"Swan, it's pouring!"
"That's the point! Come on, Killian! You won't melt!"
Something had come over her. Maybe it was the late hour. Maybe it was the rain. Maybe it was the long awaited proposal - the fact that he'd just asked her to marry him complete with a diamond ring that could probably cut glass. Maybe it was because she'd cried ecstatically, saying yes nothing short of a hundred times. Yeah, it was likely to be a combination of a few of those 'somethings'.
Whatever the crazy cause, Emma had just felt this desire to....run. She wanted to run manically and happily like the little girl she didn't get to be. This time, though, she wanted to run with him - not typical Emma behavior at all. He'd parked the car outside of their apartment - the one they'd likely move out of and into something bigger soon - and Emma grinned wildly as her eyes went bright with a cunning idea. She had clicked the seatbelt, tossing it backward as she surged forward to kiss him sweetly. When he pulled back to smile at her, she laughed and flew out the passenger door sans her red umbrella.
"Love, you are out of your mind!"
Emma's laugh only continued, increasing in the most genuine, happy way. Her feet finally anchored to the pavement and she stood in the middle of the street with the rain drenching her from soaked hair to wet feet. Her eyes beckoned him and he eventually obliged, frowning at the sky as he rushed to her. As the precipitation grew unkind to him as well, he lifted her by the waist and spun her around like some romantic comedy. The expression on his face was heartstopping - perhaps it was her who would be doing the melting.
"I was starting to think you might not follow me, you big baby."
"Oh, Swan," he sighed, the water rolling down his face as he pressed his forehead to hers. "I'd follow you to the end of Earth, my love."
"I love you," she grinned breathlessly. "So much."
"Mmm," he hummed, moving his lips closer. "I'm quite fond of you as well."
Emma smirked in approval as she threw her arms around his neck with an unstoppable smile, digging her hands into his hair and fusing her lips against his. The texture of her new jewelry ran across his scalp as she caressed the back of his head, coaxing him closer. This was it. This kiss was everything she ever dreamed of needing and now, it was the one thing she could have for the rest of her life.
A little storm definitely wasn't that big of a deal, Emma thought as they let themselves get totally and completely drenched.
Emma's eyes fluttered open and met the sight of the window glass, slightly fogged over and coated in water. She'd apparently dozed off while watching the impending clouds. It was raining. Killian would hate that.
It had been raining on and off for about a week now. Emma loved it - she was always one to weather the storm. Killian, however, was not much of a fan. The man was highly likely to have been a sailor in another life with the way his eyes scanned the sky when the clouds rolled in. She could almost recall their deep, wild blue color and the million different ways those eyes lit up his entire face. It made her frown subtly and she sighed something quiet.
It was this acting of having to recall that was getting old very fast and not just old, but a whole other string of adjectives - frustrating, concerning, hopeless, devastating. She'd felt them all as she wished a million times a day for those beautiful blue eyes.
It had become a ritual really - something she did every day without trying to set an unreal expectation. She would visit him, curl up in the chair in the corner, and tell him any and all recent news as well as interesting facts about her day. She needed some semblance of normal and since it's what she would have done before all of this, it's what she kept on doing. She knew he could sense her. He knew she'd never leave him. He just didn't have a way to tell her that currently.
Watching the machines as they beeped and chirped and clicked, Emma tried to maintain an interest in modern technology. The truth was that she didn't like science much anyway and eighteen days of the same sounds, scans, and reports was getting far too monotonous. She wasn't really keen on even knowing what they said anymore. The fact was that none of them could explain the most crucial fact here - when would he wake up? She just needed to know. She had to see that crystal blue gaze and that teasing smirk again.
Soon. Very soon. At least that's what her brain kept telling her. Emma's heart, however, was continuously cracking into pieces and had been since the moment she'd arrived at the hospital to a sight she didn't realize she never wanted to see.
Yet here he was. Killian, her husband, the man who'd been there and chased her through time and space and hell - bruised and broken while laying in an unexplained sleep. Damn fairy tales. She could really bargain for a true love's kiss right now.
It had been late on a waning winter night - a day before their little boy's birthday. The weather had been bipolar to say the least - flurries of snow one moment and dripping rain the next. Emma wasn't surprised. It had been that way the night he'd driven her to the hospital after nine long, droning, restless months. The weather had been worth it in the end. They knew that when they saw the innocent eyes of their son - the ones that matched his father's in a most wonderful way.
They had this tradition of having a living room camp out on the night before anyone's birthday, staying up late to read bedtime stories and rising early for breakfast the next morning. They started it one year when the power was out for hours on Killian's birthday. Emma had been so upset at the electricity's carelessness in ruining her plans for their celebration that Killian did what he always did - took charge and planned something ridiculous. They'd built a blanket fort like they were five years old, ordered pizza, and talked for hours among other things. He'd proclaimed it the happiest birthday he'd had in a long time and therefore it just kind of....stuck.
For the past several birthdays, Killian had become a snuggle spot for their wiggly son and Emma could see how this development made the tradition that much more wonderful. It was only fair that they include their little boy's birthday in the whole tradition. Honestly, she didn't mind since it gave her a chance to watch the two loves of her life in their finest, sweetest element - playing pretend and laughing about nothing within the cover of dozens of blankets and fluffy pillows.
Naturally, her husband and the ever faithful father of her son had been determined to be there to see his little Liam turn four regardless of the fact that he had to pick up building materials in New York. They were remodeling the bar after months of planning and years of wrestling with finances. It was part of the big picture - his dream and their future.
Initially he'd planned to stay the night - the storm had so far been very unpredictable, but he wasn't going to miss his moment with their family. He was running behind schedule, a tight timetable causing the rush in his phone call before the drive home. She could tell he was going to be late - possibly too late. It was disappointing, but when he called, Emma did her best to shield the sadness in her voice. It was less than convincing - he read her like a book per usual. He was going to be there. He was going to try to be there.
She'd spent the last two and a half weeks telling herself that this wasn't her fault, but it was getting harder and harder to believe that.
She'd walk into hospital room 108 each morning, checking the monitors and memorizing his features as she drank her coffee. She always popped back in a few more times during the day - at least twice - and eventually she would stop in at night, wishing he'd wake up so he could follow her home to their bed. Then he could sleep next to her. Again.
If - no, when he came back to her, she wouldn't take a minute of laying under the huge comforter with him for granted. No more complaining about his sporadic snoring or nudging him when he laid on her arm. All she wanted was to have a chance to show how much those stupid, trivial sleep habits didn't matter.
It was this one - the uncertain sleep - that did matter.
"Morning, Mrs. Jones," one of the many nurses greeted, entering the room carefully.
Emma really hated the way she was on a first name basis with most of the nurses now. It meant she was too familiar to them - that they saw her more than enough.
"He is starting to look better," Anna stated, injecting fluids into his IV. "He's finally gaining a bit of color again."
If by 'color' she meant a series of cuts, scrapes, and nasty bruises - then yes, he had plenty of color. The wounds etched into his skin were mostly on his face, particularly his cheek and his forehead where he'd hit some part of the truck's interior on impact. He had a deep gash under his right eye - one they'd nearly had to close up with a stitch or two. It had begun to heal over the past week and Emma smiled softly at the idea of a scar appearing there, the mark of a survivor.
"No change yet," Anna said with a small frown, dropping the syringe into the appropriate container. "I wish I could say something different for once."
Emma didn't want to entertain the idea of hearing 'no change' every time a nurse came in to check on him. So she didn't.
"Thank you, Anna."
As the nurse left, Emma moved closer to his side. She ran her fingers gently through his dark hair, an action she'd taken numerous times over the past two weeks. She watched his heart rate fluctuate a few beats up and down in a consistent pattern, the reassurance that was truly still alive. They kept warm blankets in constant supply and she smoothed the one on his lap, trying to keep him comfortable.
"I love you, Killian," she whispered, kissing his scalp. "I'll be back soon."
She turned back to look at him from the doorway, the same thought she always had filling her head.
Killian - please come back to me.
Emma pulled into the bar's parking lot, knowing it was too early for business but hoping to use the silence to get some of her - well, his work done. As she noticed two other cars parked near the back exit, she realized it was stupid to think that would be possible at all.
The bar became an intervention sort of support group for Emma on days where she went in before opening hours. They just wanted to be there for her - Ruby, David, and Mary Margaret - and Emma tried hard to share their enthusiasm. She knew she needed to have faith, but the fact was that she missed her husband. Sometimes she just wanted to know that she wasn't a pessimist for feeling that way.
"I didn't peg the three of you to be early morning drinkers," she teased with a half smile, raising her eyebrows at the trio surrounding the bar.
"Well these shot glasses won't polish themselves," Ruby smiled sweetly. "As for these two patrons, I don't really know what they're up to."
David narrowed his eyes at Ruby's playful nature. He was Killian's closest friend in the states. They'd met in a men's basketball league when Mary Margaret, his eventual wife and Emma's best friend, had volunteered Killian to fill in as their sixth man. Mary Margaret was a teacher and Killian had been helping with some maintenance work around her school so it had been easy for her to help David find someone at the last minute. The two men had a humorous relationship - witty and backhanded with an I'd-still-take-a-bullet-for-you element to it.
All of that had been right around the time Killian had first set foot on American soil after moving from Ireland, but long before Emma ever met him. Emma only became part of their history when Mary Margaret - who had surprisingly held off longer than expected - coaxed Emma into a date with the Irishman.
Despite his act and his constant attempt at being everyone's rock, David hadn't been dealing with this situation too well either. I guess misery loves company, Emma thought.
"How was he today?"
Emma adjusted a few bottles behind the counter before turning to answer Mary Margaret's question. She was unbelievably grateful for them and for their unwavering support. She just hated how they looked at her sometimes.
"He's in a coma," Emma sighed, trying to be blunt in hopes of avoiding her emotions. "So he's the same as he was yesterday."
"Emma," David said, furrowing his eyebrows at her. "It's okay - we know you're....hurting."
"Yeah, I know - I just....it's okay," Emma replied, cutting him off with a smile - one that said she didn't want to talk about it anymore.
"Well, we are free to take Liam whenever. He's so much fun, Emma," Mary Margaret assured her, a sweet smile on her lips. "I think David might even go through withdrawals when you take him home."
Liam had been staying with them a few nights a week, usually on the ones where she just needed some time to process everything and a moment to try to regain some semblance of hope. She told herself she was just trying to protect him, giving him very few details about his father's current situation except telling him that Killian would be back soon. She hated how hard she had to fight back tears when she told him things like that. It wasn't fair to him to see her so upset - the poor kid was only four years old. Well, Killian would say he was four going on twenty five. Liam was smart and Emma hated lying to him about his dad's stint in the hospital. She just didn't know how to explain traumatic brain injury to him - especially when she was still trying to figure it out herself.
"Thank you," she said suddenly, giving them a small smile. "He's - we're lucky to have you guys."
"Of course," Mary Margaret smiled. "Whatever we can do to help, we're here, Emma."
She didn't think she deserved them, but she didn't know what she'd do without them.
Emma was as relieved as she could be when they shifted the subject of conversation to the upcoming city election, igniting each of their strong willed opinions and successfully taking the focus off of her. Though Killian lingered in her mind as he constantly had lately, she appreciated their attempt at normalcy. She watched Ruby poke fun at David's defensive nature, a sight that made Mary Margaret laugh casually. She envied the way her blissfully married friends shared such a carefree, sweet relationship as she wondered when she'd get to have that with Killian again. It was a solid effort to avoid it but she quickly found her mind back in that familiar place of missing him desperately.
"Well, as much as I'd like to keep refereeing this whole display, Thursday night is impending and I'd like to keep this place in business," Emma said, wiping the surface of the smooth wood bar top. "Ruby - you got this?"
"Yeah I'll reign in Prince Charming here if things get too heated," Ruby nodded with an arched eyebrow and a taunting laugh.
"Hey! Having an opinion is not a crime!" David said expressively, his arms crossing over his chest in defiance.
"Well then, please carry on," Emma replied, gesturing to the open air. "I'll have your wife fill me in later."
"I made no promises, Emma," Mary Margaret piped in. "You know how these two are."
"Which is why I'm almost certain I have work to do in the back," Emma said smugly, a courteous nod in tow.
David narrowed his eyes teasingly and Ruby shook her head with a chuckle. Mary Margaret's eyes followed her, the predictable considerate and loving glint ever present. She had always been one to protect and care for Emma. That demeanor had only increased the longer Killian was unconscious. Keeping Emma safe had been his job for nearly the last six years, but with his current condition, it seemed Mary Margaret was once again filling that role.
Emma wandered to the back office, the place where Killian used to hide with a pencil behind his ear supposedly doing inventory reports and ordering stock. She'd walked in on him checking basketball scores and reading the news enough times to know that it was also a place of retreat for him. She liked that - being in his world of work. It was a way for her to hold onto him while he was away.
She shoved the door open, flipping on the light switch as a bulb fizzled out overhead. Dammit. She'd have to get David to change that. Maybe later, Emma thought as she clicked the door closed behind her.
She walked to the large wooden shelves in the corner of the room, lining the wall in a dark cherry wood and polished to perfection. Each plank was full of books, sports memorabilia, and a few scattered photographs. Emma recognized each picture - she was the one who had put the framed memories in his office in the first place. She felt the tug on her heart as she ran a finger over each one. A candid from a baseball game they'd attended together during their 'courtship' as he'd call it. Their whirlwind of a wedding day. A picture of newborn baby Liam, asleep on Emma's chest when she'd collapsed on the couch the day they brought him home. She always grinned at how sneaky Killian had been to take that last one.
Her favorite though was their most recent family picture. It wasn't formal by any means - they'd been attending a reception for Killian's friend, Robin, and his bride, Regina. Emma had dressed their little man in suspenders and tamed his wild black curly hair in a way that Killian did not approve of....which made it even more entertaining. The picture showed the three of them under the paper lantern light with the sky darkening. Killian was holding Liam up, tickling him wildly as they both grinned something fierce. Emma's face was one of genuine happiness, a huge grin on her lips as she leaned into him and rested her head against his shoulder, looking up at the little kid who'd become the light of their lives.
That was the kind of moment she lived for. She wiped a solitary tear from the corner of her eye as she compared the man in the black and white family photo to the man she'd been visiting in the hospital bed every day for weeks. She just needed to witness that smile again.
"Hey Emma? We're heading out."
David's voice came from behind the closed door and Emma did her best to regain her strength, clearing her throat softly.
"Okay," she yelled back. "I'll call you guys later?"
"Yeah, please do. Oh and that reminds me - you left your phone out here. I didn't know if you remembered."
She didn't. She'd been far too involved in sifting through memories to even think about it.
"Oh yeah, I'll grab it in a minute - thanks, Dave."
"No problem," he said, still trying to speak through the barrier. "We love you, Em."
They did. She knew that.
"Love you guys too."
Emma listened to the padding of footsteps, signaling that she was alone again. Glancing back at the photographs once more, she took a deep breath. Being alone with her thoughts wasn't always the most productive thing and she decided it would probably be wise to find some type of work to wrap herself up in.
"Hey Em? Can you come help me with these cases?"
Ruby called for her almost the instant she'd opened the door. Yes, work - work would help. She slipped back into the space behind the bar, smiling carefully at her husband's best employee.
"Yeah," Emma nodded, quickly pinning her hair up out of the way and brushing the strands out of her face. "What do you need help with?"
"Just unpacking those," Ruby pointed to the boxes on the floor. "We just need to get the bottles sorted and put up on the shelves."
Ruby knew Killian's routine extremely well and it had been comforting to know she would help keep things running throughout this whole ordeal. She'd worked so many extra hours and taken on some of Killian's regular managerial duties - and all because she wanted to make things easier for Emma. It was beyond selfless and Emma made a mental note to coordinate that with the future payroll.
"You know," Ruby almost laughed. "Killian would totally get on my case for this - for leaving boxes everywhere."
"Such a neat freak," Emma smiled weakly. "You should see him with Liam - I'm surprised he doesn't just follow him around all day and play clean up crew."
"How is he - Liam?"
"Fine - I think. I've been trying to keep things....normal for him. He asks about him and it's - hard to know what to say. David and Mary Margaret have been really helpful in keeping him distracted."
"Quite parental, aren't they?" Ruby smiled, slipping a glass bottle onto the shelf above.
"Always have been," Emma shrugged. "I guess it's not such a bad thing."
Ruby smiled softly at her and Emma made a conscious choice not to look away from the task at hand. All of the honest eye contact she'd had with people over the last eighteen days was getting more and more difficult to withstand. Thankfully, she was given a quick out when her phone began to ring. She set down the items she'd pulled from the box on the top of the bar, moving her eyes to the device. David's name and silly picture lit up the screen - why was he calling? They'd just left.
The words that followed were said in slow motion - Emma was completely sure of it. Her thoughts jumbled as she listened to his voice and she tried to make sense of what he was saying. She was sure she was dreaming - mostly because she'd had this exact dream many nights before. After a moment and a fraction of silence on her end, she forced a reply from her mouth.
"I'll be right there."
Emma pressed the end call button, swallowing hard and setting her phone down next to the bottles she'd abandoned. Her breath was shaky, unsure of what to do as she tried to calm her nerves.
"Everything okay, Emma?"
Her eyes were a very watery green when she finally looked up at a concerned Ruby. The girl was tilting her head at the shift of energy in the room.
"Ruby, I have to go - I have....I just..."
"Emma," Ruby said cautiously, ceasing her work and giving this new situation her full attention. "What was that all about?"
"It-it was David. They stopped at the hospital....on their way home. They stopped to see Killian. They were only there about twenty minutes, but as they were leaving, he - Killian...."
Ruby raised her eyebrows at Emma's stuttering explanation, a concerned expression filling her face. No, this was surely not a dream.
"Emma? What's going on?"