Chapter 1: Day 1
The Storybrooke Music Festival has been a staple of Almost-Middle-of-Nowhere, Maine for longer than most people that attend it can remember. The tradition of the gathering, in some cases, has been passed down from generation to generation, where the kids of the rockers and attendees are now the ones rocking and attending, and this year is no different from any other.
From all around the country, bands have flocked after being invited to play – some are bigger names, some smaller, some lost in the between. Some are one-hit-wonders and others have topped the pop charts for months at a time. The thing they all have in common: they’ve gathered here because their fans nominated them and the committee voted to invite them.
Over the span of a few acres, there’s a main stage and two smaller ones, with a sprawling campground surrounding the whole thing. And then there’s the vendors and merch stands, the specialty shops that have paid to set up. During the few days that the festival takes place, it’s anybody’s guess who will be there, where the weather will fall, and what will happen.
It’s early summer, but in their particular location, that still means a pop up storm or two. The days are warm, but without the drought of mid-summer, the paths that are marked for walking are quickly turning runny with mud, which normally would be fine. Normally.
“Well, princess maybe if you didn’t want a little mud on the tires, so to speak, you should’ve avoided the music festival ring! If the lowlands here are so offensive to you, perhaps you should get back to your pampered mansion back up on the hill.” Ignore the fact that he can also access the VIP tents as a musician, but it’s the principle of the matter…
None of the parties involved remember how this all started, besides the fact that Killian Jones, one half of the small-time Hook & Crook, fell in front of the golf cart that Emma Swan and Ruby Lucas, two thirds of The Ugly Ducklings, were riding in while one of the web media teams interviewed them. To be more precise, he fell on the hood of the golf cart, after he slipped in a slick spot of mud. The hit to the hood did something, however, and now the two woman are standing outside the cart as the media team struggles to get it working again, while Emma and Killian snipe back and forth at each other.
“It’s not the mud I’m mad about. I would happily get the hell away from you if you hadn’t stalled out our damn ride, though. Why weren’t you paying attention? You could’ve gotten seriously injured, you know.” Her finger is jabbing into his chest, belying the message she was spouting off.
“Careful love, you might make a man think you cared with such impassioned speeches,” Killian tells her, toe to toe, boot to boot, in front of the stalled out cart in question. That his are knock off from a secondhand store and hers are knee high genuine leather matters little to either of them, now. He sways into her space in a tantalizing way, his arrogance getting the better of him in this situation.
In retaliation, Emma straightens to her full height. Despite being shorter than him by almost half a foot, Killian swallows. It’s not her star power. He knows damn well who Emma Swan is. He won’t admit to the tracks he listens to in his downtime, with Emma’s voice conducting his mood like a bloody maestro without even trying.
No, Emma is a powerhouse without having to stand behind her fame.
Keeping up the façade of cocksure, he knows that whatever her next move is will be the finishing blow. She opens her mouth to tear into him, but a high-pitched honking causes them to snap out of it. He actually releases the tiniest of relieved breaths after the interruption, after Emma jolts away from him, thankful that she didn’t have a chance to use that legendary sharp tongue on him. He thinks himself a proud man, but he’s not sure even he could take getting verbally filleted by one of his celebrity crushes.
“What seems to be the problem here?” The woman is one Killian has seen around the festival since the gates opened the day before. She’s older, gray hair loosely pinned in a bun and glasses hanging around her neck from a beaded chain.
“Granny!” Ruby rushes at the older woman with a bright smile. “I was wondering where you were hiding.”
“Goodness, child, there’s been no hiding involved. I’ve just been keeping feuding rock stars in line. Speaking of, this looks like some trouble.”
“It’s nothing, Ms. Lucas,” Emma says, her whole demeanor softening to the obviously familiar newcomer.
“You know to call me Granny, dear! And this doesn’t look like nothing,” she says, motioning between Emma and Killian. “This is a festival to bring all kinds of musicians together. Emma, you know that better than most since this was your first break, right?” Granny takes one of Emma’s hands in her own, smiling fondly at the blonde.
She turns to Killian next, looking him up and down once and giving him an appreciative grin.
“You look like a tall glass of trouble. You boys harassing my girls?”
“Not at all, ma’am. Just a mild stumble that began a misunderstanding,” Killian says, laying the charm thick by grabbing her free hand and pressing a kiss to her knuckles.
“Mhmm, well, mild misunderstandings are solved easily enough,” she says. “I have just the thing.”
There’s something in the tone of Ruby’s voice that catches his attention, and he turns to see the slightly horrified look on her face. With speed he would’ve never credited the older woman to possess, he certainly doesn’t have time to stop her before he feels the cool metal snap around his left wrist. He looks down in confusion at the chain, following the line of it to where it’s connected to the other cuff, which is now locked in place around Emma’s right wrist. When Granny managed to pass his hand over to Emma’s instead of her own is beyond him, but the older woman is moving swiftly away from them, a grin on her face.
“What – “
“Granny, you can’t!”
“Let’s see how that works for you two! Now get along and maybe I’ll take them off!”
Faster than anyone can react, Granny is back on the cart that brought her to them and she’s speeding away. Ruby runs after her, followed by Robin, who’ve both figured out that their bandmates have just been handcuffed together.
Killian and Emma, however, are still rooted in place, disbelief painted on both their faces. They make eye contact, the reality of their predicament slamming into them at the same time before they look at their rapidly disappearing freedom.
“ Wait! ” they call out at the same time, taking off sprinting as a unit.
How Granny manages to disappear into the crowd so quickly is beyond all of them. Of course, she does have the advantage of being on wheels where the rest of them are all on foot. It feels like they’ve been running and searching for miles, all while the crowd ebbs and flows around them.
The only thing they can really do is head back to the VIP tents with a quick flash of their badges. There’s beer waiting from them, handed over from multiple angles, and Emma and Killian both take one in their free hands and greedily gulp from the clear plastic.
“Any luck contacting Granny?” Emma asks when she’s halfway through the beer. She looks down at her boots and sniffs once in annoyance. They’re not covered, by any means, but he’s guessing she had no intentions of getting them dirty at all. His have about the same amount on them, but he’s eternally grateful that he didn’t fall in front of the cart, because he cannot imagine trying to clean up while Emma is with him. Or change , for that matter.
“None. She must not have her phone on and none of the techs will let me contact her on the walkie.”
“I’m going to kill her. You know that, right?”
“Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard that,” Ruby mutters, sipping from her cup.
As they all settle in, assessing what to do next, Killian sits back and observes the people around him. The other women, he knows, are Mary Margaret and Ruby, and there’s another one off to the side on her cellphone, the stern set of her face speaking of management.
“Regina,” Emma says, catching where his line of sight is trained. “She’s our manager. She’s trying to track down bolt cutters or something. Ruby texted her on our way back up here.”
“Ah, well. Hopefully she’ll succeed. I cannot imagine having to be stuck this way for much longer.”
“You and me both, pal.”
“Killian,” he says, holding out his right hand. “Killian Jones.”
She stares at his outstretched hand for a moment, an unreadable expression on her face, before she finally relaxes and lifts her right hand as much as she can, given their situation. “Emma Swan.”
“I’m sorry for the spat earlier,” he tells her, honesty at the forefront. He genuinely can’t remember who started hurling insults first but it was bad form, all around.
Emma fidgets a little, her eyes looking anywhere but at him. “Same. It’s uh, been a long day already and the weather isn’t helping.” He knows that all too well. The temperamental showers passing through have been hell since he and Robin left New York.
Whatever Killian goes to say next is cut off when his phone vibrates in his pocket. He releases her hand to dig it out and opens the message from their friend-but-also-manager, David, who they may or may not have forgotten about in the interim.
“Oh, bloody hell,” Killian says, scrambling to chug the rest of his beer and motion to Robin. “We play in half an hour. We’ve got to get over to our stage. Now .” He’s not sure how he let the time slip away from him so fast; he’s been looking forward to nothing but this set for ages.
“What? Hey , you’re attached to someone, you know. Go easy on the tugging.”
He looks down at where he’s clearly moved without thought again, noticing at the same time that there are dual red marks on their wrists from where the metal has dug into their skin. “Please, Swan, don’t make me beg. We barely lucked into this slot, and if we don’t play then we won’t get invited back.”
Emma stares at him for the length of ten heartbeats, and then she sighs. “Fine. Let’s get going. This should be interesting.”
The trek from the musicians’ tent to the stage where Hook & Crook are supposed to play is not an easy one. For both being musically inclined, and thus, coordinated enough to play instruments, they’re both incredibly clumsy when attached to another person. The number of times they yank each other in separate directions is somewhere in the twenties by the time they reach their destination (and right on time, thankfully). Killian is convinced that they will kill each other if the cuffs aren’t removed in a timely fashion.
To say the crowd is a bit surprised at the appearance of one Emma Swan on stage is a bit of an understatement, as they first gasp in surprise, then cheer wildly when she raises her right hand (along with his left) in greeting to wave at them all.
“We seem to be the victims of a cruel and unusual social experiment,” Killian tells the audience when they get settled. His voice booms out among the audience thanks to the amplifiers, even if they aren’t as big as the ones Emma will be plugged into tomorrow on the main stage. He’s damn proud of their attendance, so now it’s important to make the performance match.
It takes Killian all of two seconds to realize the biggest oversight yet, just as soon as he goes to pick up his guitar. He realizes it’s a problem, of course, because Emma’s hand goes with his.
“Shit,” she whispers, at the same time much less pleasant words are coming from his mouth.
“What do we do?” Try as he might, there’s panic licking up his spine and bloody hell would it be so much easier if he played the keyboard or something.
“I have an idea,” she tells him, picking his darling guitar up by the neck and turning to face him for a minute. After making sure the shoulder strap is in place and his hands are where they’re supposed to be, Emma supports her hand on his forearm and otherwise turns so she’s partially behind him. It’s awkward, feeling someone standing close, and her hand will no doubt get tired, but holding it the way she is means he still has complete freedom to move his hand to play. He strums a few chords just to make sure it’ll work and gives her a look and a thumbs up.
He does his best to forget about the woman literally attached to him, which is a little hard at first. But then the music kind of takes over, as it always has with him, and he’s lost in the set list he and Robin have played for years; this is what he works for year round – this opportunity to play for this crowd, some of whom have followed their little duo for years.
To his surprise, Emma doesn’t get tired of where her hand rests, even tapping along to the beat with her thumb. After three songs, she presses her back against his and starts swaying back and forth behind him, compelling him to move as well. It becomes difficult to remain solely focused on the song he’s playing when he can feel her shimmying against him.
“It seems as though our unexpected guest likes my music,” Killian says into the microphone, turning his head just enough to smile at her as she looks over his shoulder. The crowd cheers again, and they launch into their next song, one the audience clearly knows well enough that he feels pride welling in his chest when they sing along. He knows their time is running out, but he lets the buzz of performing wash over him, enjoying the way Emma is still moving to the beat at his back.
Their last song is a crowd favorite, so while he gives the audience a moment to sing the lyrics back to him – the ones he spent hours getting just right – he takes the time to appreciate just where he is, almost forgetting about the handcuff on his wrist, and the argument from earlier. With the final notes, the crowd starts cheering and whistling, and he smiles as he leans towards the mic to thank them again for their time.
The coordinator to the side of the stage waves to get his attention, and Killian glances over expecting to see the gesture for wrapping up. Instead, he grins wide when he sees the girl asking him to stretch their set by just one more song. They’re out of songs that are ready for performance, so he’ll have to think up something quick.
“We have time for one more song, and I think we should let this one choose the tune,” Killian says, using the chain that connects them to pull Emma back around to stand next to him. She groans and rolls her eyes, but glances back at Robin. With a thumbs-up from him, she looks to Killian and raises her eyebrows.
There’s a heavy pause, one in which she’s clearly thinking of the right song that they’ll both know.
“Hold your hand up,” Emma tells him, and without further preamble, she stomps her foot twice on the stage, followed by a high five for the clap that should follow. She repeats the motion a couple times to the audience, getting them to join in with a little help from Robin, before she reaches for the mic. She keeps up the double foot stomps but lets the crowd do the claps.
He idolizes Freddie Mercury, and appreciates the way Adam Lambert sings the lyrics of the famous Queen song, but he finds he’s instantly attracted to the way Emma’s voice sounds singing the opening lines of “We Will Rock You.”
Without discussing it beforehand, they perfectly switch off between stanzas, singing the chorus together. Killian is no Brian May, but he manages a guitar solo that makes the crowd go wild as Emma stamps her foot through the end of it. The applause is a level of deafening that Killian has never heard before, having drawn even more of a crowd than they normally would’ve with those passing by who heard the song. And while they take their bows at the end and exit the stage, he knows it won’t be soon that his adrenaline wears down.
Just as they’re giving a final wave, he spots Granny on the outskirts, looking something like proud. Instead of pulling away and letting the chain drag Emma along, he grabs her hand, yelling out to Robin that he’ll meet him later if this works, and they take off running. At the stage entrance, he holds still long enough for David to unstrap his guitar. He gives one quick “Thanks, mate!” before they’re off again, running and hoping.
By the time they reach where the older woman just was, the spot is vacated, and the audience is trying to clamor around them for autographs and pictures.
“Which way did she go?” Emma’s yelling to be heard over everyone else, both of them on their tiptoes to try to see if they can spot her.
“I couldn’t tell,” Killian says, his defeated tone obvious as he turns back to her. “Should we?” The circle around them is closing fast, and they either need to break out while they still can or resign themselves to signing and smiling for a bit while the stage changes set ups.
As if noticing the people around them for the first time, Emma’s face goes from fallen to smiling. She looks at him, shrugging a little and reaching for the nearest autograph book and pen that someone’s holding out. His hand jerks along with hers, and they look at each other and sigh.
The rain that falls just a few minutes later is a blessing, because they can finally slip away as everyone else scatters at the same time. With no sense of direction, they start running, and Killian is thankful for the open yurt he sees just ahead, especially when thunder rumbles ominously much closer than he expected. He pulls Emma in just as the rainfall turns to a total deluge, and lightning flashes brightly.
By now, they’re likely postponing shows and getting festival goers to safety, so there’s no chance they’ll be moving before the storm passes, and no chance they’ll find Granny in the meantime. Other than to check the weather outside, the occupants of the yurt barely pay attention to them as newcomers. There are blankets covering the whole floor, in a circle around a young woman with an acoustic guitar, and as someone stands to close the doors on the weather outside, Killian leads Emma further in along the curved wall. They find an empty spot to settle down, both shivering from the moisture that’s soaked through their clothes.
A young woman with a mane of fiery red hair hands Killian a blanket. Her eyebrows go up and she stifles laughter when she sees the handcuffs. He’s not one to blush, and yet he feels his cheeks heating in response to whatever this woman is imagining. He opens his mouth to explain, to defend his honor, whatever – but the quiet applause for the woman playing in the center of the room cuts him off, and the woman with the blankets wanders away.
Emma smiles at him gratefully as he hands her one end of the soft fleece. Working together, they manage to get it around their shoulders, huddling close to get the most out of the material.
In between songs, he finds time to ask. “How are you holding up, Swan?”
“I’ve been better, Jones. I’ve been better. Hey um, thanks for including me in your set. That was a lot of fun.”
“Aye. I’d wager the crowd loved it just as much,” he notes. He wants to say more, to tell her how much he’s enjoyed this little adventure they’re on together. He wants to tell her how much he loves her music, and that he’s been a fan for ages. That he never meant to let their meeting escalate the way it did. She’s looking at him, her eyes darting between his, as if she’s reading his mind and can hear the words he can’t seem to speak. The set in the yurt continues, so he resigns himself to a tight-lipped smile and a nod, which she accepts with a small bob of her head. He unconsciously presses a little closer to her, not realizing how she returns the movement.
It’s several songs later that they notice the sounds from outside the yurt have quieted down, and they fold the blanket and leave it where they were sitting. Emma makes sure to snag one of the cards and demo discs that are sitting out on a small table near the entrance, something Killian failed to notice on his way in. Then again, he was mostly concerned with finding dry and safe and warm at that moment.
The long trek back to the musicians’ tent is spent in amiable silence. Neither are thirsting for conversation, but it’s not the same hostile silence they had at the beginning of this day. Someone slams into Killian, though, and the quick jolt to their wrists is enough for Killian to grab her hand again, leading her over to a merch stand somewhere halfway between where they were and where they’re going. He chooses two wrist bands at random, handing over the money and turning back to Emma before she can even question what he’s doing.
“Here, should make things a little better.” He holds one out for Emma, waiting until she’s wiggled hers on with a relieved hum before he does the same. The cold metal is no longer digging into his skin, which is the most important factor. “Shall we?”
They weave their way back to the musicians’ tent, stepping as carefully as they can through the mud that’s starting to form faster with the sudden rainfall. He’s used to festivals being a little rougher than indoor shows, so he does his best to keep his eyes on the ground and guide them through the worst of it.
When they get back to their destination, Ruby is engaged in conversation with another woman, and Killian immediately notices a disturbing pattern of managers looking very smitten with band members, or vice versa. Robin might have actual hearts in his eyes as he listens to something Regina is saying. Meanwhile, David and Mary Margaret look like they’re about five minutes from planning their wedding.
Killian looks at Emma, who looks back at him with a similar expression. She shakes her head, working her way over to where they’re all sitting and throwing her hands up in victory as their friends all turn and cheer for them.
“Where the bloody hell have you been, mate?” Robin claps him on the shoulder, and Killian would buy his concern if it weren’t for the fact that he’s sure Robin forgot he existed for a bit, there.
“We tried to track down Granny,” Emma explains. “But we were too late. Then got mobbed by fans. Then got stuck in a storm. Then ended up in a tent listening to an acoustic show.”
“Sounds like you two have had quite the adventure,” Ruby comments, her grin directed at Emma and looking something along the lines of predatory, if he had to put a name to it.
Emma hums in response, eyes narrowing as she looks at her friend. Whatever conversation they have between themselves during that moment, it’s something Killian isn’t meant to understand. Instead, he focuses on checking his social media accounts with the phone that David has returned over to him. He’d plum forgotten that he’d given it to Dave before they started their set.
He’s surprised when the biggest trending picture from the festival is one from Ruby’s account. There he is on stage, glancing over his shoulder at Emma behind him, she who has her eyes closed and is clearly mid-dance move against his back. It’s taken from the backstage area, and he didn’t even realize Ruby bothered to follow them, but he’s going to have to thank her for it later, and get the original sent his way so he can frame it and hang it up. It’s not every day you get to play a show handcuffed to someone you view as an idol. But there was the living proof of that.
“I can’t just sit here,” Ruby announces not more than ten seconds after his thoughts. “Let’s go explore!”
As far as ideas go, Ruby could have better ones sometimes. For one, she could be tracking down her heinous grandmother (who she would never claim is actually heinous in any other circumstance – the woman practically helped raise her, after all) to get a certain key to a certain set of handcuffs. She could be walking back to Storybrooke’s town limits to find her own spare key, for all Emma cares. But no, instead, her friend and bandmate is talking about how she’s apparently bored .
“Uh, Red? I’m kind of… stuck to someone.”
“So what? We bring him along. And any of the others that want to join?” She looks around at their strange group as she says it.
“Wait, wait. That’s it? You don’t have any other back up plans? A hairpin? A lock pick set? A good set of bolt cutters?” The whole group turns to look at Emma’s outburst, but no one says a word.
“I mean, you can try. But I swear those things are made of magic. They’re the only pair I was never able to bust out of without the key.”
The fact that Ruby’s been stuck in these cuffs, or that she’d been stuck in other pairs of cuffs, is no surprise to her, but it doesn’t facilitate a reaction with anyone in the circle either. Where did she find these people?
“So, we going?”
Mary Margaret visibly brightens as Ruby draws attention to her plan. “You’ll come, too?” she asks David. Ugh, even Mary Margaret has forsaken her. She knows David by reputation only; she’s met him a couple times and even likes him, but she knows that as soon as the manager turns a hopeful look towards Killian, they’re all apparently going gallivanting around the music festival.
“I guess that can be arranged. Now that Hook & Crook are done for the day, there’s really not much else for me to do,” David finally says after a wordless conversation with Killian.
“I’ll sit this one out,” Regina says, clearly taking on the air of Important Manager of an Important Musical Act.
“Count me out,” Robin says following her declaration. “I’ve had quite enough excitement for a bit.”
“Suit yourself,” Ruby says, clearly dismissing him and turning back to the rest of the crew. “Come on. There’s a Ferris wheel with my name on it.” Without further prompting, she grabs Emma’s hand and starts dragging her away. Killian isn’t quick enough to move, so his shoulder gets jolted again before Emma grabs his hand and pulls him along. She makes sure to murmur an apology to him as they exit the tent, and his quiet reply starts her heart beating like it was when they were on stage together.
That’s quite enough of those emotions, though. She’s been back and forth on the emotional spectrum since this morning, and really, some cliché pitter patter of her heart is just one step too far. So she had fun with him performing. So he’s easy on the eyes. So what? So are plenty of other men, and she’s certainly not about to one-night-stand a guy she’s literally stuck to. That just feels like asking for the key to be lost or the handcuffs to be rotted shut and then they’re just living out their days: the losers who got stuck handcuffed together and had sex once. Nope. No thanks.
Okay, so that’s a little hyperbolic, even for her. But she’s noticing that she’s getting used to the feeling of his hand in hers, and the sound of his voice as he quietly asks about the newest joiner of their group.
At the head of the pack, Ruby walks side by side with Mulan, who Emma points out to Killian as Ruby’s girlfriend. She does casual security for them as they walk through festivals such as this, so it’s Mulan who clears the path for them to walk through, herding them easily enough through the crowds and making sure they have enough space at all times. It’s clear Killian is out of his comfort zone – while he seemed to have a great amount of his own followers at their show and afterwards, and even as they sift through the crowd, he doesn’t look like he’s used to this large mass of people clambering to get selfies or autographs. Mostly, he just keeps hold of her hand and does his best to keep up.
That’s not to say they don’t stop for some of the fans. There are quite a few times where the three women just can’t ignore the people around them, and Mulan sighs in mock frustration (a smile on her face the whole time) as they linger with fans for a couple minutes at a time, trying to cover as many people as possible. They have a reputation (Emma especially) for trying to get to everyone, and so Mulan is hard on her to move along after an allotted amount of time.
What does come as a surprise is the amount of people who ask for pictures of Emma and Killian together, their handcuffed wrists held up like some kind of publicity stunt or punishment depending on what people ask. He tries to keep up with it all, and Emma gives him a quick smile before they keep moving again towards Ruby’s ride of choice.
“How’re you holding up?” she asks as they get escorted to the front of the line. There are some tiny perks to their ‘fame’ if she says so herself.
“Better than expected. That is, it’s not every day you wind up handcuffed to some beautiful celebrity and find out how the other half lives.”
She scoffs, rolling her eyes as the carriage comes to a stop in front of where they’re standing. All six of them load in, and Emma tries to keep her wayward emotions in check as she ends up pressed tight against Killian’s side.
The whole grounds of the festival stretch before them, with the stages visible out one side and what feels like miles of camp grounds all around them. There are other rides, ones she doesn’t think they’ll be able to handle with two people trapped together, but she smiles as she watches them cycle through, the thrilled screams of passengers filtering all the way up to them at the top.
As the wind whips around them, Emma glances at her companions in turn. Understandably, Ruby and Mulan are huddled together, with Ruby’s arm wrapped around Mulan’s shoulders and their cheeks pressed together as they look out at their surroundings. David and Mary Margaret are holding hands, a new development judging by the nervous smiles on their faces, and they’re glancing between each other and the view. Killian, however, is looking at her. As soon as she looks back at him, he darts his eyes to the side to look out at the landscape, but there’s a hint of smile on his lips while his hair dances in the breeze. She is very aware of how tightly she’s gripping his hand, unnecessary while they’re not in motion but habit now, nonetheless.
When the ride is over, they slowly disembark to a bunch of fans waiting. The crowds at the festival aren’t quite mob mentality, so it’s something they can handle and enjoy – these small groups that just want a small introduction and a moment to say their thanks. While she may have a few more fans trying to capture her attention, Killian still has a few things to sign and fans to greet while Emma is preoccupied with her own. She smiles when she catches sight of him talking with a smitten teenage girl, enjoying the way he’s so genuine with the people around them.
To be honest, after hearing him play, she wants to look him up online, find his albums, find out who he is without… you know… talking to him. Because that’s how she is. If she asks him questions, she’ll have to answer some of the ones he has for her, and that’s not how she does things. What’s weirder is that this whole scenario should be in the realm of “SOS immediately” in trying to get him unstuck from her, but Emma can’t help but slowly adjust to it all. Is this an ideal way to meet a man? Hell no. Is she going to make the most of it? It certainly seems that way.
As Mulan starts to move them along the path again, Emma’s stomach makes a loud growl, and it’s the first time she realizes how hungry she is. “Where the hell can we find some food?” she wonders, grabbing Killian’s hand and pulling him away from the departing fans. “You okay?”
She’s very aware, all of a sudden, that they are alone again somehow. He hasn’t said anything for a minute or two and the silence is suddenly unusual coming from him. But then he shakes his head and smiles at her, blaming his momentary lapse on his own lack of food.
“Pretty sure there’s loads of places we can find something to eat, love. Let’s sail away,” he responds, swinging their hands as they go along.
There was something there she just missed, and she can feel it. There’s something he’s not saying, a lie by some kind of omission, covered up by hunger, but when her stomach rumbles away again, she forces down that part of her that can sniff out a lie like a drug-seeking dog and focuses instead on food options.
They wander from stand to stand, weighing their options and discussing pros and cons of the various food choices. As they go along, she relaxes again and finds that she’s enjoying herself way too much. It’s not often that Emma finds herself calm in the company of a relative stranger. No – usually, when it’s outside of her fans, her skin crawls at the very prospect of spending any time with someone she doesn’t know.
Add in the fact that she is handcuffed (she feels as if she cannot emphasize this enough) to said stranger… well, let’s just say that Killian Jones is lucky there wasn’t anything pointy or stabby in near reach when Granny first locked the cuffs around their wrists.
Every moment since then has been a learning experience. It took more self-control than she thought it would to be teeth-grittingly polite after their initial predicament became clear to them. But man, as soon as that bravado, tough guy act faded away, Killian has been nothing but sweet and accommodating.
“Swan, onion rings,” he says, suddenly dispelling her thoughts again as he says the most magical words someone could ever say to her. “And frozen hot chocolates.”
“I don’t know about the frozen thing. I’m already starting to get chilly again,” she says. And it’s true. She’d left her jacket in the VIP tent when they went out for their interview, but the day had been sunny and glorious to start out. Now, with the sun setting and another round of clouds moving in, she shivers. It turns out leggings and a fitted t-shirt don’t do much, especially after a good soaking from the earlier rain.
Killian halts her progress towards the food stand for a quick detour to a small merch tent nearby. The young man running it looks like he has about a thousand safety pins attached to his outfit, and a surly look on his face. But when Killian waves a twenty, the kid’s whole demeanor changes. “This for the largest size of the goth Tinkerbell jumpers, and another if you give me all the extra safety pins you can find, along with a pair of scissors.”
Emma raises an eyebrow at his request, but Felix, as he introduces himself, grabs the items Killian has requested in record time and piled them on the sticker-covered table in front of the stand. When Killian goes to cut the side of the hoodie, Emma’s stomach reminds her that she’s starving and she throws in her own money. “I’ll give you an extra twenty if you cut that and wait for us to get back.”
Suddenly, Felix goes bashful. “I’ll do it for free if you sign an autograph for my cousin. She’s the model for the logo there, and she’s one of your biggest fans.”
“Deal. Just let me grab my food and we’ll be right back,” Emma says, smiling in victory as she pulls Killian over to the food stand he’d already spotted. They come back to Felix’s tent after Emma is already halfway through her onion rings, with a grilled cheese and two waters in the bag Killian is holding. After Emma holds up her end of the bargain, making sure to also promise a selfie with the cousin in question if she’s around the following day, Felix even helps them with the makeshift outerwear, diligently pinning the top seam he cut after realizing it would be easier for her to step into it instead of pull it over.
Encased in the soft, fleecy material, and having been fed, Emma is far more comfortable than she has been since she woke up this morning. Of course, that brings a whole new predicament. How the hell are they going to sleep? Because surely, they’ll have to do that at some point. She planned on sleeping on the tour bus which is fine in a pinch, but it’s a tight fit for her . How will Killian fit in there, too, unless he’s on top of her?
Suddenly, her mouth is dry at the thought, but she’s saved from her earlier thoughts of attraction by Killian’s gasp.
“Is that Granny up there?” All she can do is keep up as he moves them in a direction, and Emma realizes as she hears a loud chiming in the distance that it’s after midnight already. A whole day gone, but was it ever truly wasted connected to Killian Jones?
Thanks so much for all your patience, for the years it took me to complete this. It feels good to finally file this under the "finished" folder instead of the WIPs. Hope you all enjoy the conclusion!
Trying to sprint after a hint of Granny was maybe not his brightest idea. Now he’s even more exhausted than he was before, and he can feel Emma dragging along beside him as they turn another corner to find it barren of all humanity.
It’s only then that he becomes aware of how quiet it’s gotten. This late at night, all of the stages are shut down and even the dance parties that sometimes happen after hours seem to be missing tonight, probably due to the lurking clouds in the distance. They’re deep in the campgrounds, and he can hear music drifting from some of the different tents and yurts, various styles and levels of skill, but gentle music surrounds them.
“Killian, we have to stop. I’m too tired. We’ll find her in the morning. Let’s just… head out.”
“Aye, love. Sorry we lost her again,” he grumbles, wanting nothing more than to sleep for days after the evening they’ve had.
“God, and all I have to look forward to after all of this is to figure out how we’ll both fit on my stupid bunk!” Emma grouses as they slowly wander through the campgrounds.
He blames the fact that the tent they’re passing has some spirited amorous activities going on it in for why it takes him so long to connect what she’s just said with their current predicament.
“You only have a bunk?” he asks with the rise of an eyebrow. He’d just assumed she was up in the swankier trailers on the top of the hill – it’s where all the other headliners seem to have congregated for the duration of the festival.
“Yeah,” she says distractedly, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth. Her eyes shift over to the tent he’s been trying to avoid and her eyebrows go clear up to her hairline when she looks back at him. There’s a hint of a smile hiding in the corners of her mouth but she says nothing.
“On a bus?” he asks, trying to distract them both from a fireworks-worthy ending as they pass the lovers.
“Yeah,” she repeats a little harsher this time, and Killian suppresses the chuckle that comes unbidden. Her tone speaks of something more than frustration at the conversation, and while there’s a temptation to prod and see what responses he could elicit, he chooses the higher road. Well, sort of.
“Oh, love, for once I finally get the upper hand with you. Turn to your left up here. We’ll go find my humble abode.”
“Killian, I’m not sleeping on a pile of rocks in some flimsy tent.”
“Where on earth would you get the notion I was sleeping in a tent? Those things are bloody miserable. Unless you’re those people, of course.” He hitches his thumb at the tent that’s now almost out of view and he smiles.
“I just – “
“Assumed that’s where I would be staying with my much smaller named band?” He cuts in, more amused than offended, and takes charge in leading them away from the truly muddy path to the less-trodden grass around them. With a few searches for landmarks and a couple more turns, he gestures in front of them to the small yurt he’s rented out. “Behold! My pirate’s lair!”
“You take this pirate crap way too seriously, for one. Also, it’s not the exterior that counts, Jones. You said it yourself. I want to see the inside of this before I pass judgement.”
With a smug grin and a lift of his eyebrows, Killian unlocks the door and pushes it open, finding the switch for the lamp next to the door to bathe the area in a soft glow. Emma whimpers at the sight, clearly seeing their sleeping arrangements for the evening as acceptable.
“Bed,” she whispers, following automatically as Killian pulls her in the rest of the way and shuts the doors behind them. From outside, the soft sounds of rain begin, and Killian is thankful they didn’t have to do another soggy dash to safety this time.
He secures the latch from the inside and goes to move towards the bed, only to realize they’re still fully clothed. With one tap of his boot to hers, Emma snaps out of it and struggles to unstick the zippers from the mud that’s begun to cake them. Killian kicks off his own before holding her steady as she balances to pry each one of hers off in turn.
Funny, when he had originally decided to full-on rent a yurt, it was for the idea of bringing back a lady friend for a night or two. He had no idea this was going to be the end result.
There’s a hidden intimacy in the delicate dance they do in the doorway, trying to ready themselves for sleep when they are both so far outside their comfort zones. He imagines, suddenly, the context being different as she brushes an errant strand of hair off her face and waits for him to grab the lamp from its hook and lead her over.
He looks disparagingly down at the both of them, but reasons with himself that the bedding is all old stuff specifically brought along in case it gets dirty, so it doesn’t exactly matter. What matters is that there’s an inexpensive mattress and pillows and they’re finally about to relax for the first time since either of them woke up yesterday morning.
“Phone,” he says, holding out his free hand to her. When she doesn’t automatically do anything, Killian smiles patiently. “I have a power pack that’s fully charged. And I have any type of cord you need. Surely after a day of running around, you’ll need a charge, yeah?”
She grumbles out some response, digging her phone out of a pocket on the side of her leggings and handing it over. They both shift to the side for a moment so he can plug in their phones and set down the lantern on the side he reasons he’ll be sleeping on.
They do another shuffle to get to where they’ll need to be in order to get into the bed before they both collapse onto the foot of the bed, pushing up and maneuvering until they’re under the covers. Side by side, they both exhale in relief as their heads hit the pillows. Emma, in a fit of wanting to be comfortable, insists on removing her leggings, and Killian endures the five-minute process of having his shoulder jolted until she’s happy.
The leggings get tossed off the side of the bed, and then he makes her go through the same thing as he pulls off his jeans. He could’ve withstood wearing them, but if she’s going to make herself at home, he’s going to do the same.
“Thanks,” Emma says quietly, after they’re both settled. “And I mean, for everything. Not just the bed. This could’ve been a disaster, but it hasn’t been the worst day I’ve ever had.”
“Same to you, love.” He pauses, taking the opportunity to roll on his side the best he can to look over at her. When she shifts as well, they both bring their hands up to tuck under their pillows. It leaves them practically nose to nose with the length of the chain.
“Your first festival, huh?
“Aye, and it was luck we got into this spot.”
“How long had you been trying?”
“This was the third attempt. The only reason we got the invite is because another band double booked for the weekend and since they’d participated a few times in the past at this one, they decided to give up their invitation.”
“It took us four tries before we made it in, and that first year, Regina was here to see another band. Once she saw us, she signed us almost immediately and the band took off. I still can’t believe it sometimes.”
“You’re a hero, Swan. I’ve seen your fans. They adore you.”
“Yeah, well, so are you. I got to see that firsthand today.”
He has no response to that, other than a flustered shrug. It’s a risk to reveal too much – he knows this, and yet, he can’t stop himself from telling her more. “You know, I rather fancy you when you’re not yelling at me.”
He hums out affirmation, letting his eyes roam over her facial features and take in all the details he’s seen in pictures. There’s different flecks of colors in her eyes that the photos just can’t capture, and he watches the faint light dance there. Her laugh lines are peeking out with the way she’s barely smiling. Barely, but still…
“Good,” she says after a moment. It’s like permission and acceptance all at once. He watches her eyes start to flutter, her body finally succumbing to the length of their day. “Goodnight, Killian.” Her quiet sentiments drift through the space between them, and he’s overtaken again by the urge to kiss her. It would be so easy, but it would mean so much more than just one night at this point.
“Sweet dreams, Swan.”
With no further preamble, he finds the switch for the lantern and flips it. It doesn’t take her long to fall asleep, and Emma is a turbulent sleeper as he soon finds out. She ends up wrapped around him shortly after her breathing evens out. Her head rests near his shoulder, and he’s thankful for the still darkness surrounding them. Unable to sleep, the best he can do is hold his breath every time she shifts and twitches next to him.
As the night chills further, he’s thankful for Emma’s improvised pullover. Or step-into. It was quite the ridiculous process but she never seemed cold from that point forward, so he’s pretty sure it was a total success. Now, that same item is keeping him warm as the summer temperatures fluctuate to their low.
Finally, after what seems like hours, Killian’s body fully relaxes and he slips into sleep, unintentionally pulling Emma closer as they both flutter through their dreams. He’s surprised then, to be awoken shortly after that, after he’d already entered a dream where they held hands without being locked together.
It’s way too early when Emma shakes him awake, and the space around them is still dark in pre-dawn bliss.
“I’m sorry,” she says when he finally wrenches open his eyes. “I have to use the bathroom.”
She’s so close, her breath fanning across his neck when she speaks, and he feels the sleepy surge of want roll through him. Instead, he clears his throat and rubs at his eyes, trying to push away the image in his head of kissing her until they both forget about the calls of their bodies.
With a yawn, Killian waves away her apology and motions her to follow him out of the bed so he can grab a pair of track shorts to slip into. He’s shoving his feet into a pair of sneakers when he turns and sees Emma, one sock lost to the covers and her legs bare. The sweatshirt from the day prior falls just to her thighs, and he swallows hard as his eyes trail back up the length of her body to meet her eyes.
“Would you like, um, for the walk?” He holds up a pair of clean boxers from his stock, trying hard to stop from transfixing on her legs some more.
She shakes her head, seemingly unaware or totally uncaring of her half-dressed state as she rips the second sock from her right foot and slips back into her boots. It’s an utterly ridiculous outfit – boots up to her knees and sweater only, from appearances, but suddenly Killian has to go through chords in his mind as he wills his body to stay neutral to the woman beside him.
“Let’s go,” she says, waiting just long enough for him to secure the lock on the outside before they wander off in search of a better bathroom than the portaloo experiences they had yesterday. All of the trips were necessary but always very uncomfortable.
After a few turns, they can see the VIP section at the top of a hill, and Killian sighs in relief. This will have stalls, where they can both stand inside, even if that’s slightly more awkward. At least they’ll be clean, with running sinks. They start the trek upward, but it doesn’t take long before Killian’s shoe loses grip on the incline.
“Oh, son of a –“
The moment his footing is gone, so is Emma’s, and the both of them slide back down on their hands and knees. They stay there for a moment, the shock and the exhaustion just weighing on them for a moment.
“Fuck,” Emma exhales.
It takes three more attempts for them to get up the hill, and it’s with no lack of attitude that Emma fishes her badge out from beneath the hoodie and swipes them into one of the trailers reserved for those with the clearance for them.
First comes rinsing off their hands to avoid getting mud in places they really wouldn’t want it, and then business, of course. He hums a medley of Beatles tunes to keep them both distracted from the situation. They switch spots when she’s done, and they hum together through the last of his turn. It’s as they’re washing all their collective hands when Emma realizes there’s a shower stall where he initially thought there was another accessible toilet. She nudges him, directing his gaze with a nod in that direction.
They hadn’t come up with a plan, not really, but this might be able to get them minimally less muddy before they get back to his accommodations. There’s also some splattered along the braid that Ruby twisted her hair into sometime after their set.
“You can go first, if you’d like,” he tells her, motioning toward the potential of being clean.
She’s slowly picking at the safety pins holding the jumper on her shoulder, but something is holding her back. For once, their hands swing un-joined between them, but as she considers something, her pinkie finger reaches out and brushes against his.
“I mean,” she starts, her eyes focusing on anything but him. “It would be easier if we were in there together.” For a moment, he thinks that yeah, it would be easier if they got in there together. And her fingers slowly slide against his, her thumb brushing along his as she shifts a little closer.
When the words and their meaning finally sink through his sleep-addled brain, Killian snorts. “Why, Emma Swan, did you just proposition me to shower with you?” He tugs at their joined hands to bring her attention back to him, and there he finds several emotions flickering through her expression.
She wants; that much is plain to see just by looking. She’s uncertain, and he doesn’t blame her. It’s a bit of a risk to sleep with someone you’re undeniably stuck with, and sometimes a risk to sleep with someone you can immediately walk away from. What strikes him most is that her eyes reflect a level of passion he was not expecting. When she looked at him at the end of their set, she set his blood pumping harder than it had been from performing. Now to see it reflected back is quite the unexpected turn.
“If you don’t think you can handle it…”
“I’m pretty sure you’re the one that couldn’t handle it,” Killian counters, his eyebrow flicking up in challenge. This is it. This will be the moment that decides their course of action. Much like the anticipation during their disagreement, he waits for her next move.
And wait he does; Emma stands there immobile for what feels like hours before she yanks him down by the collar of his shirt and kisses him. She crowds him into the outer chamber of the shower, shoving the door shut behind them as she angles her head for a kiss deeper and stronger than the last.
He has kissed all sorts of women in his lifetime, but one thing is startlingly clear very quickly: Killian Jones has never kissed a woman like Emma Swan, and he could spend the rest of his life trying to recapture the way she feels and never again find it.
There’s heat and desire in the way she moves against him, and Killian will blame it on the sleep deprivation that he doesn’t consider the thousands of outcomes this moment might have. Instead, he’s intent on pulling the band from the end of Emma’s braid and slowly unwinding the thick plait with his free hand. Their joined arms are caught between their bodies, hands clasped tightly as they dive deeper into the kiss.
Removing clothing is quite the obstacle. They work together to unpin the sweater from her shoulder, leaving it hanging from one of the hooks in the small dressing space outside of the actual shower.. The stall itself is pristine, likely unused by any of the festival participants if the walls are still this sparkling white, so neither of them take much issue with kicking off their shoes and stepping into the vinyl area after removing as much as they can. His shirt, for instance, ends up balled up along the chain, along with the top she’s wearing. His now-muddy shorts end up with their shoes, water be damned.
It’s not everything – it could be but there’s some unspoken agreement between them that it’s just not feasible right now. They’re down to just underwear, but it doesn’t leave anything to the imagination as they both find each other under the steady-but-unimpressive spray of water falling down on them. He wants to look, but he’s more interested in the way Emma’s mouth fits against his, and the way the slick skin of her back feels beneath his palm.
Their shower is stilted, interrupted by intimate touches and wandering hands, as well as figuring out the logistics of how to hold their joined arms so the clothing they can’t get rid of doesn’t weigh them down. They do the best they can, though, and struggle to dry off with the towels provided. They wring out their shirts from where they still got wet, and Killian balls up his shorts with her sweatshirt to take back to the yurt. It’ll be cold outside but if they hustle, they’ll be warm again soon enough. With as much as necessary back in place, they push out into the predawn light hand in hand.
They carefully pick their way across the campgrounds to stay as close to clean as they can. As they walk, Emma hums a familiar tune, and Killian does his best to find the harmony as she continues. It speaks volumes more than anything they could say; he resists the urge to sing the lyrics as they fit the circumstances just a little too well.
My honey I know with the dawn that you will be gone. But tonight, you belong to me...
The sun is just barely cresting over the horizon, but that doesn’t dissuade them from shutting the door to the rented space, locking themselves away from the outside world for just a few hours more.
They may currently be chained together, but Killian genuinely has no idea where the next day will take them. This far in, this far deep, he knows he may walk away with a heartache if it all fell apart in the light of day.
While everything had remained dormant on their trip back to the yurt, Emma is pleased when Killian is already meeting her halfway when she turns to him inside the door. With impatient movements, they leave their shoes by the door, and she urges him to drop the clothes he’s still holding. They make their way back to the bed, and Emma crawls into his lap and presses their linked hands into the mattress by Killian’s head as her mouth turns greedy.
She wants him bare, she wants all of him, dammit, and he growls into the kiss as if he knows this as she fists her free hand in his hair to hold him steady against her, their lips devouring. She wants, wants, wants, but Killian pulls back for a moment, halting her in her tracks.
“Emma, before this goes any further, I have to know that you’re sure about this.”
The fact that he asks makes Killian one of the most considerate men she’s ever gone to bed with. Here she is, in his lap, half-naked, chained to him, and he’s still willing to give it all up if she just says the word.
There’s some part of her that almost takes the out: this could get weird. They’re likely going to be spending the rest of this festival together if they can’t get ahold of Granny tomorrow. Not that there’s much more festival to contend with. After their set in the afternoon, her obligations are completed. She could always get him back to Storybrooke and get Billy to cut off the cuffs if she has to.
And in the meantime, she thinks, here Killian is beneath her, the hard length of his cock pressed almost exactly where she wants it to be. She doesn’t have to sleep with him, she knows this, but they can certainly have some fun. Any guy willing to track down the best onion rings at the festival for her is worthy of that, in her opinion.
Something suddenly clicks in her mind, something about the food from yesterday. “Killian,” she says, her eyes trained on his. “How did you know about the onion rings? How did you know to offer me that specific food?”
It’s equal parts totally endearing and hilarious to watch Killian’s face turn red. Right to the tips of his ears and down his neck are all a tomato red she never anticipated and he blinks several times in surprise.
“Lucky guess,” he says, but it’s a lie. She can tell just by the intonation, by the way his eyes flutter so he’s not fully meeting her gaze.
He sighs, shifting his focus away from her and looking somewhere at the top of the yurt. When he does speak, it’s muttered, and she has the distinct feeling that he’s hoping she can’t hear him in the quiet stillness of the solitary space. But oh, she hears him loud and clear. “Everyone knows that Emma Swan’s favorites are grilled cheese and onion rings, and hot chocolate depending on the weather. With cinnamon,” he adds at the very end, finally chancing a look at her again.
This is the first time he’s openly admitted that he’s one of her fans – in fact, when they started arguing yesterday about whatever it was that started the argument, she was sure he was totally oblivious to who she was.
“You follow me on Instagram?”
His face morphs into something distinctly mortified, but she doesn’t wait for him to answer. Instead, she bites her lip to stop the laugh that wants to escape and leans down to kiss him again. She pushes all thoughts of his previous knowledge of her to the back of her mind, instead focusing on the way his tongue is tracing along her top row of teeth before he suddenly sits up. His free arm wraps around her waist to hold her steady as he pulls her down hard against him and she gasps at the sensation.
There’s a startling thought in her mind that she could get used to this - the push and pull of who has control. They shift the dominance often enough that her stomach swoops every time he gains it back, knowing he’ll turn to putty in her arms again in a matter of moments. There’s no chance they’ll be able to be naked for this experience, so they come to a mutual understanding that they’ll take what they can get. This can be good enough, because it has to be for now.
The real question is whether or not the “for now” part will turn into “to be continued” for them. Where the thought even comes from is beyond her, but just as suddenly, their future possibilities flee her mind because Killian lines up perfectly, his erection pressing through their underwear to slide just right against her clit and her breath hitches as she buries her head against his neck, letting her teeth graze along his skin to taste and tease.
With the blood rushing in her ears, it takes her a while to grasp that Killian is repeating her name like a mantra, perfectly timed with his thrusts, and she can feel how close the both of them are by the tension in his shoulders and the way she’s clutching tightly to any part of him she can. And then she’s there, climax quick but powerful, her thighs shaking as she sits astride his lap, and she cries out softly against him as she holds on tight. It doesn’t take more than a few more thrusts until he’s following behind her, his body going rigid for a few seconds before he coaxes her head back to kiss her again.
“You’re a bloody marvel, Swan.”
His voice, his smile, the sincere look in his eyes – it’s all too much and not enough all at once and Emma closes her eyes to kiss him again, suddenly terrified of what this all means. She hasn’t felt like this in so long, and not just the boneless pleasure of a good orgasm. Killian is the first person who hasn’t dangled her fame in her face or used that as the badge to get into bed with her. It strikes her again that it took nearly the length of a whole day for him to even admit he was a fan prior to their meeting.
All of a sudden, she’s exhausted, dealing with both the physical toll their last day has had on her and the emotional toll that she just did that with him, and so she lets Killian shift her to stand and shuffle them around until he can reach his stash of clothes. This time, she accepts the boxers he hands her in favor of swapping out her underwear. They stand side-by-side, changing in tandem, and they both seem to respect the unsaid rule of no peeking.
She doesn’t have a chance to overanalyze after that; Killian leads her back to the bed, going so far as to maneuver in a way that he’s pressed against her back, their clasped hands nestled against her chest. She’s asleep in no time again, lulled by the sound of whatever Killian is humming and the gentle pressure of his lips against her shoulder.
She wakes to the sound of their phones both ringing. She’s so tired, though, that she reaches out with her right hand and stops short when she realizes it’s still attached to Killian’s left. She grunts, then, switching hands as Killian stirs, murmuring something about shutting off their alarms as he burrows into her hair.
Without looking, she silences the ringtone and lets her arm fall back to the bed. Of course, the ringing starts right back up and Emma finally wrenches open one eye enough to look at the caller ID on her screen. She flicks at the screen, accepting the call and shoving the phone against her ear.
“Emma, ping your damn location right now so Granny can get those cuffs off. We play in two hours. Do you hear me? Two hours.”
It takes a couple minutes for Ruby’s rushed words to connect in her brain, and then Emma’s gasping, sitting up in a tangle of arms and not even paying attention as Ruby rants on while still connected.
“I’ll ping it,” she blurts out, hurrying to end the call so she can share her location with her friend in order for her to locate the yurt in the camp. “Killian, get up,” Emma urges. She shakes him the best she can, turning in their pretzel to face him and leaning down to press her lips against his frantically. “Hey, wake up!”
He seems much happier to rejoin the land of the living when she’s kissing him, but it can’t last. She has to hurry. Besides, the intimacy of that move after such a short period of time has her rattled more than she expected it would. There’s a part of her that wants to just keep kissing him, wants to stay in this bed in this little cocoon they’ve created for themselves. And while she knows she could have that, theoretically...
“We’re about to have company,” she tells him, finally breaking through his sleep haze.
“Somebody to join for a threesome, then?”
She smacks his shoulder for that, biting her lip against the chuckle that wants to break out. “No, unless you want me to step outside while you and Granny have a good time,” she says. His eyes pop open at that.
“Oh, then we’re getting out of jail?” He lifts the chain for emphasis before he struggles to sit up. They scramble off the bed like that, and Killian unlatches the door just in time for a golf cart with Granny and Ruby to pull up right outside.
“Finally! Have a good night, lovebirds?” Ruby’s already dressed, her make-up and hair impeccable, and her smile is wide and bright. “Here,” she says, leaning off the cart to hand them the key and handing it back to Granny when they’ve each unlatched the offending metal.
Emma and Killian both take a moment to rub at their wrists before Ruby interrupts to remind Emma they’re on a deadline.
“Sure, of course, gimme just a minute, okay?”
The way Ruby’s eyebrow raises up is all Emma needs and she gives her friend a pointed look while slipping back just inside the door to find her leggings and boots. She wraps her sadly dirty hoodie around her waist before she looks at Killian.
“Well, I guess this eliminates the need to find another song to duet today,” she remarks, trying to put some humor into the moment. He does chuckle, but it’s dry and solemn.
“Aye, but that’s okay. You’ll enjoy your show more when you’re able to move around without me holding you back.”
There’s something in the way he says it that punches at her heart despite the way he smiles when he says it. So it’s only natural that she’d soothe that statement with a kiss. This one is a tinge desperate and apologetic because she’s about to dash away for her own performance and they’ve just left everything a giant question mark.
“I’ll see you around,” she breathes out, a smile tilting up her lips as she runs her fingers along the back of his ear, her thumb playing with his earring for just a second. Without further ado, she plants one last kiss directly on his lips and darts out the door. She does her best to not look back and instead focuses on the day ahead of them.
Ruby’s words are ringing through her brain as they speed back to the bus where Emma can shower and change. She flashes through the water as fast as she can, only cleaning her body and leaving her hair naturally wavy as it dried last night.
“Is Killian coming to watch?” Mary Margaret asks from her left as Emma painstakingly applies her makeup. Her hands are shaking, just the tiniest bit. It’s probably the lack of sleep, and so she pauses from applying her eyeshadow to take another deep gulp of the coffee that they had waiting for her.
“I don’t know,” she answers, trying for a dismissive tone. She doesn’t have the mental capacity to deal with anything surrounding that topic right now so she hopes that Mary Margaret drops it. Her hand shakes a little more and she takes a steadying breath before swiping on her eyeliner as carefully as she can. With practiced speed, she coats her lashes in mascara and stands, giving herself one last look.
If there’s a word to describe how she feels she looks right now, it’s “softer.” It’s more than just the hair and the lack of false eyelashes. The outfit she’s wearing is the same as she would always go on stage with. The jeans are practically painted on, her backup boots are up to her calves, and the tank top she’s wearing flows freely around her torso to give her room to breathe. So she guesses it must be something about her expression, about the small smile that won’t go away no matter how stern she tries to look as she makes one last fix to her lipstick.
“Let’s get this show on the road,” Emma says, giving Mary Margaret the broadest smile she can manage as she picks up her leather jacket from the back of her chair. She doesn’t need it, not really, but it’s like armor to her. Her friend looks at her carefully, tilting her head to the side for a moment and raising her eyebrow like she’s also trying to puzzle out the difference in Emma’s demeanor. But she just smiles, holding out her hand to take Emma’s as they leave the bus and join Ruby and Mulan outside.
It’s an easy trip to the main stage, with security leading the way and Mulan assisting. It helps that they’re not making a mad dash to the other side of the festival, and that she’s not being yanked in a thousand directions. Twice now, she’s caught herself reaching for a hand that isn’t there, though.
She is surprised to find a bit of a crowd in their backstage section. There’s David with his charming smiles and supportive words, extending beyond the woman he is so clearly enamored with. And Robin and Regina are actually standing less than five inches apart which is closer than she’s ever seen her manager standing to anyone else. There’s a suspicious lack of their third, however, and Emma stifles her disappointment best she can. She wants to ask, even opens her mouth to question David, but they’re being ushered on to the stage and he gives her a shrug and a final call of encouragement.
It’s all come down to this, Emma thinks - the lights are blaring even though it’s a bright and sunny day. She’s glad she left her leather jacket back stage because she’d already be roasting if she had it on. With that in mind, she pulls deeply from the water bottle she brought with her and turns to her bandmates for the start of their show. More than once, she can hear a yell from a fan about the lack of Killian on stage, and she tries to laugh it off.
“Sorry, folks. This is a solo-Emma adventure,” she says, forcing a smile on her face when a sudden wave of loneliness comes over her.
It goes so quickly from that point forward. She takes up her guitar when it’s called for, sits down at the keyboard for one or two songs, and grabs the ukulele she uses for just two of their songs right before they make it to the halfway mark of their set.
They finish the first of those songs to wild applause and cheers, and Emma smiles as she takes the microphone off the stand. It isn’t until she brings it back up to her mouth that she realizes it’s her left hand, her right arm still dangling at her side despite her natural inclinations. She even put back on the stupid wristband that he bought them to stop the cuffs from chafing their skin. She huffs out a chuckle, closing her eyes and smiling while Ruby and Mary Margaret wait for her cue to start the next song.
She looks back to them, seeing Ruby tilt her head to call her over. Emma clips her mic back on the stand and wanders over, away from the amplifying devices. “Mulan told me that a bunch of the fans have been asking about Killian. They’d heard about some kind of publicity thing with handcuffs and were excited to see it in person.”
“Should I --?”
“Yes,” Ruby says, and Mary Margaret echoes from five feet away where she can tell what’s being said. Emma groans with nerves, bouncing on the balls of her feet for a second before going back to her place.
“I seem to have exorcised my demon too soon,” Emma says thickly into her microphone. “Turns out he may have grown on me a little. So Killian, this next song is for you.”
This wasn’t the next song on their set - not one she’s ever played in public. They mostly stick to their own original works, but sometimes she finds the best way to express herself is using someone else’s music and lyrics instead. The chords and words of “Tonight You Belong to Me” are ones she knows by heart, and it echoes their early morning trip back from the bathrooms where he hummed along right with her. Ruby and Mary Margaret both hang back, instead letting her solo with the ukulele.
When the final note rings out, the crowd cheers, the frenzied yells making her freely laugh. She glances to the side of the stage and sees both David and Robin frantically trying to text. Mulan is recording the whole thing, as she’s sure a lot of the audience members are. It’s not every day fairytales come true, apparently. Now to just hope it works.
It all gives her courage to chant the syllables of his name so they’ll all catch on. If his band members can’t get a hold of him, maybe the entire main stage can. Mary Margaret and Ruby follow suit, wide smiles on their faces as their voices join in over the sound system. She has no idea if he’s even going to hear her, hear them, but she has to try. For once in her life, she wants things to work out.
It’s astonishing to hear all these people chanting his name, and Emma can’t fight the smile that’s breaking out as she keeps it up. Not knowing if he can hear her, or if he’s on his way, or what his progress is if he is on his way, she takes a bit of a chance.
“Killian, if you can hear us, I want that second duet, after all.”
It’s like a tidal wave when it happens: the cheers start in the back - the very, very back - and she watches as the wide crowd parts little by little and the cheers get louder and closer. If she tries, she can see the figure that’s moving them, his hand shooting up once when he’s halfway back to show the matching wrist band. She watches with ever-growing fascination as he moves through the audience. As the ripples of awareness travel upwards, they move easier and suddenly he’s sprinting towards them, a look of pure determination on his face.
It takes some help from the security at the front, but then he’s there in front of her, breathless but smiling, his left hand reaching for her right to link their fingers together.
“So you missed me then, love?”
“Shut up and sing with me,” she says, smiling as he inches a little closer.
“May I kiss you hello first?”
To this, she doesn’t respond. She reaches for his t-shirt and pulls him closer, leaning up on her toes to kiss him and then laughing through it when the whole crowd goes wild behind him. “Now can we sing?” she asks.
“Aye, love. What’s your choice?”
“You know ‘Always By Your Side’?”
He flushes in clear answer to her question, and Emma smiles. It’s the first single that made it onto the radio, and even more fitting now given where they began the day.
“Good. Also? You wouldn’t have held me back, just so you know,” she says away from the microphone. There’s more to be said - this isn’t where their conversation is even close to ending - but he ducks his head in a surprisingly bashful nod. They’ll have time to discuss it all later when they’re not ticking down their stage time.
The videos of their duet on the main stage end up going viral. There are pictures everywhere of them singing, eyes locked together, matching smiles on their faces. He posts a shot of their joined hands on Instagram later that he simply captions “Best festival ever” underneath, with an emoji of chains afterwards.
The next year, when they’re both invited back, they’re booked back to back on the mainstage with one act melding into the other as they sing together to close out one set and open the next. The year after that, he posts the same picture of their hands linked together, but Emma’s left hand is clasped over top of their joined ones, the ring just catching the sparkle of the dim light of their festival lodgings. His caption this time reads “Amendment: THIS was the best festival ever.”
And really? She can’t disagree with him on that one bit.