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Tradition

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The brunette beauty slipped away from the large crowd gathered in the living room. She couldn’t bear to keep watching the two of them, limbs entangled, as if there wasn’t a room full of people witnessing their newly reunited love; as if her feelings didn’t matter. She didn’t think anyone would notice her departure, after all, who was she but the pathetic ex-girlfriend, a princess without a kingdom, just another lost soul in this pitiful town of trapped inhabitants.

Of course, she could never suspect that a pair of eyes hadn’t left her the entire night. The same pair that belonged to a man who always kept watch over her, just in case. If she knew she’d accuse of him of trying to appease his guilt, never assuming that he could ever care about someone like her.

Aurora stepped onto the balcony, enjoying the feel of the cool night air on her skin. She missed the dry desert, though she’d grown accustomed to the snowy winters of Storybrooke. She smiled as she watched snowflakes fall into a fine powder over the grounds.

Some childish part of her wanted nothing more than to abandon the festivities so she could make snow angels, but she knew how it would look. The Sleeping Beauty escaping the party to avoid watching her best friend and former lover enjoying their new engagement. Phillip had been kind enough, to warn her beforehand that he planned to ask Mulan tonight, the night of Snow and Charming’s big New Year’s Eve bash, and she’d done what any proper lady would do: she’d taken his hand with a smile and wished them all the best. She loved them both and wanted them to be happy.

And while that was true, it didn’t mean her heart wasn’t still broken. She’d lost both of the people she loved and no matter how hard they all tried; nothing would ever be the same. The man she loved was no longer hers and he’d taken the only real friend she’d ever had with him.

Aurora would remain by their side because she loved them both and it was the right thing to do, but it didn’t mean she needed to watch them behave as though it was their wedding night.

She leaned against the railing. The scent of rum lingering in the air alerted her to his presence, not that she was surprised. He always seemed to show up when she was sad and alone, like her own personal guardian angel from Hell.

“What do you want, Pirate? Here to steal my heart again?” She glanced back to find him leaning against the doorframe. She detected a hint of remorse in his eyes but she was probably imagining it. He’d need to have a heart of his own to feel guilt over literally ripping hers from her chest and raping her of her free will. “Though, perhaps that’s wasn’t enough for you? Maybe you’re finally here to kill me.” She pushed away from the railing and turned to face him, her gaze full on contempt. “But seeing as I’m not currently unconscious, I’m going to assume that I’m safe. You don’t seem the type to be capable of inflicting violence on a woman while she’s able to defend herself.”

She moved to push past him, but he caught her by the arm. She shoved him away angrily. How dare he? He had no right to touch her, not after what he’d done. She’d tried to do the right thing, to forgive him, so she could move past it and be ‘healthy’ like Doctor Hopper insisted, but she couldn’t. She felt a deep rage whenever she saw him that was neither ladylike nor proper, but she didn’t care. She refused to allow everyone to walk all over her; she put up with it from Phillip and Mulan, because of her affection for them, but she felt nothing for the pirate but loathing.

Before he’d violated her in that cave there had been a glimmer of something, an attraction, she supposed, but that had died the moment he’d betrayed her.

She had no intention of standing there and listening to whatever filth spewed from his lips.

“I got it back, didn’t I?” He said, playing the part of a wounded puppy.

Aurora scoffed. He dared to offend her even further by implying that his small act could ever make up for taking her heart in the first place?

“What a gentleman!” She announced with a huff as she stormed past him.

“I wouldn’t go in there if I were you. They’re still going at it like rabid animals in the spring.” She stopped in her tracks, debating which would be less unpleasant: the sight of Phillip’s tongue down her best friend’s throat while his hands roamed her arse or remaining in the company of the vagrant. “And it’ll soon be midnight.”

She spun to face him.

“Is that supposed to mean something to me?”

He gave her a charming smile that reached his eyes. She knew it was meant to entice her but she just have him a stern glare, having none of his ‘shit’ as Emma would put it.

“You don’t know about midnight?”

She sighed in annoyance. Of course she didn’t. She was still adjusting to this world and its traditions. Same as him, though, clearly he knew more than she did. He stepped closer and her immediate instinct was to back away from him. She knocked over a vase along the way and fell into a wall.

Smooth, Aurora, very smooth.

To his credit he didn’t laugh at her clumsiness, he only grinned.

“At midnight, it’s tradition to kiss someone. And with the way those two are attacking one another I can only imagine what they’ll be like while everyone else is doing it.”

She recalled Ruby telling her about the tradition when they’d discussed their outfits for tonight. Apparently not kissing anyone at midnight would ensure a year of loneliness, which Aurora was already in for. Ruby had been insistent that Aurora had to kiss someone, even a friend, to make sure she had a good year. The traditions seemed silly, but it didn’t stop her from feeling the sting of rejection, knowing she didn’t even have the option of having someone to spend the evening. Everyone had someone in this town, well, everyone except herself and…

She made a disgusted noise in the back of her throat. She was not so starved for affection that she’d spend the rest of her evening with Captain Hook. She’d rather feign some illness and return home to her room at Granny’s where she could curl up with a good book.

“I’ll risk it.”

His eyes flickered for a moment, as he stared at something in the ballroom. Before she could follow his gaze, he caught her chin with his hand and stared into her eyes.

“I really am sorry. I won’t excuse what I did, because when given the chance, I will still skin my crocodile. You were just an unfortunate means to an end. And you deserve better than that.”

She could hear commotion in the background but she ignored it.

“Do you expect me to forgive you because you’re ‘sorry’?”

“No, but seeing as we’re both stuck in this town I’d like the chance to make it up to you; if you’ll allow me.”

Oh, now he wanted to give her a say in the matter.

“But you’ll still kill Rumpelstiltskin if given the chance?”

He smiled.

“I’m still a pirate, love, and he killed the first woman to ever mean anything to me.” The first? Aurora figured she would have been the only. “Surely, you can understand my desire for justice.”

She could, but she also knew that the road to vengeance was a dark one and wanted no part in it. She’d never be able to forgive him, even if she understood his motivations. She was not lonely or stupid enough to fall for his charms.

“Nice try, Killian, but it’s not happening.”

“Well, you can’t say I didn’t ask nicely.”

“Wha-“

He cut her off by claiming her lips. Her first instinct was to throw him off of her before ridding him of another body part but her momentarily hesitation encouraged him to keep going. One moment she was ready to kill him and the next she was kissing him back, with her fingers tangled in his hair. It had been far too long and his lips felt-

Good Lord, what was she doing?

Aurora pushed him off of her, horrified that her body would betray her in such a way. She was disgusted with her lack of self-control and would be visiting the confessional in the morning. And then she was going to see her therapist.

“Why are you laughing, this isn’t funny? How dare you-“

“Happy New Year, Princess.”

Aurora opened her mouth in shock and turned to find their fellow party-goers engrossed in kissing, blowing whistles, and drinking champagne. In the furthest corner she spotted Mulan and Phillip, with their faced still glued to one another’s and quickly averted her eyes.

“You knew and you were trying to keep me distracted, weren’t you?” She whispered, mortified. She couldn’t understand his motivations, but the fact that the most hated man in town was her only companion on such a celebrated holiday was far more depressing than she wanted to admit.

“I admit, I may be a dirty pirate, love, but I bristled at the thought of a woman as beautiful as you being alone with no one to kiss at midnight. It is tradition, after all.”

Her cheeks went red and she hustled past him, grabbing her coat and purse on her way out. She ignored calls from her friends, not caring about what they thought. If the damned dirty pirate thought she was pathetic enough to be his charity case, she could only imagine what her so-called friends thought of her. She’d never been so humiliated in her entire life.

“Aurora, wait!”

Oh great, he was chasing after her. She could imagine the gossip now, or even worse; Phillip and Charming attempting to defend her honor.

“Sweethear-“

“I am not your sweetheart!” Aurora yelled, turning to get in his stupidly pleasant face. She was a kind, patient, and tolerant woman, but she had limits, and he’d pushed past every single one of them. She was no longer a princess, she was a woman and she was livid.

“Ripping my heart from my chest while I was unconscious and trying to kill my friends wasn’t enough for you? You had to do your best to humiliate me? What is your game, Killian? How does wasting time making my life even worse than it already is work into your agenda to kill Rumpelstiltskin?” Hot tears stung at her cheeks and she angrily wiped them away, hating herself for allowing him to get to her like this. She’d been trained to keep her emotions in check, not to let them race rampantly loose in the middle of the street like this.

She took a deep breath in an attempt to compose herself. She was better than this. Better than him. Hell, she was better than what everyone viewed her as and she would continue to do her best to prove it. He wasn’t worth her anger.

As she exhaled a small sob escaped her and she closed her eyes, fighting off every painful thought and memory that invaded her mind.

“Haven’t I suffered enough?” She whispered; sick of it all. Some days she longed to be back in the sands, in her abandoned palace, where she could live out the rest of her days alone but in peace. She gave him a fleeting look and turned, wanting her warm, familiar bed and to be done with night and useless holiday.

“Aurora,” he caught up to her and placed his hand on her cheek, as if to brush away her tears but she slapped it away.

“Go away; you’ve done enough for one evening.”

“I wasn’t trying to humiliate you, Princess.”

“Then what were you trying to do?”

“I…” He shrugged and toyed with his hook. “I just didn’t want you to be alone.”

“Why would you care if I’m alone or not?”

He glanced up to meet her gaze and she could feel the pining in his eyes. No, she thought, not him. Anyone but him.

“You’re always sad, Princess. Even when you’re pretending to fit in and be happy you’ve always got this haunted look in your eyes. It reminds me of the way I’ve felt every single say since he took her from me; empty. It breaks what’s left of my heart to see you that way and to know that I had something to do with it.”

“Yes, well, it’s not all because of you,” she muttered, wondering what she’d done in another life to deserve to be betrayed by so many and to have lost everyone she’d ever loved.

“He’s a fool; she pales in comparison to you.”

Aurora watched him sadly, remembering his earlier words.

He killed the first woman to ever mean anything to me.

Not the only or the last, the first, which meant…

Aurora sighed and hugged herself, the cold getting to her, even through her winter coat. It all made sense now, why he was always there, why she always got the sense that someone was watching her…

“You are twisted,” she whispered, finding the entire situation to be incredibly disturbing. He’d violated her in a way that could never be forgiven and he loved her. He’d taken her heart but she was going to break his. She wasn’t sure if it was ironic or sad.

No, the sad part was that she wished she could find it in her heart to forgive him, just so she wouldn’t be alone. So she could be loved again. But seeing as that particular organ had been the one removed from its home, she didn’t see it happening even if she tried. And she wasn’t one to string someone along for her fancy, even Hook.

“I’m sorry, Killian…but…goodnight.”

She headed towards Granny’s but stopped after a few steps. Across the street, a teenage girl and her mother sat on their porch, laughing as they pointed up to the sky. Aurora gazed up, remembering that it was also tradition to host a fireworks show after midnight. She watched the lights flicker in the sky for a minute before turning her attention back to the joyful pair.

Her heart ached as she remembered Briar Rose. She’d died of a broken heart after Aurora had willingly left home to face Maleficent and fallen into the same slumber that had cursed her many years before.

Aurora’s biggest regret would forever be never saying good-bye to her mother. She’d loved her more than anyone, even Phillip. She had been brave, kind, loving, and a true Queen; someone Aurora did her best to emulate, but always seemed to come up short. Aurora’s temper was too short, her imagination too vivid, and her tongue too sharp to ever come close to her mother’s grace.

She’d even managed to forgive Maleficent, even after all of the pain the evil fairy had inflicted upon their family and kingdom. The quick-tempered Aurora hadn’t understood her mother’s actions, finding her to be weak, but Briar Rose had set her straight.

Only the weak of heart cannot forgive, Aurora. The ability to forgive is strength, my child. Holding resentment and anger in your heart gives others power over you. Give out nothing but love into the world and it will eventually find its way back to you.

Briar Rose’s words echoed in her ear and as much as she didn’t want to listen to them, she had always been right. Hook didn’t deserve her forgiveness, but was he really worth spending her time hating? And when was the last time anyone had shown him any kindness? She supposed that after three-hundred years of being alone, with only one’s desire for revenge to keep one company, one could only become what he was: a pitiful man with a black heart and no soul.

She wasn’t foolish enough to think she could fix him, but perhaps it wouldn’t kill her to find it within herself to befriend the only person in this town who was more alone than she was.

She turned to find that he was still watching her, with the most pathetic expression she’d ever seen on a man. Her heart clenched and her damn inherent kindness couldn’t bear to see him suffer any longer. He didn’t deserve it and she was too good for him, but she was ready to allow him a chance to earn her forgiveness.

Yes, her virtuous mother wouldn’t approve of her being unwilling to give it up freely, but it wasn’t as though she was here to disapprove either.

“Have you ever had crepes?”

“Yes,” he answered after a moment, in shock.

“I haven’t, but I hear that the café makes some that are delightful.”

“Is that so?”

She nodded.

“Yes. Perhaps you should buy me some, as part of your penance.”

“My penance?”

“Yes, pirate, you have a lot of making up to do for what you did to me.”

“So you’re suggesting I start with…what? Brunch?”

She gave him a small smile.

“Yes, I am. So, I’ll see you tomorrow?”

He thought it over for a moment before shaking his head.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Princess.”

She spun on her heel and strode off without another word. She was nowhere near ready to entertain the notion of a relationship with him, especially without him earning it first, but it would be nice to have someone to share meals with from time to time, even if he was a filthy pirate.