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“If Liam uses the phrase ‘mountain air’ one more time, I’m going to strangle him.”

Emma lifted her eyebrows, tugging her lips behind her teeth to try and mask her smile and it didn’t really work and it kind of made Killian’s heart stutter in his chest, but that had kind of been the theme of the trip to Colorado so he wasn’t entirely surprised.

He wasn’t surprised by how often Liam kept using the phrase mountain air either.

“You can’t do that,” Emma said evenly. “There are cameras here. Also I think you might get fined for that.”

Killian shrugged and he’d mostly done it for the reaction – the slight glint in her eyes that made the green seem just a shade sharper how she shook her hair over her shoulders when she was trying to prove a point, the slight twitch at the end of her nose when she kept trying not to laugh at him.

God, he was a giant, sentimental mess.

“I signed that contract,” Killian pointed out. “I’m making more than enough money now to pay off a fine for only threatening to strangle my brother.”

Emma clicked her tongue. “Yeah, I don’t think that’s how it works.”

“Mountain air, Swan. What even is mountain air?”

“I think if you asked Liam he’d be more than happy to tell you what mountain air is. Or Mr. V because he’s also talking about it a lot. To the Stanley Cup guy.”

“Which Stanley Cup guy?”

“Wait, there’s more than one Stanley Cup guy?” Emma asked, skidding the back of her heels into the dirt under her feet and they were sitting on a swing set. In the backyard. In Colorado. With all the goddamn mountain air.

Killian hummed, swinging back on an actual, real-life swing. The entire stupid set creaked. Emma had given up not laughing.

“There is, in fact, more than one Stanley Cup guy,” Killian confirmed. “There’s the one with the Twitter feed I think he’s required to update at every moment of every day and then there are his lackeys or something.”

“Excuse me? Stanley Cup lackeys? You are making that up.”

“Swan, how have you not seen all these people here?” he asked skeptically, waving a hand back towards the house and the small contingent of suit-wearing NHL officials gathered around a table.

They’d gotten there that morning – far earlier than anything should have existed during the offseason, or so Emma grumbled into Killian’s shoulder blade when someone knocked on their guest room door – a small platoon of very official-looking faces and white gloves and the actual, goddamn Stanley Cup.

Mrs. V cried.

Elsa tried to pretend she didn’t cry.

No one believed her.

Killian was fairly certain half the text messages he’d been ignoring all afternoon were Will shouting about Elsa’s tear-stained cheeks on several different social media platforms.

And, really, it hadn’t been much of a decision. They won the Stanley Cup, he shaved his incredibly superstitious playoff beard, they had a parade, he signed a very large, slightly surprising contract extension and they told him he had to figure out what to do with his day .

That was exactly how they worded it too.

His day.

Like it was some sort of day of reckoning.

If Liam mentioned mountain air one more time it probably would have been.

As it were, it was just more sports-based tradition and Killian Jones, captain of the New York Rangers, got twenty-four hours with the Stanley Cup and a copious amount of family and it hadn’t been much of a challenge to decide he wanted to do both of those things in Colorado.

Elsa had cried then too.

Anna took pictures. And sent them to Will.

Killian didn’t tell Elsa that.

Instead, he’d spent most of his day sitting on a swing set in the backyard, letting his sneakers dig little tracks into the dirt while he considered several different, rather wide-sweeping options for a future that now felt a little bit more possible than ever.

“I’ve been kind of busy,” Emma said, pulling Killian out of his own thoughts and maybe that was for the best because they hadn’t even moved into the new apartment yet.

They should probably move first.

Definitely.

Right?

He had no idea how to do any of this.

If he was going to do this.

Definitely.

“Swan, if Lucas told you that you have to update anything at any point today I will personally help you stage a community relations riot,” Killian said and he wasn’t entirely expecting the laugh he was met with.

Emma’s whole body doubled over with the force of it, hair falling in front of her face and brushing over her knees and she had a white-knuckle grip on the chains that kept the swings connected to the rest of the set.

“I’m serious,” Killian continued. “This is the offseason. This is supposed to be some kind of victory lap or tour or whatever. And I swear that one guy with the white gloves is actually glued to his phone. Anything we post can just be retweeted from him.”

She bit her lip, eyes brighter than he could remember seeing them in months and they’d won, but the playoffs had still been some kind of emotional trip and maybe they did deserve a slightly quieter victory tour.

Or whatever they were calling it.

“You know that guy has a name,” Emma said, swinging left and right until she’d worked up enough momentum to bump against his side. “He’s really popular on the internet.”

“Strange as it may seem I’m not spending a lot of time on the internet.”

“Old man, frustrated with the current social media world we live in.”

Killian shrugged. “I’m not entirely disagreeing with that, but you’ve also conveniently avoided answering my question, love.”

“Quick on the uptake during the offseason,” Emma grinned, tugging on the sleeve of the several dozen team-branded t-shirts he’d brought with him to Colorado. Regina had texted and e-mailed the night before to remind him to wear team-branded that morning because the league will care.

“It’s your offseason too, Swan. You shouldn’t have to be updating stuff all the time.”

“I’m not.”

He expected that even less than the laugh and, if he were being honest, he was kind of hoping for the laugh. Emma smiled, shrugging slightly and it might have been the single most endearing thing he'd ever seen in his entire life.

His mind was drifting again. God.

“I’m very confused,” Killian admitted, glancing up when Mr. V started talking about the benefits of higher altitude for athletes and breathing exercises and, possibly, something about the Olympic training center.

Liam was rolling his eyes, hitching Lizzie further up to rest her against his shoulder and the twins were both trying to tug the table cloth out from underneath the Stanley Cup and it was loud and vaguely chaotic and kind of nice. In a better-than-ever sort of way.

And Killian knew it didn’t have anything to do with winning a Stanley Cup or the Stanley Cup being in Colorado or anything that wasn’t how easily Emma had fit into the middle of absolutely everything.

“Yeah, I know,” Emma smiled. “And I am not updating anything. Philip Pritchard is tweeting. That’s his name by the way and he’s got a shit ton of Twitter followers. And you’re right about retweeting. Mer’s taking care of it because, breaking news, Cap, I am on vacation.”

She punctuated the statement with a press of her finger into his chest and it wasn’t easy to stay balanced on the swing when he wrapped his own fingers around her wrist, but doing anything except touching her – even with Philip Pritchard and his very popular Twitter account looming a few feet away – seemed like the biggest mistake in the world.

Emma clicked her teeth and the swing set chains were starting to twist, one of her legs tangled up in between his and only her toes on the ground.

Maybe he’d been wrong about the most endearing thing before.

“What I have been busy with, however,” Emma continued. “Is discussing the merits of one table cloth over another with El last night, talking to Mr. V about real estate options on the Upper West Side, which you should really talk to him about by the way because he’s very concerned we’ve been absolutely cheated––”

“––Did he use the words cheated?”

Emma nodded seriously. “Oh, yeah, several times. Also he’s really curious about, and this verbatim I swear, that bedroom you won’t need for several years.”

“Fucking hell.”

“It was nice. Almost. I mean it kind of freaked me out, but his intentions were good.”

“Jeez,” Killian sighed, running his hand through his hair and he was fairly positive he heard a phone camera snap somewhere. He ignored whatever his stomach did about two rooms and it just made sense.

For the future. Maybe. Possibly. If he got to the first part of whatever plan was possibly forming in the back of his head.

“Oh, also, me and Lizzie have gotten real close in the last two days,” Emma added. “We’re both real big fans of whatever they show on the Disney channel now.”

Killian wasn’t sure if he was suffocating from a distinct lack of oxygen in his lungs or if his entire nervous system was just shutting down because that same oxygen wasn’t getting to his brain, but everything felt a bit more in an overwhelming sort of way and he couldn’t seem to remember a single word.

Emma widened her eyes. “El needed some sleep,” she said, like that was an excuse and not some kind of life-altering news. Definitely felt a bit more definite in that moment than it had when he’d woken up. “And she was just like...irrationally worried about the table cloth.”

“That doesn’t surprise me at all,” Killian muttered, finally able to come up with words. They didn’t quite sound like actual words, though, rasped out like he’d spent the last four hours skating non-stop and had only just caught his breath.

It kind of felt that way.

“You and Liam have been arguing about whatever it is you’re arguing about and I’ve been hanging out with a painfully adorable baby who likes to fall asleep on my shoulder,” Emma said. “Have you really just been arguing about mountain air this whole time?”

“Not the whole time,” Killian mumbled and it all felt kind of stupid when Emma was still bumping against his side in some kind of almost-rhythm and she was still smiling and they’d gotten a two-bedroom apartment.

“At least seventy-nine percent of the time.”

“That is oddly specific.”

“I’ve had some chance to ponder that very specific joke. Did it work?”

“Absolutely,” he promised and her answering smile would probably fuel his entire season and, possibly, an Olympic appearance if he could convince the league to stop being idiots. “And it’s not so much the mountain air as it is how much he’s talking about it. If he’d come up with a single other topic of conversation it wouldn’t be a big deal.”

“I think it’s making you prickly.”

He arched an eyebrow, well aware that it would work a slightly dramatic sigh out of Emma, and smiled, hooking his foot behind her ankle to try and tug her against his side. That didn’t really work. They were sitting in swings.

“That word sounds awfully familiar, Swan,” Killian said, pressing a kiss to her temple. Another camera shutter went off. He didn’t flinch.

“That was definitely, El,”  Emma mumbled. “Anna’s really mad she’s not here. That was another reason why Lizzie and I were hanging out. Anna likes to yell a lot on the phone, you know.”

“I’m very aware of that fact.”

“Where is she?”

“At last update she was somewhere in Egypt possibly raising the dead.”

“Was that a reference? Are you threatening to fight front office and making The Mummy references in the same conversation you were also complaining about air and Mr. V’s real estate thoughts?”

“If Mr. V has real estate thoughts he should probably keep them to himself. Or discuss them with us. The people who are living in the real estate. And I don’t remember threatening all of front office. Just Lucas.”

“I’m going to tell her you said that,” Emma laughed.

“I’m not threatened by Lucas.”

“That’s your mistake.”

She did something absurd with her face – a twist of her eyebrows and lips and they’d probably offend the protectors of the Stanley Cup if they just started making out on a swing set in the backyard.

Killian was almost willing to chance it.

“And,” Emma muttered, tugging lightly on the front of his shirt and they were both going to fall off the swings. They should have hidden in the guest room. Or never come out of the guest room. “I’m very happy with our real estate choices.”

Definitely willing to chance it.

She bent her head first and he’d probably think about that for the rest of the time they were in Colorado and probably the rest of the season and, hopefully, the rest of his entire life and Killian’s hand moved on instinct, tiny divots from the goddamn chains still in his palm when he rested it on the small of Emma’s back.

They bumped knees and she, somehow, managed to step on his toe and he might have actually bit her lip at some point when someone started shouting from the house and something else crashed and one of the white-gloved officials gasped because they’d probably broken the Stanley Cup.

And Killian didn’t stop kissing Emma.

Or the other way around.

He wasn’t going to be specific about it.

They’d gotten incredibly good at this in the last year, season, moving with practiced ease and Emma’s fingers found the back of his hair, tugging lightly until he made some kind of impossible noise he absolutely should not when his brother, parents, quasi-sister and several adorable children were a few feet away.

He didn’t really care about the Cup people.

He kind of hoped they scandalized them.

“There are people here,” Emma mumbled, but she didn’t actually move away from him and that felt like a bigger victory than the actual victory. “With social media apps on their phones.”

“If that Twitter guy is taking pictures of us, he’s definitely got his priorities fucked up because the twins are probably going to dent the Cup at some point.”

“Ah, but that’s endearing.”

“Destructive.”

“Adorable.”

“You know I'm almost surprised we haven’t been arrested by the whole lot of them.”

Emma pulled back at that, expression bordering on incredulous and she was biting her lip again. That was distracting. “I don’t think they have that authority,” she said, glancing towards a suit and the gloves that seemed to be reflecting light and he was definitely staring at them. “God, maybe we should save the makeouts for other places.”

“Ah, but you attacked me, love.”

She stuck her tongue out. That was more distracting. “This is a very confusing conversation,” Emma muttered. “You keep jumping around from point to point and then back again. Also the kissing was absolutely a joint effort, so don’t act like you weren’t all about that.”

“All about that,” he repeated slowly and she rolled her whole head in response.

“Is that an argument?”

Killian shook his head, pushing out his lower lip slightly and Emma might have actually growled. Before she kissed him again.

That one Stanley Cup guy might have clicked his tongue in reproach.

“Oh my God, you know you’re freaking out Mr. and Mrs. V.”

Killian groaned, letting his forehead rest against Emma’s and he could still feel her smile when he brushed his lips over her cheek, pulling away to glare at a very self-satisfied looking Liam.

“What do you want?” Killian sighed. “Why aren’t you watching your kids?”

Liam didn’t look impressed. “Why aren’t you watching my kids? Also Mr. and Mrs. V are here. If you think they’re not seizing every grandparent moment you’re even crazier than I think you are and I’m pretty sure I just saw you two making out on my swing set.”

“You’re only pretty sure you saw us making out?” Emma asked, her leg still in between Killian’s and one hand on his knee. “That seems problematic.”

Liam blushed.

Killian cackled. It actually hurt his throat.

“I love you,” he mumbled, kissing the curve of her shoulder and pointedly ignoring his brother.

“Good news for me,” Emma smiled. “It’d be weird if you didn’t and we signed that very fancy, very expensive, lots of square-footage joint lease.”

She kissed him, a quick brush of her lips over his and Killian nearly stumbled forward trying to chase after her. Liam laughed. And Emma jumped off the swing, crossing her arms tightly over her own team-branded t-shirt with his name on the back, pressing up on her toes and narrowing her eyes.

“Liam,” she said pointedly and he nearly jumped to attention. “If you mention mountain air one more time I’m going to kick you in the shins and tell all the Cup protectors that I beat you in air hockey at Christmas.”

He blinked. “Aye, aye Captain.”

“Good,” Emma grinned, nodding once like that settled that. She glanced over her shoulder and Killian was fairly certain he was blushing as well. Liam would probably make fun of that at some point. “Before I go make ridiculous faces at your adorable niece do you want to explain why the Cup protection squad was going to arrest us?”

“We’ve got to come up with a more consistent name for them,” Killian said, making some sort of strangled noise when Emma kicked at his ankle. “Weren’t we just making backyard declarations, Swan? That should prevent attacks.”

“Please stop using that word. Why are we getting arrested?”

“There’s still a Conn-Smythe in your kitchen.”

“What?” Liam shouted, drawing the attention of every single Cup protection squad and their phosphorescent gloves. “How did you manage that?”

“Oh my God, Liam, yell it a little louder, please,” Killian grumbled.

“You brought it up,” Emma said. “And it’s not going to stay in my apartment forever. Probably. Right? I mean we’re going to move eventually.”

“You’re going to steal an NHL trophy and bring it to your two-bedroom apartment?” Liam asked, voice dropping low enough that it was even almost more obvious than his previous screech.

Killian ran a hand over his face, pulling in several lungs-worth of fresh, clean mountain air and tried not to let his frustration linger too long between his shoulders. Ariel would kill him if he fucked up his shoulders before the start of camp.

“Liam, you are absolutely awful at this,” Emma hissed, pressing up on his shoulder to glance at the slightly curious crowd they were drawing. “And as a follow up to the conversational requirements going forward, please stop talking about the number of bedrooms we have in our apartment. It was a joint decision.”

Liam stared at her like he’d only just started understanding the English language, mouth hanging open and shoulders moving quickly and Killian’s laugh seemed to echo off the goddamn mountains.

“You guys are freaking out the Stanley Cup protection squad,” Elsa said, appearing next to them suddenly and, seemingly, out of nowhere.

“Shit, El, where did you just teleport from?” Killian asked. She glared at him.

“Also, your name for them sounds way more official than ours,” Emma added.

“It’s because she used the entire name,” Liam said. “That makes it sound more official. Did you know they stole a Conn-Smythe?”

Elsa almost looked offended. “Obviously. They’re going to put it in their very fancy two-bedroom apartment, right?”

“How did you know that?”

“Anna. How did you not know that?”

“Anna only gossips with me when she needs me to send her money.”

“Does that happen lot?” Emma asked, half-standing and half-sitting on Killian’s leg, stretched out in front of him and he couldn’t really think when she kept running her fingers over the back of his neck.

Liam shook his head. “Nah, only when she––”

“––Falls off a mountain,” Killian finished.

“Oh, I’m going to tell her you said that,” Elsa warned, one arm wrapped around her middle when she started to laugh.

“She’ll have to get in line. Lucas is apparently mad at me too.”

“Oh, yeah, you should be worried about that.”

“And, you know, maybe we’ll give the Conn-Smythe back,” Emma shrugged. “Eventually. If the league figures it out.”

“You don’t think the league is going to figure it out?” Liam balked.

“I really don’t care. I’m on vacation.”

“Ah, yeah, that’s fair.”

Emma hummed, kissing on the edge of Killian’s mouth before standing up again and flashing him a smile that seemed to settle in the pit of his stomach. As if that was something smiles could do. “Maybe the Conn-Smythe can hang out in the guest room,” she said. “I’m going to get something to drink and make sure the league reps don’t actually tweet anything that will get me in trouble with Zelena. Please don’t shout about trophies too loudly.”

She was gone half a moment later, calling to Mrs. V about drinks and food and Killian knew he was smiling like an absolute idiot even before Liam and Elsa started laughing.

“Do not start,” he warned, holding up a hand and there were still chain marks on his skin. It wasn’t helping his cause.

“We said no words at all,” Liam promised.

“I mean we were thinking them,” Elsa said, leaning against Liam’s side and making a face when he slung an arm around her shoulders. “Loudly. For weeks. Since the Cup Finals. And a distinct lack of proposing on the ice.”

“Not all of us were thinking about you proposing on the ice. Don’t do that.”

“I’m not going to do that,” Killian said, but he was fairly certain it didn’t matter what he said. He was already in the middle of this inquisition and Anna was going to be really mad she missed all of it. “And you can’t blame hormones for this anymore, El. This is just you being insane now, straight up.”

“See, I know you’re trying to be threatening, but you just used the words straight up as an actual threat, so I’m going to be straight up and tell you that I am not threatened by your threat.”

“That was really convoluted.”

Killian made a noise – something that might have been an agreement or just generic acceptance – and Elsa smiled when she dropped onto the swing next to him. “Liam can you please sit on these swings with us?” she asked, nodding in the direction of the seat Emma had only recently left. “It’s weird if you’re just standing there.”

“That’s what’s weird about this?” Killian asked.

“Stop it, KJ,” Elsa muttered. “C’mon it’ll almost be fun. We can actually use the swings for once.”

“I really don’t think we’re supposed to use these,” Liam wavered, but he sat down anyway and the whole goddamn set creaked. “God, what does that say about us?”

Killian laughed. “That this was made for children. Or your craftsmanship is shoddy.”

“It’s probably definitely the second one.”

“Ah, c’mon, don’t tell me that,” Elsa yelled. “I’ve already got enough to worry about. Dad’s obsessed with this mountain air thing and how it affects newborns like the twins didn’t live here.”

“Oh, I wonder where he got that from?” Killian mumbled, drawing a dramatic groan out of Liam. He grinned. “Also, El did you plan me being in the literal middle of this attempt to recapture childhood or was that just a happy coincidence?”

“Happy coincidence,” she echoed. “And did we ever swing on a swing set when we were growing up? I can’t remember doing this once.”

“What does that say about us?”

“That we grew up in New York,” Liam chuckled. “And spent most of our lives playing hockey.”

“Ah, yeah, definitely that.”

Elsa hummed and for half a second Killian thought they were actually going to ignore the intervention and maybe just actually swing on a slightly rickety swing set. The internet probably would have appreciated that.

No such luck.

“So,” she Elsa and it sounded a little bit like she was about to present a bill to the Colorado House of Representatives. “Proposal before or after camp starts?”

Killian nearly dislocated his ankle, digging his heel into the dirt and he’d have to fix that eventually because he’d created some sort of chasm. “Jeez, El,” he muttered. “A warning next time would be good.”

“You had a warning. You knew it was something when we sat on the swings. Also we’ve talked about this before.”

“Because you were pregnant.”

“You were only talking to me because I was pregnant? Choose your next words very carefully, KJ.”

“Oh my God.”

“Not great ones, if I’m being honest.”

“He’s nervous,” Liam reasoned, leaning forward so he could stare meaningfully at Elsa. “He’s never asked a girl to marry him before.”

“Oh my God,” Killian repeated. “I am sitting right here.”

Liam clicked his tongue. “Swinging. You’re swinging. Kind of. If you want to get technical.”

“And that wasn’t a disagreement,” Ella whispered, barely keeping her voice even. She looked like she might start crying again.

His ears were on fire.

Killian was positive.

And the ground was, suddenly, the single most interesting thing in the entire world.

Liam let out a low whistle. “Holy shit,” he said, enunciating every letter and Killian rolled his eyes.

“You’re a child,” he muttered.

“Who has actually proposed to someone before, so you might want to take some pointers or something. Don’t do it on the ice.”

“I’m not going to do it on the ice.”

“Anna’s going to be disappointed,” Elsa muttered, a hint of a smile twisting her lips and Killian’s eyes were going to get stuck that way. That’d probably make the social media photos with the Cup weird.

Lucas wouldn’t appreciate that.

He’d end up on several different backpages.

“Strangely enough this is not Banana’s issue,” Killian said. Elsa let out a noise that wasn’t quite human and might have done damage to the hearing of several different dogs in the area. “God, El, what the hell was that?”

“That was a confirmation,” she hissed, trying to shout while still trying to whisper and it just left her half hanging off the swing with eyes wide enough that Killian was worried they might actually fall out of her head.

That would make several other backpages.

“I think he’s actually blushing,” Liam laughed. “Look at his ears. Shit, you buy a ring Killian?”

Killian shook his head and he wasn’t sure when he’d decided to have this conversation, but it might have been somewhere in between Emma sitting on his legs and not sitting on his legs and how easily she’d walked back into that house or picked out an apartment on the Upper West Side with two bedrooms.

It all felt impossibly easy.

That was probably a sign.

Liam whistled again and Elsa waved a dismissive hand, trying to make sure they didn’t spark any questions from an overly curious Mr. V. “Ok, ok, ok, wait a second,” she said quickly. “So you’re doing this? For real?”

“El, did you just use the phrase for real in an actual conversation?” Killian asked, jerking his head up. His neck cracked.

“You should see A about that.”

“Deflection.”

“Yes, I did because I am trying to get an actual word confirmation out of you. Consider yourself under oath, KJ. Have you been actually thinking about this?”

“Outside of your weird, gossip-fueled rants during the Cup Final?”

“KJ!”

“No,” he said and Elsa visibly deflated. “Let me finish. No, to thinking about it outside your weird, gossip-fueled rants during the Cup Final. Until like...eleven o’clock this morning.”

She gasped, clasping both her hands over mouth and Killian might have to amend his previous statement – he was going to strangle Liam if he whistled again. “What happened at eleven o’clock?” Elsa asked.

“Emma helped Jacob get the last piece of french toast off the plate on the counter,” Liam answered.

“That’s super weird that you know that,” Killian said. “Why do you know that?”

“Because your ears did that thing again and you started smiling like you’d seen a comet or something. You know that one, Elsa? Where he just scored and juked out, like, every defender on the ice?”

“There are two defenders on the ice. That’s how hockey works.”

“Take my exaggerated point for what it is.”

“No.”

“Ok, don’t be difficult.”

“Guys,” Elsa sighed. They both glared at each other. “Children, both of you. Also, KJ you totally do that. You should patent it or something.”

“You think you can patent a look?” Killian asked. “There should be laws for that.”

“Not technically my forte, but in theory, I guess. You could market it as hockey star stares longingly at girlfriend he hopes to, one day, marry and fill that impossibly large Manhattan apartment with painfully adorable children.”

“Kind of long to write on paperwork.”

Elsa laughed, head thrown back and eyes closed lightly and Killian took a deep breath, any lingering tension in his shoulders evaporating as soon as the words were out of his mouth.

He should probably buy a ring.

Maybe after camp started.

Or they, at least, moved into their apartment.

Their two bedroom apartment.

“He brings up a good point,” Liam grinned, kicking up a cloud of dirt. “So you’re for real on this then?”

Killian nodded. “Why are you just repeating, El?”

“Force of habit. Insert cliché about married life here.”

“Ok, rude,” Elsa growled, eyebrows pulled low and leaning over as well and Killian briefly considered testing out his own teleportation skills.

No such luck.

“You’re going to have to have a plan, KJ,” Elsa continued. “Liam had a plan.”

Killian didn’t expect that. He furrowed his eyebrows and stared at his brother like he’d only just realized they were all sitting on the same swing set. “Did you really?”

“Obviously,” Liam snapped. “From, like, the time the final buzzer went off in the National Championship game until it actually happened. Didn’t Mrs. V and Anna tell you this story?”

“I definitely ignored it.”

“Ok, well, take notes or something because this is sweeping romance.” Liam leaned around Killian, grinning at Elsa and she rolled her eyes fondly, tapping her fingers on the, frankly, enormous ring sitting on her left hand. “The season had just ended, we sucked, but we got better. And so went to Battery Park and we got shitty knishes from one of the street cart and overpriced twenty ounces of soda and I told her I’d loved her since I was sixteen and wanted do that for the rest of my life and I got down on one knee––”

“––You better get down on one knee, KJ,” Elsa interrupted.

Liam nodded. “Yeah, seriously, there’s no point if you don’t get down on one knee. See that’s why you can’t do it on the ice.”

“I’m not proposing on the ice,” Killian hissed, just barely keeping his voice about a shout and his eyes widened when Mrs. V shouted something about are you three alright towards them. He waved a hand, not sure it was totally an answer.

“Can I get back to my story now?” Liam demanded.

“Finish your story, babe,” Elsa nodded. Killian rolled his eyes so hard it hurt. “Stop that, KJ.”

“Anyway,” Liam continued. “We went to battery park, ate the knishes, I got down on one knee, gave the speech and there was a ring and a good amount of making out and then we let Anna plan a wedding.”

“Banana is not planning my wedding,” Killian said. Elsa made that noise again. “Seriously, El, you need to relax. This is...happening eventually, but there’s not a ring yet and there’s got to be a ring, right? That’s part of the deal.”

Liam shrugged. “I mean, I think it helps.”

“You should probably buy a ring, KJ. If you’re thinking. Or pondering. Or you know…”

“One-hundred percent certain?” Killian finished.

Elsa beamed. “Yeah, exactly that. That way you’re ready when inspiration strikes or whatever.”

“That doesn’t seem romantic at all,” Liam muttered.

“Eh, I don’t know. There’s something to be said for spontaneity.”

“I guess.”

Killian opened his mouth, not entirely certain what he was going to say, but Mrs. V was standing in front of them, a knowing smile on her face and her hands on her hips and that’s probably where Elsa got her teleporting abilities from.

“Hey, Mrs. V,” Liam said evenly, sounding a bit too much like his fourteen-year-old counterpart and it felt like they’d just gotten caught sneaking uptown on the 1-train. “You need us for something?”

“I didn’t just come over here to stare at you,” she smiled. Killian nearly fell on the ground.

“God, that was harsh, Mrs. V,” he choked. “The Cup people are looking for us, huh?”

She nodded. “Perceptive kid.”

“Grown adult, Mrs. V.”

“Kid.”

He shook his head, but there was something in between each one of his ribs that felt a bit warm and slightly familiar and she kissed the top of his head when she stepped forward, resting her hands on his shoulders. “We all know you picked your Cup day so we could all be here,” Mrs. V. said. “A nice kid too. Now, c’mon, they want to take pictures.”

They took pictures – and then took more pictures – and FaceTime’d Anna so she could be there and that ended up on several different sports blogs the next day and Killian didn’t think too much more about the plans and the stories and one knee, but he didn’t ignore it either.

It was, he realized, because Emma kept smiling.

And really that wasn’t a bad thing.

That was, actually, a very good thing. That was kind of the best thing. The goal, in fact. If he were making puns. He wasn’t.

He was just...thinking.

Emma kept smiling and laughing and sitting on the couch in the house in Colorado with her legs draped over his and her fingers playing with his hair, nails brushing over the back of his neck and just behind his ear and Killian didn’t think she even realized she was doing it, just moving and shifting into his space and his life and his family.

His family.

He absolutely wanted to marry her.

A lot.

So, maybe he wasn’t entirely ignoring the idea because it was the only thing he kept thinking about the entire week they were in Colorado and by the time they got back to New York he was so distracted that he tried to take someone else’s bags from JFK.

Emma was still asleep when he left the next morning – bags sitting just inside her apartment door because he’d already left his place and most everything was already in boxes and they were supposed to move in a couple of days and he hadn’t actually done much in the way of working out since they landed in Colorado.

Ariel was going to murder him.

Victor might throw a weight at him.

Killian wanted to run – quite literally, straight up Riverside Drive and up towards that bench on 110th Street and, at least, ten different people stared at him, eyes wide and phones out and he probably shouldn’t have worn a team-branded sweatshirt.

Everything else was packed.

He ignored them. He kept running and thinking and theorizing wasn’t the right word, but actually using daydreaming at some indeterminate time in the morning when it wasn’t quite humid yet and it didn’t quite smell like garbage and his hair was starting to stick to his temples, felt a little absurd.

It was totally daydreaming.

And he could picture it all. A family and a future and how much he wanted both of those things, just a bit desperately – the game and the roadtrips and trivia sent over text messages for like...as long as they both may live.

It took several dozen blocks for him to realize one, very important thing.

He was going to ask Emma Swan to marry him.

And he was going to do something about it.

Now.

Killian didn’t collapse on the bench next to him, just leaned against the side and tried to tug his phone out of his pocket without yanking the headphones out of his ears in the process and he was only slightly worried about damaging his phone when he started texting.

He wasn’t entirely prepared for the first ring.  

Or for Liam to nearly growl when he answered.

On the first ring.

“What?” Liam snapped. “What could you possibly want?”

“It’s ten o’clock in the morning where you are,” Killian said and he was far too excited to acknowledge whatever noise Liam was making.

He hailed a cab instead. And the driver recognized him as soon as he stopped at the curb, eyes going wide and lips parting slightly. Liam was still talking in his ear.

“Yeah, yeah, hey,” Killian said, trying to smile when the guy started mumbling something about a good Cup defense this year. Liam was shouting. “Liam, you’re going to cause some kind of avalanche. Stop screaming at me.”

“Why were you texting me? Are you in a cab right now? Gina’s going to kill you.”

“If you tell Gina I took a cab to...what is it called?”

“I honestly think you’re having some kind of emotional breakdown right now. Are you speaking English?”

Killian groaned, letting his head fall back and the cab driver was glancing expectantly in the rearview mirror. “The Diamond District is a thing, right? Somewhere on 6th Ave?”

“Uh, yeah, it is, Cap,” the driver answered and Liam made a noise that was somewhere close to a guffaw. Killian pulled his head up.

“Thanks. You want to head there?”

“Sure.”

“Killian what is happening right now?” Liam demanded, a door closing on his side of the phone and that was actually nice. “And you’ve lived in New York your whole life, you’re telling me you don’t know that the Diamond District is on 6th and whatever cross street it is.”

“You’re not helping your case,” Killian laughed. “And, uh...you know how to shop for an engagement ring?”

“You like a minder now?”

“Excuse me?”

“Well I was going to text you later to be an ass about it and ask if you’d bought a ring yet, but I figured I’d wait until you’d at least, you know, unpacked your bags.”

“We’re not going to unpack our bags. It doesn’t make any sense when we’re just going to move in a couple of days.”

“Ah, yeah, that’s smart,” Liam agreed, smile obvious in his voice. “So, uh…”

Killian clicked his tongue. “Do not brag.”

“What could I possibly brag about? You’re going to make some kind of major life decision and I’m fairly certain it’s because you were so moved by my ability to create a romantic moment in Battery Park. If you propose in Battery Park I’ll never talk to you again though.”

“Don’t tempt me,” Killian muttered. Liam made a noise. It might have just been his tongue sticking out in midair. “And I’m not going to propose in Battery Park or on the ice or...I don’t know what I want to do. I just know that I want to and I want to...to be ready. You know. For it.”

“It?”

“The moment? Something good.”

“That’s awfully vague, Killian.”

“I’ll figure it out when I get there.”

Liam didn’t say anything for hours and Killian wondered if they’d maybe managed to pause time, prone, as the Vankalds were to their teleportation abilities, but he heard a deep breath from the line in Colorado and he was fairly positive there was still a smile involved.

“This is good, Killian,” Liam said, low and intent and Killian tugged on his hair. That was a mistake. He’d run fifty blocks. “Were you running? Is that how it happened?”

“Talk about mind reader,” Killian muttered and he couldn’t quite keep the emotion out of his voice or the slight shake and maybe both of those things were good too.

“Nah, just practice. Hey, hang up so you can put me on FaceTime and we can talk settings and band color.”

“You made both those words up.”

“See, this is why you need me. C’mon. Hang up and let’s buy an engagement ring, huh?”

He bought an engagement ring.

And put it in his gear bag that afternoon and started carting it back and forth to the Garden and practice and training camp and the moment never came, was lost between games and fan events and nights at the restaurant and Emma in his jersey.

Until, quite suddenly, the moment seemed to arrive in flashing, neon fashion.

With horns.

And confetti.

He’d spent most of the season telling the league it would be fine and good and great for the impact of the sport across the world and they’d only just gotten back from a three-game road trip a few days before, still a bit rattled from the almost-concussion in Arizona and how tightly Emma had held onto him as soon as he closed the door behind him.

They were going to the Olympics.

The moment.

On an international stage.

Elsa answered on the second ring.

“I knew it,” she said, not letting him get a word out and Killian felt the smile inch across his face, that tiny, little flame of certainty sparking in the very center of him and this was going to happen.

He was going to marry Emma Swan.