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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.

Chapter Text

“You know you’re on some kind of point streak?”

Killian lifted his eyebrows, mouth curling into something that almost looked like a smile and Mary Margaret threw a pot on the floor. He laughed when Emma jumped.

“Oh, c’mon,” Emma grumbled. “That was terrifying. She’s going to do damage to the linoleum in her kitchen.”

“That’s not even remotely true,” Mary Margaret muttered and Emma made some kind of triumphant noise, as if that proved she was being eavesdropped on. “Hi, Killian! Hi everyone else in the locker room!”

“Hi, Mary Margaret,” Killian grinned, eyes flicking to the top of the phone screen when Emma audibly gagged. “That’s just being polite, Swan. I don’t know why you want me to ignore Mary Margaret when she’s feeding you all weekend.”

Emma rolled her eyes, slumping into the corner of the couch and it was just as uncomfortable as it had been when she’d been sleeping on it.

She’d slept like crap the night before, tucked under blankets with a pillow she brought from home and she didn’t mention that to Killian, but he probably knew anyway. And the NHL seemed determined to keep the Rangers on the road for Thanksgiving.

Roland was incredibly disappointed.

Emma might have been too.

Emma absolutely was disappointed.

But it wasn’t really a western swing, more just a three-game trip to Dallas Las Vegas and Arizona and front office didn’t think it was prudent to send her.

It made Emma roll her eyes every time she thought about it.  

And Mary Margaret had resolutely refused to accept even the idea of Emma spending a single moment of her weekend alone – so she’d gone a dozen blocks uptown on Wednesday night and slept on the couch and woke up early to watch the parade with fancy hot chocolate and a questionable amount of homefries and they’d made pumpkin pie.

David wouldn’t eat the one with rum in it until after his mom went back to the hotel.

That made Emma roll her eyes too.

“Ok, that’s just patently incorrect,” Emma said, wincing when the arm of the couch seemed intent on dislocating her spine. “I am perfectly capable of feeding myself throughout the weekend. And you don’t get to make a single comment about my food intake when I know for a fact that Scarlet tried to eat fried onions out of a can yesterday.”

Killian’s eyes went wide, the sound of Will’s laugh echoing through the phone and, likely, off the walls of the visitor’s locker room in Arizona.
“How do you know that?” Killian asked. “Also I refuse to take responsibility for that. I am not Scarlet’s father.”

“God forbid.”

“Swan. Honestly.”

“You really can’t let Ruby know anything,” she smiled and the look on his face did something to her pulse. “Or help you plan some kind of Thanksgiving feast in a hotel room.”

“It wasn’t quite a feast,” Killian argued. “More just a questionable amount of us stuffed into one room and Lucas demanding several types of alcohol we aren’t really supposed to be having.”

“Troublemakers.”

“And,” Mary Margaret added, dropping onto the arm of the chair and barely missing Emma’s hair. “If Ruby wants to consume a questionable amount of alcohol then she should have waited until she got home.”

Emma’s eyes were going to sustain permanent damage from constant rolling. Killian might actually injure himself from laughing.

“How much rum went into the pie this year?” he asked, voice still shaking lightly and Emma wasn’t sure what she was doing with her face, only that he noticed.

Figured.

She should have demanded a spot on the road trip. If Ruby got to go, she should have gone. That didn’t make any sense at all.

She should have come up with some kind of fan event. About Thanksgiving. In Phoenix. And a team that hadn’t won more than ten games all season.

Mary Margaret bit back her knowing smile and, eventually, Emma would have to thank her for that, certain Ruby wouldn’t have stopped herself from voicing several different opinions on pie and rum and the way Emma’s entire expression changed as soon as Killian used the phrase this year out loud.

Like it was some of tradition or something.

She needed more rum-filled pie.

“A ton,” Mary Margaret answered when she realized Emma was having some kind of life-changing realization in the corner of her couch. “But that was mostly because you guys were on the PK and Emma kept running back to the TV to yell and forgetting how much she’d already put into the mix.”

Emma couldn’t really slump down the couch anymore – she was an adult human being, after all – but she certainly made an attempt, flush rising in her cheeks and the back of her, likely, bruised neck.

She was going to punch Killian as soon as he landed in New York.

That face was stupid and attractive and stupid attractive and he kept staring at her like several different words she was, maybe, willing to acknowledge.

“You were making pies while we were playing, Swan?” he asked and Emma was, at least, eighty-two percent positive she heard Will cackling somewhere.

She nodded. “Eric had some kind of private event and I think A was actually really mad because it broke a record or something of watching away games, but then Regina reminded her that meant she didn’t have to come into the city and that ended that conversation. So, yeah, there were pies made a few hours earlier than normal.”

“Going off schedule, love, I’m impressed.”

“Oh, shut up.”

Will made another noise in the background and Killian ran his hand through his hair, rolling his shoulders in a way Emma had come to notice meant something important. He was thinking and pondering and he really was on some kind of crazy point streak.

It was a sidebar in The Post that morning.

“And,” Emma added pointedly. “It wasn’t so much my decision to go off schedule as it was trying not to be too worried about your shitty penalty kill.”

“That is unfounded criticism, Emma,” Will shouted. Killian shook his head, glaring when an arm worked its way into the frame and tried to tug his phone out of his hand.

“Get the hell out of here, Scarlet,” Killian hissed. He couldn’t really keep his balance on the bench in front of his locker, only one of his skates on, but he tried to kick at Will anyway.

He nearly fell in his locker.

“God damnit, both of you,” Robin sighed, joining the fray with a put-upon look on his face and Emma wasn’t sure who laughed louder, her or Mary Margaret. “Cap can you please put your skates on? There is an actual game to play here.”

“I am doing that,” Killian muttered, but he didn’t move towards the left skate, just kept staring at his phone screen with wide eyes and some attempt at telepathy that Emma nearly understood.

She smiled.

“Emma is making sweeping generalizations about our penalty kill,” Will said. He kicked Killian’s skate closer, elbowing his side until he slid to the edge of the bench. “We are not that bad, Em,” he continued. “And I really don’t think it’s fair that you’re yelling at us about it.”

Emma hummed. “Of course you are, Scarlet. You’re great. That’s why you guys are twentieth in the league and gave up, count ‘em, two goals last night.”

“That doesn’t seem very good,” Mary Margaret added. Will scowled.

“Ok, well, when you put it like that, it doesn’t seem very good,” Will conceded. “But! And this is a really big but, this Las Vegas team is questionably good on the power play. You have those stats memorized too, Emma?”

“Third in the league on the power play. Something like twenty-six percent. It’s insane.”

“They’re a legit team now,” Robin muttered, waving slightly when Emma’s gaze flickered towards him. “Hey, Emma. Hey, Mary Margaret. I heard you guys baked incredibly alcoholic pies on Wednesday night.”

“The string of gossip on this team is ridiculous,” Killian muttered, but there was a note of something in his voice and Emma wanted the game to be over and the plane to be in New York and her boyfriend to be back in their apartment with their incredibly comfortable bed.

She sat up a bit straighter, shaking her hair onto her back and she could see Killian’s shoulders shift when the slightly dim light in Mary Margaret’s loft reflected off the chain around her neck.

“Henry called me,” Emma pointed out and she hadn’t mentioned that in the last two days.

It felt like something big and meaningful and Henry was more than settled in his life with the Mills-Locksley family and the New York Rangers and the National Hockey League, but, sometimes, he was still a kid and still nervous about it all being ripped away and he called her.

She liked that he called her.

She liked that he, still, depended on her a little bit.

And he was almost as loud as Emma when he yelled at the TV.

“And,” Emma continued. “Henry’s got no proof of the alcohol content regarding those pies. I’m a responsible adult figure in his life, I promise.”

Robin grinned. “Of course you are. I’m not ever disputing that.”

Her heart flew into the back of her throat, growing several sizes in the process and it wasn’t entirely comfortable. “And the PK is pretty awful,” Killian added, knocking his shoulder against Will’s when he made another noise. “It is, Scarlet. Even Rol knows it. He texted both me and Robin about it during your fried onion from a can feast yesterday.”

“Aw, c’mon,” Emma shouted and Killian flashed her a smile that sent her heart back to its predetermined spot in her chest. Where it promptly tried to beat its way out. “You can’t just steal my phrasing word for word like that.”

“I think that’s a compliment, Swan.”

“I think you’re a word thief.”

“Be prepared for Roland Locksley’s detailed opinion about our incredibly shitty penalty kill later on tonight, love. He’s going to need an outlet and Gina hates any stat that won’t help us get paid more.”

“I’m leaning more towards hearing about your point streak, if we’re being honest,” Emma said. “And a complete play by play of Robin’s goal on Wednesday. Apparently his post-goal celebration was the stuff of adorable legends.”

“It absolutely was,” Robin agreed. “There was jumping and some kind of rhyme scheme involved. He reenacted it for me yesterday.”

“Aw, that’s even more adorable,” Mary Margaret muttered, sliding down the couch and resting her head on Emma’s shoulder. “You think he’ll do it for Ruth later? She’ll be charmed.”

“Yeah, and then start questioning the impending arrival of her own painfully adorable grandchildren,” Emma muttered.

Mary Margaret’s eyes nearly fell out of her head.

“Yes and yes, on both fronts,” Robin said. “Although, I’m going to go ahead and assume Mrs. Nolan might have some other concerns before she starts trying to adopt my kid as some kind of pseudo grandchild.”

Emma ignored that – fairly positive that Ruth Nolan would have several questions about several different fronts and, with no David buffer later that night, would have no problem asking all of them until she got an answer she was pleased with.

Robin made a face when she didn’t argue, gaze darting between the phone screen in Killian’s hand and the side of Killian’s face because Killian absolutely, positively would turn his head, and Will was still, somehow, grumbling about penalty kill stats.

“Ok, ok, can we backtrack for a second?” he asked sharply. “Em, why do you know about Las Vegas’ questionably good power play?”

“Because they’re some kind of feel-good sports story and Ruby Lucas is the media relations manager for this team?” Emma asked, sarcasm falling from every letter.  Will made some kind of noise that might have been an agreement. “And,” she added. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Scarlet, but I also work for this team. And its shitty power play. I think that gives me some sort of rooting interest. Tell Sean he can’t try and block shots and then never get up again.”

“Arthur mentioned that to him this morning,” Robin muttered, grabbing a roll of tape from the top shelf in Killian’s locker. “God, Cap, why do you have so much tape? It’s like you’re a convenience store up there.”

Killian didn’t answer, just shook his head slowly and rolled his eyes towards the ceiling and Emma was certain she was still blushing.

He hadn’t put on his other skate yet.

“Because my sister is dating our equipment manager,” he said. Will mumbled something that sounded a lot like playing favorites and Killian held his hand out expectantly towards Robin. “Give me that. I’m apparently on some kind of point streak. I don’t want to break my stick.”

It probably shouldn’t have been nearly as attractive as it was.

It was normal – Killian’s wrists twisting and tape turning around the blade of his stick and it was routine. Emma was sure she’d seen him do it eight-hundred times. She’d seen hundreds of hockey players do it eight-thousand times, but there was something about the whole thing, the rhythm he fell into and the practiced ease and she knew he wasn’t even thinking about it.

Robin let out a low whistle when Killian tossed the tape back towards him, stick wrapped and a smile tugging on the corners of his mouth.

“Are you trying to set some kind of record, Cap?” he asked. “That was ridiculous.”

Will muttered something else under his breath – a string of words suspiciously close to showing off for Emma – and Robin nodded in agreement, lower lip jutted out slightly when he tried not to laugh into the phone.

“Oh yeah, that makes sense,” Robin continued, clearly unaware that he was the only one participating in the conversation anymore. “Em, you going later?”

Killian made a noise in the back of his throat – a mix between a groan and a sigh and maybe just the audible version of trying not to throw his skate at his teammates. Robin held up his hands in surrender, backing up until he was almost out of frame, and Will was doing an admirable job of not actually laughing.

He’d slumped onto his thighs.

And none of them were taking this game seriously.

It was, admittedly, the day after Thanksgiving and they’d be home that night and they’d been gone for nearly a week and she could almost make out the bags under Killian’s eyes. He probably hadn’t slept very well either.

“Am I going later?” Emma echoed, staring at Robin as if he’d lost his mind. “You know your kid has been texting me about your shitty power play all day too.”

“Which one?”

“Henry, obviously. He was more upset than I was when you guys lost on Wednesday night.”

“So that’s a yeah on the going later, then?” Will mumbled, mostly into his pads.

“Yeah,” Emma snapped. “That’s a yeah. A will have a conniption if we don’t all show up.”

“We’re bringing more pie,” Mary Margaret said. She hadn’t lifted her head up yet. “On pain of death because A’s lost her mind.”

“I think they call it nesting,” Will corrected, waving a dismissive hand in the air when Killian muttered oh my God under his breath. “Or just the precursor to insanity.”

“How do you know that?”

“I’m super witty and quick on my feet in conversations?”

“Yeah, that’s not the answer you were looking for,” Emma sighed. He grinned at her. “Stop getting all your information from Belle, it’s cheating.”

Will stuck his tongue out – a picture of maturity in the middle of a locker room covered in Coyotes logos – and Emma tilted her head slightly, nodding towards the door she knew Killian couldn’t see.

He nodded.

They were getting good at that whole telepathy thing.

“Move, Scarlet,” Killian said, half a second away from pushing Will off the bench. He tapped his stick against Will’s skates, properly laced and on both of his feet, smiling back at the phone screen when Emma let out a sound that might have actually been a giggle.

Mary Margaret looked close to tears.

It took, exactly, three deep breaths, six, rather long steps, and one door slamming closed on Emma’s end for them to be, almost, alone.

Killian never put his other skate on.

“The most frustrating group of human beings in the entire world,” Killian grumbled, sliding down a wall in a dim corner, but his smile was genuine when he glanced up at Emma and they were coming home that night.

“It’s your fault for answering the phone in the locker room,” she said. “You’re practically asking for an audience at that point.”

“Not on a normal team.”

“This is a good team.”

He sighed, but didn’t argue and Emma bit her lip before she could start spouting a stream of increasingly sentimental thoughts. That couch had been impossible to fall asleep on. “Are you ok, love?” Killian asked, the edge falling from his voice and that was cheating.

She wasn’t sure what game they were playing, yet, but it was definitely cheating.

“I’m fine,” Emma said. It wasn’t a lie. She was tired, but that was almost expected on road trips by now and she was happy and they’d made pie to bring to the restaurant the night before. “Are you? You looked like you were gunning for a fight.”

“On Wednesday?”

“A little bit.”

“That’s not really my game, Swan,” Killian said. “And if we’re going to try and get the league to listen to this Olympic idea, punching winless teams in the face isn’t going to help much.”

“They’re going to listen,” Emma promised, well aware that she couldn’t, but Killian’s mouth twitched and he was almost smiling and that had been the point. “But Vegas wasn’t winless. What are you worried about?”

He didn’t answer immediately, eyes falling to his stretched out legs and he’d never put his jersey on either. “They’re taking their time,” Killian sighed. “This whole thing. It’s after Thanksgiving, Swan. They’re going to have to decide sooner or later and playing like crap is not going to sway anyone.”

“Playing like crap?” Emma repeated skeptically and he sighed again, letting his head fall back against the wall.

And really she shouldn’t have been surprised.

Killian Jones, captain of the New York Rangers and emerging face of the entire goddamn NHL, needed something to fight for. It had always been a Cup run, but they’d done that and there was a parade and a contract extension and, now, the league was dragging its feet on the Olympics and opportunity and he was going to get them there.

Emma knew it.

Even if he didn’t.

“You know Arthur broke two whiteboards?” Killian asked, tugging on the hair curled behind his ear. “He spent most of the third period actually drawing on paper.”

Emma nodded. “Ruby was mad. Some guy from The Daily News heard about it and wanted to make a big thing and she was trying to put metaphorical fires most of the night. I was getting live updates of her frustration.”

“Is that why you didn’t sleep?”

“Presumptuous.”

“Nah, assumptive at best. Or worst? How would you define that?”

“I’m not sure any of this is a compliment so…”

“I wouldn’t go so far as compliment,” Killian admitted, laughing softly. “More observational. And Locksley is going to murder me if I keep mumbling about the stiffness of mattresses or the legacy of the Olympic games.”

Emma smiled, toying with the ring around her neck. “It’s going to work. Shitty power play notwithstanding, it’s not like you guys are on some crazy losing skid. And I wasn’t lying about that point streak.”

“I know you weren’t, Swan. Rol’s been very vocal about that too.”

“Jeez, beat to the punch by a seven-year-old. That’s kind of rough.”

Killian shook his head and she could feel the nervous energy even on the other side of the country. “It’s not a race,” he muttered. “If it were, you’d be winning.”

“That’s a bad line, Cap.”

“True, but it doesn’t make it any less honest.” He took a deep breath, the pads on his shoulders shifting with the effort and Emma could smell pumpkin pie wafting through the air, like the world was trying to make some kind of heavy-handed point with desserts and scents and a questionable amount of alcohol. “I wasn’t entirely prepared to become the leader of the Olympic movement, you know?”

“Yeah, I know,” Emma nodded. “But there’s a reason for that.”

“Swan…”

“No, c’mon, don’t be like that. You win a Conn-Smythe and a Hart and get some crazy extension and you’re going to tell me that we don’t deserve to get to the Olympics too? That’s insane.”

Killian’s eyes narrowed as soon as the words were out of her mouth and for half a moment Emma wasn’t entirely sure what she’d said.

He dropped his phone.

“What did you say?” Killian asked, voice gruff and that nervous energy had multiplied tenfold and evolved into something that, Emma hoped, was excited.

“It’s not certain yet.”

“Swan, none of this is certain, but you changed pronouns.”

“Well, it seemed unfair to suggest that we both won a Conn-Smythe and Hart.”

“We did.”

“Jeez,” she sighed, but she was probably blushing again and her pulse was doing something impossible in her veins. “Too much, Cap. Way too much.”

“Why the change, Swan?”

“It’s not certain yet,” Emma warned and he widened his eyes when she kept deflecting. She clicked her teeth together, trying to work out some of the residual energy she could feel racing through her and maybe the conversation would be easier if she started jogging up and down the hallway. “Rubes and I were talking about it when you started talking about it and neither one of us were high enough up any theoretical ladders for Sochi, so when the league decides to stop being a dick about this and agrees to let us all go, then uh...USA Hockey is interested in both of us going. And so is Zelena.”

“You talked to Zelena about it?”

Emma’s neck felt impossibly stiff when she nodded again and Killian hadn’t blinked in several decades. At least. “That was part of the meeting when they told me I couldn’t come on the swing,” she said. “And like I said, USA Hockey already reached out to Ruby who then told me and said she wouldn't go if I didn’t go and Zelena heard about it and, well, I think that’s a good sign, don’t you?”

She’d probably think about the look on his face for the rest of her life and that tiny, little voice in the back of her mind that, occasionally, wondered if this was all real was a silent as it had ever been. Emma wondered if it had disappeared entirely.

Killian still hadn’t blinked and she was ready to make some quip about eye drops, but she was admittedly distracted by how goddamn blue his eyes were and the slight quirk of his mouth and the other side of the country had never felt that far and that close all at the same time.

She was going to eat so much pie later.

“I think that’s a good sign,” Killian muttered softly and Emma felt it in her toes. “You know I love you, right? Just…” He shook his head, the smile moving across his face in slow motion and Emma bit her lip. “I’d want you to go. If we go.”

“When we go.”

He beamed at her. His eyes were frustratingly blue. “When we go,” Killian repeated. “Then, at the risk of sounding incredibly selfish, I’d really want you there.”

“That works out fairly well, since I already told USA Hockey I’d go if the league agreed.”

Killian dropped his phone again.

“Surprise,” Emma said when he was back on screen, waving her free hand through the air and slightly stunned was a very good look on him. “Rubes and I have been trying to brainstorm community relations ideas for weeks. You’re not very observant”

His laugh was shaky and treading slightly close to disbelief, but he was still smiling and his tongue darting in between his lips made Emma question all the reasons she hadn’t gone on the road trip – again.

“I think they’re going to agree soon,” Emma continued. “The league, I mean. USA Hockey is obviously all in on this and recruiting front office even if players don’t get permission. That’s going to wake up the commissioner's gang and then we can win a gold medal.”

“Just like that?” Killian asked.

“I don’t see why not. You’re on some kind of point streak.”

He chuckled, running a hand through his hair and Emma could hear Phillip calling from the other end of the hallway, pregame sounds making their way through the phone speakers. “That is true” Killian said, nodding towards the bodiless voice and Phillip shouted hey, Emma. “You know, the greater Phoenix area has over two-hundred golf courses?”

Emma was going to do serious damage to her lip if she kept biting it, particularly if she kept trying to smile at the same time, but the muscles in her face hadn't gotten that particularly memo and they were really, impossibly good at flirting with each other.

“That seems like an impractical amount,” she said. “Who could golf that much? And in Arizona? Way too hot.”

“It’s a dry heat.”

“Ah, of course. Why do you know that?”

“Swan. Everything. I know everything.”

“Yuh huh,” Emma muttered, but there were butterflies in the pit of her stomach and the pie smell was getting stronger. She was positive. That felt like a sign. “The Coyotes logo used to be an actual Coyote with a hockey stick, which is as impractical as two-hundred golf courses. Although the new one kind of freaks me out too. So I’m not sure if it’s really better.”

“It’s definitely not. The howling thing is ridiculous. Maybe that’s why no one comes to their games.”

“Or, you know, they’ve set some kind of losing record to start the season.”

He smirked at her, eyes just a hint brighter and the nerves gone as quickly as they’d come, falling back into banter and flirting and she was going to kiss several clichés worth of living daylights out him later that night.

“Yeah, that too,” Killian said. “You’d really go? To the Olympics, I mean. If we…when we go,” he amended when he heard Emma’s vaguely frustrated sigh. “It’s going to be a shit ton of overbearing team.”

“You’re the one who’s looking fight-ready not me. Did you miss the part where Rubes and I have been talking about this already? Or how great it’d be not to go to New Jersey and get those Casino Night tables out of storage? Because that’d be fantastic.”

“That’s definitely why we should go to the Olympics.”

“Obviously.”

“Cap,” Phillip called, dragging out the nickname or, possibly, rank and Killian squeezed his eyes closed. “Arthur’s getting super pissy and threatening whiteboards again.”

“You better go” Emma smiled. Mary Margaret dropped another pot. “I think Reese’s is trying to speak to me in code. Keep that streak alive, huh?”

He winked at her.

Idiot.

They were totally going to win a gold medal.

“Of course, Swan. Save me some pie.”


 

Roland practically threw himself at Emma and Mary Margaret as soon the door to the restaurant closed behind them, Regina’s cry of be careful barely audible over his “Did you bring pie? Is there pie? Henry said you made pie!”

“There is pie” Emma said, the smile on her face natural as Rolan kept bouncing up and down on his toes. “But the game hasn’t even started yet, Rol. Don’t we have onion rings to eat?”

He deflated slightly, but he didn’t seem all that put out by the prospect of onion rings and, eventual, pie. “We thought you weren’t coming,” he shouted. “It’s almost puck drop and Henry said you made pie.”

“We brought the pie, Rol. There is no pie emergency.”

“Good pie?”

“Can you name a bad pie?”

“Key lime.”

“That was a much quicker answer than I was expecting,” Emma muttered to Mary Margaret.

She shrugged in response, pulling Roland away Emma’s side so he wasn’t twisting up her jersey – the Stanley Cup jersey she’d gotten the season before and Ruth’s eyes had widened slightly when she noticed the patch on Emma’s shoulder as soon as she slid into the cab.

“I mean he’s not wrong,” Ariel said, joining the conversation with one hand on her stomach and the other pressed into the small of her back. She smiled when she noticed Ruth. “Hi, Mrs. Nolan, I’m so glad you guys could make it.”

“As if we had another choice,” Emma said. Ariel glared.

“Did you talk to Cap about whatever he was doing with his face on Wednesday night? Because it was weird. It was weird, right Gina?”

Regina waved both her hands in the air, taking a step towards Roland to wrap an arm around his shoulders. He only grumbled a little. “I’ve heard it’s going to be fine,” she said and Ariel groaned at the vague tone of her voice.

“What does that even mean?”

“It means the league might be done dragging its feet,” Emma explained. “And Arthur yelled at Sean.”

“I’m surprised Arthur didn’t yell at everyone. Or make them skate blue lines yesterday.”

“He did,” Regina and Emma said at the same time.

Ariel’s whole body sagged with the force of her sigh. “Damn, I miss everything now. Ah, sorry, Rol. Em, tell Cap I don’t like being out of the loop. Just because I’m not going on the road does not mean I have lost my...”

“Desire to know everything?” Mary Margaret finished.

“Ok, well, it sounds mean when you say it like that. And that PK looked like garbage in Vegas. It was like they were playing in slow motion. I don’t think Sean even realized he was still holding a stick. Or could use it.”

“God,” Emma muttered. “Tell us how you really feel.”

“I’m really mad we broke this streak. We were at, like, three straight seasons.”

“So we start a new one.”

Four slightly stunned expressions turned towards Emma and she would have retreated if there weren’t a seven-year-old trying to pull pies out of her hands.

Mary Margaret was definitely going to cry.

Or maybe start live-texting David updates of the entire night. He wanted updates of the game, anyway, and proof the entire New York Rangers contingent appreciate the pies they’d made.

He probably wasn’t expecting Roland to try and eat all of it.

Or for Emma to be some kind of font of positivity.

“What?” Emma asked and it was a pointless question because she already knew the answer. Ariel and Mary Margaret both shrugged, Regina almost looking like she was about to smile and Ruth’s eyes traced across Emma’s face, falling down to the ring that had, somehow, worked its way over the top of her jersey.

Figured.

“Nothing, nothing, nothing,” Mary Margaret promised, but here eyes were a little glossier than usual and Emma could hear her take a deep breath. “I just...nothing. We need forks to eat pie, right?”

“Presumably,” Emma said, smile, somehow, getting even wider when Roland let out a noise that was fairly close to a yelp of excitement. “So, uh...Regina what if we didn’t eat food before pie?”

Regina smiled.

It was a Thanksgiving miracle.

“Yeah,” she said. “I think we can do that.”

They made it through a whole pie by the time the first period ended – still zeroes across the board and the PK wasn’t horrible, but there were a few close calls, Roland standing on his chair because it made him shout louder, Emma and Henry punching air like he was getting ready to drop gloves.

It wasn’t a perfect game, but it wasn’t a bad game and, then, something happened. It was as if a switch had been flicked or someone had twisted a great, big dial that controlled the speed of NHL hockey games and, suddenly, there were hits and checks and whistles and a distinct lack of whistles.

Roland nearly jumped off the chair.

Emma’s eyes couldn’t keep up with the puck, gaze darting across the TV screen and she wasn’t sure she was breathing. Her lungs burned from the distinct lack of oxygen, tapping her foot impatiently when a Coyotes defender pinned Killian against the boards, trying to work the puck to his stick or his skate and they spent an eternity pressed on the glass.

“Move it, move it, move it,” Emma mumbled, reaching up to grab her ring before she realized her neurons had processed that particularly demand.

“What is that?” Ruth asked. Emma’s neck cracked when she glanced to her right, Ruth’s expectant expression entirely out of place in a restaurant full of anxious front office and family and Emma hadn’t stopped tapping her foot.

“Hmm?”

“That ring. You’re wearing a ring.”

“Oh,” Emma blinked. Killian got the puck away from the boards, moving it up to Phillip who was immediately hit at center ice, spinning out and losing possession in the neutral zone.   

Roland might have growled.

Henry cursed.

“Hey,” Regina and Emma said at the same time, Mary Margaret’s tongue clicking in reproach.

Henry slumped in his seat. “That should have been a penalty,” he muttered, grabbing another forkful of pie. “He was totally defenseless.”

“I mean, he wasn’t totally wrong,” Ariel admitted. She’d commandeered a pie for herself.

Emma winced when her neck did something else it probably wasn’t supposed to, glancing up when Robin missed the net wide right and they were still in the zone and still on the ice and they probably should have changed.

“Get them off the ice,” Mary Margaret shouted, half standing and half sitting. She was wearing a custom jersey. She’d bought it at the start of the season. “They’ve been out there forever. Look, Scarlet can barely skate.”

“Oh, tell him that when they get home,” Regina chuckled. She tugged on the back of Roland’s jersey and it only took one incredibly pointed look and slightly raised eyebrow for him to sit down.

Emma sighed and she didn’t really want anymore pie, but she could feel Ruth’s curious stare boring into the side of her head and she needed some kind of distraction.

She really didn’t want to get drunk in front of Ruth Nolan.

Pie was her only option.

“That wasn’t an answer,” Ruth said a few moments later, the first line back on the ice and hits coming fast and furious and Emma was also considering standing on her chair. “I thought they were supposed to keep their championship rings.”

Emma glanced at her, trying to keep one eye trained on the game. “If you know what it is already, I’m not sure what it is you’re asking.”

“Oh, yes you do, sweetheart. And I think you’re thinking it too. About asking. And questions. Big, important questions.”

“Seems rather assumptive don’t you think?”

“No,” Ruth laughed. “I don’t. And I don’t think you do either.”

“Yuh huh.”

“That’s not an argument. You’re wearing a jersey and a ring already, why not add another one?”

“Are you trying to plan a wedding, Ruth?” Emma asked, silently pleased that she’d managed to get that word out without stuttering over her. Mary Margaret almost choked on her pie. “Because there is no wedding happening here.”

“Tell that to the ring you keep tugging on when you get nervous.”

“What could I be nervous about?”

Ruth shrugged, but it was the most knowing shrug in the history of the entire world. “I’ve known you for years, sweetheart and I’ve never heard you so certain of anything as you’ve been this entire weekend. And,” she added, tugging lightly on Emma’s sleeve. “You light up like several different skyscrapers whenever your phone goes off.”

“She’s not wrong,” Ariel murmured through a mouthful of pie. “Something, something, the top of the Chrysler Building.”

“Are you quoting things at me?” Emma asked and Ariel twisted her mouth into something that was probably supposed to be the visualization of a shoulder shrug. “And it’s shine like the top of the Chrysler Building. If you want to get technical.”

Ariel opened her mouth, but her eyes went wide before she could say anything and Henry cursed again, a string of words he’d definitely picked up from Scarlet.

Emma nearly ripped her ring off its chain.

Killian was down, helmet resting on the ice and Emma could just make out the slight shudder that went through his whole body, like he was trying to take a deep breath or rediscover his center of gravity.

She didn’t remember standing up until she heard the fork fall out of her hand, nails digging into her palm with her fingers wrapped around her ring.

“What happened?” Emma demanded, not sure who she was asking. She didn’t look away from the TV, bouncing slightly on the balls of her and Ariel was already on the phone.

She was dimly aware of the commentators in the background, the noise pumping through the speakers in the restaurant, but the words didn’t seem register –  went in fast...blindside...hit the boards hard...concussion protocol.

That one clicked.

“Concussion protocol,” Emma snapped, jerking towards Ariel, but she waved her hand through the air, pushing away from the table with her phone against her ear. “God damnit, show a fucking replay. Shit, ah, God, sorry, Rol.”

Roland was too busy yelling to notice. Henry was still swearing. So was Mary Margaret. Ruth looked stunned.

The replay in slow motion seemed to slink through Emma and she knew that was impossible, but she couldn’t catch her breath and her mouth had gone dry from hanging open for what felt like several years.

He’d been skating into the defensive zone, gone back to try and get the puck off the boards, shoulders turned towards the glass when a Coyotes winger slammed into him. Killian’s head hit first and Emma’s breath caught – even on the fucking replay – tongue darting out between her lips when he crumpled onto the ice.

He laid on the ice for a few moments and Emma could just make out the way his eyes squeezed shut, stick a few feet away where he’d dropped it. It took a few tries to get back up, working onto his hands and knees with Robin crouched next to him and Phillip trying to pull Will away from several different players in Arizona jerseys.

“Oh fuck,” Emma breathed. “That was...that really wasn’t a penalty?”

Henry shook his head, lips pressed together tightly. He nodded back towards the TV and Killian was standing, but Emma could tell how shaky his legs were and it took longer than normal to get back to the bench.

“Ok, ok, ok,” Emma muttered, not quite sure what she was saying, but positive she had to keep saying it. Her heart felt like it was hammering against her ribcage and she couldn’t stop moving, jumping instead of just bobbing. “I need my phone. Where’s my phone? God, where’d A go?”

“Your pocket, Em,” Mary Margaret said. “And I think A’s trying to talk to Victor.”

Emma nodded – it felt like her brain was moving with her, bouncing around her skull and she couldn't get her phone out of her pocket. She was being thwarted by her jeans.

And she’d totally been thinking about the same questions Ruth Nolan had.

In their two-bedroom apartment with a stolen Conn-Smythe.

“Damn,” Emma sighed. They were taking him to the locker room. Or, at least trying, Victor yanking on the back of his jersey and nodding towards the tunnel and there was a cut on Killian’s forehead.

She nearly dislocated her thumb trying to text Ruby, demands for updates and information and updates as soon as there were updates to be had.  

He didn’t play the rest of the night.

And Emma didn’t sit down the rest of the night.

She brought the pie with her when she left the restaurant, promising Ruth and Mary Margaret she was fine and it was an insultingly obvious lie, but they didn’t argue her cab.

The text message came fifteen blocks before she got home, a quick buzz in her hand that took her by surprise and she coudln’t be doing her blood pressure any favors.

Not concussed. Bruised. Incredibly Sore. But not concussed. Also incredibly glad to be home. With you.

Emma exhaled, closing her eyes lightly and letting her head fall back against the top of the seat.

I was freaking out.

Lucas mentioned. Victor knows what he’s doing though. Definitely not concussed.

That guy should get fined. And punched. Several times.

He probably will. I can’t guarantee that second one. We don’t play in Arizona again for awhile.

Maybe I can get Scarlet to give me two minutes the next time.

Don’t tempt him, love. He’ll totally do it if you ask.

Emma laughed, the noise sounding foreign in the quiet cab and she still couldn’t catch her breath. She felt like she’d done several days worth of Arthur’s blue-line sprints.

Did you leave yet?

About to take off, actually. Now that he knows i’m not going to die somewhere over Kansas, Locksley’s already asleep.

Considerate of him.

I’m really glad you’re ok.

I think I made Ruby mad.

She’ll live.

There’s still pie.

It was, easily, the most ridiculous thing she’d could have said to her professional-hockey-playing boyfriend just a few hours after he’d been cleared of concussion-like symptoms, but she’d only just remembered she’d never actually answered his I love you earlier and Emma’s heart was somewhere on the ground in the middle of Amsterdam Ave.

What an idiot.

Ruth Nolan’s questions were echoing in her head.

Good.

It was after midnight when she heard the lock click in the front door and Emma didn’t really think when she flung herself off the couch, sprinting across the room and slamming into Killian’s gear bag as much as his actually body.

And, really, it probably wasn’t the right thing to do – even if he wasn’t concussed, he was still bruised and slightly battered and, quite obviously, exhausted – but Emma’s mind was racing and worried and Killian smiled when his arm inched around her waist, tugging her even closer so he could press a kiss to her hair.

“Hey,” Killian laughed, leaning back to try and look at her. He couldn’t. Her head was buried in his chest. “It’s fine, Swan. Everything’s fine.”

Emma took a deep breath, pushing up on her toes to brush the tips of her fingers over the slightly purple bruise on the side of his forehead. “Fine,” she challenged and he hummed in agreement. “I might punch that guy in the face.”

“Although I appreciate the offers to defend my honor, love, I don’t know if that’ll help inspire the league to let us go show off hockey to the world.”

“Yeah, probably not,” Emma grumbled, blinking quickly when she realized what he’d said. “Wait, what?”

Killian grinned at her, ducking his head to brush his lips over hers quickly and she’d probably think about his propensity to kiss first for the rest of the weekend. “It’s just a rumor,” he said. “But Victor told me he heard some of the med staff in Arizona talking about schedules for PyeongChang and how many people USA Hockey was willing to send. He claimed they all sounded fairly concrete.”

She could hear the excitement in his voice – the same pick-up it had from nerves earlier in the day replaced with optimism and hope and maybe they were both growing as people or something, right there in the doorway of their two-bedroom apartment.

“I knew it,” Emma said, tugging lightly on his league-mandated tie. “And, seriously, no concussion? How was that even possible?”

“Are you doubting Victor’s diagnosis?”

“Obviously not. I’m not hoping you’re concussed. It was just...it was a bad hit and they kept replaying it during the third period. The third period you didn’t come back out for.”

“Precautionary.”

“Because they thought you were concussed.”

“Which I’m not.”

“So I’ve heard. What even happened?”

Killian shrugged and his eyes widened slightly when he realized Emma was still wearing his jersey. “Is this the same one from the Cup Finals?”

“You’re deflecting.”

“I’m curious.”

“Killian!”

He licked his lips, directing them back towards the couch and Emma didn’t object when he tugged her onto his legs. “I honestly have no idea,” he admitted. “The first period was fine and then they came out flying in the second and we were always half a step behind and I didn’t even see him coming until I slammed into the boards. I think they’re just pissed at how shitty they are. You know, collectively, and we just got the brunt of that.”

“But not concussed?” Emma asked again.

“Not concussed,” Killian said. “Why do you keep asking that, love? I’ve been hurt before. I will, presumably, get hurt at some point again. It’s kind of part of the deal.”

“I know, I know, I know, but…”

She trailed off, not entirely sure how to explain what she wasn’t sure she understood and Killian’s eyebrows furrowed when she didn’t say anything. “But?” he prompted, nosing at her neck and, probably, breathing in her hair.

“I love you,” Emma said, nearly shouting the words in his face and this was not going according to plan at all. There hadn’t been a plan. Killian smiled. “And I just...I realized I hadn’t said it before and that would have been such a shitty thing if you’d been hurt and we’ve got to go win a gold medal now and I want to do all of that. With you.”

And eventually, maybe, they’d stop doing that kiss each other in response to major declarations, but it wasn’t that moment and Emma wasn’t going to argue.

They were both cautious, moving slightly slower than they would have if there hadn’t been a concussion protocol earlier that night, but Killian’s tongue brushed over her lower lip and Emma’s fingers held onto the front of his jacket and she felt like she was breathing again.

She must have sighed or made some kind of ridiculous noise, because she could feel Killian’s smile when he moved to the curve of her jaw and the side of her neck. He groaned when she shifted over him, legs on either side of his hips and his fingers trailed across her waist, bunching up the bottom of her jersey.

Hs jersey.

“That’s the plan, Swan,” he whispered and it felt big and important and something about as long as we both shall live.

“Good. But the next time you get hurt, I better be there because I can’t deal with this string of information through a Ruby and, or Ariel filter. I thought I was going to go crazy. Or break my phone.”

Killian laughed softly, pressing another kiss to the curve of her shoulder and her ring was back outside her jersey. “That seems fair, love. C’mon, I’m exhausted.”

The phone call came a few days later – straight from the league with, probably, smiles on their faces and expectations sky-high and they were going to the Olympics.

Together.

And Emma didn’t bother asking Ruby for any information as soon as Killian crashed into the boards in PyeongChang, just sprinted out of the team suite and into the trainer’s room and he smiled when he saw her.

She told him she loved him in the car ride back to the hotel.

Chapter Text

“Call him.”

“I texted him before.”

“Call him.”

“I have no idea what time it is at home. And then I’ve got to figure out the time difference for Colorado and--”

“--Call him.”

Killian sighed, closing his eyes lightly and he could still, somehow, feel Emma’s stare on the side of her head. He leaned back, bumping into the wall they were both resting against and it probably wasn’t a good sign that the brand-new, only slightly used hockey arena seemed to creak when Emma shifted next to him, a hand on his thigh and her cheek pressed against his shoulder and he was, at least, ninety-six percent positive she was smiling.

“It’s weird that you haven’t, you know that, right?” Emma asked softly, the words barely audible over the growing sounds in the arena and Roland’s not-so-quiet instructions to Humbert about the best way to sing the anthem. “Is there...is there a reason you haven’t?”

That got him to open his eyes.

“No,” Killian said intently. Emma hummed, a possible agreement that sounded just a little cautious and that wasn’t right at all. “Of course not, Swan. We’ve admittedly been a little busy. Sleeping. And not sleeping.”

She flushed slightly and he’d probably spend a questionable amount of time thinking about that, tugging her lips behind her teeth when her eyes flitted towards the ring on her left hand.

“Ah, that’s cheating,” Emma mumbled. “You can’t make sweeping allusions when there’s a painfully adorable kid a couple feet away.”

“He’s distracted.”

“Killian.”

“Still here.”

Emma rolled her eyes, but her tongue darted between her lips and he was winning whatever flirting battle they were staging. That probably wasn’t the right word to use when he kept trying to make sure his hand trained on her stomach, palm flat against the fabric of whatever she was wearing – or, more often than not in the last twelve hours, not wearing – and he was having a difficult time coming up with the words.

That might have been his problem.

He wasn’t really avoiding it.

Not really.

Well, maybe.

And it didn’t make sense.

But there was something and maybe Killian was kind of nervous – terrified, more like, but that wasn’t really the right word either a few days removed from winning a goddamn gold medal and getting engaged and making out with his fiancée on the ice because they were going to have a kid.

A kid.

And he hadn’t told his brother.

Technically.

“You’re being difficult on purpose,” Emma accused, rapping her fingers on the back of his palm. “And you’ve got some kind of obsession, here.”

She smiled as she said it, the teasing note in her voice making it obvious that it wasn’t any kind of issue, but Killian felt his own flush rise in his cheeks and he was so goddamn happy he was certain he was going to explode.

Or something less drastic.

He really wanted to go home. And maybe go to the doctor. And tell his brother. Officially.

“I know, Swan,” Killian mumbled, dropping his head to kiss against the curve of her shoulder. She eyed him meaningfully, jerking her head towards Roland, like he could even bring himself to care what was happening in the far corner of the room.

He was still singing, the gold medal around his neck bouncing off his chest every time he added whatever dance routine he’d choreographed and Humbert looked passably amused – and only slightly irritated, the thin line of his mouth twisting slightly whenever Roland’s voice picked up.

“It’s stupid attractive,” Emma added.

“What is?”

“Your brand-new touching...thing.”

“You’ve got to call it something else, love. That sounds menacing.”

“Ask me to expand my vocabulary when I’ve gotten some more sleep and am not constantly worried about what brand-new horrors the Rangers website is going to provide me today.”

Killian chuckled lightly, goosebumps on Emma’s skin when the air brushed over her neck. “Three days, Swan. Of absolutely, positively not getting out of bed.”

“You know, that sounds kind of menacing too,” she pointed out, twisting slightly and absolutely ignoring whatever sound of protest Killian made at the move. “Seriously, I’m going to punch you in the face. The kid does not mean my abdominal muscles disappeared. That’s just not how the human body works.”

Killian quirked an eyebrow, but it was mostly so she didn’t notice the way his heart almost beat out of his chest at the casual use of the word kid and it absolutely didn’t worked. She smiled, though, and that was kind of the point.

“Everyone knows,” Emma muttered, tugging lightly on the front of his shirt. “It’s not like they don’t. El and Anna have been texting about themes for a nursery for the last twenty-four hours. They’re like...real invested. And Reese’s already thinks we should consider some kind of spinach puff appetizer.”

“That sounds disgusting.”

“I know! That’s what I told her, but she’s thrilled and planning and, you know, if it means we get to have some kind of cake-tasting event like she did, then maybe I’m down to plan a wedding.”

The world exploded.

It felt like, at least – the rushing in his ears and the force of Emma’s smile and whatever light they were using in that media room seemed to make the stone in her ring sparkle at some kind of cosmic level.

He wasn’t sure that even made sense.

“We’ll make sure we get some kind of cake-tasting event, Swan,” Killian promised and he didn’t argue her movement when she leaned forward to brush her lips over hers. “More options than Mary Margaret.”

“You are a giant, competitive weirdo.”

“Who won a gold medal. And you agreed to marry. So, you know…”

He could feel her smile against his mouth, not even bothering to pull away and he had to count to ten in his head so he didn’t actually groan when Emma’s fingers carded through his hair. Humbert probably wouldn’t have appreciated that either.

And Killian really didn’t want Regina to yell at him for scaring Roland.

“Yeah, I know,” Emma muttered. “How come you didn’t call Liam yet? Is this...I mean you can’t stop touching me, so at the risk of sounding like an absurdly over-confident ass I think it’s pretty safe to say you’re not upset.”

“Swan,” he sighed, resting his forehead against hers and his hand felt like it had a magnet in it at that point. “That’s not even remotely what it is.”

“Why then?”

He couldn’t really shrug, but he made a noise in the back of his throat and that might have just been a whine when Emma’s fingers moved out of his hair. She tapped lightly on his jaw, Humbert’s quiet we going to do this coming at, quite possibly, the worst time.

“I don’t know,” Killian said, but open book absolutely worked both ways and Emma didn’t even have to move away from him for him to feel the force of her skeptical stare. She tapped a bit harder. “Because he’s...he’s Liam and he’s, you know…”

“I promise I do not.”

Killian licked his lips, scowling slightly and the admission felt like it scratched its way out of him. “Because he’s Liam,” he repeated. “And he’s...well he’s always figured everything out and everything I’ve done has been to--”

“--Impress him?” Emma interrupted. “Because I really do think the hat trick in the gold medal game might do that.”

“Nah, not like that. It doesn’t have anything to do with hockey, actually.”

Emma’s eyebrows leapt up her forehead, flying into her hair when she pulled back to gape at him and her hand fell on top of his. “Do you think Liam is, what...judging your life decisions? I mean I know we didn’t really plan this and we’re kind of going out of order, at least the way society dictates the order should go, but that’s kind of antiquated and society can honestly go fuck itself and…”

He cut her off, ducking his head and pressing his lips against hers and the sound she made – some kind of gasp, groan thing that sent a shock down his spine – probably scared Roland and Humbert and every single human being in the entire arena.

Killian sighed against her and he hadn’t really been holding any tension, even with the distinct lack of sleep, but kissing Emma was like coming home or landing or something equally absurd and sentimental and maybe he had been avoiding his brother.

“I love you,” he muttered, her eyelashes still fluttering and chest moving a hint quicker than normal. “An absolutely absurd amount.”

“I feel like the whole marriage and family thing was a pretty good sign, honestly,” Emma laughed. “You going to tell me the truth now or you want to keep making out?”

“Is that an honest question?”

“No.”

He grinned, trying to run his hand through his hair. It didn’t matter. She’d absolutely destroyed it. “Liam’s always been this kind of...I don’t know,” Killian explained and he had to take a deep breath before the words rushed out of him. “He’s kind of my hero.”

Emma blinked.

And blinked again.

And he really didn’t expect her to laugh.

“You’re kind of ruining that previously discussed confidence, Swan,” Killian said and her laugh got louder. Humbert muttered another string of words and possibly mentioned schedule four times. “Jeez, Humbert, relax.”

Emma was still laughing, the sound inching closer to just a bit unhinged and Killian had read a few websites when he wasn’t entirely preoccupied with undressing his fiancée, but none of the lists he’d looked at mentioned manic hysteria as an actual symptom of the first trimester.

“Swan,” he said cautiously, inching back in her gaze and there were tears in her eyes. “Are you alright, love?”

“Was that supposed to be a surprise?” Emma asked. “Oh my God, I can’t believe I didn’t figure it out before. That’s a credit to you and your makeout skills, you know. I was way too distracted.”

“What is happening right now?”

“Alright, I want you to listen to me right now and, like, file it away in the deepest, darkest corners of your mind and then I don’t want this to be a question ever again, got it?” Killian nodded slowly, not entirely sure what he was agreeing to, but Emma was still smiling and the last two weeks had been some kind of dream, so maybe it all made sense.

“I love you,” she continued, tugging on his shirt. “More than anything and I am…God, I’m happy and excited and terrified and you are going to be so good at this. We’re going to be so good at this. So, yeah, I’m kind of freaking out, but I’m also ready for it and you get to call your brother and brag to brother and be confident that you are the absolute best guy I know. Bar none.”

Humbert stopped talking about the schedule.

Roland stopped singing.

And Killian wasn’t sure he was still breathing.

If he was dreaming, he didn’t want to wake up.

“You want to get married, Swan?”

She laughed again, loud enough that it sounded like the noise actually bubbled out of her and it might have been pure joy and possibly bouncing off the walls or echoing in his head and none of it mattered as long as it kept happening.

Emma nodded, the tears finally falling on her cheeks and she bit her lip when he brushed his thumb over her cheek. “Yeah,” she breathed. “Every single time.”

Killian kissed her, quick and maybe just a hint bruising, tongue tracing over her mouth until she sagged just a bit against him and they were absolutely fucking up the entire schedule. And probably Merida’s ability to sleep for, possibly, the rest of her life.

“I’m going to go call Liam,” he said and Emma rolled her eyes.

“About time.”

It took a few minutes to find a quiet corner and then a few more minutes to decide if he was going to actually FaceTime the phone call, but that debate was more one-sided than Kilian expected and it took two rings before Liam’s face showed up on his phone screen.

“You know,” Liam drawled, barely giving Killian a chance to breathe, let alone give any kind of socially acceptable greeting. “I was starting to think you forget I was here.”

Killian winced, squeezing one eye shut and stuffing his hand into the back of his hair. “Ah, that’s not fair,” he muttered. “It’s been...you know, busy.”

Liam hummed, the hint of a smile curling on the ends of his mouth and it was probably stupid to have been worried. And that wasn’t quite the right word either.

Killian wasn’t worried.

He knew Liam would be happy and excited and the prospect of battling both Locksley and Scarlet for Matthew Jones’ favorite uncle would be some kind of thrill of a lifetime thing, but the words were still sitting in the back of Killian’s throat and he just wanted his brother to be proud of...everything.

That sounded lame in his head. He could only imagine what it would sound like out loud.

“Busy here meaning life-changing?” Liam asked and the smile was a smirk and vaguely sarcastic and Killian felt like he was fourteen years old.

That was kind of weird – all things considered.

“Yeah,” he admitted. “But in a good way, you know?”

“You keep using that phrase. Why are you asking me for confirmation?”

Killian shrugged, ducking his eyes to his feet when he slid down the latest wall he was leaning again. Liam did something ridiculous with his eyebrows, a somehow judgmental arch that wasn’t really helping the pace of the conversation and Killian dimly wondered if that was genetic.

It was probably on some website somewhere.

“You’ve got to actually use words at some point, little brother,” Liam chuckled. “We can’t just converse in grunts. And the ring looked good, by the way.”

Killian made some kind of noise – probably something that would, generally, be classified as a grunt of surprise and Liam nearly dropped his phone when he started laughing. “Here’s a tip, when important people in your life tell one half of the relationship that you’re a part of something important, assume you will also get that news in some kind of timely fashion.”

“Did those words make sense in that order?”

“Elsa told me. Or showed me. And then showed me the group text. She and Anna think you’re going to to choose some kind of sports theme and that’s incredibly cliché.”

“Some kind of family tradition,” Killian said, the words falling out of him before he really considered it and Liam’s eyebrows were going to get sprained if he kept moving them that way.

“You tell Mr. V you’re going to name a kid after him yet?”

“Jeez, El’s just shouting things from metaphorical rooftops, huh?”

“Anna.”

“Ah.”

Liam chuckled, slouching into the corner of the couch and the twins were shouting off camera, the sound of pucks hitting something echoing from the other side of the world. And Lizzie started crying at some point, Elsa’s quiet entreaties to go back to sleep barely audible over the sound and it was all vaguely chaotic and kind of nice and Killian’s heart did something impossible again.

Exploded or something.

“We didn’t tell ‘em yet,” Killian said, belatedly answering the question. “Figured that was kind of an in-person thing.”

“Ah, so I’m not the last person to find out then, huh?” Liam asked. “I actually feel better about that. And, technically, I guess I knew before anyone else did with vaguely worded texts that sent Elsa into some kind of emotional tailspin.”

“Again, I was kind of busy. And trying to propose.”

“Not on the ice.”

“I was never going to propose on the ice,” Killian laughed, fingers still tugging on his hair and they were still dancing around announcements and life-changing news. “I wasn’t trying to avoid you,” he added softly. He might beat up Liam’s eyebrows at some point. “We weren’t going to say anything because all those sites say you shouldn’t and--”

“--Killian,” Liam cut in and Elsa’s voice had, suddenly, disappeared. She was probably frozen somewhere. “Are you reading websites? About...kids?”

His jaw ached from clenching it so tightly, whatever noise he made in response some kind of impossible thing that seemed to pull from the pit of his stomach. But then he remembered Emma’s face and her hand on his and, well, he was goddamn thrilled about everything.

“Yeah,” Killian nodded. Elsa might have shrieked. Lizzie started crying again. “I mean not a ton because I’ve got to be connected to wifi or I’m going to get totally fucked by my phone plan, but some stuff and ideas and..”

He took another deep breath and his lungs were going to explode with his heart and Liam’s smile had never been that wide.

Ever.

“Emma’s pregnant,” he finished, his own smile making the muscles in his face stretch and twist and the world seemed to pause for a moment when Liam actually dropped his phone.

That appeared to be catching.

“Holy shit,” Liam muttered, shaking his head in something that might have been awe and possibly disbelief and Killian was glad he was sitting down. “That’s...holy shit.”

“Eloquent.”

“Shit,” he repeated, Elsa clicking her tongue from somewhere when his vocabulary dissolved into one curse word that the twins would probably spend the next week repeating. “I mean...I knew or kind of knew, but that’s…”

Liam shook his head again and maybe they should all get a media training rehash from Ruby. None of them were very good at holding a conversation. “Is it weird to tell you congratulations? People told us congratulations and I thought that was weird, but I can’t come up with another word, so, uh...congratulations.”

“I’ll take it,” Killian grinned. “It is kind of weird though, but I accept it.”

“When I come up with another word to scream from those metaphorical rooftops you were talking about before I’ll get back to you.”

“That’s fair.”

Liam laughed again, a bit quiet and slightly stunned and Killian hoped all the internal organs that felt as if they were twisting into several dozen knots at the moment recovered by the time he had to play actual hockey games again.

“So, uh, it’s been a pretty good Olympics for you huh?” Liam asked. Killian dropped his phone. They were all absolute disasters.

“Yeah,” he agreed. “Kind of the best. I’m uh...I really wasn’t avoiding you, but El and Banana kind of attack-called and Scarlet can’t keep a secret and I just wanted you to…”

He needed to finish a goddamn sentence

He couldn’t.

Words were, apparently, more challenging than an overtime gold medal game or impending fatherhood or proposing as many times as one person could propose in a several day-span.

He’d asked Emma to marry him sixteen times.

At last count.

And Liam absolutely knew how that sentence was going to end.

It was, admittedly, kind of obvious.

“That’s stupid,” Liam said pointedly, waving a hand over his shoulder when Elsa shouted something that sounded a hell of a lot it’s definitely stupid, KJ. “See, I’ve got back-up. I win.”

“Were we arguing?”

“No, but I still win because that’s definitely the stupidest thing you’ve ever thought. Were you honestly worried that I’m not incredibly proud of you at all times?”

Killian made some kind of impossible noise, probably doing permanent damage to his throat in the process, and Liam widened his eyes in disbelief. “C’mon, little brother, that’s ridiculous,” he said. “You’ve done something good here and not just because that kid is going to have the greatest hockey genes in the history of the world. You are...well you can self-loathe with the best of ‘em, can’t you?”

Elsa laughed in the background, another quiet agreement and side commentary and Killian resisted the urge to make a quip about play by play. He shrugged instead.

Liam rolled his eyes.

“I’m going to take that as an agreement,” he chuckled. “It’s unnecessary. It always was really, but you’re also the single most stubborn person on the planet, so that was falling on deaf ears. That’s got to change now, Killian. Because you’re going to be that kid’s hero and you should be. He couldn’t pick a better one.”

Elsa might have been crying.

“That might have been the single greatest motivational speech you’ve ever given,” Killian mumbled, blinking quickly and threatening to rip out his own hair.

“That was off the cuff too. Feel free to tell your kid about that when he understands the English language. And take solace in the fact that the twin thing is a Vankald trait because I trust you little brother, but I’m not sure you could cope with twins.”

“Younger brother. God.”

“I take such joy in that little pinch between your eyebrows though.”

Killian groaned, rolling his entire head in response. “Although you’re probably right about twins. Right about the hockey genes though.”

“I’m already ready for the national title run in...what year?”

“2036.”

Liam let out a low whistle and Elsa probably should have moved to the couch if she was going to comment on every single part of the conversation. “Was that also on the websites you’re reading?” Liam asked.

“Scarlet did the math.”

“Scarlet can do math?”

“Ask him that question next time you talk to him.”

“Ah, no thanks, he couldn’t really hit anybody for the last two and half weeks. I don’t want to be on the receiving end of all that pent up aggression.”

“Good call.”

Liam hummed in agreement, a kid suddenly in his lap and wearing a Team USA jersey and the world had a messed up sense of humor. “You learn some things over the years,” he grinned. “You nervous? Honestly?”

Killian considered his answer for a moment, tucked into that quiet corner and he wasn’t entirely certain how he was going to get back to the media room. “Grand scheme,” he mumbled and Liam’s eyes widened slightly. “Not at all. Questionably not at all.”

“How does those words go together?”

“I have no idea, actually,” Killian admitted lightly. “But I’m not. I’m...good. Great. Better than great. It’s kind of the little things. Do they have monkey bars in schools anymore?”

“What?”

“Monkey bars. You know, like you swing and fall off and break your wrist or something.”

“That is oddly specific.”

“I’m worried about monkey bars and their existence and potential for asshole kids to do something vaguely terrible.”

Liam gaped at him, blinking quickly like Killian would disappear and show that he’d been replaced with some kind alien obsessed with playground equipment. He didn’t. Because he was questionably worried about monkey bars.

And it only took Liam four and a half seconds to realize that monkey bars were both a metaphor.

“You learn some things, Killian,” he said again, shifting the kid perched on his leg and wincing when a knee collided with his stomach. “And you realize you can’t control everything and that’s good for everyone involved. It’s not the blue line. There’s no straight path from the point. It’s a five on three penalty kill and everything’s coming at you from every single angle and it lasts like...the rest of your life.”

“You’re really selling it.”

“Yeah, well, you’re kind of committed now. But, honestly, it’s chaotic and exhausting and your thighs will probably feel like you’ve been on the PK for twenty-six straight minutes at some point because you won’t get any sleep and that kid may have great hockey genes, but all babies hate squash and he’ll throw it at your face.

But here’s the sell. You are so goddamn happy you reek with it from the other side of the world. And so is Emma. I think Anna printed out that picture of you two on the ice to use as, like, blackmail for the rest of your lives. So you get to keep doing that and you get to keep building something and settling into something else and life keeps happening and it’s absolutely...” he paused to cover his hands over Charlie’s ears, pulling him against his chest, like that would help. “It’s absolutely fucking fantastic and you’re going to be the best dad that kid could ask for.”

Killian exhaled for what felt like the first time in his life, a rush of air and feelings and Elsa was close to sobbing somewhere in that house. “Stepped up your motivational speech game over the last couple of years,” he muttered, a shaky laugh clinging to the words. “Someone should have been recording that.”

“I’m not convinced Elsa wasn’t.”

“Double negatives kind of taking away from the whole thing honestly.”

“Ah, hit the post.”

“Too many hockey metaphors,” Killian said and Liam nodded in agreement, lower lip jutted out slightly. “If I tell you that I just wanted you to be proud of me are you going to tell Locksley and Scarlet because I don’t think I could handle that.”

Liam didn’t answer at first and that was only kind of jarring, but then he blinked again and his eyes were a little glossy and Killian was holding his breath.

Elsa sniffled.

“No,” Liam whispered. “I wouldn’t. I would tell you that I have been since the very start and every single day since. No matter what you think you’ve done.”

“God, you’re on a roll.”

“That’s because I’m presumably getting more sleep than you are. Neurons firing on all cylinders and whatnot.”

“Yeah, that makes total sense.”

“I am absolutely ready to beat down against both Locksley and Scarlet and David, if need be, because I’m that kid’s only actual uncle and I’d like whatever record to note that.”

“The record appreciates that,” Killian said, finally letting his hand fall out of his hair and that felt like a bigger moment than it probably should have. “Maybe he can be a centerman or something. Keep the tradition alive.”

Liam dropped the phone again.

And he nearly lost track of time, talking and planning and Elsa really did have far too many ideas about the potential decorating scheme of a potential nursery and they’d moved into a two-bedroom apartment.

Killian found his way back to the media room, Humbert glancing his direction when his shoes squeaked on the floor and Roland was never going to stop humming the national anthem.

“Let me know when you land, ok?” Humbert asked, leaning forward to brush a kiss over Emma’s forehead and she was still smiling.

“Of course,” she said.

Humbert nodded towards Killian when he walked out, leaving them alone with an incredibly excited eight-year-old and the sounds of a computer doing something and Killian’s hand did that magnet thing again, brushing over Emma’s stomach as soon as she was within reach.

“You ready to go, love?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Emma nodded, closing her eyes lightly like she was trying to memorize the moment. “Let’s go home.”

 


“Call him.”

"You’re supposed to be asleep.”

Emma sighed, shifting against his side and there was not enough room for that. The bed creaked and they both snapped towards the bassinet, container thing and there had to be an actual word for it, but Killian was far too worried about waking up his hours-old son to be concerned about proper sentence structure.

They had a son.

“I’m not asleep,” Emma muttered, tugging on the team-branded t-shirt he’d changed into at some point and everything felt sluggish and far too fast at the same time. He’d tried not to fall asleep, like he’d miss something or some momentous moment if he even dared close his eyes, but Emma was so goddamn soft against him, breathing evening out and Matthew David Jones was still asleep.

Parents of the year.

Already.

“And I’m not going to fall asleep because our sleep schedules are all already out of whack and this bed is, like, a rock,” Emma continued. “So we should probably call them and tell them that there’s a painfully adorable kid here.”

“You want me to use that exact phrase, love?” Killian asked, quirking an eyebrow and she didn’t roll her eyes. Her lips twitched slightly and that was kind of a victory and the world was incredibly perfect.

Or something less sentimental.

No, something more sentimental. The most sentimental.

Killian leaned to his left, grabbing his phone off the nightstand and it didn’t even take a single ring, Liam’s eyes wide and he might have been vibrating with excitement, the phone screen shaking on his side of the call.  

Emma laughed.

“Why are you awake?” Killian asked. “Is there an earthquake happening there?”

Liam leveled him with a stare that probably should have been patented. “Killian, you called me and I’m experiencing some weird déjà vu because I feel like we did this with the ring call and also because I’ve been waiting for you to call me for, like, nine hours. Also I have kids. Kids who have to go to school.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s a thing isn’t it?” Emma mused, Liam’s eyes darting towards the sound like he’d be able to see her out the side of the phone. “We’ve got to decide where to send him to school, don’t we?”

“I mean not right now, Swan,” Killian reasoned. “He’s real busy sleeping.”

“Wait, what?” Liam gasped, shouting the question and jumping up and down and Elsa yelled from somewhere.

She ran into the frame, colliding with Liam’s side and the hospital bed probably couldn't stand up to the combined force of both Killian and Emma’s laughter. “KJ,” Elsa breathed. “Can we...can we see him?”

It took far longer than it probably should have to climb off the bed, but Killian was far more aware of noise than he’d ever been in his life and his knuckles turned white when he gripped the phone, directing the phone camera towards a still-sleeping Matthew David Jones.

“Oh,” Elsa sighed, a hand flying to her mouth and Liam absolutely was not breathing, a statue who seemed determined to lick his lips, at least, forty-two times in a ten-second span. “Oh my God. He’s perfect.”

“Totally perfect,” Emma agreed softly, smiling at Killian when he glanced over his shoulder.

Liam nodded, slinging an arm around Elsa’s shoulders and they were definitely both crying. Killian couldn’t bring himself to say anything.

He might have been crying too.

“Did Mom and Dad show yet?” Elsa asked, eyes still on Matt.

Killian shook his head. “Tomorrow. Or later tonight. I don’t know, I’ve already lost all track of time outside of this hospital room.”

“Ah, well, that’s understandable.”

“You guys good?” Liam asked. “Like...everything good? Healthy and all of that?”

“Yeah,” Killian said. “All of the above. I think Scarlet’s already measuring him for his first jersey fitting.”

Elsa clicked her tongue, closing her eyes tightly and Killian didn’t remember deciding to sit down, just that his knees bent and Emma’s fingers brushed over the side of his arm. He had to twist to hold her hand.

He didn’t really mind.

“It was totally Liam’s idea,” Elsa continued, shouting from out of frame again and thrusting her hands towards the camera when she collapsed back down.

And, really, he shouldn’t have been surprised.

Because of course they’d bought it.

They’d bought his first jersey.

He hadn’t been playing long yet, he and Liam had only just started practices and it was almost his ninth birthday and they’d pooled their money – for a second-hand Rangers jersey that was far too big and far too ratty and there was a rip in the right sleeve.

The new one was better.

It was a Rangers jersey and far too big and the number twenty on the back went without saying, but the name was slightly unexpected, the MATTHEW emblazoned on it making Killian’s breath hitch and Emma’s hand tighten and it was some kind of miracle he didn’t drop the phone.

“It’ll probably take some time for him to grow into it,” Liam started. “You know, being an actual newborn at this point, but, uh, I figured he could wear it eventually and it’d intimidate the monkey bars or something.”

Emma’s hand tightened again, an impossible show of strength that left Killian wincing and tugging her fingers up to brush his lips just underneath her ring. “Monkey bars,” she echoed, tears on her cheeks and voice slightly shaky and there had to be a word bigger than sentimental. “Thanks, guys. Just...thank you.”

Elsa nodded, the force of her smile possibly affecting the atmosphere or the rotation of the Earth, and Liam didn’t look away from Killian.

“Congratulations, Dad,” he said and the words settled in the pit of Killian’s stomach and the back corner of his mind and he and Emma were asleep again by the time the Vankalds showed up later that afternoon.

Chapter Text

“Cap, sit down, you’re freaking me out.”

Killian didn’t sit down. Or stop moving, pacing out a not-quite straight line in the locker room, weaving his way between bags of equipment and sticks and more helmets and gloves than should probably be on the floor, but they weren’t in New York and Kristoff was somewhere else and it appeared none of them were capable of putting things where they belonged when they’d just clinched the Metro.

For the first time in something like twenty years if the ridiculous number of stories and headlines were to be believed.

He was trying to ignore all of those.

Mostly because there were so many goddamn rumors and reports and that clip of Emma running onto the ice in South Korea seemed to play on a loop on various local sports wrap-up shows, at least, once a week.

“You’re going to trip over something, fall, break your face and then that’s just going to be awful for everyone,” Ariel continued, tapping the toe of her shoe impatiently when she leaned up against a locker that was practically overflowing with equipment.

Killian stopped pacing – nearly tripping over a stick and Ariel didn’t actually say anything, just lifted both her eyebrows, which was, somehow, worse than a string of insults. “Can someone actually break their face?” he asked, tilting his head and tugging on the end of the tie that was barely knotted.

It clearly wasn’t the question Ariel expected and, for half a moment, that was enough to make Killian forget that their flight out of Carolina wasn’t for another two hours and he really should have been sitting at a table doing post, but he was waiting for his phone to ring and patience had never really been one of his strong suits.

“I mean obviously,” Ariel snapped, rolling her eyes for extra emphasis and Killian nearly smiled. His phone was very silent. “You have bones in your face, Cap, all of which can break if you trip over your own shoes.”

“I thought I was tripping over equipment,” Killian corrected. He hadn’t started pacing again. That seemed like a step in the right direction. Or, well, the opposite of that completely. “Just tripping over my own feet seems kind of lame, Red.”

“Decidedly lame, but that’s kind of your game now, isn’t it?”

“Rude.”

“You are a giant, human ball of worry and anxiety and you need to take at least two-hundred deep breaths before any of us even think about getting on a plane.”

“Why two hundred?”

Ariel blinked and it was like a red-headed fire monster had taken her place or something equally terrifying and Killian couldn’t actually back up because there was equipment everywhere and a locker behind him and just falling into the empty space behind him was, probably, the lamest thing he could do.

She exhaled loudly – and maybe she wasn’t just a fire monster, maybe she was a dragon and he’d lost complete control of the metaphor, but Killian slept like garbage on the road now, worse than he had last season and Locksley was absolutely going to kill him if they both didn’t fall asleep as soon as they sat down on the team plane.

“I’m just saying,” Killian continued, well aware that he was taking his life into his hands, particularly with a dragon-monster-Ariel hybrid who, he only just realized, was holding a plastic bag with a Hurricanes logo in one hand. “Two hundred seems like a kind of random number and I’m just wondering if there’s some sort of medical basis for it.”

“You are, easily the most frustrating person alive, you know that?”

Killian nodded. “You should talk to Locksley, I’m sure you guys could come up with some kind of team slogan for your brand-new group.”

“Don’t think Locksley has not been involved in this from the very beginning. It’s some kind of miracle he hasn’t actually just started beating you up during warmups.”

“Is that more weird than you just landing on two-hundred breaths or…” Killian trailed off, snapping towards his phone when it started buzzing in his locker.

Ariel made some kind of impossible noise in the back of her throat when he practically lunged at the stupid thing – and one of his shoes had come untied at some point, he was a goddamn disaster – but he ignored her, waving one hand impatiently over his shoulder and that only served to work a few pointed curses out of her.

“It’s not Emma,” Ariel mumbled, dropping onto the bench in front of Scarlet’s locker and grabbing her own phone out of her back pocket, fingers flying across the screen. “Honestly, Cap, sit down this is going to take a couple of minutes and maybe, like, five different breathing exercises that I looked up during the third period.”

Killian narrowed his eyes, gaze flitting back down to his screen when the phone vibrated again and Ariel was right.

Of course.

“What is happening right now?” he asked, still staring at his phone and Ariel actually laughed. She was laying across the bench and there were voices coming back towards them and Killian practically growled when something crashed against his shoulder.

It was a t-shirt.

“You’re going to have to put that on eventually, Cap,” Will said, dropping down next to him with something that almost looked like an apologetic smile on his face. He shrugged, gaze flitting towards Ariel and whoever she was talking to – her phone held up with both hands above her. “Ah,” he muttered. “So, uh, that’s happening then, huh?”

Killian hummed, shaking his head and trying to make sure he didn’t inadvertently strangle himself with his own tie while putting on league-mandated t-shirts for photo ops he wasn’t all that interested in. “Are we leaving or what?” he asked and Will just pressed his lips together tightly.

“No,” Robin answered, decked in head to toe championship gear and laden down with more t-shirts and two more hats and Killian got the distinct impression he was about to get grounded. “C’mon, Cap, you know the schedule.”

“Yeah,” Killian said slowly. “So...what are we doing then?”

“Breathing,” Ariel replied, twisting until she was looking at him, feet planted firmly on the ground and hair falling over every side of the bench and Killian didn’t even try to hold back his groan when he heard the voice on the phone she was holding.

Maybe he was getting grounded.

And his phone still hadn’t actually rung, just vibrated a few quick messages that, upon actually reading them, were from Elsa and Anna and not Emma and Killian just really wanted to go home.

There was, however, that whole issue of a schedule and a team flight he was contractually obligated to be on and being some kind of face of the league was exhausting when he had to play by the rules.

And, well, maybe he was kind of losing his mind.

That wasn’t really his fault. Really. It wasn’t.

He was just...happy. No, that was kind of lame too. God, Ariel was never going to let him live any of this down. He couldn't come up with another word though, couldn’t think of another string of letters or set of syllables that actually communicated everything he’d felt since South Korea and the last two months had been some kind of roller coaster that had a questionable amount of g-forces or however people measured things on roller coasters, but Killian couldn’t seem to get off and he didn’t really want to and, yeah...definitely lost his mind.

The morning sickness had worn off eventually and Emma was actually sleeping now – which is exactly what the website he definitely did not have bookmarked on his phone promised would happen – and Matthew Jones was, apparently, the size of a peach and growing at some kind of questionable rate. The website claimed he was double the size he was last week.

Not that he was reading that website.

Constantly.

Like...several times a day.

That would be insane.

He checked several different websites several different times a day and he just wanted to know and if he couldn’t be there, then Killian was going to be damned if he wasn’t some kind of font of information.

It might have been driving Locksley insane.

It was absolutely driving Ariel insane.

It was probably driving Emma insane.

And it hit him like some kind of lightning bolt, which would have made more sense if they were in Tampa, but he couldn't really think of any hurricane puns on the spot and Killian knew his eyes widened when he realized what was going on.

They were staging an intervention. They’d just clinched the Metro and were the top seed heading into the playoffs, set for some kind of impossible second-straight Stanley Cup run and his friends were staging an intervention about his questionable father-like habits.

“Are you serious?” Killian demanded, not sure who he was directing the question to and it might have just been the world at this point.

Ariel quirked an eyebrow, turning her phone screen towards him and Elsa sitting cross-legged on her couch in Colorado, Rangers gear on and a knowing look on her face that was absolutely cheating.

“Did we start the breathing exercises yet?” Elsa asked, glancing towards the corner of the screen like she could actually see Ariel.

Robin tried not to laugh. It didn’t work.

“Nah,” Ariel said. “Cap was too busy trying not kill himself in the ‘Canes visitors locker room.”

Killian groaned, letting his head fall back and that was a mistake because the locker seemed intent on concussing him “I wasn’t actually going to kill myself,” he grumbled, crossing his arms and Robin nearly cackled at the sight of him.

“In through your nose, out through your mouth, Cap,” he grinned, kicking towards Killian’s shoes. Killian glared at him.

“Alright, alright, alright,” Ariel continued, waving one hand through the air and she hadn’t actually sat up yet. She wasn’t ever going to. “We need to focus because there really is a schedule and I don’t really feel like walking back home.”

“We planned it, A,” Elsa reasoned and Killian was never going to take another deep breath, too busy sighing dramatically at whatever was happening in Carolina. “KJ, stop making so much noise, this is going to be easier if you keep getting consistent oxygen to your brain.”

Killian blinked twice, doing as instructed, but mostly because his lungs were actually starting to burn from a distinct lack of air.

He pushed off the bench, crossing towards Ariel in three steps that probably weren’t good for the muscles in his thighs, grabbing the phone out of her hand and Elsa didn’t even look surprised to find him staring at her, just lifted her eyebrows and smiled at him, that same knowing look she’d had for the better part of the last two decades.

He sighed again.

“You’re going to give yourself a heart attack,” she said, nodding towards the tie that had only made it halfway underneath his t-shirt. “And you’ve got to stop buying pillows. You’re going to run out of space in your apartment.”

“How do you know about that?” Killian gaped and Ariel scoffed under her breath. The plastic bag was on the ground. There was another pillow in it.

“KJ, c’mon, it’s like blatantly obvious. Also no one actually told me because A is kind of an enabler, but also, also, I have eyes and saw that bag two seconds ago. It didn’t even take a full breath to figure out what you were doing.”

It started the first road trip after the Olympics.

And it wasn’t really a conscious decision, just an idea and a sentimental streak that seemed to grow several miles wider every time they got on a plane and became some sort of chasm when they had multiple games on the road.

The West Coast swings felt like week-long treks through several different mountains and, well, maybe it had turned into some kind of obsession.

God.

Elsa’s smile shifted slightly, softer and understanding and Killian wished he was still sitting on the bench because that bruise on his calf hurt like hell and his knees weren’t quite as strong and they were staging an intervention for his pillow-buying spree.

God .

“Did the website say it?” Robin asked, legs stretched out in front of him and he was still trying not to laugh. It still wasn’t working. “Is that why you’re a one-man pillow freak now? Something about optimum comfort or whatever?”

“Nah, that’s just me,” Killian admitted. “There’s a mountain of pillows in our room. Red’s been buying them and sending them overnight.”

Robin blinked, mouth hanging open slightly and, well, maybe it sounded insane when he said it out loud. “It made more sense in the moment,” Killian reasoned, ignoring Elsa’s quiet laugh on the phone. “Comfort or home or something.”

“Wasn’t that expensive? Are pillows expensive?”

“Have you never bought a pillow, Locksley?”

“You know, I don’t think I have,” Robin admitted, shrugging at the absurd direction this conversation had taken. “C’mon, ballpark it for me, how much do you think you’ve spent on pillows since we got back from the Olympics?”

“Locksley,” Elsa sighed, but he just brushed her off and that was probably his first mistake. Killian rolled his eyes.

“I thought there was a schedule to this intervention,” Killian muttered, sitting back down and his phone vibrated again. It was Anna. She was...somewhere. He probably should know where she was. “El, where’s Banana right now?”

“What?”

“She keeps texting me.”

Elsa groaned, a mix between another sigh and a growl that probably would have rivaled Ariel’s transition into fire monster earlier. “Are they just pictures? Because she probably shouldn't be sending them to you guys yet.”

“I have no idea what you’re saying to me.”

“How is she even getting those across international borders?” Locksley asked, twisting around Killian so he could get in frame. “There’s got to be rules about that, right? Security or whatever.”

“You are literally about to get on a charted plane, right now, Locksley,” Elsa said and Killian would have been able to pick up the note of exasperation in her voice from anywhere in the known solar system. Maybe he wasn’t the one who was going to get grounded. He should probably stop thinking he was going to get grounded.

“Yeah, but is Anna taking chartered planes everywhere?” he continued, ignoring Elsa’s eye roll when he kept asking questions and ignoring the conversation schedule she’d probably spent several minutes orchestrating. “That seems really expensive.”

“Why are you harping on this money thing so much?” Ariel asked. She moved across the locker room, grabbing Killian’s free hand and that might have been the only think he’d actually been prepared for when he got off the ice. “Make a fist, Cap.”

Robin rolled his eyes, but his shoulders sagged a bit and Elsa had twisted a blanket around her, muddled voices in the background that sounded like the twins practicing slapshots in the hallway. “Really, though, this was all your idea?” Robin asked, turning towards Killian. “Because that’s not what…”

“Yeah,” Killian interrupted. “Well, I mean mostly me. The pillow thing is...a thing and they’re only like thirty bucks. That’s not including the shipping though, but I’m not really counting that.”

Ariel let out some kind of triumphant sound, punching the air with both of her hands and she didn’t have to be worried about Killian breaking his face, she was going to do it herself when she inadvertently hit him.

“Ah, I won,” she shouted, pointing at Robin like those words made sense. Elsa laughed in Colorado. “Locksley, I told you! I told you! This was just Cap. You owe me food pre-game the entire first series.”

“Are you betting on this?” Will asked and Killian didn’t entirely expect that kind of emotion because, all things considered, he wasn’t really surprised by the bet. “What the hell is wrong with you guys?”

Ariel made a face, Robin mumbling something about high horses under his breath and Killian’s head hurt. “Wait, wait, wait,” he said, trying to tell Elsa to shut up without actually saying it and he could hear Liam just out of frame in Colorado. “Scarlet why are you personally offended by this? You’re obsessed with betting about things.”

Will had stood up at some point – they were all just going to break all of their bones before they even got out of the locker room and that’d probably make it difficult to win another Stanley Cup.

“Scarlet,” Killian pressed, catching him by the back of his championship t-shirt. It ripped. Liam cackled from the living room in Colorado. “What is happening right now?”

“This wasn’t just your intervention,” Ariel mumbled, eyeing both of them meaningfully and the couch on the phone creaked when Liam dropped down next to Elsa.

“He’s almost as bad as you are, little brother,” Liam grinned, tapping on the phone screen like that would do anything except frustrate Elsa. “I mean, he’s not wasting a college fund on pillows, but it’s a close third.”

“Wait, what?” Killian balked and Ariel had moved out of fire breathing monster mode and into vaguely comforting, resting a hand on his shoulder and nodding in understanding. He had no idea what was going on.

And he’d really spent just a ridiculous amount of money on pillows. And shipping. Mostly the shipping.

“I mean, second is definitely Anna,” Robin shrugged. Scarlet ran a hand over his face, sighing with what sounded like the weight of several different worlds. “That’s what I was getting at before. She’s knitting.”

“What?”

“Knitting,” Will repeated, rolling his eyes. “And Locksley’s a goddamn idiot because he’s clearly never heard of plastic.”

Robin nodded slowly, a quiet ohhhh on his lips and Liam was close to falling off his own couch, head thrown back and what might have been actual tears on his cheeks. “Hold on,” Killian muttered, standing again and wincing when it felt like his entire body protested at the movement. Ariel almost looked concerned. “Banana is knitting? Knitting what, exactly? And where?”

“She definitely told you, KJ,” Elsa said. “She’s been in Panama for, like, a week and a half already.”

“I have been kind of preoccupied, El. There’s a season going on.”

“Yeah, I don’t think you’ve actually been worried about the season for weeks.”

Point to her. Several points to her. All the goddamn points to her.

Killian sighed. “Alright, so she’s in Panama with...what plastic needs?” Elsa nodded. “And she’s...knitting? When did Banana learn how to knit?”

“I was eleven so that’d make Anna nine. It was right after you guys started going to the Piers and Mom thought we should have a thing and don’t even get me started about how she was trying to counteract hockey with knitting, but she knew how to do it and thought maybe we’d like to learn or something.”

“You know how to knit, El?”

Elsa actually laughed. So did Liam. Loudly. It was almost enough to drown out the sound of pucks hitting the wall. “No,” Elsa shook her head. “I am comically bad it, but Anna’s actually not. She’s secretly really good at it and I didn’t realize she’d started doing it again until a couple days ago. If you think you’ve been spending an absurd amount of money on shipping, you’ve got nothing on her, KJ.”

“What?”

“You’ve got to say something else, Cap,” Will mumbled, back on the bench and tugging on the end of his shirt. “And I resent the implication that I’m even in the same discussion as you and Anna. I’ve barely done anything.”

Killian tilted his head. “What could you possibly be doing?”

“He keeps sending Emma food,” Robin muttered. “Teamed up with Merida.”

Will actually looked like he was blushing, lips pulled back tightly behind his teeth and eyes boring into the floor and Killian wasn’t sure what to say. He still had no idea what Anna was sending from Panama. “It’s not a big deal, Cap,” Will mumbled, wrapping a hand around the back of his neck. “It’s just...you know, stuff.”

“Stuff,” Killian echoed and Scarlet shrugged.

“Yeah, you know, power bars and just like a shit ton of Powerade.”

“She keeps drinking that gross yellow flavor.”

Will hummed. “That’s what Mer said. It’s not...this is not some kind of power move to steal your thunder here, Cap, you realize that, right?”

“I realize that,” Killian nodded. “Did Mer tell you or did you actively seek out this information?”

“She couldn’t find that gross yellow flavor at any of the Duane Reades, CVS's or Walgreens within a ten block radius of the Garden like...what was it, a month ago Locksley?” Robin nodded and Killian was momentarily stunned by his ability to just miss things, but he was probably buying pillows or something when all of that happened. “So, uh….I made some calls.”

“You made some calls?”

“Cap, if you don’t stop just repeating Scarlet, I’m going to check you,” Ariel warned and Elsa made a contradictory noise in the back of her throat. “Oh my God,” Ariel muttered. “This is deviating from the schedule, Scarlet. We’re just supposed to get Cap to relax before he gets on the plane.”

“Yeah, well, I didn’t realize that Anna and I were also being included in this intervention,” Will argued. “Let me explain my side of the story, A.” Ariel rolled her eyes again, but even Elsa seemed willing to let this one part of the schedule slide. “Anyway,” Will continued. “Mer said she couldn’t find anything and so Belle helped me find some phone number for the general supplier in the northeast.”

“The entire northeast?” Liam shouted, twisting in front of Elsa to stare speculatively at Will. He shrugged again. “Seriously, Scarlet?”

“I mean Belle helped and it took, like, ten seconds to get through. You know the stock manager of Powerade northeast is a Rangers fan?”

“I did not,” Killian admitted.

Will grinned at him, seemingly picking up confidence in the story once he realized Killian wasn’t going to challenge him to a fist fight in the Hurricanes visitor locker room. “Oh yeah, big time. You’d be surprised what a few well-placed ticket offers and photo ops for Mr. Hayes’ kid will do for your Powerade delivery.”

Killian was frozen. He wasn’t sure he was breathing, just exhaling dramatically and Ariel might have actually started to cry at some point, seemingly surprised by just how dedicated Will Scarlet was to the protect Matt Jones at all costs cause.

Even Robin and Liam looked impressed.

Elsa didn’t look surprised. Of course not.

“So,” Will continued, the flush still rising in his cheeks and they must have been cutting it close to their flight time. “Hayes and family were there when we trashed the Sabres and that’s why I was late to post because that kid wanted, like, eight-hundred photos and now there’s just a questionable amount of disgusting yellow-flavored Powerade in the kitchen on Emma’s floor. Which, I think, makes me better than Anna by default because I’m doing something practical. She’s just shipping nonsense internationally.”

“She’s not going to like that you said that,” Liam muttered, but there was a hint of a smile on his face. “And you kind of even out monetarily when you count the fine.”

Will waved a dismissive hand towards the phone and Killian was breathing, he was still conscious so he must have been breathing, but he was also still a bit confused. “You have my explicit permission to tell Anna I said that,” Will announced. “On the record or whatever.”

Elsa nodded seriously, twisting her lips slightly like they were discussing the GOP of a small country and not the exchange rate of eight-hundred photos to yellow-flavored gatorade. “Noted,” she said. “And, just for that same record, I think technically, the flavor is lime. I don’t think yellow is a flavor.”

“Oh, yeah, good point. You’re definitely the smartest, El. No wonder they put you in charge of this.”

Killian widened his eyes at that and Elsa’s smile turned into a glare almost immediately. “Shut up Scarlet,” she sighed, but she glanced back at Killian and he didn’t really care if he ever found out what Anna was shipping internationally. “You’re worrying too much, KJ. That’s the gist of it. You’re allowed to be on the road without feeling guilty all the time. Stop buying pillows. You’re going to drive Locksley insane.”

“Hey,” Robin shouted, but Elsa shook her head quickly and he didn’t say anything else.

“You are, KJ,” she continued. “This is...the best thing and this team is absurd and Scarlet’s probably breaking eight-thousand rules to get Powerade and Merida definitely wrote out some kind of schedule to make sure Emma’s eating every three hours and I know that was your suggestion, but you’ve got to take, at least, twenty deep breaths and remember how good this is. Stop freaking out.”

He didn’t say anything, just inhaled slowly, trying to fill his lungs to capacity and, goddamnit, she was absolutely right.

“That was good, El, we didn’t even need the schedule,” Ariel muttered, grabbing Killian’s phone and pushing it against his chest. “And call your girlfriend. Tell her you’re sorry you keep suffocating her with emotions and emotional pillows and then maybe mention you’re like...questionably psyched to be a dad.”

“Emma knows all of those things,” Robin said and Ariel rolled her eyes. “Your face is going to get stuck that way.”

She stuck her tongue out at him.

“You guys interfere too much,” Killian grumbled, but he took his phone anyway and he was ready for Ariel when she pressed up on her toes and kissed his cheek. “And Emma’s my fiancé, if we’re going to get technical.”

“Yes,” she agreed. “You’ve got, like, fifteen minutes before we leave. And just squeeze your hand and try and touch your fingers with your thumb while you talk.”

“Red.”

“Just a couple of times. Out of frame.”

“Oh my God,” Will sighed, wrapping an arm around Ariel’s waist to tug her away from Killian’s side. She kicked him in the shin. “Go, Cap. We’ll get you when we leave.”

It took thirty seconds before Killian stopped looking for somewhere quiet, opting instead just to slide down the nearest wall, tugging his tie loose and hitting Emma’s number with his other thumb and she answered on the second ring.

They’d been gone for four days.

And he was a clingy, overprotective asshole because he missed her as soon as he walked away from her, but it was like all of that had gone into some sort of hyperdrive as soon as she told him she was pregnant and he wanted to see everything.

He didn’t want to miss a moment. He wanted to...build something. A home and a family and everything he’d wanted for as long as he could remember.

She probably knew that.

She smiled when she saw him, already back in her office and hair twisted over one shoulder and a blazer over her dress and four days must have been some kind of eternity because he swore he could actually see a slightly larger curve to her stomach.

He felt like his heart had exploded. Or something less violent.

“Hey,” Emma grinned, shaking her hair onto her back and Killian couldn’t think of a single word. She narrowed her eyes, tilting her head slightly when she leaned against the front of her desk. “Nice shirt. Are you still wearing a tie?”

Killian nodded. "Yeah, these shirts are garbage though. Scarlet’s ripped on one good tug.”

“Why are you ripping Scarlet’s shirt?”

“He was pacing.”

“Ah,” she nodded, understanding flitting in her gaze. “Locksley said they were going to talk to you. Did Scarlet start pacing when you argued?”

“No, they started intervention’ing him too.”

“What? An intervention for what?”

“Did you not know about that?” Killian asked and Emma shook her head. “What do you think is going on, Swan?”

Emma blinked, tugging her lower lip in between her teeth and that was distracting. He needed to get that tie off. “I think Locksley’s really tired and you’ve got that website bookmarked on your phone and are spending a questionable amount of time memorizing baby facts. And, uh...I might have mentioned something to him.”

“About the pillows?”

“What?”

Killian shook his head, running his hand through his hair and Emma was still biting her lip. It was probably good that his heart had already exploded because it kind of felt like it was sinking or just turning into cement and neither one of those things even made sense. “That’s...that’s what they were talking to me about,” he said slowly, trying not to sound too disappointed. He knew it didn’t work as soon as he looked back at his phone screen.

“Well, that’s stupid. I didn’t even mention the pillow thing. I’m going to...check him or something.”

“Locksley?” Emma nodded, standing up and pacing a small semicircle in front of her desk. “Swan, you’ve got to sit down, love.”

She ignored him. “Is your leg ok?” she asked instead. “You’ve got to stop blocking shots, it’s freaking me out.”

“It was a power play.”

“I don’t care.”

Killian laughed, some of the tension in his shoulders easing at the determined sound of her voice and the way she kept twisting the ends of her hair around her fingers and he’d buy her a pillow every day for the rest of his goddamn life it meant he got to keep all of this.

“Did Ariel look at it?” Emma continued. There was a Powerade on her desk. “Is it several disgusting colors at once?”

“Nah, she just prodded my hand.”

“What happened to your hand?”

“Getting checked is an occupational hazard, Swan.”

“Yeah, I don’t care about that either,” she sighed, closing her eyes lightly. “You keep sending me pillows. You skipped LA though.”

Killian hummed, a noncommittal, post-intervention noise, like that proved what a mature, capable human being he was and not the slightly nervous of the future, hopeful that he could do this kind of mess he absolutely was.

“Seemed to make the most sense,” he muttered. Emma opened her eyes, staring at him as intently as she could from 33rd Street with a phone in the way or the cloud or however technology worked.

“There’s like...a small mountain of pillows on the bed now. I had to put some in the closet because they kept falling off.”

“Yeah, I think Red’s starting to get pissed off that I’m treating her like my pillow intern.”

“Are you making her buy them?” Emma asked, a hint of laughter in the question and she was smiling again.

Killian shook his head quickly, mumbling no no no under his breath. “I give her the money. It’s not like I’m forcing her to pay for anything. I just can’t go to team stores when I’m supposed to be on the ice. You know every store has shipping options on-site? She figured that out though, I can’t take credit for that part.”

“You know, I’ve been wondering about that. I couldn't figure out how you were getting them here so quickly. The math didn’t make sense at all. But...”

“Yes,” Killian said, answering a question he was only half certain she was trying to ask.

“Mind reader.”

“A suspicion,” he corrected and Emma hummed in approval. “They’ve definitely all been overnighted so they get there quickly and efficiently and a whole slew of other adverbs that aren’t as romantic as this is supposed to be.”

Emma grinned, easy and meaningful and maybe he didn’t really need the intervention. “Romantic, huh?” she asked. “You know, I think the websites call this nesting, Jones.”

“A bit of column A, a bit of column B. Mostly I just want to make sure you’re eating regularly.”

“You’re going to do dangerous things to your blood pressure if you keep worrying about everything, you know.”

“Swan, I skated for twenty minutes tonight. That’s from the official NHL site. My blood pressure is perfectly fine.”

She laughed loudly, eyes bright and green and he couldn’t come up with a single thought that wasn’t just how much he loved her and wanted and home had pillows and Emma was home and it was far too sentimental for anything that even resembled the real world, but he kept overnighting her team-branded pillows, so it kind of made sense.

“Hey,” Emma said suddenly, voice just a bit softer and Killian nearly crashed his head into the wall when he jerked up to look at her. “Are you freaking out? Because that might have been why I talked to Locksley in the first place. I just figured…”

“Figured what, Swan?”

“I didn’t even mention the pillow thing to him, that was all Locksley and A. I just, well, Anna keeps sending all this stuff and I don’t know what to do with twenty pairs of hand-stitched socks and it’s really nice, but it’s also...a lot.” Emma took a deep breath, pursing her lips like she was considering her next words carefully and Killian tried not to start shouting questions at his phone.

“I’ve just...I’ve never had that and I don’t know how to be a mom and there are so many socks here, Killian. I’m going to lose all of the socks and she keeps sending them and I can’t keep track of them between the pillows and all the food Mer keeps trying to actually force feed me and I just really want to do this right, but I can’t even handle handmade gifts from your sister. That can’t be a good starting point, right?”

She sighed again, her whole body sagging forward slightly and one arm wrapping around her middle and Killian did his best to just will his certainty through the phone.

“Emma,” he said and she rolled her whole head in response. “Swan, c’mon, look at me for two seconds.” She did, widening her eyes and lifting her eyebrows. “Why didn’t you tell me about Banana sending all that stuff? I could have talked to her.”

“Because it’s nice,” she groaned. “Like insanely nice and over the top and they’re all patterned and there’s hockey pucks on one of them and she made a hat that’s all Rangers colored and we’re never going to have to buy any clothes because Anna can probably just make all of them.”

“I mean, we should probably buy the kid some real clothes. Maybe something that isn’t team-branded.”

“Please,” Emma muttered. “It’s going to be some kind of miracle if he’s not just decked out in head to toe blue for the rest of his life.”

Killian scoffed, but he couldn't really argue the point either and Matthew Jones, currently the size of a peach per that one website, was already the single most spoiled child in the entire New York metropolitan area.

And possibly the continental United States.

“It’s really nice,” Emma said again. “But I have no idea what to do with all of these socks. And why the socks?”

“She needs to be knitting-intervention’ed. Also I didn’t know that Banana even knew how to knit until I talked to El a couple minutes ago.”

“Is that what it is? Knitting? Because I honestly had no idea. That can’t be a good sign either.”

“Of what, Swan? Your ability to raise another human being? I don’t think being able to pick out stitches is a prerequisite.”

She made some kind of ridiculous noise, almost smiling and he needed to get off the floor so he could get on a plane and go home to a mountain of pillows and Emma and the rest of his goddamn life.

They were going to win again that season. He was sure.

“I’m kind of freaking out,” she mumbled, each one of the words pushed into the next one so it sounded like one enormous syllable.

Killian nodded, dimly aware of a shadow just out of his line of vision and his fifteen minutes were up. “Yeah, I know, love,” he said. “But some kind of team, right? Equally prone to freaking out and bankruptcy via pillows.”

Emma let out a shaky laugh, dragging the heel of her hand across her cheek. “Yeah, that was the agreement, right? Some kind of ridiculously long extension.”

“Exactly that.”

“That is a horrible analogy.”

“No, I like it,” Killian countered, grinning in spite of the nerves and the worry and the questionable number of pillows in their apartment. They were going to be good at this. He was sure. “Lifers with one team.”

“That is almost pitifully bad.”

He grinned at her. “It is. I love you.”

“I love you too,” Emma whispered, arm back around her middle and he definitely wasn’t imagining things when she stood up, grabbing her keys and the half-finished bottle of Powerade off her desk. “Soon, right?”

“Soon,” Killian promised. “Don’t wait up.”

“I’m definitely going to wait up.”

She didn’t – and Killian was sure it wasn’t for lack of trying, but he dropped his bag on the floor just inside the door to find Emma asleep on the couch, two pillows under her head and the blankets pooling around her waist and his heart was probably just going to stage some biological revolt at this point because he kept throwing emotions at it.

Metaphorically.

He toed out of his shoes and he’d taken his tie off before he even got on the plane, but there was still a button-up on under his championship t-shirt and he only paused long enough to tug that off too, dropping it on top of his bag, right next to a UPS box that, he was sure, was filled with hand-knitted socks, before walking across the living room.

Rangers in 60 was playing on the TV.

Killian sat on the edge of the couch, every single muscle protesting at the need to try and support himself with any of his lower body and he was fairly certain that bruise on his calf was questionably green at this point.

She’d changed – dress and blazer becoming leggings and team-branded and his number on her back, just visible when she seemed to twist toward his hand out of instinct, eyelids fluttering when Killian’s fingers trace absently over the curve of her shoulder.

“Hey,” Emma mumbled, the word landing, mostly, into one of the pillows. “I totally wasn’t asleep.”

“Of course not, Swan,” Killian grinned. His hand didn’t stop moving, brushing across her side and her waist and over her stomach.

“It’s because I sleep like garbage when you’re not here.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah,” she said, nodding and only managing to knock one of the pillows on the floor. Her hand came up to rest on his, thumb brushing across the back of his palm and the scars there and doing anything except kissing her felt like some sort of insanity that would require another locker-room intervention.

It probably wasn’t good for any of his muscles – twisted around as he was, with one hand still on her stomach and the other in her hair and his feet doing their best to stay firmly planted on the floor so he didn’t just fall off the couch – but it didn’t matter when Killian could feel Emma sigh against him, like she’d been waiting for that all night and he definitely had.

“If I blame hormones from the start is it super lame to say that I missed you on a two-game road trip?” Emma asked, eyelids fluttering again and he hadn’t actually pulled his forehead away from hers.

Killian made a noise, a contradiction without actually using words and he kissed her again before he answered. “No, love,” he whispered.

“Is your leg ok?”

“It’s fine.”

“Liar.”

“It’s green.”

“Yeah, I kind of figured. But that’s a good sign, right? Add that to the list of things I should know about. Knitting and appropriate bruise color.”

“You don’t need to know either one of those things, Swan,” he said, smiling when Emma whined softly as soon as he stood up. “No one knows about any of those things. You’re...you’re going to be so good at this, Emma. I  know it.” She blinked blearily at him, something in her gaze that seemed to settle in the very center of him and he smiled at her.

“A collective we,” she mumbled, mostly into his shoulder blade. “But you really do have to relax because we both can’t freak out at the same time. That’s not practical at all.”

“That is decidedly out of my control, Swan.”

“Or just generically out of control.”

“Yeah, maybe that too,” Killian admitted, pressing a kiss against her temple. She made a noise in the back of her throat, a contented sound that felt like home and sounded a hell of a lot like a family and maybe, at some point, he could figure out what kind of food schedule Merida had come up with.

And maybe get Emma a pillow for her desk chair. Those had to exist. If he was going to keep telling her to sit down, she should, at least, be comfortable.

Her eyelids were fluttering again, telltale signs of looming sleep when she tried to burrow back into the small mound of blankets she was still underneath and Killian smiled. He slept like shit on the road. “Weren’t you supposed to have a hat too?” Emma asked. Her eyes were completely closed. “And like...a Sports Illustrated cover or something?”

“We only won the Metro, Swan, not another Cup.”

“Yet.”

He kissed her again – mostly because he moved before he realized he’d actually decided to move and Emma made a noise again, fingers tugging on the front of his shirt. “Were there socks in that box over there?” Killian asked and Emma hummed, not even bothering to open her eyes when her lips quirked.

“Probably. It was here when I got home.”

“I’ll call her tomorrow. That’s insane.”

Emma laughed softly, or maybe just started falling asleep again, but she cracked open one eye and tried to blow the piece of hair away from her forehead without actually moving. “I knew you were going to be a giant, overprotective weirdo. You going to go crazy on this playoff run?”

“I have no idea what you’re suggesting, Swan.”

“Yuh huh.”

Killian was still smiling and he almost forgot about his calf and film the next afternoon. He was home and he was going to sleep for several, uninterrupted hours and then he was going to tell Emma Swan he loved her, at least, forty-six times and plan their kid’s entire future. “C’mon, love, you can’t sleep here,” he said. “We own a bed.”

“It’s covered in pillows.”

He squeezed one eye shut, wincing slightly, but Emma took his outstretched hand, wrapping her fingers around his and leaning against his chest as soon as she stood up. “Yeah,” Killian sighed. “I’m...that’s some kind of misplaced effort at proving something.”

“I know,” Emma said, sleep clinging to every single letter. He’d never heard her more clearly.

“What?”

“I know,” she repeated. “I’ve known that the whole time. It’s nice. This whole home thing we’re doing. It’s...we’re going to be good at this. Like. Really good.”

They hadn’t actually moved away from the couch or towards the bed and he was probably just going to sleep in the button-up at this point, but none of those things matter and Killian was fairly certain the world shifted or something equally dramatic, so he wasn’t really worried about his clothes.

“Yeah we are,” he said, brushing his lips over the top of her hair and they fell asleep on top of pillows and blankets and his hand on her stomach.

Chapter Text

“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.

For sure.

Absolutely.

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.

Metaphorically.

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?”

“What?”

“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.”

“Swan.”

“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.”

“Sap.”

“Honest.”

“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.”

“Kind of?”

“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.

She didn’t.

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?”

“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.”

“Emma.”

“Killian.”

“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.

They’d won.

Again.

“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.”

“Spooky.”

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.

“Where?”

“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.”

“Deal.”

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.

Chapter Text

The whistle sounded impossibly loud.

That was probably because it was more than one whistle.

And none of them would stop making noise.

Killian didn’t really know how it started – six minutes into the second period and playoff hockey was, well, playoff hockey so a little extra physicality was to be expected, but this was a second-round series with Pittsburgh and Game Six at the Garden and they could clinch tonight.

They should clinch tonight.

It would probably be easier to clinch if they all weren’t trying to punch each other. And, in the case of Robin, trying to slash some guys Achilles until he couldn’t skate ever again.

That probably didn’t fall under the parameters of playoff hockey. All the whistles were starting to make sense.

And maybe there had been a few words exchanged.

“You’ve got quite a temper on you, don’t you, Locksley?”

The voice was barely audible over the din of the crowd and those goddamn whistles, but Killian knew Robin could hear it as well as he could and the guy – whose name might have actually been Keith– kept smiling.

The Penguins were the worst.

“God, shut up,” Robin yelled back, but the words got a bit muffled when Will tried to hold him back and neither one of them was doing a very good job of staying on their skates.

Phillip was still punching someone.

That whistle sound was going to be ingrained in Killian’s brain for the rest of the postseason.

He wouldn’t argue if it meant there was a lot more left to the postseason – particularly when he knew there was a suite full of people expecting more postseason sitting several sections above the ice.

Keith whatever his last name was grinned, the shift of his eyebrows obvious even through his visor, and Killian rolled his shoulder back when someone tried to pull him away from the scuffle. “Get off me,” he hissed, not bothering to turn around or glance behind him and the hand was gone as soon as it arrived.

Robin was still trying to break free of Will’s hold, swinging his stick at anything within a two-foot radius.

It took half a second for him to, finally, break free, surging forward, and Killian was only slightly surprised there weren’t actual lasers shooting out of his eyes.

“Aw, fuck,” he muttered under his breath. He couldn’t hear Will, but he assumed he mumbled something along the same lines.

Phillip’s hand collided with some defender’s jaw.

Arthur was going to scream himself hoarse.

Keith, if that was even his name, gave as good as he got – gloves forgotten on the ice and balance questionably steady even when Robin gripped the front of his jersey. There was a bruise blossoming just under his eye, jaw a bit more swollen than any part of his face should have been and Killian hoped someone in that suite a few sections above the ice had taken the questionable number of painfully adorable kids into the hallway.

Henry had probably done it.

He had, at some point, become the de facto leader of the group and was already home from school and, at nineteen years old, almost an adult in his own right – who still refused to wear anything except a Jones jersey in the postseason.

That did absolutely nothing to Killian’s mind or heart or central nervous system.

And that was as much of a lie as any he’d ever told, but he didn’t have much time to worry about that, eyes darting back towards a still-fighting Robin. He’d lost his footing, knees colliding with the ice as Keith topped down with him and the one linesman was going to wear out his goddamn whistle.

“Get him the fuck up,” Arthur screamed from the bench, tie just a bit looser than it had been at the start of the second. “If he gets a major, I’m going to kill him!”

“If he gets a major, Regina is going to kill him,” Will muttered.

Killian rolled his eyes, ignoring the pain in his lower back from whoever had checked him a few minutes before and that seemed like the beginning of everything. He’d been twisting around the net, or at least trying, puck on his stick and Robin in front and there’d been a sliver of space that would have set up another goal.

It would have been a hell of a pass.

It definitely would have impressed all the painfully adorable kids in that suite.

And, like, maybe Emma, but Killian wasn’t still trying to impress his wife every time he stepped onto the ice.

Probably.

That was also a lie.

And he was just about to flick his wrist when the cross-check came, knees slamming into the boards and breath rushing out of him and Killian was going to have to sleep on his stomach for the rest of the week.

It all went to hell after that.

Keith yelled something else at Robin and Killian had never seen him that angry before – at least on the ice – throwing his gloves down without so much as a word or a challenge and landing a left hook that could have earned him his own nickname from Roland.

“She’s probably already come up with sixteen different ways to turn this into an endorsement deal,” Killian said, drawing a sardonic laugh out of Will. “I’m more worried about, Rook, honestly.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s a good point. Aurora’s kind of…”

“Intense?”

“I was going to say super controlling and worried about the image, but, you know, whatever.”

“You know I can hear you, right?” Phillip asked, lifting his gaze away from the Pens player he was punching to cast a sarcastic smile their direction. Killian shrugged.

“I don’t think we were trying to be secretive about it. You about done wrecking that guy’s face or you want to leave your kid with some more lasting memories of violence?”

“Aw shit,” Phillip muttered. He dropped the guys jersey as if it were burning, pushing away with slightly more dejected shoulders and the smile had fallen off his face as quickly as it arrived. “Damn, I didn’t even think about that.”

“That makes you a way worse dad than Cap,” Will grinned and Arthur was still screaming something from the bench.

Probably because Robin and Keith were still on the ice.

Phillip rolled his eyes, wrapping an arm around a Pens player when he tried to move back towards the fight. “Don’t move,” he advised, eyes flitting back towards an expectant Will who did not seem the least bit surprised that they were having this conversation. Arthur sounded like he was having several different coronaries.

“You got something else you want to add, Rook?” Will asked.

Phillip scowled. “I mean not really, you’ve already made me feel like complete crap, so job well done, Scarlet.”

“You got some good hits in. That guy’s probably concussed now.”

“Aw, c’mon.”

“Jeez, Scarlet,” Killian sighed. “Can we not joke about head injuries, please? Like actually consider the words before they’re out of your mouth, huh?”

“That’s not disagreeing with me that Rook isn’t detrimentally affecting his kid by fighting with some Pens asshole, though,” Will pointed out.

“Scarlet. I’m going to get a major if you don’t shut up.”

“Yeah, Gina probably wouldn’t like that either. Although, let’s be honest, you’re easier to get endorsement deals for than Locksley is.”

Killian shook his head, another vaguely sarcastic comment on the tip of his tongue, but he didn’t have time and one of the refs must have gotten a new whistle. This one was, somehow, shriller.

Maybe he got it from Arthur.

Arthur probably just carried spares with him.

“Cap,” the ref said brusquely and Killian nearly lost his edge spinning around. “We’d really like to play a hockey game if your guys are done beating the shit out of each other.”

Will did his best to turn his laughter into a convincing cough, but Phillip wasn’t quite as successful and Killian’s surprised reaction was probably all over the subReddit already. Arthur groaned from the bench.

“Yeah, yeah,” Killian said quickly, shaking his head like that would make any of this more believable or less absurd. “Two for Locksley?”

The ref blinked.

Arthur stopped yelling.

Will probably wouldn’t ever laugh again.

“You’re kidding, right?” the ref asked and he was laughing, which really just seemed unfair.

Killian rolled his shoulders, standing up a bit straighter and digging his heels into the ice. He knew it wasn’t possible to feel their stares on the back of his head or in between the letters on his back, but the world didn’t seem to care about that and Killian knew there were three very concerned people in that suite, staring straight at him and waiting for him to do something.

Except maybe Peggy.

She was two – and a half – the likelihood of her understanding multiple penalties seemed slim to none.

Mattie and Emma on the other hand…

Killian sighed.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” he asked, resting his weight on his stick and Robin’s lower lip was bleeding.

Gina was going to kill them all.

And then probably spin this into some kind of endorsement deal.

God, Lucas was going to yell so loud.

Killian didn’t have much time to think about any of that though – trying to find an inch of space in the penalty box that wasn’t occupied by someone else and Phillip hit him in the ankle with his stick.

There were four of them in the goddamn penalty box.

At least Killian’s bewildered expression would make the back page of The Post. They were definitely going to lead with this. They looked ridiculous. And the league rep sitting in the corner looked somewhere close to amused.

Killian sighed again.

“Cap, if you don’t stop sighing I’m going to check you in the spleen right here in this box,” Phillip warned, earning a quiet chuckle out of Sean.

Killian hadn’t even realized Sean had been fighting, but he’d apparently lost complete control of his team and this game and they really needed to clinch tonight if they wanted to avoid being the lead story on several different sports talk shows.

Except SportsCenter.

They’d get buried on SportsCenter behind the NBA no matter what they did.

“You are not really helping your cause for not being incredibly violent here, Rook,” Killian muttered, running an agitated hand through his hair and he couldn’t see into the suite, but he knew where it was, glancing up like staring repentantly at the spot his wife and kids were sitting would, somehow, make any of this better.

Phillip cursed under his breath.

And the league rep clicked his tongue in reproach.

“You guys want to relax?” Sean asked, nodding in the direction of the suite and the clipboard Killian had never really understood the purpose of. “And does anyone want to tell me what the hell is going on?”

“Do you not know?”

“Do you, Cap?”

“I know that you got two for slashing and now you’re telling me that you’re not aware of that?”

“Ok, that’s not what I said at all,” Sean groaned. “I am asking how the fight started, exactly. Aside from that guy cross-checking you. But it’s the second round, usually they let that shit go.”

“Yeah, tell that to my spine,” Killian muttered.

Phillip’s laugh was more a snicker than anything else, but he was almost smiling when Killian turned to glare at them, the sound of their sticks hitting against each other nearly as loud as the whistles has been. “I think that’s a sign you’re old, Cap,” Phillip said. “And Sean’s slash, your two for roughing, my two for two for interference and Locksley’s five for fighting all came because that guy was a dick.”

Killian wished he could think of something to do besides sighing.

Robin was staring at his skates.

“Locksley,” Killian said, doing his best to keep his voice sharp and intent and he knew it didn’t work when Robin’s eyebrows jumped up his forehead.

“I’m not Matt, Cap, you don’t get to try and discipline me. It’s not going to work.”

“I’m not.”

“Cap.”

“Cap,” Phillip repeated and, at least that time, Killian rolled his eyes instead of sighing.

“You seriously got an interference? How did that even happen?”

“Oh before the play. Like, at least a solid twenty seconds before that Traval guy started saying shit to Locksley. He probably should have gotten a misconduct, actually, but you know, playoff hockey or whatever.”

“Whatever,” Killian echoed. Robin was rocking between his skates, balancing his weight and he couldn’t seem to stop moving his tongue – the point of it pressing against either side of his cheeks and swiping over the front of his teeth and in between his lips. “What’d he say, Locksley?”

Robin exhaled, but it sounded a bit like a scoff and they were going to run out of time before they got any kind of answer.

Killian’s eyes darted back towards the ice when he heard the crowd erupt, not entirely sure, at first, if they were cheering or cheering, but Hudsill, the new goalie the Rangers had drafted two years before, made a save and it sounded like the entire Garden was shaking.

Five-on-three hockey in the playoffs was not good for anyone’s blood pressure.

“Hell, yeah, Hudsie,” Phillip yelled, rapping his glove-less hand on the penalty box door and Killian barely paid any attention to the league rep. He was way too busy yelling too.

And he almost didn’t hear Robin.

“He said some shit about the kids.”

Phillip’s hand fell back to his side like an anvil, Sean’s eyes going wide and Killian’s mouth going dry – even the league rep looked a little stunned. Robin shrugged slightly, but his grip on his stick was tight enough that his knuckles had gone white.

“Kids,” Killian said, Robin rolling his eyes when he kept repeating words. “I’m just trying to understand what the hell you’re talking about.”

“That’s what I thought I heard,” Phillip mumbled. “God, what a dick.”

Robin hummed in agreement, lips pressed together and they’d clearly all been wrong before because they’d forgotten about Ariel and she was going to be more pissed off than anyone that they’d wasted five minutes of the postseason fighting.

Killian’s hand hurt like hell.

And his back.

God, maybe he was old.

“A total dick,” Robin agreed. “I’m pretty sure he was trying to goad Scarlet at first, but then Cap got checked and that was already fucked up and Traval started talking some shit about Rol not making the U15 cut--”

“--Wait, what?” Killian balked and the league rep wasn’t even trying to mask his eavesdropping. He was straight up listening at this point. “How does he know that?”

“Cap, everyone knows that. It’s...it’s a small community and a gossipy one, and I know I shouldn’t have let it get to me, but it did. Rol’s been upset for a month. Barely comes out of his room and wasn’t even excited about Henry coming back for the series and…”

He was still talking, but Killian couldn’t quite hear over the ringing in his ears and it kind of felt like his tongue was expanding at the same time his lungs were shrinking, everything tightening until he was certain the only thing he’d ever feel again was the deep-seated desire to punch Keith Traval in the face.

“Cap,” Sean said cautiously and Killian nearly stepped on Phillip when he jerked back. There was not enough room in the box for four players – apparently determined to defend an entire squadron of children and the only reason Rol hadn’t made the cut for the national team was because he’d only just turned fourteen and he might have been big for his age, but he wasn’t all that great at hitting and this was an unmitigated disaster.

They were all a bunch of shit role models.

And Scarlet hadn’t gotten a penalty.

They were never going to hear the end of that.

“I’m probably going to kill him,” Killian warned, not directing the statement at anyone, but Robin’s lips quirked slightly and he was trying not to smile.

“I kind of already did."

“Yeah, understandable. God, I hope you broke his jaw.”

“That’d get me a misconduct.”

Killian hummed, dimly aware of the thirty seconds left in his penalty and they were still, somehow, winning this game. “Killing him would probably do that too, huh?”

“Probably.”

“He say anything else?”

“If I tell you that, you’re going to try to take him out at the ankles,” Robin said and it sounded like the league rep actually chuckled. “You want to get a very angry phone call later?”

“They’re going to call no matter what,” Killian reasoned. “El’s got some very specific thoughts on how you’re supposed to move your shoulder when you punch someone so you don’t do damage to your rotator cuff.”

“God, why does she know that?”

“Because Banana spends a lot of time talking to Red and I think Belle found some kind of study some time that Red likes to source and bring up in conversation.”

“It’s weird that they’re doing that.”

Killian arched an eyebrow. “Is it? Seems pretty par for the course.”

“That was the worst attempt at a Vankald cliché I’ve ever heard,” Robin laughed. This conversation was very strange. And probably not appropriate for the penalty box. Killian really needed to put his gloves back on. “Forget El and Anna calling you. I’m going to call them and tell them what a disappointment you are.”

“And old,” Phillip added, moving into the tiny bit of space behind Killian and the Pens goalie was tapping his stick on the other end of the ice. “Don’t forget that part. He’s going to complain about that cross-check all night.”

“It hurt,” Killian yelled. “When my back is bruised to fuck you guys are all going to feel bad.”

“Sure it did, Cap. Sure it did. Let’s not pretend like not you’re going to complain to Emma so you guys can spend at least five minutes making out in the back corner of the restaurant after this game is over.”

“God, that was so many double negatives.”

The league rep laughed again, somehow leaning around all of them to swing the door open and Killian wasn’t sure if he was actually bobbing on his skates or just chock-full of several dozen emotions and it might have been all at once because his eyes definitely flitted towards the team suite before his skates hit the ice.

“Or,” Robin called, sinking back onto the bench with his stick resting on his knee. “You know, you guys could just score another goal!”

“It’s not a bad plan,” Will yelled. He was still in the zone, puck on his stick and he looked exhausted because, honestly, five-on-three at any time was the absolute worst, but his wrists twisted and Killian was already moving.

It was instinct.

Plus maybe a bit of age or experience. Whatever. And since he couldn’t get another penalty without possibly affecting his kids’ psyche for the rest of their lives, scoring a goal after a game-changing penalty kill seemed like the next best option.

And the Pens were trying to change – but it was the second period and it was a long change and there was more than enough open ice in front of Killian that he didn’t really have to make much of a move.

He did anyway.

He juked, forehand to backhand and these moments were just a little bit more fun when the goalie, quite clearly, lost sight of the puck, eyes darting across the ice like he was trying to find a needle in an ice-covered haystack.

That was a better cliché.

Maybe he’d call Elsa later. Or just tell Mr. and Mrs. V – who were both in that same team suite and probably wearing the number twenty and making sure both of his kids didn’t notice him fighting. Emma was probably working.

And Killian was showing off for Emma.

Always. Indefinitely. Through several different contracts and a whole slew of endorsements and the closest Pens defender was half a step away when Killian pulled his stick back.

The light went off.

He knew it would, but even thinking that felt a little too confident, particularly after a god-awful string of penalties that, at this point, would probably be a sidebar in The Post’s game story.

The Garden erupted again, cheers and shouts and Killian spun on his skates, his own cry on his lips when he threw his hands out, stick still gripped tightly in his right hand.

“You might want to watch the backhand next time,” Killian said, muttering the words just loud enough that the Pittsburgh goalie could hear him before he jumped against the boards, a small hoard of fans pressed there and beating against the glass and the goddamn Post was going to have so many options for its backpage, it was almost absurd.

They won.

And Killian kind of knew that was going to happen too.

“I’m just pointing it out,” Will said, hours and one vaguely tense post-game that saw Ruby yell at several different reporters while trying to push one local cameraman out of the locker room, later. “You know, for posterity, or something.”

“Or something,” Emma muttered. She lifted her eyebrows when Will tried to argue and maybe Killian should be taking leadership classes with her because the expression resulted in silence and an only slightly disgruntled NHL defenseman in front of them.

An NHL defenseman who was desperately trying to make sure everyone in the great Tri-State area knew he hadn’t gotten a penalty.

“That’s kind of rude, Em,” Will said, already holding up his hands as if he were admitting defeat before she could claim it. “This is a monumental occasion.”

“I think that’s just a sign that you’re usually the one drawing penalty minutes.”

“Exactly!”

“And that’s supposed to be some kind of good thing?”

Will shrugged, waving his hands through the air, and Killian couldn’t quite laugh without some kind of pain shooting through his side, but Emma had her head on his shoulder and their kids were playing makeshift hockey a few feet away and they’d won.

And he was really proud of that goal.

“He’s just trying to get several different endorsement deals out of Gina,” Killian mumbled, mostly into Emma’s hair. Will flipped him off. “Scarlet, my kids are here.”

“Trust me, they do not care what I’m doing at all,” Will promised. “I’m pretty convinced Dr. J is trying to check Rol into several different tables. They’ve appointed Henry as referee.”

“Somehow that doesn’t make me feel much better.”

“Yeah, it probably shouldn’t,” Will laughed, leaning around both Killian and Emma to grab a plate of something off the bar. “But Locksley’s over there and being used a jungle gym for Pegs so she’ll probably just get them all to do her bidding sooner or later.”

“Wait, what?”

“Cap, did you not know where your kids were?”

Killian glared at him, but Will just snapped his teeth on a slightly overcooked French fry in response. Emma sighed. “Go back to talking about how great it was that you didn’t get a penalty,” she suggested. “At least then you were tolerable.”

‘Wow, Em. That was incredibly harsh. I’m almost hurt.”

“Almost?”

“He’s got thick skin,” Killian mumbled. “And an even thicker head. He was making concussion jokes before.”

“Scarlet do you want me to punch you in the ribs?” Emma asked pointedly and it probably shouldn’t have been attractive to hear his wife threaten his teammate, but Will’s eyes widened slightly and she didn’t blink and Killian was pressing his lips to her temple before he’d considered any other option.

He wasn’t convinced there was one.

Will groaned. “God, it’s gross how into each other you two still are. It’s been several lifetimes.”

“Do you know how time works?”

“Seriously, Cap I can’t keep flipping you off all night, Belle’s going to get mad if she sees and A’ll yell at me. Don’t make that happen.”

“Somehow that doesn’t seem like it’d be my fault.”

“See, you think that, but Locksley was defending your honor before and--”

He cut himself off, eyes, somehow, going even wider and Emma clicked her tongue in frustration. “Make sure you let A know that you’ll need some more physical therapy,” she said, glaring several metaphorical daggers at Will. “Because I’m seriously going to kick you until you can’t stand up.”

“God, you are incredibly violent tonight,” Will muttered, but he hadn’t actually objected to the threat and the ringing was back in Killian’s ears. He kind of wished he was being used as a human jungle gym if only to have something to redirect all that energy too.

Emma lifted her head off his shoulder.

“How did you find out?” Will pressed. “When did you find out?”

“Find what out?” Killian asked, but Will waved a dismissive hand in his face, eyes not moving away from Emma’s. She was biting her lip.

“There’s talk about some fines,” she answered after a few strained moments and Will cursed, several different increasingly inventive sentences, under his breath. “No, no, there’s a happy ending to this. Kind of.”

Will stopped cursing. “Kind of?”

“I mean, you know Ruby. Zelena heard some mumblings from league reps and four guys in the box is…”

“Insane?”

“Exactly,” Emma nodded. “Plus there’s all that history with Pittsburgh and Traval has plenty of priors so Ruby went to talk to Locksley before post. I can’t believe you didn’t notice that.” She twisted, glancing expectantly towards Killian and it was a very specific challenge not to kiss her again. “How did you not notice?”

“I was kind of busy, Swan.”

“He’s fishing for compliments on that goal,” Will said knowingly, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

“It was a really good goal,” Emma said and they were still far too into each other because Killian’s heart hammered against his chest and he knew he was grinning like an absolute idiot, but her hand had found its way to the front of his shirt, the laces around her wrist falling down her forearm.

He tugged them back up.

“Show off,” Will mumbled and Killian hummed in response. “Keep telling your story, Em.”

She didn’t move her hand. “Anyway, Rubes talked to Robin, Robin told her what happened, Ruby got pissed off all over again, felt it was her moral obligation to defend, but didn’t want to tell me because then I’d probably have broken into the visitor’s locker room or something.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s fair.”

“You know,” Killian said. “None of this is exactly telling me what happened or why Locksley was defending my honor. That guy said shit about Rol, right?”

Will ignored him. “But how did you find out then?”

“Reese’s,” Emma winced, nodding in the direction of Mary Margaret. She was standing in front of a booth, David sitting down with a kid draped over his chest and all of them were wearing team-branded, matching looks of only recently-discarded annoyance on their faces.

Except the kid.

Leo was asleep.

“Ruby needed to tell someone apparently,” Emma continued. “And I have no idea why she told Reese’s, but it probably had something to do with being the only one who didn’t have access to the visitor’s locker room. I’m surprised A didn’t try to break down the door.”

“I’m not convinced she didn’t,” Will countered.

Killian sighed, which was becoming some kind of de facto noise at that point, but Emma tugged lightly on his shirt and her eyes were a bit glossier than normal when he glanced at her. “That Traval guy? He wasn’t just talking about Rol. It started that way, mostly to get a rise out of Robin, but he told Rubes it was like he was going down a list. He got to you and Mattie and something about fatherhood slowing you down, which makes your goal even more impressive honestly and--”

She ran out of oxygen.

Killian wasn’t sure he knew what oxygen was anymore.

“He’s a dick, Cap,” Will muttered, sounding as if he’d already come up with several different ways to slash the guy and make it look like an accident. “It’s a good thing we clinched tonight because I definitely would have killed him during a Game Seven.”

“Then you would have gotten fined,” Killian said.

“Would have been worth it.”

Killian hummed, turning back towards Emma and she was going to do permanent damage to her lower lip if she kept tugging on it like that. “What else?” he asked.

“It’s weird that you know that there’s more.”

“Swan, give me some credit, love, please. You didn’t even finish your sentence.”

“That’s because I kind of wanted to kill that guy too,” she admitted. “And I get kind of...God, what’s another word for skittish because that just sounds like a wounded animal or something.”

“Nervous?”

“Yeah, that’s probably a good one.”

“About?” Killian asked, but he had a pretty good idea about that too and he’d had his suspicions about the fight from the very beginning. There had to be a reason Robin tried to jump Traval the second time.

He was totally going to pay Robin’s fine.

Or make Gina get him another endorsement deal. Or, like, a TV gig.

“You fighting,” Emma whispered. “Or trying to fight.”

“I landed several different punches.”

“Yeah and I freaked about every single one. Ask Reese’s. It was almost embarrassing. There was a questionable amount of gasping and I think I actually got some pretty good air on my jump when you went into the boards. And--”

Killian didn’t let her finish.

He probably should have – but they were in the back corner of the restaurant and Locksley had defended his honor and Emma had started tugging on her laces at some point and he could just make out his kids’ laughter in the background.

And, well, they won.

So, really, it all kind of made sense.

Emma pressed up on her toes, slinging one arm around his neck, with her other palm against his chest and she kept holding onto the front of his shirt, like she was trying to make sure they were occupying the same few inches of space. That wasn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world. That might have been the best thing in the world.

He could still feel her smile when she kissed back, fingers finding their way into the hair at the nape of his neck and the dress she was wearing was only slightly frustrating – but Killian was almost content to brush his hand along the curve of her spine, particularly when she seemed to sigh against him.

They were stupid into each other.

Still. Always. Indefinitely. Several other adverbs.

Killian nipped at her lower lip, getting the reaction he’d been hoping for, something that was a mix between a gasp and a groan and Emma’s eyes were still closed when he pulled back.

“Oh that’s cheating,” Emma muttered. “It was a crazy good goal. I think Mattie’s going to try and practice that move for the rest of his life.”

“Even if he didn’t have to juke at all,” Will added. He’d moved at some point, sitting several stools away from them with another plate of French fries and something that looked suspiciously like the alcohol they weren’t supposed to be drinking in the middle of a playoff run. “Rook,” he called, Phillip’s answering what ricocheting off the walls of the restaurant. “You won, what kind of coffee do you want tomorrow?”

Killian groaned – from both this team’s propensity for making bets and how much his back ached when he slumped against Emma. She kissed the top of his head. “What the hell are you talking about, Scarlet?” he asked.

“Rook was under impression that you and Emma were going to spend at least part of your night making out in the back of the restaurant,” Will answered through a mouthful of fries and he didn’t flinch when a two – and a half – year old whirlwind of hair and Rangers branded apparel crashed into his thigh.

He hauled Peggy up, resting his chin on the top of her head and Killian wasn’t sure if he was supposed to be charmed or not. “But,” Will continued. “I was in your corner, Cap. And yours too, I guess, Em, since you were also part of the makeout.”

“Yuh huh,” she muttered. “You want to keep going or…”

“I mean, Cap’s going to be pissed if I don’t. Ah, sorry, Pegs.”

Peggy didn’t seem particularly put out by the mistake, far too interested in fried foods and various forms of potatoes and Will winced when she stood up on his thighs. He wrapped an arm around her waist to make sure she didn’t fall over.

“Finish the story, Scarlet,” Killian said and that felt a bit more like a command, but he was definitely losing some of his locker-room edge and it might have been the whole kid thing. He was not all that upset about it – especially when another blur of human being collided with his hip as hard as if he were being checked into the boards.

“Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad,” Matt chanted, yanking on the hem of his shirt and the side of his shirt and Killian could just barely make out Emma’s quiet you’re going to rip it, kid. “We have to practice checking!”

Killian’s head jerked up, narrowing his eyes at Will, who couldn’t hold up his hands when he was trying to make sure Peggy stayed balanced. “This was not my doing, Cap,” Will said quickly. “He was with Locksley and Rook. I was the one promising everyone that you weren’t going to make out with your wife in the back corners of restaurants.”

“I mean we weren’t really in the corner,” Emma reasoned. Phillip cackled from somewhere. “God, Rook, enough, you’re going to wake up, Leo.”

“Too late,” David said, joining the conversation with a squirming three-year-old somehow staying in his grip. “So, job well done, everyone. The punching and the making out and the betting on all of it. We’re all a bunch of a very responsible adults here. We should probably teach Matt how to check just to round it all out.”

“Jeez, Sergeant.”

“He’s tired,” Mary Margaret reasoned. “And he was trying to get A to let him into the visitor’s locker room while we were waiting on you guys to finish post. That took up a lot of his energy.”

“God, Pittsburgh is the worst team in the world.”

“Eh,” Ariel objected from behind the counter and Killian had no idea she’d been there. “I mean LA was pretty awful, we just don’t see them as often so you know...by comparison.”

Emma nodded in agreement, pulling Matt closer to her side and Killian had several different theories for that, but he wasn’t concussed and wasn’t really injured, aside from that one bruise that was probably going to linger through the entire Conference Finals and maybe if they got the kids home relatively soon they could make out in a real bed for awhile.

“Can we get back to the terms of the bets, please?” Phillip asked. He had one arm slung around Roland’s shoulders, a stick in his other hand. Kristoff was going to kill all of them. “I want to make sure Scarlet gets my order right before we get back to instruction.”

“Instruction?” Killian repeated and he was getting a little tired of that. Phillip’s smile widened.

“Locksley wasn’t kidding about calling Liam and El. He’s been on the phone with Liam for the last ten minutes. The two of them have been teaching Matt how to properly faceoff and check. It’s been almost as good as knowing that I'm getting free coffee tomorrow.”

“Oh my God.”

“Nah, nah, it’s really almost responsible, Cap. They’ve got a whole set of rules and everything. Scarlet, you got a pen? Because this is going to get complex.”

“Dad,” Matt yelled again, climbing onto the closest stool and several different adults moved to keep him steady when he clamored onto the top.

“We don’t even have to worry about checking,” Emma mumbled. “He’s going to jump off restaurant furniture before we can get him on the ice.”

“Can we go on the ice? Tonight? Tomorrow? Can I come to practice?”

Killian laughed under his breath, wrapping both his hands around Matt’s ankles. “I’ve only got film tomorrow, kid. And we’ve got to wait until the other series ends, right?”

“No practice?”

“Some practice, just not anything that’s going to be very exciting for you.”

“So we can check?”

“I’m going to murder your brother too,” Emma whispered, Killian nodding as soon as the words were out of his mouth. “Mattie” she said. “You can’t check anyone right now, ok? Let’s avoid that. Or ever. Ever seems better, right?”

“He’s got to check some people eventually, Em,” Will argued and people kept appearing out of nowhere, because Belle was next to him suddenly, a reproachful look on her face that seemed to match up perfectly with the way Ariel smacked at the back of his shoulder. “God, A, relax,” he hissed. “I was in a fight tonight.”

“And we’re doing something to fix that,” Robin said, joining the conversation with a phone in his hand and only a little lingering tension in the shift of his shoulders.

“Kind of,” Roland muttered traitorously. “Matt’s still having some trouble with the whole not hitting me in the calves thing.” Killian groaned, reaching blindly behind him for a stool, while Emma and Regina tried to figure out if Roland was bruised. “I’m fine, I’m fine,” he said quickly. “Your kid’s just got a crazy slap shot, Hook.”

And, really, he probably shouldn’t have been proud of that, but it had been a night for weird and slightly out-of-place feelings and Killian only just noticed the several tables pushed against the walls at the front of the restaurant.

God, maybe he should be paying for something for Eric too.

“I’m sure you guys are going to put all of that back, later, right?” Ariel asked archly, but there was a laugh from the phone in Robin’s hand and she was trying very hard to glare across the country towards Colorado. “Something to add, Liam?”

Killian couldn’t see him, but he was sure his brother shook his head and he was probably doing that stupid thing with his eyes – the same way he would when he got called for a roughing penalty and tried to deny he’d even lifted his stick.

It felt almost poetic that Liam was helping teach Matt how to check.

“Not a thing, A,” Liam promised. “Just...are there any marks on your table?”

“That’s a thing,” Will pointed and someone laughed in the background in Colorado. Several different people in the restaurant shouted Hey, El at the phone. She probably waved, if the answering smile on Will’s face was any indication. “I’m just saying, leader, totally a thing. And you don’t know how to check anyone, let’s leave that to the professionals, huh?”

“Did you even get a penalty tonight?”

“No.”

“Exactly.”

“Liam, please stop advocating getting penalties,” Ruby said, from the doorway, a wide smile on her face as well and Killian briefly marveled at her apparent wolf-like hearing abilities. “Also, in case anyone was wondering, I totally saved the day. You’re welcome in advance. Is there food?”

“This is a restaurant, Lucas,” Killian muttered.

“Wow, you are hysterical, Cap. You make out with Emma in the back corner of said restaurant yet?”

“See,” Phillip shouted. “I told you it was the default setting, Scarlet.”

“Ok, we are not robots,” Emma growled, but Ruby’s heels were already moving towards the lot of them and Liam might have fallen out of his chair several thousand miles away. Matt was still trying to get Killian to check something. “What did you do, Rubes?”

“Well, I’m assuming M’s already told you because I know she can’t keep secrets and--”

“David was trying to break into the visitor’s locker room,” Mary Margaret interrupted. Ruby’s eyes widened. “Yeah, you want to keep throwing out insults?”

Killian tried to bite back his laugh, but no one else seemed able to and Will was trying very hard not to choke when Peggy threw her arms around his neck. There was hair in his face.

Ruby twisted her lips, crossing her arms slightly and rocker her weight back on her feet. “Did he get in?”

“That’s your follow-up?” Emma balked.

“It’d be very easy for the NYPD to make that all go away, right? I mean, you’re a very fancy officer now, right? Get Olivia Benson on the case or something.”

“Those were not the words you were looking for,” David said. He was smiling anyway. “But, no, I didn't. A seemed very certain that it was a bad idea and after a few minutes of breathing exercises, I agreed. Plus we won and if Liam and Robin are going to teach Matt how to check, then that seems almost acceptable.”

“And don’t forget how to win faceoffs,” Liam added, working a not-so-quiet sigh out of Elsa. “That’s really the important part because, contrary to popular belief, I am not here to advocate for on-ice violence.”

“Yeah, tell that to most of my childhood,” Killian muttered.

“There’s a reason you took that hit so well tonight.”

“Are you ok, KJ?” Elsa asked and he still couldn’t see the phone screen, but Killian nodded anyway. “No torn ACLs?”

“Why would that happen?”

“That’s possible, actually,” Ariel added, wincing when she noticed the slightly stricken look on Emma’s face. “Unlikely though. So you know...plus…”

“Please stop talking,” Emma said.

“Yeah, that’s fair.”

“Does no one want to know how I saved the day?” Ruby asked, frustration creeping into the question and there were several mumbled versions of sorry Lucas from the peanut gallery.

“Go ahead, Rubes,” Mary Margaret said and Killian glanced at Emma, lips pulled tightly behind her teeth so she didn’t laugh.

“You are a paragon of responsibility, M’s. Anyway. Zelena was pissed…” She paused for a second, eyes flitting across the younger members of her audience, but none of them seemed to notice anything out of sorts. “Can we get away with that now? If it’s not going to be a thing, anymore?”

“God, Lucas, get on with the story,” Robin groaned. He huffed out a dramatic exhale, Regina’s hand on his shoulder and Roland kept staring at the ceiling.

“You alright, mate?” Killian asked, but he had a few more theories and Mary Margaret was very bad at keeping secrets or talking softly.

Roland nodded. “Fine. Why isn’t Dad getting fined, Rubes?”

“Because Zelena was crazy mad when she found out what really happened, nearly melted or something equally dramatic,” Ruby answered. “From me, by the way. She found out what really happened from me, because Locksley was going to be some kind of martyr.” She lifted her eyebrows accusingly in Robin’s direction, but he shook his head deftly and Killian thought he saw Regina’s hand tighten.

“Anyway,” Ruby continued. “Zelena called someone from the league who called someone else and we’re just going to...ignore it.”

“Ignore it,” Robin repeated skeptically.

“I mean they can’t fine him, Locksley. Not on hearsay and a reprimand for trash talk, but they’re not going to fine you and you won’t be suspended for the next round.”

Roland’s eyes bugged and Robin hissed when Regina’s hand gripped his shoulder a bit harder than necessary. Emma’s head snapped around, expression incredulous when she gaped at Killian and he hadn’t even considered a suspension.

“Was it close?” Regina asked, but there was a shake to her voice that didn’t ever belong there. Killian groaned when Matt leapt towards him – he caught him anyway.

Ruby shook her head. “Not really.”

“That’s not all that comforting.”

“He did punch that guy a lot.”

Regina rolled her eyes, a sound falling out of Roland that wasn’t quite a sigh, but not quite a groan either and Killian tried to shift Matt enough that he could wrap an arm around a different set of shoulders.

It ended with a knee in one of his organs and a very specific expression when he, finally, saw Elsa on Will’s phone screen.

“He’s fine, KJ,” Elsa said, but her eyes darted towards the teenager tucked against his side. “Right, Rol?”

“Yeah,” he muttered. “If Mattie didn’t break my ankle with his wrist shot.”

“It’s a crazy good wrist shot for a six-year-old, Killian,” Liam added. "Almost six, whatever."

Will cackled, working a frustrated quiet, Uncle Will out of the bundle of human hanging off his side. “I’m sorry, Peg, I’m sorry,” he muttered through a mouthful of hair. “Tell me something, leader, is that your professional opinion as a scout, a former NHL player or are you just trying to get bonus points for being Dr. J’s favorite?”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Don’t question it,” Emma advised. “Mattie, did you really shoot at Roland?”

Matt’s leg jerked at the sound of his name – ending with another knee in a different internal organ for Killian. “He was playing goalie, Mom! And I won the faceoff, so I got to take the shot.”

“Those are the rules, Emma,” Liam said. “They’re very serious rules for a very serious competition.”

“That so?”

“Why does it feel like this competition isn’t really between mini-Jones and Rol?” Ruby asked. She pressed her tongue to the corner of her mouth, turning expectantly towards an actual blushing Robin Locksley.

“It’s not like that, Lucas.”

“It’s a little like that,” Elsa corrected. “You need to put a stop to this, KJ. They’re arguing over faceoff technique and planning things for the offseason already. It’s intense.”

“I mean if he’s going to play center, he needs to learn from the best,” Liam shouted. “That’s just practical.”

“And presumptuous,” Robin mumbled. “There are new rules, Jones. They’re cutting down on cheating before puck drop.”

“Oh, it’s weird when there’s two of you with the same last name,” Emma laughed, turning on Killian with a smile on her face and her hand on Matt’s back.

“I’m going to assume you’re able to keep track of the differences, Swan.”

“I mean I’m not opposed to making out some more to ensure I know who’s who.”

“Is this weird?”

“A little,” she admitted, but she was still smiling. “But in an enjoyable kind of way. And we should probably just focus on getting you to stop first, huh, Mattie?”

“It’s a work in progress, love,” Killian promised. “He’s just naturally fast. Genetics or whatever.”

“Yeah, that sounded super legit.”

“Guys, seriously,” Will groaned and Killian nearly dropped Matt in surprise. “Did you hear any of the plan or the bet?”

“No,” Killian said. “And I really don’t care.”

“God, that is so disappointing.”

“He was flirting,” Elsa rationalized. “With his own wife. Which is you know...kind of nice, actually. When you think about it.”

Killian shook his head. “Sounding a little Banana-esque over there, El.”

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

“She’s going to be way too busy trying to get Kristoff to calm down because we all messed up our gloves with a questionable amount of fighting and honor defense.”

Robin tensed and it really couldn’t have been good for his eyes to keep widening to that size. “Oh, yeah,” he muttered. “So...that guy was kind of an asshole. Sorry, Pegs.”

“Yeah, so I heard. I was planning on paying your fine, though, so, you know, I think we’re almost even?”

Roland wasn’t even trying to mask his smile, moving back towards the mock rink at the front of the restaurant, and it only took a half a second for Matt to elbow, knee and kick Killian’s left leg before he was racing after as well.

“I think we’re even,” Robin agreed. “But I wouldn’t say no to having my honor defended as well at some point, just to know you’re still putting the work into the relationship.”

Killian laughed, head thrown back when Emma shook against him and, just like that, the tension of a series-clinching, fight-filled Game Six was forgotten.

They won.

“Is no one going to offer me a celebratory drink for saving the day?” Ruby asked. “Because that’s really...nonsense.”

“Nice save, Lucas.”

“Shut up, Cap. Someone provide me with champagne. I didn’t get any in the locker room while I was trying to put out metaphorical fires.”

They all got celebratory champagne eventually – Will’s phone stuffed in David’s jacket pocket because they’d avoided one fine already, seriously Scarlet – and it only took a few moments to realize what the plan and the bet were.

Faceoffs.

Liam gave Matt instructions and Robin gave Roland his own tips and Killian kept biting his lip when Liam was only very wrong because there really were new rules and Matt might win in a restaurant surrounded by professional hockey players, but a referee wouldn’t let that happen and--

“I need you to take, at least, eight-hundred deep breaths,” Emma muttered, twisting until she was standing in front of Killian with both hands on his shoulders and one side of her mouth tugged up. “Your freaking me out and I’ve been through the whole spectrum of that already tonight.”

“I’m sorry, love. That wasn’t the goal.”

“Was that supposed to be a joke?”

“No, just humor on the fly.”

She hummed, pressing up on her toes so she could brush her fingers over the back of his neck and Killian wasn’t entirely in control of his body when his eyes fluttered shut. “That’s almost impressive, Jones,” Emma grinned, pressing her lips to the edge of his mouth and they were very, very good at flirting. Even with the marriage certificate. Especially with the marriage certificate. “And I get it. It’s an occupational hazard, but I am kind of sort of super into you so I’m going to worry by default.”

“Is it weird to tell you that I appreciate that?”

“Not any weirder than humor by default and bad dad jokes.”

“Ah, it kind of was, wasn’t it?” Killian asked, but he couldn’t stop the smile from landing on his face and Emma’s nose scrunched when she nodded in response. “I love you a lot, you know that?”

“I had heard some rumors about that. A sidebar, maybe.”

“That’s got to be the penalty box thing, right? Lead with the goal.”

“You are really proud of that goal.”

Killian shrugged, but he absolutely was and Emma totally knew and he bent his knees as soon as he heard the patter of feet rushing towards him. He got hair in his mouth. “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,” Peggy shouted, wrapping her arms around his neck tightly and maybe they should have been concerned about her speed as well. She was very quick on her feet.

“What, what, what?”

“I wanna score too!”

Emma laughed softly, squeezing her eyes closed like she was trying to memorize the moment and they were all a bunch of over-competitive weridos.

“You don’t have a stick, little love,” Killian said. “Shouldn’t you be asleep?”

“Yeah, good luck with that,” Emma muttered. “Someone else was even more worried than I was about fighting and hitting.”

Killian clicked his tongue, pulling back to find a pair of very wide eyes and unruly hair and Peggy looked exhausted, but she was as stubborn as Emma. He didn’t say that out loud. “I’m fine, sweetheart,” he promised. “Nothing broken.”

“And only slightly swollen,” Ariel muttered from a few feet away. She was sitting cross legged on top of a table, a pad of paper in one hand and a pen in the other, likely keeping score for a bet Killian still didn’t know the stakes of.

“Seriously?” Emma asked sharply.

“Thanks, Red,” Killian growled, but she shrugged in response and Matt won another faceoff. The right way, that time. “I’m fine, Swan. Seriously. There’s a stick-shaped bruise on my back, that’s all. And my hand is sore, but that’s normal.”

She didn’t say anything, just twisted her lips slightly and her eyes traced over him – like she was looking for the lie or the telltale contradiction and no one had actually hit him in the face.

“Fine,” he repeated, ducking his head to catch her lips quickly and he could almost feel her relax. Until the two – and a half – year old in his arms objected to be squished.

Loudly.

“Sorry, babe,” Emma muttered, tickingling Peggy’s stomach until the shouts turned to laughs and Mary Margaret might have taken a picture.

Killian kind of hoped she did.

“Ok, ok, we have to come up with a rule for this,” Robin said, pulling their attention away from potential adorable family moments documented for posterity. "This is how you're supposed to check, kid."

“You guys just started punching,” Matt argued.

Emma sighed, burying her head in Killian’s shoulder. “Oh my God. We’ve created a monster. A fight first, set a penalty minutes record monster.”

“No, no, no,” Killian objected, but Matt was still coming up with counter points and Elsa was probably proud of his technique. She was still smiling on the phone screen. “We’re going to fix this, Swan. Parents of the year, every year forever and ever.”

“Good slogan.”

“That was another spur of the moment thing.”

“You are on a roll, Cap.”

He laughed, pressing a kiss to the top of her hair before they moved their way across the restaurant and Matt was bouncing the puck on the blade of his stick. “Hitting is part of hockey, right?” he asked and Liam winced in Colorado.

“Sorry, little brother,” he muttered when he noticed Killian and the glare that was probably etched on his face at that point. “It’s a small part, Matt. A very small part and if you’re going to check you’ve got to get under the shoulder blades otherwise you're going to--”

“Oh my God, Liam, shut up,” Emma hissed at the same time Elsa started cursing in Norwegian. Matt’s eyes widened at that as well.

A very curious, incredibly competitive monster.

“Kid,” Killian said, sharply and the puck fell off Matt’s stick. “Listen to me, ok? The only time you can hit anyone is if they’re touching the puck. And even then you shouldn’t because checking people slows you down.”

Matt considered that for a moment and Killian tried not to breathe, almost painfully aware of a metaphorical parents of the year trophy next to the Conn-Smythe at home. “I don’t want to be slow,” Matt muttered eventually.

“Good. Then only if they’ve got the puck. Understood?”

“Yeah.”

“Alright. You beating, Rol?”

“Only because he’s cheating, Hook,” Roland whined and all of them forgot about the rule and checking and Peggy fell asleep with her head on Killian’s shoulder.

Or, they forgot about it until years later and Roland had made the U16 and U18 team, and Matt was getting college looks and offer letters and he kept winning faceoffs. And he wasn’t really ever much of a fighter – was far too concerned with setting some kind of goal record for the Team USA U17 squad to be worried about penalty minutes, but there was a kid on Team Canada at Junior Nationals who kept chirping and kept trying to hit his ankles without the ref noticing and it all kind of happened quickly.

Killian wasn’t sure it even had until he heard Emma’s disbelieving laugh next to him.

“Holy shit,” Will breathed, David holding his own phone up to record the moment and Killian’s eyes had gone impossibly wide. “He totally remembered the rule.”

Matt had the puck on his stick, but it was gone half a second later – as if he’d passed it to the Canadian kid and it took less than a full breath and a slightly dramatic gasp from both Mary Margaret and Ruby for him to check the other teenager into the boards, leading shoulder first as his stick connected with the very prone and decidedly padless spot of his left calf.

“Oh my God,” Emma muttered, trying to keep a six-year-old Chris in his seat while Peggy yelled loudly at the refs in several different languages. Ruby was hysterical. “You know, I’m going to go ahead and blame the other Jones for all of this. We gave him rules, Liam was the one who was trying to get him to fight.”

Killian wasn’t sure if his pride was misplaced – particularly when Matt got two minutes for roughing – but it seemed to inch through every bit of him and might have exploded out of his center when the penalty box door opened and Matt had always been incredibly fast.

He barely slowed down when he crossed the blue line, something that looked like a smile on his face when he beat the defender and went forehand to backhand in front of the net.

The light went off.

“And you can take some credit for that,” Emma said, turning towards Killian with a smile that matched his own.

He kissed her quickly, ignoring Will and Robin’s comments and David’s laughter, and the United States beat Canada. Again. Or however it worked, technically, but there was a medal involved and Matt hugged both of them when they got onto the ice.

“Thanks for the tip, Dad,” Matt said and Killian barely got his laugh out before he wrapped his arm back around his kid’s shoulders and the picture got a ridiculous number of likes on Will’s Instagram.

Chapter Text

It should not have been a problem.

It wasn’t.

It was...it was the worst thing she’d ever seen, really. And by worst, she obviously meant best because words seemed to have lost all of their meaning at some indeterminate point that morning and Emma wasn’t sure she’d taken a deep breath in, like, the last ten minutes.

God, this was a problem.

She couldn't stop staring. Her eyes were staring to water, but her eyes simply would not close or blink or do anything except gape her husband, and she kept licking her lips because her mouth was actually hanging open, and that might have just been her body’s innate reaction to try and get some goddamn oxygen in her lungs.

Which was, actually, kind of nice if she stopped to think about it.

At least her body was determined to maintain consciousness.

Killian would lose his mind if she actually passed out in the middle of this thing. And that would take some explaining.

Emma groaned softly, rolling her head in between her shoulders and trying to find a way to stand in the corner of this room without drawing too much attention to herself. And, really, she did have work to do – she was supposed to be watching this whole goddamn event so she could send the video to Merida and there was something about Team USA, but Emma hadn’t really been listening to instructions because she was so distracted.

God.

She was going to burn those shorts he was wearing.

Or, maybe, like, frame them.

God. Again.

This was such a problem.

“Em,” Ruby called, and Emma nearly tripped over her own feet, jumping to attention and slamming her elbow into the wall she’d been cowering against in the process. She grumbled a string of curses under her breath, which wasn’t really helping her under the radar cause much at all, but Emma had more or less resigned herself to the disaster that this afternoon was shaping up to be.

She didn’t thinks he’d ever seen those shorts before. God, why was he wearing shorts? It was the single most distracting thing she’d ever seen.

There was just a lot of muscle.

And, objectively, she knew they were there. He played hockey for a living. It happened. Hockey thighs were real things with real blogs dedicated to them, but now these very specific ones were right there and the shorts weren’t helping and Emma was fairly sure that little indent just above Killian’s knee was actively trying to kill her.

She was staring again.

She was almost positive he was, somehow, flexing – feet propped on the bottom rung of a stool Ruby must have found somewhere because Emma had done absolutely nothing to actually help and maybe they should just tell everyone because then, at least, she’d have some sort of excuse for practically salivating over her incredibly muscular husband.

She really should be spending more time staring at Killian’s thighs.

That was the single weirdest sentence she’d ever thought.

“Emma,” Ruby yelled again, drawing a quiet snicker out of Will who, it seemed, had been roped into camera duty at the same time he was trying to keep Matt distracted.

“Yeah, yeah, here,” Emma mumbled. It didn’t quite ring true though, and her voice shook as much as her hand when she ran it over her face, trying to remember she was a professional with an ever-growing to-do-list and a very enthusiastic two-and-a-half year old and a frantic assistant stateside and, maybe in addition to staring at her husband's absurdly muscular thighs, they should stop having these life-changing kind of moments when they weren't in the continental United States.

It would probably just be easier that way.

“Yeah, you look it,” Will chuckled, wrapping an around Matt’s shoulders before he could try and launch himself at Emma. “Where’d you go?”

She twisted her eyebrows. “Excuse me?”

“You went all glossy and distracted and your eyes did that tired thing.”

“At the risk of repeating myself, excuse me?”

“Aw, c’mon,” Will shrugged, glancing around the room like he was looking for backup, but Ruby was trying to get Killian and Robin mic’ed up and there was a league rep somewhere and Roland and Henry had started sword fighting with the pair of discarded crutches in the corner. “You know what I mean,” Will continued. “It’s like you’re making lists in your head.”

“Scarlet, can you stop talking about Emma’s head and how many lists she’s absolutely making?” Killian muttered, hissing when Ruby, presumably, pinched his side. “God, Lucas, do you actually have claws for nails?”

She flicked his shoulder. “See, you think you’re funny, Cap, but you’re just making this harder for yourself. And Scarlet’s got a point, Em. What’s your deal?”

“I have no deal,” Emma promised, and it was a God awful lie. She shouldn’t have been lying in front of her kid like that. It was a bad example. For the future.

Jeez.

She needed to go to bed. And find something to eat. She was starving. She didn’t really want to eat.

This was a disaster.

“You should have practiced that one,” Ruby suggested. Killian shifted on the stool again, which did nothing to help distract Emma from his goddamn legs and the shorts and it felt like the room was on fire. She might have been fire.

Roland and Henry were still sword fighting.

“Shouldn’t you be standing on those?” Emma asked, nodding back towards the crutches, but she didn’t take her eyes off Will or the way he was only kind of balanced on his left foot.

He shrugged. “I mean technically.”

“Technically.”

“You guys should have some kind of great, big liar competition,” Robin mumbled. “Ah, shit, Lucas, what was that?”

“There are children present here, Locksley,” Ruby growled, staring pointedly at Matt and he absolutely did not care. There were video games to watch and another game to get ready for and the Rangers hadn’t made the playoffs, but Killian and Robin had gotten invited to Worlds and maybe this whole gaping at her husband thing started when Emma saw him in a Team USA jersey again.

The whole thing was incredibly cyclical.

“That was for being a jerk,” Ruby continued, widening her eyes in challenge and Robin might have blanched slightly. “Although, I mean, you do have a point.”

“Right?”

Ruby hummed noncommittally, but she glanced over her shoulder at Emma and her eyebrows might have been the single most judgmental things on the entire planet. Or, at least, in the country of Denmark.

“You’re not nearly as subtle as you think you are,” Emma muttered, and Matt had finally worked out of Wil’s hold. It was probably because Will couldn’t put much weight on his right knee and Ariel would teleport to Denmark and strangle him with her bare hands if he injured himself again. Or if Roland and Henry came home with bruises from his goddamn crutches.

Although she’d probably have to get through Regina first.

Matt, however, did not seem particularly inclined to care about any of that, tugging on Emma’s shirt and bobbing on the balls of his feet and Killian’s eyes kept darting towards her, a flash of concern and question and she really wished he’d put some goddamn fucking pants on.

She could not be expected to think coherent thoughts or properly parent their kid when he was sitting there like that, and staring at her like he was absolutely, incredibly in love with her.

Emma might have been blushing.

And Ruby kept looking at Will.

Cyclical indeed.

“Lucas can we get this show on the road?” Killian asked, and neither Will nor Robin could quite turn their laughs into convincing coughs.

Emma bit her lip.

Ruby’s eyebrows shifted again, a flash of something on her face that made Emma believe they all spent far too much time together. “Uh, yeah, sure Cap,” she said, voice shaking just a bit and smile threatening to practically crack her in half. “I mean, that’s the single most dad thing you’ve ever said, but…”

She trailed off, dissolving into something that was closer to a fit of giggles than the professional demeanor any of them were trying to hold onto.

Emma squeezed her eyes closed, tugging her kid closer to her side, and he didn’t really appreciate that – head colliding with her waist and there wasn’t really any physical evidence of anything yet, but Matt’s jaw came dangerously close to her stomach and Killian’s hitch of breath sounded impossibly loud.

Even when Roland started shouting about low blows and Henry countered with something that sounded like well, defend your weak side, then and Ruby nearly growled when Robin pulled his microphone out standing up.

They were all horrible adults.

“Guys, guys, guys,” Will shouted, but it didn’t hold much threat when he had to hobble towards Henry and Roland, and Robin was still trying to play mediator.

Ruby looked like she might be praying. To some kind of possibly benevolent hockey god who would let them film this goddamn video.

Emma was staring at Killian again.

“God, this was easier when there weren’t so many of us,” Ruby sighed. That didn’t really ring through either though, particularly when she flashed a smile Matt’s direction and Emma resisted the urge to point out she was the world’s biggest pushover for a two-and-a-half year old.

“Ah, that wasn’t a very good lie either, Lucas,” Killian grinned.

“Yeah, yeah, we’ll get Em to pencil in practice lying time on those post-it notes I know she’s got all over your room.”

“Nah,” Emma objected. “I’ve got it all memorized. I’m way more efficient during this international escapade. Totally learned from my mistakes.”

She was going to shave Ruby’s eyebrows off. Or something less drastic. Like get some food. Or find a chair.

Killian grinned at her. And possibly flexed his left thigh.

Emma wasn’t sure if that was possible.

“Right, right,” Ruby mumbled. “That wasn’t very convincing either, but I honestly do not have time for this and Mer is going to have a meltdown if we don’t get her something within the next forty-eight hours.”

“That is a gross exaggeration.”

“Yes, it is.”

“Oh, wow, I thought there would have been more bantering,” Emma blinked, Matt squirming against her side and she was pleasantly surprised that they hadn’t sustained several meltdowns over not being included in the great crutch battle.

The crutches were back under Will’s arms, Robin rolling his eyes in a put-upon way and he nearly knocked over the stool when he sank back onto it, letting Ruby poke and prod and get the microphone back into place.

“This better not take forty-eight hours,” he warned, clicking his tongue when Ruby swatted at his shoulder again.

“You know,” Will cut in, hooking his head over Roland’s shoulder and he was far too tall for an eleven-year-old. “You guys are coming into this with decidedly garbage attitudes. You’re playing video games for twenty minutes. It will not kill you.”

“Probably,” Henry chipped in. He slid down the wall at some point, one leg stretched out in front of him and the other tugged to his chest and whatever he was doing with his face was some weird combination of Killian and Robin that made Emma’s heart practically leap out of her chest.

“It’s a hockey game,” Ruby groaned, pushing a camera towards Will and he nearly fell over. “God, c’mon, Scarlet, take this seriously for two seconds.”

“I am!”

“No, you are making jokes and quips and Emma’s doing whatever it is her eyes are doing and if Cap stares at her any harder he’s going to snap her in half.”

“Yeah, that’s weird, right?” Robin asked. Emma sighed.

And maybe her eyes drifted back towards the goddamn shorts. Honestly, she’d never been more insulted by and attracted to a single piece of clothing in her life.

“Definitely weird,” Henry agreed, grinning when Emma gaped at him. “What? That’s true. And Killian’s really bad at video games.”

Robin’s laugh was probably too loud for whatever conference room they were in, but Will almost lost his balance again, mumbling an apology when he nearly fell on top of Roland, and Killian’s eyes widened.

That was almost as distracting as whatever happened to that one muscle in his leg when he tapped his foot.

Emma needed to sit down.

“Ok, if we keep getting distracted with all of this it is actually going to take forty-eight hours and then none of us are going to be able to FaceTime with M’s and David and the cute kid,” Ruby said, staring at them like she was waiting for someone to announce that they didn’t, in fact, want to FaceTime with an only few weeks old Leo Nolan.

Getting to see his sleep-deprived parents was just a bonus.

“And we do have those pesky actual hockey games to play,” Robin added. He twisted his hand in the air, a controller appearing out of seemingly nowhere because the league rep Emma had only kind of forgotten about clearly knew how to apparate.

He handed Killian one as well, quiet instructions about not throwing them and Henry snickered from his spot on the wall, shrugging when Emma narrowed her eyes at him.

“What do you say to a bet, kid?” she asked. Will might have cackled.

Henry tilted his head. “You want to bet on this video game video that’s just supposed to hype up Team USA?”

“Yes, exactly that.”

“Stakes?”

“Your call.”

“Oh, that’s a dangerous game, Em,” Will warned, Roland laughing against his side and Matt had lost all interest in Emma's shirt. The league rep only looked slightly affronted when he climbed back on Killian’s lap. No one else was even remotely surprised.

Emma hummed, glancing back her husband and her kid and her mood seemed to swing as often as her desire to eat did, but she was happy and a little exhausted and they should really tell everyone at some point.

Maybe on that FaceTime call.

Mary Margaret would probably cry.

“So,” Emma continued, taking a step towards Henry and sinking down the wall next to him until their shoulders bumped and there was a joke to be made somewhere about time passing and the more things change, the more they stay the same. Or something. “Stakes, kid?”

It took a moment, and his voice was so quiet Emma barely heard him, but her heart might have burst when she finally understood the words.

“If Robin wins, do you think you could read something for me?” Henry asked softly, quiet enough that Emma knew he didn’t want anyone else to hear him. “It’s just...for school and I’m starting to think about places to goand I--”

“--Deal,” Emma interrupted. “If Robin wins.”

And no matter, what, she thought, but that was decidedly sentimental and she’d spent most of the day staring at her husband’s thighs, so she didn’t entirely trust her emotions.

There were, of course, rules.

It was a Team USA promo video, but these were still New York Rangers first-liners and there was a bet on the line and they were competitive to a fault.

“Ok,” Ruby said, standing in front of the TV screen a different league reap had wheeled in at some point. “You guys are going to play three games. There’s some setting or something that stops the game when you get to a certain score and--”

“--Oh my God, Lucas,” Killian laughed, and even Emma couldn’t hold back her laugh. She was slightly worried Henry was going to concuss himself from inadvertently slamming his head into the wall and Roland’s whole body shook against hers when he let his head loll onto Emma’s shoulder. “That was the oldest sentence I’ve ever heard,” Killian continued. “And you were making fun of me before.”

“Yeah, well, that’s because you and Em are being weird,” Ruby hissed. “We don’t have time for this, Cap!”

“It’s fake pool play, Hook,” Roland explained. He didn’t move his head. “So you and Dad play three games as three different countries and whoever reaches ten goals first in each game wins.”

“Ten goals?” Robin balked. “God, that’s a ton of goals.”

“Killian’s not that good at playing,” Henry promised, grinning when the professional hockey player in question rolled his eyes again.

Ruby sighed dramatically. “Guys, I’m serious! We have to get this video to Mer or I really think she’s going to combust on 34th Street and I don’t need that on my conscious right now.”

“And you want to make ridiculous faces at Leo Nolan,” Emma knowingly.

“Yeah, well, whatever, you want to keep making eyes at Cap!”

“That’s not true!”

“Of course it’s not,” Ruby promised, but the sarcasm was practically dripping off her voice and Emma was ninety-two percent positive she was going to combust in the middle of goddamn Denmark. They did not have potato dumplings in Denmark.

Matt was still sitting on top of Killian.

“Alright,” Ruby said, nodding as if that would get back some control of the situation and the now, apparently, half a dozen league reps in the conference room all looked slightly stunned by the incredible normal goings on of the New York Rangers first line. “Can we get back to video games, please?”

Robin saluted. Killian grinned.

“Oh my God.”

“I’m assuming you don’t want us to swear on camera, right, Lucas?” Killian asked, but his eyes flickered towards Emma and he totally knew she was staring. He’d absolutely known the whole time. The shorts were probably some kind of ploy.

Although, really, all things considered, that seemed kind of unnecessary at this point.

He smirked at her.

She was going to smack him. With her mouth.

She was way too aggressive.

“No, Cap,” Ruby argued. “I totally want you to swear on camera.” Killian’s eyebrows jumped. “Jeez, no,” she seethed. “Of course not! And there are kids here. Your kid is literally hanging off of you right now. Which, speaking of, come here mini-Jones. You’re going to hang with me while your dad probably loses horribly to Uncle Robin.”

She held her arms out expectantly and it took less than a full second for Matt to climb up her side, head burrowed into the curve of her shoulder.

“First to ten goals wins,” Ruby continued. “Three games, no swearing and, oh, right we’re going to ask some questions while you play so, ready, set go.”

“Wait, what?” Killian asked, at the same time Robin mumbled something that sounded a hell of a lot like several different curse words, but Ruby just grinned and moved behind the stools and started talking to the camera Will was still, somehow, holding.

And really Killian was god awful at playing video games.

He kept making ridiculous noises, his whole body moving with the weight of his frustration – which did not help Emma’s attempts to look at anything that wasn’t his goddamn thigh muscle – and Will couldn't stop laughing and Henry and Roland kept muttering running commentary under their breath.

“You’re uh, you’re really seeming to struggle here, aren’t you, Cap?” Ruby asked, hitching Matt further up her side so she could rest a not-quite supportive hand on Killian’s shoulder.

He glared at open air. And gave up another goal.

“How is that even possible?” Killian shouted at no one in particular. “My guy was definitely in the shooting lane.”

“You can’t just expect him to block your shot for you, Cap,” Robin grinned. “And I think that means we’re only three goals away from a pretty crushing defeat.”

“You are a God awful trash talker.”

“Nah, this is good. Plus, this brings you back to Earth, doesn’t it?”

“How do you figure?”

“Ah, well, you scored on that breakaway against Germany and it’s all you’ve been talking about because you're trying to show off for Emma, so now you’re a little more grounded and aware of what you’re actually good at.”

“Wow,” Ruby muttered. “That was...almost harsh, Locksley.”

Robin shrugged, twisting his fingers and, somehow, moving his wrists at the same time he seemed to hold onto the controller tighter and the telltale sounds of the goal horn going off practically exploded out of the TV.

Henry and Roland whooped.

And fist pumped.

“This is ridiculous,” Killian grumbled, eyes finding Emma’s again and she’d started biting her lip at some point. Probably when he moved on the stool and the edge of his shorts twisted slightly and he was right.

It was absolutely ridiculous.

“You’ve got to move quicker, Hook,” Roland explained. “It’s like being on the ice.”

“It is not anything like being on the ice. Do not compare it to that.” Robin scored again. And Killian looked like he was getting ready to throw the controller – possibly at several different league reps. “God,” he sighed. “Is this almost over?”

“Have you lost your ability to count, Cap?” Robin asked.

“And,” Ruby added. “Can we not lose quite yet? We’ve still got some questions here.”

Killian groaned. “Lucas, I can not focus on the game if you are chirping in my ear.”

“Ok, first of all, I resent the implication that I am doing anything remotely resembling chirping and, again, I’d like to remind you that this is a league video and while we can edit this out, I need you to at least pretend like you care. Stop staring at Emma, Cap.”

He stuttered at that, eyebrows flying up his forehead and Emma was going to do permanent damage to her lower lip. “I’m not,” Killian mumbled, but it was as good as her lie before and Ruby’s expression didn’t change.

“Sure you not. Alright, question number one, Cap, if you could have one talent that wasn’t hockey, what would it be?”

“Is that a joke, Lucas?”

“That is exactly the question Emma and I came up with.”

It could not have been healthy for Killian’s eyes to get that wide. Or for his mouth to drop open that quickly. Or that far.

He nearly dropped the controller.

“Swan, you wrote these questions?” he asked, and Roland grumbled slightly when she shrugged in response.

“I mean...I knew this was going to happen.”

“Me being embarrassed by Locksley at video games?”

“No, no, although let’s all be honest with ourselves, Locksley is kind of cheating. He’s definitely banking off Henry and Rol’s knowledge of this game and their probable talent at this game.”

“How do you figure?” Robin asked sharply, shouting when his game-winning goal went in and Ruby clicked her tongue in frustration. “There’s still one more game, Lucas. Maybe Cap will almost make it look respectable down the stretch.”

“Fingers crossed,” Ruby muttered.

Killian made a face. Emma tried not to smile. “Alright, alright,” he said “Let’s just get this over with. You ever going to put my kid down, Lucas?”

“No. You going to answer Em’s question?”

It took a second for him to answer – an impossibly long, slightly tense second filled with video game sound effects and a puck graphic hitting a stick graphic and Killian jumped out of the stool when he scored the game’s first goal.

Emma had to put her hand over mouth to stop herself from giggling.

“Take that, Locksley,” Killian yelled, ignoring Robin’s continued trash talk, and he grinned at Ruby when he had to pick the stool up from where it had crashed onto the ground. “And my super sappy answer to your question, Lucas, and Swan,” he added, glancing Emma’s direction. Her lip might have been bleeding. “Is to be a good dad. So remember that when you’re showing off in front of your kids, Locksley.”

Robin blinked, but he didn’t actually say anything and he smiled when he nodded. Emma tried very hard not to cry.

She started staring at Killian’s left thigh again.

“Ah, why’d you have to make it weird, Cap?” Will asked, but Ruby was already shaking her head and they hadn’t actually said anything yet, but she might have been a mind-reader and Emma was exhausted.

And making eyes at Killian.

And he kept trying to get her to sit down.

They were so bad at under the radar.

“Not weird,” Emma mumbled, drawing a quiet noise of agreement out of Ruby. It was difficult to make out when her head was buried in Matt’s back though. “Super sappy, but not weird.”

“Ah, well, that was the goal, Swan,” Killian said, another smirk on his face and incredibly blue eyes and he definitely moved his feet to that lower rung on purpose.

He didn’t score another goal and the whole video was a little embarrassing and a little ridiculous and the absolute embodiment of the New York Rangers first line, smiles on their faces and laughter echoing off the walls and Matt fell asleep with his head on Ruby’s shoulder.

And the league reps wanted to talk to Killian and Robin afterwards – thanks for doing this, as if Ruby had given them a choice, and expectations for the game against Finland, and something about America in general with a stuffed animal that was apparently some kind of prize for winning the competition on camera – but Emma’s eyes didn’t leave Killian once, particularly when he turned around and that slight indent in his thigh was even more obvious and--

“You alright, Swan?”

She jerked up, blinking in surprise to find him so close to her and her eyes almost level with his knees and, eventually, Emma would blame that on whatever came out of her mouth next.

And the hormones.

Mostly the hormones.

“God, where did you even get these shorts?” she asked, half shouting the words at Killian’s shins and he arched an eyebrow when she glanced up.

“What?”

Emma felt the blush in her cheeks, eyes wide and something else settling in the pit of her stomach that felt a hell of a lot like butterflies and nerves and this should not have been an issue, but the shorts looked good and he looked good and they’d only found out she was pregnant a couple weeks before.

She was stupid attracted to her husband and father of their, soon-to-be, two kids.

“Swan, you’ve got to tell me what you’re thinking, love,” Killian said, crouching in front of her and that was, somehow, even worse. The shorts rode up slightly and she was fairly certain the muscles were actively trying to taunt her at this point.

“You worry too much.”

“You make it very easy.”

“It’s really not a big deal,” Emma promised, but she could hear the undercurrent of sincerity of his voice and he was as worried as promised. “I just…”

“Yuh huh?”

“You’re really not making this easy.”

She shouldn’t have been surprised he caught on so quickly, his slight head tilt more than enough proof that he understood what she was talking about, but then he smiled at her and it seemed to inch across his face in slow motion, like that was purposely trying to taunt Emma too and she had no idea where their kid was.

Probably still hanging off Ruby.

“Swan,” Killian said, dragging out her name until she was positive she could feel it. “Are you ogling me in these shorts?”

“No.”

“Swan.”

“No!”

“Emma.”

She stuck her tongue out at him. She’d blame the hormones for that too. And he was still crouching in front of her. “Aw, c’mon,” Emma sighed, tugging her hair over her shoulder and the smile was a full-blown grin now that seemed to light some kind of fire in between her ribs. “That is just patently stupid. And really, really unfair. And teasing.”

“All of the above, love.”

“The mother of your children,” she said, pointing to herself like he wasn’t almost too aware of every single one of her symptoms and how big the baby was, and Killian’s smile shifted, less goading and more endearing and Emma wouldn’t cry.

Probably.

Hopefully.

She wouldn’t have been entirely opposed to making out either.

“And?” Killian prompted, rocking towards her and pulling her hands away from her front. His thumb worked its way under her laces, tapping softly against her wrist, which Emma was also sure was, somehow, cheating, but she was admittedly distracted by the goddamn fucking shorts again.

She was going to write a very strongly worded letter to the Team USA apparel manufacturer.

“And I can’t think when you’re wearing these shorts,” Emma whined. Killian really did do his best not to smile too wide, but there wasn’t much of a point and he was practically some hockey-playing peacock at this point. “Seriously,” Emma continued, voice cracking traitorously when her free hand moved of its own accord, tracing over the curve of his shoulder and the back of his neck and they needed to be anywhere that wasn’t this conference room.

“Seriously what?”

“You can’t figure it out?”

“I’d really love to hear it.”

Killian chuckled when she swatted at his chest, but he also apparently had some kind of deep-rooted athletic response time that existed anywhere except during quasi video game tournaments and his fingers were warm when they caught around Emma’s wrist.

He kissed her knuckles.

“Have your legs always looked like that?”

“What?”

“Your legs,” Emma repeated, eyes flitting towards the offending muscle and that was a mistake. She was distracted again. “It’s...a lot.”

“A lot.”

“God, why do you just keep saying the same thing I’m saying?”

“Because that was honestly not what I was expecting, Swan,” Killian admitted. “A pleasant surprise, but a surprise all the same. And I think it’s an occupational hazard. Why are you harping on my legs?”

“Thighs, technically. If you want to be specific.”

“I would love to be specific.”

Emma refused to be held accountable for whatever noise she made at that, but she was tired and kind of hungry and kind of not and only a little frustrated that they weren’t making out or buying forty-two pairs of these shorts so they could live in this moment for the foreseeable future.

He’d moved his hand to her stomach at some point.

“You’re a flirt,” Emma accused, tugging lightly on the front of his shirt and she’d barely gotten the words out before he was nodding in response.

“As previously mentioned love, you are the mother of my children, so I think that’s part of the deal. And you started it with the ogling. If you want to get technical.”

She scrunched her nose, but her pulse picked up a bit and Killian’s fingers were moving, tracing absent-minded patterns over the front of the dress. “It wasn’t ogling. It was...an appreciative glance. Or stare. Whatever. Your thigh muscles are absurd.”

“I’m going to take that as a compliment.”

“It was. And distracting.”

“Yeah, I noticed.”

“Is that why you were so bad at playing video games?”

Killian shook his head, a disgruntled noise in the back of his throat, but he pressed a kiss to Emma’s temple and they needed to be seventy-six other places. They needed to find their kid. “No,” he laughed. “That was the extent of my video game playing talent. Although I am glad you’ll read whatever Henry asked you to read now.”

“I would have done that anyway.”

“I know that, Swan.”

“How’d you hear him?”

“Super-sonic hearing. It’s almost as impressive as the thigh muscles.”

“Oh my God,” she sighed, but she was kind of charmed by it and he knew that as well as he knew she’d been staring at him all day. “You don’t get to lord this over me forever, you know. This is solely hormone-based.”

Killian nodded, but it felt a little placating – particularly when his hand flattened against her and there wasn’t quite a curve there, but the website claimed there was a cherry there now and they were really good at this whole living life thing.

“Noted, Swan,” he promised, ducking down to catch her lips with his and there was the making out Emma had been waiting for.

They were good at that too.

“Can you get off the floor now, love?” Killian asked. “Please?”

“I’m going to look up blood pressure facts and send them to you at random times to remind you that caring about your blood pressure is important.”

“My blood pressure is perfectly fine.”

“But?”

“But,” he echoed, standing up and offering Emma his hand. She took it almost immediately. “I think it is well within my rights to worry about my girls.”

“You’re on a sappy, sentimental roll,” she mumbled, stepping into his space and wrapping her arms around his middle and that was mostly so he didn’t see the tears in her eyes, but he was almost too good at reading her at this point.

And he really thought it was going to be a girl.

“Ah, well,” Killian shrugged. He didn’t get anymore out though, a noise from the doorway that was somewhere between a screech and a scream and the audible manifestation of joy.

Ruby’s mouth was hanging open – Matt still clinging to her side and Will behind her with his own slightly stunned expression on his face. Robin was still holding the stuffed animal. It looked a duck. And there was a phone in Ruby’s hand.

“Are you guys serious?” Ruby shouted. “Oh my God, I knew it. I knew it! Scarlet, I win.”

“What?” Killian yelled, but Emma didn’t move her head, just tightened her arms and tried to breathe him in and she smiled when he kissed the top of her hair.

Will waved both his hands through the air. “It’s not nearly that bad, Cap, honestly. Just...you know, Lucas and I were guessing. And speculating.”

“About me being pregnant?” Emma asked.

Several someones on the phone made noise. A baby cried in New York.

“We had a hunch,” Will reasoned, but Ruby was mumbling we totally knew and Killian kept trying to kiss Emma’s temple, like that was grounding him or something. “Cap keeps trying to get you to sit down, Em. It was like watching history repeat itself.”

“He’s super worried all the time,” Robin added.

“Cyclical, huh?” Emma asked. “Can you tell him to worry about his blood pressure? He won’t listen to me.”

“Deal. And,” he continued, holding the duck out expectantly. “I claim the honor of being the first one to gift mini-Jones two-point-oh something. In memory of how bad her dad is at playing video games.”

“Can we get some actual confirmation here?” Mary Margaret asked, voice a bit distorted through the FaceTime call and a distinct lack of sleep.

“Reese’s, shouldn’t you be sleeping?” Emma countered. She was already shaking her head. And Killian’s lips brushed over Emma’s forehead. “Alright, alright, well, we were trying to do this a slightly more normal way this time, but I’m blaming the shorts, honestly.”

“What?” Ruby asked.

“Nothing, nothing, nothing. That’s...I’m about two months pregnant.”

There were more shouts and a few more tears and Leo Nolan shrieking from several thousand miles away, but Emma couldn’t stop smiling and Killian couldn’t stop laughing and it was kind of nice in a kind of perfect way – even with history kind of repeating itself.

They almost got kicked out of the conference room, the league reps scandalized by the small party they seemed to be throwing, and Ruby grinned conspiratorially at Emma when she slung an arm over Matt’s shoulder.

“What do you say you come stay with me tonight, mini-Jones?” she asked. “We can give your parents some privacy to make eyes behind closed doors.”

“You’re a pillar of support, Lucas,” Killian muttered, but it wasn’t an objection, and Ruby knew she’d won.

“Yeah, I am. Remember that in the future or whatever.”

And, several hours later, the goddamn shorts looked better on the hotel room floor.

“I love you,” Emma muttered, hair over several different pillows and possibly in Killian’s face and she practically yelped when he tugged her closer to his side.

“I love you too, Swan. Even after the ogling.”

“Oh my God.”

“It’s a good word.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

“A girl, Swan. Absolutely a girl.”

“You don’t know that for sure.”

Killian made a contradictory noise, moving further under the blankets and tracing the tips of his fingers over her bare stomach. “A hunch. And we’re one for one already, love. Those are pretty good odds to consider.”

He didn’t brag, nearly seven months later, when Margaret Elsa Jones arrived with a tuft of black hair and an incredibly impressive set of lungs, but he did smile and kiss the top of Emma’s hair and promised he loved her.

More than anything.

And for a little while Emma almost forgot about the goddamn shorts and the goddamn thigh muscles and how absurdly attracted she was to her husband until she woke up one night to find him slouched in the rocking chair on the other side of the room with a Peggy on his chest – just back from a road trip and there was a now three-year-old draped on Killian’s side of the bed.

Killian wasn’t quite asleep, and there was a stuffed duck under his hip, but his eyelids were fluttering and his fingers were tracing those same patterns they always followed whenever he touched Emma, and her heart felt like it burst when she looked at him, wearing the goddamn shorts with a towel draped over his shoulder.

“You’re staring, Swan,” Killian mumbled, low and gruff and it took a quick moment of cajoling to make sure Peggy didn’t start crying.

“Yeah,” she nodded. “And that was a good goal tonight.”

“Ah, well, I knew I had an audience.”

“Flirt.”

“Always, Swan. Always.”

Chapter Text

“What are you doing?”

Emma froze, breath catching in her throat and she nearly lost her footing – which probably would have sent Killian into several different types of metaphorical and literal tailspins – spinning on the spot to find him staring speculatively at her.

He was leaning against the frame of the open door, feet crossed at the ankles and what appeared to be a fairly new team-branded t-shirt on. And he was smiling.

Emma squeezed one eye shut. “Nothing,” she muttered, but she was the worst liar in the history of several different worlds and he absolutely knew already.

She was standing in front of the goddamn mirror.

“Yuh huh,” Killian nodded, taking a step into the room and resting his hands on the sides of her hips. “That was bad, Swan.”

“Yeah, well, you surprised me.”

“Are you telling me that if I hadn’t just caught you staring at your own reflection in the mirror, you would have been able to come up with a better story for what you were doing?”

“That was a very convoluted question.”

“Sounds like a yes.”

She groaned, leaning back against his chest out of instinct and habit and want, which, might have been some kind of symptom, but they’d been under self-imposed house arrest for the last three days and hadn’t even looked at their phones, let alone looked up pregnancy clichés. Or symptoms. Whatever.

Emma had no idea where her phone was.

“What are you looking for exactly, love?” Killian asked, and he couldn’t quite keep the laughter out of his voice when he ducked his head to press a kiss against the curve of her shoulder.

She scowled at open air, but he apparently had eyes in the wall or something equally impossible, because he laughed again and caught her fingers before she could actually swat at his thigh.

“That is stupid unfair,” she accused.

“Swan, we’ve been over this. Bad liar, standing in front of the mirror with your shirt rucked up. It didn’t take a genius to put two and two--”

“No, no, the reaction time,” Emma interrupted, appreciating his quiet hum of confusion more than she expected to. “You’ve got crazy reflexes.”

“Yeah, well, rumor has it I’m some kind of professional athlete.”

Emma laughed – or it might have been a giggle, which she absolutely planned to blame on hormones for, just, like, the rest of her life. “That’s the rumor, huh?” she asked, twisting in his hold to sling an arm over his shoulders and Killian’s eyes fluttered shut when her fingers found the hair at the nape of his neck.

“Look who’s cheating now.”

“None of this conversation makes much sense, you know that, right?”

“I beg to disagree, Swan. I think we’re making plenty of sense, you’re just avoiding my questions and my incredibly on-point points because you’re distracted and slightly attracted to my previously mentioned professional athlete reflexes.”

“God,” Emma groaned, but he knew he was right and she knew he knew and they were going in circles. He kissed the top of her hair when her head landed on his chest. “Awfully presumptuous of you.”

Killian made a dismissive noise in the back of his throat, pressing another kiss to her head as his hand found its way to her stomach and they hadn’t been out of the apartment in three days, but that kept happening.

Emma wasn’t keeping track.

Of course not.

Obviously.

She should have looked for her phone while he was in the shower.

“I’ve got some good sources on that,” Killian mumbled, and Emma didn’t have to look up to know that he was smirking. He was probably doing something stupid with his eyebrows.

She leaned back, lifting her own brows and pointedly ignoring whatever it was his hand was doing – tracing out patterns and he kept doing this thing with his thumb, making semicircles on her skin like he was skating from blue line to blue line. Or like he was just trying to make sure this was all really happening.

“More than one source?” Emma asked archly. “Or more than one kid?”

If asked, she would promise that she absolutely, positively did not do it for the reaction. Emma was an adult. An impending mother. A goddamn professional who really should have found her phone because the New York Rangers were absolutely going to want to honor America when they played at the Garden again.

If asked, Emma would have absolutely lied.

And Killian would have known.

Because she really, really liked whatever his whole body did whenever she used that word, thumb stilling and shoulders sagging just a bit, like he still couldn’t quite wrap his mind around it, or come to terms with how incandescently happy he was.

He’d used that word several times in the last three days.

She’d definitely done it for the reaction.

“Cheater, cheater, cheater,” Killian said, pressing kisses to her jaw and the bridge of her nose and the edge of her eye and it was a miracle Emma didn’t dissolve into a fit of giggles, hormone-induced or otherwise. The arm around her waist helped.

“Yeah, totally,” she admitted. “But that’s like a thing, right? Genetics or whatever?”

“You’re just saying words, Swan.”

“Elsa and Liam have twins.”

“Yes.”

“And?”

“And what?” Killian repeated. He tilted his head when he realized, hair falling dangerously close to his eyes and it really shouldn’t have been that attractive, but they were talking about their kid and they had a doctor’s appointment in a few hours and a party to celebrate America at the brownstone later because the Rangers didn’t play until the next day and neither one of them was looking forward to a three-game swing on the road so soon after getting home.

And he knew what she’d been doing in front of the mirror.

“I have no idea how genetics work,” Killian said. “But I’m fairly certain that’s why they have doctors and appointments and ultrasounds. Right?”

Emma nodded, but her pulse was racing and there were butterflies in her stomach and she was wearing team-branded too. God, they couldn’t both wear team-branded to the doctors.

She didn’t really want to change.

“I was just…” she started, and eventually she’d have to thank him for not smiling too wide because she wasn’t sure she could quite deal with that. But he did look somewhere close to overjoyed and incandescent was a really good word for the last three days. “Doesn’t look any different,” Emma finished. “Right?”

They both needed to stop adding questions to their statements.

Killian hummed, eyes flitting down towards his hand, like he was checking to make sure. “Did you think it would?”

“Did you?”

“Swan, you can’t answer my question with one of your own. These are basic conversational rules, love. And, no, I didn't.”

“Why do you know that?”

He eyed her meaningfully, but Emma just pressed her lips together and tugged lightly on the front of his shirt. That was a mistake – her ring was on her left hand and they had far too much news to share with the Vankalds.

The butterflies were in her throat.

“You weren’t supposed to be looking at your phone,” Emma accused. “There were rules to this vacation, Captain.”

“This was a vacation?”

“Killian!”

He laughed, eyes bright and Emma chased after him when he brushed his lips over hers, a fact that, if it were any sort of normal day, would have led to several vaguely sarcastic and equally charming remarks. But they didn’t really have time and their three days were up and she was only a little concerned about those wires Killian had yanked out of the wall when they got back from the Games.

Someone on this stupid hockey team must known an electrician.

“I didn’t break any of the rules,” Killian said softly, taking his time on every letter and the butterflies in Emma’s throat got a little distracted by the sound of her impossibly loud heartbeat. “But there was wifi on the plane and you fell asleep pretty quickly and--”

“--I’m pregnant, I’m supposed to be tired all the time. That’s normal in the first trimester.”

He beamed at her.

And, really, Emma should have expected that because she kept using very specific words and Killian was a giant, sentimental sap who really enjoyed hearing those very specific words.

But the expression still left her a little breathless and Emma was only slightly convinced she wasn’t just made of butterflies at this point.

“I know it is, love,” he whispered. “But I’m answering your question.”

He waited a moment, as if he expected her to interrupt again, and his smile, somehow, got even wider when she didn’t. “And,” Killian continued. “I had wifi on the plane and a little bit of time, so I looked some things up. For...curiosity's sake.”

“Curiosity?”

“Mine. Specifically. And I think the twin thing is Vankald genetics, so really that happened because of El.”

“Oh, let me be there when you tell her that, please,” Emma laughed, but Killian was already shaking his head before she’d even closed her mouth.

“Do not tell her I said that.”

“She’d find a stick and check you in the ankles.”

“I’ve got no doubt, that’s why I don’t want you to tell her I said that.”

She grinned, the butterflies returning or migrating or whatever it was metaphorical butterflies did, falling back into the pit of her stomach and Emma, at least, felt like she could breathe a little easier. “You’re obsessed with websites,” she muttered, and she’d never let go of his shirt.

“Curious,” Killian corrected. “I am curious. Mostly about a permanent set of kidneys.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“That’s what the thing said. If my math is right, around seven weeks, there are permanent kidneys and arm and leg joints. And he’s growing about a hundred brain cells a minute.”

Emma gaped, and that certainty that her lungs were a functioning, normal part of her body seemed to fly out the still-open doorway in front of her. Her knuckles went white around Killian’s shirt. “Oh,” she breathed, a note of something that sounded like awe and felt a bit more like disbelief in the letters. “Wow.”

“He’s probably a genius by now. So job well done by us.”

“Yeah, I’m not sure that’s really how it works,” Emma mumbled. “Although it does sound better than hummingbird heartbeat. Leg joints, huh?” Killian nodded slowly, palm still flat on her stomach and she’d never actually fixed her goddamn shirt. She was totally looking for something. “You need those to skate.”

“Generally knees do come into play while skating.”

“And elbows.”

“Difficult to stick-handle if you can’t move your arms.”

“You’d know all about that, wouldn’t you?”

Killian’s eyes widened at the not-quite insult, a flash of blue and feeling and Emma was a complete and utter mess of emotions and hormones and butterflies, because she was pushing up on toes before she really thought about it, finally letting go of his shirt to sling both arms around his neck and kiss him – hard.

He stuttered slightly, probably because she was attack-kissing them in the middle of their bedroom and his hair was still damp from the shower and neither of them had had any contact with the outside word in seventy-two hours, but Emma kind of felt like everything was happening at once, and she needed an outlet.

Her fiancé’s distinct ability to make out with her felt like a fairly good one.

Or it would have been if someone didn’t appear to be breaking into their apartment.

“What the fuck?” Killian hissed, not bothering to pull away from Emma’s mouth, and her answering laugh was a little manic. She really needed to change her shirt.

“Let them take whatever they want,” Emma muttered. “We’ll just trace the IP.”

“What?”

“I mean obviously someone’s discovered that we stole the Conn-Smythe and now they’re here to steal it and auction it off on the internet. I bet Ruby knows how to trace an IP. Or David. That makes more sense.”

“I’d imagine we’d go to the police when reporting this crime, Swan.”

“You think you’re hysterical.”

“From time to time,” Killian admitted, but the words got caught in the air when he was trying to kiss her at the same time. “And we really didn’t steal the Conn-Smythe. Borrowed.”

“That makes it sound like we’re going to give it back.”

“Eventually, eventually. Maybe after the kissing. And the doctor. And teaching our kid how to stick handle properly.”

“You don’t know how to stick handle properly,” Emma muttered, smiling when Killian made some kind of disbelieving noise in the back of his throat. And, really, they probably would have spent another ten minutes standing stock-still in the middle of their bedroom making out like several varieties of cliché teenagers, but whoever was trying to break into their apartment appeared to be leading with their shoulder against their front door.

It was very loud.

“If this is anyone except some door to door salesman, I’m going to find a stick and check them in the ankles,” Killian muttered.

“Do traveling salesmen exist anymore? Isn’t that just Harold Hill?”

“What?”

“You know. Seventy-six trombones and you’ve got trouble. With a capital T.”

“You are speaking in tongues.”

“I’m not,” Emma promised, eyes flitting towards the door when it sounded like someone kicked at it. And she could just make out the muffled voice on the other side of the wood, demands to make sure you’re still alive because everyone is really worried and Emma rolled her eyes towards the ceiling. “You might want to actually find that stick,” she suggested, twisting around Killian before he could stop her or say something stupid overprotective because the police officer currently trying to break into their apartment really did have their best interests at heart.

David nearly fell over the threshold when Emma opened the door.

“Did Mary Margaret send you?” she asked. He shook his head. “Ruby?” Another shake. “Who?”

“Merida,” David said, running a hand over his face and pinching the bridge of his nose. “Although Ruby was probably a close second because Merida went to her first. And I’m going to go ahead and award myself the bronze because you should really at least have some way for us to reach you.”

“We ripped out the wires.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Do you know how to fix that?” Emma asked, but David looked torn between disbelief and hysterics and she was kind of glad no one was coming to steal their Conn-Smythe.

“I am not an electrician,” he said. “And as mentioned, here to make sure you’re not both nursing several broken bones or life-threatening injuries and because your assistant is having several different types of meltdowns.”

“What?”

“Yup. And it took Ruby some time to respond, I guess, because everyone’s sleep schedules are still messed up and she is actually good at keeping secrets, so your assistant doesn’t know that you need to be sleeping more.”

Emma groaned. “Oh my God.”

“That’s just a fact.”

“Were you looking up facts, Detective?”

“No,” David said quickly, gaze darting over Emma’s left shoulder when Killian moved into the living room. Emma arched an eyebrow. “I didn’t! But, uh,” he added softly, digging the toe of his exceptionally shiny dress shoe into the ground. “Mary Margaret might have. Just out of…”

“Curiosity?” Killian suggested, and David shrugged in response.

He, quite clearly, did not want to be checked in the hallway.

“Something like that.”

“And she thinks she’s my mom,” Emma added, but she couldn't quite get her voice to sound as frustrated as she wanted it to. David bit back a smile. “What exactly did Mer want, David?”

“To brainstorm or something, I guess. Something about America.”

Emma hummed, rocking back on her heels, and it only took a moment for Killian’s hand to land on the small of her back – like he was trying to make sure she didn’t topple backwards. She couldn't bring herself to be frustrated by that either.

“We won a gold medal,” Emma reasoned. “Seems fairly safe to assume that the Rangers would want to hype that. We should probably do something for Phillip too, though, right?”

“He didn’t win, Swan,” Killian pointed out.

“Yeah, but he was there and he’s on the team and…”

“And you’re going to do way more work than you have to. Merida can do the extra stuff if she wants to. She can send stuff to the season-tickets. You don’t need to do all of that.”

“He’s got a point, Em,” David muttered, widening his eyes when Emma sighed. “Something about sitting down and pressure on your spine.”

“Oh my God,” she groaned. “There is no pressure on my spine. My spine is perfectly fine. And I am more than capable of sending e-mails to the season-tickets. That actually requires me to sit down, you know.”

David didn’t look convinced. “You’d figure out a way to do that standing up if you had to.”

“I am fine.”

“Not nursing any broken bones or life-threatening injuries?” Emma scowled, and David finally let himself smile, leaning forward to tug lightly on the sleeve of her shirt. “I worry about you, kid. And your sleeping habits.”

Her expression had never really reached glare-type levels, but Emma felt any hint of frustration disappear at the look on David’s face and the honestly in his voice and, at some point, Killian’s hand had moved from her back to her stomach. “I know you do,” Emma mumbled. “But I’m fine. Really. I can get a doctor’s note to prove it later, if you want.”

David nearly fell over.

“What?” he sputtered. “When? Today?”

“You’ve got very bad timing, Detective,” Emma grinned. “We’re probably going to be late because of you.”

“You’re going to the doctor?”

“What part of that was confusing?”

“You just told me you ripped wires out of the wall!”

“We did that after we made the appointment,” Killian reasoned, and David’s face looked questionably pale. Emma wasn’t entirely sure he was still breathing. “Did you come here on your lunch break to make sure we weren’t dead?”

“What gave me away?”

“The badge on your hip was a pretty good tell.”

David hummed, but it still sounded distracted and his eyes kept darting towards Emma. “I don’t need a doctor’s note.”

“That’s good because I totally wasn’t going to get you one.”

“Yeah, I figured,” he muttered, taking another step into the apartment and it wasn’t easy for all three of them to occupy the same few inches of space, but they figured it out and Emma smiled when David pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Mary Margaret’s going to lose her mind at dinner tonight, you realize that?”

Emma nodded. “I’m fully prepared for that.”

And, honestly, it wasn’t really a lie. They’d already decided she was awful at lying. There was no point in lying when Emma was, almost painfully, aware of just how much Mary Margaret was going to lose her mind at dinner.

She knew they all were – the whole goddamn team and probably Mr. and Mrs. Vankald and Emma was ready for it.

She was.

She was happy and thrilled and the living embodiment of the word incandescent, even with wires hanging out of her wall.

But it all changed as soon as she sat on exam table paper and the stupid thing ripped under her and Emma hoped that wasn’t some kind of twisted sign from the universe, because they kept winning things and getting things and she wasn’t sure she took a single breath from the time the doctor walked into the room until the moment she asked if they wanted an ultrasound.

“It’s not necessary,” she explained, but Emma’s lungs felt like they were on fire and she could see Killian’s jaw clench. “You’re in perfect health, but it’s up to you. We can wait until your next appointment or we can...get on with it.”

“Get on with it,” Emma echoed. The doctor shrugged.

“It’s up to you.”

“Swan?” Killian asked softly, and she could barely hear him, but that might have been because she was so focused on not squeezing his hand in half. There were still bruises there. “It’s up to you, love.”

She nodded.

The jelly, goo, whatever the doctor slathered on her stomach was freezing cold and the whole thing was a little surreal – like Emma was watching it in some out of body experience, but still feeling all of it and Killian kept tapping his thumb against her wrist.

She really needed to breathe.

“Ah,” the doctor said triumphantly. Killian hissed when Emma’s grip tightened. “There we are.”

“We,” he repeated, and if Emma weren’t having some kind of actual meltdown she would have teased him for the crack in his voice.

“Genetics, Cap,” she muttered. “Genetics.”

The doctor looked confused, eyeing them with something that felt like concern for their overall wellbeing, but they were both still a little jet-lagged and Emma was starving all the time – except when the Uber had driven by some food cart on Columbus Ave and she was fairly convinced she was going to die from the smell.

But that was neither her nor there.

“I was speaking in the more metaphorical we,” the doctor said, as if that would do anything to get rid of the look on Killian’s face. Emma tried not to laugh. “But, uh,” she nodded towards the screen next to her and the tiny blob of something that was flickering there. “If you look right here...you were right, Ms. Swan, about seven weeks.”

“Oh,” Emma breathed.

She’d wish she said something slightly more emotional or concrete later, when the realization had sunk into her toes and probably her soul or something equally absurd, but in the moment she was far too busy crying and staring at the screen and listening to the way Killian’s breath caught to be worried about appropriate reactions to seeing their kid for the first time.

Their kid.

“Swan,” Killian whispered, and his voice shook on her name, eyes a bit glossier than normal when she finally tore her eyes away from the screen.

Emma shook her head, which, really was the dumbest thing she could have done, but her heart appeared determined to beat its way out of her chest and there was still freezing cold goop on her stomach and a doctor staring at them like they’d collectively lost their minds.

So, really, it made sense when Killian bent down and kissed her.

“I love you,” he whispered, thumb brushing away tears as quickly as they came. “More than anything.”

“I love you, too.”

He’d never let go of her hand. Or the other way around.

Whatever.

Semantics weren’t important.

There was more to it all – another talk with the doctor and suggestions to use ginger to help fight off the morning sickness that seemed to last all day, and more tests than Emma was aware existed in modern medicine – but they walked out of the office with more than one copy of the ultrasound in their hands and a date firmly planted in the back of their minds.

Emma didn’t change out of the team-branded shirt before dinner.

And Killian couldn’t quite keep the smile off his face when he noticed, standing outside the Garden after not-really-morning skate and Emma’s meeting with a clearly flustered Merida, and he wouldn’t let her hold her own bag.

“You’re going to give yourself a heart attack,” Emma mumbled, climbing into the backseat of the cab he hailed. “This can’t be good for several different internal organs.”

He grinned, giving the driver an address and they were absolutely going to hit traffic. “You really do not need to worry about my internal organs, Swan. I skated perfectly fine today. Better than, in fact.”

“That’s not what I meant at all and you know it.”

“I do,” Killian nodded, and he held his arm up expectantly when Emma stayed firmly on her side of the backseat. “Ah, don’t make me ask, Swan.”

“You’re clingy.”

He hummed, cheek brushing over the top of her head when he nodded, but his arm felt pretty goddamn fantastic around her shoulders and the doctor’s eyes had widened when they’d asked for so many printouts of one ultrasound.

They didn’t say anything for a moment, Emma’s eyes fluttering because he was warm and comfortable and they weren’t really moving in Midtown traffic at rush hour, but her head snapped up when she heard Killian’s voice.

“What?”

He blushed. “I just...I love you.”

“Yeah, you’ve mentioned that a few times since we got home.”

“No, no, I just…”

It wasn’t very often that he stumbled over the words, and Emma’s whole body did something absurd at that – butterflies and questionably quick heartbeat and her hand was flat on his cheek as soon as the thought entered his mind. “I’ll let Mer e-mail the season-tickets,” she promised. “She can recount them all with a detailed rehash of the New York Rangers first line exploits in South Korea and then we can auction off signed merch and make a shit ton of money for charity. That work for you?”

Killian laughed, or possibly just exhaled, pressing his lips on the inside of Emma’s wrist and she didn’t have her laces anymore, but she was fairly positive he knew what he was doing. “Yeah,” he agreed. “That works for me. Although maybe not all the exploits. Don’t want to get fined.”

“Obviously.”

They were late, Killian waving off the driver when he started to apologize and question the state of the New York Rangers penalty kill in the same breath.

“We’ll see what we can do,” Killian promised, grabbing Emma’s bag and ignoring her laughter as he closed the cab door behind her. “Not a word, Swan,” he warned. “Arthur's got to move Sean off the kill. It’s embarrassing.”

“Aye, aye, Cap,” she saluted back, and the reflexes were on full display again, fingers around her wrist and bag dropped unceremoniously on the sidewalk when he tugged her flush against his chest. Her laughter got louder.

“And you were accusing me of thinking too highly of my own jokes before.”

“That’s because I was right,” Emma said, but her voice shook and his fingers had already found their way under the bottom of her jacket and she couldn’t think when he kissed just behind her ear. “God, you’ve got to stop that or we’re never going to go inside.”

“That’s not exactly a bad thing.”

“It’s a party.”

“I miss vacation.”

“You didn’t believe me when I called it that.”

“Ah, well, sometimes I enjoy teasing you,” Killian admitted, leaning back to look at her, and Emma should have been better prepared for the breadth of emotions there. She wasn’t.

The butterflies were getting stronger.

They were probably forming some kind of coup.

“Yeah, sometimes,” she mumbled, and there were several increasingly sentimental and decidedly clingy sentences on the tip of her tongue. Because she was kind of dreading this three-game swing and her desk chair had apparently evolved into some kind of torture device while they’d been at the Games because she couldn’t find a single comfortable way to sit that afternoon and the doctor told her to drink less hot chocolate.

“Swan?” Killian asked softly. Open book and a distinct inability to lie to her fiancé were both vastly overrated.

Emma shook her head, but she didn’t get the chance to actually say anything, another voice and another shout and Killian nearly growled when they both realized who it was.

“KJ,” Anna snapped from the doorway. “Are you kidding me? You want to stop attacking your girlfriend for half a second? Come inside and let Emma sit down.”

“Fiancée,” he corrected, and Anna’s nearly fell over. “If you want to get technical, Banana.”

“I’d really love to get technical, actually.”

“What you doing here?”

“That’s rude, KJ.”

“Weren’t you in Colorado this afternoon?”

“Yes, that’s how air travel works.”

He glared at her, but Anna didn’t back down – regaining her traction after the technicalities were thrown around in SoHo – and her answering smile probably could have rivaled several suns in a variety of universes.

Emma swore her hair got redder.

“I wanted to be here,” she muttered, yanking on the zipper of Killian’s jacket when they finally got to the top of the stairs. “El and Liam obviously couldn’t, so I offered my miles and my phone’s ability to FaceTime and here I am ready for as much familial joy as we can muster.”

“An appropriate amount of familial joy,” Killian said, and Emma got the distinct impression he was doing it to quiet her nerves and the butterflies and they really must have set an ultrasound printout record. “You didn’t say anything to Mr. and Mrs. V, right, Banana?”

Anna punched him. “KJ, are you serious?”

“That’s a fair question!”

“God, you are the worst. No, of course I didn’t say anything to Mom and Dad! Who do you think I am? And El would kill me. Telepathically. With her mind.”

“How would she know?”

“KJ!”

“Yeah, that’s probably true,” he admitted, but his arm tightened around Emma’s shoulders and she could already smell something baking and hear laughter around the corner. “Are Locksley and Scarlet here yet?”

“Locksley is. I have no idea where Scarlet is.”

“Here, here,” a voice called from the end of the block and Will was out of breath by the time he skidded to a stop in front of the slightly icy bottom step. “Shit, Cap, tell Mr. and Mrs. V to salt their sidewalk.”

“I think the city is responsible for that,” Belle said, tucked against Will’s side. “Oh, hey, Anna, I thought you were in Colorado!”

Anna rolled her eyes. “That was the rumor, apparently. Whatever, I’m mostly here for the baked goods.

“There are baked goods?” Will asked.

“Did you lose your sense of smell in South Korea?”

“Wow, Anna, you’re hysterical. Side-splitting humor. I’m laughing. Can you see how much I’m laughing?”

“Shut up, Scarlet,” Killian muttered, and Anna’s eyes were going to get stuck mid-roll. “Can we come inside now, Banana or you want to keep dishing out insults?”

“I’m fairly positive I can do both of those things at the same time, KJ. And it’s way more fun when Scarlet is involved.”

Will did something with his face – and his hand, drawing a quiet reprimand out of Belle and another string of insults out of Anna and if Emma weren’t slightly nervous and a little nauseous she probably would have laughed.

“C’mon, Vankald,” Will muttered, twisting around Killian and into the foyer. “If Emma doesn’t sit down at regular intervals, Cap actually starts to steam and that’ll probably just freak out your parents. And he’s on edge because of the doctor.”

“What?” Anna screeched, and Emma wasn’t sure if she mumbled oh my god or Killian did. The semantics of that didn’t matter much either.

“God, Banana, take seventy-six deep breaths. Scarlet, how did you know that? And how did Locksley get down here before us?”

Will shrugged. “Gina probably glared at their Lyft driver. And uh...Mary Margaret told Ruby who told A who told me? She thought you’d be late to skate or blow off PT.”

“Did you blow off PT?” Emma asked sharply, and it was starting to get very cold on that top step.

“No,” Killian promised. “She thought I would because she’s not here, but she’s probably as good at telepathically killing people as El is, so I figured there was no point in risking it.”

“Not with impending fatherhood ahead of you,” Anna added softly, sticking her tongue out when Killian sighed dramatically.

“Is it impending if it’s happening now?” Emma asked. Anna made a noise that was not human. Even Will gasped. “Aw, c’mon, you guys knew that. Everyone knows.”

“Except Mom and Dad,” Anna said.

Emma’s stomach did not stay where it was supposed to. The butterflies were plotting world domination at this point.

Killian glanced at her – and then back towards Will and he glared at Anna – but he didn’t actually say anything and Emma wasn’t entirely sure what she was so inconsistently nervous about. She wished her body would make up its goddamn mind.

That probably had something to do with hormones too.

She should have asked the doctor more questions.

And she was right – Mrs. Vankald had baked and there was enough food to feed several NHL teams let alone the first line crammed into the brownstone’s dining room. There was talking and laughing and more food, and Mr. Vankald brought up hat trick no less than twenty-seven times over the course of dinner.

It was good. No, that wasn’t enough. It was better than good. It was nice and as familial as promised and Anna kept taking pictures, sending them to Elsa seemingly every two seconds.

It was all those adjectives and then some, particularly when Mrs. Vankald asked to see Emma’s ring, a small smile on her face.

Mary Margaret might have squealed.

“Oh, wait, wait, wait,” Anna said quickly, and Emma couldn’t believe she’d ever put her phone away. “This should be FaceTime’d right? Right, KJ?”

She eyed Killian meaningfully, Emma’s lungs doing that less-than-pleasant burning thing when she refused to keep breathing like a normal human being, and he didn’t answer quickly enough.

Mrs. Vankald tilted her head in confusion. “Killian?” she asked. “Is everything ok?”

“Everything’s fine,” Emma answered, holding her left hand out and she had no idea who was crying. It might have been everyone. Mary Margaret might have been sobbing.

“Oh, it’s gorgeous,” Mrs. Vankald said, her fingers soft when they held onto Emma’s. “That’s...I’m so happy for both of you.”

And the butterflies evolved again – twisting and flying and fluttering in the back of Emma’s throat, a mix of emotions and nerves and everything and maybe that was the problem.

Everything.

All of it happening, simultaneously and never-ending, and she was so goddamn incandescently happy, she was half certain her whole body was going to explode into confetti at some point, but Emma was also a little overwhelmed and they hadn’t really planned on any of this.

They just asked for two dozen copies of their first ultrasound.

God, that really had to be a record.

“We should toast, don’t you think?” Mr. Vankald asked, appearing with a bottle in one hand and a plate of baked goods in the other. Killian tensed behind Emma. “What? We...there’s champagne.”

It was like someone had pulled the oxygen out of the room or cast some kind of freezing spell, all of them stuck stock-still with wide eyes and Mary Margaret had her hand over her mouth.

Emma’s stomach flipped.

“Emma,” Mrs. Vankald said slowly, and she could almost hear the gears working in her head. “Are you alright?”

“Fine, fine, I’m just...just need some air.”

She moved before anyone could respond, and she couldn’t actually go outside because it was still freezing out and Killian would actually explode if he realized Emma was anywhere that wasn’t perfectly temperature controlled.

She wound up on the staircase in the foyer, the voices quiet down the hall and Mary Margaret was talking, playing distraction and decoy and Phillip might have been talking about his and Aurora’s wedding plans.

“Hey.”

Emma’s head snapped up to find Robin staring cautiously at her, a smile tugging at the ends of his lips. “Hey,” she repeated. “What are you...is Killian…”

“Fine, fine, trying to answer Mr. and Mrs. V’s rather impressive amount of questions without actually answering them, but he’s had enough media training. I think it’s Lucas’ proudest moment, honestly.”

Emma’s laugh was shaky at best, but her lungs appreciated the burst of oxygen she provided them. “Do you think I can just blame hormones for everything?” she asked, and Robin’s entire expression shifted when he smiled.

“For the next nine months at least.”

“I’m already about a month and a half in.”

“Ah, technicalities,” he promised, dropping down next to her. “You know, when Marian was expecting Roland, I was a mess. Constantly worried and terrified of being on the road and it was…” He shook his head, licking his lips, and Emma tried not to blame hormones for the tears in her eyes. “And I didn’t really have anyone when it was…”

The rest of the sentence hung in the air around them – when it was over and he was alone with an infant and a professional hockey career and the tears were warm when they landed on Emma’s cheeks.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered.

Robin shook his head. “That’s not your fault. And not why I came out here. I’m not trying to ruin the mood of the celebration.”

“I think I did a pretty good job of that, actually.”

“Nah, freaked Cap out a little bit, but you might have to get used to that.”

“Yeah, I kind of figured,” Emma admitted. “Scarlet was joking about sitting schedules, but I think Killian’s actually started considering those now that the idea’s been planted.”

“I’ve got no doubt. That’s not a bad thing, either.”

“I know. And I know I can’t really blame the hormones for freaking out, but I wasn’t entirely expecting champagne and do you think Mrs. Vankald is real? Like a real, human person?”

Robin’s laugh echoed off the walls of the foyer and the very fancy banister next to them and Emma had to check and make sure the photos just underneath hadn’t fallen on the floor. “You know sometimes I wonder,” he admitted. “It would take some kind of saint to raise Cap and Liam at the same time. But, uh, I think she did a pretty fantastic job. Her and Mr. V. They’re…”

“Next level?”

“Yeah, exactly that.”

Emma hummed in the back of her throat, tugging on the ends of her hair and the ring around her neck and she knew there was more to this conversation. “It’s been so different,” Robin murmured, soft enough that Emma wasn’t sure she heard him at first. “Cap, I mean. He’s...when he got hurt, we thought that was it. He shut down. Sat upstairs in that room and wouldn’t get on the ice and I thought he was going to check me into the wall when I got here.”

“Wait, what?”

“That’s Liam’s fault, really, he taught Cap how to do this thing with his stick right under a guy’s shoulder blade and--”

“--No, no, that’s not what I meant,” Emma interrupted. “You came here? To do what?”

“Get Cap back on the ice,” he shrugged. “That’s...Cap never mentioned that.”

It wasn’t a question, but Emma shook her head anyway. “Nah, I think he’s kind of ashamed of it?” That was a question. She squeezed one eye closed. “He’s a bit of a perfectionist, y’know?”

“Yeah, a bit. Scarlet would have several other opinions about it, but he lived with Cap, so he’s got a whole slew of stories. But, uh, yeah, I came and told him to get his shit together. HIs life wasn’t over, even when he thought it had to be, even after he thought he’d ruined everything.”

“Liam’s injury wasn’t his fault.”

“I don’t know that he’ll ever truly believe that,” Robin muttered, a note of something on the edge of his voice. “But that’s kind of where I’m going with this and why I understand how you ended up on these steps.”

“Yeah?”

Robin nodded, and the teasing glint in his eye was far too similar to Roland’s. “Cap thought everything was over, but we got him out of that room and back on the ice and he’s finally starting to realize that there’s even more away from the ice. That’s because of you. And I know he’s worried because shit can wrong and sometimes it does go wrong, but sometimes it’s…”

He exhaled, that same smile on his face when he met Emma’s gaze. She was just going to cry for the rest of the night.

“Sometimes it’s absolutely incredible,” Robin finished. “And you think you’re going to be alone forever, but you stumble into a city and a team and a family that inadvertently freaks you out with champagne toasts.”

“Was it that obvious?” Emma asked.

“Painfully.”

“Jeez. I should apologize.”

“Nah,” Robin objected, bumping his shoulder against hers familiarly. “But neither one of you are alone in this. Maybe too not alone, honestly.”

“Those double negatives.”

“You totally kept up.”

Emma nodded, smile feeling a bit more natural and pulse a bit more normal and she wasn’t even surprised to hear another set of footsteps coming towards them.

Mary Margaret’s eyes were red. “You ok?” she asked, and Emma nodded with a honesty that was equal parts nice and a little surprising. “Scarlet is telling slightly out of place jokes and recounting your ability to pick locks to the Vankalds in an attempt to distract them.”

“Oh my God,” Emma groaned. Robin kept laughing. “Is Killian…”

“Fine, fine, appropriately deflected and then started muttering something about ginger and searching the cabinets and he kind of lost me after that.”

“Morning sickness,” Emma and Robin said at the same time. Mary Margaret’s eyes widened.

“I know some things,” Robin shrugged. “Like how Mary Margaret’s been dying to stare at your ring for hours.”

Mary Margaret gasped and Emma nearly cackled, but they’d been holed up in some quasi vacation for three days post-Games and her ring was stupid gorgeous.

“Lucas told me,” Robin explained. “She got very chatty while trying to decide who to call to break down Cap and Emma’s door.”

“David made a pretty good dent,” Emma muttered, groaning when Mary Margaret nearly ripped her wrist out of its socket. “Jeez, Reese’s, my hand’s not going anywhere.”

“Sorry, sorry, sorry,” Mary Margaret mumbled. “I’m just…”

“Excited?” She nodded. “Yeah, me too.”

They sat there for another five minutes, Mary Margaret staring at Emma’s ring like she knew how to describe luminosity or what a carat was, asking questions about wedding planning and trying, rather obviously, to get Emma’s nerves under control.

It totally worked.

And none of them were surprised when Killian walked into the lobby, tongue pressed on the side of his cheek and his left hand stuck in his hair.

“Scarlet’s started talking about that one kid who kept trying to talk to me while I was checking him, so I figured that was my cue to leave.”

“Someone was trying to talk to you while you were checking him?” Mary Margaret asked. “In the Olympics?”

“They wanted his autograph,” Emma explained. “He’s super famous and important.”

“Makes sense.”

Killian didn’t object, but his eyes flitted towards Emma and she should probably apologize to him. “Well,” Mary Margaret said, standing up abruptly and none of them were very good at subtle. “This is probably the point where we go and make sure Rol and Henry aren’t trying to play hockey in the hallway, right?”

“Too late,” Killian said, nodding towards the sound of a crash. “The house is used to it.”

“Mrs. V is honestly a saint.”

“That too.”

Robin nodded, Mary Margaret already halfway towards the kitchen and Emma needed to learn some breathing exercises or something. She scrunched her nose, twisting the ring around her neck, and Killian appeared have become some kind of statue at some point.

“I think it’s about time little Vankald and I had a serious discussion about her boyfriend’s inability to provide me with an adequate amount of stick-tape every night," Robin said pointedly.

“Yeah, Banana will love that,” Killian muttered, as Robin clapped him on the shoulder. “You’re as subtle as two tons of bricks.”

“And one threat to check you down the staircase and into oncoming traffic.”

Killian blinked, a reference Emma didn’t entirely understand, but she had a pretty good hunch and Roland had absolutely broken something in the hallway. “Where did he even get a stick?” Emma asked as soon as Robin was gone, working a quiet sound out of Killian. “Roland. And I’m assuming Henry. Do they both have sticks?”

“I’m at least ninety-nine percent positive Banana found them.”

“From the Garden?”

He shook his head, sinking down next to her and tugging her fingers away from her ring. “Nah, they were downstairs. One of them’s got my initials on it.”

“You put your initials on your stick?”

“To make sure Liam couldn’t use it. Mine had more goals.”

“Ah, naturally.”

“He was more of a set-up guy anyway,” Killian reasoned, and his fingers fit very nicely in between hers. Emma focused on that. It helped settle the butterflies. “Are you alright, Swan?” he asked, the question sounding far too loud and far too cautious for the number of sonograms sitting in her bag a few feet away.

“Yeah, I think so. I’m...are you…”

“You’ve got to finish the sentences, love.”

“I know, I know,” she mumbled, and she didn’t think she imagined the way his hand tightened. “Ok, I’m going to say something and it’s not bad, per se, but--”

“--Emma.”

“Oh my God, you can’t just do that.”

Killian widened his eyes, and it was way too much blue and even more feeling, but Emma’s lungs continued to do their job and her stomach stayed where it was supposed and she wasn’t even surprised when he tugged her hand up to brush his lips under her other ring.

God.

“It all happened really quickly, didn’t it?” Emma asked, not entirely appreciating the way her voice sounded. “And I know I keep circling around on freakouts here, but I’m really considering blaming hormones forever and, like, even after we have this kid and--”

She didn’t finish. That was probably for the best. She’d lost track of her point as soon as Killian started kissing her again.

They were sitting on different steps, so the angles were a bit off, Emma twisted and Killian trying to lean up, with his weight resting on his left hand and that couldn’t have been good for the bruises that had started looking a little green two days before.

He didn’t let go of her hand, but Emma’s fingers still managed to find their way into his hair and it was a goddamn disaster of teeth and lips and whatever the hell he was doing with his tongue, tracing it over her bottom lip until she was fairly positive she was actually melting on the Vankald’s staircase.

That would probably make this whole impending grandparent thing kind of awkward.

And, like, family holidays.

They got family holidays now – on some sort of indefinite basis.

“God, we’ve really got to stop answering major life questions with makeouts,” Emma mumbled, but the point got kind of lost when she hadn’t actually moved her mouth away from Killian’s.

She could feel his smile as easily as she could hear it, a whole other level of happily ever after, and maybe she wouldn’t freak out about the rest of their lives for, like, at least a week after this.

“I love you,” he said, and for all the times he’d told her that in general and that day, this one felt decidedly different. It felt like a promise and something bigger than that and his fingers were soft on her cheek when she started fucking crying again.

“Was that the answer?”

“That and the makeouts.”

Emma laughed, sliding down the stair and rolling her eyes when Killian groaned at the unnecessary risk. “Heart attack,” she mumbled. “Blood pressure. Something about stress being detrimental to scoring goals.”

“I don’t think that’s an actual scientific study.”

“I’m going to find one. Or use you as my subject.”

“Seems a little devious, honestly,” Killian said, slinging an arm around her. “It’s quick, Swan, or quicker than previous plans. But...it’s good. The best. Right?”

“Are you asking me for confirmation?”

“Yes.”

She pulled back at the quick response – all three letters feeling like they were hanging in front of her face and waiting for her approval, but Emma had never been good at talking or discussing and they were so goddamn good at kissing.

It felt wrong to break the streak, anyway.

“Did you totally know?” she asked, a few moments later. They would have to do something about Killian’s hair before they went back into the dining room.

He nodded. “I had a fairly good feeling. And I get it, Swan, I do. I am...terrified isn’t the right word, but it’s...the rest of our lives, right?”

“You’ve got to stop checking for confirmation. I'm sorry for freaking out.”

“I spent an entire international flight looking up facts about brain activity and joints and how early kids could get on the ice. I think we’re on fairly even footing, Swan.”

She bit her lip so she didn’t do something absolutely absurd like giggle again or possibly start sobbing, but neither of those seemed like options the world wanted her to have and Emma was incredibly in love with her fiancé.

She kept calling him that in her head.

It was nice.

“All-time leading goal scorer,” she muttered. “Scarlet really ran interference on the Vanakalds?”

“Lucas helped. Lots of Olympic stories and something about luge. Locksley and Mary Margaret tag-team on the supportive speech?”

Emma shook her head. “Robin ran solo for awhile, actually. I kind of forgot it was all something he’d been through before, you know? Hockey and a kid and figuring it all out.”

“He needs to update his hope speeches,” Killian muttered, but he couldn’t quite get enough venom in his voice to make it sound like he was actually upset. And he couldn’t seem to stop touching Emma, fingers tracing over her shoulder and her side and ghosting over the front of her stomach. “That hasn’t changed in several years.”

“Ah, well, tried and true, right? And maybe he can get some tips from Reese’s.”

Killian grinned, kissing her quickly and his hand hadn’t moved. “We should probably explain your aversion to champagne, Swan.”

“Yeah, probably. I’m not...I’m not running anywhere, I promise, just trying to process having it all, you know?”

“I know, love. That makes two of us. C’mon, before Banana starts complaining about using up all her data.”

It took a couple moments to get everyone back into their designated seats in the dining room and several different phones were playing several different Olympic highlights, Roland climbing on top of Killian as soon as he sat down.

Mrs. Vankald looked nervous.

“So, uh,” Mr. Vankald started, sitting at the head of the table, and Emma could just make out Liam laughing from the FaceTime in Colorado. Elsa sounded like she told him to be quiet. Anna was barely holding onto her phone. “Can you get them to be quite?” Mr. Vankald asked, nodding towards the screen and there were muttered sorry, Mr. V and sorry, Dad from several thousand miles away.

“I’m sorry about before,” Emma said. “But, well--”

“--It’s not just an engagement, is it?” Mrs. Vankald asked, and Emma shook her head. Killian’s hand found hers underneath the table.

“I’m pregnant.”

Anna dropped her phone – several exclamations and curses from Colorado and no one apologized to Henry or Roland because they were all too busy screaming and shouting and cheering and no one was sitting down anymore.

Emma squeezed Killian’s hand.

Or the other way around.

Neither one of them let go.

Mr. Vankald moved first, stepping around the table to shake Killian’s hand and pull Emma into a tight hug. “That’s wonderful news,” he said, voice gruff and no one in that dining room had any control over their emotions.

“There’s, uh….there’s more,” Killian muttered softly. Emma was briefly concerned for the state of Mrs. Vankald’s eyes.

It couldn't have been safe for them to be that wide.

“It’s not bad,” Emma promised, practically shouting the words at the crowd around them. “Really. It’s more of a request?”

“What kind of request?” Mr. Vankald asked.

Emma felt Killian take a deep breath behind her. “Well, it’s way too early to know for sure, but we went to doctor today and…” The room exploded in another round of noise, Elsa’s cry probably doing damage to everyone’s ears, but Killian couldn’t glare at all of them and he only let go of Emma’s hand to wrap it around her waist, fingers toying with the end of her team-branded t-shirt. “None of you are getting the pictures if you’re all going to be assholes about this.”

“There are pictures?” Mary Margaret whispered, Ruby behind her with both her hands over her mouth and tears in her eyes.

Killian nodded. “Yeah, way too many honestly, but you’re all distracting me from my point.” He turned, another deep breath and Mrs. Vankald was biting her lip. “It’s way too early to know,” he repeated, “but, we were thinking if it’s a boy, we’d like to name him…Matthew.”

Anna was going to do permanent damage to her phone.

Mrs. Vankald sat down.

“Oh,” she muttered, hands shaking slightly to try and brush the tears away, and Emma didn’t quite push Killian forward, was probably some kind of joint effort, but he moved and he was crouched in front of Mrs. Vankald, and Will might have been taking pictures.

“Anna’s too busy crying and trying to make sure El sees this to do it,” he reasoned when Emma glanced at him questioningly.

Mrs. Vankald rested her hand on Killian’s cheek, a small smile on her face and Emma couldn't remember seeing Mr. Vankald look like that – as if the entire world had been righted on its axis and nothing would ever be wrong again.

It all kind of felt like that.

Happily ever after or happily ever...the rest of their lives.

“Of course,” Mrs. Vankald mumbled. “Of course. That’s…”

“Thank you,” Mr. Vankald finished, shaking his head before Killian could get his objection out. “It’d be an honor, my boy.”

No one really stopped crying, and the baked goods were almost unfairly good, which almost begged the question why they even still tried making bread pudding at Christmas, but Emma forget the question by the time they passed out sonogram photos and she was going to make fun of whatever noise Ruby made as soon as her eyes landed on the little blob-type thing for the rest of her life.

“The doctor thought we were insane,” Emma said. “We just kept asking for more.”

“Yeah, well, you guys are super weird,” Ruby countered, but the insult didn’t land when she was sniffling. “Was there...you’re supposed to get some kind of due date, right?”

“Why do you know that?”

“Did you not?”

“You’re avoiding the question.”

“I’m good at my job.”

Emma rolled her eyes, but she was still smiling and she wasn’t quite dreading the road trip when an entire downtown brownstone was clutching seven-week sonograms like they’d been dipped in gold. “Start of next season,” she answered. “October. ‘Ish.”

“So just in time for a title defense, huh?” Will asked. “No jinx.”

“No jinx,” Emma repeated.

She fell asleep in the backseat of the cab, her head on Killian’s shoulder and his arm around her waist. “Just tell him to keep driving around,” she mumbled. “Put that contract extension to good use.”

“Yeah, I think that’s what college funds are for, Swan,” Killian chuckled. He kept his arm around her as they moved into the building, nodding in response to another critique of the penalty kill and make sure you get that push in the standings, huh, and Emma barely opened her eyes while they were in the elevator.

She wasn’t quite sure how they got to bed, simply content that they had, pillows kicked onto the floor and blankets twisted between them, and the only thing she’d noticed was the sonogram on the fridge door.

“I love you,” Emma mumbled, mostly into the pillow under her head, but Killian kissed just behind her ear and she knew he heard.

“I know, Swan. I love you, too.”

It was the best she slept since they got back from the Games.

Chapter Text

“Not a word.”

“I said no words, Cap.” 

“You were thinking them.”

“I was not. I was considering thinking them, but then I decided I’d rather not die before we could possibly clinch the East and that’d ruin whatever fairy tale we’re running with here.”

Killian glanced over his shoulder, stuffing his gloves into the corner of his locker and there wasn’t really that much room in his locker. There wasn’t really much hockey equipment in his locker. There were, however, several photos and hand-drawn pictures and the most recent one was leaving a trail of sparkles across the entire locker room.

“Fairy tale,” Killian echoed. “Isn’t that a little sentimental for you, Scarlet?”

Will shrugged, stretching his legs out and propping his feet up on the lowest shelf. “Is it not? You take your option, your kids are painfully adorable and, suddenly, we’re rolling through some kind of postseason script that’ll probably inspire a movie at some point.” 

“You’ve put a lot of thought into this.” 

“I’ve put the appropriate amount of thought into this. And you better put up your sign or Pegs is going to be really disappointed.” 

Killian hummed, far too aware of his five-year-old daughter’s decorating tendencies and the letters that he was, at least, ninety-eight percent positive Emma had sketched at some point the night before.

“She made one for Rook too,” Will continued, eyes darting towards Killian when he was forced to use stick tape to press the piece of paper into one of the few open corners of his locker. “It was the most goddamn adorable thing I’ve ever seen.”

“Wait backtrack a second, have you seen my kids before I have? Is that weird?”

“It’s definitely weird, but they like me more and Dr. J wanted to discuss strategy on the PK. He’s got a lot of thoughts about forechecking.” 

Killian scoffed, something that felt like pride blooming in the center of his chest. “That’s because he’s frustrated we’re not scoring at least ten goals a game. How did you happen to see my kids before I saw my kids?”

“We just went over this, Cap. And because Gina told them they had, approximately, five minutes before Robin had to go on air and Pegs made him a good luck sign too. Although I think he got a different color scheme than we did. Something that was going to match his tie.”

“How could she possibly know what color tie he was going to wear?”

“Seriously you can’t figure out that string of communication on your own?” Will asked and Killian didn’t blink when he twisted, met with an expression somewhere between amused and all-knowing and they were probably going to get glitter on the ice.

“Ok, try and keep up,” Will grinned. “Ruby and Emma drew those letters last night at the restaurant, Rol helped outline them because, naturally they needed to be outlined, Matt thought everything should be blue, Pegs disagreed, Gina heard, promised to find out what color it should be and texted Emma when they got home. Locksley followed up with photo evidence so Pegs could make sure she picked the closest color while we were at morning skate and then went to the MSG studios when, as previously mentioned, Gina told them they could.”

“That wasn’t really that complicated,” Killian said and Will groaned, rolling his head when he made some sort of rude gesture that wasn’t quite as endearing as color coordinated artwork. “So they went across the street then?”

“I thought you just said it wasn’t complicated.” 

“Don’t be an ass.” 

Will chuckled, shaking his hand out of his glove and running it over his face, the smile there genuine, like everything was, well, sparkly. And color coordinated. With well-outlined block letters and personalized pre-game messages.

God, maybe they were some kind of fairy tale.

“Holy shit,” Killian gasped, jerking towards Will and earning a pair of incredibly well-rolled eyes for his outburst. “When?”

“You’re going to need to be more specific, Cap.” 

“When did this happen?” 

Will hummed in the back of his throat, squeezing one eye closed and his nails weren’t quite as perfectly colored as Killian’s, but there were still bits of blue and sparkles and they were going to inspire several different headlines if anyone saw. “Uhhhhh not last night, but the night before?” 

“Why are you spending so much time with my kids?” 

“We did this already,” Will chuckled, tugging his hand out of Killian’s grasp and shoving against his shoulder. “They like me better. And you were still here when I got uptown, probably doing something vaguely Captain-esque…” 

“I was on that hockey show Locksley does post-game.” 

“How many shows is Locksley on?” 

Killian shrugged, but the answer might have actually been six and Regina had outdone herself in the last few seasons.

They were all going to be set for life – with bright blue, sparkly nails.

“I feel like I should be insulted that Locksley isn’t inviting me on his shows too,” Will continued, leaning over to lace up his skates. “Whatever. I’ll score a hatty, your kids will love me more and then Locksley will have to acknowledge me.”

“You realize how insane that sounds?” 

“Yes.” 

“Oh, huh,” Killian blinked. “That was not the answer I thought I was going to get. I was sure there was going to be way more banter.”

Will flashed a grin, glancing around the locker room when it started to fill up – new kids and more veterans and far more laughter than there probably should have been, all things considered, but they could clinch the East that night and things were vaguely fairy tale and, over the last few years, the New York Rangers locker room had become some kind of never-ending parade of absolutely adorable.

“I’m here to keep you on your toes, Cap,” Will muttered, pushing off his bench and catching a close-to-flying Dylan Havfrue around the waist. “Control your limbs, little man.”

Dylan did not, in fact, control his limbs, laughter sounding impossibly loud even with the other footsteps approaching. Killian turned just in time for a flash of green eyes and dark hair and several incredibly potent limbs to fling themselves at him, arms wrapped tightly around his neck and a knee finding its way into his spleen.

He assumed it was his spleen.

He also assumed it was bruised.

“Daddy, daddy, daddy,” Peggy shouted and he could feel her smile when she buried her face into the crook of his neck. “Did you like your sign?”

Killian tried to keep the hair out of his mouth when he answered, but that was a lost cause and he was too busy catching Emma’s eye from the other side of the room. She bit her lip lightly, trying to stop herself from smiling too wide and that was kind of a lost cause too.

She had a walkie-talkie in her hand and she looked a little tired, but that was par for the playoff course and there were Rangerstown posters everywhere.

Killian was, at least, ninety-six percent positive she’d hung half of them herself.

She’d still been in Chase Square when he walked out of the MSG Network studio across the street two nights before – balanced precariously on a vaguely rickety ladder with both Merida and Ruby spotting her. And he wasn’t really sure what had happened, but it felt like something in his brain had short-circuited and he nearly got hit by four different cabs when he ran across 7th Avenue.

Ruby didn’t appreciate that.

But it hadn’t really mattered because he was him and Emma smiled as soon as she saw him, sitting on the top step of the ladder like that wasn’t even more precarious than standing on it.

They made out in the backseat of the cab uptown – after he’d helped her hang the signs.

“Cap,” Phillip muttered, kicking at his ankles when it became incredibly obvious Peggy did not appreciate being ignored. “What’s happening with your face?”

Killian blinked, trying to come up with an appropriate answer to that question, particularly when one of his kids was hanging off him and the other – decked in head to toe Rangers gear – was tucked under Phillip’s arm with an expectant look on his face that felt oddly familiar.

Emma smiled.

“He’s probably thinking about all the ladders he’s got to save people from,” she said.

“That was dangerous, Swan.”

“Ruby and Merida were there.” 

“That does not make me feel much better,” Killian argued and Peggy moved again, a different knee finding its way into one of his kidneys. And several different ribs. He was going to be bruised before he even got on the ice.

It was worth it.

He might have been the most melodramatic part of the fairy tale. He hoped they didn’t put that in the inevitable film adaption.

“What exactly are we missing?” Phillip asked, directing Matt further into the locker room until they were both sitting on the same bench. And Phillip’s locker had a considerable amount of hand-drawn art on it as well.

“I had to hang signs before you guys could clinch and because you cold clinch and apparently the ladder was too rickety,” Emma explained.

“Had to or decided to?”

“That’s not the question you should be asking.”

Phillip chuckled, glancing meaningfully Will’s direction. He nodded seriously, lower lip jutted out and Killian felt the smile on his face when he noticed the slight flush on Emma’s cheek. “Yuh huh,” Phillip grinned. “So, like, on a scale of one to ten how much did Cap freak when he found out? Actually, you know what, you don’t have to answer that. I don’t want to embarrass Cap in front of your kids.”

“You are playing with fire, Rook,” Killian growled, the vaguely ancient nickname working its way into the threat.

Phillip’s smile widened. “So what you’re really saying is like...a fifteen?”

“You want to get the puck at all or no?”

“Please, you need me. And that other kid is nothing.”

“You’re only saying that because you’re pissed he’s breaking your record,” Ruby said, appearing out of seemingly nowhere with a clipboard in hand and a pen behind her ear. “And as a follow-up to that, where’s your kid, Rook?”

“Ok, I have not been a rookie in nearly a decade,” Phillip sighed. “We were literally just talking about a rookie. Go bother him, Lucas.” 

Ruby narrowed her eyes and it looked like she grew several feet while she stared at Phillip, his lips pulled behind his teeth and Killian didn’t think he imagined the way his arm tightened around Matt. “You want to rephrase your official statement?” she asked. “Because that one was pretty shitty, honestly. Don’t let him touch the puck the entire first period, Cap.” 

“See, that’s that what I’m saying,” Killian said. “But seriously, Phillip, where is your kid?”

“If I say I’m not entirely sure does that make me the world’s worst father? Because I’m like only seventy-six percent positive that they’re here.”

“They are,” Emma said. “Reese’s told me she saw Aurora with someone who she assumed was Aurora’s mom and dad and an incredibly adorable kid wearing your jersey heading up to the team suite when they got here.”

Phillip hummed, doing something that looked like an attempt at a wink. Ruby nearly cackled. “Oh thanks, Em,” he said. “That was definitely them. You can tell Mary Margaret her assumptions were correct.” 

“Good news,” Ruby mumbled. “You know what happens sometimes when you assume."

Emma glared at her. “Don’t you have something better to do than make sweeping allusions to vaguely antiquated curses in front of kids?”

“They didn’t even notice,” Ruby reasoned. She pressed a kiss to the top of Matt’s hair, laughing loudly his grumbled c’mon Ru . “Don’t be like that mini-Jones. You get on TV when you were across the street?”

Matt shook his head, kicking his feet out and the banter was a strange pre-game routine they’d all fallen into. “No, there wasn’t enough time.” 

“You want me to beat up Locksley for you?” 

“Lucas,” Killian snapped, at the same time Emma yelled “Rubes” and Will was going to do permanent damage to his shoulders if he kept laughing while trying to make sure Dylan Havfrue didn’t end up on the floor in the middle of the New York Rangers locker room.

Merida shouted something on the walkie-talking again, something about fans and cheering and an appearance from Rangers legend Robin Locksley before puck drop.

“Oh God, did she honestly just call him a legend?” Will groaned. “Don’t let Gina hear that, she’s going to change his business cards if she knows that’s what we’re referring to him as.”

“Why are you all being so difficult about this?” Emma asked, eyes flashing towards Killian and it wasn’t easy to balance Peggy when he held his arm out towards her. She moved anyway, letting her head rest against the front of his pads.

“I’m not being difficult. I'm being...practical. It’s so much work to redo business cards. Isn’t that right, Lucas?”

“I was not in charge of my own business cards,” Ruby answered evenly. “I have several different assistants for that. Because I’m way more important than any of you.” 

“And modest too,” Phillip muttered. Ruby glared again, but he was already holding up one hand and shaking his head. “Don’t do it again, Lucas. I’m going to score at least once and assist on someone else’s goal. Two points, at least, so I can impress my kid.” 

“And his in-laws,” Emma added. 

“That’s neither here nor there.”

“Right, right, of course. Totally not part of the plan.”

“Hey, Em,” Will cut in, wincing when Dylan inadvertently elbowed him in the ear. “How many shows is Locksley on? Cap didn’t know.”

Emma twisted, glancing up at him from underneath her eyelashes and, more than a decade later, that was just as distracting as ever, a few hours before puck drop. “You really don’t know?” she asked.

“It’s a lot, right?”

“Four?” Ruby asked, gaze flitting around the room and they really needed to get dressed soon. Killian assumed Ruby had something vaguely vice-presidential to do. He hoped Mr. and Mrs. Vankald got along with Phillip’s in-laws in the team suite.

“It’s got to be more than four,” Killian said. “Six. A round half dozen because Gina is crazy. Don’t repeat that,” he added, mostly into Peggy’s hair. “I don’t want to get yelled at later.”

Phillip shook his head. “No, no, it’s not six. That’s insane. Who’d have time for six shows?”

“Gina would make time.” 

“I mean that’s a fair assumption,” Ruby grinned. “But, not to repeat myself, you know what happens when you assume, Cap.” 

“Oh my God,” Emma groaned, fingers tapping absentmindedly on the back of Killian’s hand. “Count them. He does MSG-150, plus the post and pre-game stuff.” 

“You can’t count post and pre as different shows. That’s all part of the game broadcast. And MSG-150 is just part of the intermission same thing.” 

“Agreed,” Will said. “Anything game related only counts as one.” 

“That’s just because you don’t want it to be a lot numbers,” Emma pointed out. “Sounds like you’re a little threatened.”

Will tilted his head, eyebrows pulled low and Killian didn’t have to see her to know Emma was smiling. And he nearly dropped Peggy when he moved, earning another bruise for his efforts, brushing his lips over the top of her head.

The entire locker room groaned – including that other, incredibly fast rookie and both of Killian's kids.

“Hey,” Killian said, eyeing Matt with something he hoped was vaguely fatherly and not how much he wanted to make out with Emma pre-game. He didn’t really care about the number of shows Robin was inexplicably on anymore. “None of that.”

Matt nodded, a twist to his lips and a flash in his eyes and he’d gotten very good at perfecting that very particular response.

“It’s three,” he said.

“What?”

“Uncle Robin is on three shows. If you’re following Ru’s rules and saying that the game stuff only counts as one.” 

“How do you know that?” 

“I watch TV,” Matt shrugged. “He does the game stuff and The Hockey Show and Aunt Gina got him that fancy Locked In thing.” 

“That fancy Locked In thing,” Phillip echoed, working another shrug out of Matt and Killian was fairly sure there were cameras working into the locker room too. Mulan was probably on some kind of pre-game, photo gallery quest.

“Gina talked to someone in production, got them to agree to use the name Locked In for the show that used to be the coach’s show,” Emma explained. “There was a lot of discussion, a lot of debate, Gina glared at people. The usual.”

Phillip nodded in understanding, but Killian mumbled don’t repeat that either in Peggy’s hair and Gina was going to murder all of them at the restaurant later that night.

Her nails were probably blue too.

“It’s only three shows,” Matt mumbled, like he’d won some kind of argument or settled some kind of debate and he probably practiced shrugging in the mirror as well.

And Killian didn’t know who laughed louder – Ruby or Phillip or even Emma, twisting into his side with both her arms wrapped around his middle.

It made his pads dig into his shoulders and the small of his back and he didn’t say anything, just hid his smile in the mixture of both Emma and Peggy’s hair.

“You’re definitely the smartest one, mini-Jones,” Ruby said, brushing far too long hair out of Matt’s eyes and tugging lightly on the front of his jersey. “Thanks for agreeing with me.”

Matt muttered something that sounded like yeah, sure , but the tips of his ears had gone red and he couldn’t seem to meet anyone’s gaze, avoiding Killian’s expectant stare and possibly proud smile and Phillip was still laughing.

“Man, it’s like looking in a mirror,” Will said, hitching Dylan further up his shoulders and Killian hoped Ariel wasn’t anywhere nearby. She would yell.

“You know that doesn’t make any sense at all, right?” Emma laughed. She pulled her head away from Killian, lips still curled into a smile and he tapped his thumb on the back of her wrist – just over her laces and her nails were a slightly different shade of blue than Killian’s or Will’s.

“I think you got a few more sparkles than I did, Swan,” Killian said, nodding towards her hand. “When did you have time for that?”

“We were all very well scheduled. She had a whole plan.” 

“For real?” 

Emma nodded, a camera shutter clicking a few feet away and if any of this ended up online Killian was going to break several sticks and a few whiteboards just to prove a point. “I expect a few more sparkles next time ok, little love?” he asked, somehow managing to get into Peggy’s gaze and she practically beamed in response.

“Only if you win,” Peggy said and it might have been ok if the internet got official documentation of that moment because it might have been the greatest moment and Killian was only slightly certain his heart hadn’t exploded out of his chest.

Will looked a little stunned, Ruby squeezing her eyes closed and she was absolutely on the verge of tears, but Emma’s walkie talkie made noise and they all jumped, Merida’s muttered voice sounding only vaguely stressed.

That was a step up from normal. Killian assumed it was because they’d hung the signs two nights before.

“Although,” Emma continued, brushing away Peggy’s hair from Killian’s face, “you are kind of right, Scarlet. It’s eerily similar to Killian.”

“It’s the eyebrow thing,” Phillip said. He rested his head on top of Matt’s shoulder, working a not-so-quiet groan out of the kid and Killian felt a surge of affection that might get him to score his own hat trick and maybe he should have challenged Will to some kind of pre-game bet.

Will chuckled and he couldn’t sit down with Dylan hanging off his shoulder, but he could, at least, lean back and Peggy made some kind of strangled sound when he nearly ripped one of her latest works of art.

“Uncle Will,” she shouted, directly into Killian’s ear and both he and Emma mumbled some kind of reprimand under their breath. It didn’t make a difference.

There was art to protect.

“Sorry, sorry, Pegs,” Will said quickly. “The art is totally fine. I promise, kid.”

She nodded enthusiastically, eyes wide and still just a bit cautious and Will grabbed more tape, some kind of precautionary measure against the creative inclinations of a five-year-old who had taken over an entire professional hockey team.

“Daddy,” she said, yanking on his pads and nearly strangling him in the process. “You never said.”

Killian blinked, trying to make sure his throat hadn’t collapsed in the last four seconds and Emma answered for him. “Said what, babe?” 

“His sign!” 

“Oh, right, right, right. You know, we worked very hard on tracing those letters last night,” Emma said, glancing back at Killian and he was going to show up the rookie. He had his priorities straight. “And there was some debate about the color scheme.” 

“Blue is generally a safe bet,” Killian muttered. He shifted Peggy to his other side, dimly aware of several assistant coaches shouting and a few more camera clicks and they needed to go play a hockey game. “And I love the sign, Peg. You did a fantastic job.”

She smiled at him, peppering the side of his face with kisses and Killian’s entire being felt like it was going to explode – several varieties of emotions and most of them were just synonyms of happiness.

“You and Uncle Will and Rook got different ones!”

Killian’s eyes flickered towards Emma – she shook her head in response, an unspoken she was determined that had basically become the subhead of Margaret Elsa Jones’ life at that point.

And no one was very good at saying no to her.

He assumed Peggy was the reason they’d been let on the set across the street before Robin was slated to do fan events and three shows in one.

“We’re totally going to win now, Pegs,” Phillip said.

Matt nearly screamed. “Don’t jinx it!”

“Oh my God, it is like a mini-Cap. It’s so weird. Listen, Matt, you’ve got to do me a favor and when you play, you can’t pick twenty too, ok? Pick another number.” 

“Don’t pick Rook’s number, Dr. J,” Will mumbled, kicking lightly at Matt’s ankles and working a laugh out of him. “Plus seventy-six is way better. Looks good when you’re checking.” 

“Oh my God, Scarlet,” Killian sighed.

“We going to bet on something or what, Cap?”

“What do you want to bet on?”

Will shrugged, tilting his head and keeping an arm around Dylan. “I feel like you should get to pick since you’re just going to lose, so…”

“Ok, that’s rude.” 

“Well, Rook claimed he was going to get at least two points, so I expect three points from you, Cap. At least.” 

“Three,” Killian repeated. “That’s it?”

Will gasped, nearly falling backwards off the bench when he tried to point and laugh at the same time and Killian probably would have made fun of that if he didn’t realize they were being filmed and he could hear Robin’s voice moving through the locker room.

“Awfully confident,” Emma muttered, lacing her fingers through Killian’s free hand.

Killian hummed, pressing another kiss to her hair, but Matt didn’t groan when he moved towards them. He slammed into Emma’s side, though, never quite as good on the ground as he was on ice and stopping was still a distinct work in progress.

“Three is easy,” Matt said. “Just get in front of the net, Dad.”

“Yeah, Cap,” Phillip nodded. “Just get in front of the net. We’ll do the rest. And I really want to make sure Scarlet loses.” 

“Ok, that’s rude,” Will hissed.

Robin – and his video entourage – arrived in front of them before Killian could come up with some witty retort, pushing cameras into their faces and his tie was incredibly red.

“What the hell is this?” Killian asked, tugging on fabric and Robin couldn’t swat at his hands quickly enough. “A power tie? This is the wrong color entirely.”

“Get out of here, Cap. And stop swearing in front of your kids.” 

“You just came at a totally inopportune time, Locksley. What are you doing here? Don’t you have a TV show to do?” 

“What do you think I’m doing? This is pre-game stuff.” 

“Part one of three,” Ruby muttered, waving a dismissive hand when Robin muttered what under his breath. “Don’t listen to them, Locksley. Scarlet, finish your terms.” 

“Terms,” Robin shouted. “What the hell? Guys, it’s not cool if you leave me out of the bets.” 
“Locksley you are a retired hockey player,” Killian pointed out. “A legend. If you will. And stop swearing in front of my kids.”

“Who said that? The legend thing, not swearing in front of your kids. Hey guys, long time no see. Peg, the guys at the station put your picture up on set.” 

Peggy let out a noise between a scream and a gasp, trying to climb up and down Killian at the same time. “Really?” 

“I wouldn’t lie to you, kid. You’ve got to make one for Rol though. He’s super jealous of your dad’s nails.”

“Can we get back to the point, please?” Will asked. “Pegs, you’ve done a great job with the art, they should let you redecorate the Garden and wherever Rol is--”

“--The national team training center, Scarlet, don’t act like you don’t know that.” 

“Whatever, whatever. I want at least three points, Cap and if I don’t get three points, then I get to take the lead in post.” 

“We do post in front of our lockers later,” Phillip muttered, but it didn’t make any difference and Ruby was already demanding to know what the hell that means .

Will widened his eyes in wait, pointing meaningfully towards both Peggy and Matt, like he was reminding Killian that his kids were standing there would make some kind of difference. As if he weren’t already far more competitive than a normal, healthy person should be.

“Yeah, that’s totally fair,” Killian said. “Game on or whatever.”

“Oh God, I can’t believe you just said that out loud. You get that on camera, Locksley? I want that documented for posterity so we can show it when they inevitably retire Cap’s number and the league wants hysterical videos during the inevitable ceremony.”

“You’ve put way too much thought into this,” Robin said. “Why are you thinking about Cap’s retirement ceremony? Mini-Jones is going to wear his number anyway. Obviously.”

“Obviously,” Emma repeated softly, just loud enough for Killian to hear it and maybe they could find a corner of the Garden they hadn’t made out in yet.

Matt’s ears were red. Again.

They were absolutely going to clinch the East.

Will nodded, tugging Dylan along with him when he took a step into Killian’s space and Robin directed the cameras towards them. “Game on,” he said.

Robin made Will repeat the whole thing on camera – something about good for the fans and the internet – but it gave Killian a chance to shift the weight of the five-year-old still clinging to his side and direct the eight-year-old with bright red ears towards the door of the locker room and Emma had turned her walkie-talkie off at some point.

And they were, really, overflowing with traditions now, but this one might have been Killian’s favorite and he was kind of a giant sap.

“Alright,” he said, not surprised when Peggy found a way to drape herself horizontally over his shoulders. “Scouting report.”

He saw Emma’s smile out of the corner of his eye, twisting the ring around her neck, and Killian couldn’t quite remember when it started exactly – probably somewhere around the time that Matt could open his eyes.

It was definitely before he could form cognizant sentences.

Emma claimed it was playing favorites again, something about how he’d gotten used to the sound of games before he was even born, and Killian probably wouldn’t have ever admitted how much that made his pulse pick up. She absolutely knew anyway.

And the websites backed her up.

It became a trend that first season after Matt was born – hours spent on the couch in their apartment and the couch in Emma’s office and it was some kind of mutual comfort thing, Matt resting on his chest with a team-provided tablet in his hand and film in the background, mumbling a steady stream of commentary and explanations into an infant’s ear.

They kept doing it with Peggy – partly because it really did seem to help both Jones kids sleep and partly because Matt resolutely refused to stop learning how hockey worked once he could form cognizant sentences – and there probably weren’t any two kids in the continental United States who knew more about the game than the Jones kids.

They watched film and dissected game play and gave Killian a scouting report before every game. It was tradition.

“The Devils block a ton of shots,” Matt started. “You won’t be able to do much from the point because they’re going to get into the lanes.”

Killian nodded. “You were pretty adamant about getting in front of the net.”

“I know.” 

“And?” 

“And what? Score and beat Uncle Will in the bet.” 

“You’ve made it sound awfully easy,” Killian said. “Their defense doesn’t give up many goals. It’s top in the Metro or something.”

“Yeah, but not on the PK. They’re garbage on the PK. Uncle Liam said a lot of stuff about them in Norwegian and...

“Hey,” Killian interrupted sharply and Matt’s eyes widened when he realized what he’d almost said. “Tell Uncle Liam to stop being such a bad influence.”

“He’s not wrong.”

“Yeah, I don’t care.”   

Emma couldn’t quite mask her laugh, doing a pretty awful job of turning it into a sound that even resembled a cough. She tugged on the back of Peggy’s jersey, trying to pull her off Killian’s shoulders, but that was, apparently, a bigger challenge than getting into the zone against the Devils.

“Something to add, Swan?” Killian asked, ruffling Matt’s hair when he groaned as loudly as he possibly could.

She shook her head. “Absolutely nothing. Just, you know, that maybe you might have mumbled a few pointed words that weren’t in the English language during the last game against the Devils and now you’re--”

He didn’t let her finish, which really wasn’t the best plan when both of their kids were standing there and they were in the middle of the hallway, which more than a decade later was still some kind of trend, and Killian really did have to finish getting dressed. He didn’t really care. He was going to kiss his wife and he could feel her smile when his lips found hers, the hint of laughter lingering in the minimal amount of air between them when one of her fingers hooked around a clasp in his pads.

“You’re a menace,” Emma mumbled, resting her forehead on his.

“Nah, a distraction at best.”

“I have stuff to do.” 

“I have a game to play.” 

“Yours might be more important.” 

“Equal footing, love,” Killian argued and it wasn’t much of an argument because it was a bunch of absurdly sentimental, fairy-tale type of truth.

Until Matt groaned again and someone called for Killian from the locker room and they really did have things to do. Emma kissed him again before she pulled away.

“Screen ‘em,” Peggy yelled, her own laughter nearly louder than her game-time suggestions when Killian tugged her down. Her words weren’t quite words when he flipped her over, Emma rolling her eyes and that was a bit of a tradition too. The light in the hallway seemed to reflect off the sparkles on his nails. “Daddy, daddy, you’ve got to screen ‘em and then you can score!”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah!” 

“Like, at least, three goals,” Matt added, a smile on his face and belief in his words and Killian barely heard Ariel’s screech when she jogged down the hallway.

“Cap, what the hell? God, jeez, sorry Matt, sorry Pegs.’

“Relax, Red, we’re fine,” Killian promised. “And you might want to refocus your frustration for Scarlet because I’m pretty sure he’s bench-pressing your kid in there.” 

“Are you kidding me?”

“Tattle tale,” Emma muttered, smile still on her face and ring still pinched between her fingers.

Killian made a dismissive noise, certain the smirk almost worked as soon as Emma tugged her lower lip in between her teeth. “Just reporting the facts, Swan.”

“God, you’re the most annoying hockey star in the history of the world,” Ariel mumbled. The words lost a bit of their edge when she started making faces at Peggy, though, slinging an arm around Matt. Her nails were painted too. “You going to score, Cap?” 

“Obviously.” 

“Ok, there’s no need to be quite so certain about it.” 

“Confidence is key, Red. Stop trying to undermine my father-type lessons.” 

“Jeez, laying it on almost too thick, don’t you think?” 

“He’s a giant sap, that’s why,” Emma said, a quiet hum of agreement from Ariel. “I mean, don’t get me wrong it’s cute, but that’s totally what it is.” 

Matt stuck his tongue out when he nearly growled in the middle of the hallway, Peggy far too busy giggling to be impressed by her parent’s continued and inevitable flirting in Madison Square Garden hallways.

Ariel rolled his eyes. “Nice nails, Cap.”

“It’s good luck,” he shrugged. “Are yours a different color?” 

“Nah, they’re still blue, but we had to pool resources when Pegs decided she was going to take over the entire team, you know.”

“Ah, yeah, that makes total sense.”

“I think the person behind the counter at Duane Reade thought we were planning something almost nefarious, honestly. Gina and I had to buy, like, fifteen different shades of blue.”

Killian blinked, surprise settling over him and it probably shouldn’t have, particularly when Peggy smiled, twisting back onto her feet. There was hair in her face.

Fairy tale. Or whatever.

Someone called for him again and it probably wouldn’t have been a very good lesson to be late for his own game.

“C’mon guys,” Emma said, tugging Peggy back to her side. “We’ve got to get back upstairs before we make sure Uncle Robin does something vaguely legendary outside.”

He was expecting the kiss, knew it was coming and they’d already kind of made out several times already, but Killian was still kind of greedy and absurdly happy and everyone’s nails were bright blue.

“I love you,” he muttered and maybe Peggy learned how to giggle from Emma.

“I love you too. Score some goals, ok?”

They won.

Easily.

By four goals, which wasn’t really all that surprising because Matt was right and the Devils PK was exceptionally shitty, and the new coach didn’t break nearly as many whiteboards as Arthur had, but that was neither here nor there because they’d won and Killian scored and assisted on Phillip’s second goal and they won.

He didn’t, however, win the bet.

He was only slightly frustrated by that.

And that was the biggest lie he’d told since he promised he was done after his second contract extension ended because he really, really hated losing and hated losing to Will even more, even when it was a stupid bet that didn’t really mean much of anything.

“It was a close call, Cap,” Will said, making sure to nod as sarcastically as he possibly could. Killian’s phone was already ringing a few inches above his head, no doubt some incredibly pointed opinions from Liam about those turnovers in the neutral zone and the way that one check looked.

He ignored his phone.

And Will.

There were already cameras by the time he got to his locker, reporters and recorders and that one guy from Newsday who still used a pad of paper because he didn’t trust technology and Killian’s hair was still slightly damp from the shower.

And, honestly, he should have realized exactly what Will had been planning from the get-go, should have known that he’d probably teamed up with Robin as soon as Killian left the locker room, but he could feel his eyes widen as soon as he heard the voices and Peggy leapt into his lap before he’d taken a full breath.

“Hi,” she shouted, standing on his legs and tugging on the fabric on his shoulders, a precarious balancing act that was also a bit painful.

That one check had totally fucked up his right thigh.

“Hey, love,” Killian mumbled. “What are you doing here? I thought you were upstairs with Mom and M’s and Uncle David.”

“Mom had to work and Ru brought us down here because Uncle Will said we could be on TV!”

“Wait, what?”

“What part of that was confusing, Cap?” Will called from the other side of the room. “I told you I was going to control post and this is how I wanted post to go.”

Matt was already talking – giving a detailed description of the Devil’s penalty kill and how important it was to wrap up the series with a strong showing like that and Killian was fairly sure he’d heard the phrase Cup run several times in quick succession.

“Hey,” Robin cut in, leaning around one of the cameras and tugging the microphone away from Matt. “No jinx.”

Matt didn’t look particularly impressed. “We’re totally going to win.” 

“We’ve got to get you some more media training. You can’t say that kind of stuff on the post-game.” 

“Rol would!”

“Ah, he’s got you there, Locksley,” Phillip laughed, his own kid in his arms and Dylan a few feet away and they were all going to end up on several different backpages for whatever stunt they were currently pulling.

It’d be some kind of incredibly heartwarming scene in the movie.

“Yeah, that’s probably true,” Robin admitted. “And this is, like, full circle or something from the first Cup run.”

“Can you say that, Locksley?” Killian asked. “Aren’t you supposed to be less biased now that you’re some fancy TV guy?” 

“Ok, I am not a fancy TV guy. I am a normal TV guy.” 

“Eh, how many shows do you currently have?” 

Robin made a less-than-mature hand gesture behind his back, careful to avoid the cameras and the reporters and Killian had to push his face into his daughter’s hair to make sure his own laugh didn’t draw too much attention.

“Shut up, Cap,” Robin muttered and none of it was very professional, but none of them had ever been very professional and they all had painfully adorable kids who wanted to talk about hockey and scoring opportunities on the MSG post-game show.

“Eloquent. No wonder they put you on forty-seven TV shows.”

“You should have been able to get four points in a four-oh game.”

“You want me to get points on every goal we have?” Killian asked, flashing a grin at Peggy when she moved her hands to the front of his shirt.

“Eh, I’m just going off of previously emotional moments in the highlight reel of your career.”

“That didn’t sound all that sincere.” 

“And that rhymed,” Will pointed out, shrugging when Killian narrowed his eyes. “Don’t do that, Cap. This is the easiest post I’ve ever done. Dr. J is some kind of hockey soothsayer because you and Emma are obsessed with this game and force-fed him those aforementioned highlight reels for the last eight years.”

“Trust me, no one force-fed anything.”

“That’s probably true, actually. Whatever. I hope this becomes a thing. What do you think, Locksley? Viewership through the roof?”

“Either that or some incredibly pointed columns in several different tabloids.”

Killian scoffed when he noticed the vaguely scandalized look on several different reporter’s faces and Peggy appeared to be answering a few questions of her own.

“What are you doing, little love?” he asked, but she didn’t hear him, or was, possibly, ignoring him, staring straight into the closest camera like she’d been waiting her whole life to stage a presser after the final game of the regular season.

“Good luck,” Peggy said and it clearly wasn’t the first time she’d said those two specific words.

A reporter smiled, Robin laughing under his breath, but several other reporters looked slightly frustrated and Ruby was going to have some kind of metaphorical field day writing that particular release.

“You have to argue against it, Cap?”

Killian arched an eyebrow, holding onto his kid a bit tighter out of instinct and the reporter widened his eyes when he didn’t answer immediately. “I have no idea what the hell you’re talking about,” he said, winking at Peggy when she twisted back against him.

“It’s a pretty good color for all of you,” the reporter continued. They were talking about the goddamn nail polish.

Of course they were.

“No, no argument,” Killian shook his head. Will made some kind of absurd noise at the word, but Killian didn’t look away from the throng of reporters around his locker and he was old enough that he didn’t quite care what they printed about him anymore.

And the nail polish had absolutely been good luck – even if he hadn’t won the bet.

“No?” That question came from a different reporter and Killian shook his head before the two letters were finished and Will was still making noise, Phillip shouting a slightly muffled argument when he was forced to play jungle gym for his kid.

Phillip definitely had blue nails too.

“How many times are we going to do this?” Killian asked. “Did you want the sparkles too, is that what the issue is?”

“That’s totally what it is,” Will agreed. “Hey, hey, Michael, if you ask Pegs, I bet she’ll do your nails before we start this Cup run.”

Peggy nodded enthusiastically and Killian wasn’t sure if his heart exploded or, simply, grew forty-six sizes, but it had been that kind of day and she was already talking about different shades of blue on one hand.

“We won,” she said said again. “Good luck and Daddy scored and Rook scored and now we’re going to win a Cup!”

“No jinx,” half the locker room yelled at the same time Matt shouted “I told you!”

Killian smiled when the reporters couldn't come up with another question, a flash of blonde hair leaning against the open doorway of the locker room with Ruby draped over her back.

“You can quote her on that if you want,” he said, eyes darting Emma’s direction. “And when you inevitably write your sidebar on all of this, make sure you point out how well done everyone’s nails are even after the game ended, ok? That’s a sign of a true professional.”

The headline wasn’t all that creative the next morning –  Littlest Jones Guarantees Blueshirts Look Good Ahead of Cup Run – but it was almost complementary and it was difficult for Killian to be frustrated when he was too busy getting his nails redone before the start of the Cup Finals. They used extra sparkes for the first game at the Garden.

And, years later, with another Cup run ahead of them and a different Jones wearing the number twenty on center ice at the Garden, Peggy almost looked nervous, eyes ducked and voice quiet, when she asked Killian.

“For good luck?” she whispered

He felt the smile inch across his face, something sentimental and emotional and maybe the fairy tale hadn’t ever really ended – just moved to a different generation and he would have bet Will and Phillip and Robin that there was a hand drawn sign in Matt’s locker already.

“What’s the name of that color, little love?”

“Dad.” 

“Old habits,” Killian muttered and Peggy rolled her eyes, nearly jumping the few feet between them and swinging her legs over his. “C’mon, I bet it’s got a good name.”

“Front page worthy.”

“You’re kidding.” 

“I wouldn’t joke about something as serious as no-jinx nail polish.” 

“Good alliteration.”

Peggy hummed, smile tugging on her lips and her smile looked exactly like Emma’s. The eyebrow thing, however, was all him. “The glitter is called set in stone.”

“There’s glitter too?” 

“There’s no point if there isn’t glitter.” 

“Ah, of course,” Killian laughed, shifting so he didn’t end up with a foot in several different internal organs. “Alright, no time like the present, huh?” 
Peggy rolled her eyes at the cliché, but that was another old habit and they were a team full of traditions and family and she muttered the scouting report under her breath while she worked, promising as long as MD doesn’t crash into the boards too often, it’ll be fine .

It was – good and great and goddamn historic and every single one of them had bright blue nails when the Rangers won another Stanley Cup.

As tradition dictated.

Chapter Text

It happened quickly.

One second they were cheering and it was fine, everything was fine – they were winning the game, for god's sake – and it was fine. Emma was shouting and Killian was smiling and everything was good, great, fantastic, and then it happened and it was so quick she couldn’t quite believe any of them even noticed.

He was skating – he was fast, faster than Killian, but he never quite got the hang of that whole stopping thing and Emma moved immediately, springing to feet and she could hear Killian’s quiet gasp behind her as soon as Matt crashed into the boards.

He went head first.  

Will was the first one to say anything. Of course he was. The self-appointed, one-man defender of all things Matthew Jones.

“Oh shit,” he muttered and Emma didn't sit down. She just stood there, hands half lifted towards her face like she couldn’t quite decide if she wanted to cover her mouth or grip something or maybe punch something.

Matt didn't move.

The entire Garden seemed to freeze with him, a hush over the crowd and it wasn't even a month into the season, but there were rumors that this could be the season and there was talk of a Cup run and playoff potential and Matt Jones was the face of the franchise in a way that was becoming some kind of family tradition. 

Emma was briefly worried her lungs had collapsed. It was, she realized rather quickly, because she wasn't breathing. 

The trainer was out on the ice and the team had started to circle around him, some kind of physical wall between Matt and the crowd and Emma couldn’t see her own kid anymore.

He wasn’t really a kid anymore.

Six seasons in the league and only a few weeks removed from his twenty-seventh birthday, but Emma couldn’t ever seem to think of Matt Jones, the second overall pick and still not captain of the New York Rangers, as anything except her kid in some kind of vaguely possessive and, hopefully, maternal way.

She still hadn’t moved her hands.

Her arms were starting to cramp up.

She hoped that didn’t mean she was old.

Emma heard a seat creak next to her, hinges bending on the chairs that were bolted into the floor in front of the suite that had, at some point, just become theirs and Emma moved before her brain realized she wanted to, a hand lacing its fingers through hers and squeezing – tightly.

“You've got to breathe, love,” Killian muttered, squeezing her hand again and she got the distinct impression he was trying to reassure himself as much as her.

God, they were all standing up now.

There better not be pictures of this in The Post the next day.

“What even happened?” Emma asked, glancing around the crowd like someone could give her a play by play. She heard Killian exhale next to her, eyes widening just a bit when they dragged a stretcher out onto the ice and Emma had to will her knees to stay straight, half positive her legs had turned to jelly right there in the stands.

“Oh shit,” Will repeated and Killian glared at him over the top of her head. Some things never changed.

And, then, some things changed a whole lot and other things just kind of amplified and there was still a Jones on the Rangers roster. The thought made Emma’s knees weak all over again.

He looked just like Killian.

That was the first thing people said when they saw him.

Wow, you look just like your dad. God, look at all that dark hair. How many goals you think you going to score this year? Why haven’t they named you captain yet?

Emma had always been just a bit on the wrong side of both possessive and maternal on that particular front when Matt was little, far too aware of expectations and hopes and a whole fandom that wanted to see Cap’s kid in blue and white for his entire career.

They told him he didn’t have to play, promised it didn’t matter if he liked hockey or not, that, as far as Emma and Killian were concerned, there were no expectations at all.

It didn’t seem to matter.

“I’m going to play for the Rangers,” Matt announced, eight years old and standing on the ice at the Garden after they’d won that third Cup.

“That so?” Killian asked, quirking one eyebrow and he’d lost his helmet at some point. One of the twins was wearing it. “And when did we decide this exactly?”

Matt shrugged. “Right now. After I beat Rol.”

“You beat Roland,” he repeated, glancing up at the teenager standing at the other blue line with his hands on his knees and a particularly resigned look on his face.

“I’m really good at skating, Dad.”

He was.

He was absurdly good at skating and scoring goals and winning faceoffs and if there was anything except pride on Killian’s face every time their kid stepped onto the ice, it would have been the biggest lie in the history of the entire goddamn universe.

So Matt played hockey and he played at the Piers and he kept beating Roland every time one of them challenged the other to a race.

He was sixteen when he left – spending weeks at the Team USA training facility because he was so good at skating that the entire country wanted to show him off.

Killian had promised it’d be fine then too.

It was.

It was better than fine – it was good and then it was incredible and they won a gold medal at Junior Nationals, the entire Rangers front line flying to the game, decked in head to toe Jones gear and screaming louder than anyone in the stands, phones out and cameras out and Emma was almost certain Matt blushed while he was standing on the blue line.

They hung the medal on his wall, right next to Killian’s and maybe that made Emma blush just a little bit.

Matt kept skating and he kept skating fast and there were enough headlines that Ruby could barely keep track of them all. That wasn’t really her job.

Matt wasn’t on the Rangers. Yet.

And he wouldn’t be.

For another three years.

“Hey Mom,” Matt said, a few weeks after hitting that kid on Team Canada and another medals ceremony and Emma was sitting in her office, feet propped up on top of her desk while Chris sat in the corner, preoccupied with the team-signed merch they were supposed to be organizing.

Emma’s head snapped up, eyes narrowing slightly. “What are you doing down here?” she asked. “I thought you were on the ice with Dad.”

Killian had finally lived up to his retirement promise after the third Cup, but there was no way Killian Jones, some kind of forever captain of the New York Rangers, could ever completely walk away from the game. He took a front office job the day after the parade – player development, working with prospects and rookies and call-ups and Emma shouldn’t have been surprised he was as good as he was at it.

She wasn’t really.

He was good at everything.

Matt hummed, shaking his head as he leaned against the open door frame. He needed a haircut – and he needed to stop crossing his feet at the ankles like that.

“Ahahaha,” Chris laughed, glancing up from signed pucks and a jersey he was handling way too much. “He looks just like Dad!”

He did. 

He absolutely did. 

It was, partially, the hair and partially whatever trick every person with the last name Jones seemed able to do with their eyebrows as soon as they were born, and, largely, because he was wearing a copious amount of New York Rangers team-branded apparel. 

But it was also something else – something Emma couldn't quite name, but was certain she could feel, because Matt's nerves were practically radiating off him in a flashing, neon sign type of way that was patented Killian Jones and their kid desperately wanted to be the best hockey player to ever step on the ice. 

Emma didn’t say that, far too aware of just how often Matt heard the comparisons and those expectations that lingered every time he did step on the ice. She turned to her youngest son instead, narrowing her eyes even more and Chris scrunched his nose, shaking his blonde hair away from his forehead when he dropped the jersey on the floor.

“Kid,” Emma sighed, slinging her feet back on the ground. “Someone signed that. Let’s at least pretend like we’re taking this job seriously.”

“I am,” Chris cried indignantly and Emma lifted her eyebrows. “There’s a lot of stuff.”

“There’s always a lot of stuff. Doesn’t make it any less important.”

“I know, I know. The pucks are all done. Can I go to practice, now?”

He stood up before Emma could even answer, practically sprinting towards the door and a still-frozen Matt and she rolled her eyes, tugging on her ring out of decades-long instinct.

“Well, I mean, you’re already halfway there,” Emma muttered. “Mattie, was Peggy down there when you were there?”

His eyes widened and he might look like Killian and play like Killian, but he was just as bad at lying as Emma, some kind of teenage open book who, it seemed, was completely incapable of lying to either one of his parents.

“Were you not on the ice?” Emma continued and Matt shrugged, ignoring Chris’ laughter completely. “Mattie,” she pressed, sitting up straighter in her chair. He just shrugged again.

Emma took a deep breath, pressing her lips together tightly and trying to figure out what could possibly be so terrifying that a kid who never passed up the opportunity to be on the ice was frozen solid in her office doorway without so much as a word to his vaguely annoying younger brother.

“Go find your sister,” Emma said, nodding towards Chris. He had one foot out the door already, a blur of hair and laughter and the number twenty on his back, streaking out of her office. “And tell Dad we’ll meet him outside, ok?”

Chris made some kind of noise in the affirmative and Emma could hear his footsteps as he sprinted down the stairs. Matt still hadn’t moved.

“You’re freaking me out, kid,” she said softly, widening her eyes and that got the laugh she was hoping for.

“Sorry,” he mumbled. He shuffled his feet, scuffing the toe of his shoe on the recently reinstalled blue carpet in the hallway and Emma tried not to let her mind drift to impossibilities – injuries and school issues and he would have told her if something had happened at practice.

Ruby would have texted her.

“That’s not really the explanation I’m looking for.”

If he shrugged again she was going to scream. She couldn’t scream in the middle of her office. Emma groaned loudly instead, which wasn't really much better, brushing her hair off her shoulder and twisting around her desk, making her way through piles of merch and, for as much as he’d complained about it, Chris had done a pretty good job of organizing everything.

“C’mon,” she said, grabbing the front of Matt's t-shirt and tugging him into the office. “Sit. Talk.”

He followed behind her slowly, slumping into one of the chairs in front of her desk and Emma only just realized he was holding something.

An envelope.

A very large envelope.

“You weren’t at practice, were you?” Emma asked and Matt looked just a bit stunned they’d gotten there so quickly. “Where’s Dad think you are?”

“The Piers.”

“And you’re not.”

“Don’t get mad at Mar,” Mattie said quickly. Emma lips ticked down – she hadn’t expected a joint effort.

“Why would I get mad at Peggy?”

Mattie groaned. “Because she was the distraction. Keep Dad occupied during practice, tell him where I wasn’t and then make sure Uncle Robin didn’t ruin the surprise while they were filming that TV thing.”

“Sounds complex.”

“Not really,” he scoffed. “They're in the middle of a playoff push. Made it easier. And it was Lizzie’s plan to begin with, so I didn’t even really come up with it. Just implemented it.”

Emma tried not to be impressed. She did. Except Killian thought he was at the Piers and Emma thought he was at practice and if Lizzie Vankald-Jones had actually been the mastermind behind all of this then the plan was probably air-tight.

“What’d you have to do to get Peggy involved?” she asked. Mattie grinned.

“Promised her coffee for two weeks and that we’d go running this weekend. Said we’d do most of Riverside Park. Until my lungs collapsed or something.”

“Oh my God." Matt flashed her a smile, some of the nerves forgotten in the joke and the promises and he and Peggy had been running through Riverside Park since they both learned how to use the Subway on their own. "That’s a lot of road.”

Matt hummed in agreement, but he didn’t look particularly put out by the terms of whatever plan he’d been staging. “Eh, maybe this time I’ll win.”

“Can you guys race when you’re running literal miles?”

“If we’re both wearing team-merch and Dad’s number, it’s some unspoken challenge,” Matt explained. “It’s a pride thing, Mom.”

“Ah, obviously.”

“Well, Jones,” he mumbled. “Aren’t we just supposed to be competitive by default?”

“You’re trying to deflect,” Emma accused, but she felt a rush of something at we and she couldn't quite argue with him. “Come on, kid, the truth this time. Where were you?”

Matt sighed loudly, rolling his head back and his t-shirt twisted when he crossed his arms tightly over his chest. Emma tried to be patient, tried not to actually lean across her desk and tug his arms apart, but that was easier said than done and she couldn’t quite shake the feeling something was wrong.

“Matthew David,” she started slowly and he rolled his eyes dramatically, cutting her off before she got to Jones.

“Home,” he answered. “I was home.”

“Home?”

“Yup.”

“If you don't’ think I’m going to ask a dozen follow-up questions to that, you’ve got another thing coming.”

“You’ve been spending way too much time with Rubes,” Matt accused, but the sarcasm died on his lips as soon as he saw the look on Emma’s face. Her kids called it mom face – a mix of thin lips and wide eyes and slightly lifted eyebrows that, usually, got the truth and then some out of all of them.

“Here,” he sighed, practically slamming the envelope down on her desk.

She opened her mouth to ask what is this, but that proved wholly unnecessary when she noticed the colors on the paper and the return address in the left-hand corner.

Boston.

It had come from Boston.

And there was a Terrier on it.

“Mattie,” Emma breathed and it felt like she moved in slow motion, reaching her hand out to grab the half opened envelope.

“I got in,” he said, answering her before she could even ask the question. “Lizzie read my essay. That’s why she was in charge of the plan. Applying at all was really more a technicality, but there's got to be a paper trail or several different NCAA rules that will end in our death if we don't follow them and--”

"--Matthew."

He grinned again. "I'm going to blame Dad for my sense of humor. But, uh, yeah, this is the official version of the offer. There's a bunch of stuff in there and, like, dining plans and everything, but um..."

Matt took a deep breath, licking his lips and he closed his eyes lightly. Emma appreciated that. Then he couldn't see was crying. Like a great, big maternal freak. 

"It's full, Mom," Matt said softly. "They think I could start playing as soon as I get there. And I um...well, I want to go. I know we've got to talk about stuff and there's other offers, but this seems really good and something about potential and National Championships and..."

He didn't finish. 

And Emma didn’t know what to say. She’d forgotten how to speak or breathe and her expression was so far away from mom face, that Emma was certain she might have fallen into the deep end of emotion and was, possibly, drowning there.

Boston University. 

Boston University hockey. 

"God, Mom, are you crying?"

"Of course not, absolutely not." It was an almost pitiful lie, the tears on her cheeks obvious as she traced her fingers over the top of the envelope like it was made of gold, and she couldn't quite take a deep breath. “That would be absolutely stupid.”

“The stupidest.”

“That’s not a word. Reese’s would be angry you don’t know it’s not a word.”

“Ah, well, good thing I’ve got hockey to fall back on, huh?”

Emma scoffed, but Matt's smile, finally, looked a bit more confident and he wasn’t entirely wrong. He was absurdly good at playing hockey.

“It came today?” Emma asked and she’d absolutely been spending way too much time with Ruby because this sounded distinctly like some kind of interview. "How long have you been leaning towards BU?”

“Just before Christmas. After we went on that official. Where do you think Mar and I went on her birthday? She said it was momentous or something, so we had to talk about it and plan and plot, which was weird, but very her. So she made me take her to Serendipity and refused to split a frozen hot chocolate.”

Emma hummed –  far too aware of Peggy’s penchant for anything covered in chocolate, but she was still a bit stunned Matt had agreed to it. Or hadn't mentioned it. Ever. Not once in the last few months. And Serendipty was hardly worth the wait, even when it was decorated for Christmas. 

“What?” Matt asked, twisting one eyebrow up and Emma was glad Chris had left because that might have been the most Killian Jones thing he’d done all afternoon.

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

He clearly hadn’t been expecting that question, smile falling off his face quickly and he looked a bit stunned. “Uh, well,” he stammered, reaching out to grab the envelope again before thinking better of it. “I mean, I know about the bet.”

“How?”

“Rol told me. When I was six, so it’s not like this happened weeks ago.”

This team talked way too much – still. And Roland Locksley, who went to Michigan of all places, before being drafted twelfth overall by the Philadelphia Flyers was, suddenly, Emma’s least favorite person.

“Don’t get mad,” Mattie said.

“I’m not.”

“Mom, please, you’re doing that thing with your face. You do it whenever Aurora tries to tell you that you can’t get insurance waivers for GD kids. Rol was fourteen. He was mad I’d beat him on the ice. It’s not like it ruined my life or something.”

“Just made you keep major life decisions a secret.”

“That’s not why,” Mattie groaned, slumping down in the chair. “At least not really. And it wasn't much of a decision until they actually offered. I just...I know I could play anywhere. And my name would get me anywhere and Minnesota would probably have some kind of statewide meltdown if I showed up.”

“But?”

“But...hockey’s...I play hockey because of Dad. That’s what it’s always been. And it’s not like I’m scared of the expectation or the headlines or whatever, but, I just thought, maybe this time...I could do something because of you.”

She was absolutely crying. Or, maybe, just a bit closer to sobbing, shoulders shaking slightly as she tried to catch her breath and she could barely make out Matt's cautious smile through her tears.

Jeez.

He went to Boston University. And three years after the incident – Killian tearing into Emma’s office with slightly wild eyes, demanding to know where Matt was after Chris had, given him up – Matthew Jones, centerman for the Terriers won the Hobey Baker and a National Championship in front of his entire family, every single one of them wearing Jones jerseys.

It made The Post.

He left school a year early – rumors of a weak draft class and how badly the Rangers had finished the season before making it some kind of perfect storm of possibility and everyone had been all for it.

Except Killian.

Killian Jones, director of New York Rangers player development, didn’t want his kid to leave school early.

“He should get a degree, Swan,” he argued, pacing in front of their bed the day after Matt had, officially, hired Regina as his agent. “What if something…”

“Nothing’s going to happen,” Emma promised. “And it’s not like he wouldn’t be able to finish his degree. He could go back eventually. He wants to do this. You really don't have any say over it anyway. He already hired an agent.”

“Don’t think Gina and I aren’t going to talk about that.”

“He’s a good get,” Emma shrugged, resting her chin on the pillow she’d grabbed. Killian looked scandalized. “He is. He’s faster than you.”

“That was the plan.”

“That was your plan,” she corrected softly and Killian groaned, slumping onto the corner of the bed and tugging on the back of his hair. “What are you so worried about? That report the other day said he could go first overall.”

“That wouldn’t be us.”

“Is that what you’re worried about?”

Killian shook his head. “No, no,” he promised. “He could go anywhere and he’d still win eighty percent of his faceoffs and score thirty goals a season.”

“So what’s the problem then?”

“The problem is he could go anywhere and he’d be on his own and he...God, Swan, what if something happens?”

He bit out the last few words, squeezing his eyes closed tightly and Emma’s stomach twisted, the tension she could practically see working its way between Killian’s shoulders feeling as if it were reaching across the bed. She tugged the blankets off her legs, inching across the tiny bit of space between them and he didn’t even look up as he wrapped his arm around her waist, burying his face in the curve of her shoulder.

“Nothing’s going to happen,” she said again, dragging her fingers across the back of his neck and she didn’t think she imagined the way his breath hitched.

And it didn’t.

For six years.

Nothing happened and Matt kept skating and kept scoring and he won ninety percent of his faceoffs his second season, a league record that Killian mentioned every time someone asked how Cap’s kid was doing.

Matthew Jones was some kind of NHL Iron Man – called up in November that very first season and never sent back, he played every game the Rangers played, averaging an absolutely ridiculous number of minutes that even impressed Will.

They had to pull him off the ice during the offseason, that determination to prove himself as strong as it had been with Killian and maybe he’d been right – they were, after all, Joneses. There was something competitive about them by nature.

He kept playing and he kept skating and nothing ever happened.

Until his skates got caught up with a Sabres defender on a breakaway and Matthew Jones careened into the boards at the Garden head first.

“Get up, get up, get up,” Ruby muttered behind Emma, heel tapping impatiently on the ground like she couldn’t quite believe Matt wasn’t listening to her.

He didn’t get up.

And Emma could feel the tears on her face, that emotion she’d been trying to keep at bay, finally, welling over when the training staff lifted Matt onto a stretcher and there was a neck brace and she couldn't really make him out, vision far too blurry through the tears.

“It’s fine, love,” Killian repeated, muttering the words against her hair like a mantra. If he kept saying them it had to be right. “It’s fine. He’s going to be fine.”

Emma nodded stiffly, not sure what else to do. She couldn't talk.

Killian was still mumbling words that only made half-sense in the dull roar of the crowd, quiet promises and questions and it all sounded like a buzzing in Emma's ears. They were stretching Matt off the ice.

And she was almost surprised it took that long for her phone to vibrate.

“About time,” Will grumbled, a wry smile on his face when Emma twisted to stare at him. “She’s been texting me in all caps for the last five minutes. I think she figured you were already busy enough but--”

Emma didn’t give him a chance to finish, swiping her thumb against the screen and Peggy was already talking.

Yelling.

Peggy was already yelling.

“Is he an idiot?” she screeched, Killian’s eyes flashing when he heard the tone of their daughter’s voice, and Emma’s lungs almost relaxed. This was, almost, normal. And she knew Will wasn’t right – Peggy hadn’t called immediately because she was, immediately, trying to calm Chris down.

The Jones Line was incredibly competitive and incredibly dramatic and incredibly overprotective.

They probably got that from Killian.

Emma didn’t say that out loud.

“Mom,” Peggy said sharply when Emma didn’t answer in a timely fashion. The stretcher was already halfway down the tunnel and Ruby was doing something with what appeared to be several different phones and Emma dimly wondered where Ariel was.

Probably trying to break down the door of the locker room already.

“Yeah, babe, still here,” Emma muttered, falling back on old nicknames and feelings and she couldn’t stop moving. She kept tapping her foot and rolling her shoulders, Killian’s hand tracing up and down her spine like he was trying to find some kind of pattern that would, maybe, calm her down and he was fighting an absolutely impossible battle.

Down 0-2 in the series.

Or some other hockey metaphor that made more sense.

Peggy was yelling again.

“What just happened?” she asked. “MD was skating and then he was...not skating and I’m kind of having a difficult time breathing.”

“Yeah, that makes two of us,” Ruby mumbled, and Margaret Elsa Jones had lost all control of her voice. She sniffled loudly. “And Ariel says the stretcher thing was just a precaution.”

Peggy gasped. “What, what? What did Ru just say? There was a stretcher?”

“Pegs, aren’t you watching the game?” Emma asked. Her phone buzzed again and that was probably Chris and she probably should have called her other kids as soon as they brought the goddamn stretcher out on the ice, but her mind was not firing at the level it was supposed to and her lungs really kept doing impossible things in her chest.

It kind of felt like they were shrinking and expanding at the same time. And it was decidedly uncomfortable.

“Well, yeah,” Peggy groaned. “But then I saw the hit and Toph called me because his friends were being dicks about it--”

“--Margaret,” Killian snapped, and Emma nearly laughed at the absurdity of all it all. Peggy probably rolled her eyes.

“Why does Dad have supersonic hearing?”

Emma couldn’t quite control her laughter, bordering more on manic than hysterical, and the tears in her eyes made it difficult to see five inches in front of her, let alone the ice or the complete absence of her kid on it and they should probably make a list of all the people they had to call.

She assumed the latest phone buzz was a frantic Mary Margaret or a furious David or possibly Leo Nolan and there was no penalty because it hadn't really been a bad hit.

It had just happened.

Honestly, the entire Sabres organization could fuck off.

Emma didn’t say that out loud either – she didn’t want to get reprimanded by her husband and his supersonic hearing.

Peggy took a deep breath when her question went unanswered, again, exhaling loudly and they probably all needed cat scans or MRIs or whatever for the state of their collective lungs. Killian’s hand stopped moving. “It looked really bad,” Peggy whispered. “I...he just kind of dropped down and fell over and I…”

There was another exhale and, maybe, another sniffle and Emma’s lips ticked up. And it was stupid and sentimental but her kids cared and loved and she knew Peggy was jogging in place, a habit she’d picked up when she was seven and learned how to funnel her nerves.

“He hit the boards really weird,” Peggy continued, but the words were just as soft as ever and even Killian’s ridiculously good hearing, perfect for a Jones Line that liked to cause mayhem on and off the ice, couldn't hear the hitch in her voice. “Don’t tell him I’m crying, he’ll never let me live it down. Then I’ll have to kill him.”

Emma made a noise, not quite the laugh it had been before, a bit calmer and just as emotional and her phone kind of sounded like it was going to explode in her hand. “I don’t know anything yet, Pegs,” she said. “Ruby is staging some kind of man-hunt though.”

“I don’t think those were the words you were looking for in that order, Mom. I’m probably going to kill MD anyway, just for the record or whatever.”

“Please don’t kill your brother.”

“Why didn’t he ever learn how to stop?”

“Ah, that was always a work in progress.”

Emma’s eyes darted towards Killian, a pinch between his eyebrows and lips so thin they were barely even there. His phone made a noise.

“What was that?” Peggy demanded, and Emma sighed, rolling her eyes towards the ceiling and the period was almost over.

They were still winning.

She kind of resented that.

Killian shook his head, holding his phone to his ear with his shoulder so he could keep his left hand on Emma’s back at the same time he reached for Will’s phone and whoever he was talking to. A conversational list, definitely.

“I don’t know,” Killian said, responding to whatever unknown voice was talking in his ear. He couldn’t shrug, but he made an admirable effort, nearly losing both phones in the process, and his glare probably affected the Garden ice when Will mumbled his direction.

“Fucking hell, Cap, give me that back.” Killian didn’t give up the phone. Either one. “Locksley thinks he knows things because he’s got locker room people.”

“Do we not have locker room people?” Peggy asked. “I feel like we should have locker room people, right?”

Emma couldn’t control whatever noises she was making anymore. “You might be the one with supersonic hearing, babe. And we absolutely have locker room people, but we're still in the suite and--”

“--Toph called Dad.”

Oh. That made sense. Emma’s brain was just like...mush. An anxious, nervous, vaguely terrified pile of mush and feeling and she was going to help Ariel kick down the locker room door.

“His friends really were being dicks about it,” Peggy said, pausing like she was waiting to get grounded or kept away from practice for four days. Emma’s smile felt genuine. “Anyway. He probably saw the stretcher and is freaking out about that, but I came outside to call you and now here we are with no locker room people and no updates. Also tell Uncle Will that he can’t abbreviate every word in his text messages. It’s impossible to figure out what he’s saying.”

“I’ll probably mention that after I figure out what happened to your brother.”

“Yeah, that’s pretty fair. I’m going to leave him some really horrible voicemails.”

“Horrible?”

“Totally profanity filled. About what an absolute idiot he is. And what a jackass that guy who tripped him was. Is. Continues to be.”

“Covering all your tense bases, huh?”

Peggy laughed under her breath, and she’d probably stopped jogging long enough to twist a curl around her hair and Emma’s heart thudded until it almost distracted her from the state of her mind and her lungs. The period was over.

“That was almost a cliché, Mom,” Peggy mumbled. “Very Grandma and Grandpa of you.”

“You’re not nearly as funny as you think you are, babe.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. But I’m kind of freaking out too.”

Her voice cracked on the final few words, another inhale and exhale and a door opened in Indianapolis – because Peggy was training and for reasons no one understood that’s where the United States track and field training center was and Emma knew she was going to run as soon as she hung up the phone.

Or, at least, as soon as she left several profanity-filled voicemails for her brother.

And probably called Chris again.

“I know you are,” Emma said, perched on the armrest in between seats, and Killian was still trying to text and talk at the same time. “But the stretcher was probably a precaution and he wasn’t really going that fast and--”

“--Ah, that was not your best effort.”

“Yeah, I know that too. The freaking out is catching. He was going fast.”

Peggy hummed, Killian’s lips brushing over Emma’s hair in a move that, a few moments before, she would have been sure was impossible. He was, after all, still holding several phones and staging several different conversations at the same time he was trying to fight off Will and there were people throwing t-shirts in the crowd.

Emma resented that too.

“MD’s stupid talented,” Peggy grumbled. “But stopping has never been his strong suit. You think he’s going to come back out for the third?”

“No.”

“Figured. Ok. I um...I’ll text Toph and tell him to stop interrogating Dad for facts you guys don’t have and then I’m going to yell at MD’s voicemail and then...you want me to call Reese’s and Uncle David?”

“Would you?”

“Of course. I’ve got nothing to tell them except MD’s a really fast idiot, but that’s better than nothing, right?”

Emma hummed, meeting Ruby’s worried gaze when she, finally, pulled her phone away from her ear. “It is,” she agreed. “Keep your phone on when you go run later, ok? And as soon as Dad and I know what’s going on, I’ll let you and Chris know.”

There wasn’t an immediate answer, an almost deafening silence that would have been absolute if not for the goddamn t-shirt guns, and Emma bit her lip. “Pegs?” she asked. “Still there?”

“Yup, yeah, yeah, yes, still here.”

“More bases, babe.”

“Still freaking out,” she muttered. “And I’m totally going to run now. And it’s totally going to break the rules, but that’s point one through four of the very angry voicemails.”

“An efficient schedule.”

“Ah, I got that from you.”

Emma’s heart exploded. It wasn’t nearly as bad as she expected it to be. “As soon as I know anything, you’ll know.”

“Thanks, Mom.”

“Come on, Swan,” Killian said, tugging on her hand and she snapped her head towards him, all wide eyes and silent terror and his phone was back in his pocket. “Let’s go downstairs. We’ll see if we can get some answers.”

She nodded again, trying to swallow down some of that emotion that had taken up residence in the back of her throat, and Ruby shot her a sympathetic glance. “Not a single comment,” she promised and Emma let out a watery sound that might have been a laugh.

Killian let go of her hand and she was half a second away from protesting, but the words didn’t make it out of her mouth before he wrapped his arm around her shoulders, tugging her close to his side and kissing the top of her head again.

“It’s going to be fine,” he promised.

Chapter Text

They wouldn’t let him in.

Some security guard tried to tell them they couldn’t and explained the rules, like he didn’t have the rules fucking memorized at this point, three and a half decades of his life spent in this stupid arena.

And Killian couldn’t stop saying the word fine, promising it over and over again like it was the only word he’d ever learned and half of him was certain he was doing it for himself as much as he was for Emma. She didn’t let go of his hand, thumb tracing absentmindedly along a ridge of scar tissue on the back of his palm and it made Killian’s heart ache in his chest, the understanding that this, all of it, could be gone in half a moment and half an instant and they wouldn't let him in.

“I can’t, Cap,” a stricken security guard told him for the fifth time and Killian was half ready to grab the closest piece of equipment and check the asshole into the locked door behind him.

He didn’t.

Mostly because he only had one free hand and, truthfully, he wasn’t entirely certain his legs could support his weight if he moved away from Emma.

“It’s fine,” she muttered, echoing his own words back to him. “It’s…” She took a deep breath and he knew she was biting her lip without even glancing down, could feel her arm shift against his side when she tried to hold onto the ring around her neck. “It’s going to be fine. Can, we, do you know have they moved him? MRI’s or anything like that?”

The security guard shook his head slowly and Killian rolled his eyes towards the ceiling, not even trying to disguise his frustrated groan.

What, after all, was the point of winning three Stanley Cups and being the face of the entire goddamn, fucking franchise, if no one knew what happened to his kid?

“I’m sorry,” the security guard continued, shuffling awkwardly on his feet and Emma pulled her hand away from her ring to rest on the front of Killian’s chest.

“In through your nose, out through your mouth, Jones,” she whispered and he nearly laughed, nearly smiled at her or brushed his lips across her head, but there wasn’t enough time.

The door swung open and the security guard – Thomas, his name tag claimed he was Thomas – leapt towards both of them, moving out of the way just quickly enough that he didn’t get mowed down by whatever the doors of the Rangers locker room were made of.

Concrete?

That didn’t make much sense.

It couldn’t have been concrete.

Killian was losing his mind. He wanted to see Matt.

And he wished people would stop stuttering every time they caught his eye. God, he wanted to shoot at something.

The woman in front of them looked just as anxious as he felt – eyes wide and light brown hair falling across her forehead and she might have done permanent damage to her lip. She exhaled loudly when she spotted Emma and Killian, that same lip back between her teeth and for half a moment he was concerned about how low she’d pulled her eyebrows.

Emma shifted slightly against him, twisting until she could grip the front of his jacket and, technically speaking, he really shouldn’t have been in the suite. He should have been with front office and he had an assistant, a whole office of people who were supposed to be able to help him help players and there was no point to any of that if they didn’t let him figure out what happened to Matt.

Fuck.

He’d hit the boards hard.

“Uh, Cap? Killian? Mr...uh...Mr. Jones?”

Emma actually laughed at that, a short, shaky sound that was equal parts nervous and amused and vaguely terrified. “She called you Mr. Jones,” she mumbled, pressing her forehead against his shoulder blade. “Like you’re old.”

Killian huffed, but he didn’t move his arm, just tightened his hold on his wife and did, finally, kiss the top of her head – if only to remind himself that she was there and Emma’s shoulders shook against him.

She’d started crying again.

“It’s ok, love,” he said softly and the woman still hadn’t moved out of the doorframe. “It’s ok. He’s going to be ok.”

“Um, Mr. Jones? Mrs. Jones?” she continued and Killian resisted the urge to roll his eyes, not sure he could come up with something even in the realm of pleasant or personable or professional, despite the team-mandated jacket he had on and the tie that, suddenly, felt far too tight. 

Matt would be fine.

He had to be.

“Killian is alright,” he said, glancing up over Emma’s head as she tried to turn towards the woman behind them.

“Oh,” she muttered. “Yeah, yeah, of course. Yeah, um, well, I just wanted to...give you guys a head’s up or whatever…” She trailed off and she still hadn’t actually explained who she was or what she was doing and Killian, admittedly, wasn’t paying much attention.

“Claire,” Emma mumbled, eyes darting back towards his and the laughing and the crying was tinged with a smile, her eyes just a bit red around the edges. “Assistant athletic trainer.” Killian opened his mouth, but she answered him before he even got the words out. “Start of the season. After that other one moved to Boston.”

“Mind reader,” he accused and she shrugged slightly.

Claire – who hadn’t disagreed to the introduction – coughed softly and Killian’s head snapped back towards her, eyebrows raised and defenses on high against something that might have been just some deep-rooted need to protect his kid.

“Yeah,” Killian snapped and Claire took a step back, eyes shifting slightly and there was something in gaze that he couldn’t quite name. It looked a bit like frustration.

Emma tapped her fingers quickly on the front of his jacket, pulling her hand away to wrap his fingers in hers and her thumb traced just underneath his ring. “You’re supposed to be the calm one,” she whispered. “Stoic captain or whatever.”

“Not when Matt’s involved.”

He was, admittedly, a bit overprotective.

It drove his kids nuts. It drove Emma nuts. It drove his entire team nuts.

But Matthew David Jones had shown up in the world and it was as if, suddenly, something had clicked and not much mattered more than him or what he’d do or how he felt and Killian couldn’t stop it if he tried.

He didn’t really try.

He was, as Emma put it, a complete pushover for all three of their kids – all of whom appeared to be just as competitive and just as determined as he was. Anna called them stubborn, and it was more than that.

It wasn’t quite Horsemen, but it was pretty damn close, the three of them some kind of built-in support system who regarded Emma and Killian as their de facto leader and resident cheer squad.

Matt had to be fine.

They should have worked on stopping more when he was a kid.

God, he’d fucked up.

“Hey,” Emma said sharply, turning on him as quickly as if Claire wasn’t even there. “His feet got caught. That defender was a dick. It probably should have been a slash. It wasn’t a stopping thing. Not really.”

“Not really.”

“Scarlet did the same thing. Twice.”

“I’m not exactly pulling for broken legs here, Swan,” Killian argued. It felt like his throat tightened on the words. Broken legs he could deal with. Broken legs were easy. A straight fracture and he’d be back on the ice in six to eight and it would be fine.

Broken bones didn’t come with stretchers and neck braces and it was suddenly very warm in that hallway, the walls feeling just a bit closer together than they had a few minutes before. Broken bones didn’t feel like history repeating itself.

Emma’s mouth dropped open slightly and he was nearly impressed that she’d realized it without him actually saying anything.

He absolutely shouldn’t have been.

“It’s not the same thing,” she said quickly, but her voice shook a bit and he got the distinct impression her mind was four steps ahead of her, wondering, if, maybe, it was exactly the same thing.

Killian hummed, nodding slowly like that would somehow convince her that he agreed and he knew it didn’t work in half a second and one not-quite-deep breath. “Killian,” Emma said. “It’s not. It’s not even remotely close.”

The story came out his sophomore year.

Matt was fresh off some kind of absurd record for faceoff wins as a freshman and BU was back on track or so the websites claimed, a favorite for the national championship and there were, already, draft rumors.

It had ended up on his desk – an actual, physical newspaper and headline that had left Killian sinking into his chair with a hand in his hair and eyes so wide he was certain he’d done permanent damage to his corneas or something.

Cap’s kid: Hold that thought

Matt Jones has been on the Rangers radar since, what feels like, the dawn of time. He’s legacy in a way that doesn’t even really fit the word, the name on the back of his jersey as important as any stat he could possibly record.

Of course, the stats aren’t all that bad either.

In fact, the stats are pretty darn good. Some might even use the word impressive. Or record-breaking. That could work too.

A year removed from one of the most dominant performances in recent college history, Jones seems to be falling into his father’s footsteps – skate lines? What, exactly is the technical term for that? – with relative ease. He’s as fast as Cap, with an eye for the net and that tiny sliver of space just above goalie’s right shoulders that could make him one of the most sought after draft picks this season.

It’s a wonder he decided to go back to the Terriers for another year. After all, Cap left school after a season. There were rumors, of course, that Matt simply wanted to win at BU and then that less idyllic rumor that the Rangers, who didn’t have a first-round pick in last year’s draft, encouraged him to go back until the time he could be guaranteed a spot with the team he practically grew up on.

That, however, is neither here nor there.

The point here is that Cap’s kid might look like him and skate a bit like him and, most importantly, score like him, but there’s something about Matt Jones’ game that feels a bit...not like Cap.

So, what is it?

It’s the position. Obviously.

Matt Jones is not a winger. He’s a centerman and he’s good. Undeniably good. The kind of good that makes diehard Blueshirts fans wonder if maybe...well, maybe, Matt Jones is what would have happened if Liam Jones had never gotten hurt.

Killian had read it ten times and then read it ten more times and then didn’t leave his office for what felt like several weeks and maybe the rest of the season.

Emma found him, phone clutched tightly in her hand and a look on her face that made it almost painfully obvious that she’d read the story several dozen times as well.

“Ruby’s going to kill another columnist,” she said softly, not even bothering with the chairs on the other side of the desk, just pushing around in front of him and sinking onto his legs. He sighed, resting his forehead on her arm and he could barely feel her fingers carding through the back of his hair, hand wrapped tightly around his neck as he tried to breathe her in.

“Decades, Swan,” Killian mumbled. “Thirty years and they’re still talking about it.”

“He’s better than Liam.”

She said it so simply – the certainty in her voice almost taking him off guard. Or it would have if it wasn’t completely true.

Matt Jones was the best hockey player Killian had ever seen, better than him or Liam or Roland and, quite suddenly, that knot of anxiety and guilt that had settled in the very center of him loosened just a bit, Emma’s soft weight on his leg managing to pull him back to the present and the few hours they had before puck drop.

“And, you know,” she added. “I might have already done something…” Killian pulled back slightly, eyebrows drawn low as her fingers raced across her phone screen. “Here,” Emma muttered, pushing the thing a few inches away from his face.

Tell dad that story is stupid.

Obviously I’m better than Uncle Liam. Uncle Liam would say that. Dad has said that. And maybe don’t show Ru the story. She’ll probably kill that columnist.

Oh, never mind I bet Ru showed you the story, didn’t she?

Mom, you’ve got to answer my text messages, you’re killing me here. Ah, dad saw the story. That’s what’s happening here isn’t it?

Emma’s phone buzzed in her hand, another text message appearing on the screen in front of him and Killian let out a shaky laugh when he saw the words pop up in his eye line.

Hey, dad. The story is stupid.

He held his hand out expectantly and Emma grinned when she dropped it in her palm, shifting slightly on his leg while he wrapped his left arm around her waist to try and keep her balanced.

That is true. On both points. And you’re definitely better than Liam. He never set a freshman faceoff record at Minnesota.

You gotta stop bringing that fact up.

It’s a good fact!

I can’t believe a story tried to play off like there was insider trading happening before the draft.

Columnists get bored easily.

You’re not going to stop Ru from killing that guy are you?

Between your mother, Lucas and probably Scarlet, I can’t imagine there’s much hope for that guy’s byline at this point.

Insider. Trading.

Tell ‘em thanks too. And beat up on the Flyers tonight.

He’s going to hit that marker tonight.

Yeah, well, that’s just rude. You can tell Rol I said that. If he can’t wait until I can get to a game to see him hit 150 goals, then that’s stupid and I don’t accept the record.

I’m sure he’ll take that into consideration.

How’d you find the story?

Rol sent it to me. He’s bored after skate. Gina’s trying to get him to come home before the game.

Ah, well, I guess growing up in the Garden does take some of the shine off its return.

It took a few moments for the final text to come through and when it did, Killian’s arm tightened around Emma’s waist. She hummed in question, twisting against his front to try and see the message and her smile probably could have melted the several inches of snow sitting outside his office.

That’s not true. I’ll see you guys next week.

All Matt Jones ever wanted was to be a New York Ranger and, two years after the story, when they called his name and gave him a jersey and he picked twenty, Killian couldn’t quite decide if he’d ever stop talking about it.

His son was a professional hockey player.

His son was wearing his number.

He’d asked about it – a few hours before the draft, walking into the building in Chicago with nervous eyes and slightly mumbled words and Killian couldn’t understand him the first time.

“What?” Killian asked, coming up short and tugging on the back of Matt’s jacket to keep him from walking into a line of photographers.

“I just….” Matt started, shuffling on his feet as he stuffed his hands into his pockets.

“You’ve got to use actual words, Matt.”

Matt glared at him and Killian dimly heard a shutter click behind him, wrapping his arm around his son and dragging him back towards the corner. He waved off Emma and she smiled in response, leading a contingent of former Rangers and David and Mary Margaret to a table a few feet away.

“Alright,” Killian said, resting both hands on Matt’s shoulders. “What did you say before?”

“I just thought….” Matt cut himself off again, tongue darting out in between his lips and his eyes fell anywhere except Killian.

“Mattie, you’re not making this any easier, kid.”

That got his attention. Killian never called him Mattie – that was Emma and Lizzie when she was frustrated with him and Roland when he was teasing him, which seemed to be more often than not, but the nickname was out of his mouth before he’d really considered it, nerves flitting in the back of his head.

Matt had left school. He’d hired an agent and given up his last year of eligibility and this needed to work.

“Jeez, Dad,” Matt sighed. “Laying it on almost too thick, don’t you think?”

“That’s because you’re not talking to me. Enunciate this time.”

Matt rolled his eyes and it was like looking in some kind of mirror. Killian tried not to dwell on that too long.

“I already talked to equipment,” Matt said quickly. “So, you know, if this goes the way it’s supposed to. Then you don’t really have much say over it anyway, but I figured I’d ask. Or tell you or whatever.”

It hit him like a goddamn freight train in the back corner of that room – photographers and media and slightly manic league officials trying to make sure everyone got to their seat.

Killian knew his eyes widened, could feel his mouth hanging open slightly and Matt grinned cautiously at him, shrugging as if that was actually enunciating the words he hadn’t said yet.

“Is that cool?” he asked.

“Cool,” Killian repeated slowly and Matt shrugged again. “You want...you want to wear my number?”

“I mean, you know, if it’s cool with you.”

It wasn’t cool.

It was far bigger than that.

It was everything and then some and Matt Jones wore his father’s number in his first NHL game and every NHL game he ever played. He was wearing his father’s number when he went head-first into the boards and got stretchered off the ice with a neck brace and Killian still couldn’t quite seem to catch his breath, even with Emma pressed against his side and an assistant athletic trainer staring at him like some kind of ticking time bomb.

“What’s the heads up?” Emma asked and Claire nearly snapped to attention, the heels of her shoes clicking together immediately.

She smiled nervously, shoulders tight with tension and she tugged on the end of her pony tail. And Killian felt like he was missing something – something big and vaguely important and his eyes flashed towards Emma out of instinct and several decades worth of her hand wrapped up in his.

“He, uh, he lost consciousness,” Claire said slowly and Emma went stiff next to him. Killian pressed his lips together tightly, digging his teeth into them until he could taste blood, and tried to remember the definition of the word fine. “But, but,” Claire, added. “It was only for a few seconds. They...they took him to the hospital. You know for tests and precautions and all that. You guys, well, you should probably head downtown.”

Emma didn’t say a word, just nodded once and turned on her heels, pulling Killian’s hand with her and Claire still looked vaguely terrified.

It took twenty-two minutes to get to the hospital. Twenty-two minutes of silence in the back seat of a cab – or relative silence, Emma’s fingers flying across her phone screen, presumably updating their kids and David and Mary Margaret and a whole former front line about a medical status they hadn’t gotten any confirmation on yet.

“It’s not the same,” she said suddenly, head snapping towards Killian as the cab pulled up in front of the hospital. “It’s not.”

Killian smiled softly, inhaling slowly and he tried to believe her, tried to feel the determination he could see on her face, that it wasn’t the same and Matt would be as fine as they both claimed he would.

It wasn’t the same.

“Just precautionary,” Emma continued, squeezing his forearm tightly. “Maybe she was wrong. Maybe he didn’t lose consciousness. Maybe, you know, maybe he was just...blinking. For a long time or something.”

“Swan,” Killian cautioned and she shook her head quickly, eyes just a bit wider than they’d been all night.

“Stop. Stop it. It’s fine. He’s going to be fine. He just got tripped up and they’ve got to do tests and that’s...that’s protocol, right? Part of…”

“Player’s union rules,” he finished. Emma nodded again, like she was trying to convince herself that he knew how it worked or that tests, precautionary or otherwise, were a good idea and they still hadn’t gotten out of the cab yet.

Her phone buzzed again.

“Reese’s is already here,” Emma explained, nodding at her hand. “I think David got them some kind of police escort downtown or something insane.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me if he did.”

She laughed under her breath and her eyes were a bit glossy when she looked up at him. “It’s not the same,” she said again. “God, he’d make fun of us if he knew what a mess we were.”

“We?”

“Please, you’ve been pale as ice for the last hour.”

“That’s true,” Killian admitted, squeezing his eyes closed when he leaned his head forward. She kissed him, lips brushing over his forehead and the top of his hair and she hadn’t actually let go of his arm.

The driver coughed pointedly and there were other cars behind them, a long line of people waiting and leaving, or trying to leave, and they had to get out of this cab eventually. “Come on, love,” Killian said, tugging his arm out of her grip to twist his fingers up with hers. “Let’s go find our boy.”

The doctor wouldn’t let them out of the waiting room – they were in the middle of tests or something absurd and there were mores rules and no number of former New York Rangers or even David trying to flash a badge seemed to do any good.

They were stuck.

And it felt like it had been days and years and several losing seasons in a row, the whole lot of them stretched out over plastic chairs and arm rests, with heads on shoulders and phones clutched tightly in their hands.

Killian couldn’t stop pacing. He couldn’t stop moving.

“You’re going to wear a hole in the tiles,” Emma muttered, hardly lifting her head off Mary Margaret’s shoulder. Ruby mumbled under her breath, her own head resting on Emma’s arm and they were a line of almost palpable nervous energy.

“He’s been in there for days, Swan,” Killian sighed, running a hand through his hair and Robin scoffed. “At least.”

She smiled at him, a knowing look that seemed to mirror every thought running through his mind for as long as they’d been relegated to that waiting room. “I know,” she whispered. “We’re here though. I’m sure he knows that.”

Killian sighed again, nearly ripping his hair out of his head when his phone started ringing loudly in his pocket.

“Jeez, Cap,” Will groaned, stretching his arms over his head. “Who haven't you called yet?”

He didn’t bother answering – certain it was El and Liam or Anna or Lizzie and he was almost surprised they hadn’t all just FaceTime’d him yet, demanding updates and answers he didn’t have.

It wasn’t any of them.

Killian glanced at Robin, eyes wide and the question on his lips. Robin shrugged. “He didn’t believe me,” he said, like that explained everything. “Said he was going to go straight to the source or something. He just got off the ice.”

“Where are they?” Killian asked.

“St. Louis.”

Will made some kind of impossibly impatient noise, kicking the heel of his foot into the tiled the floor and Killian didn’t even have the energy to glare at him. He swiped his thumb over the phone screen, leaning forward to kiss the top of Emma’s head, muttering I’ll be right back, and walking towards a slightly abandoned hallway around the corner.

“Hey, mate,” Killian said, sliding down the wall he hadn’t even realized he’d been leaning against.  Roland exhaled loudly on the other end, mumbling under his breath at teammates and it was loud in the St. Louis visitor’s locker room. “You win?”

“Is he ok?” Roland asked sharply, bypassing greetings or nicknames and Killian felt every muscle in his body tense at the nerves coming through the phone. “Hook, is he ok?”

Killian took a deep breath before he answered and Roland could probably hear him shrugging in the middle of the hallway. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “We’re still waiting for tests.”

“It looked bad.”

“When did you even have time to look at video?”

“Somebody in training was talking about it in between periods. Bad hit by Jones into the boards and everything. It...it looked bad.”

“You should have seen it in person. You didn’t answer my question, you guys win?”

“Hook, if you don’t already know whether or not we won, then I’m not answering that question,” Roland said. “Just proves how distracted you were. Did you ask Dad where we were before you answered the phone? Is that why it took so long?”

Killian took half a moment to marvel at how transparent he, apparently, was, but there was a smile tugging on the corners of his lips and Roland Locksley, almost NHL veteran was far too smart for his own good.

“Between you and Emma, it’s like a mind reading competition,” he mumbled and Roland laughed quietly. “You score?”

“Two assists.”

“That’s not bad.”

“Gee, thanks,” Roland grumbled. Killian was, maybe, actually smiling now. “And, yeah, we won. Did you?”

“I have no idea.”

“Super dad strikes again. Far too preoccupied with kid to worry about hockey.”

He could hear the sarcasm, knew exactly what Roland was doing and what Emma had been doing and even Will – all of them trying to get his mind off the certainty that it was exactly like it had been before and Killian might not have been on the ice this time, but that was, somehow, worse, watching it all play out in slow motion and it was his kid.

His kid.

Killian closed his eyes, suddenly feeling as if all the oxygen had been pulled out of the hallway and Roland made a noise in St. Louis.

“It’s not the same,” Roland muttered and Killian hummed in the back of his throat, trying to sound like he almost agreed.

“You and Emma should get that sky-written. I think she’s told me that ten times in the last five minutes.”

“Ah, well, that’s because she’s smart. And really good at reading your mind. I always liked her more than you.”

“That’s an enormous lie and you know it.”

Roland laughed, the sound making its way from St. Louis to lower Manhattan and into that hallway that, suddenly, wasn’t quite so unoccupied. Killian glanced up, gaze landing on Claire the assistant athletic trainer and she still looked slightly terrified.

She looked like she’d spent the better part of the last half an hour alternating between crying and trying to breathe and her fingers were still all twisted together, a picture of anxious frustration that Killian seemed to feel in the very center of his being.

“Hook?” Roland asked. “You still with me? Did the doctors show up?”

“No, no, uh, someone from training.” Claire’s eyes widened again, glancing around the hallway like she was looking for an a quick exit.

There wasn’t one.

She waved at him and Killian’s laugh was shaky at best and a bit manic at worst and Roland was still asking questions in St. Louis.

“Oh,” he said slowly when Killian didn’t say anything else. “You met Claire didn’t you?”

“What?”

“What?”

“Rol,” Killian said sharply and there was a scoff on the other end of the phone. This team put far too much stock in nicknames. “What do you know that I don’t?”

“A whole lot, apparently,” Roland chuckled, any worry over Matt’s state of consciousness forgotten for half a moment. “You should talk to her. Like actually talk to her. Might not be a bad idea. You know, for...whatever. Tell Matt he’s an idiot.”

“Overprotective flew right out the window, didn’t it?”

“There aren’t any windows in this locker room,” Roland argued. “And overprotective is just built in at this point, but, this is just...talk to her. Claire, I mean, she’s probably freaked and we’re all super intimidating and then tell Matt to call me. And learn how to stop.”

“Anything else?” Killian asked, voice drenched in sarcasm and Claire still hadn’t moved.

“Yeah, tell him not to freak me out like that again, ok?”

“Deal.”

Roland hung up before he could fire off another vaguely sarcastic comment and Killian stuffed his phone back in his pocket, glancing warily at Claire.

She hadn’t moved.

“You’re...uh, you’re here,” Killian started slowly and Claire almost smiled. “Why...why are you here?”

She let out a shaky laugh, rocking back on her heels and tugging self consciously on the bottom of her team-provided polo. “If I say professional courtesy is that an almost legitimate excuse?”

“Almost?”

Claire shrugged, brushing the hair out of her eyes and oh shit. He was the idiot. God, Matt would never stop laughing at him. He probably should have known as soon as they saw her in front of the locker room.

Emma probably knew.

“Oh,” Killian said and he couldn’t even come up with a response that wasn’t decidedly stupid. It was because he was so worried about Matt.

Absolutely.

And not a little stunned that his kid was, apparently, dating the assistant athletic trainer of the New York Rangers.

History and repeating and Mrs. Vankald would have had some kind of perfect cliché for a moment like this. Killian opened his mouth, a bit desperate to ease the slightly uncomfortable tension that had taken up residence in between him and Claire, but she started speaking before he could.

“He already did,” she said and there was no way to mistake the emotion in her voice, that tinge of something that Killian recognized whenever he talked about Emma. Sentimental fool.

“Who already did what? Matt?”

Claire nodded, smile looking just a bit easier when she she crossed her arms. “Almost as soon as this….whatever,” she laughed, waving her hand in the space in front of her, “started. He said his grandmother would have had a perfect cliché for it. History and repeating. He thought he was hysterical.”

“Of course he did,” Killian muttered. “Did he, uh, did he tell you why he didn’t….”

“Tell you?”

Killian nodded and Claire seemed to retreat back to worried relatively easily. “It was kind of a joint decision,” she said. “Kind of a conflict of interest or something like that. We didn’t want it to be this whole, big thing in the middle of the season.” He nodded again. “Matt said you’d understand.”

“His mother and I were woefully bad at under the radar,” Killian admitted. “Everyone knew. A few before we did.”

Claire laughed, brushing her hair back behind her ears and her shoulders didn’t appear quite as tense as they had been in front of the locker room. “He’s totally freaked me out here,” she whispered, sounding like she was admitting to something just a bit bigger.

“Ah, that makes two of us. But he’ll be fine.”

Claire made a quiet noise in the back of her throat, an unquestionable disagreement that Killian understood as well. “He will,” he promised. “We just never got around to that whole stopping part.”

“He said that’s your fault.”

“The not stopping or how fast he is?”

“Either or.”

“You two spend a lot of time talking about me, then?” Killian asked, lifting one eyebrow and that quiet noise was a scoff now, met with a smirk and he liked her.

History.

“We spend a lot of time talking about hockey,” Claire corrected. “You just happen to play large role in Matt’s opinion on hockey.”

Killian hummed, something that felt distinctly like emotion shooting down his spine – and there were plenty of questions left, but there was another set of shoes in the hallway, running towards him and he stood up before Emma could crash into the wall.

“We can go in,” she said breathlessly, gripping the front of his jacket and the tears in her eyes weren’t from worry or the certainty that it wasn't just like it had been before. “Mattie’s awake and it's a concussion, but they think he'll be ok soon'ish and, God, you’ve got to come now. He was wondering where you were.”

She glanced over her shoulder, her grip on Killian’s jacket tightening a fraction of an inch. “You too,” Emma added to Claire and Killian chuckled when her mouth dropped open slightly. “He said he figured you were here.”

“Mind reader,” Claire mumbled, but the smile on her face was genuine and she looked like she was taking her first deep breath in hours. “I’m gonna...I’m…”

“Go,” Emma said, nodding towards the room at the far end of the hall. She practically sprinted away from them.

“Did you know?” Killian asked as soon as Claire was gone, eyeing Emma and she scrunched her nose. “I’m going to take that as a yes.”

“I had an idea,” she said. “And some rumors. Mostly from Ruby, who, apparently, still knows everything. Don’t think about that for too long, it’ll freak you out.”

“I’ve been freaked out enough for one day, I think, Swan.”

“He’s ok. Stubborn skull or something. I actually talked to a doctor.”

“Talked?”

She shrugged. “Demanded. Whatever. We were out there forever and if Scarlet tapped his foot any louder I was absolutely going to kill him. So I asked and they answered my questions. Concussion, but only mild and he claims the whole unconscious thing was, like, half a second.”

“You talked to Matt?” Killian asked, half moving towards the room before Emma even had a chance to answer.

“Just for a second. I didn’t want him to be by himself when they moved him into the room.” Killian’s shoulders sagged slightly, the force of his exhale nearly moving Emma’s hair. “I wanted to tell you. I just…”

“You don’t have to explain yourself, Swan. Parents of the year.”

“Nearly three decades running,” she muttered, pressing up on tiptoes to brush her lips against his and Killian would never get tired of that. Not for another three decades or the rest of his life or eternity and it wasn’t nearly as sentimental as he wanted it to be.

“He’s going to be fine,” he said again and Emma grinned against his mouth.

“Better than.”

He kissed her again, quick and meaningful and tried to move towards the room when Emma nearly ripped his jacket off him, fingers wrapping around lapels and pulling him up short.

“What?” Killian asked and Emma pushed her phone against his chest.

“Ruby knows everything,” she said, staring at him like she’d never quite seen him before. It made his heart speed up. “And you’re going to want to read this before you go in there.”

He glanced down at the screen, eyes scanning across the headline and his heart thudded almost painfully against his chest, trying to work its way out between his ribs or maybe into his throat. Emma smiled at him, tracing her finger across her jacket with her lip pulled in between her teeth and nearly three decades later, he still couldn’t quite believe how goddamn lucky he was.

Oh Captain, no Captain: Jones turns down C for Blueshirts

The long-time Rangers standout, who is already closing in on the 500-point marker, reportedly was the front-runner in the locker room to be the team’s next Captain, but turned down the honor for one very simple reason.
“Nah,” he said before Thursday’s game against the Sabres. “That’s my dad. I’m not the Captain of this team. Nobody is. There’s a reason no one’s worn a ‘C’ since my dad retired and I’m not going to take that. I wouldn’t want it.”

“Huh,” Killian sighed and Emma laughed, pressing a kiss against his cheek. She was still smiling.

“Eloquent as always, Jones.”

“Mattie said that?”

“Well, he’s quoted.”

“Swan.”

Emma grinned at him, brushing her fingers across his forehead and lingering just a few moments on a particularly greying patch of hair. “Of course he did,” she said. “He wouldn’t...he would never take that.”

“He wouldn’t be taking it,” Killian argued. “He should.”

“He doesn’t want it.”

Killian couldn’t come up with anything else to argue – the quote on the screen in front of him, practically cementing itself in his brain and he couldn’t actually break down in the middle of the hallway. That was easier said than done, however, between mild concussions and history and nah, that’s my dad would probably be branded behind his eyelids every time he blinked.

“Captain America,” Emma mumbled fondly, tugging on lapels again and it was all Killian could do to laugh weakly. “Come on, let’s go see him.”

Matt smiled when he saw them, pushing up against a small mountain of pillows he’d probably demanded and Emma kept her hand trained in Killian’s when they walked into the room.

“I’m fine,” he said as soon as Killian’s mouth opened. “But, well, maybe we should work on stopping at some point.”

Emma groaned, sinking onto the corner of the bed and running her fingers through Matt’s hair – a habit they’d both picked up on when he was younger and road trips lasted for a week and there wasn’t anyone to bring him to the Piers.

And it all seemed to happen quickly, the scene in front of them settling into something happy and comfortable and Killian nodded out of instinct, agreeing to a plan and a practice and maybe history didn’t always have to repeat itself.

It was better that way.

Chapter Text

“It’s absurdly cold.”

“It’s April, Swan. And we are inside still.”

Emma groaned, slumping against Killian’s shoulder and she could feel him laugh against her. She wasn’t sure if she appreciated that. Particularly when it felt like her teeth were only a few seconds away from chattering.

“It feels like it’s going to snow,” Emma continued, well aware that she was whining and a grown adult and just steps in front of her kids who would, inevitably, believe her complaining about the weather and the impending blizzard she swore was coming, meant they could also complain.

She chanced a glance over her shoulder at Chris, arms wrapped tightly around his waist and a scowl on his face that, if they were about to face some kind of blizzard in the middle of April, would probably freeze that way.

“What’s the matter, kid?” Emma asked and Killian nearly tripped over his own feet when she stopped short. He pressed his lips together tightly, likely biting back a string of curses that didn’t belong in front of an eleven-year-old and the few people who were, also, walking through the Minneapolis Airport.

“Nothing,” Chris grumbled, moving his arms so he could stuff his hands in his pockets. Emma’s eyes darted towards Killian, his own gaze bordering on questioning, but he didn’t say anything.

They were still a few years away from teenage angst but, of all their kids, Chris was probably the most likely to wander towards anything resembling stereotypes. Their kids were all, by some apparent rule of the universe, loud and competitive and something that might have been classified as determined, but, more often than not, Emma and Killian found to be a penchant for breaking the rules.

It was probably karma for all the times Killian had snuck onto the uptown one when he was a kid and Emma had stolen Pop-Tarts more than once from several dozen convenience stores while she was bouncing between foster houses and group homes. In fact, she was fairly positive that she’d stolen several boxes of chocolate-frosted Pop-Tarts from a store not too far from their hotel when she was seventeen.

She probably wouldn’t mention that later.

It wasn’t much of an anecdote, especially before a National Championship game and they had a schedule to stick to and nerves to ignore.

Emma was nervous.

Still. Always. Every time Matt laced up his skates or got hit and Killian would laugh as soon as she squeezed her eyes shut, muttering something about that’s just part of the game, Swan under his breath. And then he’d probably press a kiss to the top of her hair and both Peggy and Chris would groan loudly.

Maybe they were just dealing with teenage angst.

Chris still hadn’t moved, eyes looking anywhere except Emma and Killian, a goal made all the easier by the sandy hair falling in his eyes. Emma reached up to brush it away, clicking her tongue when Chris nearly growled at her and he was far too tall already.

“Seriously, kid,” Emma sighed. “What’s your deal? And when’s the last time you got your hair cut?”

“A couple months ago,” he said. .

“That’s not the question I was really interested in getting an answer to.”

Chris shrugged, tugging the hood of his Rangers-branded sweatshirt over his head. Emma widened her eyes, trying to fall into mom in the middle of the airport, but that was difficult when someone rolled a suitcase over her toe.

“Don’t we have to go?” Peggy asked, sounding almost exactly the same way Emma had when she was complaining about the temperature in a temperature-controlled airport. “Anna said they were going to be at the hotel an hour ago.”

“Yeah, why are we always late?” Chris asked. “We’re never on time for anything important.”

“That’s not true at all,” Emma argued and Killian smirked at her. “Oh, shut up,” she muttered and the smirk, somehow, got stronger. “How come they haven’t just rolled out several red carpets for you, huh? Don’t the people of Minnesota have some kind of sixth sense that you’re here as soon as you land?”

“Like, collectively?” Killian asked, ignoring whatever Peggy was doing with her face. “That’s a pretty lame super power as far as state-wide super powers go.”

Emma groaned, shivering when they moved closer to the doors and the cabs and they really were late. It wasn’t their fault though – there’d been rain and sitting on the tarmac for a questionably long period of time and they really should have planned all of this better because, somehow, they’d all ended up on different flights out of New York.

It was definitely snowing.

“Ok, but seriously,” Emma started, nodding when a cab driver jumped their direction, “we are not always late. We are on time for us.”

“Sounds like a fancy way of saying we’re late and don’t want to admit to it,” Chris mumbled and Peggy couldn’t quite stop her laughter, biting down tightly on her lip. He stopped talking as soon as Killian looked at him – pulling the suitcase out of his hand and dumping into the open trunk and something was going on.

“You done?” Emma asked.

“Yeah.”

“Yeah, what?” Killian pressed, one hand on Chris’ shoulder as he directed him towards the backseat of the cab.

Chris sighed, shoulders heaving dramatically with the effort. “Yeah, sorry, Mom.”

“There we go.”

“And anyway,” Emma continued, swinging the door shut behind her while Killian gave the driver directions. “We got here before most of the New York contingent. That’s, like, sixteen bonus points and, at least, eight bets.”

Killian scoffed from the front seat and it would be some kind of miracle if any of those flights would be able to land in the next few hours. It was definitely a blizzard. In April. Two days before the NCAA hockey finals and Matt Jones, captain of the Boston University team, was set to take the ice with a small army of supporters in the stands.

In Minnesota.

Of fucking course it was Minnesota.

“There are no bets about any of this,” Killian said seriously, not even bothering to turn around. Peggy laughed again. That got him to turn around. And she stopped laughing rather quickly. “Something funny about that, Margaret?”

“Oh, that’s cheating,” she accused and something in the very center of Emma flipped and flopped at the tone of her voice, sounding far too much like her.

Killian nodded. “It absolutely is. Tell me what you bet.”

“Nothing.”

“Margaret.”

She groaned, shoulders going slack and her whole body shifted when she tried to roll her eyes, the ends of her hair, somehow, hitting both Emma and Chris in the backseat of the cab. “It’s Rol’s fault,” she said quickly. “He’s not going to be here, but he wanted to keep track of how many shots MD took and he knew…”

“The only way you’d do that is if you had something to bet on,” Killian finished.

“See, it sounds bad when you say it like that.”

“It’s not exactly the most sibling thing I’ve ever heard, Peg.”

“I said that MD was going to take, at least, ten and Rol said that was ridiculous. No one would take that many shots, but you know, MD is who he is, so I obviously took the over and I’m going to win.”

“What were your stakes?” Emma asked. Killian rolled his eyes. “What? I’m honestly curious. And he’d definitely take ten shots if he could.”

Peggy made some kind of triumphant noise, her hair moving again as she nodded enthusiastically. “Thank you,” she shouted. “See, Mom gets it.”

“Stakes, Peg,” Killian repeated.

“He’s got to bring me to Serendipity when he’s home during the offseason. And pay. Obviously. I mean he just signed that big deal.”

“How do you know about that?”

“Dad,” Peggy sighed and the ends of Killian’s twitched. “For real? It was everywhere. All the time. They actually acknowledged hockey on ESPN.”

Emma laughed – loudly and before she’d really considered just how far the sound would carry in the cramped confines of a cab going painfully slow on icy Minnesota roads. Killian gaped at her. “What?” she asked. “That was actually kind of funny.”

“That’s insulting to the whole sport, Swan,” Killian muttered. “And Rol better hope Peg doesn’t win because getting roped into Serendipity is…”

“Frozen hot chocolate, Dad,” Peggy interrupted. “Frozen. Hot. Chocolate. I don’t even care about the food. Rol can do whatever he wants with that. And the lines won’t be that long during the summer. Whatever. He was super into this bet. I’m just helping Rol maintain his sanity during the final week of the regular season.”

“Don’t bring that up later. Locksley is already on some other level of pre-playoff worry. Plus, you know, he’ll be in enemy territory for a whole weekend. It’s throwing him off.”

Emma chuckled, absently toying with the ends of Peggy’s hair until she actually shifted on the seat and rolled her shoulders, some unspoken request to try and tame the mess of dark waves. “They won the President’s Trophy,” Emma pointed out.

“Don’t mention that either.”

“What is he so worried about?”

Killian shrugged. “Absurd athletic superstition.”

“Is that why you keep tapping your foot up there?”

Peggy winced when she laughed, moving too quickly and too suddenly for Emma to loosen her grip on her hair, and even Chris pulled his head away from the window to glance up towards the passenger’s seat. Killian crossed his legs, tongue pressed against the side of his cheek, but his eyes were still bright and Emma’s heart stammered in her chest.

It probably shouldn’t still be like that.

No, she thought quickly, wrapping a hair tie around the end of her daughter’s hair – it should be exactly like that.

Even if that usually ended with all three of their kids yelling gross in their faces.

“What exactly is it you’re suggesting, Swan?” Killian asked, eyes darting back towards Chris when his head thumped against the window again. “Ok, honestly,” he said. “What’s going on? We’re almost downtown. You can stage whatever temper tantrum you’re having once we get out of the car, ok?”

“I’m not doing that,” Chris argued, but his voice wasn’t quite even and it must have been difficult to talk pressed up against a slightly frosted window.

Emma shrugged when Killian looked back at her. “I’m suggesting you’re also chock-full of absurd athletic superstition and you wouldn’t take either Ruby or Scarlet’s attempted bets when it came to this game.”

“What could we have to bet on? They’re going to win.”

“That confidence, Cap.”

“Obviously. Although it is kind of weird being here for this.”

“That’s because the entire state of Minnesota is pointless.”

“Don’t tell that to the general populace of Minnesota. Or Liam,” he added, glancing down at his phone when it buzzed in his hand. “Who is, apparently, already driving El and Anna insane with stories of school.”

“I’ve been avoiding the group text for exactly that reason,” Emma laughed. Her phone had been buzzing non-stop since they’d gotten off the plane.

“They’re not even playing in that arena. It doesn’t make sense.”

“He’s nostalgic.”

“He’s annoying.”

“Look who’s throwing temper tantrums now.”

Killian’s eyes flashed at her, but there were kids in the back set and they were, apparently, at the hotel and Emma’s phone was going to explode at any moment, she was positive. “You should probably answer that, Mom,” Chris mumbled, nodding towards the bag that was actually shaking at this point. “Leo said Uncle David and Reese’s are fairly certain you’re dead.”

“What?”

Chris shrugged, some kind of dismissive noise coming from the back of his throat as he nodded towards her phone again. She had sixty-five text messages.

“Holy shit,” Emma mumbled under her breath, earning a pair of matching wide-eyed stares from her kids and she was setting some kind of horrible example at this point. She’d blame it on nerves. And Killian tapping his foot again.

“Are most of them El and Anna complaining?” Killian asked knowingly.

“No, like, half of them are David reciting crime records at me.”

Killian laughed, swinging open the front door of the cab and there was more than a dusting of snow on the ground. Minnesota was the worst place in the world.

He was right, this was, decidedly, weird.

And her kids didn’t know about that year Emma spent in Minnesota or the Pop-Tarts she’d stolen. They’d, well, they’d avoided all of that – no point in dwelling on a past that was nothing short of depressing.

Let Minnesota be Liam’s history and his nostalgia and Matt’s, absolutely certain, NCAA championship.

This trip was going to drive them all insane.

And David needed some kind of hobby – he was standing under the awning or whatever in front of the hotel, arms crossed tightly over his chest and maybe they were as late as Chris promised they were.

“Oh my God,” Peggy grumbled, flipping her hair back over her shoulder and, at least, half of it had fallen out of the braid already. “Is that some kind of historic building?” she asked, nodding across the street. “Is Dad going to make us learn something?”

“You enjoyed those trips, Margaret,” Killian yelled, already trying to fight off the driver over their luggage.

“And you were young enough that you didn’t have any say in it whatsoever,” Emma added conspiratorially. “Plus, he didn’t answer you, that means he doesn’t know what that building is.”

Killian slammed the trunk closed. “The capitol, Swan. Obviously. And if you don’t think Liam made us go there while we were at school, then you haven’t been paying attention.”

“For the last two decades?”

He grinned at her, laden down with bags and something that still felt a lot like absurd athletic superstition, but his eyebrows jumped when he took a step towards her, ducking his head and brushing his lips across hers. And it felt like she was breathing for the first time since they’d taken off from JFK that morning.

What an emotional loser.

It was, absolutely, because their kid was going to be on national TV later that night. In Minnesota. God damn Minnesota.

And because Ruby had told Emma that, at least, six different media outlets had tried to go through her to request interviews with both Killian and Liam.

She wasn’t sure if he knew that.

Probably not.

Ruby wasn’t an idiot.

“Ok, you guys are aware that there are children around, right?” David asked, amusement in his voice as he grabbed two suitcases out of Killian’s hands.

“Yeah, I mean, ours,” Emma reasoned. David groaned. “Why are you lurking out here? That’s weird. It’s cold.”

“It’s April, Emma.”

“Why does everyone keep using that as some kind of explanation? It doesn’t change the fact that Minnesota is the absolute worst state in the entire country and it’s snowing.”

“What’s the matter with you?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“Nothing,” Emma nodded deftly, but Killian had his arm around her waist and her head had fallen on his shoulder before she even realized she’d moved.

David hummed, shifting his weight when he tried to cross his arms again and found he couldn’t while holding several days worth of luggage. “And I was waiting for you guys because we’ve been here for an hour already.”

“How is that even possible?”

“See, I told you,” Peggy said, making a face when Chris stalked by her, hands stuffed in his pockets and hood still up and eyes trying to bore a hole into his sneakers. “We’re always late. It’s just how we operate.”

“That is true, Em,” David agreed. He pressed a kiss against Peggy’s cheek, trying to push her back towards the door. “Is one of these suitcases yours, Peg? Is that why my arms being pulled out of its socket?”

Peggy shot him a glare, eyes narrowing and David’s smile widened. “Mom and Dad have been obsessed with the weather for a week. I had to be prepared. Don’t be mean, Uncle David.”

“Never, kid. Go inside. Mary Margaret’s commandeered the hot water machine in the lobby and, somehow, found hot chocolate packets.”

“If it means Dad’s not going to force us to go to the Minnesota state capitol to learn facts no one cares about then, yeah, I’m down,” Peggy announced, grabbing her suitcase back out of David’s hands and practically running into the hotel lobby.

Killian looked stricken, frozen in between stunned and just a bit frustrated and David pulled his lips back behind his teeth so he wouldn’t draw the ire of a visibly nervous hockey-dad in the middle of downtown St. Paul.

“You have to admit, you’d totally do that,” Emma laughed. “How did we not end up there at some point?”

“Because St. Paul is the lesser of the Twin Cities,” Killian said quickly and easily, like that was, simply, common knowledge. “Seriously, what is going on with Chris, though? He was more excited than anybody about this whole run a couple of weeks ago.”

Emma shrugged. “Maybe he’s got a secret fear of flying we never knew about. Does that make us shitty parents?”

“Parents of the year, twenty years running, Swan.”

David clicked his tongue, digging his toe into the snowy ground underneath his foot and Emma felt something like dread settle into the pit of her stomach. “What?”

“He really didn’t say anything?” Emma shook her head. “Well, I don’t know anything specific, but...uh, Leo mentioned that he’d been asking questions about baseball.”

It was like he’d started talking in a completely different language. Emma blinked, pulling her head up and rolling her shoulders and she didn’t think she imagined the way Killian’s hold on her tightened.

“Baseball?” Emma repeated and David nodded.

“So he said.”

“Why would he be asking about baseball?”

“Beats me. I mean, it’s April, so you know, ‘tis the season or whatever. And Leo’s starting again this year. So, maybe Chris is just...interested.”

“In baseball?”

“There are more sports out there than just hockey, Em,” David said.

Emma made a noise, squeezing one eye closed and she felt Killian press a kiss against her temple. “C’mon, love,” he said softly and it felt like everything had shifted right there in the middle of St. Paul, Minnesota. “It’s freezing out here.”

Liam didn’t make them go to Minneapolis, but it was almost too close for complete pre-game comfort. And then he really only stopped because Mr. Vankald pulled him to the corner of the hotel lobby and talked to him in hushed tones for a few minutes and Emma was far too busy laughing at that to worry about traipsing to the other side of the Mississippi River.

Ruby had gotten them a suite.

Of course she had.

And Mrs. Vankald had gotten them shirts.

Of course she had.

Emma wasn’t sure which one was more embarrassing – if the dramatic sighs that came from everyone under the age of twenty years old were any indication, then it was definitely the shirts. “Isn’t this some kind of NCAA violation?” Lizzie asked, tugging on the bottom of the shirt until both Anna and Elsa moved to pull her hand away at the same time.

“We’re not selling them,” Robin reasoned. He was wearing a Boston University hat. It made his ears look ridiculous. Although, he couldn’t really compete with Will who had, at some point in between landing four hours before and getting in the cab to the Xcel Energy Center painted his face red.

“And that makes a difference?”

“In the eyes of the NCAA, yes. As long as we don’t make Matt sign them and make people pay for them, we’re all in the clear.”

“That’s stupid.”

“Ah, well, take it up with the powers that be, Lizzie.”

“Don’t say that,” Anna sighed, pushing her camera in Killian’s face as she spoke. “Now, she’s going to try and take on the entire NCAA single-handedly.”

Lizzie shrugged – neither a confirmation nor a denial that she was, suddenly, going to change law tracks so she could make sure Matt made money off t-shirts Mrs. Vankald got screen printed downtown. “Whatever,” she said. “As long as Mattie gets at least goal point tonight, I’m in the clear.”

Killian quirked his eyebrows and Ruby was already laughing, bent over a counter in the back corner of the suite and there was food there too. Emma’s stomach flipped at the thought of eating. Or moving.

God, why was she so nervous?

“Elizabeth,” he said slowly and Peggy mumbled captain under her voice, elbowing Lizzie in the side like she couldn’t hear Killian perfectly. “Are you betting on Matt too?”

Lizzie didn’t blink – and she totally got that from Elsa – just smiled and shrugged again. “I can neither confirm nor deny that I may or may not be part of a bet with Uncle Will over how many points Mattie scores tonight.”

“Oh that was good,” Liam laughed, turning back with a plate full of fried food in his hand.

“She absolutely lawyer’ed you up, KJ,” Anna added. Killian was going to rip that camera out of her hands. Or maybe just start pacing and cursing under his breath. “Serves you right anyway. We’ve all spent our whole lives watching you play. Taste of your own medicine or something.”

“That actually sounds kind of vengeful, Banana,” Killian said.

“I’m just saying. No one is going to be surprised when you start cursing in Norwegian later on tonight too. It’s, like, some kind of weird circle of life, family bonding thing.”

“I think you’re confusing your metaphors.”

“I honestly don’t care.” She took another picture. “Get something to drink.”

“Isn’t that an NCAA violation?”

“Here, Cap,” Ruby said, pushing a glass of something towards his hand. “No. That’s the answer you’re looking for. Not when it’s a tournament and not on campus and even sometimes on campus. I don’t know how college football works. I only know Xcel isn’t about to miss out on alcohol revenue because they want to live up to some pure expectation.”

She turned on her heels, nodding towards the corner of the counter – covered in bottles. “You too, Em. You look a lil’ green.”

“I’m fine,” Emma promised and every single person in the suite, including two of her kids and both of her quasi-in-laws, scoffed. Except Ruth Nolan. She was nine. She didn’t understand terror quite yet. “What? Jeez, you guys are assholes.”

Emma’s eyes widened when she realized she’d included Mr. and Mrs. Vankald in that – and two of her kids – but Ruby just laughed, pushing on her shoulder and directing her back towards the alcohol. “Deep breaths, Em,” she whispered, grabbing vodka without even asking.

“I’m not drinking that straight.”

“Perish the thought.”

Mary Margaret appeared next to them as quickly as if she’d teleported there, a twenty painted on both of her cheeks and a BU scarf that Emma was fairly positive she’d had since freshman year of college. “Here,” she said, dropping a plastic bottle of cranberry juice on the counter. “You know that cost me three bucks in the vending machine. That’s insane.”

“Why are you buying vending machine cranberry juice?” Emma asked. “And where was this vending machine?”

“In the hotel lobby and…”

“Can we focus please,” Ruby interrupted, mixing drinks quickly and Emma got the distinct impression that it was, at least, three quarters vodka.

Mary Margaret nodded solemnly. “Right, right, of course.”

“I’m, sorry, what are we focusing on, exactly?”

“Aside from how green your face is?”

“I really don’t think drinking cranberry vodkas like I’m a junior in college is going to help. Plus, I can barely handle dealing with overprotective Killian and the bets, I don’t need to hear David muttering poker face under his breath during every faceoff.”

“He wouldn’t do that while mini-Jones was in the circle.”

“So every other shift then.” Mary Margaret pulled the drink out of Emma’s hand and took a very healthy gulp, earning matching looks of surprise from both Emma and Ruby. “Oh my God, Reese’s, what just happened here?”

“I needed that,” she said simply and Ruby looked like she’d just seen a ghost. At least seventy-two ghosts. Probably dancing. Or something.

Emma downed the rest of the drink, shivering when the alcohol hit her stomach, and Killian was staring at her. Peggy and Lizzie were both already pacing, some kind of weird déjà vu moment that Emma wasn’t entirely sure she appreciated, while Chris was curled into the chair on the far corner of the row, chin resting on his knees and that same Rangers sweatshirt on over his BU shirt.

“Needed that for what?” Emma pressed. “What do you guys know that I don’t know?”

“I mean you kind of know,” Mary Margaret said, but her voice was soft and just a bit disappointed. She sounded like she wanted to be anywhere except a suite at the Xcel Energy Center, forty-five minutes before puck drop of a national semifinal.

“I promise I don’t.”

“David said he talked to you.”

Emma closed her eyes and she felt Ruby’s fingers wrap around her wrist, trying to hold her hand steady while she poured more vodka in her cup. “Oh my God, Rubes, stop it,” she hissed and Ruby widened her eyes in frustration. “Is this about that baseball thing?”

“This is very much about that baseball thing. And what Ariel knows about that baseball thing.”

“This team gossips way too much,” Ruby muttered, hopping onto the edge of the counter and Emma couldn’t really disagree with her. She pressed up on her toes, using Mary Margaret’s shoulder for leverage, to find Leo crouched in front of Chris, trying to talk to him and being resolutely ignored.

Something was wrong.

There went parents of the year.

“What does Ariel have to do with any of this?” Emma asked sharply. Killian’s head snapped up – some kind of sixth sense, but she shook her head immediately. Matt was out on the ice.

Mary Margaret looked like she was on the verge of tears. “It wasn’t really A’s fault. I guess Chris texted her before you guys left this morning with a whole string of questions and then you guys were late getting here and I just…”

“What?”

“I didn’t know how to tell you while we were in the hotel and you were talking to Matt and…”

“Reese’s you can’t keep trailing off like that.”

She gritted her teeth, pulling in a deep breath slowly and they were missing warmups. “Chris texted Ariel about foot injuries. And how to treat them.”

Emma nearly collapsed on the floor.

The edge of the counter dug into her spine and she could feel the alcohol in her gut fermenting or something equally disgusting. Mary Margaret just kept twisting her fingers, eyes darting around the suite, and Killian was still staring.

Emma could feel it.

“She said that she couldn’t get in touch with you or Killian,” Mary Margaret continued, seemingly unaware of the complete breakdown Emma was staging. Oh shit, she hadn’t answered her phone. She’d bragged about ignoring her phone.

“Oh my God,” Emma sighed, but it sounded a bit more like a moan and she couldn’t really hold her alcohol anymore.

“I really don’t think it’s anything bad. If it was Ariel probably would have walked to Minnesota.”

“She wouldn’t have gotten here before puck drop.”

“Then she would have willed Cap to answer his phone,” Ruby promised, an encouraging smile tugging on the corner of her lips. “You know if something was really wrong.”

Emma didn’t know what to do. Her mind was racing a mile a minute – each thought worse than the next and maybe Chris had been limping that afternoon. She hadn’t really been looking. She should have been looking.

She should have just known.

She was way too worried about coming back to Minnesota and the weather in Minnesota and, fuck, she just wanted Matt to win a national championship.

And maybe get Liam to stop talking about the University of Minnesota.

Emma’s breath was shaky at best, barely doing anything when she pulled it in and she was wobbling just a bit from emotion and vodka and a distinct lack of cranberry juice to counteract her alcohol consumption.

That didn’t last long.

Mom mode, activated.

“Christopher,” she shouted and he nearly jumped out of the chair, biting his lip tightly when his feet landed on the ground. Emma glanced quickly at Mary Margaret, sure her expression matched the nervous look on her friend’s face.

“Uh...yeah?” he asked and, at some point, he’d worked a hole in the sleeve of his sweatshirt. His thumb was poking through.

“Hallway.”

Emma turned before he could answer, squaring her shoulders and swinging the door open so quickly it nearly pulled her into the wall. Chris mumbled something and she could hear Killian answer, some kind of you heard your mom, go, that resulted in not-quite-quick footsteps behind her.

She’d never been in this part of the Xcel – hadn’t really been to the Xcel that much if she were being honest, most of her memories of Minnesota were focused on that very first deadline day – but a hallway was a hallway and there had to be a corner they could, at least, borrow for a few minutes.

“Mom?” Chris asked, nearly colliding with Emma when she came to an abrupt stop a few feet away from the suite. “What’s going on?”

“You want to rephrase that question?” He looked nervous. And Emma felt like an asshole. She sighed, pulling on the edge of his sleeve and tapping her thumb against his. “Why’d you text A this morning?”

His eyes widened and he took a step back quickly, stumbling over his sneakers. One of them was untied. If she wasn’t so worried, Emma probably would have laughed.

“How do you know about that?” Chris stammered.

“Well, first of all, you should know by now that asking anyone on this roster anything is going to end up with it, somehow, getting back to me or Dad. But, second of all, why didn’t you want me to know about that?”

“I’m fine.”

“If you expect me to believe that, you might as well expect me to walk home in a couple of days.”

“A couple of days?”

Emma nodded. “Yeah, well, when they win tonight, they won’t play again for another two days.”

“Oh, right, right,” Chris mumbled. He was going to do permanent damage to his lip. And if Matt had inherited Killian’s penchant for tugging on his hair, then Chris had absolutely gotten the whole lip thing from Emma. “They’re totally going to win.”

“I know they are. Stop trying to get me not to worry about you.”

“What?” The question sent a shockwave through Emma’s entire body, the genuine surprise that colored all four words. Chris’ jaw dropped, knees buckling slightly and maybe she should have brought Killian into the hallway too. “You can’t...you can’t tell, Dad,” Chris continued, digging his heel into the carpet.

He hissed in pain when he moved the wrong way.

Emma’s mouth felt dry. It was definitely because of the vodka. “That’s not how this works, kid,” she said slowly, doing her best not to stumble over any of the words. “The truth. Why’d you ask Ariel about ankle injuries?”

Chris wavered for a moment, that bottom lip stilled pulled tightly between his teeth, and Emma took a cautious step towards him. He shook his head, bending down to tug on the bottom of his jeans and she gasped before she could stop herself.

Emma had seen her fair share of bruises – had seen her fair share of Killian’s bruises, had argued about playing time and physical therapy appointments and what color a bruise should be four days after a particularly hard hit.

She should have been prepared for a moment like this.

She absolutely wasn’t.

Not when it was her kid.

And not when his ankle looked like a goddamn fucking purple baseball.

“Oh,” she breathed, dropping down and it probably should have hurt when her knees collided with the floor. It was probably something to do with adrenaline. She’d ask Mary Margaret. Mary Margaret didn’t teach science. “How are you even walking on this?”

He shrugged, but his eyes were glassy and there was a faint trace of blood on the corner of his lip. Emma wouldn't have been surprised if her heart had actually shattered, while crouched on an arena floor with a carpet that rivaled the Garden for absolute awfulness.

“Christopher,” she continued, standing back up and brushing his hair out of his eyes. Again. He should really get it cut. After they figured out how he was still standing. “I want a straight answer. When did this happen?”

“A couple weeks ago.”

“Weeks?” Emma screeched and Chris tried to back up again. She wrapped her fingers tightly around his shoulder.

“You’re mom-facing me.”

“I’m going to mom-face you for the next twenty years. And then another several decades after for this. Why didn’t you tell us? Have you been skating on this?”

He’d had practice earlier that week. Hell, he’d been at the Garden three days before and Emma knew for a fact he’d gone on the ice with Killian and the rookies, a pre-playoff thing that Merida had done video for.

Killian was never going to forgive himself.

Emma might not either.

“I mean kind of,” Chris mumbled. “I...well I had practice and Dad had that thing. I was ok. ‘Ish.”

“‘Ish,” Emma repeated. She shook her head and tried to regain some parental confidence she was fairly positive she’d left in the suite with the vodka and the overpriced cranberry juice. “Christopher Jones, do you mean to tell me you’ve been skating around with an ankle like that for weeks and you never thought to mention it?”

“No, no, it wasn’t really like that.”

“Then explain what it was like.”

He sighed and he was going to rip the sleeve of his sweatshirt in half. “I got hit a couple weeks ago. By one of the kids on my team. He shot from just inside the zone and it hit my ankle. And I thought I was ok.”

“But?”

“But,” Chris continued. “It, uh, got kind of gross over the next couple of days. So I put some ice on it.” Emma opened her mouth to argue, and probably mention that her eleven-year-old should seek adult supervision when he was injured, but he made a face and it was so Killian-esque that Emma nearly forgot who she was talking to. “Mom, seriously. I know how hits work. I put ice on it and the swelling went down.”

“Chris” she said, nodding towards his foot. “That does not look like the swelling has gone down. And it still doesn’t explain why you’re talking to A.”

His lip was bleeding again. And he couldn’t seem to stop flexing his hand. Either of them. Emma kept blinking. “You really can’t tell Dad,” Chris whispered. “He’s gonna be so mad.”

“The truth, Christopher.”

“When we were at the Garden a couple days ago...uh, I got tripped up. I, well, I was trying to clock myself so I could brag to Matt when we got here, but…” He took a deep breath and he was resting all his weight on his left foot. It probably hurt to wear his sneaker. “One of the rookies got in my way, moved his stick while I was skating and I...fell. It was super lame.”

Emma let out a watery laugh, torn between worry and trying to figure out how many rookies Killian was going to kill and the sheer, unadulterated terror that was anything ever happening to her kids. “Super lame, huh?”

“Like. The absolute lamest. I tripped over the stick and I rolled my ankle. And it was fine while I was skating.”

“Another but?”

Chris nodded. “But then, the next morning, I woke up and it was...gross.”

“Green?”

“Like...black.”

“Oh, Chris,” Emma sighed and she couldn’t rationalize a single reason for not holding onto him as tightly as she possible could. “Here, come here, kid. Sit. You’re making me nervous.”

He slid down the wall, stretching his legs out and resting his head on Emma’s shoulder without a single complaint. And she couldn’t remember the last time that happened. “Why didn’t you tell Dad when you were at the Garden?”

Chris mumbled a string of unintelligible syllables, pressing his face into Emma’s hair. “I’m not kidding, kid,” she continued. “Dad would have been mad at the rookie, not at you.”

“That’s not true.”

“What?” Emma gasped and Chris grumbled when she knocked his head back against the wall. “Oh, shit. Oh, damn, God,” she huffed, “Christopher William Jones. Do you really think Dad would be mad at you for getting hurt?”

Chris didn’t answer. And that might have been an answer.

“He wouldn’t,” Emma promised. “He’s worried about you. We’re both worried about you.”

Silence.

Well, mostly silence. They were announcing lines and getting ready for anthems and Emma was frozen to an absolutely atrocious looking carpet with the weight of several galaxies sitting in her gut.

“I’m not very good at skating,” Chris whispered, an eternity later and Emma wondered if they could hear her heart snap in half on the ice. “I’m not as good as Matt.”

“You don’t have…”

“No, Mom, come on,” he interrupted sharply. He was probably going to have to get stitches in his lip. “You can’t even lie about it. I’m never going to be as good as Matt or as fast as Matt and, I mean, Dad won three Stanley Cups. They’re going to retire his jersey and then probably build a statue of him on Broadway.”

“He’d hate that.”

“They’d do it anyway.”

“Yeah, that’s probably true,” Emma admitted and Chris laughed. That felt like a bit of a victory. “No one’s expecting you to live up to some kind of legacy, Chris.”

“Yeah, well, that’s not really how it works. I mean, Matt’s going to win tonight and then he’s going to declare and Peg’s going to win eight-hundred Gold medals and I’m just….”

“Eleven,” she finished. “You’re eleven years old. You don’t have to have it all figured out right now. You shouldn’t.”

“I’m a really crappy skater, Mom.”

She closed her eyes, not entirely prepared for this. Mom of the...not much at all. “That doesn’t mean you have to stop playing, kid. Not if you don’t want to.”

Chris made a noise, something that sounded like several decades before and hallways in St. Paul and a very distinct type of emotion. “Oh,” Emma breathed, understanding settling into the back of her mind. “I get it.”

“Yeah?”

“Dad won’t be mad, Chris. No one will be mad.”

“Maybe.”

“Definitely. Is that why you were asking Leo about baseball?”

“How do you know that?” he asked, staring at her like she’d just predicted the winning lottery numbers for the next year.

“I’m your mom, I know everything. And Uncle David was worried about you.”

“Figures.”

“That’s not a bad thing,” Emma said, bumping her shoulder against Chris and his head dropped down dramatically. She tugged him closer to her side and, suddenly, she knew exactly what to say. “You want to know something?”

He hummed and this almost-teenage nonsense was going to get real old, real quick. “Was that a yes, then?” she pressed, rolling her shoulder again and Chris groaned when she kissed the top of his hoodie.

“Yeah,” he mumbled.

“You know how we’ve talked about how I grew up? I lived all over the place and everything?” Another hum. “Well, when I was about Peggy’s age, I lived here. Or, well, in Minnesota. The house was a couple hours away.”

“Here?” Chris repeated, suddenly interested in the story. Emma tried not to roll her eyes.

“Yup. In Minnesota. And, for the first time ever, someone was going to adopt me. There was paperwork and a plan and everything was all set. Until, suddenly, it wasn’t.”

“What happened?”

“The lady who was going to adopt me left. She...well, she didn’t want to anymore or something and she was gone. So I moved into another group home and I graduated high school and then I went to BU. And I stumbled into life with Reese’s and Uncle David and then found everything else.”

“With hockey,” Chris added sullenly. “I know how this story goes, Mom.”

“No, you don’t,” she argued. “That’s what I’m saying. And this is not some long-form guilt trip. It wasn’t hockey. It was...everything else. It was finding Uncle David and Reese’s and then Ruby and getting to New York because she believed in me. It was everyone that was in New York, that whole roster of people in the suite.”

“See, I thought I’d lost my chance for a family when that woman walked away and left me in Minnesota, but I was wrong,” Emma continued, voice shaking just a bit and Chris stared at her like he couldn’t quite believe what she was saying. “They were here. And that’s what I’m saying. You’ve got that. From every angle.”

“But Dad…”

“No, there are no buts here. Listen to me. Right now. Dad will not care. Will he be frustrated that you’ve been skating on some kind of totally screwed up ankle for weeks? Definitely. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to care about hockey or baseball or anything except you being happy and walking on two fully-functioning ankles.”

He gaped at her, eyes darting across her face like he was looking for the lie and surprised when he couldn’t find one. And then he leapt at her.

Emma grunted when an eleven-year-old with a shitty ankle collided with every inch of her and none of their kids had ever really learned how to control any of their limbs. She gritted her teeth when a knee collided with some internal organ, but she didn’t move, just held on as tightly as she possibly could.

She wasn’t sure who was crying more.

Or how long they stayed out there. She just kept muttering words under breath, quite reassurances and promises and anything she could think of, hoping to will just a bit of confidence into her kid.

The door opened at the other end of the hallway and Emma glanced up over the top of Chris’ head to find a slightly cautious looking Robin walking towards them, eyebrows pulled low and concern practically rolling off him.

“Cap wanted to come out,” he explained. “But they’re about to face off and I said…”

“Thanks,” Emma interrupted. “We’re...well, thanks.”

Robin shrugged, crouching down and tugging on the back of Chris’ sweatshirt. “What’s your deal, ‘Toph?”

“I don’t have a deal,” Chris mumbled, burying his face even further into Emma’s side and her spleen wasn’t ever going to recover. Robin hummed, leaning forward to tap on the side of Chris’ sneaker.

“Yuh huh,” he laughed softly. “Sure. You just walk around with a limp all the time then, huh?”

“I haven’t been limping!”

“A distinct limp.”

“Whatever.”

“You and Cap better prepare yourselves, Emma,” Robin chuckled. “This one’s going to be bursting with teenage angst.”

Emma smiled before she remembered all the reasons she probably shouldn’t and they should really find someone to look at Chris’ ankle sooner rather than later, but Robin just met her grin with one of his own, eyes a bit brighter than they’d been all day.

“Ah, we’ll cope,” Emma promised, pressing a kiss to the top of Chris’ head and, somehow, smiling even wider when her son made an absolutely disgusted noise in response.

“You know,” Robin continued. “When Henry was in school, he took a couple of sports management classes. Gina was thrilled, obviously, but it never quite took. He was always going to write. But,” he said, snapping his jaw on the word and staring at Chris with a very specific type of meaning, “we’ve still got some books. And Gina. And a whole slew of experience in agent’ing and money’ing. That’s not a word. Don’t tell Gina I said that to try and explain her job.”

Chris laughed.

And Emma’s eyes widened slightly.

Robin grinned, resting his hand on Chris’ shoulder and nodding encouragingly.

“I wouldn’t do that,” Chris muttered. “Plus, I know money’ing isn’t a word. I’m eleven. I go to school.”

“Sure you do.” Chris made a face, scowling at Robin who, at some point Emma was convinced, was going to do permanent damage to his calves if he didn’t stand back up. “Here,” he said, holding his hand out and helping Chris stand back up. “Let’s go tell Gina she’s got a new apprentice and you can make sure you don’t actually sever any of your mom’s internal organs. Your dad won’t appreciate that.”

“Ew.”

“Right?”

They were halfway back down the hallway and Robin had been right – the limp was absolutely obvious – when Chris froze on the spot, snapping his head back over his shoulder and staring at Emma with a look she couldn’t quite name and wasn’t sure she was entirely ready for. “Mom?” he asked.

Emma hadn’t moved. “Yeah?”

“I….,” he huffed, swallowing quickly and tugging on the hair that curled just behind his ear. “I...well, you’re the best.”

And that heart, the one that she swore she could hear breaking as soon as she saw Chris’ ankle just a few minutes before, seemed to stitch itself back together in the middle of the hallway and grow, at least, sixteen sizes and Emma Swan, mom was, maybe, doing an alright job after all.

Regina was, as expected, thrilled at the prospect of Chris seeming even remotely interested in anything to do with the money side of the game. And Matt was, as expected, nothing short of dominant in the national semifinal, making sure Lizzie won her bet and Peggy won her bet and securing a berth to the title game two days later.

And, of course, Killian was, as expected, absolutely furious that no one had told him his son was hurt.

Or, maybe, he was just disappointed.

“Sit down,” Emma said for, at least, the twenty-second time that night, hours removed from a post-game celebratory dinner and a wide-eyed look at Chris’ baseball-sized ankle. “Seriously. You’re making me nervous.”

“I’m making you nervous?” She sighed, rolling her eyes towards the ceiling in the hotel room and Killian stopped mid-pace. “I’m sorry,” he muttered, running his hand through his hair and smiling lopsidedly at her when she twisted one of her fingers through his belt loops.

“For?”

“Not noticing. Before it happened. As soon as it happened. In the last twenty-four hours.” He took a shaky breath, his whole body shuddering slightly with the force of it and he flinched when Emma rested her palm on his stomach. “I thought he was ok.”

“He is.”

“He’s obviously not, Swan.”

“He is,” Emma repeated seriously and Killian sighed again, hair falling across his forehead when he leaned forward. “C’mon sit down.”

He did that time – crawling across the bed and tugging her against his chest. She didn’t move her hand away from his belt loops. “If I say something totally sappy will that ruin the moment?” Emma asked.

“I don’t think there’s a moment to be ruining, love.”

“Yeah, see, but then your throw out nicknames like that…”

“Old habits.”

“That’s kind of my point, actually,” Emma muttered and Killian quirked an eyebrow in confusion. “You didn’t do anything and...I’m just saying...that, uh, well, whatever, I gave all the good speeches to Chris before. I love you.”

His eyes flashed back up towards her, pulling her even closer and kissing her – soundly. “I love you too, Swan,” he mumbled and it felt like he was trying to breathe her in or something equally absurd and even more romantic. “Although that was totally sappy.”

“That what the warning was for.”

“Oh, well, consider me appropriately warned.”

“Gina’s going to make him some kind of numbers guy.”

“Fine print. Being an agent is, I’m told, all about the fine print.”

“That actually makes sense.” Killian laughed softly, but there was still a note of frustration in the sound and Emma’s stomach lurched at it. “Hey,” she whispered. “This isn’t your fault. And Liam said he’d call that guy.”

“The fact that Liam somehow still knows people at the University of Minnesota training facility who can do x-rays on the fly,  isn’t doing much to assuage my guilt, Swan.”

“That’s because you don’t have anything to be guilty about.”

“I should have known. I was standing right there. I...I watched him fall.”

“And he told you he was fine.”

“I shouldn’t have listened to him.”

“That kind of throws a wrench into our whole parenting scheme, doesn’t it?”

The force of his exhale actually moved her hair and Emma shook her head slightly to try and get the strands away from her eyes. “Yeah,” Killian admitted. “It does. I might kill that rookie.”

“Don’t kill the rookies, Cap. That does damage to your legacy.”

“Fuck the legacy, I’m worried about our kid.”

“How many times do I have to promise he’s fine before you believe me?”

Killian squeezed his his closed, but his lips ticked up when Emma kissed his cheek. “However many we’re at is fine, love.”

“So, like, eighty-seven.”

“At least.”

Emma laughed, pushing her feet against Killian’s legs and appreciating his sharp intake of breath at how absolutely freezing they were. “I told you it was cold here,” she muttered.

“It’s Minnesota, Swan.”

“The tundra.”

“The perfect place for dramatic conversations and victories.”

“That sentence alone was pretty dramatic.”

They didn’t say anything for a few moments, just listened to the low hum of the television in the background and Emma tried to will her feet to get just a bit warmer and for half a moment she was almost convinced Killian fell asleep.

Until he said something else, voice barely loud enough to hear.

“He’s really ok?” Killian asked and Emma bit her lip tightly so she wouldn’t just dissolve into a questionably large puddle of tears in the middle of their hotel bed.

“Yeah,” she promised. “He’s really ok.”

And he was.

Liam was as good as his word the next day – rising to the occasion of his middle-name namesake – bringing Chris to the other side of the Mississippi River for an x-ray and a doctor’s appointment and a brand-new set of crutches that helped ease some of the stress he’d been putting on his ankle for the better part of the last three weeks.

Killian called Ariel and set up some kind of physical therapy schedule that made Chris groan until he saw the look on his father’s face and, well, that was really all there was to it.

“We’re not doing this again, ok?” Killian said, walking into Xcel two days later and it wasn’t the question it sounded like. It was some sort of parental decree. “You understand that?”

Chris nodded. He’d taken the Rangers sweatshirt off. “Yeah, yeah, I just didn’t want…”

“You couldn’t, kid. Even if you tried.”

“Ok.”

“Ok.”

Emma felt an elbow in her side and knew there was another bottle of vodka in Ruby’s hands. “I don’t need it,” she muttered.

“No?” Ruby asked.

“Nope,” Emma promised.

“Super parents strike again?”

“Ah, something like that. Insert cliché about the hockey village here, or whatever.”

“That’s painfully adorable. Your whole life is painfully adorable. Whatever, I owe Mary Margaret five bucks.”

Emma made a noise in the back of her throat, pressing up on her toes to find Mary Margaret leaning against the glass window of the suite, Leo on one side and Ruth on the other and the whole room was packed with their friends and their family and BU jerseys and screaming kids and it was...perfect.

Even with the crutches and a high-ankle sprain diagnosis.

“I thought Cap would actually call that rookie and kill him so, you know, five bucks,” Ruby continued, eyeing Emma with amusement.

“You thought he’d, what, kill him over the phone?”

“I honestly wouldn’t have put it past him when Chris was involved.”

“Yeah, me either,” Emma admitted and maybe she did need the vodka.

“Chris know that?”

“I think so. Now, at least.”

“Good.”

They drank the vodka when the final buzzer went off, cut, slightly, by another bottle of overpriced vending-machine cranberry juice and Emma would argue that she absolutely, positively, was not crying when Matt scored the game-winner in the national championship game in goddamn Minnesota.

Chris managed to keep his balance on the ice when they were brought down, Matt’s eyes going wide as soon as he saw his brother and the crutches and he might have mumbled what the fuck, C under his breath before adding a quick sorry when he saw the look on Emma and Killian’s faces.

“I’m fine,” Chris said quickly, but he rested his hand on Matt’s shoulder anyway. “Hey, Matt, did you know you could get a good signing bonus if you go in the top five?”

“Uh, yeah, I did,” Matt muttered. “Why did you know that?”

“Aunt Gina and I have been talking.”

Matt laughed loudly, head thrown back and hair sticking to his forehead, pulling Chris across the ice as he tried to hug him. It didn’t really work though – he was far too sweaty and both Emma and Killian made some sort of strangled noise when Chris dropped both of his crutches.

“God, guys, be careful,” Emma sighed, but Matt was already being called back towards the team and a post-game ceremony and cutting apart a net.

Matt smiled at her, flicking one gloveless hand at Chris’ shoulder. “Give me some more updates when I get back, ok, kid?”

He did.

And kept giving updates and kept listening to Regina and he never went back on the ice, but he never walked away from it completely.

And, years later, when Matt resigned with the Rangers – some absurd deal that made the backpages of every tabloid and the lead story on ESPN, like hockey was something worth talking about, Chris’ work was in every single letter and every single number. It was, as the headlines read, unprecedented, hiring an agent that young and there were mutterings about family and favorites and Emma was just a bit terrified of what would happen if it didn’t work, but it did – in spades.

Matt signed and Chris grinned like some kind of sports agent Cheshire Cat for the next six months, sliding his card towards every single rookie or soon-to-be free agent in the Rangers organization.

Emma kept the card on her desk, tucked into the side of a frame – a picture of all five of them at center ice in the Xcel. Killian kept his card in his wallet.

And Chris never got his own headlines, didn’t pack a stat line or even win a Gold medal, but he never worried about being enough after that day and Emma smiled when Killian promised he’s fine, Swan as soon as Chris fine-tuned his own deal-making stare.