MEASURE OF A MAN
Her memories of Killian dead had ingrained themselves so deeply into her mind that waking up always came with a first moment of panic. Coarse, harsh splinters of glass and everything solid torn away from underneath. That’s how the first second of consciousness felt, before Emma, still drunk with sleep, caught up with the reality of the spacious bedroom in this almost too perfect house that Killian had chosen. The mattress beside her was empty she noticed, but where he had lain, the sheets still felt warm, so he could not have risen that long before her. He was alive, he was there. She exhaled and looked around to find him only a few feet away from her, standing next to the window and buttoning his shirt in the blueish light that shone through the blinds. So much joy in quietly, secretly watching him. She knew she had to ask, though.
“Killian, what’s this about?”
Even for an early riser like him, thirty-two minutes past four on an ordinary Wednesday morning struck Emma as rather unusual, then she remembered. Today was the day a digger would uproot his stone and plough over his gravesite just after dawn, Storybrooke’s Park and Graveyard Administration had kindly informed them. What a joke the letter had seemed in broad daylight, with its unwieldy phrasings, signatures and official stamp. Welcome to the twenty-first century, Captain Jones. Our town might be inhabited by witches, Dark Ones and monsters, but you will find that we like to run things here just as properly bureaucratic as anywhere else.
“Oh, you’re awake, Swan. Have I made too much noise?” Killian turned towards her. With his hair still dishevelled, his features looked soft, almost as if belonging to a much younger, untainted version of him. A part of Emma wished to leap up, gently brush away some loose strands from his forehead and just hold him. To never let go of this brave, strong, sweet, haunted man ever again.
She shook her head. “No, you were perfectly quiet.”
“I couldn’t sleep,” he explained. “Figured I might just as well go for a little commemorative walk. Call me a fool, but I need to take one final look. Maybe to pay the whole ghastly affair some tribute.”
“Would you mind if I came with you?” Emma asked. “This really matters to you, doesn’t it?”
A flicker of confusion in Killian’s eyes, then a half smile, slightly awkward. She could see he was searching for words and didn’t quite know where to begin.
Finally, after a small pause he said, “You know, Swan, for centuries I believed that if I died and someone actually cared enough to dispose of my bones, they would give me a sailor’s burial, say a quick prayer and be done with it. I never expected to be put in the ground. Have a stone with my name. Just my birth name, Swan. Not a naval rank, some title or curse. Here lies that rotten scoundrel Hook.”
There wasn’t any bitterness in his voice, only traces of distant amusement perhaps, and unspoken gratitude.
“You are not that man anymore,” Emma said. “You’ve changed. Life’s change.”
“I hope so.”
After Emma got dressed, they left the house hand in hand. Even though dawn was already breaking, there were still stars in the sky and the morning air smelled of sea breeze and oak trees.