Killian grinned, watching as Ruby and Dorothy went wild on the dance floor. Their arms were slung around each other, smiles wide as they danced to the beat of the music. Dorothy laughed at something Ruby said, her head thrown back. The look on Ruby’s face made him grin wider, beyond happy that his best friend seemed to have found someone to spend the rest of her life with. He might have met her only five years ago, but it seems like he’s known her much longer.
Her and Graham, he reminded himself, grunting as his mate bumped into him hard, taking a seat next to him, a glass of scotch (he assumed) clutched in his hands. “What are you moping here for, Killian? It’s a party, mate,” he slurred.
Before he could respond with a scathing remark, Ruby pulled him out of his seat, forcing him into the crowd with her. He had to stomp down the urge to grumble, knowing how important this weekend was to Ruby. After all, it wasn’t everyday your best friend gets married in Vienna of all places.
When Ruby had first told him she was getting married, he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. However, he knew how much being with Dorothy had changed her, even mended her broken heart. She’d become someone different – someone who was proud of herself.
And so, he pushed aside his own heartache, knowing that no matter how much he hoped, the person he really wanted here with him would probably not show up. She probably didn’t even know that there was a wedding happening.
Suddenly, the music stopped, making everyone groan and whine, turning to the DJ for an explanation. Right before things got too chaotic, the other side with the stage lit up, the sound of a familiar song started up, making him suck in a sharp breath. When he could see who was on stage more clearly, his heart dropped to his gut. He felt Ruby’s talon like nails grip his arm, a whispered oh my God leaving her lips before she cried it even louder.
“OH MY GOD. EMMA!” she shouted, running to the stage to hug the blonde, just as We Like to Party by the Vangaboys came on, both girls singing it together, the whole club soon joining them. Killian, well, he was stuck in the same spot, his eyes never leaving the dancing goddess on stage, her cheeks red from laughter and golden hair flipping around.
She was back. Five years later, but she was actually back.
Five years ago
She’d met Liam Jones when she’d been home from college one weekend. He’d moved to Storybrooke about three months ago to take over as the new harbourmaster, and the man that her older cousin, Elsa seemed to have a crush on. When they’d run into him at Granny’s, it was obvious that he liked Elsa, as well. Emma couldn’t help but tease Elsa for being totally obvious.
Of course, Elsa had an opportunity to rib Emma back. When Emma’s final semester finished, and she’d graduated and moved back to Storybrooke, she’d been none too happy. She’d hoped to have heard back about her scholarship by then, and had thus not applied for any jobs, hoping to be halfway across the world by now.
And so she’d picked up a couple of shifts at Granny’s, not willing to sit at home and do nothing all day. She just had to be patient. It was during a really slow summer afternoon shift that she first met Killian. He came in wearing a shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his shoulders, leaving his bulging biceps on full display, sweat glistening off his skin. She still got embarrassed thinking about how obviously she’d ogled him, Killian having to wave his hand in front of her face to catch her attention.
They’d hit it off immediately, both of them having just finished college. He was a good few years older than her, already having received a residency position at Storybrooke General. And because his residency didn’t start for another several weeks, he was helping his brother, Liam, out. All of this she’d learned as he ate his lunch at her counter, flirting with her obnoxiously in between bites. Over the course of the next month, they’d become quick friends, Killian quickly falling in line with the rest of Emma’s friends.
Emma wiped her brow, having just finished a surprisingly gruelling afternoon shift at Granny’s. She walked the short distance to the docks, take out bag clutched in her hand. She knew that she’d find Killian there, working on his brother’s boat, getting it ready for Liam’s new idea of starting tours in the summer. She’d rolled her eyes at the idea, knowing that Storybrooke wasn’t exactly touristy enough for people to want to go on tours.
“Ahoy, there!” she exclaimed, her voice loud and startling Killian, who had his headphones in and hadn’t heard her come aboard.
“Bloody hell, Swan. You scared me,” he admonished, glaring at her, before looking down at what she was holding, his eyes quickly brightening. “Is that for me?”
She chuckled, nodding and handing him his meal over. “Granny’s best batch of onion rings, if I say so myself. And grilled cheese, of course.”
“Of course,” he mumbled, already having stuffed his mouth with a large bite of his sandwich, groaning in delight. “That is good.”
Emma swallowed thickly, the sound doing something to her - something she did not want to explore. “So, you heard about Graham’s party today?” she asked, clearing her throat.
“Yuh-huh. You thinking of going?” he asked, sitting on one of the overturned crate, patting the one next to him for her to sit.
“Of course I’m going. Graham and I have a business strategy to discuss,” she teased.
“Ah, yes. Your big plans to move all the way to Boston and open a bar. Very funny, Swan, haha,” he rolled his eyes.
“Do- do you want to come with me, maybe?” she asked, biting her lower lip.
He paused with his sandwich halfway to his mouth, his eyes wide in disbelief. “What, to Boston?”
Emma’s own eyes widened as she shook her head, quick to correct him. “No, I meant Graham’s party. He’s joking about the Boston thing. Mostly.”
Killian blinked, his surprise taken over by a much softer sort of bewilderment. “Of course I’d come with you, Emma.” Sensing the heavy tension, he, of course, turned it into something else. “Who wouldn’t want me for a date, love? A devilishly handsome lad such a meself, and a fetching lass like you - we would turn quite a few heads, don’t you think?”
She shook her head, pushing him away. “Do you ever not flirt?”
He tried to look affronted but he couldn’t stop from chuckling. “Swan, I always tell you this. Flirting is good for health. Like yoga.”
Emma was putting the finishing touches on her outfit, playing with the ringlets she’d carefully spent the past hour curling. It may be just another party at Graham’s but it felt different, knowing that she was going with Killian, and not meeting him there like she would usually. Just when she’d deemed herself ready, she heard Ingrid call her downstairs, a certain edge to her voice.
Worried, Emma rushed down the stairs, her heels clutched in her hands. “Mom? What happened? Are you okay?”
She rounded the corner and into the sitting room, where her mother sat, clutching a large envelope. “You- you never told me you applied anywhere,” Ingrid said in reply, her voice shaking.
Emma sucked in a sharp breath, her heart stuttering in her chest. “Is that for me?” she demanded, striding over to her mother and grabbing the envelope from her hands, turning it over. And there on the corner, was the University of Arts, London label.
She finally got it.
“Fuck,” she whispered. And the bell rang.
She heard her mother answer the door while she sat in a daze, her eyes roving over and over the same words. Congratulation, Ms. Swan.
It could have been minutes, hours, even days - she hardly cared. She finally got everything she’d ever wanted. She felt tears run down her cheeks, a grin threatening to burst through. She was startled by a hand on her shoulder and concerned blue eyes swimming in her gaze.
“Swan, you alright?” Killian asked, crouching in front of her.
She shook her head, the grin finally breaking through. “I’m going to London,” she announced, the first time she ever said the words out loud.
And from then, it was just a whirlwind of preparations, Emma wanting to get there as soon as she could. In all the chaos, she kept putting off telling Ruby and Graham, making Killian promise not to tell anyone. She knew she had to stop putting it off, but she had no idea how to tell them she planned on moving to another country. It wasn’t like her mother took it well either - Ingrid had actually refused to talk to her for a while, and it took a lot of convincing from Emma to forgive her.
“It’s not that I’m not proud of you,” she said. “Because I am. But you should have told me, this is a big decision.”
In the end, she never got a chance to tell Ruby and Graham herself. Somehow Liam got to know (she was guessing Elsa told him) and he asked her about it in front of them.
“You’re going where?” Ruby demanded, hands on her hips and nostrils flaring. “Why didn’t you tell us?”
“I- I never thought I’d get it.”
“But you should have told us! It’s another country, Emma!” Ruby exclaimed, throwing her hands up for emphasis.
Emma rolled her eyes, “Yes, I am aware, Ruby. Thank you.” She took in a deep breath. “Look, I wanted to tell you guys myself. It just wasn’t the right time, and I just have a lot to do before I leave. I know I shouldn’t have kept putting it off. I’m sorry.”
“When do you leave?” Graham asked, his voice surprisingly soft.
“A month, month and half, maybe.”
Both Ruby’s and Graham’s eyes widened, shock shifting to anger. “What, we weren’t important enough for you to tell us sooner? Thought you could just leave and we would understand,” Graham snapped.
“Graham,” Ruby tried to stop him, but he ignored her.
“We had plans, Em. We were going to leave this dead-end town and move to Boston. I could have finally left my step-mother’s house. We talked about this, and now it’s just easy for you to throw it away.”
“I thought you were joking about it, Graham! I mean, what did you think? That it would be easy to just move to Boston and set up a bar? Are you mad?” Emma snapped back.
He laughed humourlessly. “I guess I am for thinking you’d ever stay around. You just keep running, Emma. That’s what you’re good at.”
And with those words, he walked away, Ruby running after him, promising Emma that he’d come back and apologise. But he never did, and a month later, when she was leaving, it was only Ruby and Killian who’d come to say goodbye. Thinking that Graham was upset and realising that her best friend didn’t even want to say goodbye were two completely different things.
She’s put her final bag in her mother’s car, hugging Ruby tight. “I’ll be back before you know it,” she whispered to the brunette, tears burning the back of her closed lids. “Love you in case I die.”
“Come back soon, Em,” Ruby whispered back, hugging her tighter. “Love you in case I die.”
Emma pulled back, chuckling as she swiped at her cheeks. “I should go now.” Ruby nodded, stepping back.
Just as she opened the car door, Killian’s hand on her arm stopped her. She turned around, her heart in her throat. With how fast everything happened, they never even got time together or even figure out what they were. “Killian,” she breathed out, her hands clenching at her sides, so she doesn’t do something stupid like grab him and kiss him.
“Swan,” he nodded, smiling sadly at her. “Off to see the world, huh?”
She chuckled despite herself. “Gotta start somewhere, right?”
“Right.” He breathed deep, his expression suddenly serious, his blue eyes never leaving her gaze. He grabbed her hand, squeezing tightly, hoping to get everything he felt across. “This was the best summer.”
“Yeah.” Emma had to bite her cheek to keep from crying. She was halfway falling for him when everything changed, and she was leaving now. As much as she wanted to ask him to wait for her, she couldn’t. It wasn’t fair to him, at all.
But yet again, he surprised her. “There’s not a day will go that I won’t think of you.”
Emma swallowed thickly, tears swimming in her eyes, and blurring her vision. “Good.”
With the party winding down in the wee hours of the morning, everyone started dispersing to their respective rooms, leaving Graham, Killian, Emma, Ruby and Dorothy, laughing as Emma enthralled them with yet another story from her travels. Killian still hadn’t spoken to her, not having a moment alone with her, and for that he was glad. Because for all the times that he’d fantasized about this moment, when the moment was actually here, he had no idea what to say. He wanted to hug her, he wanted to just grab her and kiss her. Tell her how much he’d missed her. Tell her about his work at the hospital, ask about her job. Tell her what he was supposed to five years ago, because damn him, but he still loved her. He swore, he loved her even more now than he did back then.
He excused himself, waving away everyone’s concern as he went to the bathroom, locking the door behind him. He sucked in a sharp breath, wrinkling his nose at the stench. Of course he’d chosen here to gather himself, not the pantry or even the supply closet with all the clean smells. He quickly washed his hands, wanting to get out of there as soon as he could. But just as he went to open the door, he heard two voices arguing, one distinctly male. Graham, he realized. And the other one - Emma.
After a heated argument, ending with Emma shouting so loud that Ruby had to come break up the fight, he heard her leave in a huff. Waiting for a moment, to ensure that no one else was outside, he exited the restroom. He had heard enough from the conversation to know just what to do. The thing he’d been avoiding the most: talking to her.
After a bit of searching, he found her at the pool, her feet dangling in the water. He took a moment, admiring her beauty in the moonlight, her skin looking paler and her hair almost white. She looked like an angel, he mused, before quickly shaking the thoughts from his head. He couldn’t go there again, not with her. Right now, she just needed a friend.
“Hey,” he greeted, sitting cross-legged beside her.
She turned to him, her gaze steady and clear as she stared at him for a moment, her expression stony, before a smile broke through, making him sigh in relief on the inside.
“I was wondering when you’d come. You were standing behind me for so long, I’d have been creeped out if it had been anyone else.” Those were the first words she’d said to him in five years. He chuckled loudly, shaking his head at her, and handing her a beer.
“So,” he began, sipping his own beer. “You married?”
Startled at his question, she whipped her head to look at him. “What? No!” she sputtered. “Why do you ask?”
“So I’d know if I should behave or if I could flirt,” he teased, a twinkle in his eye as her cheeks grew warm.
“Is flirting my punishment for not getting married?” she asked snarkily.
“Aye,” he grinned back. “Besides, flirting is good for the health, Swan.”
“Like yoga,” she finished, rolling her eyes. “You’re still so predictable.” He stiffened at her words, but did not allow her to see how much they affected him. “I’ve missed you,” she said after a long time.
“I’ve missed you too, Swan,” he replied, smiling at her fondly. He took a moment, taking her in, noticing all the small changes.
“What?” she asked self-consciously.
“You just, you haven’t changed much. Well, except for one thing.”
“Oh, yeah? What’s that?”
“You used to smile a lot more. I missed that.”
There was long pause, his words sinking in. When it was clear that she wasn’t going to say anything else, he moved to stand up.
“No. Stay.” And so he did, knowing that it would just be some time before she told him what was on her mind.
“Graham and I got into a fight,” she said finally, snapping him away from his wandering thoughts. “He said, he said a bunch of stuff.”
“No, it’s okay,” she sniffled. “I was gone for five years, Killian. I couldn’t really expect things to remain the same. I just, I had to leave, you know? I’ve always dreamed about travelling, and then I got that scholarship and then I had to focus on my career. I just always thought that I could come back to you guys.”
“And you can, Emma.” He wrapped his arm around her, pulling her closer to him. “Graham is an idiot. He was drunk and he said some things he didn’t mean.”
“Except that he did. We aren’t friends anymore. I just don’t fit in here,” she confessed, making his heart squeeze painfully.
“Hush, Swan. Don’t say that.” She simply shrugged his arm off, smiling sadly at him.
“I’m going to crash,” she said, wiping at her tears. “It was nice catching up with you, Jones.”
“Likewise, Swan,” he called after her, left alone with his own thoughts.
Emma lounged on Ruby’s bed, flipping through the channels on the television lazily as the other woman kept arguing on the phone with someone. “Damn caterers,” she muttered, ending the call and turning her attention back to Emma.
“So, how’s London?” she asked, taking a seat on the bed.
“I have no clue.”
“Don’t you live there?”
Emma shook her head, continuing to flip through the channels. “I moved to Amsterdam a couple years ago,” she explained.
“You never told us,” Ruby complained, frowning disapprovingly at her. “How did you even get my wedding invitation?”
“My job kept me too busy for me to think about where I had a house, Rube,” Emma replied in way of an explanation. “And I didn’t. I got Killian’s email.”
Ruby raised her eyebrows at Emma, as if she’d said something that she shouldn’t have. “ Killian emailed you?”
“Yeah. I figured he told you.” Her brows pulled together in confusion. “Although, I never responded to his email, so he probably didn’t want to get your hopes up.”
“That’s not why I’m surprised, and you know it.” Ruby shifted on the bed so she sat facing Emma. “What is going on with you two? I saw you talking by the pool last night. It looked pretty intense.”
“It’s nothing.” Emma rolled her eyes, already knowing what was coming next, and had every intention of stopping it. “Ruby, he was just being a good friend. That’s all.”
Ruby opened her mouth to argue when Graham burst through the door, informing Ruby something about flowers which had her running from the room, angrily muttering about lilacs.
Graham stood awkwardly at the door, nodding at Emma before he turned to leave. “Graham, wait.” She stood up from the bed. “I wanted to apologise. You were right, I should have tried harder to keep in touch.”
He nodded icily, arms crossed against his chest. When he said nothing, she prattled on, “I had to put in a lot of time and effort, Graham. Being a travel journalist isn’t easy and I had to focus on paving my path. It had been my dream for years.”
He scoffed. “Of course, it’s all about you, isn’t it, Emma? Your dreams, your career. Your life. Did you even stop once to think about Ruby and I? Did you know that she didn’t even expect you to turn up for her wedding?” Emma’s heart clenched as Graham just continued cruelly. “Did you think about Elsa? Ingrid?”
“Don’t you dare, Graham,” she warned him when he brought up Ingrid, her eyes blazing.
“Was your life, your career so important that you couldn’t be bothered to come back to your own mother’s funeral,” he hissed. Before she knew what she was doing, she’d slapped him, eyes welling with unshed tears.
“How dare you.”
“How dare I? How dare you! Elsa needed you, Emma. After Ingrid, you’re all she had. How could you just abandon her?”
She clenched her jaw, his every word felt like a piece of glass embedding in her heart. “Maybe Ruby was right to not expect anything from me,” she breathed out, pushing past him and running away. That was all she was good at, anyway.
Emma stuffed her camera in her bag, followed by her wallet and her phone, grabbing her coat on the way. She shuffled down the hallway, lingering for a few moments before knocking on the door she stood in front of.
“Swan?” Killian looked bemused to see her outside his room at the break of dawn. “What the bloody hell are you doing up so early?”
“Let’s go explore the city, Jones. It’s a beautiful day outside, and we have so little time here,” she announced, pushing past him and sauntering in his room. “C’mon. Let’s go.”
He blinked at her, having trouble understanding where she got her energy from so early in the day. “Bloody hell, it’s 6 am. How are you awake?” he groused, walking towards the closet to pull out a set of clothes.
“I want to leave before Ruby wakes up and drags me to yet another fitting. Plenty of motivation, my friend!”
He chuckled, promising to shower quickly and join her.
It was an hour later, and they were walking idly around the cobbled streets of Vienna, Killian sipping his large coffee, as Emma paused to click her photographs. “So, this is your life, is it? You and your camera?” he asked, smiling indulgently as she made him pose for a photo.
She shrugged, smiling back. “It’s a good life. Living in a new city every week. You don’t know that feeling.”
“There’s no feeling like home, Swan,” he said in disagreement, not noticing as she stopped for a moment, his words sitting her like a sucker punch to the gut. Shaking the voice in the back of her head, sounding decidedly like Graham’s, she kept walking.
“Trying new cuisine, almost every day,” she bragged, smirking at him over her shoulder.
He walked up to her, grabbing her camera from her hand, and despite her protests clicking a few pictures of her. “And yet, I know you miss Granny’s grilled cheese and onion rings, Swan,” he teased, handing her the camera back. It was his turn to smirk, leaving her dumbfounded.
“I know what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to entice me back to Storybrooke.” She narrowed her eyes at him.
He chuckled, dragging her along with him when she refused to move. “I’m truly not. I’m just saying, you’re not wrong to want all these new experiences, Emma. You’ve always wanted that, and I can’t fault you for that. But I’m not wrong either.” He stopped suddenly, turning to face her, a serene smile on his face. She felt her breath catch, the look in his eyes all too familiar to that last night before she’d left.
“Killian,” she breathed out, her voice softer than a whisper. “I-”
“You’re not wrong,” he cut off gently. “You’re just very different from me.”
She wanted to agree with him, tell him yes, she was different. That she would never fit in anywhere. She was too flighty, and she could never settle down in one place. She wanted to tell him no matter how much she loved Ingrid, she never felt like she belonged. She had spent so long in foster care, moving from one place to another, that that was all she knew. Even when she was adopted, that need to move, to keep moving never left her. She wanted to tell him so much, because he was the only one who’d understand her. But if she did, it would make her too vulnerable, and she wasn’t ready for that.
When he realized that she wasn’t going to dignify him with a response, he looked away. The way she let out an almost imperceptible breath of relief shouldn’t have hurt as much as it did, especially after all these years. But you can’t be in love with Emma Swan, without being in love with Emma Swan .
He clapped his hands together, startling her. “Right. We should be on our way.”
By sundown, both Killian and Emma found themselves at a near empty park, taking a seat at a bench. Killian smiled, eyes crinkling at the corners, as he took in the setting sun. The remaining glow bringing out the reds in his beard. Emma pressed against his shoulder, prompting him to lift it up and around her shoulders, bringing her closer to his side.
“I miss my mom,” Emma whispered after a long silence, her voice breaking at the end. She sniffled, tucking her hair behind both ears – something she always did when she was nervous, he knew. He also knew that he couldn’t say anything to comfort her, so he simply hugged her tighter, waiting for more. “I miss her so much, Killian. I wish I had been there, I wish I could have seen her just one last time.”
“But no. I went on an assignment, and I had no reception, so of course, I got the messages a week later. A week later,” she cried, burrowing further into his side, her throat thick with restrained sobs. “I wasn’t even there when they buried my mom. I missed her last moments, all because I was chasing some- something . I don’t even know what. I still remember her asking me to come home for Christmas, and I cancelled last minute for this stupid, stupid assignment.
“After that, I couldn’t bear coming to Storybrooke. It just hurt too much; I couldn’t face any of you. So, I did what I did best,” she shrugged. “I ran, and ran and ran. Until I couldn’t anymore, I guess. But by then it was too late, and I hadn’t spoken to Elsa in over a year. I didn’t know what I could possibly say, so I said nothing. And here we are, three years later and I’m as alone as I ever was.”
“You have never been alone, and you will never be alone,” Killian protested fiercely. He made her look at him, grabbing her by her chin and meeting her gaze steadfastly. “You will always have me. Emma, I- I was always there for you. I am always here, love.”
“Killian,” she stuttered out, knowing what he was getting to. But she couldn’t let him do that, not when she couldn’t possibly reciprocate his feelings. Well, she could. It would be so easy, to love him. It was so easy to love him, if she was being honest with herself. But it wasn’t as easy to stop running, not from him necessarily, but from the settled down life, in a dead-end town, with a white picket fence and 2.5 kids and probably, knowing them, a dog. But this was exactly why she couldn’t do it – she wanted .
She wanted that life so much, and she could never have it and be happy. Soon, she would have that urge to leave, and she would end up hurting everyone, again. That was why she came here, to say a final goodbye, even though the others might not really know it. She was finally given her own show on a network, which meant more travel – everything she’d ever wanted. So, no, she couldn’t let him do this, she couldn’t break his heart.
“Emma, I just need to say this.”
“Killian, wait,” she shushed him, taking a deep breath. “I’m leaving.”
He froze, staring at her with a clenched jaw and wide eyes, before he quickly composed himself, chuckling slightly. “What, now?”
She shook her head. “No. I mean, after the wedding.”
“Well, we all are,” he tried joking, but her pursed mouth gave him pause.
“Killian,” she almost whined. “I’m leaving, for Paris, and probably Germany from there. And then Russia.”
He swallowed thickly, refusing to listen to his head as he pressed further. “What does that mean?”
Emma let out a shuddering breath, squeezing his arms as she leant her forehead against his. “It means that I am getting my own show. It means no more desk duty. It means more travel.”
“It means you can’t come home,” he finished for her, pulling away. The sudden distance between them made Emma’s heart clench.
She shuffled towards him, the bench only allowing him to create so much space. “Hey, look at me,” she urged, framing his face with her hands and turning him towards her. “ Please ,” she begged when he refused to meet her gaze. And of course, that got his attention - he was never very good at denying her. “I want everything you want, Killian. Trust me. I just- I don’t know what to do.”
Killian squeezed his eyes, biting his bottom lip hard. “Stop it, Emma,” he gritted out. “You can’t do this.” He opened his eyes, hands grabbing her wrists and pulled them away. “You can’t say things like this and then fly away.” He stood by, starting to walk away, when she called him.
And of course, he stopped.
He whirled around, cutting her off. Emma had to stifle a gasp at how wrecked he looks, his jaw clenching and eyes rimmed with red. “I can’t spend another moment with you, love. Because if I do, if I keep letting myself indulge in this fantasy of us , I will find myself falling in love with you, all over again. And you wouldn’t love me back. Again.”
Emma couldn’t bear the thought, realizing that he never fully understood her feelings for him, just how strong they were. She surged forward, pulling him by the lapels of his jacket as she slanted her lips over his, pouring everything she felt into the kiss. She might not have been able to say it yet, but she could show him. After a second’s hesitation, he kissed her back, a whimper raising from the back of his throat, making her heartstrings pull.
“Emma,” he murmured against her lips, breathing hard. “Gods, I’ve waited for so long for this.”
“Me too,” she confessed, smiling softly, her eyes still closed. Things seemed to finally look up. Which was why she grew confused when he pulled back. “What is it?”
“We shouldn’t,” he breathed out, his eyes never leaving her lips.
“Why not?” she challenged, pressing up against him. “We both want it.”
And before they knew it, they found themselves coming together in her hotel room, their clothes spread throughout the room. If this was going to be their last night together, Killian was going to make sure it was the best night that she had.
Emma was startled awake by a loud pounding on the door, her bedmate groaning loudly. She hid her smile against his shoulder, snuggling closer to him.
“Not how I pictured waking up next to you, Swan,” Killian complained, pulling her almost on top of him, burying his face in her hair.
“You pictured waking up next to me, huh?” she teased, folding her hands on his chest and balancing her chin on them.
He hummed, running his fingers down her bare back, making her shiver. “Of course. It was my favourite dream,” he said, a bittersweet undertone to his voice than made her bite her lip.
“Would you say all your dreams came true, then?” she asked, diverting his mind.
And at that, he smiled so bright, she was sure that the sun couldn’t compare. “No.”
“No, this is better. Because you’re still here when I wake up.”
Tears pricked the corner of her eyes at his words. She pressed her lips to his, the kiss soft and sweet, much different than the ones from last night. They were brought out of their little bubble by another series of knocks, this time more insistent.
“Come on, Emma! Wake up, wake up, wake up!” Ruby bellowed. “It’s my wedding day!”
They both chuckled quietly. “Happy Ruby’s wedding day, love,” Killian teased.
“Happy Ruby’s wedding day,” she grinned, kissing him chastely before getting out of bed, wrapping the sheets around her. “I’m going to get ready,” she gestured to the bathroom, suddenly feeling awkward.
He scratched behind his ears. “Right. I should get going as well.” Pulling on his pants, he looked up at her, something heavy behind his gaze, as if he was memorizing her like this, properly fucked and with the sheets surrounding her.
“What?” she asked self-consciously.
“Nothing,” he replied, too quickly, shaking himself from his reverie. “You look beautiful, Swan.”
His words sent a rush through her, as she went red. “I’ll see you at wedding, then?”
“I’ll save you a seat,” he promised.
Emma grinned, happy tears in her eyes, as she watched her best friend marry the woman of her dreams. She leaned back in her chair, feeling Killian’s arm on the back of it, a kind of comfort in his presence. She looked up at him, only to finding him already looking at her. They both exchanged sweet smiles, even as Emma felt there was something off about his smile.
Soon enough, they found themselves at the reception, all of them dancing together, Emma’s arm draped over Ruby’s, laughing at Graham’s ridiculous dance moves. After a while, in desperate need of a drink, Emma sat at the bar, smiling widely as she saw Ruby and Dorothy dance, lost in each other.
“Hey,” came an accented voice next to her ear, making her jump.
“Hey,” she responded, turning in her seat to look properly at Graham, her smile still in place.
“I’m sorry,” they both said at the same time, laughing slightly afterwards.
He shook his head, taking a seat next to her, unbuttoning his jacket. “I’m sorry I said those things, Emma.”
“No, you were right. I- I should have been here.”
“Yeah, but I was still a right arse for blaming you. You didn’t abandon us,” he sighed, grabbing her hand.
She sniffled, smiling a watery smile at her best friend. “I am still sorry for not keeping in touch. I’ll be better, I promise.”
He raised his champagne glass to her, “Here’s to new adventures?” he offered.
“I’ll drink to that,” she laughed, clinking her glass to his own. “I missed you.”
“I missed you too, Swanson,” he teased.
She huffed, “Would you ever let that go?”
“Forgive me, but I took a pact to remind you of that as many times as I can,” he replied, pseudo-seriously.
“It was years ago!” she exclaimed.
“You dressed up at Ron Swanson for Halloween, Emma. You deserve this.”
She shook her head, chuckling. It was only when she looked up did she notice Killian staring at her from across the dance floor, a strange look in his eyes. Her apprehension only got worse when he turned away when she beckoned him over. Giving some excuse to Graham, she walked over to Killian, grabbing his arm.
“Hey, what’s up with you?” she asked, gaze shifting over his face.
“Nothing, love. I’m fine.”
Her brows almost shot to her hairline at the obvious lie. She scoffed, crossing her arms, “Sure you are. Now, really. What happened? I thought we were good.”
“Maybe now’s not the best time, Emma,” he whispered. “Would you care to dance?” he asked, abruptly changing topics, and throwing her off. And before she could protest, he’d dragged her to the dance floor, pulling her closer by her waist. Her arms automatically went around his neck, as they both swayed to the soft music.
Emma felt his steady heartbeat under her ear, smiling as she rested against his chest. She knew they had a lot to talk about, but maybe, now, she could finally admit to him what she’d been feeling. She could finally admit to herself. Maybe they could figure things out later, maybe – just maybe, it would all work out.
But of course, before she could, things went south.
“Emma, I love you,” he confessed, his breath warm in her ear. She smiled at that, ready to say the words back, finally. Unfortunately, his next words gave her pause. “But saying ‘I love you’, that’s just the beginning, isn’t it, love? Because, what happens next, is the two people can’t handle what those three words mean.”
Emma froze in his arms, pulling back to look at him with tears threatening to fall. “What are you doing? Why are you saying this?” she demanded, her voice cracking.
“Shh, Swan. I’m not trying to hurt you,” he promised, gathering her in his arms.
“What did I do wrong?”
“Nothing. You’re not wrong, Emma. I promise. You’re just very different from me.”
“Killian,” she whimpered. “Stop, you’re scaring me. I love you.”
She felt more than heard his breath catch in his throat with how tight they were pressed together. “Gods, how I longed to hear you say these words.”
“If you want me, then why are you pushing me away?” she questioned, her hands fisting in his suit.
“Because I can’t watch you leave,” he said, honestly. “You know what I want to tell you? ‘Don’t go to Paris. Give up on your dreams for me. Don’t leave me, because I can’t follow you when my life is in Storybrooke. My brother, Elsa, Ruby – my job, everything else but you, Emma. So, don’t go.’ That’s what I really want to tell you.
“Or maybe, I could say, ‘Go to Paris, follow your dreams. But come back after that, and never leave again.’ But I can’t ask that of you, either, can I?” Killian let out a harsh breath, burrowing against her neck. “Gods, this is hard, Swan.”
“Then stop it,” she begged, holding on tighter. “Let’s just stay here, in this moment.”
“The moment is already gone. Emma, darling, please ,” he implored. “I cannot make you give up on your dreams for me. But I can’t keep holding on to the hope that you’ll ever want me more than you want to leave me.”
“What are you trying to say, Jones?” she bit out through her tears.
“That we should forget about each other,” he said, all in one breath. Emma’s heart felt like it was turned to ice, and everything seemed to stop for her. “We have until the end of this song, and then we move on, yes?”
“No,” she whined, because song was ending, and she wasn’t ready to let go. “No,” she said more firmly.
“Five more minutes,” she pressed, nails digging into his neck with how strong her hug was.
“ Emma .”
“Five seconds, please.”
And before she could take her next breath, five seconds were over. And so were they.
Elsa Fisher had always hoped that her cousin would return home one day. She’d imagined a number of scenarios. Emma would come barging in on Christmas morning, waking her up at an ungodly hour. Or Emma would drop in on Thanksgiving at Liam’s house, as was their long standing tradition, even before her Aunt Ingrid had passed. Or maybe even come stay with her on the anniversary of Ingrid’s death, so they could remember and mourn her together.
No matter how much Emma’s silence cut her at her soul, Elsa could never get mad at her. Because Elsa had Anna and Kristoff, no matter how far away they were, she had them. But Emma had loved Ingrid beyond anything; and so, she could understand why Emma never wanted to come back to Storybrooke. She’d wait patiently for her, knowing that Emma would soon find her way back – just as Aunt Ingrid had promised her. But nothing could have prepared her for the sight that greeted her two weeks after Ruby’s wedding (She was invited of course, but Liam had to stay behind, and she didn’t want to leave him alone).
“Emma?” Elsa gasped, taking in her cousin’s ragged appearance and tear-stained face. “Oh god, are you alright?” she exclaimed, pulling the other blonde into the house, and out of the harsh Maine winter.
“I’m so sorry,” Emma sobbed, throwing herself at Elsa, forcing her to balance the both of them. “I’m sorry I never came back. It was just too hard, and I’m sorry I abandoned you.”
Elsa ran a soothing hand down Emma’s back, hushing her with softly whispered words of comfort. “You’re home now. That’s all that matters.” And her words resonated within her heart, igniting a spark that had long since diminished. She’s home now. That’s all that mattered .
Elsa placed a mug of hot chocolate in front of her cousin, dousing it in generous amounts of whipped cream and cinnamon. “You ready to talk now?” she asked, after Emma had taken a few sips of the warm beverage.
It had taken a while for Elsa to calm her unusually hysterical cousin, unable to understand her garbled words through her tears. Hopefully, she could finally find out what drove Emma home.
Emma shrugged, her face forlorn. “I don’t know where I should start.”
“The beginning, as always,” Elsa smiled encouragingly, her hand squeezing Emma’s, letting her know that she was there for her, whatever it may be.
And so, Emma began her tale, starting from when she went to Vienna, to now. “I just, I really love him, and I don’t know what to do, Elsa. He said we can’t keep doing this back-and-forth thing; maybe he’s right.” Emma sighed deeply, her heart heavy.
“You know what you need to do, don’t you?” Elsa asked once Emma was done, a smile blooming on Elsa’s face. When Emma stared at her, nonplussed, Elsa’s grin only grew wider. “You are finally back home, Emma. You needed comfort, and you came back here. To your home. That’s what you’ve been searching for all these years, right?”
Emma gaped at her, her eyes widening in surprised as if she’d never realized it before. “I- You’re right…” she trailed off. “I never thought I’d want to come-” She cut herself off, standing so quickly, she scared Elsa.
“Where’re you going?” Elsa exclaimed as Emma grabbed her coat, rushing out the door.
“There’s someone I need to see. I’ll be right back!” she shouted behind her, the door slamming shut. Elsa shook her head, smiling to herself. Emma Swan is finally home .
Emma pounded on the door in front of her, bouncing on the balls of her feet nervously. She was sure she was flushed, her joy overcompensating for her previous sorrow. “C’mon, c’mon,” she muttered, banging on the door again. She heard muffled cursing, before the door was wrenched open.
Killian’s annoyance faded to shock to awe in a matter of seconds, his mouth hung open. “E-Emma?”
“Wh-what are you doing here?” he stuttered out.
And at that, she smiled so bright, he was sure that the bloody sun couldn’t compare. “I’m home,” she breathed out. “I am home.”