“This is ridiculous.”
“You’re supposed to be sitting.”
“You’re only saying that because Killian thinks I’m supposed to be sitting. I am fine.”
Merida flushed, making it difficult to see where her hair ended and the rest of her face actually began and Emma grinned like she’d won...well, the Stanley Cup. Again. Maybe. No, definitely.
She was certain and confident and they could clinch that night, but she was so goddamn exhausted that she wasn’t entirely sure she’d locked the apartment door when she left, so, really, she didn’t have a metaphorical leg to stand on.
If she was standing.
Which she wasn’t. And not because Killian was an overprotective weirdo – and she’d lost control of her vocabulary at some point too, delving into middle-school insults over text message and FaceTime throughout this entire playoff run – but because her ankles had swollen to the size of the grapefruit that Matt Jones, apparently, was.
And her back hurt like hell.
Her office chair was not helping much at all, even with that memory foam pillow thing that had just appeared before the playoffs started. She had a few suspicions as to where it came from.
“Boss,” Merida sighed, but Emma was already standing up, wincing slightly when it felt like every single one of her muscles somehow expanded and contracted at the same time. “C’mon, it’s not like that at all.”
“How many times has Killian texted you?”
“Today? Or just like...in the last hour?”
Emma rolled her eyes, sinking back into her chair, a wave of exhaustion and emotion and, maybe, just a bit of frustration rolling over her. Hormones were, easily, the worst thing ever invented. Did that make sense? No, right?
Hormones were just a product of biology and she hadn’t taken a biology class since her junior year of high school and junior year of high school had happened in two different states because the first house she’d been living in had been shut down just before December and…
“Boss,” Merida repeated, snapping the title slightly like it wasn’t the first time she’d said it. It probably wasn’t.
Emma didn’t remember closing her eyes. She shook her head quickly, licking her lips and glancing at the phone on the corner of her desk, flashing like it was masquerading as some sort of Times Square billboard and she had so much to do before puck drop, it was enough to make her head spin.
God, she slept like garbage when Killian wasn’t there. And when Matthew Jones seemed intent on leaving a permanent footprint on her gallbladder.
They’d found out, officially, a few weeks before – in between the second round and the Eastern Conference finals and Killian had absolutely gotten fined because Arthur might have been alright with him missing practice, but the league didn’t really care about things like sonograms and confirming the existence of Matthew Jones when there were media requests and media requirements and something about getting mic’ed up for some special on MSG that already had Ruby pulling her hair out.
He’d skipped anyway, shaking his head when Emma tried to argue and it really hadn’t been much of an argument because she wanted him there. She knew he kept that sonogram photo in his equipment bag.
It made her heart swell just thinking about it and she had absolutely lost control of her hormones, however she’d gotten them, because it left her brushing away tears that were decidedly out of place in the middle of her office with a slightly frazzled assistant staring at her and a Stanley Cup just a few hours out of reach.
She wished she was in St. Louis.
She couldn’t be in St. Louis because she had an event to run in Bryant Park – a huge, important event and everyone else was in St. Louis except Merida and Mary Margaret and David and Killian was going to get fined again if he keep trying to text message all of them at once when he was supposed to be at a pregame scrum.
Ruby was going to kill him.
Or at least shake him. Forcefully. She was still on that whole protect Matt Jones at all cost kick.
“How many times?” Emma asked and Merida’s eyebrows nearly flew up her forehead.
“I don’t understand the question,” she admitted. Her phone buzzed – loudly – in her pocket and Emma just widened her eyes, nodding towards the noise as Merida did her best to bore a hole into the carpet.
“How many times has he texted you? We’ll include that one.”
Merida pursed her lips, sighing as if she were battling some kind of immovable force and she might have been because Emma was nothing if not stubborn and, at last count, she’d been texted somewhere in the realm of several dozen times that day.
It wasn’t even five o’clock yet.
And David had wanted to follow her around all day to make sure she ate at some sort of hourly interval. She didn’t even bother asking where he got those instructions from.
It would have been frustrating if it weren’t so goddamn adorable.
“Uh….that’s not Cap,” Merida said, nodding towards the phone in her hand. Her eyes widened and Emma was momentarily concerned, something about faces and them sticking that way, but it only lasted as long as the relative silence in her office.
And the silence didn’t last long.
Her desk phone rang shrilly, shaking like it was trying to tell her something, and her cell phone rang and vibrated at the same time, an impressive feat she didn’t entirely know was possible, but she’d been calling her fiancé an overprotective weirdo and trying to figure out the origins of hormones for most of the day, so, all things considered, the technology of her phone was last on a the list of things she was willing to spend much time thinking about.
“Jeez, it’s like we’re under attack,” Emma mumbled, grabbing the desk phone and Merida made some kind of noise in the back of her throat, like that was, somehow, surprising.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Ruby said, not even letting Emma get a greeting out before delving into apologies that didn’t make sense.
Her cell phone was still ringing. Merida was talking to someone else.
Ruby took a deep breath, ignoring whatever noise of protest Emma made and Matthew Jones kicked, what felt like, both of her kidneys at the same time. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry...wait, did you just gasp? What’s going on? Are you ok?”
“I have no idea what’s going on,” Emma said, leaning forward to press the heel of her hand into the bottom of her spine. “Except that we’re supposed to be getting some kind of balloon arch thing for the game tonight. Mer, did that arch thing come yet?”
Merida nodded distractedly and Emma got the distinct impression she was being placated. She sighed again, but it sounded a bit more like a growl and Ruby hissed in more air from St. Louis, the sound of a very lively locker room barely audible on the other end.
“Em, the arch is going to get there,” Ruby said, but there was a hint of desperation in her voice and it sounded like she was jogging. Or running. It sounded like she was running somewhere, the sounds behind her quickly fading out until Emma could barely hear the shouting.
“Yuh huh,” Emma muttered, resting the phone against her shoulder and reaching up to toy with the ring around her neck. Merida’s eyes were absolutely going to get stuck that way.
And her cell phone was going to vibrate off her desk.
She glanced down at the screen, not sure if she actually wanted to see who was so desperately trying to contact her when she had balloon arches and security issues and signed merch that was, probably, somewhere on 6th Avenue, to worry about.
Ah, damn, she’d left her lunch on the counter at home.
“Mer,” Emma called, ignoring Ruby’s continued apologies for whatever, and sitting up straighter in some vaguely desperate way to realign her spine.
Merida nodded, mumbling a few words to whoever she was talking to. “You want Pret again?”
“Pret. I mean that salad with the cranberries has been like...your life force all postseason.”
“How do you know that?”
Merida blinked, holding up both of her hands like it was obvious and it kind of was because Emma had actually lost track of the number of times she’d ordered that one salad with cranberries from Pret in the last month and a half. She was fairly certain the teenage kid behind the counter thought she was stalking him.
Killian thought it was hysterical.
And kept bags of dried cranberries in a jar on their kitchen counter. Next to the Conn-Smythe they’d never given back.
“Emma,” Ruby shouted and she’d entirely forgotten there was still a person on the phone. Mary Margaret was texting her. There was barely any time between one message and the next and her cell phone had only stopped ringing long enough to start again and David was probably breaking some kind of police rule by calling her when he was absolutely supposed to be on duty.
“Still here,” Emma said, but she was, admittedly, distracted by thoughts of cranberries and a little annoyed that Merida wasn’t on her way to get cranberries, especially when Merida started muttering names under her breath.
“Well, just tell him that it’s just The Daily News,” Merida said quickly, still waving her hands through the air and pacing a tiny circle into the carpet. “They don’t even have a celebrity section. I know, I know he’s not a celebrity, Scarlet. It’ll probably just end up in the corner of the sports. If you guys win, it’ll be a blip on the radar.”
“Scarlet,” Emma echoed, nearly screeching out the word and Ruby made some kind of strangled noise in St. Louis.
“Oh my God,” she sighed, a quiet thump on the other end of the phone that might have just been her entire body collapsing on the floor.
The office chair, somehow, felt even more uncomfortable than before. And her spleen was going to be bruised if her kid didn’t stop kicking her.
Killian had told her the website claimed Matthew Jones could hear things at this point, was vaguely aware of the outside world and needed nurturing sounds and classical music and the general breakdown of the New York Rangers front office just a few hours removed from Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals, in goddamn St. Louis, did not seem to fall into either one of those categories.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Ruby chanted again, the sound of her heel scraping on the floor in whatever hallway she was in sounding like nails on some kind of metaphorical chalkboard.
Will was still talking to Merida.
And Emma still didn’t have any dried cranberries.
Or whatever dressing they used on that salad. She was incredibly hungry.
“Rubes, you’re not actually telling me what is going on,” Emma said, doing her best to keep her voice even. It didn’t really work.
Ruby sighed, sounding as if she were trying to monopolize the oxygen in the entire city of St. Louis. Emma wasn’t sure where to look. She groaned when her phone let out another long string of vibrations, certain her inbox was just a few messages away from combusting, and grabbed the stupid thing, slamming her thumb into the screen until it felt like she’d actually strained a muscle.
Mary Margaret had texted her forty-seven times. In the last five minutes.
The last few just seemed like a string of consciousness that didn’t really make much sense, but it had been that kind of day and Emma still hadn’t gotten confirmation about the goddamn, fucking balloon arch.
Ok, so just take deep breaths.
And maybe get Merida to find you some sort of Bach or Beethoven or something. Because that’s supposed to be calming, just generally, and good for the baby. All the websites say that.
Not that I’m reading websites.
I mean, that’d be weird, right? I’m just...you know, me.
David says I should tell you that I’m totally reading websites. He claims it’s breaking the rules otherwise, but I think he’s just making those rules up now and absolutely downloaded some symphony onto his phone so he could play them for Mattie the next time you guys come over.
Post-Cup, obviously. He made me type that too.
Emma, this is David now. I did not make her type that. I suggested she type that and also told her you wouldn’t even be remotely surprised that she was looking at websites because that is, easily, the most Mary Margaret thing that has ever happened.
She wants to ask you and Killian about what color you’re going to paint Matt’s room, but she’s too nervous
Also. Answer your phone.
As if to prove his point, Emma’s phone rang in her hand. It shouldn’t have taken her by surprise, but there was a metaphorical grapefruit sitting on several different internal organs and she still had no idea what was going on and Merida was still trying to get Will to calm down.
At least that’s what it sounded like.
“What?” Emma snapped, lifting her cell phone to her other ear and Ruby started answering the question. “No, no, not you, Rubes,” she said quickly. Her head was starting to spin. She was going to pop every single balloon in the balloon arch and enjoy it.
“Who else are you talking to?” Ruby demanded. “He’s still in media. I just walked out to warn you.”
“Is that Ruby?” David shouted, like he could scream loudly enough for his voice to be heard in St. Louis. It worked. Of course it did.
Ruby clicked her tongue impatiently and Merida was absolutely going to rip the carpet if she didn’t stop moving. “Isn’t David supposed to be working?” she asked. “I thought he switched shifts so that he could be at the Park and make sure you actually sat down at some point.”
“What?” Emma yelled, frustration settling at the base of her spine when she realized she couldn’t throw her hands up the way she wanted to. She was holding two different phones. “Whose plan was that?”
“I’ll give you one guess,” Merida muttered, flashing a slightly cautious smile Emma’s direction.
Ruby mumbled something again and David sounded like he was actually trying to swallow his laughter while Mary Margaret shouted, possible, encouragements from wherever they happened to be. Maybe they were in Bryant Park.
Maybe they knew about the balloon arch.
Emma opened her mouth – not sure who she was going to direct her question to or if, maybe, she should just walk to Pret herself and buy her own goddamn cranberry salad. Without the avocado. That part was gross.
The teenager behind the counter absolutely knew she didn’t get avocados on her salad. They probably had her photo up in the back room with explicit instructions not to put avocados on that crazy pregnant lady’s salad.
“She’s fine Scarlet, jeez, relax,” Merida growled and there was an edge in her voice that Emma didn’t entirely expect. Ruby cackled. Or possibly just started the rather quick descent into insanity that Emma was fairly certain began as soon as she had run onto the ice in South Korea.
MSG wouldn’t stop playing that clip. It had a questionable number of hits on several different YouTube uploads that Emma probably shouldn’t have looked up, but she was curious and maybe, in some perverse way, fascinated by the interest and David had told her that the subReddit had started some kind of board guessing what they were going to name their kid.
The subReddit was totally fucked up.
And Emma hadn’t looked at that board.
Or actually confirmed anything.
They hadn’t really decided on it – although Ruby had tried to stage that very awkward conversation a few weeks after the Olympics and then, again, just before the playoffs started and Killian had glared at her and, well, that was that.
There was no confirmation. There was no announcement. Emma wasn’t the famous one. There were just rumors and speculation and, God, that one Perez Hilton article like it was 2008 and Perez Hilton was still relevant or Killian was actually Tom Brady or something.
Which would probably mean Emma was Giselle in this muddled analogy she’d come up with, but she was fairly positive Giselle’s ankles had never swollen this much.
“Scarlet, jeez,” Merida continued, stopping mid-pace to glare at open air and Ruby was still laughing. David was trying to ask Emma questions.
She stood up abruptly, nearly knocking her chair back and, good, the chair deserved to be on the losing end of whatever it was they were, all, collectively staging a few hours before puck drop.
“What is he talking about?” Emma asked, staring at her assistant until Merida actually retreated a few steps. The phone in her left hand made noise and David was still mumbling under his breath. “God, no, David, not you. Will. Where is Will, Mer?”
“In the hallway with me,” Ruby answered, almost immediately. Merida rolled her eyes towards the ceiling, looking like she was only just barely hanging on to her control. “Hey, Scarlet,” she continued, like any of this made sense and Emma resisted the urge to actually kick her chair.
Will shouted something unintelligible, what might have just been a string of increasingly impressive curses and what sounded like Cap’s a goddamn idiot and Ruby hummed in agreement.
“Will someone tell me what the fuck is going on?” Emma shouted, jumping slightly like that was a good idea or would get anyone to actually acknowledge her.
Merida opened her mouth to reprimand her – jumping was probably on that list of things Emma isn’t supposed to do that Killian had definitely come up with at some point – but Emma just shook her head and she could hear David’s quiet sigh from, probably, somewhere on the island of Manhattan.
“Scarlet is worried about you,” Ruby explained, kicking at something that might have been Will’s shin if the not-quite-quiet yelp on the other phone was any indication. “Because, uh…”
“Cap’s a goddamn fucking idiot,” Will finished. He made a noise when Ruby tried to disagree and Emma’s eyes darted towards Merida, glancing down when another phone found its way into her eye line and there was a Twitter feed on the screen.
“What is this?” Emma asked, shifting her shoulders again so she actually had a free hand. “Scarlet, if you’re going to keep making noises, you’ve got to at least try and turn them into actual words. I’ve got balloon arches to worry about, I can’t spend my day trying to translate your grunts.”
Will chuckled, mumbling under his breath to shove over, Lucas and the phone changed hands. “That was actually pretty funny, Em.”
“Yeah, that’s been known to happen. What’s going on? C’mon, David sounds like he’s having a conniption on the other phone.”
“Isn’t he supposed to be at work?”
“Why do you know that?”
“If you don’t think Cap’s got David’s entire life scheduled to make sure you sit at some point during the game tonight, then you’ve been possessed by aliens or something.”
“I’m not sure that even makes sense.”
“Eh, I’m kind of distracted.”
David was swearing in her left ear, a string of insults directed at some name Emma didn’t recognize, but she did hear internet cretins several times and Mary Margaret trying to quiet him. “By Killian being...how did you phrase it? A goddamn fucking idiot?” Emma asked and Will laughed again. “You know you’ve got to work on your insults. Does this have something to do with whatever Twitter thing I’m not actually looking at?”
Will hissed in his breath and Emma wasn’t quite prepared for their sudden dive into serious. She was fairly certain it was anything except what it absolutely was.
“You really might want to look at this, boss,” Merida said, twisting her wrist slightly until Emma’s eyes fell back towards the phone screen.
The timestamp said it had been up for fifteen minutes.
There were several thousand retweets.
“Oh my God,” Emma breathed, met, almost immediately with another kick to an internal organ she didn’t realize she had until Matthew Jones developed a penchant for kung fu. “He...he actually said that?”
“We’ll go over media training again in the offseason, Em,” Ruby promised. She had to shout the words when Will refused to give up the phone and it sounded like she was actively trying to check him against the wall.
“How did this even happen?”
“He was baited into it,” Will answered. “God, stop punching me, Lucas. I can’t think when you do that. And it wasn’t entirely his fault, Emma. There were a lot of questions about playing for a second straight Cup and history and then some guy from the Daily News asked what his motivation was since last year was about resigning and it was like someone flicked a switch and…”
“And we ended up with a thousand retweets,” Emma said.
“Plus a subReddit that is absolutely losing its mind,” David added, a note of something that sounded like a mix between anger and disbelief and the deep-rooted need to play older brother in his voice. “Hey, you eat yet?”
Emma shook her head, well aware that the only person who could see her was her slightly overwhelmed assistant, still holding her phone out. “That sounds like a no,” Mary Margaret said, the first time she’d joined the conversation in vocal form, but Emma barely registered the words, too busy staring at Merida’s phone.
There were more retweets now. She wished she hadn’t knocked her chair over. There was nothing to dramatically sink into now.
Emma reached out, grabbing Merida’s phone without a word and she wasn’t really as upset as everyone seemed to assume she would have been.
Should have been?
They hadn’t really talked about it. There hadn’t been a need. They’d been ignoring the rumors and the reports and there was a Cup on the line. Again. Win first. Plan...everything else later.
Except there was no way to really hide it anymore – even the oversized jersey she had on didn’t do much to hide the swell of her stomach and that guy behind the counter at Prett probably would have gone on the record to several different dailies about Emma’s cranberry salad consumption.
And, well, there were quotes now.
Emma’s eyes traced over the tweets again, like she was trying to will every single letter into every single corner of her mind and if she actually had a free hand, she probably would have rested it on her stomach.
Cap on his motivation for this run: It’s a personal thing. I’m not really playing for me. There’s bigger things than hockey here.
Yeah, yeah, you know, I've got a family here in New York and my fiancée and I...well, this Finals run has kind of been about that…
I guess I've just kind of been waiting for a run like this. Last year was incredible, don't get me wrong, but this is a lot bigger.
[Not] playing for me or the extension. This is about my future and my kid's future and leaving a mark on a sport that's changed my life.
“They kind of lost their shit after the kid part,” Will mumbled, jerking Emma’s attention away from Merida’s phone and whatever it was her heart was doing against her ribcage. She winced at another kick. “Wait, what was that? Are you ok?”
“I’m fine, Scarlet,” Emma promised and it was the truth and she really just wanted that stupid cranberry salad. “The kid is just painfully aware of when he’s been discussed in the press.”
Will let out a strangled sound that might have been a laugh or just choking on a surplus of oxygen in some hallway in the Scottrade Center and David might have actually whooped on the other phone Emma forgot was still pressed up to her ear.
“David, don’t you have a job?” Emma asked. “Are crimes being left unsolved because you were worried about my reaction to the internet?”
He scoffed, but that was kind of an answer and Merida almost looked looked like she was breathing at a normal level again. “I took the whole day off,” he mumbled, sounding like he was admitting to one of those crimes he wasn’t solving and Emma’s laugh seemed to just bubble out of her.
God, she was an emotional, hormonal, still-hungry mess.
“Of course you did,” she said, leaning against the edge of her desk in an attempt to stop the dull ache in her back. It didn’t work. She almost didn’t mind.
She was happy and charmed and this absolutely was not the plan – there hadn’t been a plan – but her mind kept repeating those words she’d tried to will into every inch of her consciousness until it felt like a metronome for her heart and her kid’s kicks against her spleen and maybe they should start planning a wedding.
They were absolutely going to win. Again.
“Rubes, why are you in the hallway?” Emma asked, the question dawning on her suddenly. “Shouldn’t you be in there yelling at people?”
“Ok, well, that’s kind of rude,” Ruby started, a noise that sounded like another elbow to Will’s side when he didn’t immediately give up the St. Louis phone. “And Scarlet already told you, he walked right into it. I still can’t quite believe it actually happened. Cap just kind of started talking and said the word kid out loud, like that was something we’d decided was ok and, well, I knew it was going to be everywhere and I wanted to make sure you had some kind of warning.”
“So you called to apologize?”
“Because apparently all my media training has not sunk in at all.”
“And I’m a much better mini-Jones defender than Lucas is,” Will added, yelping when Ruby smacked at his shoulder. “God, Lucas, you’re going to bruise me before I even get on the ice. You really didn’t eat though, Em? Cap’s going to murder me when he finds out.”
“Or Locksley,” Ruby corrected and Will hummed in agreement. “That was his job.”
“I’m sorry, what?” Emma asked and Mary Margaret actually laughed, apparently gifted with the power of super sonic hearing.
“Emma, for real?” Mary Margaret asked, disbelief in the question and they all might have been on speaker for how easily it was to hear each other. Will was laughing again. “There was a whole list of things. There has been since the Olympics. Every road trip. And it’s not because he doesn’t think you can't feed yourself, although you do get slightly single-minded...it’s because he is so excited. That’s why he stumbled into the questions today. He’s...like bursting with it. It’s obvious every single time he glances your direction.”
Her heart was going to explode.
Or maybe she was going to cry.
They were strangely similar feelings.
And Emma was half a second away from just hanging up on all the phones she was still inexplicably holding and calling Killian when she heard a commotion on the St. Louis side of the conversation and her heart, suddenly, was threatening to beat its way out of her chest.
“Give me the goddamn phone,” Killian said, the words perfectly clear even when it was obvious he was standing up and Ruby mumbled yeah, Cap, God, calm down under her breath.
There was a shuffling in St. Louis and Emma was dimly aware of Merida grabbing the New York phone away from her shoulder, muttering something to David and Mary Margaret that sounded a hell of a lot like the location of the goddamn balloon arch.
She didn’t listen.
She was too focused on her heart and the grapefruit and the way Killian seemed to just sigh “Swan” into the phone as soon as it was in his hand.
“Hey,” Emma said, the smile easy and the kick immediate and her hand dropped to her side quickly. “Are you ok?”
“Are you? Did you eat?”
“Yes and no.”
“I’ve got balloon arches to worry about. And the precinct is being just, like, one collectively large dick about security because they think there’s going to be a riot if you guys win or something, like we didn’t do this last year too and…”
“Swan,” Killian repeated and she could barely hear footsteps making their way back down the hallway. She snapped her jaw shut, glancing towards Merida who just nodded and mouthed cranberries at her before jogging out of the office.
“The whole battalion rallied, Cap,” Emma said, smiling when she bent down to turn her chair upright. “They were all very worried I was going to have some sort of pregnancy-induced mental breakdown over a string of tweets.”
He didn’t say anything immediately and Emma’s heart seemed to pick up at that, her pulse pounding in between her ears and possibly under the hand that still hadn’t left her stomach. “Did you know that the first arena the Blues played in was actually just called The Arena?” she asked and Killian laughed softly, several thousand miles and one not-quite disastrous pre-game press conference away.
“Not very creative,” he said and she didn’t need to be next to him to know his hand was in his hair and he’d absolutely sat down at some point, one leg stretched out in front of him.
“Right? Where’s the fun in that?”
“Was that a joke, Swan?”
“A poor attempt, but only because I’m kind of exhausted.” Killian sighed and the hand probably moved or tugged on the back of his hair and Emma scowled at her office wall. “That is not some kind of secret message,” she continued. “That is just...your kid practicing breakaways or something.”
He laughed again and the sound seemed to work its way down Emma’s spine and into her soul or something equally absurd and he’d said my kid during a press conference. She was probably going to think about that all night.
“I don’t know how any of this happened,” Killian muttered.
“The kid? You were there, I think.”
“That was another very bad joke, Swan.”
“That was funny,” she argued, fingers finding their way back to her ring and Killian probably rolled his eyes. “C’mon, admit it, that was definitely funny.”
“I’m not acknowledging bad jokes, love and you know that’s not really what I meant.” He took another deep breath, huffing it out like he’d been holding it for days or, possibly, since a pre-game presser that had fallen completely off the rails and there was probably a story to go along with the tweets now and Emma was almost surprised that the group text on her phone hadn’t just dissolved into both Vanklad sisters screaming things.
She had no idea where Merida put her phone.
“Yeah, I know,” Emma said. “And I really am going to eat. Mer went to get that one salad from Pret, so stand down on whoever you were supposed to kill because they didn’t remind me to eat. There are a couple other things going on here, you know, Cap.”
“I’m fairly positive I don’t care about any of those things.”
“And suddenly absolutely horrible at answering questions,” Emma muttered, leaning back until her hair fanned over the top of her chair and there was a dull buzz coming from some corner of the office.
The Vankalds had arrived – via text message.
“Lucas is going to kill me,” Killian sighed. “I thought her eyes were going to actually fall out of her head as soon as the words were out of my mouth.”
“A lovely picture.”
“Ah, well, Scarlet and Locksley both threatened to check me into several different boards in the middle of the presser, so, there’s apparently some kind of line.”
“Everyone on this team needs to relax. Did El and Anna call yet?”
Killian hummed. “I have no doubt, but my phone is in my locker and will stay there, possibly, for the rest of time. I’m thinking I’ll just get a new phone when I get home. And only give you the number. Everyone else can...whatever.”
“Eloquent,” Emma grinned, glancing up when Merida appeared out of thin air with a salad in one hand and lemonade in the other. “Also the food is here, so cross that off the list of worries everyone knows you made.”
“That was a more metaphorical list than anything. It’s not like I wrote it all down.”
“Just threatened teammates a few hours before you could clinch a second straight Cup and make history and…”
“Confirm reports that we’re having a kid without meaning to,” Killian finished, sighing again and Emma wished Merida would teach her how to teleport so she could get to St. Louis and back before the balloon arch issue evolved into a complete debacle. “And I’m glad you’re eating. I was kind of worried about that.”
“Incredibly. Absolutely. Completely. Any of those work?”
“Those are all pretty good, actually,” Emma mumbled through a mouthful of salad and Merida had absolutely picked the avocado off because there was still a hint of gross and if Scarlet was determined to defend her honor maybe he could beat up on the kid at Pret.
She’d clearly lost her mind.
“I’m sorry, Swan,” Killian said after a few moments of silence and every letter felt strained. She narrowed her eyes, glaring at the wall again like any of this was a problem and Mary Margaret was right.
Mary Margaret was always right.
“For what, exactly?” Emma asked, downing half the lemonade in four gulps and stabbing her fork into the salad until it could stand up on its own.
Killian took another deep breath, sighing it out with the kind of drama that did not belong in a playoff run or a season that had been so close to perfect Emma kept waiting to wake up.
They kept winning.
That was some kind of metaphor.
“I don’t...I have no idea how that happened. The guy asked about what this whole run meant and there were dates thrown around and something about history and it was like my brain just dissolved into the absolute truth and Locksley kept mumbling shut up and Scarlet kept trying to elbow me in the side without anyone seeing, but everyone saw and then Lucas did that thing with her eyes and, suddenly, I realized I’d said my kid and it was...every single word of that was true, Emma, but we hadn’t actually decided and…”
“Shut up,” she interrupted and Killian sounded like he was choking. “Just...agh, shut up for two seconds and stop apologizing for being a giant sap and just…”
They were horrible at finishing sentences.
They should probably finish that. Parents finished sentences. My kid. Jeez.
Emma slumped in the chair – as much as she was able, digging her heel into the carpet and her fork was still standing up, perfectly vertical in a mound of salad that she couldn’t possibly be expected to eat when she was feeling every single human emotion at once.
“Did they take the avocados off your salad?” Killian asked softly and Emma might have laughed or just dissolved and she should probably screenshot those tweets.
Anna probably had.
They’d probably end up framed in the brownstone.
“How could you possibly know that?” Emma countered.
He scoffed, skate guard sounding impossibly loud when he tugged his leg back up and she only just realized he’d called her Emma.
That felt like cheating. Skating into the crease. Or an offsides that didn’t get called. Or something. There’d probably be a review on that.
She had definitely lost her mind.
And forgotten about the balloon arch entirely.
“Swan,” Killian muttered, groaning slightly when he stood back up. “Give me a little credit here, love. I think you’ve scared that poor kid behind the counter for life.”
Emma made a face. At the wall. They should have had this conversation on FaceTime, if only so she could actually see Killian’s face and maybe stay on some kind of track in this moment that seemed questionably focused on the well-being of Pret employees. “Don’t poor kid that teenager, Killian,” she argued. “They don’t even take orders now. You press buttons on a machine and they ignore my no avocados caveat completely nine times out of ten. Mer definitely took avocados off this salad.”
He must have nodded because she could hear something that sounded decidedly like playoff scruff scraping against the phone and that almost felt normal and not apologetic. “You called me Emma,” she added, squeezing one eye closed when it sounded like an accusation and the whiplash of this conversation was exhausting.
She hoped Matthew Jones stopped practicing breakaways later that night. There’d be more work if they won. She really wanted to sleep.
They were definitely going to win.
“Yeah,” Killian admitted. “It felt like a kind of big moment type of thing.”
“There’s probably eighty-seven stories out there now. I think David was trying to fight the internet before. Or figure out how to arrest the entire subReddit.”
“That part wasn’t actually because of me. He’s just supposed to make sure you sit down at least six times after puck drop.”
“Seems like an arbitrary number.”
“At least twice a period for five minutes.”
“Of game time?”
“No, David claimed that was too much math to try and figure out. He was very serious about using the timer on his phone though.”
Emma rolled her eyes, but every single human emotion had, at some point, evolved into just plain old happiness and she didn’t care about the headlines or the stories or even the quotes if their kid was the reason behind some sort of historic Stanley Cup victory.
“Yeah, that doesn’t surprise me at all,” she said. “He tried to get me to come uptown yesterday, but Reese’s was scandalized at even the idea of me sleeping on anything except an enormous bed, so that got shut down pretty quickly.”
Killian chuckled, but there was still a note of something in the sound and Emma was standing before she even realized she’d decided, mumbling hold on and stalking across her office to try and find her phone. It was behind a box of signed merch that, apparently, hadn’t made it to Bryant Park yet.
“God damn,” she groaned, pushing the box out of the way and swiping her thumb across the phone screen. There were twenty-four text messages in the group chat.
She didn’t read any of them, just clicked on the camera and ignored the bags under her eyes and whatever it was that one piece of hair was doing, clicking on buttons before her mind could actually catch up. “You have to delete that later because that’s Ruby’s phone and she probably doesn’t want pictures of me in your jersey,” Emma said, rushing over the words and Killian exhaled like he’d been holding his breath for the entire conversation.
“Swan,” he breathed and maybe she was the one blushing now and maybe she should sit down again because her knees suddenly felt a bit more wobbly than usual.
“I’m happy,” Emma said, trying to infuse every bit of honesty and meaning and important into two words. “And excited and slightly terrified and I wish I was in St. Louis because we’re going to win again and I know we didn’t really talk about confirmation or a plan, but as far as either one of those things go, just stumbling your way through an explanation of why you’re playing works pretty well.”
“There was no stumbling involved, love.”
“No,” Killian said. Someone was shouting his name at the other end of the hallway, but he didn’t take a step. Or, at least, it didn’t sound that way. “I am absolutely playing for our kid. And I am also excited and slightly terrified and happier than I can ever remember being.”
She sniffled. Of course. “Do not point out that I am crying,” Emma mumbled, dragging a knuckle underneath her eye and she was fairly positive she heard his answering smile. “As the photographic evidence proves, Cap, we weren’t going to be able to keep this one under some sort of metaphorical hat for much longer. No matter what Ruby and Scarlet may believe.”
“They’re taking their roles very seriously.”
“I know they are. So you are.”
“I think we both are, Swan,” he said softly and she couldn’t seem to stop crying, but our kid sounded even better than my kid and Emma just wanted to sleep through the night again and organize another Stanley Cup parade and then, probably, live happily ever after or something. “And I slept like shit last night. I thought Locksley was actually going to smother me with his pillow at one point.”
“Go win a Cup and come home then.”
He was smiling. She was positive. “Fairly simple marching orders, General. Anything else besides just generic winning?”
“Nah. A win works. We don’t need Mattie Jones picking up any other pointers on new ways to destroy my organs with fancy on-ice moves.”
There was another Jones, seriously, get the fuck in this locker room and Emma dropped back into her chair, head thrown back and her whole body shaking with laughter and Matthew Jones seemed to pick up on that as well.
“You probably don’t need to worry about Locksley killing you later, Arthur’s going to do it in the middle of the hallway,” Emma muttered. “You better go or you’re going to get fined again and the website claimed we’re supposed to be starting some kind of savings account at this point.”
“Because the cost of raising a kid is nearly $226,000.”
“Why do you know that off the top of your head?”
“I read. I’ve got...time.”
“When you’re not sleeping?”
Killian hummed, a noncommittal sound and someone was sprinting down the hallway, stopping close enough to him that he mumbled a string of curses at the person Emma could only imagine was Ariel. “Yeah, yeah, I’ll be there in five seconds,” Killian muttered, swatting at something. “My hand is fine, Red. Go talk to Scarlet about that bruise on his thigh.”
“Is that from that blocked shot here?” Emma asked and Merida was back in the doorway, tapping a finger on a watch she wasn’t actually wearing and they were all going to get fined.
“He’s fine,” Killian promised. “And why are you quoting the site, Swan? How much not sleeping is not sleeping?”
“That’s a convoluted sentence. And you really need to go get dressed.”
“I’m, at least, three quarters of the way there. Tell Matt Jones to stop beating up on your organs, Swan. Two minutes for roughing.”
Emma groaned, but the muscles in her cheeks were starting to ache from overuse. “Look who’s making bad jokes now. I retract my previous marching orders. We would both like a goal. Also, in this scenario do I outrank you?”
“Well, there are no generals on hockey teams,” Killian laughed and Arthur sounded like he was dissolving into hysterics at the other end of the hall. “But a goal seems doable, so I guess in the grand scheme, yeah. Also you said we.”
“As long as he’s kicking my internal organs, I get to claim the kid as part of the demands too. Plus, that website was totally right. He totally knows it’s you. There are flips and kicks and slashes every time you talk, which seems like playing favorites, but whatever.”
She thought Arthur had walked down the hall, grabbed the phone and crushed it one hand. There wasn’t a single sound in St. Louis. She couldn’t even hear Killian breathing, let alone respond and Emma widened her eyes when she waited for an answer.
“Killian,” Emma said slowly and his breath hitched. “You ok?”
He must have nodded again, but that still wasn’t an actual answer and she tried to reign in her impatience. “Is that….” he started and Emma was an idiot. She was going to start crying again. “He really does that?”
“Yeah,” she said. “Like clockwork.”
He exhaled again and no one was shouting for him anymore. “Hey, Mattie,” Killian muttered, softly enough that Emma could barely hear him. “Could you stop slashing your mom? Like, at least, for the night? She’s got stuff to do and I know she hasn’t actually eaten that salad Merida brought her. So if you could just give her a couple hours to figure out balloon arches, that’d be great. Plus you don’t want those penalty minutes.”
Matthew Jones kicked in response. Hard.
And Emma had given up even trying to tempering whatever hormones were in control of her entire being. Merida looked a little glossy-eyed too.
“Sap,” Emma mumbled again, but Killian just laughed and maybe she didn’t really have to wait for happily ever after. “And you’re some kind of weird soothsayer. We should forget this whole hockey thing, just parade you around the country and let you predict people’s eating habits.”
“I think that’s just your eating habits, love,” Killian countered and, well, that was probably true. “Eat the cranberries, please. And sit down at least twice a period. I’m going to skate like shit otherwise.”
“Oh, that’s cheating. I can’t be held responsible for your skating habits.”
“I’m pulling out all the stops here, Swan.”
“Yeah, I don’t think you have to worry about that. Between Reese’s and David, it’s a wonder I’m not just working in some kind of bubble-wrap suit at this point. I will sit down three times a period if you can promise me a goal.”
“But, like, a real chair. Not one of those terrifying things that they have in the Park.”
“Do you hear yourself?” Emma asked. “You are critiquing chairs.”
“Boss,” Merida cut in, a pained expression on her face and Emma would probably have to buy her assistant several somethings to make up for the insanity that had been pregnancy and playoffs. “We’ve really got to go or we’re going to hit traffic up Broadway.”
Emma nodded, tugging on the ends of her jersey when she stood up. “A goal, Jones. And a Cup. Mostly a Cup. I don’t want to see any bad headlines. Only celebratory ones that Mrs. V can frame downstairs.”
“That’s fair,” Killian said. “And I’ve got every intention of ignoring every single headline from here on out, but I’ll see what I can do about winning.”
“Good. We love you.”
He was smiling. She knew it. They were going to win.
“I love both of you too,” he said. “More than anything.”
David brought a chair. And, really, Emma shouldn’t have been surprised because of course David brought a chair, but she wasn’t entirely ready for him to actually follow her around Bryant Park with it, muttering statistics that he’d never admit to actually looking up, only pausing long enough to get bottles of Powerade from Mary Margaret because, as he put it, you have to stay hydrated, Emma, it’s humid out.
Mary Margaret took pictures of it all.
And that included Emma kicking the chair and David’s scandalized face and Mrs. Vankald’s slightly stunned face because Mrs. Vankald had stayed in the city and brought Emma cookies, actual cookies, like she’d just gotten an A on a term paper instead of planned a Stanley Cup Finals event, and then offered to let her stay in the brownstone that night if she wanted.
Emma absolutely was not prepared for that.
She probably should have been.
“I told Anna and Elsa not to yell at him too much,” Mrs. V said, just a few minutes left on the clock and Killian had scored in the second period and Mary Margaret had taken a picture of Emma’s reaction.
Emma blinked, jerking her head to the left and Mrs. V was smiling. Beaming. God, the whole lot of them were emotional maelstroms. The Rangers were winning.
“It’s because he’s excited,” Mrs. V continued, reaching out to squeeze Emma’s hand. “This is…” She took a deep breath, blinking a few times before she started talking again and St. Louis had pulled John Blues or whatever his name actually was out of net. “He’s waited a long time for this. A family. And something bigger than the game and I am so happy for both of you.”
Mrs. V didn’t wait for a response before she was hugging Emma and Mary Margaret was still taking pictures and someone yelled when the buzzer went off in St. Louis. It might have been Emma. She wasn’t really sure.
“Oh my God,” Emma breathed, mostly into Mrs. V’s shoulder and that just sparked an even tighter hug and more shutter clicks and several kicks to a variety of organs when it sounded as if every person in Bryant Park started jumping up and down at the same time.
That might have just been David.
And eventually Mrs. V let go of her and Mary Margaret stopped taking pictures, but only long enough to announce we’re coming home with you and, well, that was that and Emma was on some kind of emotional high that she was sure would, eventually, wear off. She kind of wanted David and Mary Margaret there.
Killian called from the locker room and Scarlet asked if Emma had eaten again and Robin wanted to know if she’d actually sat down at any point, Roland shouting in the background and Henry asking to lift the Cup and Emma’s cheeks were still a bit sore by the time all of them got back uptown.
She didn’t even bother taking her jersey off when she collapsed on the bed, Mary Margaret and David camped out on a small mountain of blankets in the living room.
She thought she was dreaming at first – David’s voice drifting down the hallway and Mary Margaret asking questions when it sounded like the front door swung open. Emma pushed out of bed, grabbing a blanket and knocking several pillows on the floor as she padded towards what sounded like an argument.
She dropped the blanket.
“Killian,” Emma muttered and he didn’t even bother saying anything, just dropped his bag on the floor and pushed past David and Mary Margaret and his left hand landed on her stomach when he tugged her towards him.
One of them probably kissed the other one first, but it didn’t really feel that way and she wasn’t about to argue specifics when he was there and they’d won and he wasn’t supposed to leave St. Louis until the next morning.
There was a schedule. She’d seen it.
Matt Jones kicked his dad’s hand. Hard. Killian practically jumped back, eyes wide and he hadn’t even put a tie on. He was still wearing a Stanley Cup champions shirt.
“Are you still wearing my jersey, Swan?” he asked, just a bit breathless and Mary Margaret was already starting to fold up the blankets on the floor.
Emma shook her head, trying to make sure she was actually awake and she only realized she was gripping his shirt like a vice when Killian winced. Mary Margaret mumbled something about leaving and call us...later and Emma didn’t notice when she and David walked out of the apartment.
“How...how are you here?” Emma asked, tugging on championship merch. “You’re not supposed to be here.”
Killian grinned at her, ducking his head to brush his lips across hers quickly as his thumb moved across her side. “Yeah, I didn’t really care about that,” he said. “I had places to be.”
“Yeah? Wait, did Reese’s and David leave? Is that what David was yelling about?”
“He was told to be more quiet by both me and Mary Margaret, but I wasn’t really interested in explaining myself when I used my own key in my own apartment.”
Emma laughed, head falling against Killian’s shoulder and he couldn’t seem to stop tracing his hands over every inch of her, moving across her shoulders and down her back and he was much better at working out that knot at the base of her spine than she was. “Oh, shit, yeah, right there,” Emma mumbled. “God, that feels good.”
“Did you sit down at all, Swan?”
“David took his job very seriously. He brought a chair.”
“He mentioned he was thinking about doing that. Locksley offered to give him one, but, apparently he just had one?”
Emma nodded, not even objecting when Killian directed her back towards the hallway, toeing out of his shoes and she was, suddenly, exhausted and determined to sleep and he’d come home early.
“They brought chairs for the Pens game last year too,” Emma muttered, eyelids fluttering when Killian pressed his fingers into the small of her back again. “God, you can’t do that, we’re supposed to be celebrating or something. You guys made history. They’ll probably have some kind of exhibit in the Hall of Fame.”
“You know I’ve never actually been to the Hall of Fame.”
Emma didn’t actually remember laying down or Killian, more or less, collapsing on the other side of the bed across from her, but she pulled her head up to stare at him speculatively and the slightly nervous smile on his face. “For real?” she asked and he didn’t really nod, just moved his eyebrows and let his hand drift across the front of her jersey again and they were going to fall asleep on top of the blankets.
“For real,” he echoed, inching forward until their legs were twisted together and he probably knew Mrs. V offered to let her stay in the brownstone. “Seemed kind of self indulgent. And we only played in Toronto a couple of times before Liam got hurt. He wanted to go to some haunted lighthouse instead.”
He kissed her and she could feel the smile and hear the laugh and he came home for them – a few hours after history. “And boring as all hell, honestly,” Killian muttered. “There were no ghosts, just Scarlet making ghost-type noises and infuriating Liam and the tour guide.”
Emma made some kind of noise that might have been an actual giggle, burrowing against Killian’s chest and a small pile of pillows. “You want to go?” she asked.
“The Hall of Fame. I mean, not now, obviously, but, you know, eventually. We can carry on some kind of Jones family tradition and make sure Mattie’s a trivia savant too.”
He didn’t answer her immediately, just gaped at her like he was trying to make sure that had really just happened. “Yeah,” Killian said eventually, but it came out like a whisper and a hope and playing for my kid and Emma bit her lip so she didn’t actually dissolve into hormones again. “I would...I would love that, Swan.”
Matt kicked Killian’s hand and his eyes widened again, the smile on his face was probably enough to get them to Toronto if Merida ever explained the secrets of teleportation to them. “Hey, kid,” Killian said, twisting the blankets underneath him as he moved level to Emma’s stomach and the hormones won when he kissed right where his lips landed. “We won again.”
He kept muttering words against her, fingers tracing absentmindedly over her hip and her back and Emma didn’t realize she’d fallen asleep until she woke up.
And there were, as promised, headlines – analysis of game play and legacy and history and Emma didn’t care about any of them except one story in the Daily News sports section, three pages inside with a headline that left her blinking more than the probable human average.
A Cup and a Kid: Cap Lifts Blueshirts to NHL Royalty
She never really read the whole story, just skimmed until she found the post-game quite and the page didn’t quite tear perfectly when Emma ripped the article out of the goddamn newspaper.
“I’ve had a lot of ups and downs to my career,” Jones said after the Rangers clinched their second-straight Cup on Thursday night. “But this is as good as it’s ever been and it’s got nothing to do with the ice. I got engaged during the Olympics and my fiancée and I are expecting our first kid and it’s…”
Jones took a deep breath before continuing, a wry smile on his face when he glanced around the locker room, gaze flitting over teammates and bottles of champagne and someone pressed a championship t-shirt into his hands.
“They’ve changed everything, you know?” he asked, shrugging and taking a swig of champagne when Scarlet dropped next to him in front of his visitor’s locker. “It’s all worth it now.”
That article never got framed in the brownstone basement. It sat on Emma's desk instead, flanked, eventually, by family photos and an overpriced picture in front of the hockey Hall of Fame.