rest, you deserve it."

"My family needs the extra money." She mumbled absently, torn apart by contradictory thoughts and not knowing what the hell she was supposed to do.

But her boss seemed to notice right away that something was off with her. She wasn't her usual self, and he knew her for years, after all. He frowned, turning to his son, who offered him an innocent smile. Matt didn't seem convinced and asked, looking a bit worried :

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong!" Calvin answered immediately.

She glanced at him and saw the look he was giving her. His jaw was clenched, making her understand that his threats would become real if she said one thing about the thefts. She blinked, thinking quickly about what to do. He would probably not manage to fire her. Matt liked her very much, she was a hard-working woman, and she'd never lied to her boss. Calvin couldn't turn this situation around, to make her look like the bad guy.

But a little part of her could feel the danger approaching. She knew what Calvin was capable of. He was manipulative, and he would end up getting what he wanted, especially since Matt was his father. In addition to that, she had no evidence of him ever stealing in the box. He'd put the gold back before his father could see anything. It was too much and her heart was about to explode. Whatever she would end up choosing, she already knew that everything in her world was going to change.

The confused look Matt offered her finally made her take a decision. She couldn't let a good man like him suffer because of his son. She ignored her instinct screaming that she should mind her own business because she was going to get in trouble, and she turned to face her boss. Calvin opened his eyes wide, as if to throw her one last threat, but she lifted her chin up to show him that she wasn't scared.

"Matt, I think I know why the tavern is having money problems for a while."

"Excuse me?" Her boss blinked in surprise.

She continued before losing her courage. "Someone's stealing the gold. And I know who it is"

She felt Calvin shivering beside her. He was obviously unbalanced by her behavior, all convinced that he'd been that she wouldn't dare say one thing. She bit the inside of her cheek to hold back a smile. She knew how bad the situation was, how much she was risking by behaving that way, but feeling her boss's son that surprised made her feel good.

Matt frowned and said, shaking his head in disbelief : "Well, tell me, if you know who's doing it!"

"Listen." She started, knowing that this conversation was going to be a difficult one, but she had to do what was right, or she wouldn't be able to live with herself. Stealing was one of the thing she regretted doing the most in her life, but she could have understood it if Calvin had needed the money. But he didn't, he was just a selfish jerk, and the idea of him making Matt suffer was unbearable."I know this is going to be hard to believe, but I know what I saw. I've seen Calvin stealing in the box. He thought that no one was watching, but I'm sure of what happened, or I wouldn't be telling you this."

Matt's eyes opened wide, and he turned to look at his son. He seemed completely unbalanced, as if he didn't know what to believe. But Calvin didn't let his father doubt him any longer. He moved to stand next to him, facing Emma, and said with an innocent frown that made her cringe :

"What are you talking about? Emma, how can you say those things? I know we've never gotten along, but lies won't get you anywhere."

She almost choked out of outrage. In the span of two little seconds, he'd just turned the situation around completely. Matt was ready to listen to her, and Calvin had just made her take the bad guy's part, while she hadn't done anything wrong. Her boss was going to think that she wanted to fire his son, to lie so he would lose his job. She didn't know how to answer to this unexpected twist the conversation had taken. Matt stared at the both of them, Calvin looking suddenly so assured, her being completely speechless, and she understood that she'd lost all chances of her boss ever trusting her.

"Come on, Emma." He finally said seriously. "I don't know what makes you say that, but you're making a mistake, for sure. Calvin would never do something like that."

She knew she should have let go. Matt wasn't going to believe her anyway, and she was risking her job. She'd done the right thing, it was Matt's problem if he didn't trust her. But Calvin's manipulation had put her in a rage. Worse, the cruel smile he was displaying as his father wasn't watching was making her blood boil in her veins. She was feeling like she was about to explode. In a muffled voice, she tried not to start screaming, and said against her strongest instincts.

"I know what happened. I'm not crazy."

"All right, then." Calvin sighed, looking almost bored now that he knew that Emma didn't stand a chance. "Since you're insisting on lying, please, dad, search me. You can see that I have nothing on me."

She didn't have the time to tell Matt that his son had heard him coming, and that he'd had the time to place the gold back where he'd found it. Calvin showed the inside of his pockets with a little shrug, and Emma bit her tongue in order not to scream. She knew that it looked like she was actually lying. She couldn't believe Calvin was going to get away with this.

Matt turned back to her. If he'd tried to understand her accusations earlier, he now seemed more annoyed than anything else. But she didn't know if she could turn back, she didn't know if she could pretend that she'd been wrong. Matt wouldn't trust her anymore if she didn't prove that she was telling the truth, and Calvin was going to mock her for this for the rest of her life. She had to defend herself, to prove that she wasn't a liar.

"He put the gold back in the box when he heard you coming in." She tried to explain, but Matt raised his hand to interrupt her, and she knew at his expression that he wasn't happy with her.

"So you have no evidence of what you're saying, and you want me to believe you?" She saw Calvin winking at her behind his father's back, and she felt absolutely furious. He was so arrogant, she just wanted to put him back in his place.

Calming herself down, she tried to justify herself "I don't, but..."

"Look, Emma." Matt cut her off once again, and she couldn't help but shrink, because she'd never seen him that angry. "I have no idea what's going on in your mind to say such stupid things, but this is bad. It really is. You're insulting my son's integrity, and I won't let you go on like this. The only reason why you're still standing here, and I haven't fired you yet, is because I like you. You're a great waitress, and I don't want to be forced to chase you away."

She shivered at these words, knowing that she was in a very dangerous position. Matt continued, a bit more gently. "But we can still work things out. If you admit your lie, or if you say that you were wrong, because you've never lied to me before and it would be stupid to start now, I promise you we can forget about this. I'm giving you a second chance. We'll never talk about what happened tonight again, and no one needs to know. Understand?"

She looked down at the floor to hide the tears in her eyes. She was going to give up, to say that she'd made a mistake. She couldn't let her family down and lose her job. They needed the money, and she was playing with fire. Her pride was going to suffer from this, but Killian and Henry were more important than anything else.

She opened her mouth to tell Matt that she'd been wrong and that she was sorry, that she'd probably hallucinated what she'd seen because of her exhaustion. She chose to ignore the fact that Calvin was going to make her life a living hell when she would let him win, because she couldn't lose her post. But when she looked up at Matt to start talking, his son began :

"You know, dad, perhaps she has a good reason to say such things. Doesn't it seem weird to you, that she's telling such stupid lies? Maybe she's the one who's stealing the gold. She needs someone to take the blame for her, so you won't doubt her."

Her mouth gaped open in surprise. She hadn't expected that to happen, but she knew she probably should have. Calvin was a master of manipulation. He'd just said, as if it had been completely obvious, that she was a thief. She'd been one, of course, but not anymore. Not since she'd had Henry. She'd wanted to be the best person she could for her little boy, and she'd never lied, never stolen, never done anything wrong.

And she would never have betrayed Matt like that. He'd welcomed her in the tavern, given her a job while she had nothing. Without him, Henry and herself could have frozen or starved to death. She felt a pure rage taking its place in her guts. As if to reflect her anger, the flames of the chandeliers placed all around the room started to falter. She was too mad to realize how strange this was.

Calvin was staring at her with a little smirk that made her so furious she didn't know what she was capable of anymore. He knew that she was going to give up and that he'd won, but he wanted to go further. He wanted to fire her, to humiliate her. And he was about to succeed, if she was referring to Matt's gaze, slowly turning suspicious.

"What?!" She shouted so hard that her voice broke a little. The lights continued to flicker around them. "Do you hear yourself? You can search me too, Matt, you'll see that I don't have anything on me! Do you think that if I was stealing, I would bother working so many extra hours?"

"Well, actually, Emma, these hours could help you with your thefts." Calvin said with a sly smile that made her want to punch a wall. "There's no one here at night, after all. You should as well admit it. I know everything, now. There's a reason why the tavern is on the edge of bankruptcy. And this is all your fault."

"Matt." She started, turning to look at her boss and choosing to ignore Calvin, because it would only make her angrier. "It's all a bit misunderstanding. I've probably dreamed the fact that Calvin was stealing, he's innocent. You're right, he would never do something like that. But I'm innocent too. You trust me, right? You know I wouldn't steal from you!"

"Oh, but dad, we're forgetting something." Calvin answered, taking a step toward her, and she stiffened, knowing that what he was about to say was going to be bad. "She was a thief for a long time. She could have done it again. It really doesn't look good for you, Emma. Who do you think my father is going to believe? His own son, or you? We got out of the streets. We're the only reason why you didn't die, out there. You got yourself knocked up at seventeen, and we saved you, you and your brat. Look at you. You're just an orphan, covered in soot. And that's all you'll ever be."

He'd barely had the time to finish his sentence that her fist crashed against his jaw. She didn't even realize what she was doing, she was too mad because of his insults to think about her actions, and the consequences that would follow. The pain ran up her arm, but she ignored it as Calvin was taking three steps back, letting go of a groan of pain. Her breathing unsteady, her mind blurred by the rage, she only understood how bad the situation was when Matt grabbed her arm to pull her away from his son.

"Okay. That's it, Emma. I want you out of here."

"Wait… Excuse-me?" She stuttered, looking at her boss and refusing to believe what he was telling her.

"I'm not doing this gladly, all right? You're a good waitress, and I know that you have a family to feed. But I can't accept you punching my son under my roof. You know the rules, no violence. This is unacceptable."

"Wait a minute, you're firing me?" She was too mad to understand what it meant, she just wanted to fight back, to defend herself.

"You know that I don't have a choice."

"You don't?" She choked, outraged. "He insulted me, I couldn't let him! Hell, he's treating me like dirt since I started working here!"

"He shouldn't have talked to you like that. But you could have chosen to ignore him. Instead, you chose to answer with your fists, and I can't let that happen." Calvin was smirking at her from behind his father's shoulder, despite the pain still etched on his features and the red tint his skin had taken where her fist had landed.

"Don't you see who he really is? Don't you see that he's manipulating you?" She yelled, finding all of this horribly unfair.

"Enough!" Matt shouted back, and she startled, looking at him with wide eyes. She'd never heard him yelling before, and it was incredibly scary. "I won't change my mind. I want you out. And if you don't get out of here right now, I swear that I'll call the sheriffs. Maybe a few hours in a cell will help you calm down."

The lights were still blinking furiously. Matt was dragging her toward the door, and she screamed : "You're making a big mistake! And you!" She added, pointing at Calvin, who was still smiling at her. "I promise you that one day, you'll regret this!"


Matt's voice was still ringing in her ears as he was throwing her out of the tavern, and he locked the door behind her. She didn't realize right away what all of this meant. The adrenaline was still running through her veins, her blood was boiling, and her jerky breathing was making her dizzy.

Her legs were shaking, and she had to sit against the nearest tree to try and catch her breath. After a while, she became aware of the pain in her right fist, and lifted her hand to look at it. Her knuckles had taken a strange blue color, and she was bleeding. Seeing her wounds, the situation finally made sense in her mind.

She'd ruined everything. Her pride had won, and when Calvin had insulted her, she hadn't been able to control her anger. She was fired. She didn't have a job anymore, the place where she had worked for ten years had just thrown her out. And without money, how would she be able to feed her family? If she'd been alone, things would have been different. She'd survived this before. But she had a family, a little boy who was counting on her. How could she have done such a thing? She felt like she'd let him down, completely, while she should have protected him.

Heartbroken and in pain, she finally started to cry.

Memories of the hell she'd lived as a child came back to her mind, making her sob harder. She didn't want her son to go through the same thing. She didn't want him to know what it was like to starve, to freeze, to be afraid of what was going to happen the next day. She didn't want him to be forced to panhandle. And if they were in this situation now, it was all because of her. She should have been able to control herself. She hated herself so much she wanted to repeatedly bang her head against a wall, until she couldn't feel anything anymore.

She stayed there, crying in the darkness for a long time, not knowing what to do next. Her eyes were hurting and her heart was still pounding so fast it could burst. She could still see the tavern from where she was sitting, but she knew that going inside to apologize wouldn't change a thing. She couldn't redeem herself. Calvin had deserved this punch, that was obvious, but she should have been able to ignore him. What example was she setting for Henry? She felt like a horrible person.

And she couldn't go back to the Jolly Roger either. Killian wasn't supposed to come to the tavern that night, and he would only realize that she wasn't there in the morning. She knew he was going to be worried sick, but she was too ashamed of herself to go join the two most important people in her life. She didn't deserve them. How was she going to tell them that she'd ruined everything? How were they going to survive, now? She felt so lost, and she was sobbing so hard she couldn't breathe anymore.

But through her tears, she ended up seeing a tall figure coming out of the forest and approaching her. She immediately recognized Killian. She guessed that he'd probably waited for her instead of falling asleep, and when she hadn't come back, he'd decided to make sure that everything was all right. But everything had crumbled, and she was feeling like nothing would never be okay anymore.

It didn't take him long to notice her, curled up on the floor. They were so connected, they could have found each other in the middle of a crowd or in the darkest of night. He ran to her then, without even knowing what was going on. He knelt on the floor, stared at her for a second, then wrapped her in a tight embrace.

It's only when she found herself snuggled in his arms, her face buried in the crook of his neck and his scent invading her, that she realized how much she needed his comfort. She held onto him for dear life as he was stroking her back, but he pulled away quite quickly to look at her, leaving his left arm wrapped around her waist, and gently cupping her face.

Despite the darkness surrounding them, she saw at his shinning eyes that her distress was scaring him to death. He inspected her to make sure that she wasn't wounded, and his eyes widened when he noticed the blood on her hand. He gently took her fingers in his, then placed his forehead against hers, so she could feel his comforting touch. He was obviously wondering what the hell was happening, but a simple question left his lips as he knew that she wasn't ready to talk, not yet.

"Are you hurt, love?"

She just shook her head to reassure him, but she was crying too hard to tell him the truth. He didn't push her to say anything, and as he was now sure that she wasn't badly injured, he took her back against him to try and comfort her.

"It's all right, my love, I'm here, I've got you..." He whispered in her ear, rocking her against his chest.

But he couldn't know that, he didn't even know what was happening. God, he was going to hate her, she thought, holding him close as if she were scared that he would disappear. She'd ruined their lives in the span of a second, and she was so afraid of reading disappointment in his eyes when he would learn the truth. She couldn't think clearly because of her distress, and didn't realize that Killian would always support her, no matter what. He was always there, so caring, so perfect, and he was her rock.

She finally calmed down after a long time, and he pressed a kiss to her forehead before asking : "Emma, can you tell me what's wrong?"

"I'm fired." She panted, avoiding his gaze because she didn't want to see his reaction to her statement.

She felt his entire body stiffening against hers, and she let go of a muffled sob. She hated herself so much, and seeing how desperate she was, he took her back against him to calm her down. After a minute, as he was probably not understanding what was going on or why this had happened, he asked very gently, moving a bit to quickly glance at the tavern's door :

"What do you mean? They fired you, without a reason?"

She shook her head again, trying to stop sobbing. He deserved to know the truth. She was so scared, but she also needed to tell him erverything. Taking a deep breath, she pulled away from him, finally meeting his gaze. He seemed confused and worried, and his eyes were still shinning strangely while staring at her. Swallowing the lump in her throat, she started talking. She told him everything. Calvin stealing, Matt not believing her, the insults, the punch. Putting words on the scene made everything seem so real, and it was hurting her even more.

She'd looked down while talking, too afraid of reading disappointment or anger in his gaze instead of the pure love she usually could see. When she got quiet, she looked back up at his face, and what she saw made her heart skip a beat, while tears appeared in her eyes once again. His jaw was clenched, a vein was throbbing on his temple, and he seemed ready for a fight. For a horrible second, she thought that he was hating her. She'd acted like an idiot, and she could understand his anger. In a broken voice, she started :

"I'm so sorry, Killian. I should never have done this, I'm..."

But he didn't give her the time to finish her sentence. All at once, as he'd heard her voice thick with sobs, he'd calmed down all over again. He took her back into his comforting arms, dropping a kiss to the top of her head. "No, darling, please don't apologize. I'm not mad at you. How could I? You have nothing to be sorry for. The only one I'm angry at is Calvin. Don't ever think that I'm mad at you, please. You were right to react that way. Bloody hell, if I'd been there, I don't know what I could have done to him for treating you that way..."

"But… I lost my job." She protested, as if she strongly believed that she deserved to face his anger, but he was just holding her close and she felt so grateful for him. "And now, we… What are we gonna do, Killian?" She started to cry again, and he kissed her temple, trying to reassure her.

"We'll find a way, Emma, I promise. We always do. We have savings. And we'll find something else, we're both going to search for new jobs, okay? We can even take the Jolly Roger and move out of this part of the Enchanted Forest, if we need to. Whatever you wish for, we'll do it. But don't feel guilty, please. These bloody bastards didn't deserve you working for them. You're a much better person than they are."

"But who would want to hire a former thief like me?" She sobbed against his shoulder. "Matt gave me this job because he knew I would die without it. I'll never find another opportunity..."

"Of course you will. And I will too. We'll figure it out, lass. You're a marvel, and I'm proud of you. You only defended yourself. And even if you taught me that violence isn't the way, you were angry, and your reaction is understandable, because Calvin's been treating you like a bloody dog for years. You wanted to tell the truth to your boss, and it's too bad for him if he didn't believe you. You're amazing, don't ever doubt that, all right?"

She nodded slowly, a bit comforted by his words. He was talking with such confidence, she knew that he was being honest, and knowing how much he loved her was making her feel a bit better. She could feel how hard his heart was pounding in his chest, since he was holding her so close. She guessed that he would have wanted to walk inside this tavern that had been her home for years, to yell at Matt and Calvin for what they'd done to her.

But he didn't move. He knew that she needed his arms to feel better, and he held her close, whispering to her ear. "I love you so much, Emma. I'm staying here. Always." She felt so grateful through her sadness, to have found such a wonderful man to spend her life with.

She never really knew how she'd got back to the Jolly Roger. She'd passed out from exhaustion in Killian's arms, still sitting on the damp floor of the forest. He'd probably carried her all the way to the ship, because when she woke up, she was in their bed and the first light of the morning was coming through the window and enlightening the captain's quarter. The pain in her hand was gone, and a bandage was covering her pale skin.

She turned her head to see that Killian was watching over her, looking deeply worried. He had black circles under his eyes, proof that he hadn't slept at all. He was holding her close, and when he saw that she was awake, he pressed a gentle kiss to the crown of her head.

She needed a few seconds to remember what had really happened the night before, and when she did, tears threatened to fall down her cheeks again. It really was over. She wouldn't wake up to go work in this place that had watched her son grow up, that had made her who she was today. She'd raised her little boy there, she'd lived there, and it was all gone. She wouldn't see the regular clients anymore, wouldn't greet Old Sam, wouldn't laugh with Matt. It was all gone, she couldn't go back in time. And damn, it was painful.

When he noticed her sadness, Killian held her even tighter, but she forced herself not to start crying again, swallowing the sobs in her throat. She'd shed too many tears, and it wasn't going to help her. She had to build a new plan, so they would survive. She had to move on, to find a solution, even if it was difficult. Her son needed her, now more than ever.

Her son. He'd grown up in this place, it was the only thing he'd known for so long. It'd been his home for most of his life, and she knew how much the tavern meant to him. How was she going to tell him that she'd ruined everything out of anger? What was he going to think?

"How am I going to tell what happened to Henry?" She said in a broken voice, realizing that her little boy's world was going to crumble.

Killian's fingers stroked her back, and he murmured that everything would be all right, and that she didn't have to worry. After a while, she found the courage to get out of bed, and they walked hands in hands to Henry's room. She wanted to tell everything to her son herself, but feeling Killian's presence by her side was giving her strength. She could do it. She had to.

She knelt next to Henry's bed, caressing his hair to gently wake him up. He immediately understood that something was off, and she started to talk before she had a chance to change her mind. He listened to her carefully, eyes still swollen with sleep, but the frown on his face showed that he was completely awake.

There was a second of thick silence after she'd got quiet, Henry seeming to think about what all of that meant for them. But his reaction wasn't the one she'd expected to face. He finally sat down on his bed, and placed his hand on her shoulder. Still frowning, he said in an assured way that made her blink in surprise.

"You know what, mom? You did good. They treated you like dirt, they don't deserve you. One day, they're going to regret this. I promise."

His words were so similar to Killian's that it made her want to cry, but for an entire different reason. She felt so lucky that her baby boy could look up to this wonderful man as a father and, at that exact moment, everything felt like it was going to be all right.

Henry wrapped his arms around her for a hug, and she suddenly realized how much he'd grown in such little time. He was turning into a wonderful young man already, and she couldn't believe how fast the time had gone. She held him so close to her, and took deep breaths to calm her heartbeats, helped by the presence of her two boys. She already felt better. As long as they were by her side, everything would be okay.

They spent the entire day trying to decide on what to do next. It felt weird, not to go to the tavern, but she tried to put that behind her to focus on her future. They decided to start looking for a new job the next day. After counting the little savings they had, they estimated that, if they were being careful, they could survive for three weeks without earning any money.

Killian took her back against him that night, face in her hair to breathe her in. He repeated in her ear that everything would be all right over and over again, until she was believing him. She fell asleep in his arms, knowing that nothing would never be the same.

Their new life was beginning.

Chapter Text

For the next few weeks, Emma and Killian took countless trips in town, seeking for a new post. They were visiting every tavern, every restaurant, every shop they crossed on their way, first in the village, then in the city, searching for a permanent job that seemed nonexistent.

Sure, they'd managed to find small jobs to do here and there, allowing them to survive for a bit longer, since their savings were disappearing insanely fast. They had no idea of what they would do when their gold would be totally gone, and these extra coins they could earn felt like true blessings.

She was working jobs that she'd never done before, but was managing to please her employers every single time. She would bring a letter to a certain place, would help the travelers to set up camps for the night, or would take care of the noblemen's horses. She was working hard and good, as was Killian, but no one seemed willing to give either of them a full time job.

He was a former pirate, and, despite her best efforts, her reputation was following her. The rumor of her fight with Calvin had run through the entire region, and the merchants were all refusing to hire her, suspiciously staring at her like she was some kind of wild beast. Their situation seemed hopeless, and it was making her more desperate with each passing day.

She was still feeling horribly guilty for getting herself fired, for putting her family in danger. But Killian and her son were always there to comfort her with a soft word or a gentle embrace. They would tell her that she'd done nothing wrong, that she'd been right to react that way, and it would always manage to make her feel just a little bit better about herself.

But their gold was disappearing by the minute, it felt like, despite how careful they were being, and she was terrified. She didn't know what would happen to them when they would be left without any money, and unable to find jobs. These thoughts were haunting her at night, and Killian's arms were the only things able to calm her down, as he was murmuring to her ear that everything would be all right.

Five weeks had passed since she'd got fired, and they were still stuck in this horrible situation. They'd sold almost every little thing of value that they owned, aside from Liam's ring and the necklace Killian and Henry had offered her for her birthday. Selling these would have been too painful, since they meant so much to her. The ring was a symbol of the love she shared with Killian, and the necklace represented the family she'd thought she would never have as a kid. They were worth way more than any money could ever buy.

They'd just used their last bit of gold to buy food for a few days, and still, they were absolutely starving. It was not like they had any other way of getting food than buying it, given where they were living. The animals inhabiting the forest had moved out long ago, chased away by the travelers coming from the harbor, and the trees had never carried any fruits.

They'd of course tried to catch a few fishes, taking advantage of the fact that they lived on a ship, but it hadn't worked either. Their net had been too small, since the fishes still living in the sea had tried to escape the activity of the men by diving deeper into the ocean. When they'd tried to take the Jolly Roger a bit further at sea, to make matters worse, a particularly violent gust of wind and the waves that had followed had made them lose their net into the depth of the blue immensity. Building another one was requiring some equipment that they didn't have and couldn't buy. They were left without anything. Their only way of finding something to eat was to get it from the market. And it was getting really hard to do so.

They would always wait for Henry to have eaten all he wanted before taking a small meal themselves, and their hunger was starting to make them suffer. Emma had been used to that kind of treatment as a child, but it didn't make it any easier. The meat they'd shared that night had tasted a bit strange as well, and she hadn't been able to ingest a lot of it. At least, Henry was still eating correctly. Not for long, though, if they couldn't find another job really quickly

They'd talked about leaving the region to go join the Dome, since it was so far away and no one knew them there. They needed to start anew, to find a way to survive. But she had to admit that she was terrified. Even if she'd suffered in this village, it was all that she'd ever known in her life. She'd thought about leaving to live her dream with her family by her side, to visit the world and its marvels, certainly not to flee a desperate situation. She couldn't help but think that this dream was now dead for good. And it was making her so sad, because it was all her fault.

In addition to being afraid of leaving this place, they were both scared that a long journey on the ocean would be fatal for them, given the state they were in. Food for barely a few days was probably not enough to get to the other side of their world. They didn't have any net to catch fish anymore, and they were stuck in this situation. They were already starving, and if one of them got sick, their chances of survival would be very low in the middle of the ocean, without any food left and no possibility of calling for a healer if things turned out badly.

But she also knew that they didn't have a choice but to leave soon. Killian was feeling the same way, she knew it, but he was trying to comfort her the best he could. An idea crossed his mind, that night. She was snuggled in his arms, nauseous and exhausted by the things they had to go through and the lack of food that was making her dizzy. He started to talk, and she looked up to meet his beautiful blue eyes, darkened by how worried and tired he was.

"I think I have an idea, love. I can't believe I haven't thought about this sooner"

"Whatever we do, we can't make things any worse. I'm listening." She said, a small smile on her lips to try and make her words sound softer, but they both knew that she meant it.

"I think we do not have a choice anymore. We have to go join the Dome and try to find new jobs in the villages surrounding it. But to do so, we'll need food, and what we have now isn't enough. Look, I've traveled a lot, you know that. If nothing has changed since I went there, and it was a long time ago, I believe that if we go beyond the city, we can find a bit of food there. Nothing here can help us, but there were a lot of fruits trees about one or two days of walk from here, a few decades ago. It would only be temporary, to be able to make the journey, since we can't live on this forever. But I could go and see if the fruit trees still exist, while you stay here with Henry. There's no point in us going together, especially since we're all exhausted. It will probably take me a couple of days to get there, but we really need to find something. What do you think?"

"Isn't it too risky?" She asked, concerned. "We're both starving. I'm scared of something happening to you."

"I'll be all right. If I can reach the orchards, I'll have plenty of food. And we'll be okay, then."

"I don't want you to go." she whispered, snuggling a bit closer to him, and he wrapped his arms tighter around her.

She was feeling like having him and her son by her side was the only thing keeping her sane, right now. But she also knew that he was probably right. That was their only solution to be able to start over, even if doing so was terrifying.

She felt him smile slightly against her, and he kissed her head, gently stroking her back. "Trust me, lass, I do not wish to go either. But I will be gone for just a few days, and we don't have a choice. I'll try to bring back as much food as possible, so we can get a bit of our strengths back, then we'll take the Jolly Roger to the Dome."

"This does seem like a good plan." She sighed, kissing his collarbone. "But even though I know it's not for a long time, I just don't want to be away from you."

"Me neither, my love. I promise you this."

Despite their exhaustion and their gestures growing slow because of their hunger, they made love twice that night. They wanted to enjoy the other's presence one last time before enduring days of separation, and he managed to make her forget about their situation for a little while. Her eyes locked with his, and as he was making her see stars with his skills, she even believed for a wonderful second that everything would be all right.

He left at dawn. They'd explained their plan to Henry, as their son had insisted to know everything. He wouldn't accept them hiding things from him anymore, now that he was a bit older. He was showing such maturity while facing the things they had to go through, it was amazing Emma every day. She was so proud of the clever and brave young man he was growing up to be. A survivor, just like his adoptive father.

They were standing on the deck, the coldness of the air making them shiver. Killian was crouching in front of Henry, hugging him for a long time as their son was holding onto him tightly. Killian pressed a kiss on his forehead, then placed his hand on his shoulder, saying with a proud smile :

"You are so brave, lad. Take good care of your mum while I'm gone, okay?"

Henry nodded seriously, and after offering him a wink, Killian got back on his feet. He approached Emma and embraced her for a long, long time. They both didn't want to be parted, even if it was just for a few days, and they were taking into each other's scent and touch, to keep like a treasure while they were apart. He pulled away to press a little kiss on her lips, then one on the tip of her nose, and he stared at her for a while. It was as if he were trying to etch her features into his memory.

"I love you." He whispered, still holding her close.

"I love you, too." She answered, hugging in one more time because she just didn't want to let go. "Please be careful. Come back home to me."

"I promise you on my life that nothing could stop me from coming back to you, my Swan."

She sighed, closing her eyes for a second, then he pulled away for good. He pressed one last kiss on her forehead, turned away, and disappeared into the morning fog surrounding the harbor.

The first day without Killian happened quite peacefully. She spent all her time with Henry, talking and joking with him, always amazed by this incredible and unbreakable bound they were sharing. He even managed to make her forget about their horrible situation for a little while. She just enjoyed her son's presence, because with Killian, he was her entire world.

That night, she tucked him into bed, telling him the story of the lost princess that he loved so much. She couldn't refuse this to him anymore. They were in a very bad position, and this tale was allowing him to dream about a better life. He was thinking about himself as a little prince, living in a castle, surrounded by riches. It could only do him good. He fell asleep with a smile on his face, and she watched him breathe peacefully for a while, marveling at how perfect her little boy was.

But things didn't go as planned. The next day, when Emma went to wake Henry up, he looked exhausted and complained about a very bad stomach ache. When she placed her hand against his forehead, she realized with a frown that he was running a bit of a fever. The words food poisoning were already ringing in her ears, and her chest tightened in fear.

She didn't want to start panicking, but she knew that they didn't have the means to fight a sickness, even if it wasn't a very bad one. They couldn't pay for a healer and they didn't have much food left that Henry could eat while being sick. She quickly went to the well to retrieve as much water as she could, and made him drink a lot, to try and make his fever disappear.

"I don't feel very good..." He mumbled in the afternoon, as he was laying in his bed, too weak to stay on his feet.

He barely had the time to jump out of bed and reach the deck to throw up from above the handrail. She thought her heart was going to stop as she was rubbing his back to comfort him, so scared of what would happen if he didn't get better quickly. Her son was only rarely sick, and it was the worst time to get food poisoning, but she convinced herself that she would manage. She wasn't going to let him down.

That night, she took the little food she could use to cook him a bowl of soup, knowing that it was the only thing his stomach could bear right now, and hoping it would give him some strength back. She only had enough to make him this kind of food a couple of times, and she prayed to every gods she could think of so he would get all better soon. She would never forgive herself if something happened to her son, all because she'd got fired.

She spent the night by his side, forgetting to eat herself and refusing to sleep to make sure that he was going to be okay. But he slept peacefully until the morning light came to tickle his eyelids, and when he opened his eyes, he was smiling. Placing her hand on his forehead, she noticed with a sigh of pure relief that his fever was gone, and that he seemed like his usual self again.

"How are you feeling, kid?" She asked, wanting to make sure that he was really fine.

"Great! I think the soup helped me a lot." He said with a wide grin, looking so happy to feel better.

"Well, you're going to eat some more this morning, okay? You need your strengths back. But it's going to be all right, now."

He just nodded at her and she felt like she could start bouncing up and down from relief. She was right. Everything was going to be just fine.

Except that their moment of quiet didn't last for very long. As she'd given the last bowl of soup to her son, and as they only had chicken, fruits and bread to live on for the next few days, she felt like something was wrong her. She tried to ignore the pain in her stomach and the sweat on her forehead for the first few hours, telling herself that if she pretended that it wasn't there, it would eventually disappear, but it didn't work. As she was trying to look all right for Henry, she had to run to the deck to throw up her breakfast with the feeling that she was going to pass out.

"Mom, you okay?" Henry cried out as she was sitting down on the deck, her legs shaking too much to be able to support her weight.

She was still trying to catch her breath and her throat was burning awfully, but she managed to smile slightly as an answer to her son. The last thing she wanted was to worry him in addition to everything. She would be all right, Henry had gotten better in a day. It was just a difficult time to get through.

"Yeah, kid. Don't worry. It just seems like I've got food poisoning too, after all. Remind us to never go get meat in that place again." She thought about Killian, wondering if he'd got sick too, since it was the last meal they'd shared together. But he was probably fine, she realized. Years on the sea and all the dangers he'd had to face in his life had shaped him, and his body seemed made out of steel.

"Do you need anything? Do you want me to make you some soup too?" Henry asked kindly, and his thoughtfulness made her feel all better for a second. She really had raised a wonderful little boy.

"There's no soup left, but I'm sure I'll be okay. I've gone through worst, haven't I?"

She was trying to seem strong and healthy for her son, but she was far from being that sure of what she was saying. She had enough experience in these kind of sicknesses, since years in the streets had made her get through this pretty often, and she knew that her body wouldn't accept anything solid for at least another day. So, as she was still feeling horribly nauseous, she made sure to drink tons of water and didn't try to eat any kind of food, hoping that, as Henry, she would get better soon.

But when she woke up the next day, she was feeling even worse. She knew that she needed something nutritious and not just water, her stomach was horribly painful, and her fever seemed higher than it'd been the day before. Not wanting to worry her son, she pretended that she was feeling better, but he didn't seem to really believe her and just handed her a glass of water while biting is bottom lip in worry.

Knowing that she didn't have a choice or she would end up fainting, she tried to eat a piece of bread, aware that she wouldn't get far without at least trying to ingest something. To give herself some strengths back, she repeated in her head over and over again that Killian would end up coming back with some food, and that she was going to be okay. She just had to get through this day, and with a bit of luck, her boyfriend would be there soon. She just needed to stay strong.

She threw up her meal once again, trying to hide it from Henry, but he was too smart to believe her. He gently led her to her bed, making her lay down and looking horribly worried. She was aware that she was in a very bad position. She had already been starving before, and she was only getting worse. She didn't know for how much longer she could carry on that way. She needed food to get better, but they didn't have anything that she could eat without aggravating things right now.

She really was starting to panic, now. She had no way of getting better, and they couldn't ask for anyone's help. Her little boy needed her, she had to be there for him, and yet she was too sick to do so. Feeling her chest tightening at these thoughts, she still smiled at Henry to reassure him :

"Don't look at me like that, kid. Killian will be back tomorrow, or the day after that. I'll be okay."

"Do you want anything?" He said in a voice tensed by his concern. "Can I help you in any way?"

"I think I just need to sleep. I promise you everything will soon be okay."

She fell asleep almost immediately after saying those words, exhausted by her fever and the state she was in. She could still feel Henry beside her during the night, but she wasn't sure if it was real or if she was starting to get delusional.

The night didn't give her the rest she was hoping for. She was getting awakened by feverish nightmares every once and a while, her forehead covered with cold sweat. In the dark, her vision was too blurred for her to see if Henry was there or not. She didn't have the strength to ask him a question or to even think about what was happening. She was too sick to even feel scared, and was feeling like she would never be able to get out of that bed.

In her dreams, she was a thief all over again, stealing food to survive. But she was getting caught or blamed every single time, and when she woke up, the only thing she could think of was that she didn't want to relive that part of her life, she didn't want to steal again. She'd been locked in a cell for it the last time, and she just wanted her little boy to be proud of her. Her past was catching up with her as she was at her worst, and she didn't even know if it was tears that she was feeling on her cheeks, or if she was simply imagining it.

The next morning, she was feeling sicker than ever. But she'd eventually managed to get a few hours of sleep, and she was finally able to think more clearly. She noticed that Henry was there, and that she hadn't imagined his presence after all. He was laying beside her on the bed, as he'd probably not wanted to leave her alone. He opened his eyes when he felt her move, and immediately reached for the glass of water laying on the floor next to the bed.

"How are you feeling, mom?" He asked, turning to look at her.

She sat down to take the glass, whispering a thank you to Henry. Her stomach was making her want to yell in pain, but she knew that she needed water. "I'll be fine, kid." She said in a low voice, because she couldn't even manage to speak louder. "Killian's coming back soon."

She'd barely finished her sentence that they heard steps ringing on the deck above them. Neither of them got scared, recognizing Killian's footsteps, and her son smiled widely and jumped out of the bed. As he was running to go join his father, Emma leaned against the wall next to her. She was so glad that Killian was finally back. He would probably be able to fix their situation with the food that he'd found, and she'd missed him like crazy. She couldn't wait to hold him in her arms again.

"Killian, you're back!"

She could hear her son's enthusiastic voice, and Killian chuckled, probably getting attacked by one of Henry's famous hugs. "Hey, lad. I've missed you."

She would have wanted to go join her family more than anything, so happy to know that her boyfriend was there and that things would be okay again, but she didn't feel good enough to do so. She wanted to be able to properly greet Killian before telling him what was going on with her. She didn't want him to worry too much, and knew that, thanks to him, things would get better soon anyway. She was going to get all better, and then they would leave to start anew. She just couldn't wait.

"I've missed you too!" Henry answered cheerfully. "Did you find any food?"

"I did, I found a few fruits that we can take with us to go join the Dome." Killian stated. "But I'm going to talk about that with your mum. The good news is we'll be able to eat correctly tonight. And how are you, lad?"

"I've got food poisoning, but I'm fine now. Mom helped me to get all better."

"Food poisoning?" Killian repeated, sounding a bit worried. "I knew this meat tasted a bit strange. I'm glad that you're all right now, lad. Where is Emma?"

"She's still in bed." Henry said, his voice turning serious. "She's got food poisoning too, and she's pretty sick. I stayed with her all night to make sure that she was all right."

Killian's voice was tensed when he started to talk again. "Bloody hell. Thank you, Henry. You're such a wonderful boy, to have taken care of her. Now that I'm back, everything is going to be okay, I promise."

Emma heard them approaching the captain's quarter then, and she forced herself to pull away from the wall and sit on the edge of the bed, trying not to look as bad as she felt. She immediately started to feel dizzy, but seeing Killian's blurry figure getting closer to her gave her the strength that she needed. She met his beautiful blue eyes, a bit darkened by his concern, and she smiled slightly, getting up to lurch toward him and take him against her. His strong arms and familiar scent made her feel all better instantly.

"I've missed you so much." She whispered in his neck, as he was holding her so close.

"Gods, I've missed you too, love. Let me look at you. Oh, Swan." He added, pulling away to cup her cheek. "You're so pale."

"I'll be fine." She shrugged to try and reassure him, knowing that everything would be okay now that he was here, and wrapping her arms back around him, because she'd missed him like crazy, but also because she didn't feel able to stay on her feet without his support. "I feel like you've been gone for weeks, and not just for a few days."

"I know, darling. It felt like centuries for me, as well. But I brought some food back from the orchards. It did take a bit longer than I had expected, though. There were a few villages I didn't know around there, and while I was at it, I decided to try and visit these places, to see if anyone was ready to hire one of us. I wanted to explore every possibility before leaving to join the Dome."

"And?" Emma said, a bit surprised by this statement, but mostly curious to know what had happened. "Did you find anything?"

"I didn't. I visited a couple of town, but my reputation has apparently preceded me once more." He sighed, and the shame she could read in his eyes made her want to kiss him until he finally believed that he was a good man.

She just wanted him to feel good about himself. Despite how sick she was, at that exact moment, the only thing that mattered was that he could see himself as the amazing man he was. He wanted to be the best version of himself for her and Henry, and he really was. He was perfect to her. And he was ashamed of what he'd done in his past. Sure, he'd made mistakes, but she'd made some too, and she was accepting every part of him, because she loved everything about him. He was doing the same thing with her, and she so wished that he could see himself as the wonderful man, partner and father that he really was.

"Hey, it's okay. Killian, you're amazing. It's too bad for them if they can't see that." She whispered to his ear, and he just held her tight for a few seconds, as if to thank her for her words. "And what about my reputation?" She continued then, as he was gently stroking her back.

"You know what rumors can do." He said softly.

"They heard what I've done." She guessed as she was feeling tears appearing in her eyes. She was so scared that, even on the other side of the world, no one would want to hire her because of her actions.

"Don't you worry, lass. We'll figure it out. It's probably better that way, because if we'd gotten a job there, we wouldn't have been able to sleep on the Jolly Roger anymore, since the villages were too far from the harbor. We'll just have to cross the ocean, and get to the Dome. No one knows us there. We'll be safe, and we'll start anew. What do you think?"

She nodded slowly, knowing that he was absolutely right about that, and feeling a bit reassured. Perhaps they could be totally happy again, perhaps a new life, a wonderful one, was awaiting for them out there.

As she was about to answer that she agreed and that they should move the ship as soon as possible, black spots started to invade her already blurry vision. She felt very strange all at once, and thought that she was going to be sick again. She winced, placing a hand against her stomach. Killian immediately noticed that something was very wrong, because he grabbed her waist and said in a voice that seemed a bit distorted in her ears :

"Emma? Are you all right?"

She tried to talk to reassure him, she just didn't want him to be scared, but she felt like her fever had gotten even worse and everything was spinning around the cabin. The black spots assembled to become whole, and she couldn't see anything anymore. She heard Killian calling her name over and over again, but she just couldn't answer him.

She felt the floor disappearing under her feet, and strong arms caught her before she touched the ground as she was losing consciousness. The last thing she heard was her son and her boyfriend's screams, begging her to stay with them. She really would have wanted to. But nothing was making sense anymore.

"Emma? Darling, can you hear me? Swan, come back to us, please..."

Killian's pleading voice slowly made her come back to reality. She could feel his fingers squeezing her hand, and could hear Henry's fast breathing next to her. She was feeling like she was burning from the inside, and her stomach was hurting so much she wanted to fall back into the black hole that had swallowed her before. But she opened her eyes anyway, because she could feel her boys worrying, and she would have done anything to make them feel better.

She was laying on her bed, and guessed that Killian had carried her there after she'd fallen unconscious in his arms. Her boyfriend and her son were next to her, Killian sitting on the bed, Henry kneeling on the floor, and she saw their expression of pure relief when they noticed that she was awake. Killian tried to smile, but she could see how scared he was when it didn't reach his eyes. In a muffled voice, he said :

"Bloody hell, Emma, we were so worried. You stayed unconscious for a while. How are you feeling?"

She wanted to sit down and face them, but she was too sick to do so. She could already feel her eyes closing on their own again. God, she was so tired. She couldn't stay awake or think clearly anymore, everything seemed distorted around her. She could still sense how high her fever was, though, and if she'd been in a better state, she would have understood that it was slowly becoming dangerous. Through the fog that had invaded her mind, she felt happy to have fainted now that her boyfriend was back, and not while she'd been all alone with Henry. But she was so exhausted, and it would be so easy to fall back asleep…

Killian shook her shoulder, seeing that she was on the edge of passing out again. The concern she read in his gaze gave her the strength to keep her eyes open, because she just didn't want to hurt him. "No, Swan, please stay with me. I'll fix this, I promise, but you have to stay awake."

She nodded and managed to mumble under her breath. "It's my fever, Killian."

He placed his hand on her forehead when he heard what she was saying, and cried out "You're burning up!"

"The soup you cooked helped me when I was sick, maybe that's what you need too." Henry said, as if he were trying to find a miracle solution to her sickness.

"If I'd known..." Killian said in a broken voice that made her want to cry. "I only have fruits with me, and it's nothing that you can eat right now."

"Don't apologize, babe." She whispered. "It's no one's fault. I tried to eat yesterday, but it only made things worse..."

"I'll go get you something." He decided then, as she was still trying to fight against the urge to fall back asleep. "I'll find food that you can eat. I'll go to the apothecary and get you something there, as well. I'm sure he has something that can help you. You'll be okay."

"Killian, we don't have any money left." Her head fell on its side, as she was unable to keep it straight anymore.

"I don't bloody care, Swan! I just want you to be safe, okay?"

He'd yelled, and Henry startled, surprised to hear Killian use that tone of voice. But she understood his reaction, knowing it wasn't coming from anger, but from worry. She blinked, and Killian's eyes opened wide, as if his own actions were shocking him a bit. Very gently, he leaned to press his lips against her burning forehead, and said :

"I apologize, my love. I'm just afraid of something happening to you. But I will find a solution, I promise. I won't let you down. Henry." He added, turning to face their son, who was looking at the two of them with tears in his eyes. "I have something for you."

She rolled on her side, feeling her stomach painfully contracting once again, and tried to stay awake to understand what Killian had in mind. He led their son to the corner of the room, opened a drawer, and grabbed something that she couldn't see right away, her vision too blurred by the fever. She frowned when she finally managed to distinguish the object : it was a huge seashell, that Henry carefully took against him. Killian placed a necklace around his own neck, and explained as fast as he could :

"You see this seashell, lad? If you speak into it, I'll be able to hear you thanks to this replica that I'll take with me. If anything happens, Henry, anything at all, I need you to promise me that you'll call me. It's important."

"I promise." Their son nodded seriously.

She'd fought for too long, and she couldn't keep her eyes open anymore. She could feel herself falling back into a feverish sleep, but just before diving into the black hole awaiting for her, she was able to see Killian approaching her again. He placed something cold on her forehead, probably a wet cloth to try and reduce her fever. Then he kissed the top of her head, and whispered in a voice thick with sobs :

"I love you. Please hang in there."

She wanted to answer that she loved him too, but she passed out before getting the chance to say anything.

When she opened her eyes again, she was unable to say how much time had passed since Killian had left. She wasn't feeling any better, and everything was still spinning around her. Her fever seemed even worse, and she wondered if it would ever stop increasing. She was scared, not understanding how things had turned so bad, while it'd simply started with food poisoning. But she'd been starving before that, her body had only grown weaker because of the sickness, and she didn't have the means to beat the fever anymore.

But she seemed to come back to life for a little while when she noticed Henry, snuggled against her in the bed. She blinked a few times, trying to see more clearly. Her stomach was still hurting so badly and she wanted to go back to sleep, but when she felt that her baby boy was crying, nothing about her state mattered anymore.

"Oh, Henry." She said, wrapping her arms around him, and he sighed when he noticed that she was awake, burying his face in her neck. "I'll be okay, don't cry. Killian is coming back soon, and things will be just fine."

"But it's my fault if you're so sick, mom!" He sobbed.

"What do you mean?" She asked, alarmed by his words. "Henry, what makes you say that? It's not your fault! It's nobody's fault if I got sick."

"I promised Killian that I would take care of you, and I failed. I failed you. Now, you're sick because I couldn't make you feel better. It's all my fault."

"Henry, don't ever think like that, please." She felt tears in her eyes, because she couldn't stand to see her son so sad. "I'm your mom, and it's my job to make sure that you're okay, not the opposite. Your only job is to be a little boy. You've done nothing wrong. No one is to blame here, you understand? It's just bad luck. I don't want you to feel guilty, kid, do you hear me?"

He nodded slowly at her words, and seemed to calm down just a little bit. Her heart was breaking, and she held him close for a while, running her fingers through his hair to comfort him and show him that she was there. But way too soon, she felt her eyes starting to slowly close again. She knew that she was unable to stay awake for much longer, and she started to talk in a whisper.

"I love you so much, kid."

She was aware of what was going to happen, she knew that she was about to fall asleep or to pass out for good, and she didn't want to worry her son even more. She just wanted him to be happy. Her heart was pounding so fast in her chest because of the fever it was actually terrifying, but she managed to talk in a calm and assured voice so her baby boy wouldn't get hurt :

"Listen, Henry, I know I'm going to fall back asleep soon. I'm sure I'll be okay, but if in an hour Killian isn't back and you can't wake me up for some reason, I want you to call him. I don't want you to worry too much, and he'll know what to do to make me feel better. I love you, kiddo. I promise you I'll be okay. It's just a difficult time to get through, all right? I'll stay right here with you, no matter what.

"All right." He said in a small voice, still snuggled in her arms. "I love you too, mom."

Reassured by the fact that he seemed to feel a bit better, she finally allowed herself to close her eyes. She only needed to rest for a little bit. Things would be okay.

She understood that something was wrong the first time Henry called her name. She could hear him clearly, even if his voice sounded a bit strange, and felt him shaking her shoulder, but she was unable to move. She couldn't do anything else than listening. Her body was feeling so heavy, her heart was pounding incredibly fast, and she found herself forced to stay completely still.

This was a very strange sensation. She could think, somehow, but her body couldn't answer anymore. She was able to hear the noises of the waves crashing against the ship, and felt her son's grip on her shoulder tightening a bit. She could even imagine the scene in her head without seeing it. But she stayed there, unable to talk, unable to do anything. It was horribly scary, and she wondered how this was even possible. Was her fever so high that she couldn't function anymore? Or was it only the exhaustion catching up with her?

What was worrying her the most was Henry's pleading voice asking her to wake up over and over again. She really would have wanted to, and it was so strange to feel that close and yet that far from him, but she couldn't even move her little finger. Her son, as she'd asked him to, ended up calling Killian thanks to the seashell he'd given him, and her boyfriend was back on the ship in a matter of minutes. Or perhaps it'd actually been hours, but she couldn't tell anymore. Maybe she was dreaming, after all, maybe it was all a product of her imagination. Maybe their voices ringing next to her as she was laying there, motionless, weren't real.

"She still hasn't woken up?" Killian asked in a shaky voice.

"I tried to call her, but she didn't react."

Henry's voice broke down, and she could guess that he was crying. She still couldn't do anything, while she would have wanted to take him in her arms and promise him that everything would be okay. She chose right there to believe that it was all a dream. It was too odd, but mostly too painful to hear the two people she loved the most crying because of her. This wasn't real, she thought, she just had to hope that she would wake up soon.

In this dream, Killian probably took Henry in his arms, because their son calmed down after a little while. She could perfectly imagine her boyfriend comforting their little boy, promising him that everything was going to be just fine. He was so good to him, and if she'd been able to, she would have smiled, because she couldn't believe that she was lucky enough to share her life with this wonderful, perfect man.

"Hey lad, it's going to be all right, I promise. Your mum is a fighter, you know that, don't you? I found some vegetables to make soup, and I went to the apothecary to get her a mix of plants that can help her with her fever and nausea. She'll be fine." He stopped talking for a few seconds, probably waiting for Henry to have calmed down a bit. "Can you bring the food to the deck while I'm waking her up, please?" He added very gently. "I'll start cooking, and Emma will feel all better very soon."

He'd probably asked this to Henry so he could be alone with her for a little while. Killian knew that he would start crying if she still wasn't waking up, and he didn't want to do that in front of their son. God, he was so brave, even in her dreams. She was so relieved to have understood that it wasn't real, now, because she would never have wanted for them to worry so hard because of her

She felt a strong hand grabbing her shoulder as she could hear Henry's footsteps leaving the room. Killian shook her gently, then a bit more vigorously, and called her name in a pleading voice that made her want to cry. He pressed his hand against her forehead, and she heard a gasp of pure fear escaping his lips. She got a bit unbalanced by this gesture for a second. If it really was a dream, then how could she feel the coldness of his hand against her burning skin so vividly?

He called her again and again, and she suddenly wanted to start sobbing. What if she'd been wrong, after all? What if all of this was real and she was unable to move for some reason? Killian grabbed her hand, interlacing his fingers with hers, and she chose to ignore the feeling that she wasn't dreaming. She was going to wake up from this nightmare. This was just her fever making her hear things that weren't there.

"Killian? Is mom awake?"

Their son got quiet when he noticed that she was still unconscious. Killian suddenly let go of her hand, and she felt so empty for a second not to sense him close to her anymore. But she could guess that he wanted to pull himself together to seem okay in front of Henry. He really was the best father her son could have wished for, she thought. In a gentle and soothing voice, even if she could hear the sobs stuck in his throat, he said :

"I'm sure that she's all right, lad. Listen, I'll go prepare her something to eat for when she's going to wake up. I would like for you to stay with her, can you do that? She needs to feel us by her side, right now."

"Of course." Henry answered in a broken voice. "Killian, I'm… I'm scared." It made her want to sob with him, but she couldn't do a thing, and she just kept on listening.

"She'll be okay, Henry, I know it." Killian answered and, somehow, she guessed that he'd wrapped their son into a comforting embrace once again. "I'll be right back. Call me if anything happens."

As Killian was quickly walking away, Henry slowly approached her. He curled up next to her on the bed, and she could hear that he was crying. It all felt so real, and she was so afraid. She so wanted to be able to move to take him against her and assure him that she was all right, but she just couldn't. So she stayed there, eyes closed and only her ears functioning, wondering what was going to happen now that she was almost sure that it wasn't a nightmare, but the frightening truth.

Killian ended up coming back, minutes, hours or maybe days later, she didn't know anymore. He tried to make her take the mix of plants found at the apothecary, but didn't manage to do so since she was unconscious. She wanted to cry without being able to. She couldn't believe that all of this was happening because of a piece of meat, it was so stupid. She was frightened by how fast things had escalated.

Killian ended up understanding that trying to give her the plants while she was in that state was utterly useless. He sat down next to the bed then, and she could imagine Henry sitting on his lap, face buried in his neck to seek comfort. They stayed there, still, quiet, waiting for something to happen. It was all that was left to do, even Emma knew it.

She'd lost all notion of time and space, and didn't know for how long they stayed there in silence. No matter how much she tried to move, she felt stuck in her own body, her mind the only thing left alive, and she wasn't able to tell the people she loved that she was still there, that she was fighting, for them. Her heart was still pounding so hard it could explode. She ended up guessing that Henry had fallen asleep, exhausted by all those tears, because his breathing had grown more peaceful. A few seconds later, she felt Killian's hand moving to find hers once again, and his broken voice rang into the quiet of the room.

"Swan, please, if you can hear me, wake up. I don't know what's happening, and I don't know what to do anymore. We don't have any money to pay for a healer, your fever is very high, and I'm scared. I'm so scared, love. I don't want to show it to the lad, but I can't lose you. You're my whole world, and I..." His voice broke and he swallowed, and she just wanted to tell him that everything would be okay, because hearing him so sad was horrible. "I know you're a fighter. You can get through this, I believe in you. We need you here, darling. So please hang in there. I love you, Emma, I love you so much. Please come back to us."

His pleading voice made something shift in her. She wished to come back to life so hard, because she couldn't stand to hear him so worried, that, somehow, it worked. She fought for a while to reach reality again, but Killian's hand still holding hers gave her the strength she needed. And, after what seemed like an eternity, she managed to weakly squeeze his fingers to show him that she was there.


She opened her eyes when she heard her name, finally. Every inch of her body was aching, and the captain's quarter was pitch black, but Killian's eyes were shinning strangely into the darkness. When she turned her head to look at him more easily, slowly because it seemed like her neck was weighting a tonne, he just shook his head in disbelief.

"You're back." He whispered, and his hand got up to run through her tangled hair.

She even managed to offer him a slight smile. Everything was still so blurry, but she could see the tears rolling down his cheeks, now. Alerted by Killian's words, Henry woke up as well, and he blinked a few times before saying in a little voice : "Mom?"

"I told you I would be okay." She said in a husky voice, and her son let go of a little sigh of relief, wiping off the tears that were wetting his cheeks.

"All right." Killian stuttered then, seeming to realize what this meant and knowing that they needed to take care of the situation as fast as possible. "I have a mix of plants with me, that should help with your nausea and your fever. Then you'll try to eat something, okay, love?"

She nodded slowly, and fought against herself in order to stay awake, because she knew that she didn't have a choice. Very gently, Killian helped her to sit down on the bed, and she winced slightly because of the pain in her stomach. But it was going to be all right, now. She wasn't going to let them down.

She took the mixture of plants right away, and somehow, in barely a few minutes, she already started to feel a bit better. Her stomach wasn't hurting anymore, and keeping her eyes open seemed easier. Killian briefly went to the deck to warm up the soup, and when he came back, she knew that she would finally be able to eat something that wouldn't make her sick. Seeing the worried expressions her boys were displaying, she realized that they had avoided the worst. But she could feel that she was going to get through this. They were together, and that was all that mattered.

She laid back down after a while, still sore and exhausted, but not scared to fall asleep anymore. Killian and Henry both came to join her in the little bed, not willing to leave her after what they'd gone through. As their son had finally found a peaceful sleep, Killian ran his fingers through her hair again, and said in a very low voice.

"You really scared us today, darling."

"I'm sorry." She whispered, but he gently cut her off by pressing his lips against her forehead.

"Don't apologize, it wasn't your fault. I'm just happy that you're all right, now. Take some rest, I'll stay here. Always."

She fell asleep with a small smile on her face.

"Promise me that you'll never scare me like that again."

She snuggled a bit closer to Killian when he whispered those words in the quiet of the room. She sighed slightly, running her fingers through his dark locks to comfort him. His voice had woken her up from the half sleep she was in, but she didn't even think about complaining. She knew how scared he'd been of losing her, and now that she was beside him, he just never wanted to let her go.

The sun was already high in the sky, but her night hadn't been very relaxing, and she was exhausted. Her body was slowly recovering, and Killian was taking such good care of her. He'd woken her up every couple of hours to make her take the mixture coming from the apothecary, and so she could eat a little bit. Her stomach wasn't hurting anymore, and if she was still a bit sore, she'd finally been able to get out of bed in the morning.

They were now both sitting on a chair in the captain's quarter, watching Henry sleep peacefully. The little boy had been so upset to see his mom sick, and now that he was finally sleeping, they'd decided to let him rest for as long as he wanted to. She was sitting on Killian's lap, her arms wrapped around his shoulders and her face buried in his neck. He was holding her so close she could feel his heartbeats. He hadn't let go of her since she'd woken up, and sensing him close was making her feel good. She was finally okay.

"I promise I'll try." She answered with a small smile as he was pressing his lips against her temple.

"Good, because I can't lose you. Henry and you are my everything, and if I ever lost one of you… I don't know what would happen to me."

"Hey..." She gently cut him off, as she could see the pain of a past punctuated by countless of losses etched in his blue eyes. "You won't lose any of us. I'm staying here, with you, nothing can stop that. I fought for the two of you last night. Because I love you."

"I love you, too, Swan. I'm sorry this happened to you."

"I'm fine now, Killian. And now that we have some food with us, we'll be able to go join the Dome. We'll be okay."

She felt his heart fastening a bit at her statement, and knew what was happening in his mind. Still, she waited a bit before asking him the question that was burning her lips since she'd woken up. She just watched their son sleeping in their bed for a couple of minutes, waiting for his heartbeats to have slowed down a bit.

"Killian..." She finally started, in a very soft voice. "You've stolen to get this mix of plants and the vegetables, haven't you?"

He got stiff against her, and she already knew the answer to her question. She had guessed it long ago, if she was being honest, and she wasn't blaming him at all. She'd had nightmares about becoming a thief again, and she didn't want to go back to that, but they hadn't had a choice. She could have died there, and Killian had made the decision to save her. She could feel at the way he was grabbing her waist that he was scared she was disappointed in him. Because she'd stolen before, and it'd all ended very badly for her. Because Calvin had said that she was nothing more than a criminal, and she was proving him right by stealing again. But she wasn't mad at Killian, on the contrary. He'd just wanted her to get better.

"It's okay, sweetie. It wasn't a blame. I get it, you know, you didn't have a choice."

"I would have wanted to find another solution." He sighed, and she noticed all at once how exhausted he looked. "I tried to, but you were so sick and I was scared to lose you. The fruits I brought back from my trip would only have made things worse, and I had to find something. I'm so scared that I've disappointed you, and that I'll disappoint Henry too. But between that and keeping you both alive, my choice is made."

"You'll never disappoint me, you wonderful man. And our kid knows that you saved my life. He's looking up to you, and I'm glad, because he has the best example he could wish for. We'll be okay, babe." She added, gently kissing his neck as he was sighing against her because of her gentle words. "We'll find a way to cross this ocean, and to start over near the Dome. No one knows us there. We'll finally find a home. I promise."

He smiled at her, finally reassured, and leaned to press a long kiss on her lips. As long as they were all together, they would be all right. She knew it.

Chapter Text

Except that, once again, things didn't go as planned.

They were starting to believe that they were cursed, and that they should have expected their plan to fall apart yet another time. Fate had obviously decided to attack Emma again, to make her go through horrible situations, to test her limits. Life had given her three years of quiet. Three blessed years of happiness, laughter and almost innocence. Then the difficulties had come back, harder than ever.

It wasn't unusual for her to have moments of pure despair when she wanted to lay in bed and never wake up. She was so scared that they would never get out of this, that something really bad would end up happening to them. She was having horrifying nightmares about them starving to death, and she was feeling like they couldn't do anything to prevent that.

But most of the time, she was forcing herself to try and stay strong, to see the good things surrounding her instead of the bad ones. She wasn't alone anymore, she had people who loved her, and they would get through this, together. She wasn't the lost little girl who had thought once upon a time that she would never be enough anymore. She'd grown up, and Killian was there, by her side, always. His presence was helping her not to completely dive into her dark thoughts. He was there, they had a son they needed to protect, and they would be okay.

Their plan of leaving to join the Dome had been impossible to set up, after all. They'd waited for her to have got some strengths back before trying to cross the ocean, knowing that she wouldn't be able to survive such a journey if she wasn't feeling much better, but it'd taken a few days. A few days that they couldn't afford, but they hadn't had a choice.

The food that Killian had stolen had disappeared at an insane speed, since she'd had to eat pretty often in order to get better, and the fruits he'd brought back from his short trip had been eaten in a few days. They were left without anything, and didn't have the opportunity to go back to the orchards for several reasons. They didn't have any food left to survive while one of them was gone, and they were all exhausted. Walking a few days in the freezing cold, while they were starving and barely standing on their feet, was way too dangerous. They didn't want to take that risk. They didn't want to lose each other.

But now that they were left with nothing, they couldn't even think about leaving for the Dome anymore. Crossing the ocean would at least take a week, and in the situation they were in now, they would probably die at sea before reaching their destination. They just wanted to survive, to be happy. The small jobs they were managing to get for a couple of days were getting rare, and were only allowing them to get food for a day at the most. They were completely stuck, captives of their own lives. They didn't know what to do anymore.

So they were faced with a difficult decision. Both of them had a tough past, and they had never even slightly wished to come back to it, simply wanting to have a good life together. But they also had to survive and, as their food reserves had grown empty, they were left with no other choice.

They had to steal.

It would make unpleasant shivers appear in her spine and her heart would start to beat faster each time she would even dare to think about this option. But now that they were on the edge of actually starving, she knew that they were forced to do what was haunting her dreams for years.

She was the one who brought the idea first, one night where they both had been forced to skip dinner. Henry had eaten, luckily, but he was starting to get hungry as well, and she couldn't stand that idea. Ten days had passed since Killian had come back from the orchards to find her half dead in her bed and, after fighting so hard to get better, she was slowly starting to feel weak again. But her own state wasn't worrying her that much. The two people she loved the most were suffering, and she would have done anything to protect them, even if it meant going back to the lower point of her life.

"Killian?" She whispered to his ear, as they were laying in their bed. Her head was resting on his shoulder, and they were both so exhausted they hadn't said anything after putting Henry to sleep, simply settling in each other's arms for comfort.

"Aye, love?" She knew that he was already aware of what she was going to say. She'd guessed that this idea was running through his mind for a long time as well but, as he knew her story, he hadn't dared to say a thing.

"I hate to even think about it, I really do, but we don't have a choice anymore. We..." She stopped there and closed her eyes. Saying her thoughts out loud was definitely harder than she'd expected.

"Emma, are you sure?" he said then, and she understood that she didn't have to say a thing. He already knew. He always did. Open book.

"We have to, babe. It's awful, but we do. It doesn't have to be much, it can't be anyway, because we can't get caught. It's probably not going to help us to leave for the Dome. But it's going to allow us to survive, and we have to. I can't lose any of you."

He dropped a kiss to the top of her head."Me neither, Swan. But you won't lose us, I promise."

"I just can't stand seeing you both suffering." She said with sobs in her voice, and she forced herself not to start crying, because it wouldn't help her, she knew it.

"I'm so sorry, Emma." he then murmured, wrapping his arms tighter around her. "I'm sorry that we have to do this, because I was unable to protect you both."

"It's not you." She bit her bottom lip to keep her tears at bay. "It's me. If I hadn't got fired in the first place..."

"Don't say that, darling. Calvin has pushed you to your limits, and he deserved what he got. It's not your fault, it really isn't. Stop feeling guilty, please. I love you, so much, and you're the most amazing woman I know. You're so brave, smart, beautiful. We'll get through this, I know it. We just have to do what it takes."

He buried his nose in her hair to breathe her in, and she wiped off the tears that were now rolling down her cheeks. Even if his soft words had managed to make her feel a bit better about herself, as always, she was still horribly worried. She didn't want to be a thief again. But Killian had proved that it was possible to steal without being caught when he'd done so to save her life, and they would do it again. They would be okay. And as soon as they would be able to, they would get to the Dome and start a new life.

Despite her comforting thoughts, she didn't sleep that night.

She was feeling like she'd come back to being a teenager all over again, a too skinny little girl with dark circles under her eyes, who was stealing from the merchants to get a bit of food. And she couldn't help but think about how that had finished for her. She knew that they'd taken the only decision they could, but she was so, so scared.

She didn't want to go back to the dark and damp cells of the prison. She knew that if she got caught, she would spend a long time there, since she was a recidivist. But they couldn't let themselves starve to death. They had a son to feed, but it was also what was worrying her the most. Their little boy needed them, and they had to stay safe, or he would be left without anyone to look after him.

They were doing all of this for Henry, but her fears were slowly taking over her as she was laying there in the dark. She couldn't let her son grow without parents, she couldn't let him live what she'd had to go through as a child. She didn't want him to lose his innocence into the cruelty of the streets, where no one could ever be trusted.

She wanted him to have a family, to be happy and loved. And she was afraid of the example that they were setting for him by deciding to steal. They were going to take things from innocent merchants, who didn't have anything to do with their situation. Henry knew that she'd been a thief before, of course, but doing it all over again was different. And she was terrified.

Killian knew how she was feeling all too well, and he didn't sleep either. He just held her close and dropped little kisses to her temple, showing her that he was there and that she didn't have to get through this by herself. She wasn't alone anymore. He murmured to her ear that everything would be okay over and over again, as she was snuggling a bit closer to him, because despite everything, his presence managed to make her feel a bit better.

She didn't know how she would have done it to stay sane of he hadn't been by her side. He was her light in the dark, her rock, and through their horrible situation, she was so grateful to have found him. Always.

They didn't waste a second after getting out of bed the next morning, directly going to tell Henry about what they'd decided to do, and why they'd taken that hard decision. He was a smart little boy, and he would have figured out how they were getting the food, if they'd chosen to hide it from him. He knew that his meals weren't magically appearing on the table at night. Even if he was still convinced that she was the Savior, she'd explained him long ago that if some people had magical powers, it wasn't her case. They had to survive on their own, without any help. And they needed to tell him everything, so he didn't feel like he couldn't trust them.

The idea of lying to him hadn't even crossed their mind. Emma had rules, and one of them was to never lie to her son. The only time she'd done so was when she'd told him that his birth father was a hero, and not the coward the he really was. And even if she'd broken a promise made to herself with this, she didn't regret that decision. Henry didn't need to know that his biological father was far from being a good man. It would probably have been too painful for him to hear, and she just wanted to protect him.

They approached their son's room with a lump stuck in their throats, and when they knelt next to his bed, he immediately understood that they were about to tell him something important. She felt like she was going to cry, and all she could remember was the moment where, as a little boy, he'd made her promise that she would never steal again, because he was too afraid of losing her.

"We have something to tell you, kid." She started in a broken voice.

She explained everything, trying to stay calm, because he didn't need to see her cry. But when she stopped talking, tears were rolling down her cheeks, and Killian wrapped his arm a bit tighter around her waist to keep her close. Their son looked at the both of them for a few seconds of thick silence, as if he were thinking about what to say next. Then, in a serious expression that made her blink in surprise, he nodded and simply stated :

"It's okay, guys. I know that we don't have a choice anymore. Don't be sad, mom. I get it, really. It's only temporary, we'll get through this, I know it." He stopped for a second, took a deep breath, then continued. "I know that you both don't want to believe in the story of the Lost Princess, and I guess that it does seem a bit crazy, but I also know what's going to happen. We won't stay in this situation forever. One day, we'll live in a castle, and we'll have everything we want without having to worry about surviving. We'll be happy. It's only a difficult time to get through, but we have to be strong, to reach the future that's awaiting for us."

Emma was still crying when he got quiet, but it was for another reason, now. She was so proud of the wonderful little boy he was, and was feeling like he would never stop to amaze her. Even if he was holding onto this tale, refusing to believe that it was only just a legend, he was getting strength in it, and she wouldn't get that away from him. He was trying to reassure them, and she just felt so grateful for her baby boy, who wasn't really a baby anymore, she realized.

He leaned to take her in his arms, and whispered. "Please, mom, don't cry. We'll be all right."

He held her for a long time, there, before Killian came to join their embrace, telling Henry how proud he was of him. Finally, after a restless night, the three of them fell asleep in Henry's bed, a bit comforted by their conversation. Maybe their son was right. Maybe they would be okay.

Even though they didn't have anything to eat anymore and needed to hurry, they took the day to discuss about what to do. Killian and Emma talked for hours, trying to set up a plan, to find a method that wouldn't put them in danger. They were aware that stealing without having a good idea of what they were doing was horribly dangerous, and they couldn't take that risk. They couldn't get locked up in some cell and leave their son all alone in the world.

They tried to convince themselves that this decision was only temporary, until they could find another solution to take the Jolly Roger to the other side of the world, get a job there, and start anew. It was what she was telling herself over and over again to keep her tears at bay while she was talking with her boyfriend, because she knew that they weren't going to do that forever. They would end up being safe and happy, some day. If she believed it strong enough, maybe things would go as it always did in Henry's books, and their wishes would become true.

They talked and talked, trying to build a flawless plan in their mind exhausted by the hunger and the lack of sleep. And, finally, they found something, something that could work while keeping them relatively out of harm's way. They got quiet then, and she wrapped her arms around Killian and buried her face in his neck, relieved to have something to do, but also terrified that it wouldn't go as planned, and that they would put themselves in danger. Killian knew how she felt all too well, and he gently stroked her back, whispering to her ear :

"It's all right, love. It will work. You know that there is no way I would put you in danger if I thought that it wasn't a good plan. It's perfect, and we need it to survive."

"I know." She said in a muffled voice, and he kissed her neck to gently soothe her.

They decided to go get themselves something to eat the very next day. She would have preferred for them to wait for a bit longer, to go over every little details until she could recite the plan in her sleep, but they didn't have time for that. Henry hadn't been able to eat that night, Killian and herself were starving for days, and they had to do something. She had to save those she loved.

The next day, they found themselves standing on the deck of the ship in the dim light of the morning. Emma hadn't slept a bit once again, too terrified at the idea that something would go wrong, and she grabbed Killian's hand after kissing Henry's forehead, trying but failing to smile at him.

"Be careful." Their son asked them, concern audible in his voice and the dark circles around his eyes telling the tale of a night without sleep.

"Don't you worry, lad." Killian answered with a comforting smile that remained small. "There's no way we'll ever put you in danger. We're coming back, and we'll finally have food with us. We'll be able to eat tonight, all right?"

Henry nodded slowly, and she added, running her free hand through his hair one last time to try and find the strength to get out there. "I love you, kid. Be safe."

And on that note, they were gone.

She squeezed Killian's hand as she was stepping on the ground, trying to stop herself from shaking. Her boyfriend gave her a worried look, and pressed a little kiss on her lips, but he didn't say a thing. He knew that nothing could soothe her right now, and that his presence was the best thing he could offer her. She suddenly felt like she would probably have turned insane long ago, without him or her son in her life. They were the most important things in the world, and she wouldn't let them down.

They walked in silence to their destination, shivering because of the cold, the black clouds in the sky threatening to tear any minute to pour a deluge on their heads. They were headed to the bigger city, and she was going over their plan for the thousandth time in her head, comforted by the touch of Killian's skin against hers.

A market had its quarter there all year long, in the center of the town, and people were coming from all over the small villages around the city to get to it. It was where they would normally have gone to buy food if they had been able to, because it offered everything that they could possibly need. And it was where Killian had come to steal when she'd been sick, where he'd been lucky enough not to get caught, because without a plan and panicked as he was, he could have ended up in a cell. She took a second to thank every gods she could think of on that moment that it hadn't been the case.

Vegetables, meat, fruits, fish, sweets could be found in this huge gathering, but also books, furniture, animals, kitchen utensils. Saying that the place was heterogeneous would have been an understatement. Emma could still remember herself, little girl, walking through the stalls and calling the buyers to try and get a bit of food. She could recall her teenager self stealing from the merchants, trying to stay discreet. She had gone back in time, and it was horrifying, because her only hope had been to finally be happy.

But she also knew that they'd taken the right decision to come there. The place was immense and so crowded they were nearly invisible. People were rushing into each other, the merchants were adressing the potential clients, kids were running around and noblemen were trying to get the best deal on luxurious items she couldn't even look at. They couldn't have wished for a better place to do what they had to without being seen.

Still, things would have been so much easier if they'd simply decided to steal the gold right from the clients' pockets. The crowd would have allowed them to do so easily, but they had been unable to take that decision. Stealing a bit of food was one thing, but directly taking the gold from someone they didn't know was too much for them. Maybe these people were struggling too, and they were refusing to put somebody else in danger. They couldn't even think about this possibility without getting nauseous.

She hadn't let go of Killian's hand, but if it was still for comfort, she was also making sure that she wouldn't lose him into the crowd. They were trying to walk without rushing too many people, and she was suddenly feeling sick. Her heart was beating so fast she was feeling like it was going to explode. But she kept on going anyway, because they didn't have a choice. They had to survive. And they needed food to do so.

They had decided to try their plan at one of the stalls offering fruits and vegetables, knowing that it would be crowded and that the risk of being seen would be very low. There was food everywhere in this place, and the smells made her stomach rumble almost painfully. She had a headache, and was feeling like her legs were getting weaker by the minute. The last thing she'd eaten was for breakfast the day before, and she was starving. She placed a hand on her stomach with a little wince, and Killian turned to her, frowning. She tried to smile to reassure him. He was already so worried, she didn't want to make things worse.

He'd insisted a dozen times to give her his small meals since they'd found themselves in this situation, so she could eat a bit more, but she'd always refused his offer, not even wanting to think about this solution. But after what they'd had to go through when she'd got food poisoning, she could understand his reactions. He'd been so scared of losing her, and she knew that he was still having nightmares about that day, given how he would wake up at night, breathing fast and holding onto her to make sure that she was still there.

He wanted to protect her, but she wouldn't let him suffer for her own comfort. They were in this together, and it just wasn't fair for her to be okay while he was starving. She loved him so much, she just wanted him to be all right.

As they were still walking, a drop of rain hit the top of her head, almost immediately followed by another. Then, without notice, a true downpour started to fall from the sky, and Emma placed the hood of her cloak over her head to protect herself. She usually hated rain, but felt grateful for the weather, for once. People couldn't really see her face while she was hiding under her cape, and it was all good for her.

One of her biggest fears was that people would recognize her because of her past, and suspect her more easily. The merchants still knew her as the little girl who was stealing for them not so long ago, this same lost girl who had been in prison and had gotten herself knocked up. Everybody knew her here. And if, since then, she hadn't tried to steal anything again, her bad reputation was still following her, as Killian's also was. People were unforgiving. And now, she thought that maybe they weren't wrong about her. She was doing it all over again, after all. Her past was catching up with her, and she couldn't do anything to avoid it.

"Ready, darling?" Killian whispered to her ear so no one could hear them.

He squeezed her fingers between his to encourage her, and dropped a kiss to her temple. Lost in her thoughts, she hadn't noticed that they'd arrived in front of the stall they were aiming for. She hardly swallowed and nodded, taking one discreet breath to try and pull herself together.

She had to make her heart slow down and prevent her hands from shaking, or everyone would guess that something was wrong with her. Come on, she admonished herself, you've done this thousands of times. You're not going to get caught. It wasn't a happy thought, because diving back into her past like that was horrifying, but it did reassure her a little bit.

She quickly ran her hand down her right side, making sure that the satchel she was wearing under her cloak wasn't noticeable from the outside. They'd taken it with them to discreetly carry the food they would manage to get, and it was really important that it stayed invisible. Finally certain that no one could guess that a bag was hidden there, she forced herself to place a fake smile on her face. Killian's fingers pressed hers one last time, and they finally stepped forward to start the next part of their plan.

She let go of Killian's hand, but they stayed side by side while approaching the stall together. Her boyfriend stopped right in front of the merchant, who looked at them with a somewhat sly smile. He was probably seeing in them an opportunity to change the prices of his products and earn a bit more gold, noticing that he didn't know these people and that ripping them off would be easy.

Emma would have been annoyed if she'd been able to think about anything else than what she needed to do. It was still raining, yet, when she looked around, she noticed that the stall was crowded, and it was definitely a good thing for them. She forced herself to try and relax a bit. Everything was going perfectly fine until now.

Going right to the merchant to talk to him was part of their plan. He wouldn't suspect them if they were trying to stay noticeable. Sometimes, the best way to stay invisible is to walk straight into the light. Emma smiled at the man facing them from under he hood, staying next to Killian. The seller immediately started to speak in a cheerful tone, showing them the dozens of fruits and vegetables laying in front of him.

"Tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, oranges, apples… I have everything you could possibly ask for, perfect quality and the best prices!"

"I don't doubt that." Killian answered politely. "And your products seem fresh enough. What would you recommend for us? We have a little boy, and he definitely needs his strength to grow up."

"Oh, I get lots of parents coming to ask me for advice. You see, only my products could give him everything that he needs right now!"

In other circumstances, Emma would probably have rolled her eyes, but she was too focused to even pay attention to what the man was saying. As he was still talking loudly, Killian casually placed his hook on the edge of a box containing cabbages. Looking up, she noticed that the merchant had got a bit stiff, and was staring at Killian almost suspiciously.

Their plan was going great. They'd bet on Killian's reputation as a pirate to build their strategy, while hoping that not everyone in this city knew that they were together, the past thief and the former pirate. Her heart was beating so fast against her ribs, but the man wasn't even looking at her anymore. He'd probably heard everything about the great Captain Hook, and was scared that he would steal something from him.

He'd forgotten about her, she'd been discreet enough to allow that to happen, and if he kept on talking, his eyes had taken a darker shade. Killian was still pretending to be carefully listening to him, but his jaw had clenched a bit. Emma blinked to chase her sadness away, her chest tightening almost painfully. This situation was hurting him as well, he couldn't stand the gaze the merchant was giving him, and she couldn't bear to see him suffering. But they had to go on. They didn't have a choice.

So she slowly walked away from the both of them, pretending to peer at the different boxes laying in front of her. Discreetly, she looked around her to see if she was safe. The other clients weren't paying any attention to them, too focused on complaining about the rain, the crowd, or the lack of time, and no one cared about the young woman simply watching the stall.

She glanced at the merchant one last time as he was still talking with Killian, and in a gesture so fast that it became almost invisible to the naked eye, she took one of the oranges facing her and hid it in the safety of her bag. She stayed still for a few seconds, ready to feel a hand grabbing her shoulder, a voice yelling for her to stop right there, but nothing happened. No one had seen her. Everything was okay.

She moved slightly to the right to put a few carrots into the satchel, and repeated the process several times without ever getting caught, or even suspected. These gestures she'd done so often as a child were coming back like reflexes, and if she wasn't proud of that observation, she realized that she was still very good at being subtle. The last time, she hadn't been caught because she'd been too clumsy, after all. She'd been locked up in a cell because the coward that was supposed to love her had abandoned her, and she hadn't had the time to hide when the jeweler had realized that his marvels were gone. She was going to be just fine. She needed to stop panicking.

When she felt the strap of her bag starting to weigh on her shoulder, she decided to stop, knowing that stealing too much at once would only make her easier to catch. She slowly walked back to Killian, pretending to look at the products. Her boyfriend was still talking about varied subjects with the merchant, who hadn't stopped staring at him, as if he were a wild animal ready to jump at his throat.

Emma smiled at the man facing her, and gently placed her hand in Killian's back to announce her presence, still staying discreet while making sure to be polite. Her boyfriend finished his sentence and turned to her with a gentle grin, and she took a breath, preparing for what was coming. That was when the real show would start, and she prayed for her voice to stay steady so she would continue to look completely innocent.

"So, honey, what do you think we should get?" Killian said gently, and if he was completely convincing, she knew him too much to miss the little spark of fear shinning in his blue eyes.

"The carrots look good. We could get some lettuce and a few oranges as well, what do you think?"

"What the lady wants, the lady gets" Killian answered, smiling at the seller, and the fake laugh he offered them made her cringe slightly.

"Of course."

As the man was taking a few steps back to take care of their order, all while still watching them to make sure that they weren't trying anything, Killian pretended to reach for the small empty leather purse tied at his belt. His expression changed to display a frankly convincing frown of surprise, and his performance amazed her for a second. He opened his eyes wide, taking the item in his hands. He showed it to the merchant, as if in search of a witness, and cried out :

"It was full when we arrived here!"

Emma placed her hand on her belt then, pretending to be horrified as well by what she was discovering. "Mine is empty too." She said in a small voice.

"Someone must have stolen from you!" The man exclaimed, obviously scandalized.

He started to look all around him to make sure that his stall was intact, and didn't seem to realize that some things were missing. Emma internally sighed in relief, knowing that they were safe, almost. They wouldn't get in trouble, not today anyway.

They'd had this idea to cover themselves, since they didn't know if something could go wrong. She'd been very careful to only steal one or two products of each kind, but even this was risky if the merchant was particularly careful. So they'd decided to pretend to be victims of a thief as well, because no one would suspect them if they were the one who had got hurt.

They were aware that they couldn't go on with that plan forever, because people talked and, sooner or later, someone would notice their little strategy. But for now, they were safe. The market was huge, and the sellers weren't really talking to each other, the rivalry of trying to earn the most gold too strong for them to make friends. The probability of someone telling their story to somebody else was very low, and they'd decided to never steal from the same stall twice. They were counting on their luck to be able to keep on doing that for a while, without anyone suspecting them.

She really hoped that, soon, they could find a solution to cross the ocean and join the Dome without putting themselves in danger by making the journey. She was holding onto that idea to try and not fall apart, because she was getting desperate. Things were already so complicated, and the guilt she was adding on top of everything wasn't helping. But they just needed to feed themselves, and it was the most important thing to accomplish right now.

"I truly apologize." Killian continued, still looking horrified. "We won't be able to buy anything from you today."

"It's okay." The merchant said with a compassionate smile. "I get it. Now, if you'll allow me, I should watch my stall for a while. I don't want someone to steal from me, and you never know where the thief might be in this crowd."

Right under your nose, Emma thought, feeling a pinch of guilt in her chest, because if she didn't really appreciate that man's manners, she was still stealing from his livelihood, and she was feeling like a terrible person. She was forced to, but, god, how awful that felt.

"It's a wise thing to do." Killian said. "Good day to you, then."

The man nodded, all while throwing suspicious glances all around him, and they casually walked away, pretending to be talking about what they would do now that their money had been stolen. They didn't say one thing about their plan going great, and got quiet once they were far enough for the seller not to see them anymore.

They didn't want to draw attention to themselves, but she still found Killian's hand to interlace their fingers together. He pressed her fingers in his, silently reassuring her, and she could almost hear his thoughts. We're fine, love. Everything is fine.

She could feel her satchel, now filled with food, weighing on her hips, and felt the guilt taking over her once again, thinking about this poor man they'd just trapped. But she forced herself to keep calm and just held Killian a little bit tighter. Her stomach was painful because of how hungry she was, and she knew that, since they didn't want Henry to know the same pain, they had done what they needed to do. It still felt wrong, but they had protected their son, at least. To feel a little bit better, she promised herself that, if one day they managed to get out of this horrible situation, she would redeem herself by repaying every single person she'd stolen from.

They walked in silence for a while, and it's only when they found themselves alone in the middle of the forest, the trees covering them and certain that no one could see what they were doing, that they finally stopped. Killian turned to look at her, still holding her hand. His assured expression was long gone, he was looking deeply worried, and she could guess that he also felt terribly guilty. She offered him a small smile so he wouldn't feel too bad. They were in this together, and if she was feeling horrible too, she just wanted to reassure the man she loved.

And they'd been successful. She'd stolen enough for them to survive for a couple of days, maybe a bit more if they were being careful. If she would have wanted to find another way to survive, she suddenly felt so relieved. At least they wouldn't starve, not right away anyway. And perhaps they could gather enough supplies to try and cross the ocean, after all. They hadn't dared to hope about that possibility, because it seemed impossible, but things had gone so well. Maybe everything would be perfect again, soon.

Despite this observation, she still felt like an awful human being.

"Are you all right, Emma?" Killian's first question made her smile slightly. She could tell that he was dying to know how much she'd been able to get from the stall, but he still wanted to make sure that she was okay.

"I'm fine. You?" She said, looking up to meet his blue eyes.

"Relieved that this is over, for now." He answered with a little shrug. "How much were you able to get?"

She sighed quietly, and slowly took off her cloak to show him the bag. It'd stopped raining now, and she felt like, for once, the luck had been on their side concerning the weather, because it would definitely have been more difficult without the rain. Killian helped her to take the heavy satchel out of her shoulders, and he peered at it, hope shinning in his eyes.

She leaned as well, since she wasn't totally sure of how much she'd taken. She'd been so focused on not getting caught that she didn't even know what was in the satchel. But it was completely full, and she realized that, if she was ashamed of it, she had done a good job.

All sorts of vegetables and fruits were gathered there, and she immediately started to feel her stomach rumbling a bit louder. She was so hungry she had to place her hand on her belly to try and curb the pain there, wincing slightly. Killian noticed her expression right away, and he said seriously :

"There's enough food in there for at least three days. You should eat something."

"That's sweet, babe, but we agreed on letting Henry eat first." She sighed, touched by his thoughtfulness, but she had to do what was right for her son. "I'll be okay."

He bit his bottom lip, thinking for a few seconds, as if he were trying to find a solution. Then he handed her the bag, searched in it for a while, and got an apple out of it. He offered her a small grin and gave her the fruit with a raise of his eyebrow that almost made her forget about what had happened to laugh at his expression.

"The lad hates apple, and we both know that he won't even touch it. Take it. You need to eat."

Her smile widened a bit more at his words. He really knew his family by heart, and it was true that their son hated that fruit. It was probably all because of the story of Snow White that he loved so much. Since he thought that she was her daughter, eating an apple while the princess had almost died because of one was treason for him. She'd never tried to make him change his mind about this. She didn't really like that fruit either, even if she didn't know why, and always tried to avoid it if she could. But this time, she was so hungry that it seemed like the most appealing thing she'd ever seen. Killian started to talk again, playfully nudging her shoulder :

"I know you don't really like apples either, princess. Maybe there's a reason for it, and Henry is right after all. Perhaps you're the Lost Princess, and this hate for this fruit runs into the family"

She chuckled a bit, and realized with gratefulness that he was managing to make her forget about her guilt for a while. This little game about the legend being real had always existed between them, and she knew that his teasing was all about making her feel better. He just wanted her to be happy. And it'd worked, because the weight on her shoulders had suddenly disappeared. She shook her head and met his gorgeous blue eyes, her smile still dancing on her lips. For a second, she felt like they'd gone back in time to land a few weeks earlier, when everything was still perfect and they didn't have to worry about surviving.

"You're an idiot." She whispered, and he laughed as well, taking a step forward to wrap his left arm around her waist.

"An idiot that would do anything to make you smile." He answered, and she rested her head against his shoulder for a second to feel him close.

"And you manage to do so wonderfully. You know what? I'll accept your offer only if you eat with me." She said then, showing him the second apple in the bag. "Because I would do anything to make you happy, too."

"As you wish, your majesty." He said, making her laugh again.

She pulled away from him for a second to place the satchel back around her shoulders, and she bit into the apple, enjoying the fact that she could finally eat something. When she looked up again to meet Killian's eyes, she realized that, if they'd been full of laughter a second earlier, they were now staring at her to make sure that she was okay. She smiled at him softly and snuggled back into his arms. He held her close, dropping a kiss to the top of her head and drawing little circles on her back in a soothing gesture.

"Thank you." She whispered against his chest.

"What for, darling?" He sounded a bit surprised, and she closed her eyes to enjoy his presence.

"For always being there to make me feel better when you know that I'm struggling."

"No need to thank me, my love. I'm here for you, always. As I know you are for me."

His support meant the world to her, and she kissed his neck before saying. "I love you."

"I love you, too."

She felt him smile against her, and she looked up, putting herself on her tiptoe to place a little peck on his lips. She snuggled back in his arms then, and they stayed there for a few minutes, the strength of his arms making her heartbeats slow down a bit. She felt complete against him, she felt good and loved. I love you didn't even seem strong enough to show him how much he meant to her anymore.

After a while, he ended up kissing her hair once again, and said in a soft voice : "Let's go back to the lad, shall we?"

She nodded, and grabbed his hook, so he could eat his apple on the way while still being close to her. Eating a bit made her feel so good, even if it wasn't much, and she immediately felt less dizzy while her headache disappeared. They walked in silence, not needing words to understand each other's thoughts anymore. Two figures in the dim light of this rainy day, making their way back to their son, feeling like, as long as they were together, they finally belonged somewhere.

They arrived in the harbor short after, and Henry greeted them with shrieks of joy, first when he realized that they were fine, then when they showed him the food that they'd brought. If she smiled at first, happy to see her son's reaction, a wave of guilt overwhelmed her once again when she realized the terrible example she was setting for him. She didn't want to show him that stealing was okay, but it was the last thing that they had to stay alive.

But she felt all better suddenly when Killian's hand brushed against the small of her back, as he'd guessed her thoughts. He leaned to whisper to her ear, so gently her heart skipped a beat : "We'll be okay soon, Swan, and we'll repay those we've stolen from. I promise."

She got a bit closer to him, and the smile etched on Henry's face when he saw the huge orange hiding at the bottom of the bag finally erased the pinch weighing on her stomach. They'd done this to save their son. And she would have done anything to see her baby boy smile like that.

That night, as they were laying in each other's arms in their bed, their stomachs finally relieved now that they'd been able to share a good meal, Killian and Emma did a quick calculation. They realized that, if they kept on going to the market every day or so, they could get enough food to try and cross the ocean really soon.

It made her sigh in relief, because they wouldn't have to go on for much longer like that. They were going to start anew, without their reputation following them. No one would know her as the orphan turned young thief or see her as a crazy waitress who'd punched her boss's son. People would finally understand that she was just a hard-working woman, simply wanting the best for her family.

She felt like a new hope had arisen in her. Killian was right. She was strong, she was good enough, and she would end up finding a boss who would think so too. She was Emma Swan. She wouldn't let rumors define her. She wasn't scared of leaving anymore, she realized. She even wanted it more than anything. It would only do them good, and they would finally find a real home. They would finally be happy.

It's on these comforting thoughts that she fell asleep against the man she loved, reassured about their future. Promising herself that she would repay everything that she'd stolen as soon as she could, made her feel better as well. It was only temporary. They would find something better soon.

And something resembling a routine settled in their new life. While always being careful to never approach the stalls they'd already stolen from, they would recreate their plan throughout the market, bringing back meat, fish, bread or vegetables every night. They would eat the things they weren't able to keep for long, and would store the rest in the hold of the Jolly Roger for their upcoming journey to the Dome. If they hated what they had to do, at least they weren't hungry anymore. And they would be able to leave very soon.

But despite these reassuring results, Emma's guilt wasn't leaving her. Sometimes, she managed to tell herself that it was okay, like after their first theft, but most of the time, her crimes would come back to hit her at the most unexpected moments. She would start panting, a cold sweat appearing on her forehead as everything would start to get blurry around her. She would feel like she was the most terrible person, images of her past flashing before her eyes, and during those moments, Killian's arms were the only things able to calm her down. His words would always manage to make her feel better. Until the next panic attack, at least.

It happened one night, ten days after their first time in the market. She'd fallen asleep, feeling like she couldn't keep on doing that for much longer anymore. She was feeling so guilty, like she was turning insane. She woke up with a gasp, feeling like she couldn't breathe. In her dream, she'd relived that day where she'd been locked up in her cell, after Neal had abandoned her, and she was so scared that it would happen all over again. The oxygen wasn't reaching her lungs anymore, and she was feeling like she was going to die.

Somehow, she'd rolled out of Killian's arms in her sleep, and looked at him, laying next to her, still breathing peacefully. He was feeling bad too, and she didn't want to wake him up to make things even worse. But she couldn't help it, she was panicking, feeling helpless and, mostly, she hated herself. It was too much. Too much pain and too much guilt adding up, and she suddenly wished that she could fall asleep to never wake up again.

She tried to calm herself down, thinking that they would never get caught, because they were forming such a good team. They were discreet and fast, and she'd always managed to hide her face from the merchants so they wouldn't know who she was. No one had never suspected them, but she was terrified of ending up in a cell again. She just wanted her family to be safe and happy, but the weight of her actions was slowly getting too heavy to bear.

And that wasn't all. If after their first theft, they'd been relieved to notice that, with that amount of food, they would be able to leave soon, she was scared that it wouldn't be that easy. Even if they managed to reach the Dome safe and sound, nothing was certain. What if they didn't find any job there, either? Or what if they simply didn't find anything for a few weeks, because being hired wasn't easy? Would they be forced to steal again? The thing was, they didn't just need food, and she knew it. They also needed money, and she didn't know how they could get that without stealing directly from someone's purse. Everything seemed threatening, and she felt like her head was about to explode.

Her vision had turned blurry, and she was shaking so hard her entire body was almost convulsing. She slowly climbed out of bed, not wanting to wake Killian up. Maybe going on deck to look at the ocean would calm her down. The sea had always had the wonderful power of making her feel better when nothing felt right. She would lean against the handrail and watch the dark waves crash against the ship, and would feel in peace with the world. She just hoped it would help her this time as well. She really needed it.

But when she tried to climb the ladder to join the outside world, she realized that she was shaking so hard it was impossible for her to keep her balance. She tried to settle down, but she ended up slipping on one of the steps, and fell back on her feet on the floor of the captain's quarter with a horrible crash.

The noise made her startle herself, and she turned to look at Killian, her arms wrapped around herself for comfort. She didn't want to worry him and she hoped that she hadn't woken him up. She didn't want him to see her in that state once again. She didn't want to worsen the situation. And she just wanted to cry, because she couldn't even climb a damn ladder anymore. She was frustrated, exhausted, and just wished for all of this to be over.

But Killian was a light sleeper. It was a miracle that he hadn't woken up as soon as he'd felt her leaving the bed. He opened his eyes and jumped on his feet, his hook brandished in front of him, ready for a fight against a nonexistent danger. She kept on standing there, shaking and watching him as his eyes were accommodating to the darkness of the room. Finally, she saw his expression softening at her sight, and he approached her, asking in a whisper :

"Swan? Are you all right? What's wrong?"

Hearing his worried voice made her feel like she was crumbling. All the tears she'd refused to shed these last few days in order not to worry her family appeared in her green eyes. She suddenly felt like she was going to drown in her own distress. Her teeth were clashing in her mouth, and she didn't know what to do to calm herself down anymore.

But she didn't have to search for long. Seeing how bad she was feeling, Killian took a step forward and wrapped his arms around her without asking anything, because he knew. He always did. She collapsed against his chest, as he was holding her close, keeping her on her feet. She felt like his arms were the only safe heaven in this world that had turned into an enemy, and she held him tightly, because it was the only thing able to make her feel a bit better right now.

She heard at his shaky voice that he was about to cry when he started to talk, gently rocking her against him. "Gods, you're shaking."

She knew that she didn't need to say anything. He'd got her despair and why she was feeling that way, reading into her soul with an amazing easiness. He gently led her to the bed without letting go of her once, and pulled her to him so she was sitting on his lap. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and buried her face in the crook of his neck as he was whispering in a voice thick with sobs :

"It's going to be okay, lass. It's only temporary, I promise. I know that you feel guilty, but we're not going to get caught, I won't let that happen. In a few days, we will have enough food to leave this bloody place, and we'll start anew at the Dome. You don't have to worry, my love, we'll get through this. We always do. As long as we're together, we'll be just fine."

"It's just that..." She sobbed as he was gently stroking her back. "If we were stealing from rich people, I wouldn't feel that way. It's still not right, but… They'd be fine, they wouldn't need what we would steal from them. But the merchants on the market… They're just people like you and me. They have families to feed and we're taking this from them, and maybe they're struggling because of us..."

"I know, Emma, I feel terrible too." He said in a broken voice. "But it's not forever. We'll move out from here, and start again on the other side of the world. We'll redeem ourselves, I promise."

"Killian, you're saying this, but you don't know what's going to happen. Even if we make it through the journey… How are we going to survive at the Dome without any money?" She said, feeling like she was finally admitting those doubts that she'd kept in herself for an eternity. "I feel like we're never going to get out of this. And I don't want to have to steal until the end of my life..."

"Don't say that, darling, please." He whispered to her ear. "We'll be okay. I'll never let anything happen to you or Henry. I've got you both."

She didn't feel like protesting again. She just wanted to believe him, to let him comfort her. He never lied to her, after all, and she knew that he would protect them no matter what, exactly like she would protect him and their son with her life. She snuggled a bit closer to him, and, soothed by his strokes, she ended up calming down. As he was running his fingers through her tangled hair, she murmured, sniffing :

"I'm sorry."

"Don't apologize, love. You're the strongest woman I know, you know that, aye? I know it's hard, but we'll be okay. Everything is going to fall back into place, and nothing is going to happen to us. We're fighters, aren't we?"

She didn't answer anything, letting his words get to her, but she held him even tighter. She was so thankful to have him by her side, to have found her soulmate and partner, because he was the center of her world. She kissed his neck then, to thank him for his support, and as an answer, he just buried his nose in her hair to breathe her in. They were together against the world. Always.

They ended up laying back down in their bed, still wrapped in their tight embrace, because they didn't feel like parting. It's as she was finally drifting into sleep, comforted by Killian's arms around her, that an idea crossed her mind, and she opened her eyes, suddenly completely awake.

First a bit blurry, the idea quickly got clearer, and she got stiff, eyes wide open in the darkness. Killian's breathing, still a bit fast, told her that he wasn't asleep yet. No wonder, she was always the first one to fall asleep. It was as if he wanted to make sure that she was okay before allowing himself to rest as well. Her heart was pounding fast in her chest, and she felt like she needed to tell him everything, right away. Maybe she'd finally found a solution. Maybe Killian was right and they would be just fine.

"Killian?" She murmured into the quiet of the room.

"Aye, love?"

"I think I have an idea to get ourselves gold so we don't have to steal again when we'll get to the Dome." She stated in a clear voice.

Chapter Text

"Emma, are you… are sure about this?" Killian stuttered after listening to her while she was explaining her idea.

They'd sat down in their bed, and he was holding her, as if he were scared of what she'd just told him. He was looking at her with wide eyes, and she could easily understand his surprise. She was truly astonished by her own suggestion. But maybe that was it. Maybe they would be okay after taking that huge step.

"I know it's risky." She answered, trying to look more assured than she felt. "But we can do this. We have to, Killian."

"I'm not talking about our ability to put your plan into action, Swan." He gently corrected her. "I know we can do it. We can do anything together. I'm talking about you. I know how complicated this entire situation already is for you. I don't want you to feel even worse. Are you certain that you're ready to do such a thing?"

"If this is the only thing we can find to save our family, you bet I'm ready to take that risk." She stated, but her voice was still shaking a little bit.

She took a deep breath after finishing her sentence to try and hide her emotions. It was true that the plan she'd just found was bold, it was the least she could say, but it seemed like the perfect solution. It was the only solution, actually. They wouldn't find that kind of opportunity twice, and they needed to take that decision so they could finally leave for their new life.

And even if this plan was secretly terrifying her more than anything because of her past, she preferred to do this instead of continuing to steal every day without knowing where they were going like this. She was feeling like she was slowly turning insane, and it couldn't go on that way.

But trying to hide her true feelings from Killian was useless. He read into her soul, as always, and he knew how she really was feeling about all of this, despite her fake assured expression. She sighed as he was wrapping his arms tighter around her, and he pressed a kiss to the top of her head. Then, he pulled a bit away to be able to look at her, and started to talk in a very soft voice :

"Swan, you know that I'm ready to do anything for you and our family. And this plan sounds good, even if this is a bit risky. But I don't know if we should do it. I don't want to make you suffer even more. You're already feeling horrible because we're forced to steal, and I am too, truly. But this, this is something else. It's big, and I'm also scared that we'll end up getting caught. This is not a slice of bread on the market. This can get us in trouble. I have to say that I'm afraid of where it's going to get us."

"I can't say that I will do it gladly." She said in a somewhat broken voice, because she knew that he was right, she knew that it was dangerous. "But we have to get out of here. We can't leave for the Dome without having any gold with us, we'll have to keep on stealing there if that happens, and I know that I can't do that. This is a one time thing. I'll be fine, and I'm ready to feel bad if that means that we can be okay at the end of the day. This is my fault if we're in this situation, after all."

"Emma, don't..."

"Killian, that's fine." She cut him off gently, knowing that he was about to try and comfort her again. "You know that this is true, and I'm aware that you just want me to be happy, but this is my entire fault if we're left without anything, right now. I'm ready to accept the consequences of what I've done. And this is our only way to get enough money to star anew at the Dome, without stealing from someone we don't know, who could be struggling like we are. We have food for the journey, we just need gold to survive for a few weeks without a job once we get there. But without this money… we will find ourselves in the same position we are now, except that we'll be on the other side of the world. I think this is worth it, I really do."

He stared at her for a long time, looking genuinely worried about how she was feeling, and she didn't manage to stop a lonely tear from rolling down her cheek. She would have done anything to avoid doing this, but it was all they had left if they really wanted to start anew. They had to take a decision, because if they kept on living like this, both of them would end up crumbling. And they couldn't allow that to happen.

Killian gently stroked her cheek to chase away the tear, then took her in his arms once again. She buried her face in the crook of his neck as he was running his fingers through her hair, and she held onto him for dear life. He was her rock, and they could do this, she knew it. They stayed there for a long, long time, then he whispered to her ear :

"All right, then, love. If you feel like we have to do this, it's that we do. But if you want to back out at any given moment, if you feel like this isn't right, you only need to say the words. I won't do anything without your permission. Your idea does seem good, but I don't want to force you to relive that part of your life. If it hurts too much, it isn't worth it."

"It's the opposite, really." She answered against his skin. "If it means that we can all be happy at the end, it is worth everything in the world."

He didn't answer, and they didn't manage to find sleep before the sun started to rise in the sky. It's only then that they allowed themselves to close their eyes, a bit comforted by their embrace, and the other's presence keeping their nightmares at bay.

"Swan, if you feel like this is wrong, we don't have to do this, you know that. I don't want you to get hurt. We'll find another way. Just… Breathe, please."

"But there's no other way!" She panted, sitting on their bed while trying to catch her breath, but it was getting harder and harder to do so.

They'd decided to try the idea she'd had a few days earlier that afternoon, and if she'd tried to stay calm while explaining her plan to Killian, she wasn't managing to settle down, now. Images of her childhood with Neal, of how she'd felt like when he'd abandoned her, were flashing before her eyes, and she was panicking. Her breathing had grown uneven, and she was starting to get dizzy. She didn't know what to do. She was feeling like she was dying.

These memories were so painful. Her meeting with Neal. Two orphans, all alone in the world, finding a family in each other. Or she'd thought so, because he'd never really loved her, after all, or he wouldn't have left her. The moments they'd shared, the feeling she'd had of finally belonging somewhere. She'd just wanted someone she could trust. She'd chosen the wrong person. And their thefts, taking everything they could find. The way they'd once shared the money at the end of the day.

Then, their failed appointment. The way she'd waited for him, and when they'd brought her to her cell. How confused she'd been, the thoughts that had crossed her mind. Maybe it is a mistake, maybe something happened. But there hadn't been any mistake, because he would have come to search for her, then. And she could remember how she'd wondered why she could never be enough when she'd understood that he wasn't coming. Why she was always alone and why she was unlovable.

She was happy with Killian now, happier than she'd ever been in her entire life, she now knew what being respected felt like, what being in love truly meant, what a supportive partner was. Neal had just been a coward passing through her life, but he'd broken her young heart and had added scars to the dozens already existing there. And she still couldn't forgive him for what he'd done to her. For letting her rot in prison and making her believe that no one could ever love her. She hated him, god, how she hated him.

And she could still recall how she'd watched the baby bump appearing underneath her clothes. She'd been cold and scared, wondering how the hell she would be able to raise a baby. She was all alone, and she was afraid that she would make this kid miserable, too. She didn't want to hurt anyone, and she remembered feeling so helpless.

If these memories would haunt her at night sometimes, and if Killian would always manage to make them go away with the help of his comforting, loving arms, there was a reason why it was all coming back to her right now. She was so scared of going through that all over again. What they were about to do was so similar to the reason why she'd been locked up in the first place. Not that Killian could ever abandon her, it wasn't about that. Their love was more powerful than anything, and they would never let each other down. She trusted him, even more than she trusted herself.

No, Killian was actually her rock in all of this. Because she was so afraid of going back to her cell, of being separated from the people that she loved. Of feeling unloved and worthless again, because she would find herself all alone. She didn't want to go back to where she'd come from. She didn't want to get locked in a cell and never see Killian or Henry again. She would die, from guilt, shame and sadness.

And that idea that she'd had could absolutely bring them there, if they weren't being careful.

But they couldn't do anything else. They had to get out of there, to find money so they would never have to steal again. She wouldn't be able to live like this for much longer. Her constant panic attacks were proving her right.

"Swan? Emma, look at me." Killian said, trying to meet her eyes, and she could see how worried he was. "Breathe, darling. In and out. Good. In, and out. You don't have to do this. You don't have to do anything. If we really need to, I'll do it alone."

"There's no way I'll let you take the responsibility for my own idea!" She cried out then, coming back to reality, because she was so outraged by his offer.

"I just don't want you to get hurt." He said in a voice thick with sobs, and she placed her hand on his cheek to look at him more easily.

"I won't ever do that, you hear me? I won't be like Neal and abandon you. We're in this together. Our plan is based on that. And if you went alone and got caught because I was too scared to do it… It would be my entire fault, and I would never forgive myself. I can't lose you. Henry can't lose his father. We're doing this together, like we've planned too!"

"I know you won't ever abandon me, I trust you so much, my love. But I just want you to feel better..."

"I'll be okay." she said, and she realized that she was starting to breathe a bit more easily, too focused on promising Killian that she wouldn't let him down to pay attention to her own fears. "I'll feel better when it'll be done. I'm scared, but I know we can do it. I just… I need to calm down."

He looked at her with tears in his eyes, truly pained to see her in such distress. She knew that his offer was coming from his fear that she would suffer even more. He just wanted to protect her, but he couldn't and it was obviously making him crazy.

He gently took her against him, arms locked around her, and left a trail of little kisses down her jaw and neck, his lips gently brushing against her skin. His soft touch managed to completely soothe her, and she finally took a deep and helpful breath. Sensing that she was feeling a bit better, he whispered in her ear in a broken voice that made her heart ache.

"I just love you so much. All I want is for you to be happy."

"You're making me happy. Happier than I've ever been, because I love you, too. It's just this situation that makes me miserable. I need all of this to be over." She murmured in his neck.

"I wish I could protect you from getting hurt."

"It'll be okay when we'll get to the Dome and have some gold with us to survive until we can find jobs there." She sighed, snuggling a bit closer to him. "I'll be fine. We will all be. But for that to happen, we'll have to put this damn plan into action. We don't have a choice."

"I'm sorry I asked you to do it myself, I didn't want to upset you. I just want to keep you from all harm." He admitted in a small voice, and she got overwhelmed by how wonderful this man was.

"I wish I could protect you too, you know. You're the most amazing man I know, Killian. And we're making such a good team. I love you."

"I love you, too. Until the end of time." He added, kissing her neck once again.

She stayed in his arms for a long time, until the strength of his embrace made her feel better, because she knew that, for what was to come, she needed to be at her best. She could do it, she thought while she was pulling away from him to finally get on her feet. She'd done that so many times as a teenager without getting caught. She couldn't make a mistake, she knew it, but she also knew how to be good at this by now. They would make it, even if it was bringing back awful memories. And they would finally be able to start anew on the other side of the world.

If she believed it strong enough, maybe it would really happen, after all.

"We should go." She said then, trying to make her voice sound steady, and her assured way of speaking surprised her herself.

Because deep down, she was still absolutely terrified. But the idea of saving her family from knowing more pain was pushing her forward and helping her not to crumble. Killian didn't seem convinced by her act, though, because he got up as well and pressed a long kiss on her forehead. She suddenly felt so safe in his arms as he'd placed his hand on her cheek. She was feeling like he would protect her, no matter what. She knew he would.

Before going, Killian pulled away a little bit and opened a closet in the captain's quarter to get a sword out of it. After carefully placing it in a scabbard, he tied it to his belt, and she was about to ask him if it was a good idea to bring that blade with them when he answered her thoughts : "No one will question it, it's common for everyone to have some sort of weapon. It's just in case."

She nodded then, knowing that he was right. Still wanting to feel his comfort, she briefly wrapped her arms around his waist, before pulling away for good to climb up the ladder and go up on deck.

Henry was awaiting for them at the helm, looking horribly worried. He knew what was going to happen that day, and he seemed terrified as well. Her heart tightened as she noticed how exhausted her little boy looked. The black circles under his eyes made him look older than he really was. He'd already lived so many hard things for such a young child, she just hoped that he would finally be happy after what they were about to do.

He approached them when he heard them arriving. He hadn't tried to come into their room, probably guessing that they needed a moment together to reassure each other. Because in front of him, they were these unbreakable adults that nothing could scare or touch. They wanted to give him that, to pretend that they knew they would be okay. They wanted him to stay a child and not grow up too fast because of these hard times.

"Is it time already?"

Emma nodded slowly and knelt to wrap her arms around him for a comforting hug. Despite how concerned he looked, she knew that they'd taken the right decision to always tell him about their plans. Keeping him in the dark would only have made him feel worse. And he wouldn't have let them go without an explanation, anyway. He could be quite stubborn, this wonderful little boy. He'd probably got that from her.

"What if you get caught?" He asked in a small voice, his face buried in the crook of her neck. "Would I be all alone, then?"

She felt like she was going to start crying, and met Killian's worried gaze. She held Henry a little bit closer as an answer, not knowing what to say. She just knew that she would do anything in her power not to get caught. She would never leave her little boy all alone in the world, like she'd once been. He would never know what being unloved and feeling worthless was. She'd sworn it to herself the first time she'd held him in her arms, the tiny little baby he was there, and she wasn't about to break that promise.

They'd discussed whether they should both go that day for a long time, because they didn't want to take more risks than necessary. With what they were about to do, it was all or nothing. And they knew that their chances of getting nothing or worse were much stronger than the possibility of getting away from this region safely. But they had to do it, and they had to do it together.

If they went alone, Killian's reputation as a pirate or hers as a thief would follow them. When they were together, people were only paying attention to Killian, and forgetting about Emma. It was what had worked until then, and they'd bet on that yet another time. Of course, this time, it was different. Of course, what they were about to steal would be noticed missing sooner or later, unlike the small amounts of food they'd taken until then. But they needed to do this. They needed to move on.

Killian crouched in front of Henry then, placing his hand on his shoulder and meeting his worried eyes. "Hey, lad, look at me. Whatever happens today, we'll never leave you alone. I promise, we'll always be there to protect you, no matter what. You're our whole world, you know that, aye?"

"I know, I just… can't I come with you?" He asked in an almost pleading voice. "If anything happens then, we'll stay together anyway."

"I'm sorry, kid, we can't do that." Emma answered, running her hand through his dark locks. "It's too dangerous for you out there. But we'll come back soon. It's a promise."

Henry nodded slowly, knowing that they wouldn't change their mind, and she wrapped her arms back around him so they could share a collective embrace that gave the three of them the strengths they needed. Henry was holding onto them, obviously not wanting to let go, even if he knew that he didn't have a choice.

Her fear of failing was increased by how reluctant she was to leave her little boy there. But they had to, they couldn't take him with them. If anything had to go wrong, the people wanting to catch them would use Henry to get to them, and she couldn't allow that to happen. She had to protect him.

And they would all be okay at the end. They were in this because of her, she thought, despite what Killian would always tell her at night, when he would murmur to her ear that it wasn't her fault. She had to make amends for her actions. And everything would be just fine. It was the last time they would ever have to do this. She would make sure of that.

They ended up being forced to pull away, because time was passing quickly and they had to go. After one last kiss pressed on the top of Henry's head, and one last I love you whispered to his ear, they walked away from their son so they wouldn't give themselves the chance to change their mind. They really needed to do this. The big leap before the real life that was awaiting for them on the other side.

She still couldn't help but turn to look at the Jolly Roger one last time, once they'd walked a bit away. She watched Henry's figure, leaning against the handrail, and she could guess that he was crying even though she couldn't see his face. Killian took her hand and pressed her fingers in his, saying incredibly gently :

"It's going to be all right, love. We will all be fine."

She turned to vaguely smile at him, aware that he had no idea of what was going to happen, but grateful that he just wanted to reassure her. Then she blinked a few times, trying to pull herself together. She couldn't let her fears get in the way, or she would risk to lose everything. She needed to stay focused, to forget about her feelings. She could think about what she'd done later, when they would be safe. At the slightest mistake, everything could crumble, and she wouldn't allow that to happen. They needed to be happy, and only that plan could help them to reach their happiness.

"Swan, you only need to say one word, and we'll stop everything." Killian said one last time, and she shook her head to come back to reality, her fingers finding his ring and pulling at the necklace for reassurance.

"Let's go." She simply decided then, and he sighed quietly, because he knew how scared she really was.

And, just like that, they were gone to meet their fate.

"Emma, are you all right?" Killian kindly asked, a bit worried by the fact she'd just got completely stiff.

She barely nodded at him, because the sounds seemed like distorted to her. She was staring at the place that would decide of their entire future, with her heart pounding so fast in her chest that it could explode. Even if she knew that they had to get the job done, she was utterly terrified.

They were there, for real.

The jewelry shop was standing before their eyes, and she didn't know if she would be able to do what they'd planned to. It seemed so simple, though. Do what she'd done as a teenager. Go in, take a jewel, something that couldn't be noticed missing right away, and sell it to the black market. The same thing she'd done that had put her in prison in the first place.

She tried to ignore the flashes of her childhood coming back to her once again. It was different, this time. It was only one item, they had a good, solid plan, and Killian wasn't going to let her down.

She would be okay.

Despite how painful it was, she knew that they'd chosen the right place. The shop was built a bit out of town, but on the other side of the city, and it was giving them several advantages.

For one, since it was standing on the edge of the forest, they could disappear between the trees in a second if anything went wrong. They also counted on the fact that not many people knew them there, since they had to walk for an hour before arriving to their destination. She wouldn't be able to hide behind a hood this time after all, since they were going to be inside, and it would be just too suspicious. If people knew her name, they didn't necessarily know her face. They wouldn't suspect her when they would see that their jewel was gone. Or she really hoped so anyway.

She suddenly wondered if they shouldn't have come at night after all, but quickly ignored that idea. They'd talked about it, but if it did seem easier, it really wasn't. Because if she could pick locks, making absolutely no noise was impossible. And the sellers almost always lived in their shops, since it was less expensive and they could watch their products without having to worry about thieves. Going at night would only make them the only suspects if the seller caught them, and they couldn't risk that. No, their plan was definitely better. Risky, but better.

She took some deep breaths, and stared at the diamond necklace sitting in the window before them. The shop was really prized, and they hoped that the clothes they'd put on wouldn't threaten their economic status. She was wearing one of her good dress, a dark blue one, and had tied her head up in a bun, like the ladies living in the city. Killian wasn't wearing anything particular, but once again, he wasn't playing any part, except the one of the pirate that he wasn't anymore. These people were so unforgiving, and maybe this would play in Emma and Killian's favor for once.

How wealthy these people were was one of the reason why they'd decided to take that risk, too. They couldn't keep on stealing to the merchants, who were people just like them, it was making them crazy. But stealing to rich people, if it still wasn't right, was making them feel a little less guilty about what they were doing. They definitely needed that marvel more than they did. Or Emma was trying to convince her of that, because she was still feeling like a terrible person.

She kept on staring at the necklace, telling herself that, if they could steal something as precious as this jewel, and if they managed to sell it to the black market, they would finally be safe. It cost a fortune, and they would have enough to survive for a few months with that money. It was all they needed.

The second part of their plan wasn't complicated at all, actually. Killian still had contacts from when he was a famous pirate captain, and these people would be more than happy to buy this marvel and give them the money that they needed. The hardest part was playing now, but they could do it, she knew it.

She couldn't back out now, anyway. Despite how worried Killian looked next to her, how he seemed to wait for her to say that she didn't want to do that after all, she turned to face him with her chin up. She wouldn't give up on her family, and it was the only thing that could save them now. She took another deep breath, and said, pressing Killian's fingers in hers :

"I'm fine. Let's go."

He didn't say a thing, but gently stroked her skin with his thumb before letting go of her hand. This small gesture somehow gave her the courage she needed to step forward and follow him, as he was walking to the shop. She placed her cloak back on her shoulder, feeling so vulnerable without her hood on her head, but she couldn't let the seller see how she was feeling. She needed to seem assured and, mostly, innocent. It was the most important.

So she forced herself to place a peaceful smile on her lips as she was walking past the two guards standing next to the door, keeping the shop safe from thieves like them. Trying not to panic at their sight, because they could be the people who would send them to hell, she politely nodded at them without trying to avoid their gaze. That would only make her seem guilty. Killian opened to door for her to enter first, and they both walked into the establishment.

The inside of the shop was gorgeous. Paintings of beautiful landscapes were hanging on the walls, covered by a beautiful blue and silver tapestry. The ceiling was so tall she felt minuscule, and that wasn't helping her sudden feeling of unease. There were only five other clients in the shop with them, and it was fewer than they'd expected, but they would just have to go with it.

She realized with a quiet sigh of despair that, despite their efforts, these people were still way more dressed than she was. They were wearing fur and ornaments, walking in an assured way that almost left her speechless. She was uncomfortable in this subdued light, and felt like everyone knew that she wasn't from there but was only an impostor. But she straightened, trying to seem confident, because she couldn't do anything else. Killian placed a comforting hand on the small of her back, sensing her thoughts, and it gave her the strength to politely smile at the seller facing them.

The man gave them a suspicious look that made her shiver. He had obviously already noticed Killian, and his eyes were staring at him, not paying any attention to her. Good, she thought, trying to calm herself down. He looked down at Killian's hook, as if to make sure that he really was the pirate that everyone talked about, and she let go of an internal sigh of relief. Their plan was working. She was invisible, once again.

The shopkeeper immediately walked to them, and she took one step back to hide a bit behind Killian. She was still so scared that he would recognize her or know that the former thief Emma Swan was in a relationship with Captain Hook. But she tried to reassure herself. They were too far away from their village for the man to know everything about them. He only knew Killian as the man he was before, and she wasn't risking anything.

The seller had his jaw clenched, as if he were scared of what Killian could do, and she felt him stiffening a bit beside her. Despite how often they'd done this, it was still making him suffer, and she was hating this. It's the last time, she told herself to try and stop her heart from beating so fast. Then we'll be okay.

The man started to talk in a tensed voice that made her shiver once again "How can I help you?"

"Thank you for offering your help, I really need it." Killian answered with a fake smile. "I'm looking for a very special gift for the lady, here."

"Bracelet? Ring? Necklace?" The seller listed, still looking a little suspicious, but also a bit more relaxed now that he was keeping Killian in sight.

"I think a necklace would be perfect. Do you want to go and take a look around while I search for something, honey?" he asked, gently stroking Emma's back and giving her the start signal.

She smiled at him and nodded, without saying anything out loud because she was too scared that her voice would start to shake and gave her nervousness away. She discreetly walked away as Killian was still talking with the shopkeeper, and the man didn't pay any kind of attention to her. He hadn't recognized her, obviously, and he wasn't seeing her as a threat. It was all good. She could play the rest of her part easily.

She slowly pretended to look at the dozen of marvels in front of her, laying there on red or blue velvet, all so beautiful that it amazed her for a second. She watched them all one by one, trying to see which one could be the best to take with them.

Her eyes finally met the red diamonds of a small, discreet bracelet at the back of the shop. It was so tiny, easy to hide, and if she would have wanted to own a prop to put instead of it so they could walk away before anyone would see that it was missing, it was the prefect solution. With a bit of luck, the seller wouldn't see that it was gone right away, and they would have the time to get safely back to the ship. She just prayed that everything would go that way.

Killian immediately noticed that she'd stopped in front of the bracelet, and he gestured for a necklace on the opposite side of the shop so the seller would turn his back to her. There was no other shopkeeper in the establishment, only the guards outside to keep the marvels safe, and they seemed a bit lost in their thoughts. They probably didn't meet many thieves in broad day light, simply entering the shop to take what they wanted, and they had bet on the surprise effect to get out of this situation quickly.

Looking around, Emma saw that the other clients seemed too deep into their little world to even see her. No one was watching her.

It was the perfect moment. And she really needed to stop shaking.

In a fast and discreet gesture she'd repeated so many times as a teenager, this same gesture that she'd practiced on the market for the last few days, she grabbed the bracelet and placed it in her sleeve. The coldness of the diamonds made her shiver, and she was feeling like her heart was about to explode. She could feel that something bad was about to happen, and she was so scared of herself.

And there it was. Flashes of her childhood made their way to her once again, and she couldn't do anything to stop them. She was seventeen again. The sheriff was approaching her, with guards all around him, as she was looking everywhere, convinced that Neal was going to show up, because he wasn't going to abandon her. He couldn't.

She could still hear the noise the chains had made when they'd tied her up so she wouldn't run. She could still feel the freezing cold and see the darkness of the cell in which she'd stayed, waiting for her trial, before coming right back to it. She was so, so scared that it was going to happen to her again, that she was going to go back there. She was terrified that Killian would go down with her, and that they would leave their son all alone.

But she shook her head, suddenly coming back to reality. She had to pull herself together. The situation was too dangerous for her to stay there as she'd just stolen such a precious jewel. She took a deep breath, and turned on her heels to notice with relief that no one had noticed her, and that her little panic attack had only lasted for a few seconds. They were safe. For now.

In a way that she wanted confident, while she was feeling like she was barely standing on her feet because she was shaking so hard, she approached Killian again. He immediately noticed that she was back, and didn't even need to look at her to see that she was feeling awful. He placed his arm around her shoulders, and held her close to him. For the first time, if it made her feel a bit better, it didn't manage to calm down completely. It was too much.

He said in a kind voice, still not looking worried while she could tell that he was internally terrified. "Have you found something interesting?"

"Not really. I'm waiting for you to surprise me."

Her voice had been too small, too shaky to seem innocent. She felt her heart starting to pound even faster, and her cheeks reddened, but she couldn't do anything to control it. The seller met her eyes for the very first time, and he frowned, suddenly looking suspicious.

Biting her tongue to force herself to calm down, she immediately understood that the man knew they had done something. It was a matter of minute now before he discovered that the bracelet was gone, and if he did while they were still there, they were doomed. So she decided to do the last thing she could to seem innocent and give a reason to explain her strange behavior. She didn't have a choice anyway.

She started to shake more obviously, and turned to Killian with tears in her eyes. "I don't feel good at all. Can we go? I think I'm going to be sick."

They hadn't talked about this, but he got her intentions without her having to say anything. As always. He placed his hand on her forehead, and frowned, saying in a deeply worried voice, almost completely convincing : "You seem to be running a fever, darling. We should go, you need some fresh air. You'll feel better when we'll get home, all right?"

He turned to look at the seller and said with such assurance that, for a second, she thought that they were going to be fine. "Thank you so much for your help, sir. We'll come back another time, when she'll feel better."

He took her hand then, not breaking character but still trying to comfort her, and they made sure to walk slowly enough so they wouldn't seem guilty as they were getting out of the shop. They walked past the guards without getting in trouble, and she looked down, still pretending to feel horribly sick. It wasn't all fake, though, because this situation was making her feel so awful.

She forced herself not to start running to get away from there, to get to safety on the Jolly Roger, sell the bracelet, and finally leave. Killian gave her a worried look, and she could read in his eyes the question he couldn't ask her out loud. Do you think we're in danger? She had a bad feeling about all of this. And she briefly turned her head to look at the shop.

In their misfortune, she had the luck to turn at the right time, barely a second before everything crumbled and their lives changed forever. If she'd turned a bit later, maybe they wouldn't have had the time to run, maybe they would have been trapped there. Maybe their fate would have been completely different.

But she looked right on time, and saw the seller coming out of his shop, his face red, looking furious. She knew what was going to happen. She knew he'd noticed the missing bracelet. She squeezed Killian's hand in hers to silently tell him not to turn as well.

She was aware that starting to run now would only get them in trouble, and they needed these last few seconds where the guards didn't know who they were to be able to get out of this. She suddenly felt less scared, as if she knew that, in that time of emergency, her head needed to stay clear. Between her teeth, she murmured to Killian : "When I'll tell you to, run."

Before he could answer anything or even tell her that he'd got her message, the seller's voice rang in their back as he was yelling. "They have the diamond bracelet! Thieves ! Someone gets the sheriff! Guards, catch them!"

"Now!" She yelled then, and Killian's hand still squeezed in hers, she started to run, probably faster than she'd done in her entire life.

They ran in the forest for what seemed like forever, without ever letting go of the other's hand. Emma's lungs were burning, the oxygen wasn't reaching them anymore, her legs were hurting like hell, but she was continuing still. She knew she had to get out of there, because the guards were chasing them, and they couldn't get caught, they couldn't let Henry grow up without a family. They were going to be okay. She wasn't even panicking anymore, she was simply seeing the facts. Running, getting on the Jolly Roger and putting themselves in safety.

After a while, as they were almost arrived in their village, they finally decided to stop without conferring. They crouched behind a bush, away from the main path, hidden between the trees so no one could see them, and allowed themselves to catch their breath. A hand placed on her heart beating so fast it could explode, Emma briefly closed her eyes to try and relieve her horribly painful limbs.

She wasn't shaking anymore, despite what they were going through, despite the danger chasing them and the prospect of a life behind bars. Knowing that she didn't have a choice but to find a way out of this, her body had decided to put her fears aside and give her the means to get through this situation. She wasn't going to let them take her, like she'd done the first time. And she had the strange feeling that she was detached from her own body, analyzing the situation without really living it.

She took a second to think about what they could do, and knew that going back to the ship was the best solution they could find right now. She suddenly met Killian's worried gaze, and she took his hand back in hers to comfort him, to show him that they would be all right. They just needed to stay strong.

He took a second to calm himself down before saying something. When he finally managed to breathe slowly enough to talk, he asked in a whisper, scared that the guards were after them and that they could hear them from the main path.

"Are you okay?"

"Fine." She answered with a nod, and she tried to smile at him, because despite his own terror, the first thing he wanted to know was how she was doing. "Are you?"

"I'm all right. Do you still have the bracelet?"

She nodded again and got the jewel out of her sleeve to show it to Killian. It would have been stupid for her to lose it after everything they'd gone through to get it, and she'd held onto it as she was running for her life.

Killian stared at it for a few seconds, as if hypnotized by the beauty of the diamonds, then she placed it back in her sleeve in case they weren't safe and someone was watching them, somehow. Killian looked back up at her, and said, his eyes shinning in worry because they were stuck and could get caught any minute now.

"What's next?" He asked, and she answered right away, not even having to think about it.

"We leave. We don't have a choice. They know our faces, your name, and posters with our portraits on it will be plaster all over this damn town in a few hours. The guards have probably called for backups, and the sheriff must be looking for us, too. So we have to go, now. Do you know someone we could sell the bracelet to once we'll get to the Dome?"

"I don't, but I know we'll be able to sell it easily. And you're right. The most important for now is to get out of here. We'll see what we do next. Are you sure you're all right, though, love?" He insisted, obviously surprised by her reaction, because what she was the most scared of was happening before her eyes, and she seemed almost okay. The truth was that the adrenaline was keeping her up, and she didn't seem to realize how doomed they actually were.

"Yeah." She shrugged. "We just have to go and reach the Jolly Roger without getting caught. And then, we'll… Damn it!" She muttered then, her eyes widening in fear.

"Emma? Swan, what's wrong?" Killian called her, grabbing her hand tighter, worried by her sudden reaction.

She didn't answer right away. Her breathing had got faster again, and she couldn't believe what she'd just realized. In their rush, they had forgotten about a really important detail, and they'd made a mistake, a terrible one. This was going to lead them to a cell, and she cursed herself under her breath, because it was so, so stupid.

In their plan, Killian had kept his identity without trying to hide himself, because it was all part of their strategy. But she was only realizing now how dangerous it'd been. If they'd got away from the village so no one would recognize her, everyone knew the former Captain Hook and, most importantly, his ship. The guards just had to ask to someone in town where the Jolly Roger was, and they were going to wait for them at the harbor, instead of chasing them without knowing where they were going. They were walking right into a trap.

But that wasn't the worst. Their son had stayed on the Jolly Roger, as they'd thought that he was safe, there. But, if the guards got there before them, they would without the shadow of a doubt use the little boy to get them to surrender and lock them up in a cell. And they really couldn't hurt her baby boy, or she didn't know what she could do. No one could touch the people that she loved.

She got back on her feet, and said to Killian, who was still looking at her with a spark of fear in his eyes. "Henry!"

He understood her thoughts immediately, and the spark transformed into pure terror. He was as scared as she was that someone would hurt their little boy. Her heart was still pounding, but she needed to stay calm. Henry needed her to be all right, and keep all her resources to face what was awaiting for them. They needed to get there fast, so these people didn't get a chance to hurt their son.

Killian got back up as well, took her hand again, and they started to run, even faster than they'd done before. They didn't pay any attention to their exhaustion, their short breaths or their painful muscles. They needed to save their son.

They didn't have a minute to waste.

Emma's senses seemed like accentuated, and the exhaustion wasn't even reaching her anymore. Only one thing mattered now : save their little boy, and get out of there. She knew that the guards weren't following them anymore, but would wait for them at the Jolly Roger. They just needed to get there before them.

She saw the ship appearing as they were still pretty far from the harbor. There was a second of pure relief when she noticed that no one was awaiting for them there, but the dream shattered a second later. She could hear the pounding of several people's steps against the ground, coming from a bit further into the forest. The guards had found their spot, and were just behind them, now. They needed to get the ship at sea before their pursuers could catch them, but it seemed difficult, almost impossible.

So, despite how dizzy she was feeling from having run for so long, she fastened her pace again, Killian's hand still squeezed in hers, giving her the strength to continue. They needed to stay together. It was so important that she didn't even allow herself to panic. She would do that later. Now she had to stay strong.

They understood quite quickly that running as fast as possible wouldn't give them the time to go before the guards reached them. She cursed herself internally for decided to take that break in the forest, because without it, they would have been able to disappear without being seen by anyone. But it was too late now, and wallowing in what ifs wasn't going to help them.

So, once on the harbor, she finally let go of Killian's hand to reach the boarding ramp. She stopped in a controlled skid, and started to scream so the figure of her son she could see on deck would be able to hear her :

"Henry!" His face appeared from behind the handrail, and he was frowning, probably aware that something bad was happening. "Go in your room, lock yourself in and whatever happens, do not get out before you're certain it's safe!"

"What's going on?" He asked, and she saw his eyes widening in fear when he finally noticed the people chasing them, who had almost arrived in the harbor, now. "Mom?" He insisted, fear audible in his voice.

"Just go, it's important!"

He knew at the tone of her voice that protesting wouldn't get him anywhere, and he just nodded before disappearing. She thought she saw a tear rolling down his cheek, and was so scared that he would get in trouble too despite her precautions, but she didn't have the time to worry for much longer.

Their assailants were almost there. She turned to Killian, her chest raising up and down at the fast pace of her breathing. He got the sword out of of its scabbard, and she did the same with the dagger she always carried with her. She stared at the blade, realizing she didn't even know how to use it, even though she had it with her for years, now.

"I've never learned how to fight other than with my fists." She stuttered, and despite Killian's own distress, he briefly placed his hook on her wrist to try and reassure her.

"It's okay, I'll take care of them. Just stay here and make sure that they don't try to get on the ship. I know you can do it, Swan. You can do anything."

She nodded and they shared one last glance, knowing that they couldn't make a mistake, then he turned to face the men that were running to them. She would have wanted to tell him something, that she loved him or that he was the most amazing person she knew, but she didn't have the time to do so. They were entering the fight.

Now that their enemies were close, she could see that the guards were now six, escorted by a sheriff who made a shiver run up her spine. He wasn't the man who had arrested her the first time, obviously, it had been too long, but it was still horribly scary. She'd gone back to the past, and it was horrifying. But she had to fight. She had to protect what she had left.

Killian brandished his sword, and disarmed one of the guard without seeming to make a particular effort. She blinked, terrified for a second that he was going to kill the man. She knew her boyfriend would never have done so without a good reason, but they were being attacked, and he just wanted to protect his family. She just didn't want them to be wanted for murder, too. But he just knocked him out, and countered the sword of another guard as if he'd spent his entire life doing so.

If Emma had been relieved for a second to see that Killian was doing fine, it quickly appeared obvious that they were outnumbered. She would have wanted to get into the fight and help her boyfriend, but she'd never learned to fight with a weapon, her years in the streets only teaching her how to defend herself with what she had : her fists. She also had to make sure that none of them would try to get on the ship to discover Henry and take him as a hostage. She didn't know if she should go or stay, and felt the panic slowly rising in her.

It's when she saw one of the guards, the biggest one, running in Killian's back, his sword ready to behead him, that her body acted on its own to save the man that she loved. She didn't hesitate and didn't even think about what she was doing, her instinct doing the trick. She just pounced on her boyfriend's attacker, and they both rolled on the ground as the man was letting go of a grunt of surprise.

He was way heavier than she was, but hadn't expected her attack. She had the advantage. She quickly straddled him, trying to immobilize him, but he threw his blade in her direction to try and harm her. She barely avoided it so it wouldn't cut her in half, but it still touched her arm, tearing a part of her sleeve and drawing a burning wound on her pale skin.

She let go of a gasp of pain and suddenly felt the rage replacing the panic in her veins. She wouldn't let him hurt her. More importantly, she wouldn't let him hurt the people that she loved. Taking advantage of the fact that he was now disarmed, she dived her dagger deep into the flesh of his thigh. He yelled in pain and tried to make her fall, but she took her dagger back, unleashing a fountain of blood, and sank it into his other leg, just above the knee. His screams were so loud they were ringing in her ears.

She didn't want to kill him, obviously, she just wanted to stop him from hurting her family. Her instinct had taken over her, and she didn't even think that this man was just doing his job, trying to catch thieves. She just couldn't let him harm anyone. He was contorting in pain underneath her, and she got back up to quickly fetch his sword. She banged the handle against the back of his head, and he was left motionless.

She turned to discover that Killian had already put away a few of their attackers. Using his sword as the expert that he was, he never seemed to really be in danger, and there were only four men left when she stood up from her own fight. Every one of them was looking at him, so she didn't have any trouble stunning one of the guards, hitting him at the back of the head, too. Meanwhile, Killian managed to knock his attacker out, and the man fell on his back, his eyes closed.

Only two men were left standing now, and she turned to look at the man she loved with a glimpse of hope appearing in her heart. They were about to get out of here and be okay. They just needed to get rid of who was left, and they could be safe.

But she hadn't noticed the sheriff, still standing, approaching Killian from behind. Her boyfriend was busy fighting against the other guard still conscious, and couldn't see his other attacker. Killian was the only barrier between the sheriff and the ship, and she saw at the cruel spark in the man's eyes that he wouldn't hesitate to kill her boyfriend, so he could get aboard and force her to surrender. She was too far away to act against it, and she stayed petrified, her eyes wide, looking at the sword shinning in the sunlight. The blade ready to kill the man she loved. Her best friend, her soulmate, her everything.

The scream of terror burning her tongue stayed stuck in her throat. It was too much, and she couldn't think anymore. Everything happened so fast. A mix of feelings so strong she felt like she was about to crumble took place in her chest, and a true chaos appeared in her mind. In this confusion, she was sure of only one thing. Killian wouldn't die. He couldn't. She wouldn't let him.

Without notice, as if coming from nowhere, dark clouds appeared in the sky just above the harbor. The thunder rumbled, a flash enlightened their surroundings and tore the blue immensity. In a matter of seconds, the thunderbolt struck, barely a few feet from the sheriff, who turned in a jump, seeming completely panicked.

Emma had no idea of what had just happened. She didn't know why the storm had appeared from nowhere to illustrate what she was feeling inside, and felt the brief and insane instinct that she was the one who had provoked it. But she didn't take the time to ask herself anymore question. She was aware that this unexpected event had offered her the time she needed to save the man she loved, and she didn't hesitate.

She ran to the sheriff, who had turned to face Killian's back again. The latter had won his fight, and turned to find himself face to face with the blade of a sword. It was clear that he was in a very bad position, and the man facing him could kill him in a second. His eyes grew wide, his lips parted, as if he knew what was about to happen and that he couldn't do anything to stop it.

But the sheriff didn't have the time to do a thing. Emma didn't let him. He was too tall for her to knock him out easily, and she didn't think about her actions, just wanting to save Killian. So she brandished the sword she'd stolen from the guard she'd knocked out and, in a swift movement, she dived the blade as deep as possible into the sheriff's back.

The noises of the organs getting punctured by the sword was horrifying, and Emma knew she would never be able to forget those sounds. The sheriff's breathing got stuck, and he let go of a gasp of surprise and pain. She waited a second, then twisted the blade, causing a disgusting noise, and took the sword away from the man in front of her. He stumbled for a second, then crumbled, a puddle of blood growing underneath him.


She let go of the sword, which crashed on the ground. He was dead. She'd killed a man, and yet, she couldn't realize it clearly. She was staring at the lifeless body, unable to look away from this form that had been walking and moving a second before. What had happened? What had she done?

But Killian made her come back to reality, taking her hand in his. Before the guilt invaded her completely, he whispered in a very soft, but a bit shaky voice :

"Swan, we have to go."

She nodded and took a deep breath, trying to push her feelings aside. Later, she would think about this later. Now, they just needed to get away from there. She ran up the boarding ramp, as Killian was starting his maneuver to get the ship at sea.

Before going away, she glanced at the harbor one last time, looking at the catastrophic scene underneath her. The noises of the fight had attracted a few people, and a group had formed around the harmed men, and the dead one. She stared at the body again, and the reality of what she'd done finally hit her completely. So hard that, suddenly, she couldn't breathe.

She'd killed someone.

She was a murderer.

Chapter Text


Henry's scream didn't even manage to make her come back to reality. She was like in a trance. She just couldn't think anymore, her brain was frozen, her legs were shaking. She'd killed someone, without realizing what she was doing, because she'd been so scared of losing the people she loved. But he was dead. Because of her. She'd taken a life. How could have she done such a thing?

Her son threw himself in her arms, but she didn't hug him back. She was feeling like a stranger in her own mind, not believing that she'd actually murdered someone. It had to be a mistake, she would never do something like that. A nightmare, it was a nightmare. It was the only explanation, because she wasn't a murderer. A thief, an orphan, but not a murderer.

But the thoughts that were running through her mind were so vivid. You're a monster, the little voice at the back of her head was saying, and it didn't feel like a dream. Everything was spinning, her head was hurting, and the way Henry was gripping her waist, as if he were scared that she would disappear, was feeling too real for it to be a dream. She just couldn't do anything anymore. She was lost, completely lost, and was feeling like she was going to implode. It was too much.

Her little boy was too scared to notice the state she was in right away. If he was a perceptive kid, he was sobbing too hard right now to really see what was happening. He was just a child, who'd been terrified of losing the people that he loved, his parents. Stuttering, panting, he said :

"I know you told me to stay in my room, Mom, and I went, but I couldn't stay there. I was hearing you fight, and I came back to see if I could do something to help you. I saw everything, I was so scared that something would happen to you. I'm sorry, I really am, but… these men… Are they dead?"

His words made their way through her troubled mind and hit her like a punch in the stomach. Dead, that sheriff really was dead, and it was all because of her. It hadn't been a dream. She'd killed someone, someone who probably had a family to feed, friends to love, an entire life in front of him. The life she'd stolen from him, like she'd stolen this damn bracelet. He was just doing his job, and if trying to kill Killian hadn't been the right way for him to deal with the situation, she was the one who'd been wrong in the first place. She was a criminal.

Not only a thief anymore. Also a murderer.

The reality of what had happened suddenly hit her, as the last hope that it was all a dream was shattering before her eyes. Her legs were still shaking, so hard that they weren't able to support her weight anymore. She collapsed as the adrenaline was disappearing from her veins, and her knees hit the deck in an awful noise that rang in her ears.

Surprised by this unexpected event, Henry let go of a gasp of fear, trying but failing to hold her up so she wouldn't fall. She was breathing so fast the air wasn't reaching her lungs anymore. Desperate, she wanted to sink her head into her hands, but stopped as a sob was escaping from her lips. Her fingers were sticky, covered in a red liquid that made her whimper. Blood. The blood of the man she'd killed.

Killian was busy sailing the ship, but the noises of her fall alarmed him, and he turned to see her collapsed there on the floor, Henry calling her without getting any answer. She vaguely saw her boyfriend's eyes grow wide with fear, but she couldn't be sure of it. Everything seemed distorted, her son's voice, Killian's face, the world in general. She couldn't tell what was real from what wasn't anymore.

Seeing that she wasn't responding, Killian called for their son to approach him. Henry reluctantly pulled away from her to run into his adoptive father's arms, and in a voice that he wanted steady, the latter said :

"We'll explain what happened later, lad. For now, I'm going to make sure that your mum is all right, aye? I taught you how to sail and I know you're really good at it. So I'm trusting you with taking the helm for a little while. If you have any doubt on what to do, don't hesitate to call me. I'll stay right beside you the all time, okay?"

Henry nodded, tears rolling down his cheeks in silence, and Killian dropped a kiss to the top of his head as he was approaching the helm without protesting. Trusting the safety of the Jolly Roger with a ten-year-old was a bit risky, but Henry was good at sailing, and they didn't have a choice anyway. They had to get out of this cursed place and they couldn't stop, but Killian also had to make sure that she was okay. Which she wasn't. Because nothing was right anymore.

"Emma? Darling, can you hear me?"

She hadn't even noticed that Killian had approached her to kneel on the floor and face her. Her mind had gone blank for a second, and when she looked up, she saw her boyfriend with his hand and hook on her shoulders, trying to get a reaction out of her. His voice was trembling with terror and worry, her behavior was horrifying to him, but she couldn't do anything to reassure him. She was feeling like nothing could reach her anymore. She was scared of herself, and was still processing what had just happened.

It'd all happened so damn fast.

Killian finally gave up on trying to make her say something, because he could guess that she was too shocked to do so. She could see tears rolling down his cheeks, but couldn't even reach to wipe them away. Knowing there was nothing else to do, he then pulled her close to him and wrapped his strong arms around her shaking figure, dropping a kiss to her temple.

His familiar touch and the smell of his leather coat finally allowed her to think a bit more clearly again. She found herself able to move, and she grabbed the back of his jacket as burning tears were escaping from her eyes and wetting his clothes. Face buried in his neck, she cried and cried, not knowing if she would be able to stop one day, not knowing if she could continue to live.

Killian didn't say a thing. He just held her and stroked her hair, caressed her back, kissed her cheek. She was sobbing so hard she couldn't breathe. Everything had crumbled. Nothing would ever be the same. In their pursuit to happiness, she'd taken someone's life. And it would never leave her. Because she was a terrible, awful person.

These were the first words that came out of her mouth when she finally found herself able to speak.

"I killed him." She whispered in a raspy voice. "I'm a monster."

"Emma, don't say that." He protested, his voice broken by her statement. "You're not a monster. It was just self-defense."

"Was it?" She said, pulling away from him to look at him in the eyes. He was crying too, tears wetting his gorgeous face and reddening his eyes. "Because it isn't true, I was wrong. He was just doing his job, and I could have knocked him out, instead of... I didn't think. And I… I..."

"Emma, I know how you feel." he said, cupping her cheek, trying to comfort her the best he could. "But without you, I'd be dead. You saved me. You saved Henry. You just wanted to protect us. You're not a monster. You're the most amazing, perfect woman I know."

He took her back against his chest, and she buried her face in his neck to breathe him in. She was feeling safe in his arms, loved, she was feeling like she wasn't such a bad person after all if such a wonderful man could love her. But his words didn't manage to erase the guilt that was choking her.

Nothing probably ever would.

She still knew that he was right about one thing. Without her intervention, he would have died. She hadn't thought about what she was doing, maybe she could have found a way to save Killian from the sheriff without taking his life, but she hadn't had the time to do so. The only thought that had crossed her mind was that she had to save her boyfriend and her son, because they were her entire world and, without them, the universe would stop. She'd protected those she loved, fiercely, because she couldn't even think about losing them. She'd done what she needed to, to save them.

But it still didn't make things right. Despite those reassuring thoughts, this certitude that, without her, Killian would have died, she still hated herself. She had never wanted to hurt anyone. But now she'd killed someone, and it would stay with her for the rest of her life. The face of the sheriff would haunt her dreams at night, and she deserved it, she thought, because she needed to be punished for what she'd done.

After a long, long while, her sobs started to get weaker, not because she was feeling any better, but because she didn't have enough strengths left to to keep on crying. She just wanted to curl up under her blankets and sleep for the rest of eternity, but she was aware that she couldn't do that. She had a family, and she had to be there for them. Especially now that they were on the run.

Seeing that she was settling down a bit, Killian pulled away once again to look at her. A deep frown appeared on his face when his eyes finally met the wound that the guard had traced on her skin during their fight, heavily bleeding on her arm. The adrenaline had kept the pain away, and she hadn't noticed that the cut was that deep until now.

Killian leaned to gently place his fingers on her arm, trying to see what he could do to stop the bleeding. She barely saw him. All she could think about was what the hell they could do next, now that she was a murderer, now that she hated herself, now that they were wanted for thefts and murder. Killian kept on staring at her wound as she was feeling her heart starting to pound faster again, because she didn't know if they could ever have a future. Finally, he started to talk, but she barely heard him.

"You need stitches, love."

She didn't pay attention to his words, looking somewhere above his shoulder, eyes lost in the blue immensity of the ocean. What was going to happen to them next? Would they be forced to run for the rest of their lives? "What are we gonna do, now?" She whimpered then. "I'm scared that selling the bracelet is too risky, now that everyone is looking for us. We're not even safe at the Dome, maybe the rumor of what I've done will get there. I don't want us to have gone through this for nothing. It's not possible!"

"Emma, breathe." Killian said, in an almost pleading voice. "We'll talk about this later, okay? We'll decide what to do. We have enough food to survive the journey, we're safe for now. But let me take care of you. I'm scared that your wound will get infected if we do nothing. We'll talk later, I promise, but first I have to take a look at this." Seeing that she wasn't answering, he added in a whisper. "Please, Swan. I don't want something to happen to you."

The concern shinning in his eyes drew Emma away from her dark thoughts. He was looking so scared that something bad would happen to her, and she just nodded slowly, showing him that she was accepting his help. She knew that he was right. Her wound was bad and she had to take care of it, even if, somehow, she wanted to punish herself for what she'd done. But she couldn't. Because she had a family and people to protect, and she couldn't let herself die out of guilt.

She saw a very small, relieved smile appear on Killian's face, and he kissed her forehead in a quiet thank you for letting him take good care of her. He briefly walked away to go fetch a needle and thread and be able to stitch her up, and she watched him go, not really knowing what she was feeling.

While he was gone, she looked around her as if she were seeing her surroundings for the first time. Still kneeling on the floor, her eyes met Henry, standing at the helm and looking so focused. He was sailing like the expert he would become one day, thanks to his father's lessons. But as he was careful to take them to safety, she could see that he was still glancing at her out of the corner of his eyes, as if to make sure that she was all right.

It's the expression her son was displaying that made her completely come back to reality. She had to be strong, for him. Because she wanted him to stay a child while he still could, and he couldn't worry about her. And Killian was right. If she'd done what she'd done, it was only because she loved them more than anything in the world. It was wrong and she was ashamed, but at least her son and boyfriend were both safe. She'd killed for them, and she would have died for them in a heartbeat. Because they were her world.

So she forced herself to hide this guilt that was devouring her from the inside, because her little boy needed her. She angrily wiped off the tears that were still rolling down her cheeks, and managed to stand up straight. It was too late, anyway. She couldn't change anything, she couldn't go back in time. She had to learn how to live with what she'd done. It was in the past now, and if her guilt would stay with her for the rest of her life, she had to keep on living.

For now, they had to focus on what they could do. They had to find a plan, figure out how they would be able to live while being on the run. It was all they had left, their last chance, and she wouldn't throw it away.

Faltering a bit because her legs still felt so weak, she walked to her son, who glanced at her with concern shinning deep in his eyes. He seemed so worried of what was going to happen, and she forced herself to give him a gentle smile. Placing a hand on his shoulder, she said in a bit shaky voice :

"Let me, kid. I'll do it."

He took a step back without saying a thing at first, but she could see that he was thinking deeply about the situation. She squeezed the helm so hard her knuckles turned white, but it actually helped her to stay steady and strong for her son. The little boy stared at her for a few seconds, then he finally moved, as if he'd just taken a decision. He wrapped his arms around her waist, and held her very close without saying a word, as if trying to reassure her.

She felt comforted by his embrace, but it only lasted a second. He still loved her, unconditionally, but she felt her heart tightening at the thought that she was setting the worst example for him. Getting fired because she'd punched her boss's son, stealing, and now killing someone. She hadn't meant to hurt anyone, but she was feeling like she was the worst mother on the planet. This little boy was wonderful, he deserved everything the world had to offer, and she was feeling unable to give him the future that he really deserved.

Tears had appeared in her eyes again when Henry started to talk in a small voice, in which every single one of his worries were audible. His arms still tightly locked around her, he said :

"You don't have to feel guilty, Mom, you know. It was an accident, you didn't do it on purpose. I saw everything, I know you didn't have the time to do anything else. That guy would have killed Killian if you hadn't done something. And I don't want to live without Killian."

His comment made her smile through the tears she was trying to ignore. Looking at the blue immensity stretching in front of them, full of possibilities, she dropped a kiss to the top of his head and ran her fingers through his hair. He was right. She'd done something incredibly wrong for a good reason : protect those she loved. Sometimes, good people were doing bad things. Maybe she wasn't such a horrible person after all. Maybe she was just a good soul who'd done a terrible thing.

Killian came back a few seconds later, and threw Emma a questioning glance when he saw her standing there, while he'd left her collapsed on the floor. She just nodded at him to show him that he didn't have to worry about her. She would stay strong for their little boy. She could think about what she'd done later, she could wallow in her guilt and punish herself by thinking about this day where everything had crumbled. For now, she had to stand up and find a way to fix their situation. It was the only productive thing she could do.

Killian offered her a slight smile to show her that he'd got her thoughts without her having to say anything. He didn't comment on the situation, and asked Henry to take the helm again while he was taking care of her. Emma sat down on the steps of the ship, while Killian was kneeling in front of her. Really gently, he rolled up the sleeve of her dress to reach her skin more easily, and she noticed that, if it hadn't been painful before, the wound was starting to hurt quite badly.

With his usual dexterity, Killian prepared the needle for the stitches, and he looked up at her to warn that it was going to hurt. She was ready for the pain, thinking that it was all that she deserved after what she'd done, but the bite of the rum her boyfriend poured on the wound to disinfect it still made her startle. He gave her an apologetic glance and let her take a deep breath before finally starting the job.

He met her eyes again when the needle entered her flesh, as it to make sure that she was all right, but quickly looked back at the thread so he wouldn't lose his focus. Emma violently bit her tongue in order to hide her pain and not worry him too much, trying to convince herself that it would only take a few minutes. To try and escape the moment, she dived back into her thoughts, but carefully left the murder aside. She would deal with that later. Now, she had to find a plan to get away from this horrible, horrifying situation.

They weren't only just thieves anymore. She was a murderer, and everyone who knew who she was would want her locked up. She'd killed the sheriff, the man who everyone respected, the one who was supposed to keep them safe. That was bad, very bad. They would be doomed if someone found them. And they needed to hide, so nothing could break their family.

Selling the bracelet would be risky, but no one knew their faces on the other side of the world. They would surely find someone ready to pay a good amount of gold to get that jewel. So their only solution was to hide their true identities, because if Killian was famous because of his years as a pirate, her name would also be known by a lot of people after what she'd done. She had to keep her loved ones safe.

In a few hours, their portraits would be plastered on every tree of the village that had seen her grow up. Their names would probably be written on the posters too, since everyone knew them there. The only way for them to get out of this was to start anew. Completely. New names, new lives, and maybe they would be okay.

She needed to let Emma Swan go.

She didn't even notice that Killian had finished his task, too deep in her thoughts to feel the pain of the needle in her skin. It's only when he placed his hand on her wrist that she realized she wasn't aching anymore. She met his gaze, and he looked so worried her heart actually skipped a beat. She didn't want him to feel bad, she didn't want him to suffer, so she managed to give him a very small smile. Even if her try resembled more of a wince than an actual grin, she felt him relaxing a bit against her.

In a very soft voice, he started to talk. "Are you all right, love?"

She just shrugged, not wanting to lie to him. She wasn't okay, and pretending that she was wouldn't help them, because he knew the truth, he always knew. "We need a plan, Killian. Something to get us out of here."

"I know." he sighed, and he was looking so exhausted tears of worry appeared in her eyes.

"Look." She then said, meeting his gaze once again. "I know that this is risky, but we should still try to sell the bracelet when we'll get to the Dome. I can go myself, find a merchant or a traveler, someone who would be ready to buy this jewel. They don't know me there, and they'll probably just think that I'm an honest farmer trying to feed her family. We can still get the money to start anew." She was surprised by how assured she sounded, because she really wasn't. But seeing the man she loved so worried was making her want to fight for him. Her feelings would come after, and she would allow herself to cry later. Now, she had to protect her family.

He didn't answer right away, seeming to think about her words. "Swan, are you sure about this?" He finally asked. "After everything we've been through, should we play with fire like that?"

She felt her jaw clenching, her gaze hardened, and she grabbed the bracelet she'd put on her lap while Killian was stitching her up. It was shinning in the sunlight, still utterly perfect, as if what had happened had just been a bad dream. Holding it between two fingers, as if she were scared it would hurt her, she showed it to Killian. She guessed that he knew what she was going to say before she actually said it.

"I refuse for us to have gone through hell for nothing. I..." She stuttered, briefly closing her eyes, the words refusing to come out of her mouth, and a bit muffled when they did. "I refuse for this man to have lost his life so we end up changing our mind because it's dangerous. We're doing this. We don't have a choice anyway. It's this or we start starving and stealing again. I can't do that anymore."

Killian stared at her for a long time after her little speech, and seemed to understand that she wouldn't change her mind. He was scared too, terrified to lose anyone, but he also knew that she was right. They couldn't have done all of that for nothing. "All right, darling. I trust you."

He smiled softly at her, and took the bracelet from her hand to place it in the safety of his coat. When he looked back up at her, dozens of ideas were running through her mind concerning how they could do it to stay hidden from the people chasing them. Her brain was working so quickly, as if to stop her from thinking about what she'd done.

"We need to change our names too." She said, chewing on her bottom lip. "If I'm sure that our portraits won't reach the Dome, because it's just too far away, our names can get there before we do. You know how the rumors work, and they work fast. For our own safety, we have to hide our true identities." She waited for a second before telling her mind, a bit scared that she would hurt the man she loved with her words. "We also have to find you something else than the hook to wear. I know." She said when she saw a shadow crossing his features, because if he was ashamed of his past, the hook was also a big part of his life and getting rid of it would be horribly painful. "I understand, I really do. But if we want to start anew, we have to do it properly. People have to think that we're ordinary people. We have to kill Emma Swan and Killian Jones."

Her sentences were harsh, she knew it, and Killian frowned at the way her voice had hardened on the last few words. He took her hand, their fingers interlacing. He then looked down at his hook and said with a sigh, slowly nodding at her.

"You're absolutely right. I have a prosthetic in one of the cupboards somewhere. We don't have a choice."

She gave him half a smile to show him that she knew how painful this was to get rid of what was making them who they were, as if they'd never existed. Despite how ashamed they both were of their pasts, despite the pain and the heartbreaks, they were still them, and changing that would be hard. But they had to do it. And they were both ready to do anything to save their family.

Killian wrapped his left arm around her waist to calm her down, still holding her hand. He could guess how terrified she actually was behind this armor of assurance. God, he knew her so well.

He seemed to be wanting to add something, but their son's voice rang behind Emma's back, making them startle slightly. He'd obviously heard their conversation and he asked a bit shyly : "What about me?"

"What do you mean, kid?" She asked as he was staring at them, frowning and looking truly worried about their future.

"Do I have to change my name, too?" He said, biting his bottom lip, and Emma could see how painful this possibility would be for him. He was still so young, she just wanted to protect him.

"You'll only have to change your last name." She then decided. "Keep your first name. No one will know who you are at the Dome."

He nodded, looking vaguely relieved, and looked back at the ocean as he was still sailing the ship. Emma sighed and turned toward Killian to notice that he was still staring at her with worry. The scar on her arm had started to slightly hurt again. Her boyfriend stroked her back, then moved to drop a kiss on her forehead, as if to make sure that she was okay. He whispered to her ear, then:

"We'll be fine, now, love. I promise. I won't let anything happen to you. We'll get through this."

After one last glance, he stood up to free Henry from his responsibilities. They spent the entire day on deck, their son snuggled in her arms, the salty ocean air like a promise that, somehow, their future would be better.

During this entire time, images of the lifeless body laying on the ground of the harbor appeared like flashes in her mind, and she had to force herself not to start crying. Henry was in her arm, and her job was to reassure him. She would deal with her feelings later.

Later, she would cry.

Later, she would hate herself for what she'd done.

The room looked so dark at night

She'd never noticed it before. Even the flickering flames of the candles couldn't keep the darkness at bay, and she was feeling like she was drowning in it.

Or maybe it was just what she was feeling inside. Darkness. The light had disappeared when she'd stabbed this poor man.

Laying on the bed in the captain's quarter, Emma wasn't even feeling strong enough to cry. She'd tried and managed to stay strong during the entire day, standing up for Henry and for Killian, trying to smile, to talk as if everything was okay. As if everything hadn't just crumbled. As if she hadn't taken a life.

But now that she was alone, everything that she'd tried to keep hidden inside was catching up with her. Henry was in bed, sleeping, maybe peacefully for the first time in days. Killian was busy lowering the sails for the night, now that they were far enough at sea to be untraceable if anyone was searching for them. And she was there, with her thoughts, with the flashes of the murder and the darkness in her heart.

Maybe she was going insane.

She was feeling like such a terrible person, and all she could think about was that she should have stayed and let herself get locked up. She deserved it, for what she'd done. She deserved to be punished. And if she knew she'd saved the man she loved, she was feeling like she should have been rotting in a cell right now. She was a danger, for everyone around her. They'd been left without money because of her, they'd got caught because of her, and Killian had almost died because of her.

A little voice at the back of her head was yelling that she'd done the right thing by running away. Killian had told her that he couldn't lose her, Henry needed her. They loved her. She'd just wanted to be there for a family.

But this voice was getting smaller and smaller. She was probably a danger for all of them, after all. Maybe they would be better off without her, maybe the world would be safer without her presence. She just wanted to protect them, and maybe the best way to do so was to let herself get caught. She'd put them in this position, and they would be happier without her.

She was a murderer after all.


She simply moved her head to look at Killian, who was now standing in the room. She was only half out of her awful thoughts, but guessed at the way he was watching her that it wasn't the first time he was saying her name. She hadn't heard him coming, but didn't say a thing. She just turned to watch the ceiling again. She wasn't sure she had the strength to do anything else anymore.

"What are you doing?" Killian then asked in a very soft voice, approaching her to sit on the edge of the bed. He was looking worried, and knew what was happening in her mind, obviously.

Her answer surprised her herself, but she said the first thing that came to her mind. "Do you think I'm a monster?"

He didn't answer right away, but she felt him stiffening beside her on the bed. He waited for her to finally meet his gaze, then took her hand to help her sit down next to him. She could see the tears that had appeared in his eyes at her question, and he wrapped his arm around her waist. His voice was full of pain when he finally answered.

"Emma, of course I don't think so, darling. I could never think something like that."

"But I've killed someone." She protested. Her voice sounded cold, as if her soul was not the same after what she'd done.

"And you've done so to save me." Killian said, his voice thick with sobs. "Neither Henry nor me will ever think that you're a monster. I've killed people in my past too, you know, I could never see you differently because of what happened. You chose to accept my past, and I'm accepting every single part of you. Bloody hell, Swan, you're the most amazing person I know. I love you, and..."

"Why?" She asked then, as if his last sentences hadn't even made their way to her.

"What do you mean?" He said, shaking his head in confusion.

"Why do you still love me after what I did?"

The sigh he let go of was horribly shaky, as if he were about to start crying. He held her just a little bit closer, and she finally allowed herself to rest her head against his chest. She wanted to punish herself, to break from his embrace because she didn't deserve his comfort, but she also needed to feel better. Needed to feel like she was still the woman she was before, that if she'd done a horrible thing, she could still be a good person, somehow.

"I will never stop loving you, do you hear me?" Killian said then, and she could hear the sobs stuck in his throat. "Emma, without you, I would be dead. You saved me, and I know, gods, I know how painful this situation is. I know you feel like a terrible person, but you're not. You just wanted to protect me. This event doesn't define who you are. Do not let that beautiful heart of yours get shattered by this. You're absolutely perfect, and I'm sorry you have to get through this. I'm so, so sorry."

She sighed against him, and wrapped her arms around him as well, feeling like the weight on her shoulders had got a bit less heavy at his words. At least, he still loved her, and maybe this would help her heal. Because her soul had been broken by the murder of this man, but perhaps, with the help of those she loved, she would manage to get back up. Killian was right. This wasn't defining who she was. She would be stronger than this.

She hoped that she would.

"This is all my fault." Killian continued then, and Emma frowned, feeling like she was suddenly coming back to reality and his statement worrying her beyond words.

"How so? It's not your fault, Killian."

"It is. If I had seen this man coming from behind me, like I should have, if I had heard him, if I had done something, you wouldn't have had to do this. It's my entire fault, and I'm sorry. I never wanted for you to have to go through this."

"If it's someone's fault, it's mine." She protested, looking up to see that he was now quietly crying. Seeing her in pain was killing him, and he just couldn't take it. "We've been forced to steal because I got fired. We've got caught because I couldn't control myself and panicked at the jewelry shop. And we're wanted because I've killed someone. It's all because of me. Not you. Never you. You're perfect." She said, gently wiping off the tears that were wetting his cheeks.

"I could tell the same thing to you, my beautiful lass." He whispered in a broken voice.

"I love you." She then stated, finding it so horrible that he could blame himself for what had happened, because it was all her fault.

"I love you, too. And you're perfect, Swan. Never, ever doubt that."

She didn't answer anything, but stayed in his arms, because it was soothing her and finally making her heart ache a little bit less. After a while, and without knowing how, she ended up falling asleep. She vaguely sensed Killian laying down with her on the bed and, her head still resting on his chest to hear his heartbeats, she dived into her dreams.

Dreams that turned into nightmares.

Suddenly, she was back at the harbor, fighting against the guards. The sheriff was there, and she wasn't in control of anything. She watched herself stab him once, then twice, then over and over again. There was blood, so much blood everything was red. People were yelling around her, telling her that she was a monster, a bad person, and that she didn't deserve to be alive, since she'd taken someone else's life. Monster, monster, monster.

She woke up with this word burning her lips and tears staining her cheeks.

Killian took her back against him in a matter of seconds. He'd obviously not fallen asleep yet, trying to make sure that she was going to be all right. But she wasn't, and she was feeling like she would never be again. Her heart was pounding and everything was aching, the worst of it being her soul. These people were right. She was a monster.

"Shh, love, I'm here." Killian whispered to her ear, gently rocking her against him. "Calm down, I've got you."

"I'm a horrible person." She sobbed in his arms, holding onto him for dear life. "Calvin always said that I was just a thief, and he was right. But now, I'm also a murderer. Eric told the truth all those years ago when he said that I would only bring unhappiness to the people around me. They both were right to hate me all along, they just saw right through me."

"Don't say that." Killian answered, sounding so pained by her words. "They were wrong, so wrong, because you're amazing, Emma. You really are. And everyone who thinks that you're not is wrong or doesn't know you. You're more important than anything, and you're making me happier than I've ever been in my life. Just having you by my side every day is a blessing. I love you, I love you so much. It's going to be all right. I promise."

She didn't fall back asleep that night, too afraid that these bad dreams would come back and make her fall deeper into that hole of distress she was in. But she just laid in Killian's arms and, eventually, his presence managed to calm her down.

She still knew that the face of the man she'd killed would haunt her nights, maybe forever.

She got up in the morning, feeling totally exhausted by her agitated night. But Killian was still there, watching over her, and seeing the black circles under his eyes, she knew he hadn't slept at all. It wasn't surprising, though. It was so like him, to stay awake to make sure that she was going to be okay. She didn't deserve him, she thought. But she was so, so happy to have him by her side.

As soon as Henry woke up, she forced herself to seem okay for him. Her son didn't need to see her crumble in addition to everything. He'd seen her kill someone. He'd been forced to move out of the only place he'd known for his entire life. He'd been hungry for weeks, and they didn't know what would happen to them in the future. She just wanted to protect him from getting even more hurt.

The day passed in an odd blur. She was still feeling so guilty, even if Killian's gentle kisses and embraces were making her feel a little bit better every time. He could see that she was feeling down, and was doing everything in his power to comfort her.

That evening, they found themselves laying in the bed of the captain's quarter. They were all exhausted and had decided to get to bed sooner, but they were unable to find sleep. Their son didn't seem willing to leave them even for a second, and he looked like he was about to start crying at any given moment. Emma was feeling incredibly bad to have made him so sad, because she just wanted him to be happy. She just hoped that, soon, she would be able to give him everything and more.

She was holding him against her, her breathing a bit uneven as she was once again trying to curb the guilt that was coming to her in violent and painful waves. She had to hide these emotions for her son, so she just held him a bit closer to show him that she was by his side, always, and that she wouldn't let him down.

She'd barely eaten since they'd left the harbor. The only reason why she'd forced herself to ingest something was because Killian had looked at her with eyes shinning with deep worry, and she'd just wanted to make him feel better. Her stomach was in knots, but it wasn't the only reason why she just couldn't eat normally. She was feeling like, somehow, she didn't deserve to keep on living while she'd taken this life. She wanted to punish herself, but she also knew that she couldn't. She had to keep on moving forward, even if it was horribly difficult. She had to do it for her family.

Killian had wrapped his arms around the both of them, holding them close against him. The air in the room was thick with fear and guilt, and it's Henry who broke that silence. As the gentle light of the moon was coming through the window and softly enlightening the place, he said in a small voice :

"I've thought about it, and I think I might have an idea for our new names."

Killian and Emma shared a glance, a bit surprised to hear their son offer something, but more than ready to listen to him. Maybe this would help them to get attached to their new identities, if it was their little boy who'd chosen them.

"We're listening, lad." Killian simply encouraged him in a gentle voice.

"Well..." Henry wavered for a second. "I was thinking about the name Stark. I've read it in one of my books. It's a strong name, and we need to be strong right now. Maybe it can help us."

In the darkness, Emma could see how moved Killian was by this sudden offer. She was, too. She tried but failed to smile at him, and held Henry a bit tighter, dropping a kiss to the top of his head. Stark. Maybe that was it. Maybe their son had just given them the start of their new life.

"It's a very good choice, kid." She said in a whisper. "I love it."

"I think I have ideas for your new first names, too." He said in a bit more confident voice that made her feel slightly better, because he seemed truly happy that his offer had pleased them. "I've read them in a book too, one of my favorite. It's about a prince and a princess, but they're not like any people. What I like about them is that they fight for what they want. They help people who need it and they're my favorite characters. They are heroes. I think you should wear their names. It would suit you."

Emma sighed and briefly closed her eyes, trying not to let her emotions take over her. She was so relieved. Henry was still seeing them as heroes, and it was making her feel so much better about what she'd done. Even if she knew the guilt would never completely go away, her son was still thinking that she was a good person. Maybe she wasn't such a bad mother after all.

"Tell us, lad." Killian said then, and she could hear in his voice how this statement was moving him as well.

"Their names are prince Charles and princess Leia."

Once again, Killian and Emma shared a glance, and they just knew what these names meant. That was it. They had their new identities. Their new life. "Charles, Leia and Henry Stark." Emma then said, tasting the words on her tongue.

It sounded perfect, as if representing the promise of a new life, a good one, one where they didn't have to suffer. As she was saying those names, she knew that they were ready to start anew, to leave the scars of the past behind them. It was all they needed. A new start. To have their shot at happiness.

"The Stark family is coming to the Dome." Killian stated then, showing what these names meant to him as well. "And we'll finally be happy. I promise."

Finally a bit comforted, they all managed to fall asleep a few minutes later. Her nightmares didn't come to haunt her, this time. As if the arms of those she loved were able to keep them at bay.

It was cold outside.

It was so cold she was shivering, the freezing wind reaching her bones, but she couldn't bring herself to care. She deserved it, she deserved to suffer. Sitting at the bow of the ship, her legs dangling above the sea, she wasn't moving. Somehow, watching the gentle waves crashing against the hull was calming her down a bit.

When she was awake, in broad day light with the two most important people of her life, she was managing pretty well given the circumstances. She would busy herself, helping Killian with the sails, staying with her son, avoiding to think about what she'd done. And she would manage to believe that everything was going to be all right, eventually.

But as soon as the night would chase the sun away, as soon as she would find herself alone with her thoughts, her demons would come back to life, stronger than ever. The face of the man she'd killed, all this blood, this horrible guilt. She was scared to fall asleep, because she didn't want to relive all of this. But she was also torturing herself by staying awake, reminiscing about the same few seconds over and over again.

Sitting right there, she was also thinking about everything that was going to change for them. Everything that already had.

They'd left the only place she and Henry had ever known, and didn't really know what they would find at the Dome. A region that had overcome the loss of an entire kingdom, or little villages struggling to find a place in this world? Killian had traveled all around the world, even in other realms, but he had never approached the Dome since it'd appeared. They were walking to the unknown, unable to guess if they would get a job, if they would starve or if they would manage to be happy.

She was thinking about their new identities, too. She had to let go of Emma Swan, and if she was the one who'd had this idea, it wasn't any less painful. Despite the pain, the heartbreaks, her name was who she was. And now she was Leia Stark, a stranger, someone she hoped would finally help her to be happy. The only thing comforting her was that she was still Emma for Killian and Henry, and maybe it was all that mattered. They were all that mattered.

And, mostly, she was thinking about the sheriff. She didn't even know his name, she didn't know if he had a family, children to feed, if she'd taken him away from people who loved him. She wanted to redeem herself, but had no idea of how she could, given what she'd done. It was so bad, she wasn't sure she would ever forgive herself. It was part of her, now. For the rest of her life, she would have to bear the guilt of killing someone.

And she was the only one to blame for that.


She startled, only recognizing Killian's voice a second later. She was tensed, as if ready to fight against a danger. Her body hadn't understood that they were safe yet, that she didn't have to fight anymore. But when the man she loved place his hand on her shoulder and sat down next to her, she relaxed a little bit. She turned to look at him, not knowing if he'd woken up because he'd wanted to make sure that the ship wasn't getting into any trouble, or because he hadn't felt her presence next to him on the bed anymore. Probably both.

Killian gave her a worried look and said in a soft whisper. "It's just me, you're safe."

She nodded, but didn't answer a thing. She wasn't sure she would manage to make her voice stay steady, and she didn't want to cry. Not again. She'd cried too much and it wouldn't bring that man back to life. She just had to keep on living.

"Are you all right? You must be cold in here." He said, his hand going down to take hers. "Don't you want to go inside?"

"The sea calms me down." She finally said.

Somehow, these simple words made tears appear in her eyes, and all the pain she'd tried to hide inside of her for the entire day came back to the surface. She felt her bottom lip starting to quiver, and Killian immediately noticed the state of distress she was in. Very gently, he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her temple, before saying in a low voice.

"You don't have to hide what you're feeling when you're with me, my love. I know you want to be strong for Henry and me, but telling your pain doesn't erase your wonderful strength. Crying doesn't make you weak. You're the strongest person that I know. The fact that you're aching just prove how amazing you are."

"I'm crying because I killed someone. Doesn't exactly make me a hero." She said in a muffled voice, but she buried her face in the crook of his neck, because he was so comforting.

"You never wanted to kill him, Emma. It was an accident. You did so to save me, because you would do anything for our family. You're human, love, and, sometimes, bad things happen. I've killed countless of people, and it won't ever leave me. It took time because I was blinded by my revenge, but I ended up understanding that it was wrong. And you know how? It's all because you help me be the best version of myself, every single day. You're perfect, Swan, so perfect. And I know it's painful, but I'll be there with you. Every step of the way. Nothing in the world could ever stop me from being by your side."

She sighed in his arms, and held him a little bit tighter. She knew that he was right, that his presence would help her. And if she didn't want to forget, because what she'd done was horrible, she hoped that, one day, it would hurt a little bit less. She hoped that she would be able to lead a life resembling a normal one.

"We'll be okay." Killian said, dropping another kiss to her forehead. "I promise."

She let those words sink in, and stayed for a very long time snuggled into his soothing embrace. The cold wasn't reaching her anymore. She was against him and, on that moment, she just wanted to stay there forever, because it was making her feel like she hadn't completely lost herself.

The journey lasted another ten days before they arrived to their destination. Ten days during which Emma went from moments of hope to moments of pure despair. Ten days during which she hated herself, then convinced herself that her family needed her. Ten exhausting days where she didn't really know who she was anymore.

Killian was always there for her when she was at her worst, holding her and whispering how much he loved her, promising her that everything would be okay. And at the end of these ten days, as they were vaguely seeing the coasts that would be their new home appearing in the morning fog, she finally felt a bit better. Beside the two most important people of her life, she'd found herself again. She was getting back up.

She'd killed someone, and if she wanted to punish herself for it, she also knew that it wasn't right. She should have found another way to defend Killian, but without her intervention, he would have died. And it was too late now, anyway. Continuing to wonder what would have happened if she'd thought about knocking the man out instead of killing him wasn't of any use. She'd hurt someone, and she would make amends for what she had done by bringing happiness to her family. And, one day, she would totally redeem herself. She didn't now how or where, but she knew she would. It was the right thing to do.

And life seemed to resume itself as she'd taken this decision.

She knew she wouldn't be able to forgive herself, so she chose to accept that. She also chose to stay strong and not crumble for the people that she loved. She wouldn't give up. She would stand up and live, because she just wanted to make Killian and Henry happy.

During these ten days where, luckily, the sea remained calm and the ship didn't have to go through any trouble, she often sat down at the bow of the Jolly Roger. Settled there, she would look at the waves beneath her, feeling so small in this blue immensity, like she could overcome anything. And it helped her, soothed her, and made her believe in the future.

It was there that she was sitting when their destination appeared in front of them. It was blurry at first, and she wondered for a minute whether she was just imagining things, but when it became clear that it was the coasts, she got back up to join Henry and Killian at the helm.

The sight became clearer quite quickly, and she couldn't help herself but let go of a surprised gasp when she finally saw what was standing there. Of course, she'd heard stories about the Dome for her entire life. The people of the Enchanted Forest loved to talk about what had happened the night it had appeared, and she'd seen illustrations of it in Henry's books. But she'd always thought that they were exaggerating things by picturing this dark mass, spreading on dozens of miles and seeming ready to swallow everything coming near.

But it wasn't the case.

From where they were standing, their could see the beach, the harbor, the trees and fields stretching far into the lands. But this sight was suddenly broken by this black mass launching into the sky, so tall it seemed to go higher than the clouds, higher than the sun. It seemed to be crushing everything beneath it, and Emma grabbed the handrail, feeling so minuscule in front of this worrying immensity.

Somewhere underneath this, Snow White, Prince Charming and their entire kingdom were stuck in time, and she just couldn't believe it. She couldn't imagine that someone had made this appear, that it hadn't always been there, because it seemed so threatening and eternal.

Henry came to snuggle beside her, and she wrapped her arm around his shoulder to hold him close. Looking at him, she noticed that he seemed as surprised as she was, his lips parted in fascination. She suddenly realized that he was finally seeing a part of his favorite story in this new reality that was now theirs. The legend of the lost princess was taking its roots there, and he seemed so reassured, even slightly content that they were really there.

Seeing this place meant so much to him, she could see it now. It relieved her, to see that her little boy didn't seem that sad to have left his native region, since they were now in the place sheltering all his dreams. She had a small smile, thinking that, maybe, they would be able to start anew in this place that was so important to her little boy.

"Look, kid. It's our new home." She whispered, and he looked up at her with a bright smile dancing on his lips.

She smiled back at him, feeling more peaceful than she'd been for days. They were there, they'd survived the journey, and despite the fact that they had no idea of what was awaiting for them on the other side, they would be all right. As long as they were all together, they could overcome anything.

She turned to look at Killian, who was still sailing the ship to their destination. He felt her gaze on him, and turned to look at her. A spark of relief shone in his eyes to finally see her relaxed, ready to start their new life. They shared a silent moment, and she lost herself in the blue of his eyes.

Their last days had been awful, horribly painful, but they'd made it. And now, they would be all right. She realized that she was convinced things would be okay from now on. The hardest was behind them, they just had to keep on going.

They were finally ready to live.

Chapter Text

They reached the harbor short after seeing the Dome for the first time. The winter was well settled now, and the first snowflakes were starting to fall from a white sky as they were approaching their destination. It was cold, but the cloaks they'd put around their shoulders were keeping them warm, and they were all too fascinated by these new beginnings to pay attention to the weather.

Emma couldn't believe that only a couple of months had passed since she'd got fired. It'd felt like an eternity, and she took a moment to recall everything they'd gone through in such little time. The way they'd starved, their thefts and, finally, the murder. They were ready to put that behind them, now. They needed to do so, to completely embrace their new lives. From now on, they were the Stark family, and nothing would be able to take their shot at happiness away from them.

They really hoped so, anyway.

They tied the Jolly Roger up at the harbor, praying that nobody would recognize the ship. She was pretty famous, but they'd been careful to hide everything that could make her look like a pirate ship during their journey, and they could only hope that no one would pay attention to them or their boat. They'd done everything in their power to be safe. All that was left to do was to wait and see what was coming next.

Killian had traded his hook for a wooden prosthesis, and if Emma could see that being away from this item that had become a part of him was bothering him a bit, he wasn't complaining. He knew that they didn't have a choice. She'd cut Henry's hair during the journey as it was getting a bit too long, as if to prepare him for this new life in this unknown place. And she'd herself changed her usual dresses for a tunic and linen pants, wanting to look like a farmer for the strangers they would meet there.

It's only as they were ready to step into these new lands that Emma realized they'd unconsciously made all this changes, as if to help them embrace their new identities. New prosthesis, new haircut, new clothes. New people. The Swan-Jones family was gone. The Stark had replaced them without them even noticing it.

It's with a mix of relief and fear that they got out of the Jolly Roger. Relief that they'd made it through the journey without any issues, without getting caught and that they were still alive and well. Fear that their hopes would crumble and that someone would recognize them and change their fate forever. Henry grabbed both his parents' hands as they were slowly walking away from the harbor, afraid of what was going to happen.

There was nothing left to do but to keep on moving forward, though, and they all knew it.

They were tensed at first when they arrived in a little village near the harbor, stiffening each time they would meet someone, wondering if they were being recognized when the citizens would stare at them for a second too long. But they ended up realizing that these looks the people were giving them was because they were strangers in this place, and not because they were aware of what they'd done to get there. No one knew them. They were safe. Finally.

They spent the rest of the afternoon exploring their new region, more and more confident that they would be okay, since no one seemed to be frightened by their presence there. Without the fear weighing on their shoulders, they found themselves finally able to enjoy what would now be their home. They walked for hours, until the sun had long disappeared from the sky, wanting to see everything that was to see, so they could know this place like they'd always lived there.

And, in the presence of the two people she loved most and the safety of this new region, Emma finally managed to let go of what she'd done in her native village. She was still feeling the guilt creeping in her chest, and knew it would probably never disappear, but she chose to leave what had happened to the past. A past she wouldn't forget, but that she had to accept so she could let go. And, with this choice, she felt more peaceful than she'd been in days.

They crossed several wheat fields stretching beyond the horizon, Henry and Emma in awe of these landscapes they'd barely ever seen. In their former region, the villages, the cities and the forest were ruling the place, leaving very little space for fields and grazing lands. They existed, of course, they needed to, but they were so much smaller than what they were seeing now.

Here, between the towns, the fields were huge and numerous. A bit further, when approaching the Dome, a forest was stretching for miles, the trees tall and majestic, their branches covered in white. Everything seemed bigger, brighter, and the snow that was slowly covering the place was only making their visit even more magical.

They were going to be okay, she knew it now.

This part of the world also seemed so much richer than what Emma had been used to for her entire life. Maybe it was all just a facade, but most of the villages they'd expected to meet were actually towns, even if those cities were nothing compared to what was imprisoned underneath the Dome. They'd just grown bigger when the kingdom had disappeared, and seemed to be doing pretty well, considering the roads, the shops, the taverns and the people walking around them and talking loudly in the darkness of the evening.

They would only see the downside of this place later. Now, they were way too excited to start their new life to pay attention to what was really happening around them.

They walked into one of those huge towns, trying to see what was happening in there, and wanting to etch this place into their memories. They needed to find a job there, and she suddenly wondered what they would end up doing. Waitress, merchant, farmer, she was ready to do anything if that meant that they would be happy and safe. That's all she wanted for her family.

They only walked back to the Jolly Roger much later, as the moon was shinning in a starless sky and the snow was continuing to fall in big flakes, ready to completely cover the world. Their minds were filled with all their new discoveries, the animals they'd met in the forest, the fields they'd crossed, the towns they'd visited, and their hearts were full of hope for this new life starting for them.

When she fell asleep against Killian that night, she slept peacefully, without any nightmares, for the first time since the murder.

The next day, the were feeling like different people. It'd really sunk in during the night that they were arrived, that they were able to start anew, that they'd made it. That maybe they didn't have to suffer anymore. Emma and Killian spent a long time just laying in each other's arms, her head against his chest, listening to his heartbeats as he was running his fingers through her blond locks.

"We really did it." She whispered, and he dropped a kiss to her head, holding her so close to him.

"We did, love. And we're going to be happy."

"I hope so." She was about to add that she hoped she deserved to know happiness after what she'd done, but he already knew what she was thinking. He just stroked her back in a soothing gesture that made her sigh, and forget about her dark thoughts. One day, they would be completely fine. They just had to keep on going.

They decided to search for someone who would want to buy the bracelet the very same day. They needed the money, their food supplies were almost completely gone, but that wasn't it. She was feeling like the jewel was weighing in her pockets like a ton of worries. It was holding her back, preventing her from completely moving froward, because always reminding her of the mistakes she'd made along the way. The terrible mistake she'd made by murdering this man.

Carrying this reminder of her crimes was too much, and she was feeling like it would always stop her from being completely happy about their new life. She needed to get rid of it, and she needed to do it fast. They needed that to really let Killian Jones and Emma Swan go for good.

They also knew that they would need time before managing to get a job. They were strangers in this region, they didn't really know how things worked there, and they needed to get used to their new home before finding a place that would offer them something. They needed to hurry to sell the bracelet then, because they couldn't let themselves starve again, she wasn't sure they would be able to survive this another time.

She was more than ready to let go of her past.

They left the ship as the sun had started to rise in the sky, wanting to do everything they could to be able to find a potential buyer. Henry stayed on the Jolly Roger, for his own safety. Going with his parents would maybe seem suspicious to the people they would try to sell the bracelet to, and they preferred for him to stay on the ship since they didn't really know what was awaiting for them out there.

The little boy didn't protest when they asked him to stay there, but didn't manage to hide the worry shinning in his eyes. The last time his parents had gone without him, they'd come back with guards behind them, and it'd ended up with a murder. He was scared of something happening to them again, but they both reassured him the best they could.

"Nothing bad can happen to us here, lad." Killian said, his hand placed on the little boy's shoulder. "We'll be right back, it's a promise."

Their son just nodded and, just like that, they were gone.

They walked for the entire day through the fields and the towns, trying to find people who would look like they could buy such an expensive item. They got back on the ship at noon to reassure Henry, but went right back at it, so they wouldn't lose any time. They really wanted to get rid of the bracelet as soon as possible, and they walked and walked, hand in hand, in silence most of the time, impatient to finally find their future buyer. To finally start to live again.

They found what they were looking for as the sun was slowly setting, painting the sky in orange, pink and red. They arrived in a meadow, a few miles from the harbor, and discovered a strange activity going on there. A camp seemed to slowly be taking place, despite the freezing cold, the travelers probably being too numerous for them to all sleep in an inn. There were people yelling orders, horses and oxen that were probably pulling the dozen of carriages standing in the grass, and tents that were quickly getting set up.

This was definitely a good place to find someone rich enough, the leader of the travel trailers, and sell the cursed bracelet.

Emma and Killian knelt behind a bush so they were invisible to the sentinels' eyes. They just stayed still and watched the hustle and bustle of the camp for a long while, trying to spot the leader and, mostly, to know if they were rich enough to buy a jewel that valuable, and give them the money they needed to be able to live.

Their hands stayed interlaced during this all time, and she pressed his fingers between hers when she noticed the man standing in the middle of the meadow, knowing he was without the shadow of a doubt the leader they were looking for. He was in his fifties, and was wearing fancy clothes and a long red cape, walking in an assured way and giving orders to the people around him. Emma immediately understood that he was the perfect target. She just had to be brave enough to go talk to him.

It was risky, scary, because they didn't know from where these people were. Maybe they were from their former region and had heard about their crimes. She forced herself not to think about this possibility, since it was very unlikely that they'd crossed the entire Enchanted Forest in such little time. Impossible, even. She shared a glance with Killian, still afraid that this decision would be what would make everything crumble once again.

"It's all right, love." Killian whispered to her ear, guessing her fears. "If they do come from our former region, they left way before we stole the bracelet. They don't know us. We're safe, I'm sure of it."

"Do you think this is the right thing to do?" She asked, biting her bottom lip.

"I really do." He answered gently.

They'd decided that she would be the only one to go sell the bracelet, because they were still a bit afraid that Killian's reputation had followed him, and they didn't want to blow their cover. Suddenly, she was hoping that he could come with her and not stay hidden in these bushes. She would have felt better with him by her side, but she also knew that she didn't have a choice. She had to act sooner or later, anyway. They couldn't stay there forever.

It was now or never.

Still hesitating a bit, she saw a young woman, almost a teenager, getting close to the man they were watching, and the lord's face softened. Emma guessed at the way he was talking to her, even if she couldn't hear their conversation, that she was close to him. Probably his daughter. The reason why she'd made all the way with the caravans and her father was and would probably remain a mystery, but she interpreted this as a sign. A young lady would be more than interested by this beautiful marvel she would show her. She needed to give it a try.

Killian had seen the teenage girl as well, and they shared one last silent glance. He knew the plan by heart, and he pressed her fingers between his one last time without saying a word. She understood what he was trying to tell her without difficulty. Be careful, love. I love you. Comforted by his familiar touch, she finally decided to act, and see if they could reach a better life.

Still crouching, she discreetly went back to the main path, as Killian was staying in his hiding place. She got up then, trying to pretend that she'd never left the road, approaching the camp in a way she wanted to seem assured, even if she was a bit scared of what was going to happen next.

She didn't give the sentinels guarding the camp the chance to stop her. She immediately walked to one of the armed men standing there, and he offered her a surprised glance as she was stopping in front of him. He was tall, strong, and she swallowed hardly, remembering the last time she'd met a guard like him and what had happened next. Trying to ignore her feelings, she then straightened, lifted her chin up, and asked.

"Could I speak to the leader of this caravan, please?"

"What do you want?" He said a bit rudely, vaguely suspicious of her behavior.

"I have something that could interest your employer." She answered vaguely, even if she was sure that she would need to give him more before he accepted to let her walk into the camp. If he accepted at all.

"Which is?"

He didn't seem impressed, and she sighed, getting the bracelet out of the little bag she was carrying. The man opened his eyes wide at the diamonds shinning in front of him, and she continued. "This. I'm searching for a buyer. Do you really want your boss to miss such an opportunity?"

"Why do you want to sell something this precious?" He asked, frowning.

"Because I need money." She said, refraining the need to roll her eyes, the conversation making her nervous. "Look, if you don't want to let me in, just tell me right now. I don't have any time to waste. I just thought this could interest whoever is in charge here."

The guard seemed to hesitate for a bit, and she raised her eyebrows, her heart pounding fast in her chest as she was aware that everything could change. She could be allowed to talk to the lord, or she would go home with the bracelet in her pocket and without any money. And she really needed the latter, because starving and stealing again wasn't a possibility.

"What's going on, here?"

The deep voice coming from behind the guard made them both startle. The sentinel turned to face his employer, as Emma was straightening a bit more and clearing her throat, a bit unbalanced by this unexpected event. But she also quickly realized that it was her chance to get what she wanted. The man was standing there, waiting for an answer, and she could talk to him, try to convince him to buy this bracelet that had cost her so much.

Maybe luck was on their side for once.

"Hello, sir." She started, trying to sound more confident than she actually was. "I apologize for bothering you, but I was trying to ask if I could speak to you."

"And what for, if I may ask?" He said, staring at her with suspicion shinning in his eyes. She noticed his hand near his dagger, as if he were ready for a fight. "I don't know you."

"Well, I have an offer that might interest you."

"I'm listening."

Emma took a deep breath, and saw out of the corner of her eyes that the teenage girl she'd noticed before was now walking to join them, looking at her with curiosity. Emma could now see that she was younger than she'd thought in the first place, as she seemed to be barely sixteen. In silence, she came to stand next to her father, and kept looking at Emma with big brown eyes shinning in impatience of what this stranger had to say to them.

"My husband and I own a farm a few miles from here." She lied. "But we're struggling a bit, our products don't sell well, and we're lacking gold. I've started searching for a job in town, but I haven't found anything yet. And we need money, we have a ten-year-old to feed."

"Could you get to the point?" He said, looking annoyed, and Emma blinked in surprise. "I don't have time to waste, and these details about your life don't interest me."

Emma's first impulse was to reply something, to put him back in his place, because he was being incredibly rude to her. She felt the unfairness in the way he was treating her so strongly. He was behaving just like Calvin. Just because he'd been born a rich man and she was just a woman struggling with money didn't mean that he had to disrespect her.

Her heart pounding fast in her chest, she still realized that she would gain more by playing meek than by fighting back. It was her only chance of selling him the bracelet. It wasn't like her, but she was playing a part, and she damn well intended to do it perfectly.

She then looked down to seem falsely sheepish, and showed the jewel she was still holding to the man, avoiding his gaze. She noticed right away that his eyes were staring at the diamonds with a sudden interest, and she said in the same steady and calm voice she'd used before.

"It belonged to my grandmother, and she gave it to me when she died. It's worth a lot of money. I don't have a choice but to sell it, now. Would you be willing to buy it?"

He blinked a few times, seeming to think, and she hoped for a second that maybe he would accept. But he ended up shaking his head, and she held back a sigh of disappointment. "I already have jewels like that and I have other things to do. Go back to your farm and leave my camp, I need to make it ready for the night."

Emma opened her mouth to insist, despite the anger boiling in her veins. He was treating her like dirt, and she would have loved to show him just how wrong he was, but she held herself back, knowing it wasn't the right way to deal with the situation. The images of the murder appeared in her mind once again, and a little voice at the back of her head yelled that maybe she deserved that kind of treatment after all, given what she'd done.

But the teenage girl started to talk before Emma could say a thing, bringing her back to reality. She wondered for a second if these kind of thoughts would continue to haunt her for long, but she started listening to the young girl, guessing that something important was going to happen. Her eyes shinning, a smile on her face, she said in a childlike voice :

"Father, wait, please. This bracelet is gorgeous. Can't I have it?"

"You already have dozens of bracelets like that, Ilana." The man answered, but he seemed more gentle, as if the presence of his daughter was soothing him.

"Not like this one! It's red, and it would be so beautiful with my gown for the ball. Please?" She added, giving him pleading eyes that almost made Emma smile.

She wondered for a bit what it was like to have that kind of life, where everything you ever wanted was handed to you on a silver platter. She'd only known struggles, hunger and cold. She'd never been to any ball, and had had to fight for her entire life in order to survive. But she quickly realized that she wasn't longing for that existence, either. She just needed a bit of gold, and her son and Killian by her side. They were enough for her to be happy.

The lord sighed, but Emma immediately understood that he was going to say yes. He was looking at his daughter with so much pride, his face finally relaxed and open, so different from the man who'd talked to her before. She knew what it was like, to feel so proud of a child, and she knew he would have done anything to make Ilana happy. As she would have done anything in her power to see her little boy smile.

"All right then, darling. If it makes you happy." The father said, turning to look at Emma. "I'll give you ten coins of gold for it."

"Are you joking?" She answered right away, knowing that he would do anything to get the jewel for his daughter. "It's worth at least five times more than that."

"Thirty, then."

"Forty-five, I won't go any lower."

The man held her gaze for a few seconds, as if to see if she was going to get scared and surrender, but Emma was determined to get enough gold to survive for at least a few weeks. This amount would provide them with everything they needed for a long time, and her heart was beating so fast, because if she managed to win the negotiation, she would protect her family, and they would finally be able to live normally.

After a few seconds of silent staring, the man ended up nodding, and Emma almost sighed in relief, but managed to keep on looking as professional as she could. The teenage girl let go of a little cry of excitement, thanking her father, as he was reaching for his purse to give Emma the money he owed her. She handed him the bracelet while taking the leather purse in her hand, and held back a gasp of surprise at how heavy it felt. She suddenly realized she'd never owned that much money before, and tears of joy appeared in her eyes.

That was it. They wouldn't have to worry about money anymore.

Ilana immediately put the bracelet around her wrist, staring at it in awe, as her father was smiling at how happy she seemed. He turned back to Emma then, and she noticed that he wasn't looking as arrogant as he'd been before. He was looking at her almost respectfully, as if he was holding her accountable for his daughter's happiness. She was tying the purse up to her belt when he started to talk again.

"You said you were searching for a job here, didn't you? What are you looking for?"

"Anything, really." She answered, seeing an opportunity to know where she could find someone who would be ready to hire her. "I'm resourceful. I just want to help my family survive."

"Good luck with that." He said with an apologetic shrug, making her frown in confusion.

"What do you mean?"

"Don't you know?" he said, looking a bit surprised, since he thought that she was living in the region for years. "Ever since the Dome appeared, for what I know, it's not easy to live in this part of the Enchanted Forest. The economy is at its worst given what's happened all those decades ago, and the merchants cannot pay their employees anymore. You'll need courage and a bit of luck to find someone ready to hire you here."

"I can't say that I have a lot of luck, but I do have courage." She answered, trying to hide the crippling fear tightening her chest at the thought that they'd chosen the wrong place, that they would end up starving again. She couldn't believe that they'd come to a region facing an economic crisis. "I should get to work, then. It was a pleasure to meet you, sir."

"Likewise." He said, turning to glance at his daughter for a second. "You do not seem very sad to get rid of your grandmother's bracelet, though." He added, and she held back a wince of fear, terrified that he'd guessed she'd lied to him.

"I never really liked her." She just answered then, before adding to put an end to this conversation that had taken a dangerous turn. "Goodbye, sir"

She turned to walk away from the meadow, trying to stop her hands from shaking. She was all right, he hadn't called for the help of his sentinels and hadn't seemed afraid, just maybe a bit suspicious that she'd lied to him. She was just hoping he wouldn't discover that the bracelet had been stolen in the first place, or she would be in very big trouble. She just forced herself to keep on walking, comforted by the weight of the purse at her belt, telling the tale of a better life awaiting for them, perhaps. If they were being careful, anyway.

She went back to the main path, and waited for Killian to discreetly get away from the bushes and join her behind a tree. She didn't say a thing at first, just showed him the purse she was carrying, and he almost let go of a cry of joy when he noticed how heavy it was. He'd witnessed the entire conversation, but had been too far away to really hear or see what was happening. He wrapped his arms around her, so tight he almost lifted her up from the ground, and whispered to her ear.

"You did it, Swan. God, you're amazing."

She sighed as he was kissing her cheek, but pulled away to look at him in the eyes. Her happiness was darkened by the fear that the lord would end up discovering who she really was, and by the worry that they wouldn't find jobs there either. She just wanted to lead a normal life, and she was scared it would never happen.

As Killian was frowning, noticing that she wasn't as happy as she should have been, she started explaining her doubts to him, everything that she was feeling inside. Her fear that the man knew that she was a thief and would discover that she'd killed someone, and the fact that she didn't know if they would really be able to start anew given the economic status of the region.

He listened to her carefully, and if he looked concerned for a second, he quickly regained his smile. His arms still wrapped around her waist, he said in an assured way that made the weight on her shoulders disappear. "You don't need to worry, love. This man doesn't have any idea of who you are, we're too far away from our former region for that. And we have enough gold to survive for weeks, thanks to what you've just done. We'll figure things out. I'm sure we're going to be all right."

Comforted by his assurance, she ended up smiling back at him, and she put herself on her tiptoe to press her lips against his for a gentle, tender kiss that lasted for a few seconds. Then, with the certitude that they would be okay, they went back to the Jolly Roger, hand in hand, carrying a new hope in their hearts.

Everything would end up being right in the world. They would get to know their happy ending.

That night, they chose to ignore all the doubts they still had about their future, and focus on the joy of having enough money to survive for a long time and not have to worry about starving again. And they made love, in their little bed, trying to hold their screams back as they were falling into the depth of their pleasure.

They'd had sex since they'd left their former region, sure, but this time, it was different. For the last ten days, they'd always been held back by their worries, her guilt, and the unknown they were trying to reach. This time, they were able to really enjoy the moment, and it was so good Emma literally saw stars as she was digging her nails into the skin of Killian's back.

No matter if they had to let their true identities go while being outside of the Jolly Roger. When they were together, they were still Emma Swan and Killian Jones, and that was all they needed to be okay.

The very next day, they decided to try and search for a job, right away. Their hope of managing to live their dream one day was starting to arise once again in their hearts, this dream that had been forgotten after everything that had happened to them. With the gold they now owned and if they could find a job in the next few days, they would be able to go and live all around the world, someday.

Not right away, sure, they needed to take their time, so what they'd done could be forgotten in the fog of the past. In a few months, a year at the most, they wouldn't be wanted anymore. The Enchanted Forest was quick to forget, the criminals were too numerous to remember every single one of them. They would finally be able to live their dream life then. They just needed to keep on going until then.

Maybe their lucky star had finally found them, and they would be able to do what they'd always wanted.

But after a few days, they realized that the lord had been right all along. Finding a job in this part of the Enchanted Forest was almost impossible. They were trying their best, but were only meeting the apologetic looks of the employers answering that they couldn't do anything for them. They were visiting every town near the harbor, were entering every shop, every tavern, but couldn't manage to find a thing. Nobody was ready to hire them.

The emergence of the Dome had caused the start of an economic crisis that was lasting for almost thirty years, now. Without royalty to rule, the lords had tried to build little empires that had only met revolutions and anger before crumbling due to lack of resources.

If the towns were huge and the citizens numerous, it was to hide the true poverty behind these layers of luxury. They'd been fooled the first time they'd entered one of these cities, too happy to be finally arrived and out of danger, but they could see the reality of this place, now.

The taverns were almost empty, as the people didn't have enough money to go eat in such establishments, and dozens of beggars were wandering the streets, in search of a few coins no one was able to give them. Everyone was carrying some kind of weapon to be prepared for assaults that weren't rare, and only the lords and ladies were staying safe, refusing to give their money to the poor people starving in the streets.

Emma was having flashes of her childhood when seeing those strangers sitting on the ground, looking down with sadness at their empty pockets. She gave a couple of coins to a few of them, but knew that she couldn't do more. She would have wanted to, but they needed this money too, if they didn't want to start starving again. It was making her so sad, to see these people and not be able to really do something for them as she was walking the streets, holding Killian's hand, and she was wondering if they'd taken the right decision to come here.

"It's going to be all right." Killian would whisper to her at night, as she was struggling to find sleep. "We'll stay a bit longer, and if we can't find anything, we can change region again. We have a ship, we don't need to stay here if we're in danger. I promise you everything is going to be just fine."

It's two weeks after their arrival, as they were seriously discussing the possibility of taking the Jolly Roger to move out again, that a solution offered itself to them. They discovered this answer to all their problems while walking the villages around the bigger towns, trying to see if they couldn't find anything there either. And they found it in the middle of the forest, in a clearing hidden between the trees.

The trades were dying, and that's why something much bigger had been born in this place. A bit out of the town that was the closest to the harbor, and hidden in the forest so the authorities couldn't see its existence, a black market was standing, crowded and yet strangely silent. People were talking in low voices, probably so the lords and guards passing by couldn't notice them. And Emma and Killian stood there for a few minutes, lips parted and completely still, wondering what they'd just discovered and how they hadn't heard about it sooner.

People of all ages were offering their services, behind makeshift stalls covered in everything one could ever need. Clothes, food, weapons, books, furniture, everything could be found in this place, ringing with the desperate whispers of people on the edge of poverty. But most of all, what made Emma and Killian sigh in relief, was that everything was cheap, so the people who knew the existence of the place could afford everything they needed.

They didn't need to confer to know that this would now be the place they would visit to get whatever they needed to survive.

For the first few days, they both only went there to buy things to eat and new clothes for Henry. As they were becoming regular clients, they started to talk with the merchants there, realizing that they were only people just like them who just wanted a bit of money. This place had been the solution for them to stay alive, and Emma and Killian quickly became familiar with the people working in this place.

They would never bring Henry with them, though, not wanting for their son to get involved in these illegal activities. But they were so relieved. With this system, they could make sure that they were able to find food without spending too much money, and were delaying their departure for another region. The family was tired, tired of all these false hopes, and they just wanted, for now, to be able to lead a normal life. Until they could reach their dream, they just wanted to be left in peace. Just this once.

After a few more days, it became clear that they wouldn't find jobs in this region that had seemed so promising at first. And it's while talking with one of the man working on the market, Felix, an old gentleman who was selling kitchen utensils that he was making himself, that they found an idea to keep on going. They'd slowly become acquainted with the merchant, moved by the story of his life, and he was the one who offered them the possibility to stay in this region, to earn some money and to keep safe.

"Why wouldn't you sell things here yourself?" He said with a shrug, as they were looking at the spoons on his stall. "That would be a good way for you to get some money, and I'm sure that you have something to offer us."

Killian and Emma shared a surprised glance, wondering how they hadn't thought about this sooner. She knew it was probably because they didn't want to get into more illegal things, but it was obvious that they didn't have a choice anymore. "Why not." Killian whispered to her ear then, grabbing her hand as a new hope was filling their souls once again.

"What could we sell that isn't already available here?" She answered back, looking at Felix and trying to think about what to do next.

They both looked around these stalls, ready to disappear at the smallest suspicious sound, so the rich people would never know about the existence of the market. And, as they were thanking Felix for his idea, and walking between these now familiar paths, they both noticed at the same time what was missing from this place.

The market was offering all kind of meat : Beef, horse, sheep, expect one very important thing. Game meat. No trace of stags, boars or hares, and if Emma had learned something at the tavern, it was that people loved that kind of food.

Maybe they'd found their idea, they realized, as they were sharing another look, mix of hope and relief.

Except that another problem was presenting itself. Killian, with only one hand, couldn't hold a bow to get that kind of product. And she didn't know how to hunt.

She hadn't had the opportunity to learn how to, back in her former region. If only animals had still been living in this part of the Enchanted Forest, she would have worked on this in a heartbeat to be able to bring food back home. But the humans had scared the other beings away, and the life that had once grown between the trees was long gone.

But where they were living now, it was different. The forest was so out of town that human activities were pretty unusual there. In addition to that, the animals had taken the territory back after the emergence of the Dome, since no one was daring to approach the black mass. Stags and boars were easy to find between the trees, and that would have been the perfect solution to all of their problems. If only she'd known how to use a weapon.

But Killian brought the solution to her the same day. They were back on the Jolly Roger, laying in their bed and discussing the possibility of selling things on the black market to save a bit more gold and be able to live their dream, one day. They were wrapped in a tight embrace, their naked skin touching, and she started to talk as they were finally breathing normally again after their previous activities.

"I wish I knew how to hunt. Everything would be perfect if I could go and bring meat back home, you know?"

"If I hadn't lost my hand, I could have helped. I was pretty good back in the days." He answered, and she lifted her head up, raising her eyebrows in question

"You know how to hunt?" She asked in surprise.

"Of course. Haven't I told you?"

She shook her head, ready to hear more about this hidden talent. She wasn't feeling offended by this part of his life that he hadn't shared with her. She knew everything that had really mattered to him, and he'd lived for too many years to really tell her everything that he had ever done. She knew that some details about his life were still a mystery to her, and she was accepting that. He smiled at her, pressing a kiss to the top of her head.

"I apologize for never saying anything about it, love."

"That's fine." She answered, leaning back against his chest to hear his heartbeats. "How did you learn?"

"Back when I still had both my hands and was only a lad, my brother used to teach me how to use a bow, when we weren't at sea. I practiced for years by his side. I really was a good archer."

"Do you think you could teach me?" She asked without thinking about it. When he looked down at her with his eyebrows raised, she sighed, realizing that this possibility would only remain a dream. "Never mind. We need a bow for that."

Once again, he had the solution to their problem, and erased the bitterness in her tone. "I don't see why this is a problem. We still have most of the money we earned by selling the bracelet. We can buy a bow and some arrows."

"This will be expensive." She winced, and he just shrugged at that.

"It's an investment. I know you, Swan." He explained with a slight smile when he noticed her surprised expression. "You learn fast. With a bit of time, you'll be able to hunt well enough, and we'll sell our meat on the market. Wouldn't that be wonderful? We'll be able to have food for ourselves, and to sell the rest. We could really save some gold, here. It's the perfect solution."

"I think your faith in me is a bit too strong." She chuckled, not really knowing if she could learn that fast for the investment to really work. "I've never used a bow in my life. That could take time, time that we don't have."

"Come on now, darling." he gently encouraged her. "You don't give yourself enough credits. You can do it. If I'm being honest, I'm sure that you can do anything you set your mind to. I'm just saying the truth." he added, seeing the skeptical look she was throwing his way. "You amaze me a little bit more every day."

It made her sigh in his arms as she was kissing his collar bones. Sometimes, she was feeling like he was believing in her enough for the both of them. He was giving her so much confidence, she suddenly felt like maybe he was right. Maybe she could do it.

In a quiet thank you for always being so wonderful to her, her mouth found his skin again to trace a path of little kisses down his chest. As she was straddling him, his fingers ran through her hair, and she knew that they were in for another round of pretty enjoyable activities a few minutes after finishing their last ones.

They went to choose a bow and arrow in one of the shops in town the next day. Half of what they still had from their gold disappeared with this purchase, but it was a very solid weapon that wouldn't break, no matter what they would do with it. It was beautiful, too. Bright red, and the arrows they bought with it were effective and fast. Emma was a bit scared of all the money they'd spent, but they didn't have a choice. It was that, or they wouldn't find a job, and they really needed one.

They directly went to the forest to try the new bow, as Henry was staying on the ship to protect himself from the cold. The snow had slowly melted since they'd arrived, but it was still freezing cold, and they were hoping that, soon, the animals would be back out there and the weather would be a bit less difficult so they could go hunting for real. Until that, Emma had the time to train.

They had to walk a little before getting to their destination. They wanted to get as far as possible from the main paths, they didn't want for anyone to see them, and they approached the Dome a bit more, still staying miles from it so they wouldn't risk getting too close, though. They made sure that they were alone in their spot, then Killian took the time to explain to her what she had to do. Patient, he corrected her position, and they spent hours in the cold perfecting her technique before she tried to shoot for real.

She'd been scared at first, to hold a weapon in her hands. The last time she'd done so, she'd killed someone, and she didn't want to hurt anyone. Despite the time that had passed, the wound in her heart that was slowly healing, the scar was still there in her soul. She was still having moments of pure despair when she was thinking that she didn't deserve anything and that she was a monster. Horrible nightmares were continuing to haunt her at night, and she was forced to relive these few seconds where everything had shifted over and over again. But she was confident, confident that it would eventually get better

As she was aiming for the tree on which they'd placed a target, pulling the bowstring back and breathing deeply a few times, she realized that she wasn't anxious anymore. The bow was so different from the sword that she'd used, and she was feeling comfortable with it. Maybe Killian was right, after all. Maybe she was going to be good at this.

The first few arrows she shot didn't meet the target, but soon enough, they got closer and closer to her goal. Her muscles were hurting, her fingers were freezing from the cold, but she didn't complain once. Focused, she listened to Killian giving her advice and tried to apply his corrections. And she absolutely refused to stop until placing one arrow in the center of the target.

It took hours, hours during which Killian stared at her with pride and a bit of worry at the idea that she was exhausting herself. The sun was starting to slowly set in the sky, but he didn't say a thing. He knew how stubborn she was, and that she wouldn't give up before reaching her goal.

Her arm was shaking, but she aimed and shot for the hundredth times in a row. She knew she needed to learn fast, to quickly be able to feed her family and bring money back home. She just wanted them to be all right.

The arrow went straight to the center of the target.

She let go of a sigh, mix of victory and relief as she was finally letting her arm rest. She placed the weapon back on the floor, and turned to see what Killian was thinking about all of this. It was dark now, but she met one of his famous smile that always made her heart flutter, and this time was not exception. The pride was so obvious in his features that she blushed slightly and smiled back at him.

She opened her mouth to say something, but he didn't give her the time to do so. He took one step forward, wrapped his arms around her waist, and pulled her to him for a passionate kiss that made her moan against his lips.

She chuckled as he was pressing his forehead against hers, saying against her lips and making butterflies appear in her stomach. "Bloody hell, you're wonderful. Absolutely wonderful, love. You're a natural. You could have been born with a bow in your hands."

"Don't overstate it." She laughed at his words, reddening a little bit more at how proud he was looking.

"I'm not." He said, gently stroking her back. "You're amazing. Do you realize you're going to save our family and allow us to survive? I love you, Swan. God, I love you."

She smiled as an answer, deeply touched by his words, and pulled him back to her for another heated kiss. Maybe he was right, after all. Maybe he'd been right all along. She could do anything, and they would be able to actually start a new life in this place. A new confidence had arisen in her. They were going to be a normal family, and would not have to worry about having enough food to feed their son anymore. It was all that she was asking for, to finally be able to be happy.

Of course, working at the black market was risky, but she was ready for it. With that, they would bring money back home, and would wait until they were sure that no one knew who they were anymore. They could keep their new identities, now that they were used to it, and could finally travel the world and show every wonder to their little boy. They would be happy. Finally.

They came back every day to the same tree, and she trained for hours and hours under the snow, the rain or the cold. Henry came with them as the weather was starting to get slowly milder, and was truly impressed by his mom's skills. After days and days of training, Emma ended up managing to place every single one of her arrows in the target. And they finally knew that it was time.

She couldn't say that killing an animal wasn't breaking her heart. She hated the fact that she had to take another life for her own benefit, and she tried not to wallow in the past and the murder she'd committed back in her former region as they were agreeing on the fact that she was ready to try and hunt for the very first time. They decided that Henry wouldn't come with them, they didn't want him to have to notice her killing a living being. But they also knew that they didn't have a choice. They had to eat and to find money, and that was the only solution they'd found to do so.

Touching a moving target was much more difficult than hitting a tree, she realized. Two weeks after her first training session, she spent the afternoon with Killian, chasing a deer in the forest for hours and trying not to make any sound. After a few missed tries, as it was getting dark, she finally managed to get her prey. She did all she could for the animal not to suffer, she just didn't want to make it hurt more than needed, and they came home with the feeling that their life was changing again, but for the best this time.

The joy of the victory was however a bit spoiled by the bitterness of this life that had been stolen, but Emma knew that she had to get used to it. It would be their way of living from now on, and they really needed that. The animals in the forest were big enough, and they could eat for free while still earning gold. They didn't have to worry about surviving anymore, at least.

The next day, they installed their stall next to Felix's in the black market.

Killian had taken care of cutting the meat in small pieces, and they had a lot of food with them for their first day as merchants. At their greatest surprise, people were very interested by their products. They'd hoped that they would sell well, but what happened was beyond everything they'd expected. At the end of the day, there wasn't anything left, and they had a good amount of copper and silver coins with them. They really had found a job, they realized as Killian was taking her in his arms for a tight hug. They really were going to be fine from now on.

"I told you you could do it, love." He whispered to her ear, under the tenderized gazes of their co-workers packing their stalls to go home. "We're going to be fine, and it's all thanks to you."

"I've had a pretty good teacher." She answered with a little chuckle, her face buried in the crook of his neck.

"I love you, so much, darling."

"I love you too, babe. We'll be all right. "

"I know." He said, hugging her a bit tighter.

They went back to the market twice a week after that. With that schedule, they didn't have to kill too many animals, and they had more than enough to live. They were happy, truly happy. They didn't have to worry about starving anymore, and they were able to sell their meat to people who wouldn't have been able to buy it without this black market that had been born out of despair, and was living thanks to hope.

It wasn't a very safe job, though, everyone on the market knew it. It wasn't rare for one of the merchants to give the alarm, gently whistling to warn everyone of a suspect sound, and, in a few seconds, every stall had been packed and everyone was hiding in the forest. They all knew that, if the authorities learned about this place, they would all get arrested. It was illegal, they were selling their products without anyone's permission, and it wouldn't please the lords and ladies of the region.

Emma and Killian couldn't allow themselves to get caught because of this, and they were always the first ones to disappear from the clearing. They were wanted in another region, and if it was unlikely, one of the lords could recognize them from one of the portraits that were without a doubt still covering the trees of their former village. So they were staying there, behind bushes or lost in the woods, their hearts pounding in fear and their hands linked for comfort, until they were sure that the danger was gone. And then, everything was continuing just the way it had before and, if it was scary, it was also so worth it.

They now had enough savings to offer good clothes and books to Henry, and they were feeling like they were finally leading something resembling a normal life. Their hope of living their dream, one day, was still growing in their hearts thanks to the money they now owned. If they were happy in this place, it still didn't really feel like home. Home would be when they wouldn't have to worry about escaping the authorities or wouldn't be scared of someone from their past recognizing them. Home would be when they would finally be in peace.

But they hadn't been this happy since she'd gotten fired from the tavern, and this wonderful feeling was helping them to move forward day after day.

One day, they would go and visit the world with their son by their side. They would show him every wonder the Enchanted Forest had to offer, and they would never have to worry about money or getting caught and locked up in a cell.

One day.

They just had to be patient.

Weeks went by, the winter slowly faded away as the green of the trees was reappearing between the branches. These weeks were the calmer that they'd lived for a very long time, despite the need to hide their stall from time to time. They had everything they needed to eat, and they were getting their strengths back after everything they'd been through. They were finally allowing themselves to heal.

Of course, Emma was still feeling so guilty about killing the sheriff, but the time that was passing and their lives that were so peaceful were doing her so much good. She was still haunted by nightmares, but didn't have these moments where she thought that she was worthless and unlovable anymore. She knew who she was, she regretted what she'd done, and she wouldn't let these events define her. She would be fine.

Their lives seemed so normal, compared to what they'd lived after she'd got fired. They would go to the forest to hunt and sell their products on the black market a couple of times a week, and the rest of the time, they would just take care of Henry. She could finally see her son grow up, something she'd never been able to witness because of how hard she was working at the tavern to have a decent life. She was spending time with him and her boyfriend, they were able to save gold for their upcoming future, and everything was just so good. They were slowly reaching happiness, and she couldn't believe it after everything they'd had to face to get there.

They weren't scared that someone would recognize them in the streets anymore, their false identities were enough for them to stay discreet and not risk anything. On the outside, they were Charles and Leia Stark, and in the safety of the Jolly Roger, they were back to being Emma and Killian, two lost souls who'd found each other and were pursuing happiness hand in hand.

But once again, after weeks of calm, everything shifted. Not in a bad way, this time, though. In a surprising way that made them both wonder what the future had in store for them, after all these changes, after all these hardships.

It happened one day, as the spring was well settled in the Enchanted Forest and the birds were chirping in the trees. The weather was good, the wind not too strong, a perfect day to go hunt in the woods. Henry stayed on the ship, reading a book, and Emma and Killian followed their target into the forest for a long time, waiting for the right moment to strike. And, in their focus, they didn't realize that they'd come closer to the Dome than they'd ever done before.

Seeing the huge black mass launching into the sky, standing barely a few feet from them, Emma gently nudged Killian's shoulder to draw his attention. They were too far for it to really be a danger for them, but she was impressed by how huge it seemed from where they were standing. Killian turned with an eyebrow raised in question, and she let her guard down, deciding to forget about the boar they had been chasing until then to admire the Dome with a mix of fear and fascination.

Pointing at it, she said in a low voice : "Look, it's the first time we come this close."

"You're right." He said, looking almost surprised that they'd never explored this part of the forest before. "It looks even bigger from here."

"It's crazy to think that an entire kingdom is stuck in time underneath that." She stated. "It just seems so threatening, like it's going to swallow everything that comes near."

"Everything can still change. Perhaps the lad is right when he says that a Savior exists, and that she's going to break the curse." Killian said with half a smile, kindly teasing her. He liked to annoy both Henry and her with that story, but it would always stay kind and tender. This time however, Emma didn't react

"Maybe, who knows ? I really hope that she exists, though. I hate to think that there are so many people stuck inside this. I didn't know Snow White, but I'm sure that she would tell all of us to stay hopeful. Maybe miracles exist, after all."

"Miracles?" Killian playfully repeated, and she rolled her eyes with a smile on her face. He seemed obviously surprised that she wasn't protesting against his comment about the story she'd never wanted to accept as being real "Did Henry convince you to believe in this tale after all these years?"

"Stop laughing." She said, trying to seem falsely mad, but her smile was too bright to seem convincing. "I think he's dreaming when he says that I'm the lost princess, but maybe the Savior is real. I don't see why he would be wrong about this, you know. Magic does exist, she could have survived."

"What made you change your mind?" He asked a bit more gently, intrigued by her answer. "You were so convinced that these stories were just legends."

She took a deep breath, not really knowing herself when she'd decided to stop refusing this possibility that the kingdom could one day come back to life "I'm not saying that I'm sure about those things. But I'm giving them the benefit of the doubts. I guess I've changed my mind when I saw our new lives. I feel like leading an almost normal life here, after everything we've been through, is a bit of a miracle, don't you think?"

"You're absolutely right." He said, all trace of laughter gone from his tone to be replaced by pure softness. "I like to think about the fact that the princess is real too, and that everything is going to be all right here again, one day. What do you say we take a break here?" He added after a brief silence "Our prey is probably long gone, and the place is welcoming enough."

"Sure." She said enthusiastically.

He gently took her hand, and they searched for a place to stay for a few minutes, before finding a little and gorgeous clearing hidden between the trees. It was dotted with small white flowers, and the sun was enlightening it so beautifully Emma couldn't help but let go of a sigh of pure happiness.

They both laid down on their back in the grass with their smiles not leaving their faces once. Her bow next to her on the ground, she let the sunshine caress her face for a while, enjoying these first moments of warmth since they'd arrived in the region. They didn't say a thing at first, they just looked at the pure blue sky above them, suddenly darkened by the Dome, that seemed so out of place in such a peaceful landscape.

The place would have been absolutely perfect without this black mass crushing everything around it. Emma stared at it for a while, thinking about their lives and those of the people stuck underneath it, thinking about their future and maybe this dream that they would one day accomplish. Finally, she rolled on her side to face Killian and said in a soft voice, making him turn to look at her as well :

"Do you think that one day we'll be able to live this dream and travel from harbor to harbor? I want to visit the world by your side, and I want Henry to see everything that there is to see."

"I'm sure that we will, love." He said with a small smile. "With the money that we have now, and if we continue like that, we'll have more than enough to do so. We just have to wait for a bit, until our past is forgotten, and we'll be all right."

"I really hope so. I mean, I like this place. I love our lives right now, but I feel like we don't really belong here, you know? We belong on the ocean and everywhere in the world, I know that's where we should be. I just hope that, one day, we'll find a real home. Somewhere where we're really happy and we don't have to worry about anything."

"I feel at home here." He just stated with a shrug.

She blinked in surprise, not expecting this answer. "Really? You like this place?"

"I'm not talking about the place, Emma." He answered as if he were stating the obvious. "I'm talking about you. You and Henry. No matter where we are, as long as I'm with you and you're both happy, I'm home."

She felt herself sigh in happiness at this beautiful speech. It was so genuine, and he was so good with words, she didn't even know what to answer. Because she knew that he was right, she knew that as long as they were together and they were healthy, they could be happy. So, as an answer, she did what she would always do in these moments. She decided to show him how much she loved him instead of telling her thoughts, because words weren't her strong suit. He always understood, anyway. He knew her so well.

She then moved, and gently straddled him so she was laying on top of him. He immediately wrapped his arms around her, and she pressed a kiss to his lips, then a second, before whispering against his mouth. "I love you so much, Killian."

She didn't give him the time to answer, dropping a bunch of little kisses on his lips again, her eyes closed and enjoying his strokes with an obvious pleasure. His tongue asked for an entrance that she gave right away, and his hand was making its way under the tunic that she was wearing when a strange gust of wind made them both shiver. It didn't seem natural, and an odd sound rang in the air, making the animals in the forest get quiet. They didn't even notice the subtle changes in their surroundings, too deep into their little world to think about anything else than each other.

But a much louder noise forced them to come back to reality. They both startled and looked up, a bit confused, wondering what the hell was happening. Everything went silent for an endless second, then the ground started to shake violently, making them gasp in surprise.

Killian sat down and wrapped his arms around her, as if to protect her from whatever was happening to the world. The shocks lasted for a few horrible seconds, during which they just stayed still in their embrace. Then, as if nothing had happened and it had all been a dream, it stopped, just leaving them with the silence and their confusion.

"What the hell was that?" She asked, a bit out of breath and her arms still locked around his neck. "You okay?"

Killian didn't answer anything. He wrapped her tighter in his embrace, his eyes lost somewhere above her head, in direction of the Dome. His lips were parted in surprise, as if he couldn't believe what was happening. As she was finally deciding to turn to see what was putting him in such a state, he whispered in shock.

"The Dome..."

She frowned, not understanding what he wanted to tell her. Still holding him, she turned her head to look at the Dome, expecting to see the black mass where it'd been a second before. But her eyes only met emptiness. And her heart missed a beat.

She shook her head, wondering if she'd looked the wrong way, but as she was turning her head all around her, she realized that there was no trace of the Dome. She couldn't understand what was happening, and was thinking that it had to be a mistake. Something that big couldn't disappear from their sight just like that.

She needed a few seconds to understand that all of this was real, and when it was done, she stood up again, imitated by Killian, who took her hand back in his. They both turned on themselves once again, as if to make sure that they weren't mistaking. But they soon had to accept the obvious.

The Dome wasn't there anymore.

"What the hell?" She started, completely confused.

She immediately decided that she wanted to understand what was going on there. Everything was too strange, and she couldn't process it, not yet. The Dome had always been a part of her life, and it couldn't have just disappeared without a reason.

Bending to take her bow and arrows with her, she let go of Killian's hand to run and reach the place where the Dome should have been. She just needed to know, but she stopped when she heard Killian calling her name from behind her, asking her to wait. They shared a glance, quietly wondering what had just happened to them, and started running again. They only slowed down when they reached the first warning sign plastered on a tree, there to remind everyone to stay safe and not try to cross the Dome. No one wanted to be turned into dust after all.

She stepped forward, but was stopped once again by Killian, who placed a hand on her shoulder. He knew what she was about to do, and she could hear at his tone that he was deeply worried. "Emma, please be careful. We don't know what's happening."

She nodded, knowing that he was right, and interlaced her fingers back with his to reassure him. Together, they started moving in silence, trying to keep their distance with where the Dome had previously been standing. They carefully walked to what should have been hidden by the huge black mass, the kingdom that had been lost for decades, and what they discovered made them gasp in surprise.

As they were expecting to meet silence, the sounds of several conversations buzzing in the air arrived to them. They both looked in direction of the noises, and just held each other's hands a little bit tighter as their breathing was getting stuck in their throats.

Before them was standing the fences of a city, the door wide open to show them what was happening inside. People were walking, calling each other, figures she couldn't see clearly were moving, some running, some hugging, sounds of laughter were coming to them, and she just couldn't believe it. Looking up at the little hilltop in the center of the town, her eyes met the beautiful architecture of a castle, overhanging the surroundings.

The castle she'd seen drawn so often in Henry's books.

She had to state the obvious as they were still standing there, too surprised to do anything.

The Dome was actually gone.

Snow White's kingdom was back to life.

Chapter Text

"What was... What the hell just happened?" Emma stuttered, still holding Killian's hand tight in hers, as if wanting to bring herself back to reality. This wasn't happening. That was impossible. There had to be a mistake somewhere.

She blinked a few times, almost expecting the fences of the city to disappear before her eyes. She was convinced that she was going to wake up any minute now, because this had to be a dream. Henry's stories had invaded her sleep, and she was laying in Killian's arms in her bed, ready to acknowledge the fact that it wasn't real. She'd never gone to chase in the forest that day, they'd never had that conversation in the clearing, and the Dome had never faded away.

But everything seemed so real, the colors were too bright and her heart was pounding too fast for it to be a dream. Yet, she couldn't accept the fact that this was her new reality. So she tried to find other ways for it to all be a mistake. Maybe they'd just gone the wrong way and were facing another city than Snow White's kingdom. Maybe they were hallucinating because they'd stayed for too long under the afternoon sun. Maybe this was their minds playing tricks on them.

But none of these solutions made sense. She still couldn't understand how this kingdom that had been missing for decades had just woken up like that, while they were standing next to it, and without any logical reason. A curse as strong as this one couldn't break so abruptly, the Dome would have gradually disappeared if the magic had gone weaker, and it was too insane that they'd been right there to witness all of this.

Why now, while the place had been asleep for twenty-eight years? Why was it happening now that they were there, while it could have occurred while they were on the Jolly Roger or, months ago, as they were still stealing in their former region?

She was looking straight ahead, still trying to process what was going on. Killian seemed as confused as she was, not even looking like he'd heard her previous question. He was too astonished to talk, and was just holding her hand tight in his, as if to keep her safe.

Behind the fences of the city, broken by these huge open gates, people were running to each other. Some were hugging, some were screaming, and the sounds of laughter and sobs of relief were reaching them, as they were still feet away from the kingdom standing there.

She had to admit that all of this, their joy, their relief, sounded too real for it to all be a mistake. At the way they were embracing each other, something in the back of her mind told her that they knew they'd been cursed for the last three decades. She quickly chased these thoughts away, telling herself that she obviously didn't know that, but her instincts were still trying to tell her something that she wanted to ignore.

The situation was too crazy to make assumptions right now. She just had to understand what the hell was going on in this place.

Wanting to know if these people knew what had just broken this curse – she had to accept that possibility, because there was no other option – she took a step forward to go cross these gates and ask one of the citizens their opinion about all of this. She didn't even think about the fact that all of them were probably too shocked to answer her, her desire to understand too strong for the to think clearly.

She so wanted to know, how the Dome had disappeared, how they were feeling and, mostly, what they'd been doing for the last twenty-eight years. Had they been frozen during this entire time, or had they just lived different lives, not really knowing who they were? Had they been aware that they were stuck, and had wanted to try and cross the Dome for years? Had they lived normally, had they been separated from those they loved? She knew they were making history. And she wanted to be a part of that.

Nothing could have stopped her.

Except one thing could.



He wrapped his fingers a bit tighter around her hand, and gently pulled her back. She didn't feel angry or frustrated, she just looked at him, wondering what he wanted to tell her. She'd been so sure he wanted to know more as well, but the worry she read in his gaze was real. She bit her bottom lip, hating to see him so concerned, and he said in a very soft voice :

"I want to know what is happening too, Swan, believe me. But we don't know what's really occurred here, and it could be dangerous. We don't know these people, or what has caused the disappearance of the Dome. What if the Evil Queen is there, between these walls? What if the Dome comes back while we're there, and we find ourselves stuck in time as well? These things can't happen. We should find out what's really going on before we go to explore the kingdom. We could maybe go to a tavern near the harbor, people will be talking about all of this. We can't risk everything, even if we want to understand."

"Of course, you're right." She nodded, aware that his worries made sense. They wouldn't take that risk without knowing anything about this new situation.

Emma looked back at the city, at the people living in it, feeling Killian relaxing beside her as he knew she'd changed her mind. She couldn't really see their faces, but could hear them and distinguish their somewhat blurry figures. She noticed that the small earthquake had damaged a few of the buildings, but no one seemed to really care. They were all too happy to realize that they were free, and she hoped from the bottom of her heart that it was actually over, that they would live normally from now on. Twenty-eight years of their lives had been stolen. They just deserved to be happy.

Her eyes suddenly met a beautiful scene playing near the gates, and she stared at what she was witnessing in awe. A young woman, maybe a little bit older than she was, was crouching in front of a little kid, almost a toddler. She was embracing him with all that she had, and Emma could almost guess that she was crying, the emotion crackling in the air.

She smiled tenderly at this, at the way the child had wrapped his arms around the woman's shoulders and was burying his face in the crook of her neck, but her good mood suddenly faded away. Her eyes opened wide and, for an awful second, terror took over her completely as she couldn't believe she hadn't thought about something of the utmost importance.

There had just been an earthquake, and if it hadn't been that violent, they still had been shaken up for a second. Afraid. Confused. And her little boy was all alone on the Jolly Roger, certainly wondering what was going on. He was probably scared, terrified that something had happened to his parents. Or maybe he was hurt, the shock could have done something to him. How hadn't she thought about this sooner? Her son was all by himself, and she wouldn't accept that. She had to make sure that he was okay.

"Henry..." She whispered then, sharing a distressed look with Killian. Her heart was pounding almost painfully in her chest, the disappearance of the Dome completely forgotten as only her little boy mattered anymore. She wished she could have transferred herself directly to the ship to hug him tight and never let him go.

She didn't need to say more, Killian had understood. The same expression of fear erased his confused look, and he just shook his head, looking mortified that they hadn't realized they had to get back to their boy sooner. They'd been too surprised, too intrigued, to really remember the earthquake that had occurred. Now that it was done, they just wanted to find their son back. To hold him against them and promise him that nothing would happen to him. They would do anything to protect him.

Without conferring or letting go of each other's hands, they turned their backs to the Lost Kingdom, not giving a damn about it anymore. They immediately started to run in direction of the ship, leaving the people and their happy reunions behind them. The concern, the fear that something had happened to their son, had taken all the place in their hearts. He was their everything, the world couldn't function without him, and they just had to make sure that he was all right.

They ran and ran through the forest, the fields, the villages, never stopping once to catch their breaths that were getting shorter by the minute. They didn't care about the pain in their lungs and the cramps in their limbs, their worry was giving them wings to fight against their exhaustion. After what seemed like an eternity, as Emma's throat was burning and her legs were shaking, they finally arrived in the harbor.

Flashes of her past made their way to her again, as she was seeing herself in the same situation, running to Henry with the bracelet in her sleeve and the guards behind them. She quickly shook her head, though, refusing to think about these moments, and focused on trying to detect her son's presence on the ship, still praying with all her heart that nothing had happened to him.

When she looked up at the deck to try and see if she could find him, she thought her heart was going to explode from relief. She saw his brown hair and curious eyes appear from behind the handrail, and he smiled at them as she was closing her eyes and thanking every gods she could think of that he was okay. Nothing had happened to him. He seemed more intrigued than actually scared, and she just couldn't wait to hug him.

She let go of Killian's hand to run up the boarding ramp, and she barely took the time to stop her race before wrapping her arms around Henry, holding him close to her heart. She was panting, feeling like she couldn't breathe anymore, but she didn't care. The joy of knowing that her little boy was okay was all that she needed to give herself the air she was lacking. He was her world, one of the most important people in her life, and nothing could go on without him.

But he was okay. He was holding onto her too, and if she could refer to his chest shaking and the chuckles coming from his mouth, he was laughing. Killian joined them a second later, and he wrapped his arms around the both of them, so tight, as if he'd been scared to lose them both.

The family stayed wrapped into this embrace for a while, just appreciating the chance they had that they were all okay and together again. Then their son started to talk with laughter in his voice, breaking the quiet moment : "You're both going to end up choking me, if you keep on holding me like that."

Emma laughed through her tears, and she only realized there that she was crying from relief. She pulled a little bit away from him as he was looking up at his parents with a big smile, and ran her fingers through his hair, as if trying to make sure that he was really there. But he was all right, more than that if she could trust his smile, and she could protect him now that he was close. Nothing would happen to him, not on her watch, she wouldn't let it.

She started talking in a muffled voice as Killian had placed his hand on Henry's shoulder, and had wrapped his left arm around her waist, guessing her emotions. "Did you feel the earthquake, too?"

"Yeah. This was strange, definitely. I was a bit worried, because I didn't know where you were, but I'm so glad that you're both all right."

"You have no idea how happy we are that you are okay as well, lad." Killian said in a broken voice. He really had been terrified that something had happened to the little boy.

"We're all together now, and we're okay." Henry said then with a big grin. "No need to worry anymore." He let a brief second pass before asking, his eyes shinning in curiosity. "Do you know what happened?"

Killian and Emma shared another glance, wondering how they could explain what had occurred to their son. Now that they knew he was okay, the mystery of the Dome disappearing before their eyes was coming back to them, and they couldn't wait to know what had really happened for the Lost Kingdom to come back to life.

Emma also knew how her son would feel when they would explain him the events of the day. All of this had been his dream, for years, he'd always been convinced that the curse would be broken by the Savior one day. And if he was going to insist on the fact that she was the Lost Princess and had somehow brought the Lost Kingdom back to the world, she felt so happy to be able to tell him these news. It had been his favorite story for years, after all.

She took her son's hand and gently led him to the steps of the deck, making him sit on them. She settled next to him, imitated by Killian, both surrounding their little boy, as if to protect him from whatever could happen to him. She wavered a bit before starting, not really knowing how she could describe what had happened without lowering the importance of what they'd witnessed. It had been so confusing, and she wanted her son to really enjoy this moment where one of his dream was becoming true.

"Something happened to the Dome, kid." She stated, still holding his hand as he was looking at her with wide eyes. "Everything started to shake and when we turned… It was gone."

"What do you mean?" He cried out, looking like he couldn't believe what she was telling him.

"It was there, like it had always been, and a second later it was nowhere to be seen. It's like it never existed in the first place." She explained patiently, knowing these information were hard to accept, even for the little boy who was the purest believer.

"It's insane." Killian added, shaking his head in disbelief. "We got a bit closer when we saw that it was gone, lad, and the city was there. The lost kingdom. The castle, the citizens, the fences… as if the last twenty-eight years were only just a dream."

Henry frowned suddenly at his adoptive father's words. They were waiting for him to scream his joy, to tell them that he knew all along the curse would end up breaking and that the Savior really existed, but he just seemed deeply focused, as if he were trying to find a reason for all of this to have happened. Emma kept looking at him in silence, waiting for his next reaction, and he ended up saying a few seconds later.

"So you were near the Dome when it disappeared?"

Emma blinked, not expecting this question after what they'd just told him. But she quickly guessed that he probably just needed to be reassured, since he'd been worried for them. She gently smiled at him and answered. "We were, Henry. That's how we saw that it was gone. But don't you worry, we're fine."

"What were you doing before it faded away?" He asked then, all serious and not really paying attention to her last words.

He was so sure of himself, it was like he was on a mission of some kind. Emma and Killian looked at each other, sharing an embarrassed glance at these words. They hadn't expected that, they'd thought their son would have been bouncing up and down in excitement instead of asking them all of these questions about where they were.

She was pretty uncomfortable, given what they'd been doing before the earthquake. They'd been kissing, and they would have gone further if the Dome hadn't disappeared all suddenly. She really didn't want her son to know these details about their day, and Killian offered her a little wince, not really knowing how to react either. He scratched the back of his ear, as always when he was feeling a bit embarrassed about something, and she almost smiled at that. She loved his little habits so much.

Henry didn't seem to care about his parents' sheepish expressions, and he insisted, almost impatiently. "Don't look at me like that, guys. Were you kissing?"

Her wince deepened, and she looked down, knowing he wouldn't accept anything else than a clear answer, and refusing to lie to him. He'd inherited her stubbornness after all. "We, hum… yeah. We were kissing. Why are you asking us this?"

She blinked in surprise when she saw the huge smile that had appeared on Henry's face. Finally, he was having the reaction they'd been expecting, but it wasn't because of the Dome, but because of the fact they'd been kissing before the earthquake. She couldn't understand this strange behavior, and she looked back at Killian, who seemed as surprised as she was. He just shrugged and shook his head, and she bit her bottom lip, trying to guess what was happening inside her son's head.

She was so confused about his reaction and yet, she knew that he had a reason to behave that way. He was a smart little boy, and something had probably crossed his mind, an idea that she couldn't really grasp just yet. Wanting to know more, she asked with an eyebrow raised in question.

"Why are you smiling, kid?"

"Because, I'm… well… No, never mind." He gave up at the last second, and she almost sighed in disappointment, really wanting to know what was going on. "You both wouldn't believe me, anyway."

"Still, please, tell us." She insisted gently. "We want to know."

He seemed to hesitate for another second, and she waited patiently, gently wrapping her fingers a little bit tighter around his hand to encourage him. She knew at his shinning eyes that he wanted to tell them everything, but something was clearly holding him back. She gave him a soft smile to show him that she was ready to listen, and he ended up taking a deep breath to talk.

"Okay, then. But you both have to promise to listen to me until I'm finished. No interruption, all right?"

"It's a promise." She said with an amused smile at his words.

"Well, you wouldn't believe me because it's about the Lost Princess again." She forced herself not to tell him yet another time that she had nothing to do with a princess and that she wasn't the Savior everyone was talking about, because she'd promised. He smiled, seeing that she was holding herself back, and her grin widened even more, knowing it was all worth it if it was making him so happy. "I know you don't believe in those things, and I understand that. You've had a tough life, mom, and I know you can't really see that you're a princess. But the thing is, this princess also is the Savior destined to break the curse, right? She's the only one who can free her parents from being stuck in time. And that's what's happened here. The Dome has disappeared."

He stopped, looking at his parents as if he'd given them everything they needed, and Killian said carefully, frowning in confusion. "I'm afraid I don't follow you, lad. What are you trying to tell us?"

"Isn't it obvious? Don't you find it strange that the Dome disappeared while you were right next to it? And while you were kissing, too? If I've learned something in my books, it's that true love is the most powerful magic of all. The only way to break the curse is to combine the power of the Savior, and a true love kiss. Don't you think it's weird that that's what you were doing when it faded away?"

Her lips parted, and she shared a surprised glance with Killian. It wasn't her son's belief that she was the Savior that was astonishing her, this time. She already knew that he was going to think she was the reason why the Dome had disappeared, and she didn't want to tell him one more time that she wasn't the princess. She didn't want to break his dreams. He would end up understanding that she was just an ordinary woman sooner or later, anyway.

No, what was surprising her beyond words was his statement about the activities she'd shared with her boyfriend in the clearing. A true love kiss? That was big, and seeing Killian's face, she understood that he was amazed too. Sure, they loved each other, so much. They were each other's world, and they couldn't bear the thought of not being together. They could understand one another with a simple glance, and she could tell him everything, she trusted him even more than she trusted herself.

But they also knew that true love was the rarest magic of all. Snow White and Prince Charming had it, but they were special. She'd never thought about the fact a true love kiss could be the reason why the Dome had disappeared. She hadn't even wondered once if it was true love that she was sharing with her boyfriend, the love of her life. It all seemed too big, and it had never crossed her mind.

But the fact that Henry thought they were sharing this incredible bound was so touching, and, for a split second, she thought that maybe he was right. Killian and her were soulmate, and despite the fact she was convinced that they weren't the reason why the Dome was gone, she liked the fact that they could share this magic. Their souls were bound for the rest of eternity, and the love she had for him was beyond everything she could describe. It could as well be true love.

Seeing Killian's eyes shinning in the sunlight, she knew that he was thinking the same thing. They didn't need words to understand each other, and if she wanted to kiss him right there to verify these assumptions, they also knew this wasn't the time or place to do so. They just shared a little smile, and promised each other they would discuss this later. And she couldn't wait to do so.

She nodded then, and got up, smiling at her son. She decided not to try and convince him that she wasn't the Savior and had nothing to do with the Dome breaking once again. She'd tried that for years, and it'd never worked, after all. And after everything he'd gone through, dreaming could only do him good. If he liked that story so much, it was because it was making him a prince. She didn't want to take that last part of innocence away from him. He needed it.

And even if she knew it wasn't real, his story made sense. He'd thought about how the Dome could break, and the way it'd disappeared was so logical according to his standards. She would let him dream about this until he could understand himself that it wasn't real. She just wanted him to be happy.

She then gestured for her son and boyfriend to get up, and said softly. "Come on. Let's go to a tavern and see if we can learn more about what's happening now that the Dome is gone."

"Wait, you're not going to say anything about all of this?" Henry said, as Killian was grinning, amused by his reaction and moved by the fact she was accepting their little boy's story. "You won't try to tell me that this is all wrong?"

"We have more important things to do, right now." She just shrugged.

"Do you mean you finally believe me?" He tried with a hopeful smile.

"I didn't say that either, kiddo." She chuckled. "I just decided to leave you be for now. You should enjoy it while it lasts."

He giggled as well because of her answer, and briefly wrapped his arms around her waist for a hug, before running to the ramp and get out of the ship. He seemed more than ready to understand the mystery that was hiding behind the disappearance of the Dome, maybe wanting to convince his mom once and for all that she was a princess, and was obviously overexcited about the fact they could know what had happened to Snow White and Prince Charming for twenty-eight years. His favorite story was playing before his eyes, and he was so, so happy about it.

Despite their desire to know more as well, Killian and Emma held a bit back for a few seconds. He wrapped his arms around her, and she rested her head on his shoulder, their hearts beating in unison at the new question that had arisen in their mind. Were they sharing true love? Even if they knew they couldn't find out the answer now, he pressed a tender kiss on her cheek and whispered.

"I love you."

She was about to answer him, but Henry called for them, wanting to know what his parents were doing. "Come on, guys, let's go!"

They laughed at their son's eagerness, and she knew she didn't need to say anything. Killian knew how much she loved him, how deep her feelings were. So she just turned to press a quick peck on his lips, sharing one last glance with him, then, hand in hand, they went to join their son.

They would understand what had happened, and they wouldn't go home until they had answers.

The tavern they chose was crowded. It was standing in the town that was the closest to the harbor, and the agitation they found inside was highly unusual. They'd always known these kind of places almost empty, since the citizens didn't have any money to go drink or eat in one of these establishments. But this time, it was different. There were people everywhere, and the air was thick with excitement and curiosity.

They'd guessed that the news of what had happened to the Dome had already got around town, you just needed to look up at the sky to realize that the black mass was gone, but they hadn't expected to find all these people piled up between the tables. Some sitting on the chairs, some standing, everyone there was talking about the last events, discussing why it had occurred and what was going to happen next. Even the waitresses were stopping at the tables with a tray on each hands, trying to tell their opinion about the Lost Kingdom.

They knew the atmosphere was probably the same in every tavern and shop of the region, and they were aware that generations of people would talk about this day for centuries. History was happening, and it was feeling so strange. Killian and Emma were holding onto Henry's hands in order not to lose him in the crowd, and her boyfriend found a little table in a corner of the room, miraculously empty.

They reached it and sat down, looking all around them and trying to listen to the others' conversations to try and see if they could gather some important information. The people in this tavern were obviously knowing each other, and they didn't feel like interrupting to ask them what they were thinking about all of this. They just listened for a while, and ordered two ales for them and a glass of orange juice for Henry when a waitress passed their table.

As she was bringing them their orders, Emma met her gaze and thought that it was a good time to know a bit more about what was going on. "Does someone know why the Dome has disappeared so suddenly?"

"We have no idea!" She said back, eyes shinning in excitement. "Everyone has their own opinions on the subject, but no one really knows. Isn't it crazy?" She added with a big smile. "This Dome was there for twenty-eight years, and now, probably without a reason, it's completely gone!"

"You're making assumptions when you say there's no reason for it, Camille." An unfamiliar voice said in their backs.

Emma turned to look at who had talked, and met the eyes of a forty-something man, settled at the table next to theirs and surrounded by a dozen other blokes, probably his friends, all looking at the waitress defiantly. They were obviously waiting for a reply, but the unimpressed look the young woman offered them almost made Emma smile. It was obvious that the waitress knew these people, and she wasn't ready to listen to them. Placing her free hand on her hip, she said :

"As long as we don't find a logical reason for all of it, Vincent, for me, this event is an accident."

"That doesn't make any sense!" One of the man next to Vincent said. "It couldn't have disappeared all at once by coincidence."

"We don't know that!" Camille defended herself.

"Well, believe it or not, we think that we might have found an explanation for what happened today." Vincent answered with a proud smile.

"Talk." The waitress simply said, looking at him with her eyebrows raised.

"The Savior..."

He didn't have the time to continue his sentence and was interrupted by a loud chuckle. "Right!" Camille mocked him, and he frowned, a bit disapproving of her behavior. "So your explanation is based on something that is nothing more than a legend?"

"It's not because the kid never gave us a sign that she was still alive that it means she doesn't exist! Everyone knows and remembers that Snow White was about to give birth to a little girl when the curse hit the kingdom."

"Maybe the girl has just been stuck in time with her parents for all those years." Camille shrugged, still not looking convinced.

"Ah! That's where you're wrong!" Vincent said joyfully. "See, rumors are quick to spread in these regions. Several people already went to the Lost Kingdom to interrogate the citizens and ask them what they knew. The royal couple immediately gave a speech after the disappearance of the Dome, to welcome the people back, and no one has heard anything about a baby accompanying them. All we know for now is that Snow White and Prince Charming haven't aged, and that they were just frozen for this entire time, not knowing what was happening to them."

"Well, that's just another proof that the Lost Princess never existed and that she's just a myth people have invented to help the children fall asleep at night. No, stop right there." Camille cut him off when she noticed that he was about to start protesting again. "I have work to do. Keep on believing in those legends if it makes you happy."

"One day you'll see that I was right!" Vincent mumbled, before turning back to the group of men around him, and starting to talk vehemently again. It was obvious that he was preferring to speak with these people who were actually believing him and giving him the attention he wanted.

Emma turned to her son and Killian to see what they were thinking about all of this, just in time to see Henry lean to speak in his father's ear. "It's like mom and I when we quarrel over who knows the truth about these tales."

That made Killian laugh and he playfully fluffed his hair, while she was trying to offer him a falsely mad look. She couldn't keep a straight face when she saw the big smile he was offering her, though, and she just chuckled as well, shaking her head in amusement. She truly loved these moments spent with the two most important people in her life. She was feeling like she belonged somewhere when she was with them, and as the conversation she'd shared with Killian in the clearing earlier that day was making its way back to her mind, she smiled.

He was right. Wherever they were, she was home.

They stayed a bit longer in this tavern, trying to stay discreet while still getting information about what had really happened. What had occurred right before their noses without them understanding it, and what was obviously going to change their lives once again. Maybe for the best, this time.

They left their table a while later, deciding to walk into another tavern to see if the people there knew more about these new events. The same atmosphere welcomed them, but the citizens were still talking assumptions and didn't really know what was going on. They didn't learn what had really happened, but didn't feel defeated, quite the opposite, really.

The region was moving with excitement, and they would come back the next day to see if someone knew anything else. Maybe something would happen until then, and they would end up really understanding everything. They just couldn't wait to know and see what would happen now that the Lost Kingdom was back from twenty-eight years of slumber.

"So, true love, huh?" Emma started as she was sitting on their bed, looking up at Killian with a smile.

He came to approach her with a matching grin, and settled down next to her on the sheets, ready for a talk. Henry was asleep in his bed, a smile on his face at everything that had happened that day. A lot had occurred indeed, but Killian and Emma really wanted to talk about these feelings their son had. He looked at her so lovingly her heart fluttered, and he said with a shrug.

"I wasn't expecting that one."

"Me neither." She laughed.

They both settled into a comfortable silence for a few seconds. They had so much to say they didn't know where to begin, and they were thinking, their shoulders touching as they were leaning against the wall next to their bed.

"Henry always had faith in us." She finally started, making him chuckle slightly.

"Aye. He's always been sure that we would end up together."

"And he was right. Look at us. We've finally found what seems like stability, we're safe, and we're a family."

"True love still is a big thing." He said, and she turned to face him, frowning. She hadn't expected this reaction coming from him, him who'd always been so sure that they were meant to be together.

"What do you mean?" She asked, her voice a bit colder. She was scared, suddenly, scared that she'd been wrong all along and that he didn't love her as much as she loved him. Due to her past, she was quick to forget about his unbreakable trust in her and all the times he would tell her that she was amazing, all the looks he would give her like she was the only girl in the world.

"Emma, I didn't mean it like that." He said immediately, guessing her thoughts and wrapping his arm around her shoulders to bring her close, and she let him hug her. "Please, I love you. More than anything. You know that, aye?"

"I know. Sorry." She mumbled, a bit embarrassed that she'd let her doubts get the best of her for a split second. "I don't know what's got into me."

"It's all right, darling." He said, dropping a kiss to the top of her head and she snuggled a bit closer to him. "I'm the one who has to apologize, it's not what I meant at all. You're the most amazing person that I know. You're kind, smart, brave, beautiful, absolutely incredible, how could I not love every single part of you? I fell in love with you the moment I saw you in this tavern all those years ago. You're the love of my life, and it will never change. I promise."

She nodded slowly. She knew that, and she cursed herself internally for thinking even for an instant that he wasn't in love with her anymore. They were meant for each other, she knew it, and the way he was treating her wasn't pretend. She was his love, and nothing could break that. Her past was just catching up with her sometimes, all those abandons and heartbreaks, and she just needed to remind herself that Killian was different. He wouldn't break her heart. He would only protect and cherish it.

"What I meant by that." He continued very softly. "It's that true love is the rarest magic of all. I know you love me, and I love you so, so much I can't even express it anymore. But it's so rare, it's a big thing to even think about it."

"Maybe we will never know." She said then, and he held her a little bit tighter. "But I want to believe in it. We belong together. I feel like I know you since the beginning of time. We've faced so much together, and we're still here, loving each other, our feelings only growing with each passing day. I want to believe that we are true love."

He sighed against her, and buried his face in her hair to breathe her in. This was a lot for her, to open her heart like that. For years, she'd been closed off and alone, and then he'd come into her life and he'd broken these walls she'd built around her heart to protect herself. He'd been so patient, understanding, making her see that he wasn't going to let her down. And he hadn't. She was surprised to notice that she wasn't even scared to tell him those things, now. Her fears had invaded her very briefly, but his words sounded so true she couldn't doubt them.

She loved him, and trusting someone with her heart like that was something she was sure to be incapable of not so long ago. But it was before him, before his loving looks, romantic gestures, big speeches and his never-ending trust in her. He'd healed her scars and she was trusting him with everything that she had, with her soul and entire being.

Killian knew how much her words meant, given what she'd had to go through in her life. So he ended up saying in a voice muffled by the emotion. "I love you, Swan. Gods, I love you. You're more important than anything in the world, and I'll gladly show this to you for the rest of our lives. I want to believe that we are true love, too. Because what I feel inside is too powerful to be anything else than that. I love you, I love you, I love you."

He straddled her then, to wrap his arms around her and kiss her senseless, showing her what he was feeling in his heart every time he was looking at her. And she understood it. Pride, trust, love. Absolute, infinite love. And she let herself melt into his embrace, knowing deep down that, if Henry was wrong about the fact they'd broken the curse, he was right about one thing. They were true love. And nothing could never break them.

They spent the rest of the night showing their love for each other, until the first ray of sunshine started to appear in the morning sky. They were still laying wide awake in their bed, silent and their hearts wide open, trusting each other with everything that they were.

Despite their short night, they were up early the next day to go back in town and try to understand what had really happened to the world. They hadn't slept, but couldn't even feel the exhaustion anymore. They were holding onto each other, with the assurance that they were true love, and the joy that they were both sharing the same feelings. They would probably never knew if this was true, but they didn't care. The simple fact that they were both sure of it was enough.

Henry was ready to go as soon as he woke up, all excited that he was to know more. They all went to the nearest town, and if the taverns were already full, open to welcome the clients so unusually early, they quickly understood that the situation hadn't changed a bit. Nobody knew anything, they were all just trying to guess the truth behind the last events. But they did learn that Snow White and Prince Charming were going to give another speech, a big one this time, the same afternoon and they were aware that they would really know everything then.

They then decided to go on with their lives, knowing that staying in town wasn't useful right now. They would go back that evening, and meanwhile, they could do something productive. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shinning and the wind was pleasantly refreshing the atmosphere without being too strong. It was a perfect weather for hunting, and they thus walked Henry back to the Jolly Roger before leaving for the forest to get their meat and sell it on the black market.

They were so happy to go, enjoying the sun on their skin and each other's presence, but their joy quickly faded away. They unfortunately immediately noticed that the wildlife of the forest had seemed to change during the night. The Lost Kingdom had reappeared for barely one day, but the animals seemed to have disappeared, probably hiding in their shelter, too scared to go outside.

It was logical, she thought, as they were walking in between the trees, still trying to find one bold beast that had been brave enough to come out. Everyone was talking about the Lost Kingdom coming back to life, but the cities were actually several to have been woken up the day before. Further south, there were other kingdoms that were living again because of the Dome disappearing, and this was a big change for all these species. They'd always been used to being the kings of the forest, and now there were all these people screaming and moving around, frightening them.

Emma tried not to think about this, not to think about how this was going to affect them, but she couldn't ignore the changes in her surroundings. They walked for hours before finding a prey, and still, they only harvested two poor hares instead of the deer or bore they would usually bring back home with them.

They chose not to talk about it, but the glances they shared were telling their fears. They had a good life, and they didn't want it to change, not again, not while they were happy and safe. They were glad that the Dome was gone and curious to know what had happened, but if that meant that it was going to affect them, they weren't sure that they liked that idea that much anymore.

Still, they decided to go on the market that day. They didn't want to give up on the thought that they could resume their lives, and knew that their coworkers and the familiar faces of their clients would cheer them up. Maybe it was just temporary and everything was going to be just fine in a few days. They convinced themselves of this, because they were refusing to believe that they would be put in danger once again.

Except that they didn't find what they were expecting.

They were walking hand in hand, their products in a bag, trying to talk about anything but these new observations they'd made in the forest, when Killian interrupted himself in the middle of one of his sentence. They were supposed to have reached the clearing in which the black market was standing, and she shook her head, not understanding what was going on.

Killian frowned, looked around him, and she wondered for a second what the hell was wrong for him to look that scared. Intrigued, she turned to see what he was looking at, and understood right away. Blinking, she tried to convince herself that it wasn't real.

Except that it was.

The place was empty.

It seemed surreal, to see this clearing, usually crowded with people trying to find what they needed, completely deserted. The stalls were gone, and only a few things were laying on the ground, a spoon, a book, a rag, as if abandoned by lost souls. The only audible sounds were the one of the wind in the trees and the buzzing of a bee wandering nearby.

Emma let go of Killian's hand, not believe what was happening before her eyes. Once again, she wondered if she wasn't dreaming, but the fear in her chest was too real. She finally said in a low voice, as if afraid to break the thick silence that had settled around them.

"Are we in the right place?" She was trying to find a reason to explain why this market was so desperately empty, because she just couldn't understand.

"If I'm sure of one thing, it's that it's our clearing." Killian said, looking up at the sky as if it could give them the answers to their questions.

She bit her bottom lip, then a solution presented itself to her, and she grabbed it, trying to make sense of what was going on. "Maybe they heard the authorities approaching and are just hiding? They're probably going to get back soon."

"Perhaps." Killian said, but he didn't seem convinced. She wasn't either, if she was being honest with herself. There wasn't one breathing audible in between the trees, not one sound of steps or bushes being moved. The place was empty, but she was refusing to accept it.

They were about to walk a bit further into the clearing to try and understand what the hell was happening, when steps ringing behind their backs made them startle. They turned back, her hand going to her arrows without her even having the think about it, but she quickly relaxed and sighed in relief when she noticed who was standing behind them.

It was Felix, who smiled at them, but his grin stayed a bit sad. Without conferring, Emma and Killian approached their coworker, who was looking around him as if he'd lost something and was trying to find it. He seemed like he knew what was going on, and if they could refer to the frown on his face, he would without the shadow of a doubt enlighten them on the situation.

"Charles, Leia!" He said politely. "How are you today?" His eyes suddenly fell on the spoon that had been left on the grass and that they'd noticed before, and he carefully crouched to pick it up. "Just what I was looking for." He mumbled with a content grin.

"We're fine, I guess." Emma said, before asking with a frown. "What happened here? Why is everyone gone? Have the guards found the place?"

"They haven't, they're still far away, but I'm surprised that you don't know what's going on." The old man answered with a sad sigh. "With the Dome disappearing, the authorities are walking the length of the forest to prevent any danger. They know some people could take advantage of the fact the Lost Kingdom is back to steal or commit crimes, and they're everywhere. Everyone has decided this morning to stop the market for now. It's way too dangerous, and no one would risk coming here with what happened yesterday, we don't want to get caught. I'm just here to take my spoon back, then I'm gone."

"Do you know when things will go back to normal?" Killian asked, as they were sharing another concerned glance. This was definitely not good, and they hoped that the black market would come back to life very soon.

"Unfortunately, kids, I don't know, and I don't think it will happen any time soon. It's way too dangerous for now. The Lost Kingdom is back, and it also means that jobs are opening in the towns that have been stuck in time for decades. If I'm being honest with you, I don't think the market will one day be what it once was." He said sadly, because it was his way of living, and without it, he would be back to knowing difficulties and hardships.

Emma felt her heart missing a beat, and Killian got closer to her, as if to gently comfort her as he knew what she was feeling. He was probably feeling the exact same thing, and she was so damn worried. They'd finally found a job that was giving them the money they needed, and even if it was a risky activity, they'd been happy for a while. And now, everything was crumbling again.

She was trying not to panic, telling herself that they'd saved a lot during these few months, but that was what she'd believed when she'd got fired from the tavern, and she never wanted to relive what had happened next. This money wouldn't last forever, they wouldn't be able to live for months like that. She was feeling like she'd come back to the day she'd punched Calvin in the face, an eternity earlier, and tears appeared in her eyes. She just wanted it to be a nightmare, and wished that she could wake up.

Felix immediately noticed their fears, and kindly said to comfort them "Don't look so sad, you two. As I said, the reappearance of the Lost Kingdom also means that jobs are going to open there, and that things are going to go back to the way they were before the curse. The economic crisis is going to get better. I'm sure you'll be able to find jobs, you're young and resourceful. I'm too old for that, now, I'll have to find another way, but you, my friends, will be just fine."

"If we can find jobs, then so can you." Emma gently reassured him.

"You're sweet, Leia, but I really doubt that. I just wish for you two to be all right."

"Do you think that it's actually possible to get a job in town, after everything that has happened to this kingdom?" Killian said, wrapping one arm around Emma's waist to press his prosthesis against the small of her back and comfort her. "Everyone is going to run to get these jobs, we don't have a chance."

"Oh, but you do. I'm sure of it. Everything is going to be all right for you."

"I really hope so." Killian answered then, as she was snuggling a bit closer to him. "We have a little boy at home, and we can't stay without a job. But I'm certain everything is going to be all right for you too, Felix. We'll get through this, all of us."

"You're both so kind, and that's what tells me that you're going to be just fine. Life is going to reward you for these sweet words." He winked at them, and Emma's chest tightened a bit more. For a second, she felt so guilty to have lied about everything to this man. Their names, their past, all of this was fake, and she didn't feel like she deserved his friendship. But she forced herself to forget about these thoughts, the situation already being hard enough as it was.

"You're a good man, Felix." Killian answered with a kind smile. "We're going to miss working next to you."

"You too, kids. You were the best neighbours this old man could have wished for."

It almost made Emma smile. Almost.

They stayed in the clearing to speak with their friend for a little while. They were sad to say goodbye, and during this all time, Emma tried to hide her true terror. She was forcing herself not to shake, and the hug she gave Felix as a farewell was almost assured. "We wish you the best, Felix." She said as he was shaking Killian's hand. "We're going to miss you."

"Likewise." He said, before taking a step back, ready to leave the clearing. "Until we meet again."

It's only when he was gone that Emma allowed herself to start panicking. She walked a bit to go lean against a tree, her breathing faster and her legs shaking. She couldn't believe it, she couldn't believe that they'd lost everything again. She couldn't believe they were going to struggle yet another time, and she just wanted to be happy and safe. That seemed like it would never happen. And she was feeling like crying.

Killian was next to her in a second, guessing her feelings. He looked worried too, but he placed hand and prosthesis on her hips to hold her up, saying very gently. "Hey… hey, love, look at me. We're going to be all right. We'll find a solution, we'll get through this, we always do. Felix said it, they're probably asking for new employees everywhere in the Lost Kingdom. We'll find something, I'm sure of it."

"I… It's just that..." She stuttered, trying to hold her sobs back. "I feel like we're reliving the same things over and over again. I'm so scared, I don't want for us to get through this again. I don't want for us to risk our lives, I just want to be happy."

"Swan, breathe, darling. We'll be fine, I won't let anything happen to you." He gently comforted her, drawing small circles with his thumb through her clothes. "What we lived in our former region won't happen again, I promise you this. We have money, a lot of it. And there are animals here, fruits to gather. We won't starve, and we won't have to steal again. I know it."

She was aware that he couldn't know this for sure, but she just wanted to believe him. So she nodded, and looked up to meet the blue of his gaze, instantly soothing her. He offered her a small smile that didn't reach his eyes, and he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her to him.

"Come here, my love. Everything is going to be okay. Henry is never going to starve again, and neither are we. Maybe we'll be able to even find a real job. Wouldn't that be great?"

She nodded again, and melted into his embrace, her head resting on his shoulder and breathing in his familiar and comforting smell. She didn't know how he was staying so calm despite his own worry about their new position, but she also knew that he wasn't wrong. The situation wasn't desperate, and she just needed to calm down. They had gold, she knew how to hunt, and maybe they would be able to find a real job somewhere. Maybe this was all for the best.

They were into illegal activities by working on the black market, and maybe they would finally be able to have a normal life, without worrying about the guards finding them. Maybe that was their real chance to start again as Charles and Leia Stark.

She pulled a little bit away from him, and opened her mouth to say something, thank him for always being there for her, for being her rocks in these moments. But he didn't give her the time to do so. Smiling gently, he pressed a kiss to her forehead, then a little peck on her lips, and said.

"You don't need to say anything, Swan, you know that, aye? I'm always here for you, like you are here for me."

"Still." She said in a muffled voice. "Thank you for being my rock. I love you."

"Thank you for being the most amazing woman on earth, lass." he answered, finally managing to make her smile. "I love you, too. Now, let's get back to the lad, shall we? We should try to know more about these new jobs. We have work to do."

"That we do." She answered, finally feeling calm in his arms.

He pressed one last kiss to the tip of her nose, then he took her hand and they started walking to their ship, as she was feeling so comforted to have him by her side. Always.

They didn't go back in town to try and know more about the Dome situation, that day. They were way too focused on how to explain these news to their son. The little boy had known hunger and fear, and they didn't want him to be scared again. They wanted to reassure him, to promise him that they would protect him. And despite their comforting words and their desire to stay positive about the future, they were both so afraid to be unable to keep Henry safe.

It's Killian who explained the entire situation to the little boy, as they'd led him to their room. Emma was sitting in her bed, and he'd climbed on her lap, frowning at his adoptive father's words. He seemed so worried, and she could almost feel him shake against her, what totally broke her heart. He was terrified to relive that horrible part of their lives that had only gotten better a few months earlier, and she tried to stop herself from crying when she felt how scared he was.

"It's going to be all right, lad, I promise." Killian said to reassure him, his hand on his shoulder to show him he would always stay by his side. "We're going to find something else, I'm sure of it. And we'll stay safe, we will do everything to protect you."

Henry nodded and Emma kissed the top of his head, trying to comfort him. He stayed by his mom's side for the entire evening, not even leaving her as they were eating the hares she'd brought back to the ship. She wanted to reassure him, but the truth was that she was actually terrified as well. Killian's comforting words had worked for a few hours, but now she was scared, so scared that they would be back to their old selves, forced to steal because they had nothing left to do.

They all fell asleep together in their bed, that night. They didn't want to leave each other because of their fear, and she'd wrapped Henry in her embrace, while Killian was laying behind her, his strong arms keeping them both safe. As the little boy had finally found sleep, he whispered to her ear.

"Don't fret, my love. We'll be all right."

"I know." she sighed, these simple words already making her feel better. "As long as we're together, we have everything we need, right?"

"Right." he smiled in her neck, before burying his face in her hair to breathe her in.

Miracles do happen sometimes, and the next day, they were all feeling much better. The night had allowed them to rest and they were reassured about their fate. They'd been in that position before, right after arriving to this region, and they hadn't starved or been forced to steal again. They had several advantages now, too. They had money, a lot of it, they knew they could hunt and pick fruits to feed themselves, and the economic crisis was going to get better, surely. They didn't need to be afraid. They'd been through worse.

It's with a smile on their face that they decided to finally go to a tavern, and learn more about the famous speech Snow White and Prince Charming had pronounced the day before. They were curious to discover what they'd said, and couldn't wait to know.

The bustle they found in the first tavern they walked into left them speechless. If people had been excited before because of the Dome disappearing, this was nothing compared to what was going on now. Everyone was standing in a circle, talking loudly and almost bouncing up and down in excitement. People who knew each other were arguing with strangers, and everyone seemed to have an opinion on a subject the family knew nothing about.

Linking their hands together to avoid losing each other in the crowd, they entered the circle formed in the middle of the room, as one man was talking while making big gestures, his eyes wide open in eagerness. She shared a glance with Killian, gripping Henry's hand a bit tighter in hers, and her boyfriend called the man standing beside them. He had to be in his thirties, and turned to them with eyes shinning in enthusiasm.

"What's going on?" Killian asked, and Emma leaned a bit closer to try and hear what the stranger was answering above the conversation noise.

"You don't know? You haven't heard Snow White's speech? You're not going to believe this!" he said when they'd shaken their heads in unison.

"The Lost Princess is real!" A woman said a bit further to their right, listening to them talking. "She was real all along! It wasn't a myth!"

"What do you mean, she's real?" Emma asked as Henry was squeezing her hand, and she could almost feel his excitement at the way he was standing next to her. "You mean she was with her parents during the speech?"

"Even better!" Someone next to them said, but she couldn't really know who had talked, since everyone around them seemed to be getting into their discussion.

"The legend was right!" The first man they'd talked to cried out. "They really did abandon their daughter the day the Dark Curse took place!"

"And now, they're offering their home to the girl who can prove them that she's their daughter!" The same woman added.

"Wait a second, this doesn't make any sense." Killian argued, as Henry was bouncing up and down next to Emma, now. She would have wanted to tell him to calm down, but his favorite story was taking the turn he'd always hoped for, and she knew it was useless. "Everyone can pretend that they're the princess to get the money and the life they're offering by their side. How will they be able to discriminate the liars from the potential real daughter?"

"That's easy!" Their first interlocutor explained. "The time hasn't passed in their kingdom for the last decades, but since the princess has been sent away with a magic wardrobe creating a portal, she has to be twenty-eight, now. So they do know her age."

"This doesn't prove anything." Emma shrugged. "There are a lot of women who are twenty-eight in the world."

"I wasn't finished!" The man said enthusiastically. "The couple is sure that she's near, since they think that she's the reason why the Dome has disappeared in the first place. She's the Savior, after all! But even better, they're the only ones who actually know her name. They've apparently left her a clue so she knew what they'd chosen for her, and the girl who will be able to give them this name and prove that it's her real identity will be considered as being the princess!"

"They're also pretending that they have magical ways to tell the liars from the honest girl too, but I'm sure that it's not true." Another girl who hadn't talked until then shrugged. "It's probably only to chase the dishonest people away. But I'm sure that they'll know it when their real daughter will come to them. People can feel those things, right? It's their baby, after all!"

"Can you imagine!" The man on their right said then. "For all these years, the princess was actually real!"

Emma was far from being as impressed as the people surrounding her, and she just needed to share one glance with Killian to understand that he was thinking the same thing. She knew that the try of the royal couple was probably going to be useless, and was only going to bring them more pain. People would surely pretend that they were the princess to get all the advantages they were offering, while, for all they knew, the baby was dead the same day the curse had occurred.

Now that it was sure the princess had once existed, nothing was proving that she was still alive. She'd been placed in a magical wardrobe after all, and had landed god knows where in the forest. The chances of this newborn surviving this trip were definitely very low. It was making her sad, though, to think about those things. This poor baby had just been caught in stories that weren't concerning her, and she was probably gone for long. The king and queen of the Lost Kingdom were going to get hurt because of it, and even though she didn't know them, it was genuinely saddening her.

She got interrupted in her thoughts by Henry, who was trying to draw her attention by calling her name and pulling on her tunic. She looked down to see what he wanted to tell her, and knew right away than it wasn't going to please her. He was happy and she was glad to see him smile, but he was going to insist on the fact that she was the Lost Princess again, and she didn't want that, she just wanted him to understand that it wasn't real.

"You should go talk to Snow White and Prince Charming and tell them that you're their daughter!"

"Henry, no!" She answered, shaking her head. She'd wanted to let her son believe in those things after everything they'd been through, but she would put her limits there. She didn't want to hurt anyone, and he had to understand that, if it was true that the princess had once been real, she wasn't this Savior he was seeing in her. "There's no way I'll go to these poor people who've already suffered so much and tell them that I'm their long lost daughter. You have a good heart, kid, and I know you don't want to make anyone sad. Don't you see how much it's going to cause them pain, to see me pretend that I'm their baby?"

"But you are, you won't hurt them!" He insisted, and he cut her off as she was about to argue again. "Isn't it strange that you were born the day of the Dark Curse, that you're an orphan, and that the Dome disappeared when you were close to it?"

"It's just a coincidence, all of it, Henry." she sighed, knowing that his clues were making sense, but sure that she wasn't a princess, not at all.

"But, mom..." he pleaded

"No." She said in a cold voice that made him blink in surprise, because she wasn't getting mad at him very often, and he knew he'd gone to far. She didn't want to be angry at him, but now that everyone knew the Lost Princess had existed for sure, he needed to understand that none of this was real and that she wasn't a Savior. "I'm not a princess, Henry, how many times do I have to tell you this?"

"Swan?" Killian called her then, and she looked up at him, suddenly intrigued.

He hadn't tried to enter the conversation, knowing this was something between her and Henry, but she knew he'd listened to them carefully. Now, however, he was staring at something in front of him, looking focused, and she knew that he wanted to tell her something important. She forgot about her conversation with her son then, taking his hand back in hers so she wouldn't risk losing him in the crowd.

Killian gestured for someone talking not so far from them, and she finally was able to hear what the guy was saying. "… All of this is insane! I can't believe it!"

"Can't believe what?" She asked then, curious. "I've missed the last part of the conversation, apparently."

He turned to her, looking incredibly happy to be able to tell his news one more time. "They also said they're going to organize an interview for a new job in their castle. They want to find a help, someone who would be taking care of the princess. I know Snow White has one too, it's a lady who goes everywhere with her, advising her and taking care of how she dresses. They want one for their daughter, so she will immediately feel at home when she'll join them in their castle. That is such an amazing opportunity! Can you imagine, working next to the queen?"

Killian and Emma turned to look at each other, their eyes wide, and she slowly saw a smirk appearing on her boyfriend's lips. They were thinking about the same thing, the same crazy idea had crossed their mind, and they couldn't believe their chance. It was insane, impossible, even. Except that they'd been through much worse, and maybe they could actually do it. They felt like they were strong enough to do anything as long as they were together.

It had to be a sign, that these information were coming to them as they'd just lost their jobs. They had no idea of what they would do next, and it was presenting itself, this crazy, amazing opportunity, the one of a lifetime. It meant working next to the royal couple, something everyone wanted, but it also probably came with a very high wage. With that, they could feed themselves easily, while still saving to live their dream on the Jolly Roger, one day, without needing to worry about starving ever again.

It was insane, she knew it, but she was feeling like their solution was there. Killian had been right all along, she felt like, as he was approaching her to wrap his arms around her for a tight hug. They would really be okay.

Everything was going to be right in the world again.

Chapter Text

"Emma, are you sure that this is what you want? I won't ever force you to do anything, love, you know that, aye? If you feel too uncomfortable, if your instincts tell you that this isn't right, there's a reason for it. We'll find another solution. Do not feel obligated to do anything, please."

Emma was pacing back and forth in the captain's quarter, nervously playing with Killian's ring around her neck as she didn't know what to do with herself. She was worried, it was the least she could say, but she still stopped when she heard her boyfriend's words, looking at him with a frown. He was sitting on their bed, Henry settled next to him, and they were both looking at her in concern because of her behavior.

She shook her head to show Killian that this wasn't the right thing to do. She wasn't going to let her family down. "There is no way I'm backing out now. I'm going. I have no chance, anyway. There will be dozens of girls who have been assistants before there, and I won't ever get chosen, but I have to try. We need a job, and I need to do this. If I don't, I'll never know and will wonder what would have happened for the rest of my life. I've been through worse than going to a castle, really. I'm just worrying for nothing."

Despite her words to comfort her boys, she wasn't feeling reassured at all, quite the opposite, really. Killian knew that, he knew her by heart and he could see that the confidence in the tone of her voice was only a facade. So he got up from the bed, approached her, and gently wrapped his arms around her to hold her against his heart. She sighed at his comforting touch, and completely melted into his embrace, letting him take a bit of her worry away.

A week had passed since they'd learned that Snow White and Prince Charming were going to organize interviews to find a help for their daughter, and everything was happening today. They'd understood that she would go to this interview the moment they'd stepped out of this tavern and got away from the crowd and the noise. And here she was, about to leave for the castle.

They'd discussed a lot about this, knowing it was a big decision to make. They were still wanted for murder in another region, and going to meet a royal couple was bold to say the least. But they hadn't changed their mind once. The chances of their past reaching the Lost Kingdom were very low, especially since they had new identities now, and the royal couple would have no idea of who she was. And they wanted to believe that all of this was a sign. There was a reason why this was happening while they were in need of a job. She needed to go.

They still had decided to take some precautions, so she wouldn't risk getting recognized and thrown in a cell. They had run the plan over and over again for the last seven days, and she knew that she was ready, even if she wasn't comfortable lying.

She wasn't going to mention Killian or Henry during the interview, and she was going to tell the King and the Queen that she was only a poor farm girl, all alone in the world and in search of a better life. She had more chances of getting hired in these conditions, even if she knew she wouldn't get chosen at the end of the day, and she wouldn't get recognized as Emma Swan. The people with whom she'd worked until then on the black market would probably not be at the castle, and nobody would know that she actually had a son and a boyfriend.

She just had to stick with this lie, and she would be okay.

They'd gone to buy a dress in a shop in town for the occasion, and she was wearing this beautiful piece of clothing with the feeling that she was someone else. It was purple, a belt to stress her waistline, and she'd tied her hair up in a long braid, hoping to look a bit more professional that way. She was almost feeling like the princess Henry wanted her to be in these clothes, and she hoped it would give her the assurance she was lacking.

She didn't know how she would manage in such a wealthy environment. Putting the fear of being recognized as a murderer aside, she was afraid that she wouldn't be able to act like these people would expect her to. The simple thought of meeting the royal couple was making her shiver. How was she supposed to act around them? She was an orphan, had lived in the streets, no one had never been there to teach her how to behave in a castle. Hell, she didn't even know how to bow.

She was scared of making a big mistake and blowing her cover. She was afraid of offending them without meaning to. And she was terrified of ruining everything, since this job was their best shot at a real future, someday. Even if she knew she wouldn't get chosen to be the assistant, she still wanted to do the best she could. But she wasn't sure she could do much.

She took a deep breath, and Killian kissed her temple, gently stroking her back. She was already feeling better in his arms, and a new hope was arising in her heart. She would be all right, she had to.

Killian started in a soft voice, his lips brushing against her forehead. "I know you're scared, Swan. But it's going to be all right. Going there won't put you in any danger, I know it. And if they don't see how amazing you are, that's their loss. You can still back out at any moment, all right? If you don't feel comfortable, you're not forced to do anything. Listen to what your heart tells you, it's never failed you before. If you don't want to do this, we'll find something else. I don't want you to do something that makes you unhappy ever again. We'll be all right whether you do this or not."

"I know." She whispered, a small smile appearing on her face at his words.

She snuggled a bit closer to him for a second, as his hand was going up to caress her neck. She was feeling better, thanks to him, and she knew he wouldn't be disappointed if she decided not to do this after all. But she also knew she wouldn't let him and her son down. She had to do this, for them and for herself. She had to prove to herself that she was capable of this.

After a few more seconds, she ended up pulling away from him to look into his gorgeous blue eyes, and she said with a nod to stress her words. "But I have to do this, Killian. I want to."

"In that case, I'm sure that you'll be absolutely perfect." he said, making her smile widen. "And if these people don't see how amazing you are, they're idiots."

He raised an eyebrow, a little smirk appearing on his lips, and she finally chuckled, feeling so relaxed thanks to him. The tension was leaving her muscles, and she shook her head, still smiling, so grateful to have him by her side to get through anything life was throwing their way. He was her rock, and the world couldn't function without him.

Her hands were still resting on his shoulders, and she slowly ran them down his arms, appreciating how his muscles felt under the fabric of his leather coat. She placed herself on her tiptoe to press a quick peck on his lips, feeling butterflies in her stomach at the touch of his mouth against hers. Despite the years, the hardships, everything they'd been through, she was still madly, utterly in love with him. And she knew these feelings would never fade away.

After a few more seconds, she decided that it was time. She couldn't be late to that interview, and she had to go. It would be okay, she knew it. She just had to try, and see what would happen next.

She sighed and said with half a smile. "We should go." Henry got up and Killian kept her hand in his, as they were going up on deck. They'd decided they would accompany her for a while, but leave her to go alone when they would get close to the Lost Kingdom. They didn't want anyone in that city to know that she had a family, or her lie wouldn't work.

She took Henry's hand too and, with her two boys by her side, she started walking to get to her destination. She didn't feel that anxious anymore, but knew this was thanks to Henry and Killian's presence by her side, the way her son was looking at her with a proud smile, the way her boyfriend was slowly drawing circles on the skin of her hand with his thumb. She didn't know how she would feel when she would be left alone, but knew that thinking about them would make her feel better, whatever would happen. They were her everything, and she was doing all of this for them.

Finally, they stopped in the forest, not so far from the fences of the city, but still enough for them to be invisible. Henry wrapped his arms around her waist and held her tight, as she was dropping a kiss to the top of his head. "You're going to be awesome, mom. I know it." She could read in his gaze the hope he had that the couple would recognize her as their daughter, but she ignored it, allowing him to dream just for a little bit longer. When she would get home and tell him that nothing had happened, he would understand that her being the Lost Princess had never been real in the first place.

She turned to Killian after a few seconds, and he pulled her to him then, kissing her lips in a sweet gesture that made her smile. His forehead resting against hers, he said in a whisper. "You're going to blow them all away."

"We'll see about that." She laughed, and he grinned back at her.

"You're not giving yourself enough credits, darling. But whatever happens today, just know that I am proud of you."

It made her smile even more, and she pressed another kiss to his lips then, before completely pulling away, knowing that it was more than time. She fluffed Henry's hair one last time, in this gesture she'd repeated so often since he was a baby, and after one last glance to give herself the courage she needed, she turned her back to them. Feeling their gazes in her back, she started walking on the path under the morning sun, her stomach in knots, but knowing that she had to do this.

She would do anything for them.

The castle was thirty minutes away from the harbor by foot, and if she'd done most of it with her family by her side, she took her time to join the Lost Kingdom. Killian's words, Henry's trust, and the physical effort managed to calm her down for a bit. She'd always liked walking. Sensing the muscles of her legs working as she was moving forward was relaxing her and making her feel alive. It was like she could go anywhere and do anything. She was strong, Killian was right. She would be okay.

Walking through the forest was making her feel so much better as well. The noise of the wind in the trees and the birds chirping in between the branches were the only sounds disturbing the quiet of the woods, and it was peaceful, comforting. It was giving her the trust she was lacking in herself, and she knew she could overcome anything. She'd been through much worse.

But as she was approaching the fences of the city, as the forest was disappearing in her back and the presence of her son and boyfriend began to feel so much more distant, her anxiety caught up with her. The calm of the woods had left the place to the cries of the merchants working on the market near the gates, and the pounding of the horses' hoofs on the paved floor. In the distance, the castle was standing, huge, majestic, overhanging everything, and Emma's heart was about to explode.

All of the sudden, the noises faded away around her, as if she were under water. Her vision became blurry, and she felt like she couldn't breathe anymore now that she was inside the city. It was alive, so real, the story of her childhood was coming to life, but that wasn't it. She was feeling like everybody was watching her, knowing that she was lying to everyone around her and pretending to be someone else.

She was feeling ridiculous in her beautiful dress, playing the part of someone she was not. Everyone probably knew that she was an orphan, a thief. A murderer. The people knew her face. They were aware of what she'd done. She was going to get arrested before passing the gates of the castle. The guards were going to take her and throw her in a cell, even sentence her to death, maybe. And she would never see Henry and Killian again.

Why the hell had she decided to come here? This was insane.

It's Killian's voice in her head that made her calm down after a few minutes of pure panic. I'm proud of you, he'd told her, and she knew that he wasn't wrong. She was just being paranoid. She was going to give him a reason to be proud. More importantly, she was going to give herself a reason to believe that she was a good person. She could do this. She was stronger than these fears she had because of her past.

She was going to give a beautiful life to her little boy, the future that he truly deserved. She was going to prove these idiots that were Eric, Calvin, and everyone who had ever done her wrong that they shouldn't have underestimated her. She doubted herself and she didn't know if she was going to get the job, it was probably impossible, but on that moment she wanted to believe that she could. She wanted to believe that she was going to work with the Queen and earn a lot of money and that, in a few months, her family could go and live their dream life all together.

She'd stopped in the middle of the street, prisoner of her own panic attack. The people were actually looking at her, but it wasn't because they knew who she was. She was pale, breathing heavily, and most of them were wondering if she didn't need help. She noticed that, looked around her, and suddenly straightened. Reassured by her previous thoughts, she chose not to pay attention to the curious glances the people were giving her, and she started to walk again, more determined than ever.

She had to prove to herself that she could do this. She wasn't worthless. She was capable of making a good impression.

Arrived at the bottom of the hilltop on which the castle was standing, she started climbing, finally feeling at peace with herself. She was still anxious, of course, but she also knew that she had to do this. So she let her short breath and her legs burning calm her down, losing herself in the effort to forget about her fears once again.

When she finally reached the gates of the palace, she found them wide open, ready to welcome her. She stopped, staring at the huge gardens and the building standing there, so tall and intimidating her breath got stuck in her throat. Two guards were surrounding the entrance, and she looked at them shyly, wondering if she had to say something. She had no idea of how she had to behave, but they didn't give her the time to do anything.

One of them approached her, and with an almost apologetic gaze, he started to search her, making sure that she wasn't carrying any weapon and wasn't a threat to the royal couple. She stayed completely still, a bit scared that they would recognize her as being Emma Swan, but nothing happened. After a few seconds, the man offered her a smile and nodded, saying :

"You can go. The candidates are already in the common room. The first interview should start in a few minutes. Good luck"

"Thank you." Emma answered with a small smile that didn't reach her eyes. She was too intimidated and didn't know what else to say.

He seemed friendly, but he also had this aura around him. He was obviously someone who was used to giving orders and he wasn't messing around. That was impressive, he looked so confident, so assured, Emma wondered for a second if everyone was that way in the castle. She didn't know how she was going to react when seeing the royal couple, if a guard was making this effect on her, but she forced herself to stop thinking about those things. She had to keep going if she didn't want to look like a complete idiot, standing there motionless.

She had no clue of where the common room was, but she didn't feel like asking. She assumed she would end up finding it by herself, and started walking again to reach the steps leading to the castle, passing through the huge and beautiful gardens. Flowers, trees and fountains were spreading in harmonious pathways, and she took a second to realize how gorgeous all of this was. This palace was really something else, she thought, as she was finally arrived to the steps.

She stopped once again in front of the entrance, wondering if she could go in. A few other guards were surrounding the doors, but they glanced at her without approaching her for another search. They knew why she was there, and one of them even smiled at her, as if to encourage her. She could hear sounds of conversation coming from further into the castle, telling her where the common room probably was, but her legs were refusing to move an inch. Eyes locked with the inside of the palace, she couldn't look away from what was there before her eyes.

She'd never seen such a beautiful place in her entire life.

The hallway was huge and so gorgeous it took her breath away. She was feeling so tiny and yet, she wasn't scared anymore. Her heartbeats had grown slower, and she was comforted by this place. She was feeling good there, for some mysterious reason. She was feeling like she belonged. It was crazy to even think about. Her, the little orphan, the beggar, the thief. She was feeling like she was where she should be while standing in that castle.

She'd probably stayed under the sun for too long.

Stained-glass windows were enlightening the room, giving the surroundings a pretty reddish tint. The floor was paved with large pink tiles, and statuettes and paintings were decorating the place, as if to welcome the guests into this beautiful home. The ceiling was so tall it made her dizzy, and a staircase was leading up to a place she couldn't see from where she was standing. The room was so huge that the Jolly Roger could have stood in it without any issue.

"Impressive, huh?"

Emma turned on her heels, getting out of her thoughts and noticing that one of the guards had approached her. He was smiling, but she immediately saw the differences between him and the other guards she'd met before. He was older, and the armor he was wearing seemed heavier, looking more majestic somehow. Everything about him screamed that he was a chief, and she got stiff, suddenly terrified.

For all she knew, he was aware of who she really was. Maybe that was why he'd approached her in the first place. He didn't seem threatening, but maybe he knew that she was Emma Swan, the fugitive, the murderer. She blinked, almost shaking at the thought that he was going to arrest her, but the smile he offered her then made her calm down all at once.

He was relaxed, friendly. He'd joined her to help her, not to arrest her. He wasn't seeing her as a threat, he just knew why she was there and wanted to tell her where the common room was. She had to stop panicking for nothing, she thought, or she wasn't going to make it in this palace.

She sighed discreetly and smiled back, a bit shyly, to say. "It is. I just have no idea of where the common room is."

"It's at the end of the hallway." He answered kindly. "Right behind the door. Nervous?"

"A bit." She admitted in a whisper, intimidated by how powerful he seemed despite his nice behavior. "I've never been in a castle before."

"The royal couple is absolutely lovely, you'll see. You don't have to be scared. You better get going, though. Punctuality is a true quality in this world."

"You're right. Thank you." She answered with another little smile, finally managing to make her legs move to go join her fate.

"You're welcome. Good luck!" He said back as she was walking away.

She just smiled without answering, still a bit confused by the encounter and wondering how the hell was the royal couple if their employees all seemed so powerful. She tried not to let the despair get to her as she was thinking that she had nothing of this confidence these people had. She pulled herself together in less than a second though. She was only trying, proving to herself that she was good enough to be there. There was no way she would get chosen for the job, and that was okay. Being there was the most important.

After what seemed like an eternity, she finally reached the door that was standing on the other side of the hall. She stopped for a second and took a deep breath, straightening to pretend that she knew what she was doing and wasn't absolutely terrified to be there. Nothing could happen to her, she tried to reassure herself. They didn't know who she was, and she had to convince herself that with all the months that had passed, she was safe. She couldn't keep on living like that, in the fear of getting caught for what she'd done.

She would be okay. The only dangerous thing she was facing right now was making a fool of herself in front of the royal couple. It wasn't pleasant, but it wasn't that bad either. This wouldn't break the fragile balance her family had managed to find in this place.

She couldn't back out, anyway. She'd gone too far and had been through worse. The only thing left to do was to keep on walking.

She opened the door and stepped inside the room.

It was as huge as the hallway, if not more. Built in a circle, it was containing so much furniture, so many sculptures and paintings that she felt completely lost for a second. She didn't even dare to look around her for too long, from fear this place would swallow her whole. Instead, she decided to look at the group of people standing in the middle of the room, the other candidates there for the job. She should as well know who she was up against.

She understood her mistake barely a second later.

Fifty other women, maybe more, were standing there, from different heights, shapes and ages, but she was probably one of the youngest ones. Some of these girls turned when they heard her coming in, and she coughed discreetly, suddenly embarrassed. She immediately realized that these women were all better dressed than she was and, mostly, that they seemed much more confident than her. She had no chance. God, what was she doing there?

She took a deep breath, erasing these thoughts from her mind. She was doing this for herself and for her family. Comparing herself to others would be useless and stupid. She was who she was meant to be, she was a survivor, and if she was ashamed of some things she'd done in the past, she was proud of the person she'd become. So she looked away from these women, but kept her chin up while walking to join them to show them that she wasn't scared, that she was strong and that they shouldn't underestimate her.

She knew at the way they were glancing at her, at the whispers they were exchanging, that some of them were judging her. She chose to ignore them and kept a bit away from the crowd to look at her opponents more easily. A few of them dared to give her a disdainful look that she erased with one raise of her eyebrows, despite her heart pounding so fast in her chest. These women were older, dressed with pretty dresses, some of them were probably rich or had experience in the field of assisting important people, but she chose not to care. She wouldn't give them the right to despise her.

Each and every one of the women that had stared at her looked down when they noticed the look she was giving them back. She almost smiled at that. She was happy to be there, now. She was truly proving to herself that she was more than an orphan, a thief, more than someone who had made mistakes. She was giving her son a reason to be proud.

And then she got interrupted in her thoughts by the gates at the back of the room opening with a big and impressive sound.

Silence fell on the place, every person there turned to look at the door, and she understood that the royal couple was coming in. Her new confidence faded away as her stomach was suddenly in knots. She wished Henry and Killian could have been there, so she would have been able to hold their hands and give herself some courage. Instead, she grabbed the ring Killian had given her so long ago, and tugged at it with a little sigh.

She needed a few seconds to actually see the King and the Queen because of the crowd that was standing in front of her. Not a sound was audible in the room, everyone was shivering with the certitude that they were in the presence of two legends. Emma discreetly put herself on her tiptoe to see better, trying to discover what she was going to face in this interview. She had to know. She wanted to. Something was attracting her to these two figures walking to face the crowd, and she wanted to see them.

She was finally able to as they'd stopped in front of the group of women there, standing straight and proud. Her eyes first met the King, Prince Charming as they called him, and she felt so small next to the aura of natural power he was releasing. Clear hair, blue eyes, and despite the warm smile, she guessed that he could be more than fierce if someone attacked those he loved.

The legend said he'd gotten hurt just before the Dark Curse, and he had still placed his daughter in the magical wardrobe while being on the verge of dying. A good father, a good man. His hand was interlaced with the Queen's, and he turned to her to share a glance filled with so much softness Emma's heart fluttered.

When her eyes fell on Snow White, she felt a huge and unexpected calm filling her entire being. She was smiling at the crowd, all gentle and kind, all warm and reassuring. Emma knew what she was capable of, she'd heard about how good of a warrior she was, how fierce of a fighter she could be, but she was so soothing she let go of a little sigh, almost smiling at this woman she didn't know.

She had long black hair, falling in her back in gentle waves. She was pale and was small and thin, all delicate and soft. Her eyes were the same color Emma's were, but she didn't find it strange. She just kept on looking at her, realizing that she didn't seem any older than she was, but was looking so much wiser.

Maybe these twenty-eight years spent stuck in time had somehow had an effect on them, after all.

All of the sudden, the crowd moved in unison and broke Emma out of her almost trance. The couple was standing there for a few seconds now, and every person in the room was now bowing to welcome them properly. For an instant of panic, Emma didn't know what to do at all, and only decided to imitate them a second later.

She had no idea of what she was doing, though. She looked up to take the position the girl in front of her had, but still wasn't sure if she was doing it right. Head down, knees bent, gracefully lifting the bottom of the dress. They all looked so elegant and confident, Emma felt herself blush a little bit. She was feeling ridiculous, and thanked the odds for choosing to put herself in the back of the room.

Luckily, the ordeal was over quickly. With a welcoming smile, the Queen gestured for the group of people to stand back up. The way she was grinning at the crowd comforted Emma once again, now that she was back on her two feet, and she felt even better when Snow White started to talk. She had a soft voice, so soothing and calm, the voice a mother would use to talk to a child.

Emma didn't have a lot of experience on that matter, but the way she would talk to Henry was coming on its own, out of instinct. And it was also the way Judy had talked to her during her childhood. The only mother she'd ever known. The only one during her first few years that had ever made her feel safe, loved, and not completely worthless.

Maybe that was why the Queen was soothing her so much. Despite their physical differences, she reminded her of Judy. And that felt so, so good.

"Welcome to all of you." The Queen started then, still smiling. "And thank you for coming here today. We can't even begin to tell you how happy we are to have you here in this castle. We will start by telling you how the interviews will take place, and then we can begin."

"You just need to know that we want what's best for our daughter." The King added, his eyes shinning in a way that made Emma's heart tighten. "We want her to feel at home when she'll get here. We just want her to be happy. She's probably spent way too much time alone already. We want her to be surrounded by good and trustworthy people."

It made Emma smile slightly. This couple was crazy about their daughter, while they didn't even know who she was. She could see how much they loved her at the way they were holding onto each other's hand, and at the way the Queen's eyes had filled with tears at her husband's words. It was so obvious she would have wanted to see her baby grow up more than anything, and it made her heart ache. She didn't know these people, but she knew they deserved to be happy.

If she was still alive, the Lost Princess was lucky, Emma thought. She had a family who adored her, she was loved, wanted. She hoped from the bottom of her heart that she was out there somewhere and that the couple wasn't wrong by thinking that they would find her eventually. And she suddenly felt so connected to her. Emma and this girl had lived the exact same thing, after all. The princess had been left alone too. And if she'd probably found an adoptive family, they were sharing the same past, the same wounds. She just hoped that if she really was there, she would find her family soon.

She wanted to be as optimistic as Henry was, but she knew that it was probably impossible for this little girl to still be alive today. A baby who had been left alone so soon had so little chance of surviving. Maybe she'd died the day of the Dark Curse, and the couple would never find the daughter they were seeking. She hoped that she was wrong, she really did. These people deserved to find their little girl. This family needed to be reunited. They needed to find their happy ending.

The Queen started to talk again, getting her out of her thoughts yet another time. "The organization is simple. You will introduce yourself to these men right there." She gestured and smiled to two young men who were standing a bit back, a quill in one hand and a parchment in the other. "They'll take your names, and we'll call you in the same order you've introduced yourself to them. We'll take each one of you alone for a few minutes to talk a little bit. For the others, you'll be waiting for your turn in a special room, you'll have drinks and snacks available there. I really hope that every one of you will enjoy the interview. We're really excited to meet you all. Thank you again for coming here today, it really means a lot to us. And good luck to all of you."

She gestured for the crowd to move to the young men standing behind her, but Emma was too busy still staring at her to realize that fully. It's only when the group of people moved in unison that she understood what was going on, and she got confused about what to do for a second. She only imitated the other candidates an instant later, and found herself at the very end of the queue with the fifty other girls in front of her.

She sighed and closed her eyes in despair. She didn't have a lot of luck apparently, because it meant that she was going to be the last one to get to the interview. That wasn't a very good position to be chosen as the new assistant, but she ended up shrugging, deciding not to care about these details. She had zero chance of being picked as the help, anyway. Putting too much hope in this interview was only going to hurt her. She was doing this to prove that she could, and she was just going to see what would happen without asking herself too many questions.

With a bit of luck, the meeting would go well and she would actually have a nice time talking with this couple. And in the worst case scenario, this would still allow Henry to dream a little bit, and she would be able to tell him everything about her encounter with the King and the Queen.

She didn't know what it was at first, but a strange sensation suddenly made her turn her head to the middle of the room, as the queue was slowly moving forward. She was feeling watched, and if it wasn't threatening, she still wanted to know what the hell was going on. She hadn't expected to find what her eyes met, though, and her heart skipped a beat when she saw the Queen staring back at her.

Surprised, she held her gaze for a few seconds, without wondering if it was rude to do so. She just felt attracted to her, somehow. She had such beautiful, gentle eyes. The same green color hers were, but the warmth she was reading in her pupils was distinguishing them. She'd grown more gentle with Henry's birth, then with Killian's presence by her side, understanding that she didn't need to be harsh to protect herself from the world. But she still had that spark in the back of her gaze, sometimes, when she would catch her image in the mirror. That spark she had since she was a little girl. The cold light of someone who had thought one day that she was unloved and unlovable.

The glance they shared lasted for another few seconds, and Emma suddenly found herself blushing when she realized what she was doing. The Queen's lips moved to form a small smile that made her eyes shine, and as Emma broke the contact, she still saw the nostalgia etched in her features. She didn't need long to understand why.

She had more or less the same age her daughter should have been, and this was probably the reason why she was looking at her that way. She was seeing in her all the missed moments with her little girl, all the firsts, all the laughter. Her heart ached, and she tried to smile slightly to reassure her. The Queen was still looking at her, and Emma finally turned and looked back at the brunette standing before her in the queue, focusing on her short hair and small figure to pull herself together and forget about this strange moment with the Queen of the Lost Kingdom.

She only looked back up when it was time to give her name to the young man in front of her. She'd been lost in her thoughts and hadn't noticed all the girls disappearing into the waiting room. She could hear the sounds of excited voices coming from it, and she wondered what kind of agitation was awaiting for her back there. She didn't really want to interact with these people that had seemed to judge her, and knew she was in for some long hours of boredom before she could get to the interview.

"Leia Stark." She said to the man, who carefully wrote the name down on his parchment. She liked how this name sounded, now that she'd got used to it. It meant the beginning of a new life for her and her family. The young man gave her an encouraging smile, looking almost sorry for her that she was the last one to go, and she finally entered the other room to go wait for her turn.

The interviews had already begun, for what she understood. Some of the girls were talking around glasses of water or pieces of cake, not looking intimidated at all by the fact that they were in a castle. Emma didn't pay attention to them and looked at the food laying on a huge table there, as if having so much supplies in one place was the most natural thing in the world.

It reminded her of how she had once looked at the pastries in the bakers' windows with the hope that she could get to them, with the strong desire to feel the sugar on her tongue and relieve her stomach yelling for food. She realized how big it was, to be in the presence of all of this given where she was coming from.

She still decided not to take anything. This amount of food seemed almost obscene for her, who'd fought to survive for her entire life. And despite her desire to take this interview lightly, her stomach was in knots, and she would have been unable to eat anything. So she wandered for a while, searching for a place to sit, and ended up discovering an empty wooden chair in a corner of the room. She settled on it, cursing herself for not taking a book with her to help pass the time, and she folded her arms, just waiting for what was coming next.

The seconds, the minutes, the hours elapsed slowly, almost stretching until it was impossible to see the end of it. The other women were disappearing one by one, called by a beautiful woman with a long dress who was probably the Queen's assistant, and they weren't coming back after the interview, surely going back home. Emma thought about Killian and Henry on the ship, hoping that they weren't worried because of her long absence. She hadn't expected all of this to be this long, but the King and Queen apparently liked to take their time questioning the girls, and she just wished she would have reacted sooner and not let herself get last on that damn list.

Out of boredom, she started noticing the little details in the room. She looked at the tapestries on the walls and at how tall the ceiling was, she stared at the paintings and sculptures, but she ended up also watching the girls that were surrounding her. Thinking about their clothes and the way they were standing, assured like the world was there to serve them, she started creating them a life to busy herself a bit.

This tall redhead was dreaming about luxury and riches. This older woman was experienced, but the child she was taking care of until then had grown up and didn't need her anymore. That thirty-something brunette was coming from afar for this job, trying to find gold to feed her younger siblings while her parents were too old to work on the fields. She smiled at this stories she was telling herself and thought that maybe Henry did take after her for his imagination after all, if she was able to create all those things in her mind.

She definitely had the time to notice that some girls were staying for a long time, while some of them were in the room for barely a minute before the Queen's assistant came back to ask for another candidate. Her limbs were starting to ache as she was staying in the same position for so long, and it's as she was yawning behind her palm that a voice by her side made her startle a little.

"It's long, huh?"

She turned to notice that a young woman with short brown hair and dark eyes had come to sit beside her on a chair. She seemed barely older than Emma was, and was looking at her with a somewhat shy smile. At her hairdo and the dress she was wearing, Emma recognized the girl who had stood before her in the queue, and she grinned back, noticing that she was looking embarrassed to be there too and seemed genuinely kind.

All of this also gave her the opportunity to see that it was just the two of them left in the room anymore. She couldn't believe that she hadn't noticed the other women had disappeared sooner, and she straightened on her chair, realizing it was going to be her turn soon. She'd waited for that moment for hours, and still, her heart started to pound faster in her chest.

"It is." She answered to the woman with a little chuckle, happy to be talking to someone after hours of pure boredom.

"Maybe we should have thrown ourselves in the queue like the others did." She sighed, running her hand down the fabric of her white dress. "I feel like waiting is even worse than going directly."

"It'll be over soon." Emma comforted her. "And you'll do great, I'm sure of it. I'm Leia, by the way. Leia Stark."

"Nice to meet you!" She said with a big smile.

She was about to add something, probably her name, but she got stiff when she heard the steps of the assistant approaching them again. Emma saw her taking a deep breath, as if to calm herself down. She was about to offer her some reassuring words because she seemed truly terrified, but the voice of the woman she'd seen so many times since the beginning of the afternoon rang in the room.

"Chiara Hudson?"

"That's me!" She answered, getting up, almost breathless.

"Good luck!." Emma told her with a smile as she was standing there, as if hesitating to walk forward.

Chiara grinned back "Thank you! Good luck to you too!"

And Emma found herself alone in the huge room, looking even bigger now that it was empty. It had been so noisy, so crowded for the last few hours, she was suddenly scared to be all alone with her thoughts in this unknown place. She was filled with the sudden and brief desire to run away and never look back, but she quickly shook her head, outraged by her own feelings.

She hadn't waited for over four hours to back out now. She was about to get to this damn interview, and she would be okay. Her family needed her. She wasn't going to get the job, she knew it, but they really needed this money, so it was worth a try. It couldn't be that awful, anyway. The couple seemed lovely. Everything was going to be all right.

Chiara seemed to stay for a very long time in that room with the couple, she realized. The minutes passed and, trying to think about something else than this interview that was stressing her so much, she suddenly hoped that, since she wasn't going to get chosen for this job anyway, she wanted Chiara to be the princess' assistant. She had talked with her for less than a minute, but she had immediately liked her. She wasn't like the other girls, arrogant, judgmental. She had seemed soft, kind, human. If the princess was alive, such a warm presence in her life could only do her good.

Emma suddenly noticed how dry her throat felt. She got up to approach the table where insane amounts of food had laid earlier, now almost empty, to pour herself a glass of water, but she got stiff when she heard the so expected and yet feared steps ringing on the floor of the empty common room.

Her legs felt unable to support her weight, and she let go of a shaky breath, trying to pull herself together. She had to look at least a bit confident to introduce herself to the King and Queen, she didn't have a choice. She would feel better when it would all be over, anyway. She had to do this, she wouldn't forgive herself if she didn't at least give it a try. And maybe they were as kind as the people said they were and she was actually going to feel comfortable there. It was unlikely, but imagining this was a good cure and she wasn't going to deprive herself of that.

She nervously ran her hands down her dress, and made sure that her braid was still okay. Then she straightened, determined not to show how scared she actually was. She was standing there and looking straight ahead when the assistant came back at the door, and she said with a welcoming smile.

"Leia Stark, I assume?"

"There's not much people left." Emma answered with a smile. For a second, she wondered if she'd been rude, but the woman laughed and gestured for her to come.

Emma walked to her, and the assistant led her to the common room, crossed it and walked through one of the doors Emma hadn't seen yet, before getting into a long and narrow room at the end of which was standing a staircase. Emma wasn't sure if she should have been talking, and chose silence over babbling, still uncertain of how she should behave in this strange context. Luckily, the woman didn't give her the time to ask herself more questions, and she started in a kind tone :

"It isn't easy to be the last one here, huh?"

"It isn't. Waiting just brings all the fears back to life, I guess." She answered with a little wince.

The assistant was beautiful, she noticed now that she was standing closer to her. She was tall, thin, with a beautiful set of brown eyes, highlighted by her short, curly hair. She had to be about ten years older than Emma was and, hearing her answer, she placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. Emma had never liked to be touched by people she didn't know but, this time, it didn't bother her at all. She could easily see why Snow White had chosen this woman as an assistant. She seemed as lovely as the couple was, and she was truly happy to make an ally in this intimidating place.

"Oh, I bet it does. Don't worry, though, really. It's not because you're the last one that the King and the Queen won't listen to you. They're ecstatic to be here today. I'm Snow's assistant for years before the Curse, I've seen her pregnant, and I know she would do anything for her daughter. They both love her beyond words. Something tells me that they're going to like you." She added with a wink.

They'd left the narrow room, had walked up the stairs, and were now in a hallway ending with a door, as Emma guessed that the couple was standing behind it. Her heart started to pound even faster in her chest. "I'm really not that interesting." She answered with a little chuckle.

"Don't underestimate yourself." The assistant answered, reminding Emma of what Killian would always tell her, and it made her smile slightly.

They stopped in front of the door, seeming so big in front of her there. She couldn't believe that behind this was standing the royal couple, and that her, the little orphan, was going to actually talk to them. "Okay, we're here." The woman added warmly. "Good luck. I really hope it'll go great for you, Leia."

"Thank you..." Emma said, before stopping when she realized she didn't even know the assistant's name.

"Kate." She introduced herself with a grin.

"Thank you, Kate." She repeated. "Your support means a lot."

Emma saw her smile as she turned to walk away, and she placed her hand on the silver handle of the door. The conversation she just had with Kate had relaxed her somehow, but her heart was still beating insanely fast from fear that she would end up doing something wrong.

She hesitated for a second, then decided that she needed to enter sooner than later. She'd waited for too long already, and if she was afraid, she was also curious to know how this interview was going to go. She'd understood now that no one knew who she really was, or she would have gotten arrested already. She had nothing to worry about, she thought then, before making sure that her dress and hair were okay one last time and finally pushing the door.

She took the time to carefully close it behind her back before turning to look at the royal couple. She took in the atmosphere of the room at the same time, realizing it didn't feel thick, but welcoming and warm. When she finally looked at them, she saw the King and the Queen casually sitting in the middle of the room on two tall chairs. They were discussing about something, and even though she didn't know them, she could guess the bound they were sharing, stronger than anything, unbreakable. Just like the bound she was sharing with Killian.

They both got quiet when they realized that she was there. She stayed still beside the door, not sure if she had to walk forward on her own or wait for a permission, uncertain of how she was supposed to talk to them in order not to be impolite. She felt a shiver running up her spine, but the smile the Queen offered her calmed her down once again. With warmth in her voice, she said : "Leia, right? Come on in, we don't bite."

She obeyed, her steps uncertain and her hands a bit shaky as her heart was still pounding so hard she thought it could be heard into the entire room. She forced herself to stay focused on the Queen's smile and gentle gaze to give herself some courage. She didn't know why this woman was making her feel so safe while she had been mistrustful most of her life, but she was welcoming this feeling without questioning it too much.

When she arrived next to the couple, her mind started to run insanely fast as she was realizing that she probably had to bow in front of them. So she leaned quickly, imitating the pose she'd seen the other women take earlier, hoping she wasn't being too ridiculous. She felt her cheeks reddening and the Queen giggled, but there was no trace of mockery in her tone. It made her blink in surprise as Snow White was saying :

"No need for these formalities here, Leia. Please, take a seat."

She obeyed, still not saying anything from fear her voice would come out all shaky and broken. She sat down straight on her chair, hoping she wasn't making a fool of herself there. The King looked at her with shinning eyes, and if it wasn't mean, the laughter in his gaze was real. He looked almost childlike as he was saying with a smile :

"You're not used to bowing, are you?"

"Charming!" the Queen said, nudging his shoulder, and the gesture reminded Emma so much of her and Killian it finally made her smile. "Don't listen to him, Leia. You were perfect."

"You are right when you say that I'm not used to this." She admitted then, in an almost timid voice.

It made them grin and they shared a glance, their hands interlaced and placed on the Queen's knee in a tender gesture. Their love was so real it was crackling in the air around them, and it made her think about Killian but also about Henry. About the love the three of them were sharing, stronger than anything. Thinking about the two most important people of her life relaxed her a bit, and she sat down more comfortably in her chair, trying not to look too anxious about all of this.

The King started again after a second of silence, getting his serious look back to really begin the interview. "All right then, Leia. Your name is Stark, is that right? And how old are you?" He added when she'd nodded.

"I'm twenty-eight."

A shadow crossed their features and Emma's heart tightened. She bit her bottom lip, worried about the fact she'd hurt them by reminding them of the daughter they'd lost. But their smiles were gone for barely a second before coming back, as if they were comforted by the fact they were choosing an assistant for their girl. It was probably making them feel so much closer to her.

The couple nodded, and Snow White said. "If it's okay with you, we'd like to ask you a few questions, Leia. We want to know more about you. Where do you live? What were you doing before trying for this job?"

Emma took a discreet and quick breath, trying to clear her mind up for what was coming. She'd talked for hours about this lie with Killian, to make sure that their story was perfect and that no one could guess that she wasn't telling them the truth. They'd invented a past to Leia Stark, and she knew this story by heart. She just had to remember she couldn't mention Killian or Henry, but the rest of it was almost the truth. They hadn't wanted for her to lie more than necessary, and this story was more of a half-truth than a real lie.

"I'm an orphan." She started, and she immediately saw the Queen frowning at these words. "I was born far away from here. My parents died when I was a baby. I was adopted by a couple and I spent all my childhood with them. When I became old enough to work, I was hired in a tavern. I worked there for a while, but my parents died of sickness. So I decided to move out of my region to start anew, and I arrived here. I work in a farm not so far from here. I'm doing small jobs there, and the farmers allow me to sleep and eat for free. But I'm looking for something that will really allow me to live."

Emma stopped there, surprised to notice that her voice hadn't broken, and that she'd seemed completely assured of what she was saying. For an insane second, she got scared that they knew she wasn't telling them the truth, and that they were going to call the guards and throw her in a cell. But the Queen offered her a worried glance, as if she'd been actually touched by this entire story.

"You've lost a lot of people in your life, haven't you?"

"I have." She answered without lying, because that part was definitely true. "I just hope things are going to get better from now on."

"We hope so for you, too." The King said so genuinely Emma sighed in surprise. "Tell us, Leia." He added after a second of silence. "What are your motivations for working here?"

"Well, I've always liked to help people." She said, repeating those words she'd said so many times for the last few days, as she was rehearsing what to say in this situation. "I'm an orphan, so being in this castle already is a dream coming true for me, you know? I'm used to hard work and I'm not easily tired. I'm ready to listen, advice and help as much as I possibly can. And then..." She added, deciding to improvise, because she somehow knew it was the right thing to say on that moment. "The Princess and I have both been deprived of our parents, and we're the same age. I'm sure we could understand each other."

The silence fell on the room. Emma looked at the couple sharing a glance and wondered for a bit if she'd been right to say those things. The Queen left her husband's eyes to tilt her head on its side, and she stared at her, as if trying to read into her soul. She felt so guilty for a second to have lied about almost everything to these people, but she also knew that she hadn't had a choice and that all of this was worth a try.

In Snow White's eyes, Emma read a true affection that surprised her. She didn't know her and yet, she was looking at her with so much softness her heart swelled in her chest. She held her gaze, not really knowing what she had to do, but the Queen started to move again. She smiled at her, kindly, and stated. "I'm sure that you could, indeed."

She nodded then, as if it was concluding something, and got up from her chair. In a second, Emma was standing up as well, knowing that imitating the couple was probably the best thing to do right now. She had to admit the interview had surprised her, though. She hadn't expected to live these moments by coming there. She'd thought this couple would be so intimidating, and they were in some way, but they were just mostly humans.

She didn't know much about their story other than the legends that were being told about them, and yet she could guess all the hardships they'd had to face together, hand in hand, building their relationship on trust and love. They'd fought to get where they were, and they would fight until they had their daughter back beside them. The Queen approached her as she was standing there, and she said with another smile :

"All right, Leia. I'm going to tell you what I've told to every other candidate. We'll take our decision for tomorrow, we want to discuss a bit about the people we've met today, but we've asked those who had a chance to have the job to come back tomorrow morning. See, we work with our instincts. We actually know who's going to come back as soon as they step into this room. I'm very happy to tell you that you've passed this first test easily, and we would love for you to come back to know the final results of this interview."

Emma found herself speechless at these words. She couldn't believe that they'd actually liked her and wanted to see her again. When she'd walked into the room, she had been convinced the interview wouldn't last for more than a minute, and now they were asking her to come back. What she'd said had actually pleased them, and she didn't know what to answer, because she'd never imagined that could happen.

"Thank you." She whispered then, because she didn't know what else to say.

"No need to thank us." The King answered with a smile at her words. "We're very happy to have you here. Come on, we'll walk you back to the gates. It's the least we could do after making you wait for so long."

She was too surprised to protest. She didn't know anything about the customs in such a wealthy environment, but she was pretty sure walking a stranger back to the door was pretty unusual. Once again, they weren't like your typical royal couple. They were so real. And it had actually touched her soul to talk to them. She'd found them so honest and she was feeling horrible about lying to them, but she chose to forget about these thoughts to think about something more joyful.

She was feeling something resembling a bound between the three of them, even if she couldn't really say why. It was like they knew each others for a very long time. She wanted to trust them, and god knows she didn't trust easily because of her past. And she could see something shine in the depth of their eyes, something true when they were looking at her even though they didn't even know who she really was.

A shiver ran up her spine, but it wasn't an unpleasant one. She was feeling like she was living in a dream. It was weird, to feel so close to these people that shared nothing with her. Once again, when the Queen gestured for her to follow her, and offered one of her famous smile, Emma felt so calm it made her sigh slightly. She obeyed without a question, feeling light and happy about this day that had definitely turned out to be much better than she'd expected.

"Have you eaten?" The King asked as they were walking through the rooms she'd already seen with Kate, what made Emma blink in surprise, because this was an odd question coming from him.

"Hum… no." She admitted with a shy smile, and she noticed the scandalized gaze the Queen was throwing her way.

"What do you mean? That's not good! Charming, there's probably lots of leftovers on the table in the waiting room. Go ask the cooks to pack something, Leia should have it."

Emma's eyes opened wide at that, as she was feeling completely confused for a second. Had she heard correctly? If she was sure of one thing, it was that this wasn't a common thing to do. Why would they offer this to her and not to one of the other girls? She understood after another instant, and relaxed a little bit. They probably wanted to make up for the long wait, and she was surely reminding them of the daughter they'd lost. They wanted to give her a little something to feel close to their long lost baby girl and tell her that they were coming.

"I can't accept this." She shook her head anyway, because it was way too much, as the King was walking away to go to the waiting room.

"Of course you can." Snow White argued gently, placing a hand on her back to encourage her to keep on walking. "No one is going to eat it here, anyway. I'm sure it'll be useful to you, one way or another."

Emma hated pity. That was a feeling she'd developed in the streets, she hated the light in the people's eyes when they would give her money. They had always looked at her like the simple fact of thinking about what she was was disturbing them. But this gift, it didn't feel like pity. It felt like actual kindness, and she was so surprised she didn't know what to say at all.

So instead, she smiled. Because she knew these snacks would surely please Henry, and she would have done anything for her little boy. The Queen continued to talk joyfully as they were walking, then waiting for the King near the gates. Emma guessed that she liked small talks and loved to learn more about people, and she answered her questions gladly while still being careful not to spill one of her secrets.

The Queen asked her if she liked this new region, for how long she'd been there, and she luckily didn't need to lie about that. She answered that this place was a new start for her, and that she was truly happy to be there. Hiding the truth to this woman who was so kind to her was breaking her heart, and she was relieved to be able to tell her about her true feelings, without having to lie no more.

After a few minutes, the King came back with a basket in his hand, and he handed it to her with a big smile. She thanked him without looking inside it from fear she would seem rude, but she smiled at the thought of all the pastries in there, the image of her son smiling in her mind making her so happy. The couple waved at her as she was walking through the doors, and she turned on her heels to walk down the stairs, her heart still pounding in her chest at this very strange meeting.

The way she was feeling attracted to these people like she'd known them for years and how kind they'd been to her was definitely odd. Odd, but nice.

Once she was out of the gardens of the palace, Emma fastened her pace a little bit. She was more than impatient to tell everything that had happened to her family.

Emma hurried to go back to the Jolly Roger. The night had started to fall, and despite the spring that was more than well settled and the days that were pleasantly warm, the nights were still quite cold. Shivering, she cursed herself for not thinking about taking a cloak with her. Her head was aching a little bit, as the exhaustion of nights spent without sleep because of her nervousness and the long wait she'd had to endure were catching up with her. Yet, she couldn't really pay attention to any of this discomfort. She was way too happy for that.

The meeting she'd had with the royal couple was confusing and intriguing her beyond words. And she really, really wanted to go join Killian and Henry, hug her boys tight and never let them go. She wanted to tell them everything about her encounter with the King and the Queen, so her little boy could dream about it at night, seeing her as the Princess he wanted her to be for once.

And she wanted to talk with Killian about this surprising spark she'd read in the Queen's eyes. The way she'd looked at her, as if they were old friends. She just hoped that they weren't too worried about her, since she'd spent much longer than expected in the castle. She wanted to spend the night in Killian's strong arms, and wake up rested and even happier the next day. Her family's presence always had this effect on her, after all.

The basket full of food was bouncing against her hip, reminding her of these moments during her interview and how strangely safe and happy she'd felt.

She'd actually expected to be judged by the royal couple because of her past, because if parts of the story she'd told them had been a lie, pieces of her life had made their way to this tale. She'd heard about how lovely the couple was, but she was so used to rich people despising her she'd thought they would be so different than the way they actually were. They'd been so nice. Friendly. Definitely very good people.

Maybe they behaved that way with everyone they met, but she'd still felt special. Like a member of their family they'd tried to make happy. These looks they'd given her were still huge questions in her mind, and she really wondered if they'd done that with everyone, or if she was the only one who'd had the right to this treatment. She liked to believe that they had liked her, that they'd been especially nice with her. That she'd touched them, even if she wasn't chosen for the job, that she'd left a little part of her in their hearts.

The more astonishing about all of this was probably this trust that she'd felt for them. Her, the little girl who'd always had troubles trusting anyone.

She tried not to ask herself too many questions, though. She would know soon enough who had been chosen for the job, and already knew for a fact that it wasn't her. She didn't want to give herself false hopes and be disappointed at the end of the day. She was already more than happy that they'd asked her to come back to the castle. She'd passed that test, and she was so, so glad about it.

She really wanted to come back to her family now, despite these good moments lived with the royal couple. She was dreaming about Henry and Killian's famous hugs, and she fastened her steps a little bit more to be able to get to the ship faster. She just couldn't wait to hug her two boys.

The sky had grown even darker when she finally reached the harbor. The Jolly Roger was there, as always, representing home and their family life. Despite the darkness, she could see Killian's figure leaning against the handrail and looking in her direction and she smiled at that. He was waiting for her, and she waved at him to show that she was there, guessing the smile that had appeared on his face. This gorgeous smile that had the power of making her melt and would make this desire grow in her lower stomach.

She almost ran to cross the last few feet that were keeping them apart.

She was barely stepping on deck that he was already by her side. The basket stuck in the crook of her elbow to have both her hands free, she threw herself into his arms, almost making him lose his balance with the impact. It made him chuckle as he was embracing her completely, placing his chin on the top of her head and stroking her back in a soothing gesture.

She let go of a sigh of pure happiness when she felt herself relax against him. His familiar touch and smell were invading her entirely, and she let herself melt in his embrace, so happy to be back in his arms. Back where she really belonged.

They stayed like this for a while without saying a thing, under the dark sky shining with dozens of stars. He'd taught her how to recognize some of them, and they would sometimes lie down on deck and he would tell her that she was the most beautiful star he'd ever had the pleasure of seeing. This memory made her smile, and he ended up talking without letting go of her a bit, his face buried in her hair to breathe her in.

"You okay?"

"Yeah." She whispered, pulling just a little bit away to be able to look at him. The moonlight was enlightening his face, stressing his jaw, and his eyes seemed so clear in the darkness surrounding them. "I've brought food." She added after a second, lost in his gaze and the love she was reading in it.

"Where did you get that?" he asked, looking at the basket she was holding with a questioning expression. He probably noticed the fact that this basket seemed oddly luxurious, and added. "You didn't get this from the castle, did you?"

"I'll tell you everything later." She promised with a grin, wanting to make sure that her son was all right first. "Where is Henry?"

"He's reading in his room." He said without insisting, knowing that she would tell him everything sooner or later, both his arms still wrapped around her. "It's getting late and he's tired. I was starting to get worried."

"I know." She said with an apologetic smile. "It took longer than expected."

"I was beginning to wonder if someone hadn't found you so gorgeous at the castle that they didn't want to let you go."

It made her roll her eyes, but she was unable to hide the smile on her face. "You're an idiot, Jones."

"An idiot that you love anyway." He added, raising his eyebrows and making her chuckle.

"An idiot that I love very much, indeed." She stated, looking up at him.

The smile he offered her then was worth every word in the world. He leaned, his eyes shinning with the pure adoration he had for her, and pressed his lips against hers. The kiss was long, passionate, her mouth opening all naturally to let his tongue enter. She grabbed the back of his coat for balance as he was kissing her senseless on the spot, and she couldn't tell if it lasted for seconds, minutes or hours anymore. It was just the two of them in the world, and she'd lost every sense of time or space. She was just feeling him, everywhere, his smell, his touch, his skin, and on that moment, it was all that mattered.

They parted after a while to relieve their lungs that were screaming for oxygen, and knowing that if they didn't stop now, this would lead to other pretty enjoyable activities that were planned for later. He pressed his forehead against hers, as if to get one last taste of her before having to pull away completely. They were panting in unison, their hearts beating at the same rhythm, and she felt so complete she couldn't help but smile.

"Let's go find Henry." He finally offered against her lips after a minute of silence. "You'll be able to tell us everything."

"All right." She answered, still grinning.

She moved one last time to press a little peck on his kiss-swollen lips, and he held her close for a second before letting her pull away. She immediately took his hand to interlace their fingers as she was still looking at him, finding him so gorgeous under the moonlight her heart skipped a beat.

They walked to their son's room and he swung their arms back and forth between them, like a teenager would have done. Emma bit her lips, trying to get one last taste of him and her mouth still vibrating with the strength of their kiss. She loved him, so much, beyond words and beyond everything, and her heart felt fit to burst on that moment, as they were moving in a comfortable silence.

Henry was laying on his bed, reading a book and the light of several candles placed all around him enlightening the room. He heard them coming in right away, and a huge smile spread on his lips when he saw the both of them, his eyes shinning with pure happiness. He jumped on his feet to go join them, and wrapped his arms around his mom for a hug. She embraced him back completely, not managing to erase the smile on her face. She was so happy with them, she couldn't even express it.

"We missed you, mom!" He said, pulling a little bit away to look at her in the eyes, while she was still holding him close.

"I missed you too, kid. And I have something for you." She said mysteriously, chuckling at the way his eyes enlightened at the news. She handed him the basket she was holding, and added as he was gasping in excitement, realizing what was inside. "If you look right, there must be cake somewhere in there."

"Awesome!" He said, getting a piece of chocolate cake out of the basket, carefully wrapped so it wouldn't get crushed during the journey home. "Where did you find this?"

"Gift from the Queen" She said, and Henry blinked in surprise.

"You're kidding, right?"

"I'll tell you everything." She laughed at his reaction.

"We should as well share the cake, then." Henry offered, sitting down on the bed and getting the pieces of cake out to give them to his parents.

It made Emma smile widely, and they all settled on the little bed, all so close their shoulders could touch as they were leaning against the wall. They unwrapped their cake and started eating, as Emma was waiting to have taken a few bites before beginning to talk. They had money now, despite not having jobs at the moment, but in order to save as much gold as possible, it was unusual for them to buy that kind of food. It had been a long time since she'd eaten such a sweet thing, and she closed her eyes in pleasure when she felt the melted chocolate on her tongue.

The little girl in her smiled, the same little girl who had desired these things so much such a long time ago. Now she had those things, but more importantly, she'd found a family. Things were going pretty well given where she was coming from. She was a survivor, and she was proud of this.

Killian must have guessed her thoughts, because he wrapped his arm around her waist to hold her close. She rested her head on his shoulder, and he pressed a kiss to her temple as she was smiling at the sweet gesture. She was worried about money, about her interview, about their future. But on that moment, close to the two people she loved the most, eating this cake, she thought that life was definitely pretty good.

"So?" Henry finally started to talk. "Gift from the Queen, huh? Will you tell us?"

"Let's say the interview was… interesting." She admitted with a little chuckle, feeling Killian's impatience to know more and laughing at the way Henry's eyes were shining with curiosity.

Seeing that they were both eager to know, she started telling the tale of her meeting with the royal couple. The long wait, the odd glance she'd shared with the Queen in the common room, Kate and Chiara and how lovely they'd been, and this strange light she'd read in the King and Queen's eyes as they were talking to her

"I think I remind them of their daughter, since we're the same age." She said, trying to ignore the triumphant gaze Henry was offering her. For him, they'd been that nice because she was the Lost Princess, but she knew it wasn't the case. They'd just liked her because she was a little bit like their daughter. "They've asked me to come back tomorrow." She added then. "Only a few of the girls will be there. I've passed the first test, and I'll know tomorrow who will be chosen for the job."

"Mom, that's great!" Henry cried out. "Can you imagine, you're maybe going to work at the castle! They loved you!"

"I'm so proud of you, Swan." Killian added in a low voice, dropping a kiss to the top of her head. "Gods, I knew you could do it. You're amazing."

"Calm down, you two." She chuckled, not wanting them to be disappointed. They'd just liked her, but there was no way she would be chosen as the assistant. "You're putting the cart before the horse, here. I've just passed one test. It doesn't mean anything."

"Well, even if you don't get chosen, I'm glad." Killian said, pulling her even closer to bury his face in her hair. "I'm glad that they saw the wonderful woman you are. You really can do anything, Swan. You're brilliant. And I love you."

It made her smile, and he wrapped her a little bit tighter in his embrace, as she was gesturing for Henry to come join them. For a while, they just stayed there, hugging each other, and she swore all was right in the world.

They continued to eat what the royal couple had given them, saving half of it for a later time. Her head was still resting on Killian's shoulder as he started telling them stories of ships and treasures and unknown islands, and she listened to him as Henry was slowly falling asleep. In his tale, he told the story of a princess that looked strangely like her, laughing when she glanced at him with one eyebrow raised in confusion. They stayed there for a while after Henry had completely fallen asleep, to make sure that he wasn't going to wake up. And then they left for their own room.

They were both more than eager to get together, and they'd barely stepped into the room that he'd already taken her dress off. Her hands ran down his chest and stomach, tugging at the fabric of his pants for him to take them off faster. They didn't even bother to lie down on their bed, and they stayed on their feet, against the wall. Her back leaning against it for balance, both her legs wrapped around his naked body and her fingernails digging into the skin of his back as he was entering her, stretching her wonderfully.

They fell together into their pleasure, as she was biting at the thin skin of his neck, everything around her disappearing to leave them and them only. She was shaking and let her orgasm get to the surface, as he was whispering love words in a raspy voice to her ear, wrapped so tightly in their embrace they couldn't tell who was who anymore. "You're so beautiful. So incredibly beautiful."

They stayed still for a few seconds after they'd both got back on earth. She still wasn't touching the ground, and his shaky legs had troubles supporting them both, but they didn't want to move. She buried her face in his neck to kiss him again and again, her hand running through his dark locks as she was searching for the oxygen she was most definitely lacking.

After a while, he ended up moving, and he carried her to the bed, laying her down on the sheets like she was the most precious thing in the world. They didn't put their clothes back on, knowing they were enough to keep warm. She wrapped herself around his naked body once he was settled next to her, her head on his chest to hear his still fast heartbeats, his arm around her to keep her close.

"I love you, Killian." She whispered against his skin as she was feeling the sleep invading her.

He didn't answer, not with words anyway. He pressed a trail of little kisses down her jaw and neck, mouth open and tongue pressed against her skin, making her shiver and lulling her to sleep. She fell asleep in a sigh of pleasure, his comforting warmth against her, knowing that she was so lucky to be there, in the arms of the man that understood her the most in this world. The one who had been and will always be there, no matter what. The one who'd never given up on her.

Her best friend, her lover, her soulmate.

Chapter Text

Emma was woken up at dawn by kisses pressed all over her still naked stomach. She moaned and waited for a second before opening her eyes. She wasn't sure of what time it was and was still half-asleep, but she instantly recognized the touch of Killian's mouth against her skin. Her eyes still closed, she ran her hand through his dark locks, and arched her back to get just a little bit closer to him.

She could feel his breath against her, the way his tongue was playing with her body that he knew by heart, and she finally opened her eyes to look at him. He was kneeling in between her legs, and looked up when he felt that she was awake. He smirked at her then and got up a little bit to reach her breast. He ran his fingers down her chest, and moved his mouth to kiss the skin around her left nipple. She sighed and he chuckled slightly against her, worshiping her like she was the most precious thing in the world.

She could already feel her desire blooming in her lower stomach, and she managed to say in a raspy voice "That's definitely a good way to wake up" It was not like it was an unusual way for them to get out of their sleep, though, and she noticed how his pupils were dilated with lust when he looked back up at her once again.

"Shh, love. You have a long day ahead of you. You deserve to relax a little bit."

"Don't stop, then." She said, what made him laugh once again.

He gently bit at the thin skin of her breast and made her gasp, as she'd closed her eyes again to enjoy the sensations he was making arise in her more easily. She started to move almost unconsciously, gently rocking back and forth as if she were pushing him to go faster, because she was so ready for him she thought it could make her go insane.

"Impatient, are we?" Killian said in a husky voice against her, just before dropping another open-mouthed kiss to her breast. She didn't answer, she was too busy losing herself in his embrace for that, and he added. "Be patient, gorgeous. I want to worship you like the goddess you are."

It made her sigh once again. It always made her feel things in part of her she didn't even know existed when he told her those things. She ran her hands down his back to get him closer to her and she could feel how her own desire was making him feel at the way his arousal was pressing against her thighs.

At her greatest surprise though, he suddenly stopped. She opened her eyes to tell him that it was good and that he could continue, but the way he was looking at her made her change her mind. It wasn't love that she was reading in his gaze, it was pure adoration. As if he were seeing her for the very first time, and she just stayed speechless at the flame burning in his eyes.

"You're perfect, Swan. Absolutely perfect." He whispered then, and she was sure her heart could burst at the tone of his voice.

He didn't give her the time to answer anything. He got back to work, kissing her breast a few more times before finally going down. He took his time, gently teasing her as her breathing had grown faster. He pressed little kisses around her belly-button, moved to her lower stomach, and made his lips run along the inside of her thighs, until it was obvious that they both couldn't wait anymore.

When he finally reached the place she needed him the most, she was sure she was going to lose her mind at the things his tongue was making her feel. She dug her nails into the skin of his back to try and keep quiet, but she completely lost herself, uncertain of where she was anymore. She was just feeling him and his touch, his tongue, his lips against her, and everything disappeared to only leave them there in this bed, him between her legs and her on the verge of her orgasm.

When he got back up to lie down next to her a few moments later, she was still trembling with the strength of her pleasure. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and brought her close, as she was burying her face into the crook of his neck to breathe him in and feel the comfort of his skin. She couldn't help but smile as he was kissing her temple, and she sighed against him, feeling so complete and happy it was hard to believe.

When she opened her eyes after a while, everything around her seemed a bit blurry, as if she were coming out of a dream. She was in some way, because what he'd made her feel was coming right from heaven. He smiled at her when he noticed that she was coming back to earth, and leaned to press a little kiss to the corner of her mouth. His blue eyes were shinning so brightly her heart swelled in her chest, and he beamed at her, looking pretty proud of himself for this amazing awakening.

"Good morning, princess." He whispered as she was reaching his neck to drop a little kiss there as a thank you for everything.

"A very good morning indeed." She answered in a low voice, what made him chuckle slightly. "You're very good, captain."

That made him smile again. "Glad to hear that, love"

"What was that for?" She asked then, because if it wasn't unusual for either of them to wake the other up for some morning sex, this had felt different, almost more intense.

"I've already told you, you've got a long day ahead of you. And I couldn't help myself. That's what waking up next to a naked goddess does to me."

"Well, please, don't hold back then." She said playfully.

"I don't intend to." He chuckled. "I love you, Swan."

"I love you, too."

A comfortable silence settled between them, as they were wrapped in their embrace and holding onto each other, slowly getting back to reality after the intensity of their moment. She was feeling like she was going to fall back asleep, and he was keeping her awake by dropping little kisses to her hair and neck. She was feeling so good she didn't ever want to move. Feeling him that close to her was a blessing, and she would have stayed in that position for days if it'd been a possibility.

After a moment, her exhaustion faded away and she should probably have got out of bed, but she still didn't move a bit and just snuggled a little bit closer to her boyfriend, wanting to enjoy his familiar warmth. He was holding her with so much love her smile wasn't leaving her lips, and she was feeling like it was in his arms that she truly belonged.

She was aware that, soon, she would have to go back to the castle to know who had been chosen by the royal couple. She would have to face them again, but she wasn't scared anymore. She'd actually liked talking to them the day before, and she wasn't nervous because she already knew that she wasn't going to get the job. She wouldn't get disappointed, she was just curious to see who would be the new assistant. She was simply happy to be there in her love's arms, and she knew her day was going to be a good one, since it'd started so well. She could feel it in her bones.

She was still amazed by the trust this man had in her. Sometimes, she almost thought that he was right and that she could indeed do anything if she really wanted to. Living with him had made a new confidence appear in her heart. He'd healed her scars and had promised that he wouldn't let go, and he hadn't. And beside him, she was feeling able to overcome anything life would throw their way.

One day, she knew it, they would be happy. She already was, but soon enough, they would be able to live their dream and wouldn't have to worry about money ever again. They deserved this, despite the mistakes they'd made along the way. After everything they'd been through, they had to reach this happiness someday. And she would keep on holding onto this dream until they could actually accomplish it.

Killian started to talk again after a little while. His hand was running through her tangled hair, and their bodies were as close to each other as they could possibly get. In moments like these, she couldn't really tell where he was beginning and where she was ending anymore, they were one, and she loved that feeling beyond words. "You seem to feel better about going to the castle than you did yesterday."

"Your little morning surprise has to do with that." She chuckled, and he followed, kissing her forehead with a smile. "Seriously, though, you're right." She added after a second of silence. "I know what's awaiting for me there, now. They are so nice. So human. And they liked me, if they asked me to come back. They way they were looking at me when I was talking, I don't really know how to explain it but… It calmed me down. So I'm happy to go back there. And I guess I remind them of their daughter a little bit for them to treat me that way."

"Or maybe they just saw how wonderful you are, and they thought that you would be absolutely perfect for the job." He said, what made her roll her eyes, but she was smiling at the same time, because the confidence he had in her seemed to be endless.

"Of course, that must be it." She mocked gently.

"I'm being serious, Swan. You're amazing. And maybe they saw that, and really think that you'd be the perfect assistant for their daughter."

"You're so sweet." She said, looking back up at him and gently running her fingers down his cheek. "But I really doubt it. I don't want you to get your hopes up and be disappointed at the end of the day. I'm just going to go and see, but I'm pretty sure they won't choose me anyway."

"I'll never be disappointed in you, Emma." He whispered to her ear, so gently her heart skipped a beat. "You're incredible. I just wish you could see yourself the way I see you. As the most perfect angel I've ever met."

"Gods, I love you." Was the only thing she managed to say back, her eyes filling in with tears.

"I love you too, my world."

She snuggled a bit closer to him, and they stayed in that position for another while, just taking into each other's scent, touch, skin, enjoying this wonderful certitude that they were meant to be together. She belonged there beside him, and she was feeling more complete with him and Henry by her side than she'd ever thought possible. He was perfect to her, and she couldn't believe this man actually existed, sometimes. This amazing man who'd healed her heart and had made her feel loved and safe, maybe for the first time in her life.

She only started to talk again after a few minutes. She wanted to enjoy his presence first, but she also needed to share what she was suddenly thinking about after their tender moment. "You know, I really hope that they're going to find their daughter soon. I know the fact she's still alive seems impossible, but I want to believe that she is out there somewhere. They deserve to be reunited with their family. And she'd be so loved at the castle. They adore her, even though they don't know her. It's beautiful. Could you imagine this little orphan finally coming back home?"

"It would be wonderful, indeed." He said, but she could tell at the sound of his voice that he was holding something back. She waited patiently for him to continue, giving him the time he needed to find the right words. "I just wish the same thing had happened to you." He finally added in a soft voice. "You deserve to find your family, and I'm sorry you never did."

"If they abandoned me, it's that they didn't want me anyway." She answered, maybe a bit more abruptly than she would have wanted to." What's the point of meeting them if they don't care about me?"

"Maybe they didn't have a choice. I just want you to have the family that you deserve."

She moved a little bit to be able to look at him, and titled her head as she was saying. "I have a family, babe. I have you and Henry. And you're all that I need."

She watched his eyes enlightening at her words, and he leaned to press a long, passionate kiss on her lips as a quiet thank you for her statement. She knew how much this meant to him. He'd been a lost boy too, he'd thought he would never find someone who truly loved him again. And here they were now, together against the world, as it'd always been. They'd healed each other. And she knew they would stay that way until the end of time.

She realized that, before meeting him, she would never have said those things to someone. She'd been hurt too many times, and wanted to protect her heart. She was mistrustful, closed to any kind of love aside from Henry's, who had been her light in the dark ever since his birth. But Killian had come along and had brought all her walls down, one by one, by showing her that she wasn't worthless. She'd started to trust him. She had fallen head over heels in love with him, and she knew these feelings she had toward this amazing man were never going to fade away. Thanks to him and her little boy, she was happier than ever.

Gods, she loved them so much. The family she'd never thought she would have someday.

They stayed in bed for another little while, just cuddling and enjoying each other's presence, before finally deciding to move and get dressed. They needed to wake Henry up, and she had to get to the castle soon. She put on her favorite dress, the one she'd worn for Henry's birthday all those years ago, the first time she'd realized in the back of her mind that maybe Killian could be her future.

He looked at her in awe when he saw her gown and her hair falling in gentle waves in her back, and simply said. "You look stunning, Swan."

"That's what you said all those years ago, too." She chuckled, realizing he'd used the same words and was wearing the same look on his face. "For Henry's birthday, the first time we really got close. Remember?"

"How could I forget?" he answered, approaching her to press a kiss to the tip of her nose, and she laughed. "You looked so beautiful you took my breath away. And you still do, every time I look at you."

"You're a good talker, you know that?" She sighed with a small smile. "When you say those things, I just want to kiss you and never let go."

"What holds you back, then?" he asked playfully.

"The fact that I can't be late."

She smiled at the disappointed expression he offered her, and pressed a quick peck on his lips before pulling away for good. She had to go wake Henry up, she wanted to share a breakfast with her family before going to the castle, just to spend as much time as she could with them. They were her oxygen, and she would have spent every minute of the day with them if she'd been able to.

Henry woke up with a smile on his face. He was obviously still convinced that she was going to be chosen to be the assistant, and she didn't want to tell him otherwise. He looked so incredibly happy, and they just ate and talked and laughed, enjoying the leftovers of what the Queen had given her the day before. She was feeling nothing but love and pride as she was looking at these two amazing people next to her, and she sighed in happiness, etching these moments into her memory, wanting to remember them years from now.

She left a little bit later. She couldn't be late, and if she would have wanted to stay with her boys for a bit longer, she was also impatient to know who had been chosen to be the assistant after all. As they'd done so the day before, Killian and Henry accompanied her, and they parted in the forest. She was feeling so different than the last time they'd done this. She wasn't scared or nervous anymore, just happy, relaxed. Today was going to be a good day, even when she would know for sure that she hadn't got the job. She was so sure of it.

Henry hugged her, Killian kissed her, and they both held her tight and told her that she would do great. Their words and confidence were almost giving her the hope that she had a chance to get this job after all, but she forced herself to stifle this idea. She didn't want to be disappointed at the end of the day. They would be okay, whatever was going to happen in this castle. They would end up getting a job no matter what, and she knew that these meetings with the royal couple had given her the confidence she had been lacking before to finally get the job they needed. She was now sure that she could anything. And her family would be all right eventually.

This time, it's serene that Emma walked through the castle gates. She even smiled back at the guards when they grinned at her, as they knew what she was doing there and that she'd passed the first test. Her heart was beating a bit fast, but it was more out of impatience than fear. She was in a wonderful mood and knew that nothing could go wrong. She was just happy to be there again, and to be able to maybe share one last conversation with this lovely couple that had made her feel so safe.

She didn't hesitate before entering the common room, that day. She was sure that the girls that were going to be there this time were not the ones that had seemed arrogant and judgmental, and she wasn't feeling uncomfortable anymore. Closing the door behind her back, she was surprised to notice that there were way fewer candidates than she'd expected. She counted eight, her included, and she frowned, only realizing now how picky the couple had been.

She felt a wave of pride invading her as she was now aware of how important it was that she was actually there. She'd been chosen because they'd liked her, and only a few other girls were in the same position. That was huge, given where she was coming from.

She thought about the little girl she'd once been, sleeping in a dark street and dreaming about a better life. She'd reached that life, despite everything she'd had to go through, she had a wonderful son, a loving partner, and she was now standing in a castle. Life could definitely take odd turns, and she decided to just enjoy the fact that she was there on that moment, a victory she was taking over life that had tried to break her for so long.

She was about to walk further into the room to go join the little group of girls there when a familiar voice made her stop. "Leia!"

She turned immediately, recognizing her fake name. She'd got used to it with the months that had passed, and was now responding to it like it was her own. This name that had given her the opportunity to be there today, to start over after the mistakes she'd made, to have a second chance. This name that was her way to a better life, someday.

She smiled when she recognized the person that had called her name. It was Chiara, the girl with whom she'd shared a few words the day before. She was there, beaming, her short brown hair a bit tousled by the wind and her huge eyes shinning in excitement. It was merely impossible not to smile back at her.

Emma took a few steps to join her, and she said sincerely :"Hi! I'm so glad that you're here today, too!"

"I'm happy to see you as well!" She answered joyfully. "I knew they were going to love you, though. I'm a bit surprised that we're only a few girls here, you know?" She added, glancing around her to watch the other women there. "I was expecting to see a lot more candidates. That makes me even happier to be here today."

They started to walk to go join the group, and Emma noticed how glad she looked, almost bouncing up and down as she was moving forward. "I'm surprised too. I think the King and the Queen trust their instincts a lot. I'm just so happy that they seemed to like the both of us."

"That's insane, isn't it?" Chiara said, opening her eyes wide, and Emma realized that she definitely liked that girl. She was spontaneous and honest, and she really hoped she would be the one to get the job, since it was impossible that she was going to become the new assistant herself. "I just came here yesterday because I thought that it was worth a try, and here I am now. I feel like I'm in a dream. I've worked on the fields my all life and now I'm standing in a castle, and I can't believe it's real. What about you?" She asked then. "Are you from around here?"

"I only moved in here a few months ago. But it's a nice region. I like it." She was staying purposely vague, not wanting to lie more than necessary to this girl. She hated the idea that she had to hide the truth from her. In other circumstances, she was almost sure they could have been true friends.

"I'm glad that you like it here. I lived here my entire life. I'd like to travel someday, but for now I'm fine here. It's my home, you know?"

She was pleasantly talkative, what allowed Emma to quickly learn more about her. Chiara explained that she was the eldest of five children, and that she'd been raised in a farm. She'd helped her parents for her entire childhood, and she had now moved in a little house standing not so far from where the Dome had once been and was living with one of her little sisters. She was breeding cows, chickens and flocks of sheep, and was selling eggs and milk to the market in one of the smaller towns nearby. She was trying for this job to get a better wage and send a bit of money to her parents, who were beginning to struggle to keep their fields alive.

Emma answered her questions and talked a bit about her, or about Leia and the life she'd invented for her. She was trying not to lie too much, simply telling half-truths and ignoring the guilt that was rising in her chest. Chiara was so sweet, and she resented the idea that she had to lie. So she just lingered on safe subjects and didn't talk about important things, knowing it was probably for the best.

Chiara was as good of a listener as she was of a talker, and she nodded while listening to Emma, looking genuinely interested by the conversation. Emma found herself so invested in the discussion that she didn't hear the royal couple entering the room right away. It's only as the silence was falling around her and as the small group was moving for a bow, that she realized Snow White and Prince Charming were standing there before her. Kate, the Queen's assistant, was also there and was holding a bit back and smiling at the crowd.

She turned hastily with Chiara to imitate the other girls a second too late, and cursed herself internally for not paying better attention. She couldn't believe she hadn't been more focused and was scared that she'd ruined everything, but when she discreetly looked up to watch the couple, she noticed that they were smiling at her. She blinked, realizing that the thought was completely absurd. They weren't grinning at her, but at the entire group. She was aware of that and couldn't believe that this idea had crossed her mind even for a minute.

She quickly relaxed though, helped by the fact that she was way more confident than she'd been the day before. She was so happy to have gotten that far in the race for the job, and her conversation with Chiara had put her in an even better mood. She wasn't hoping for anything, now. She knew there was no way she would get the job, despite her family's trust in her. And that was okay. She was just glad and decided to enjoy the moment as best as she could.

When the King gestured for all of them to stand back up, she glanced around her and couldn't help but smile a little bit. She'd always trusted her instincts, and as she was watching the other girls beside her, she could tell without the shadow of a doubt that the couple had been right to trust all these women.

They all seemed sweet, kind, and were smiling almost shyly, like they couldn't believe that they were still there. She felt suddenly so happy that the Princess would have such a warm presence in her life. If she did get back home someday, she would have someone to lean on, someone good, and it was all that mattered. That was all that a lost little girl needed.

The Queen started to talk then, and Emma turned to look at her. Her smile made her heart flutter, and she listened to her carefully, oddly glad to hear her comforting voice. "We would like to thank all of you for coming here today once again. We are so, so happy to see you and we truly hope that you feel at home in this castle."

"Our decision hasn't been an easy one to take." The King said, his fingers intertwined with his wife's, what made Emma smile slightly. "If you are here today, it's that we saw something in every single one of you. We would like to thank you for the absolute kindness you showed in your interviews yesterday.

"And that's why we have something important to tell you all."

Emma frowned, suddenly intrigued by the turn the conversation was taking. The Queen seemed overexcited, and she looked so young as she was beaming at her husband. Emma wondered what the hell was happening, and turned to share a glance with Chiara, who just shrugged at her with a smile. The other girls seemed as clueless as they both were, and the couple seemed to enjoy this a lot, because they were staring at the group with huge grins on their faces.

Emma suddenly felt strangely excited as well, as if she knew that she was about to hear good news. She had no way of knowing that, but she could just feel it. She watched the couple, her heart pounding so fast in her chest. She'd come there to know who was going to be the Princess' assistant, but she could tell somehow that the words they were about to share were going to change her life in one way or another.

"As you know, we live in a very big castle." The King stated. "And there is a lot of work to do here, we need cooks, gardeners, everything you can possibly think of. When the Princess will join us soon, the work to do will be even more important"

Emma chose to set her excitement aside for a minute as the hope audible in the King's voice was making her heart tighten. He seemed so convinced his little girl was coming back, she prayed every gods she could think of that the Princess was safe and alive, and would find her way back home soon. This couple deserved to have their family reunited. And she would be so loved, there. If the universe was fair, they had to find her. It couldn't be otherwise, and she wanted to believe it.

"If we asked you to come back here today." He added, and Emma started to listen again, because she knew that something important was happening . "It's that we trust you, all of you. We talked about it a lot, but for those who aren't going to get chosen as the Princess' assistant, we have an offer for you."

He was beaming now, his eyes shinning so joyfully Emma couldn't help but smile as well. She could somehow guess what he was about to announce them, and her heart started to pound even faster against her ribs. It seemed impossible, and yet the way he was staring at them told her that maybe she wasn't wrong. Maybe she was right to have hope.

Internally, she gave herself the strict order to calm down. She was probably imagining things, and she didn't want to get her hopes up for nothing. She didn't want to be disappointed at the end of the day. Whatever was going to happen, she was just happy to have made it this far. She just had to remember that.

"For those of you who are interested, we would like to offer you a job in this castle." Emma's breath got stuck in her throat, and for a minute, she couldn't believe what she was hearing. The King's words seemed so surreal she wasn't sure she wasn't dreaming. "We would like for you to tell us what would interest you, and how you think you can help us. It's without obligation, of course, you're the ones to choose if you want to stay or not. If the assistant will have lots of advantages these jobs don't have, you'll be fed twice a day, and a good wage is awaiting for you."

"We didn't want to let you all go with nothing after the great impression you made yesterday." The Queen added. "We really hope that the offer pleases you, and that we'll be able to work with you someday."

Emma wasn't sure for how long she stopped breathing, she just knew that when the actual thought that all of this was real reached her mind, her lungs started functioning again. She couldn't believe this. She was feeling like she was dreaming and was going to wake up in Killian's arms in a few seconds. She felt almost dizzy, and discreetly pinched herself to make sure that she wasn't hallucinating.

The pain crept along her skin, and she almost gasped in surprise.

All of this was real. She was actually going to work at the castle.

Whatever happened next, she was going to have a job. She would be able to earn money and bring food back home for her family. Maybe even save enough to go live their dream, someday. It all seemed so surreal. She was feeling like bursting out laughing at these news, and had to hold herself back in order not to draw attention on her and make everyone think that she was insane.

On that moment, she could only think about Henry and Killian's faces when she would tell them about these wonderful news. They were going to be thrilled. Henry was going to hug her so tight, and Killian was going to kiss her into oblivion. The royal couple didn't know that they existed, but she could go and meet them after her shifts every night, and they could still be a family. They were going to be so proud. Damn, she was so proud of herself for once.

"We will talk with you about all the details later." The King interrupted Emma in her thoughts, and she only noticed there the excited whispers that had filled in the room, and the way the other girls were looking at the couple like they were about to tell them that they'd been joking all along. No one could believe what was happening to them, and it was incredibly beautiful. Turning to look at Chiara, she realized she had tears in her eyes, and she smiled. Everything was right in he world. "But meanwhile, we want to tell you all who we've chosen to be the Princess' assistant."

"As Charming said it before, there are advantages to this, of course." The Queen said, smiling at the group's enthusiasm. "Kate is my assistant for years now, and I trust her with all that I have. She helps me with my hair and dresses, of course, but she does so much more than that. She gives me advice, wonderful ones that I always follow. We're so close, she's a member of our family. And the candidate that will get the job today will be as well. It's so much more than a good wage and working in a castle. It's being part of this team that we are here. We want the Princess to be able to trust the people around her, and that's why we chose the assistant so carefully."

"After talking for hours, we finally took a decision, and we truly think that it's the right one. We're also so happy that all of you will have an opportunity to keep on working here after today. But for this job, we chose the person who touched us the most. The girl that we think would perfectly take care of our daughter." The King explained seriously.

The Queen took a deep breath, and not a sound was audible in the room. Everyone was waiting for Snow White to finally say the name of the girl that had been chosen. Emma was shivering with impatience, and stared at the couple as the Queen was saying. "So, we would like to ask Leia Stark to come join us here."

Emma didn't react right away when she heard her fake name. She still couldn't proceed the idea that she was going to work at the castle anyway, and she didn't register the fact that the couple had actually called her. She'd never imagined it could happen, and when the other girls followed Snow White's gaze and turned to stare at her, her breath suddenly got stuck in her throat.

She wasn't sure if this was really happening, and she almost wanted to pinch herself a second time to check if it wasn't all a dream. The fact they'd chosen her among all of these people seemed so impossible, so surreal. She had to have misheard or she hadn't understood something. She was merely wrong about their intentions and they weren't calling her name for that reason.

It's only when she heard Chiara gasping in excitement beside her that the reality of the situation finally hit her all at once. She'd understood correctly, and she wasn't sure how to breathe anymore. For the second time in the span of a few minutes, she was speechless. Her eyes widened as she was still staring at the couple, and she felt like she was floating above the ground. This moment was going to change her life forever, she could tell and, somehow, she still couldn't believe that all of this was real.

But she had to accept the obvious. She'd been chosen by the royal couple. They trusted her, they'd liked her, and they were now smiling at her like she was already part of their family. Her, the little orphan, the beggar who had been starving in the streets, the woman who'd been abandoned over and over again and had once thought that she was worthless. She'd been chosen by these people.

Her life was definitely taking an unexpected turn. After all the pain, she was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and she suddenly couldn't wait for what the future had in store for her and her family.

She was still frozen on the spot though, not knowing how to react, but she realized she was now smiling. It's only when the King chuckled at her reaction that she finally came back to reality, and she blinked to make sure that she wasn't going to wake up from this dream.

She understood that she should probably be saying something, but when she opened her mouth to thank them for their trust, nothing came out. She met the Queen's green gaze then, and she was smiling at her so gently that she finally remembered how to breathe again. She gestured for her to approach and, as if attracted by an unknown strength, she started to walk to go join her.

"Everything's fine, Leia. You can come." Snow White said to encourage her.

An endless and unexpected calm suddenly invaded her completely, and she didn't lose her smile as she was reaching the place where the couple was standing. The Queen took her shaky hand in hers, as if to show her that everything was going to be okay and that she didn't have to be scared. Feeling her maternal touch, she finally allowed herself to relax completely, and let go of a small trembling breath, tears filling in her eyes as she was realizing what all of this actually meant.

She was going to earn a lot of money and bring food back home. Her family wouldn't be starving ever again. Beyond the pride of having got this job, she would now be able to offer a decent future to her son. She had just proved the entire world that she could do anything, that she was more than a thief and an orphan. To hell with Calvin and Eric and everyone who'd told her she was nothing, she'd proved them wrong, she'd showed that she was more than the way they'd treated her, and damn, it felt so good.

More important, she'd proved to herself that she wasn't worthless.

The King offered her a warm smile as well, and placed his hand on her shoulder, and the spark she read in his eyes bore a pride that she couldn't understand just yet. Snow White was gently stroking her hand with her thumb, and she felt so reassured, the same feeling she'd once had as Judy was reading her stories before going to bed when she was a little girl. It was odd, but on that moment, it felt so natural, so familiar. And she lost herself in the Queen's gaze with the strange feeling of belonging right where she was now.

She finally turned back to face the group of women after a few more seconds, and she noticed that, if most of them seemed a bit disappointed that they hadn't been chosen, they were all offering her sincere smiles of congratulations. They seemed genuinely happy for her, and her heart grew twice its size in her chest.

She met Chiara's gaze, and noticed that she had the biggest smile on her face, one that was digging dimples into her cheeks. Her expression made her chuckle as she was slowly realizing that it wasn't a joke, and she looked up at the tall ceiling, feeling like she could do anything.

Because she'd done it. She'd actually done the impossible.

"Congratulations." The Queen then whispered to her ear, and she felt herself blush at these words, because she was so damn happy it felt surreal.

"You deserve this." The King added with a wink, before turning to the group and starting to talk again. "Ladies, as promised, those interested by working here can go to talk with Kate about this opportunity. As I said, it's not an obligation, but we'd be thrilled to have all of you here. Thank you for coming here today, and for those who will choose to stay, welcome to the castle!"

Without surprise, the entire group moved to join Kate, who was standing a bit back, as she was smiling at them and seemed sincerely happy that she would get to work with these new people. Emma shared one last glance with Chiara, who was still grinning at her, and as her friend was walking away to go talk with the Queen's assistant, she found herself alone with the royal couple.

She didn't really know what to do or say, so she just chose to smile almost shyly at them, not knowing how she would be able to explain them how much this opportunity meant to her. She was so surprised that they'd liked her in the first place, and it was hard to imagine that she was actually going to work in this palace.

On that moment, she couldn't wait to announce the news to Killian and Henry. They'd been right since the beginning, she could do anything, and they were going to be so incredibly thrilled. She just wanted to hug them and could already feel Killian's lips brushing against hers as he would surely tell her that he loved her more than anything in the world, making butterflies appear in the pit of her stomach, as always.

But for now, she knew this moment was important. She wanted to etch every single second of it in her memory and remember this as the day she'd allowed her life to change completely. The Queen opened her mouth to talk again then, and she grabbed Emma's other hand, pulling her closer. She was surprised to notice that it seemed so natural. And she suddenly felt like she'd known Snow White since the beginning of time.

"Welcome here, Leia. We can't even begin to tell you how happy we are to have you here with us. We know you're going to be the perfect assistant for the Princess."

"I don't know what to say." Emma finally murmured. "I'm so glad… Thank you so much for trusting me..."

"We should be the ones to thank you." The King answered. "You're willing to work by our sides, and we couldn't be happier."

"I'm just.. I wasn't expecting this." She admitted with a little chuckle. "I never thought I would be here right now."

"I can see that." The Queen giggled, and her eyes lit up completely. "But you shouldn't be surprised. You're an incredible woman, Leia. I don't know you that well yet, and if I can't wait to learn more about you, I already can see that you don't give yourself enough credits. You're smart and kind, and I can tell that you are a good person. Your sincerity during the interview touched our hearts. That's why we chose to work with you."

A frown briefly replaced her smile as the Queen's words were reaching her, and a pain appeared in the pit of her stomach at the guilt she was suddenly feeling. She was so incredibly happy to have gotten the job and hadn't had the time to come back from her dream yet, and she was only realizing now that they'd chosen her just because she'd lied in the first place. So much for sincerity. They didn't know who she really was. She'd lied about everything, even her name was a fiction.

If she'd told them the truth, they would have thrown her in a cell and she would never have got out again. If they knew that she was Emma Swan, they would be scared of her, not proud. Sure, she'd been forced to steal to survive in her former region. Sure, she'd understood with time that if she still regretted what she'd done and if that feeling would probably never fade away, killing this guard back then had only been to protect the man she loved. But she was still a criminal, and the couple didn't know that. They would never have trusted her with their daughter if they had known her true identity. They thought she'd been honest with them, and that was the only reason why she was standing there now.

They'd liked Leia, not Emma.

She shook her head, forcing herself to put these dark thoughts back where they belonged, deep inside of her. She didn't want to linger on these feelings. She hated the fact that she had lied to them because they deserved the truth, but she hadn't had a choice. She'd taken this decision when she'd chosen to come to this interview, and if she hadn't thought it would have any kind of consequences because she had never imagined she would actually get the job, she still had been forced to lie in order to stay safe.

And she had to remember that Leia wasn't that different from Emma. It wasn't her real name and she'd lied about some parts of her life, but she'd still known pain, heartbreaks and hardships. She hadn't lied about that. She hadn't lied about who she really was. She'd acted like Emma Swan would have, and she hadn't played a part while talking with the couple.

She had been chosen because she'd done good, she had to accept that. Thinking the opposite was only going to make her feel bad and stop her from enjoying the happiness of getting this incredible job. She refused to let her feelings get in the way of this special moment. She'd made it, and she had the right to be proud. She'd done what she needed to in order to survive, and now she had to convince herself that she was a good person. She had to forgive herself for everything.

Luckily, none of her two new employers had noticed her sudden turmoil. They were too busy being happy that they'd finally found someone for their daughter, and were still looking at her with so much pride it made her feel all better. If they were that glad to have her by their side, they had a reason for it. She had to trust herself for once. Everything would be all right.

The King started to talk again, and Emma chose to forget about her doubts to carefully listen to what he had to say. "If you have any questions, Leia, we'll be happy to answer them. But for now, we'd like to directly start your training. We know you don't necessarily have experience in this field, so you'll be working with Kate and my wife to be ready for when the Princess will join us. She's going to need all the support she can get, and we're sure you'll take over the job perfectly."

"You'll be sleeping here in this castle." The Queen then added with enthusiasm. "You'll be fed, and a very good wage is awaiting for you."

Emma's heart tightened again at these words. She'd never thought about the fact that a room could be provided to her in the palace and, suddenly, she felt like everything was spinning around her. If she slept in this castle and worked all day long, she would be far from her family at all time. How the hell would she be able to see Henry and Killian if she was here day and night?

Unable to even think about the idea of being separated from the people she loved the most, she answered. "Wait, I'll be sleeping here? I didn't know it was provided with the job." She said, trying to stop her heart from pounding too fast. She had to calm down, she was going to find a solution. Nothing could keep her away from her family.

"Of course it is!" Snow White answered joyfully. "It's a huge advantage, since you won't have to pay for a home yourself, and you'll be able to save a lot of money. And we need you here. You have to be there at all time if the Princess ever needs you during the night, you know? Your room is right next to hers, by the way. Would you like to see it?"

Emma's first impulse was to protest. She couldn't accept this room, and being separated from her son and boyfriend was unthinkable, she just couldn't. She would give up on this job in a heartbeat if accepting it was stopping her from being with her family. She couldn't even imagine what it would be like to be away from them, her world was revolving around the both of them, and she would be so lost if she was far from her home.

But she quickly understood that she couldn't argue. She had to keep this job, because they needed money and she couldn't let her family down. With this wage, she would be able to offer her son the future he truly deserved, and they would have enough gold to go around the world someday and live their dream all together. This situation wouldn't last forever. She couldn't let her feelings get in the way of this job and get herself fired before she had even started to work.

Because if she asked the Queen to keep on sleeping at the farm she was supposed to live in, she would surely guess that something wasn't right. It wouldn't make any sense, and as Snow White had said it, they needed her there and she couldn't tell them that she wasn't accepting every condition. This was the opportunity of a lifetime, not only for her but for the people she loved, and she couldn't give that all up because she was afraid of not seeing them as much as she wanted to.

And she would find a way to still be with them. She always did, because nothing could keep them apart. She was going to talk about it with Killian, and they would find a plan for her to come and join them when no one was looking. Maybe during the night, if it was safe. She could discreetly get out of the castle and go back to her son and boyfriend to spend time with them.

With a bit of luck, she would also have days where she wouldn't be asked to work, and she would be able to stay with them a bit. She knew nothing could make them grow apart. She was doing this for them, and she was going to fight so they could stay together. She wouldn't accept anything else than that.

She only noticed there that the Queen was actually waiting for her to tell her if she wanted to see the room. She blinked and promised herself to talk about all of this with Killian later, and she finally smiled to answer. "Would it be all right of we did this tomorrow? I have to go tell my employers that I'm leaving them, since I'll be sleeping here from now on." She explained, finding an excuse to go join her family as soon as possible.

They immediately nodded to show her that they were agreeing with her idea. "Of course, you probably have hundreds of things to do." The King said. "We'll meet you here tomorrow morning, and we'll explain everything to you then. You should go gather your things and take some rest, for now. Tomorrow is going to be a big day. The start of a new life, right?"

It made her smile. She chose to forget about all her worries for a while, just focusing on his sincere smile and on the fact that she'd made it, she was where she wanted to be. She squeezed the Queen's hands in hers, and whispered with tears in her eyes, because despite her fears, she was still so damn glad that she'd got the job after all.

"Thank you for everything. It really… It means a lot."

"Thank you." Snow White answered immediately. "I can't wait to really learn to know you, Leia."

They shared another long glance, and a lonely tear rolled down Emma's cheek as she was appreciating how big it was to be there.

She didn't know how, she didn't know why, but she could feel that both of these strangers were going to mean a lot to her. She could see it at the way they were looking at her and at the odd sensation at the pit of her stomach as she was watching them. She felt safe, and if it was definitely strange because she didn't know them, she chose not to ask herself to many questions. It felt too good to try to understand it.

The sun was already starting to get lower in the sky when Emma arrived in the harbor. She'd stayed longer than expected in the palace, even after she'd explained to the couple that she had to go. They'd just talked and talked, and by the time she was making her way back to the city, the evening was slowly settling.

She'd almost run for the entire way, more than impatient to finally go tell the good news to Killian and Henry. She'd chosen to forget about the fear this room awaiting for her at the castle was making arise in her, for now. She also wanted her family to enjoy the news properly, especially her son. Henry had always imagined her as being a princess, and she was going to work at the palace now. She wanted him to focus on that. He would realize soon enough that the couple didn't know about him and that she would have to stay in the castle for longer than expected. She just wanted him to be innocently happy for a little while, because he deserved it so much.

And she was glad too, despite everything. She was happy that they both hadn't trusted her for nothing, and that she was going to make them proud. All she did, she was doing it for them and she wanted them to appreciate what these news really meant. So when she finally saw the ship, her home, she couldn't help herself. She started to run even faster, her heels clicking against the ground, lifting the bottom of her dress up so she wouldn't trip on it.

She could see Killian standing on deck, waiting for her like he'd done the day before. Her son wasn't there, and she guessed that he was probably reading in his room, as always. She waved at her boyfriend as she was approaching him, and yelled while running up the boarding ramp.


She was so excited she didn't even think that no one knew Killian under his real name in this region. She shouldn't have called him that way, but she was so happy she couldn't realize it fully. Luckily, the harbor was empty and she was already on the ship, so no one heard her. It was good to be alone in this place, she thought. At least they could enjoy this moment as their true selves. Killian, Henry and Emma against the world, like it'd always been.

She stood on deck for a moment, just watching him staying still a few feet from her. He would normally have come to greet her immediately, but he had probably understood that something important was going on. He was watching her with a mix of excitement and pride shinning in his gaze, and she imagined the smile that would spread on his face when he would learn that their future was sure now, and that it was going to be absolutely wonderful. He hadn't been wrong to trust her for all these years, she thought with a wide grin.

"I've got the job!" She said in a low voice, panting and feeling like saying it out loud was almost too much for her.

She wasn't sure if he'd heard her for a second, but she suddenly saw his eyes widening in awe, and she knew. He'd understood, and he was standing there, watching her like she had just brought him the moon. As if to engrave the information into her new reality, she said again, almost yelling this time, because she was finally realizing that it was all real while sharing the news with the man she loved.

"I've got the job!"

"You did it, Swan." He said then, and she could hear the emotion in his voice. "You actually did it!"

It was as if they'd awoken with these words. She suddenly started to move again to run into his arms, and he grabbed her waist as she was reaching him, lifting her up from the ground and holding her so close to him she could hear his heartbeats. He made her spin and she actually giggled, as she could feel his own joy invading her completely. He was so happy, she could sense it in her bones, and when he chuckled, their laughter rose to the sky like a promise of a better future.

He kept her in his arms for a very long time then, and it's only much later that he put her back on her feet. They pulled away for a second to look at each other, and the pride she read in his features made her heart stutter. He didn't give her the time to say anything, to explain what had happened or to express how happy she was, he grabbed her by the hips again and pulled her to him, so fast that their mouths collided.

She almost lost her balance with the strength of their embrace, but his arms held her up and they kissed and kissed until they couldn't breathe anymore. He was telling her everything that he felt right there, he was expressing how happy, proud and amazed he was, and the time stopped around them as they were becoming one, not knowing who was who anymore and their hearts beating in unison.

When they parted after a long time, he looked at her with pure adoration and murmured against her lips. "You are amazing, Emma. Bloody hell, I love you. I love you so much."

"I love you, too. I knew you'd be happy." She said, stroking his cheek and completely lost in the blue of his eyes.

"I'm more than that, love. I'm just… You're the most wonderful person that I know, and I'm so bloody proud to be spending my life by your side."

She just grabbed his jacket and pulled him back to her then, because she wasn't sure what to answer in order not to break their moment. Sometimes, the most important things weren't told with words, and she said them with her lips instead. He understood her, she could tell by the way he was holding her close, like he never wanted to let her go. On that moment, she'd forgotten about the bad news of the room awaiting for her at the castle. They were all alone in the world and she couldn't think about anything else than him, his touch, his scent, his entire and perfect self.

After a while, she pulled away to press her forehead against his, and whispered against his lips, her smile never leaving her. "We should tell Henry."

"He's going to be so happy." Killian said, his fingers running through her tangled hair.

"I know." She grinned, a happy, thrilled smile that made Killian kiss her lips one last time.

Their hands still intertwined, they walked to Henry's room. She remembered how they'd done the exact same thing the day before, and how her son had smiled at the news that she'd passed the first test. This time, it was going to be even more intense, and she just couldn't wait. She was going to tell him that she'd got the job, and he was going to look at her with his huge eyes and she would be sure that she'd made him truly happy. That's all she ever wanted. To make the people she loved happy.

Henry was laying in his bed, exactly as the day before. This time though, he only stood still and looked at her without coming to hug her, understanding at his parents' smiles that something important was happening. Emma shared a glance with Killian, tears in her eyes at the news she was going to announce her baby boy, and she approached him, running her hand through his hair before saying in a whisper.

"I did it, kid."

"What do you mean?" He asked, as if he were scared to believe something that wasn't true.

"I got it. The job. I'm the new assistant."

He blinked, and for a second, he didn't say a thing. He looked like he couldn't believe what was happening, and she smiled at him, waiting for him to say something. Finally, he looked back up at her and said in a low voice. "Are you serious? You're going to work at the castle?"

"I am" She just answered, and the grin that appeared on Henry's face then was worth everything in the world.

He almost made her lose her balance once again as he was wrapping his arms around her. Snow White's story had always been his favorite, and she could imagine how special it was for him that she was going to work with her. He probably would have to give up on the idea that she was the Lost Princess now, because Snow White hadn't recognized her like she would have done it in his dreams, but it was still something big. And she could tell how happy he was by the way he was hugging her. "You did it, Mom! You really did it!"

They stayed for a very long time there, simply hugging each other, and Killian ended up joining them for a collective embrace that made her heart swell in her chest. They were so close in the happiness they were sharing, and all their fears disappeared to only leave place to the impossible : the lost little girl was going to work in a palace. It was beautiful and crazy and absolutely wonderful, and they were saying all those things by simply holding onto each other, their hug tender and intense and so real.

When they finally pulled away, Henry dragged them to his bed and made them sit down, asking Emma to tell them everything that had happened. She talked about her moments at the castle, her smile never leaving her, but she wavered when the time to talk about the room at the palace arrived. It only lasted for a second, though, as she decided that it was a subject she needed to talk about with Killian first. They had to decide what to do together before telling the news to their little boy. He was going to be sad, surely, and she didn't want to ruin this moment. She wanted him to stay happy for now. It was better that way.

It's only much later, as the night was well settled and the stars were shinning in the dark blue sky, that Henry fell asleep in their arms, lulled by the stories she was telling him. They made sure that he was actually asleep, then walked back to their room to be alone for a bit. She was frowning now, knowing the conversation she was going to have with her boyfriend wasn't going to be an easy one. She didn't want to hurt him by explaining to him the only problem she was facing with the job that had been offered to her, but they had to decide on what to do together.

However, when she turned to finally tell him about the weight on her shoulders, he didn't give her the time to say one thing.

He grabbed her waist again, his blue eyes darkened by the lust burning in it. With this simple view, she forgot about everything she wanted to tell him, feeling his skin against hers and her own desire blooming in her stomach at the way he was looking at her. He made her move back to the table in the middle of the room, and without notice, he lifted her up from the ground to make her sit on it.

He started kissing her then, so passionately she moaned against his lips. His tongue asked for an entrance she gave right away, and his taste invaded her completely as she was losing herself in his touch. After taking her dress off hastily, he laid her down on the table, without parting from her once, and found himself straddling her, his hand running down her body and making her shiver in pleasure. The coldness of the wood in her back was contrasting with his warmth, and she felt like she could just turn insane at the things he was making her feel.

It was rough, that night. They both liked rough sex, but they also liked to take their time too, sometimes, to enjoy each other fully. It wasn't the case now. She had to dig her nails into his back and bite at the skin of his neck to avoid screaming her pleasure at the ceiling.

It's at the same time that they reached their orgasm, and he laid above her when they were done, still shaking and trying to find their way back to earth, holding onto each other like they were the only ones in the world. They were panting, somehow stunned by the waves of pleasure that had run over them, and she couldn't believe how good it felt. How good he was feeling.

When they finally found themselves able to breathe again, he carried her to their bed and gently laid her down on it, contrasting with how harsh their moment had been before. He looked at her like she was an angel coming right from heaven, then pulled her to him as she was snuggling against him, their legs tangled beneath the sheets. There, he whispered to her ear :

"I am so bloody proud of you, you wonderful woman."

She smiled and, perhaps for the first time, she felt like maybe he was right to feel that way.