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Once Upon a Café

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She was late.  It wasn’t the first time, nor would it be the last but she hated the feeling.  She always felt like she was letting someone down, not that there were many people that she could let down in this world because Emma Swan was the consummate loner.  She had no family, a handful of close friends, no lover, no pets, nothing but her job (that at least she was always on time for) and so when Mary Margaret had offered to set her up with a “nice young man who is absolutely perfect for you!” she had conceded if only to make this a moot point.  Emma didn’t do relationships, not ever, not since Neal and she didn’t feel the need to tell Mary Margaret why she didn’t need to meet someone because she was perfectly happy on her own. 

Sure, it gets lonely sometimes, she thought as she applied her mascara, taking care that there were no clumps in her long golden lashes, but that doesn’t mean I need to be herded into a mindless commitment with someone just because my best friend is getting married. 

That was it in a nutshell.  Mary Margaret Blanchard had been her constant companion from the first day of her freshman year had thrown them together in the campus dormitories and they hadn’t been parted ever since.  She’d become the sister that Emma had always wished for, the family she had never had, and now she was getting married.  She would be leaving their cramped apartment to being her new life with David, and Emma… Well, Emma would be alone again. 

She knew how it worked.  Other friends had married and gone off on their separate journeys since graduation and she’d seen or heard little from them since.  Why should Mary Margaret be any different?  She wouldn’t have time for Emma once they were married, and so this endeavour, this coffee date was her attempt at leaving Emma something (or rather someone) to occupy her time. 

She applied a thin layer of tinted gloss; with a shimmering rosé of colour on her lips, she pursed them and appraised herself.  Her hair fell in loose curls, almost to her waist, her makeup was subtle and understated (it was coffee not some black tie affair), and she’d opted for her favourite dress, knee length and showing enough without being too revealing.  It was only a coffee date and really, she would be more comfortable in this than anything fancier. 

Her phone rattled on the counter from the buzz of the vibration.  Ahh, a text from the bride to be!

Emma he’s running a little behind – David needed a little extra help with the boxes – he said he’d be about a half hour longer – is that ok?

What else was she going to say?  No, absolutely not – I may not even be completely ready myself but there’s no way he can be late too? 

Running a little behind myself, no worries MM :-)

She took one last cursory look at her appearance, scooping up the phone and her purse; she decided she shouldn’t be any later than she already was.  It would take her a good twenty minutes to get to the coffee shop – she still had the chance of being late even with her “date’s” being tied up.  She was glad she’d worn her flats – jogging might get her there faster. 

 


 

“Trust me Killian, you’re going to adore her!”

“I’m not the type to settle down, Dave… You know why...”

Killian still couldn’t think of Milah without a pang of regret for what might have been.  He rubbed absently at the name along his forearm.  She would always be there in some way, always colouring his relationships with other women because of it and if he was known as a gentleman player, well then, that was better than he could hope for.  He just couldn’t settle to one woman when all of his dreams had died with her. 

“Look, you know I have sat patiently by for you to finish hiding your grief in the endless stream of women that come through our door,” David had his stern reproachful  father face on, good practice for what would lie ahead now that he was on the road to marriage and being an old man, “but now that it’s just going to be you in that apartment I can’t even begin to think about you drowning away all the things you dreamt of just because you can’t let go of a ghost.  She’s gone, man.  Yes it was a tragedy and yes you will always miss her but she wouldn’t want you to live like this.  She wouldn’t want you to give up.”

Though he wanted to rail against his friend’s words, it was the truth and he couldn’t fault him for that.  They had all been patient whist he’d drowned his sorrows in booze and a revolving door of gorgeous and all too eager women.  He’d passed his classes, somehow, in a dazed and drunken stupor but David had never let him down.  Somehow, he knew he wouldn’t now. 

“I wouldn’t do this to you, nor to Emma because she’s become like a sister to me, but I think you two could be something… Special… If you’d let it.”

Killian raked a hand through his hair and laughed as he shrugged his shoulders.

“What the hell, it’s only coffee,” he said, a little blasé about the whole ordeal but he couldn’t shake the niggling feeling that coffee wasn’t the only thing that might be shared this afternoon.

 


 

Killian managed to clean himself up in record time, donning a pair of dark wash denim and a plaid collared shirt over a Henley loosely buttoned.  He ran his fingers along the stubble on his jawline and glanced at his watch, not enough time left to clean up the scruff so this would have to do.  He was doing them a favour taking a chance on this meeting, but he couldn’t help but feel a little bit of what David said was true.  He had been sheltering his heart for far too long. 

“It’s only coffee, just a coffee,” he muttered like a mantra on the five block walk to Once Upon a Café.  It wasn’t his normal choice of coffee shop, but there was something hopeful and quaint about the chosen location.  He knew it must be something down to Mary Margaret and the incurable romantic in her. 

Once Upon a Café was small shop that seemed a hole in the wall, but in an intoxicating old world style that deceived its interior that was laden with cozy booths and walls lined with art and books like something right out of a fairy tale.  His lips turned upwards into a grin as he noticed the table that had been set out for them.  An elegant vase of oddly twisted and shapes and sizes sat dead centre in the table, and there, as had been instructed, were two flowers that gave off the most beautiful golden glow in the sunlight that eked out through the oddly shaped windows above.  His feet carried him to the table, taking a seat in the chair that faced the door so as not to obstruct the view of the vase for when his guest arrived. 

Emma.  He couldn’t really remember her – but he knew that they had met before, if only due to her being Mary Margaret’s closest friend and he being David’s.  He was sure that they would be thrown together a lot in the coming months as they helped with preparation for their friends upcoming nuptials – he was the best man after all, and he felt sure that Emma would be part of the wedding party as well.  He had heard a lot about her – or rather that Mary Margaret and Emma had done this or done that, were visiting this place or that place – they were inseparable.  At least until David and Mary Margaret walked down the aisle they would be inseparable. 

Killian played with golden buds, like velvet beneath his fingertips.  He couldn’t quite place the name of them – he recognized them to be sure, their name dangling on the tip of his tongue but unwilling to pass through his lips.  A shadow crept across the table until it obstructed the light from the petals and Killian was forced to look up. 

“Buttercups.”

She was a vision.  The light that had framed the now named buttercups basked her curls in a halo of sunshine.  The shade of her dress was a soft pale yellow, echoing the buttercups and taking on an unearthly glow.  She slid into the seat opposite him and waved towards the waitress before aiming a curious grin at him and extending her hand. 

“I’m Emma.”

He took the outstretched hand, feeling a jolt of electricity pass between them and at the sparkle in her emerald eyes he knew she could feel it too.  He pulled her hand to his lips, turning it gently and pressing a feather light kiss to the top. 

“Killian, it’s an absolute pleasure to finally make your acquaintance, love.”