This was written for the CS Blind Date Event on Tumblr. The bookcover used on here was made for me by my friend Kate, Imaginifika, on tumblr, after she read the story. Enjoy.
Out of the Darkness Comes Love
Growing up on a small farm just outside of Storybrooke, Maine, Emma Nolan had it all; two parents, doting older brothers and friends. In the summer, she could be found at the beach or at Leo's ice skating during the day, and at night, watching movies on the lawn in the town square or at Leo's bowling. Her winters, once the pond froze over, were spent skating or cheering for her brothers and their friends during their impromptu hockey games. Life was magic, and she was a princess, until tragedy struck and her world came crashing down.
A snowy road, a blow out and gone was the happy, carefree Emma, leaving behind a serious, solemn girl in her place. David, the surviving twin, gave up his college scholarship, coming home to run the family farm, trying to give her some normalcy. But it didn't seem to matter what was tried, the only time Emma seemed happy was when she stepped onto the ice and then she transformed into a beautiful swan.
Standing on the steps of the farmhouse, that had seen better days, David watched his sister skate around the pond. Their parents had been gone nine months and he had learned to recognize Emma's moods and this one said leave me alone. And he did, to a point, even though it was one of the most difficult things he had ever done. He left her alone physically, but when she was in a mood, he never allowed her to get far from his sight.
During her down times, he watched, and was thrilled as she tried moves on the ice, she had seen before, hoping that maybe it was a sign that the old Emma was returning. More often though, she just skated in circles, almost as if she was trying to outrun her pain. It didn't seem to matter what she skated, but she skated until she was exhausted and then she would let him hold her while she cried. He was happy that the times it was happening were fewer and farther between than in the beginning, but every time it occurred, David was felt helpless. He wanted to be there for his sister, but he was unsure as to what he should do.
Dropping down onto an old swing on the porch, David pulled his phone out of his pocket. It had been vibrating on and off for the last thirty minutes and without even looking, he knew who it was, "Liam," he sighed, "Don't you ever give up?"
"You know the answer," his friend answered quietly. David knew Liam was worried about him, but he just wasn't sure what to say or do, "You are coming, right?" Liam continued to prod.
"I was planning to, but...," He glanced toward the pond where Emma continued her circles, "Emma needs me." he finished knowing that Liam understood what was meant without him having to explain.
"David, it's your birthday." Liam continued to try to persuade him to go. "Did Emma even remember?"
She hadn't remembered anything beyond it being the date of their parents' death, but he wasn't sure if he would have remembered either if he wasn't turning twenty-one and could officially have an alcoholic drink at the Rabbit Hole. Since Liam had turned twenty-one several months prior, it had been something they had discussed often, "No, but she shouldn't be alone tonight."
Liam's laughter had David's radar firing, "Don't worry, I'm sending a friend to stay with her."
"A friend?" When he saw the old brown truck bouncing along the driveway, he knew exactly who had been nominated, "Killian?" he quizzed, "What did you promise him to get him to give up his Friday to hang with my kid sister?"
He was surprised when Liam answered, "Nothing. Killian actually volunteered." Then Liam hurried on with, "We'll see you at the Rabbit Hole in thirty minutes." and hung up before David could ask who the 'we' was.
"Killian," David greeted the younger man as soon as he opened the truck's door, "I...I appreciate this."
Killian barely glanced David's direction, but gave a little wave as he picked up his battered ice skates and walked through the snow toward where Emma was still circling the ice. David thought about warning the younger boy regarding what might happen, as well as tell his sister where he was going, but in the end he didn't. There was something in the way Killian was walking toward Emma, that told him whatever he had to say wasn't needed.
The Jones family had been friends with the Nolan family for as long as Killian could remember, which meant he had grown up thinking of Emma, two years his junior, as a sister. But that had started to change the summer before her parents' accident, when he saw her at the beach. Gone was the skinny, tom-boy of the summer before, replaced with a girl who filled out her bikini, in all the right places. Suddenly, Emma was starring in his dreams in a much different capacity than ever before. After that, he set his mind to trying to win the fair maiden's heart, but no matter how much he tried, he couldn't get her to see him as anything more than the brother she had always known. He was in that friend zone and didn't know how to get out.
When her parents died in February, Emma had stayed with his family for a few months, allowing David to finish his semester at college. While it might not have been the ideal way to get close to her, he was there for her to lean on and several nights had been the one to hear her crying, offering his shoulder when it was needed. It was during that time, he had decided he never wanted to lose Emma, and if all she saw him was as a friend, he would accept that and honor her wishes. It hadn't completely stopped his feelings for her though.
He loved watching her move, both on the ice as well as off, but when she was skating, her beauty took his breath away. The way she glided across the ice mesmerized him and her gracefulness reminded him of a swan in motion, especially when her long blonde hair flew around her head like a swan with its wings spread wide. He couldn't get enough, as he was content to stare at her all day. "Swan," he called teasingly when he was where she could hear him, "Can I?" he held up his skates. When she nodded her head, slowing down slightly, he stopped and slipped them on. Now, the fun begins, he thought as he stepped onto the ice.
Emma knew the minute Killian turned onto their drive, but she couldn't say how she knew. Was it the hum of the engine in his old pick-up or was there some invisible connection between them that couldn't be explained? Since their families had been friends forever, the four boys had always treated her like the little sister, never knowing that she secretly harbored a little crush on Killian. Acting on that crush though, that was something different.
Killian had always been that boy that she watched from afar, assuming he was 'out of her league.' Not in the way that meant she felt he was too good for her, but because of the history between their families. And as they had gotten older and she watched him work his way through girl after girl, she decided that no boy, especially one who was a friend first, would have that much control over her heart. It hadn't been too difficult until last summer when he turned those blue eyes her direction and her traitorous heart almost abandoned her. But by convincing herself that he only wanted what he couldn't have, she had resisted...externally at least. That didn't mean that every time he winked, her heart didn't flip in her chest and she didn't want to squeal, it just meant that she saved the excitement for when she was alone in her room. She spent time filling pages in her diary, but her feelings remained just that, her feelings. After the accident everything in her life had changed and he was there to be what she needed him to be…a true friend.
She wasn't sure if he had known that today was going to be a bad day or not, but here he was again; her champion when she hadn't even asked. "Hi." She gave him what felt like an awkward smile but chalked it up to not using those muscles all day.
"Hey." He returned her shy smile before a cocky grin crossed his face and she readied herself for what was to follow, "Race you." He took off before she could formulate any other thoughts, but knowing it was what she needed, Emma took off after him hoping that the wind she created would blow her melancholy away.
Killian mindlessly followed Emma, a part of him focused on her, the other on maintaining his dignity on the unfamiliar ice. Emma, on the other hand, skated as if the very hounds of hell were on her tail making him want to stick close so he could catch her lest she fall. Their conversation while skating, was minimal, including only a word here or there, but when her expression softened and she grinned at him the tension in his shoulders relaxed slightly. It was a beginning.
He lost track of how long they had been skating, but by the shadows knew it was getting late and the sun would soon be setting. His legs were also beginning to feel like jelly, pushing him to skate in front of her and transition to skating backward, "Care to rest?" he tossed out, in what he hoped was a flippant manner.
The twinkle in her eye said she wasn't buying it. "What's the matter, Jones? You a wuss?" She flipped her long hair over her shoulder and took off. "If you can catch me, we can rest." The laughter in her voice caused his heart to do a mini flip.
"Not a problem, Swan," he called. Using the last bits of his waning energy, Killian skated toward Emma, passed her by and executed a perfect hockey stop throwing snow up around them.
Emma rolled her eyes, "Not bad."
"Not bad, "Killian huffed. "Did you see how high that snow flew?"
She just shrugged and pushed off, patting him gently on the cheek as she skated past, "Let me show you how it's done."
Her hockey stop, as expected, was done to perfection, but Killian wasn't ready to admit defeat. He winked at her as he sped by and the glint in her eye distracted him just for a split second. Unfortunately, for him, it happened in the spot on the ice that had threatened to trip him multiple times and before he could catch himself, he had face planted.
Emma shrieked "watch out," as he slid several feet before coming to a stop at the base of a mound of snow, knocking much of it loose. The thought that he should bounce to his feet as if nothing was wrong floated through his mind, but then his muddled brain registered Emma's concerned voice. "Killian, are you okay?" she probed, dropping down beside him. Roll over, he kept telling himself until her warm hand landed on his head and gently began pushing his hair back from his forehead. "Please wake up," she pleaded, "please wake up."
Her voice sounded different, more worried than when she had initially called his name and Killian was loath to cause her any more pain. He groaned and rolled over, sending her a cheeky smile, "Don't stop touching me, Swan. I like it." He waggled his eyebrows at her.
Emma squinted her eyes, scanning his face carefully, for injuries, he was sure, "You're okay?"
"I'm fine, but you," he rolled over freeing both hands, "appear to be just a little too...dry." She squealed when he took hold of her shoulders and tucked her underneath him in the middle of the wet snow.
"Killian?" Her voice trailed off, her green eyes locking with his blue ones.
"Aye?" He tried to keep his eyes on hers but as if he were powerless to resist, they dropped to her lips. Her eyes widened slightly, and he wanted to close the distance between them, but the memory of why he was out here on the ice with her crept back into his mind. Killian Jones, he could hear his mum's voice scolding him, you guard that girl's heart. The breath he'd been holding fled and before he could second guess his actions, Killian grabbed a handful of snow and dropped it in the v of her jacket, just below her chin. "Gotcha." he crowed scrambling to his feet, giving her space.
"Argh," Emma sputtered, getting up from the ice and brushing off, "better watch out Jones. Paybacks can be a bitch."
Emma skated away, her thoughts unsettled, but whether they were unsettled because of something Killian hadn't done...or because of something he had, she didn't know. He flirted and there wasn't a girl at Storybrooke High that wasn't affected by his glib tongue, sexy blue eyes or crooked smile. With her though, he was different and had been since her parents...and with that one thought the darkness that had been temporarily abated was back. It clawed at her, threatening to pull her down into its abyss, only letting her go when it had covered her completely.
Emma felt her knees start to buckle and the darkness begin to climb up her legs. She was going down...and then...strong arms wrapped around her, bringing her close to a warm male body. His arms made her feel safe and secure as they held her, preventing the darkness from consuming her.
Closing her eyes, Emma burrowed her face into Killian's shoulder, waiting with bated breath for the feeling to overwhelm her. She didn't know how long she waited but hesitantly she peered through her lashes expecting the darkness to be coming for her...but, there was nothing. It was gone and just as had happened several times, he was her champion chasing the darkness away.
Shyly, Emma stepped backward a foot...and then another, giving Killian a sheepish smile. "I'm sorry," she began lifting her mittened hand to wipe the dampness from her eyes.
Killian's cold hand beat her to it when he cupped her jaw, using his thumb to wipe the tears away, "Don't ever apologize for missing your parents, Emma."
His quiet support took her breath and caused her heart to stutter. She wanted to let him know how much she appreciated his help, but the words thank you seemed too small. If only she was brave enough to kiss his lean cheek in a show of gratitude, but...what would he think?
His blue eyes locked with her green ones, pulling her closer to their fire. Emma took a deep breath, ready to take that step...
Killian gave her a lopsided grin, stopping her thought process and tightly squeezed her hand, "Think there's an extra pair of gloves in the box in the gazebo?"
"Probably," she grinned skating to the banks and stepping through the mounds of snow lining the pond. Emma pushed Killian toward the seat while she rifled through piles of colorful wool before finally locating a pair near the bottom. The pair she found had belonged to James and when Killian slipped them on tears sprang to her eyes at the thought that James would never again wear them.
"You alright?" Killian squeezed her fingers gently.
"Why are you here?" That an eighteen-year-old male could be so empathetic was a surprise.
"Why are you?" He raised a brow waiting for her answer.
Emma ducked her head wondering how to explain, "Sometimes, there's a circle of darkness that threatens to engulf me, taking every ounce of my strength and courage and the only way to handle it, is to skate." She lifted her eyes to his, "I keep thinking if I skate fast enough, it will blow the darkness away. Temporarily, anyway."
"Oh, Emma," he murmured, "does it work?"
"Sometimes." She shrugged a shoulder, "But not always. Now, why are you here?"
"You needed me." He answered simply.
Emma tilted her head, "Baloney. How would you even know that if you hadn't talked to David." Then it dawned on her exactly what the date was; not only was it the anniversary of her parents' death, but it was David...and would have been James' twenty-first birthday. "Ugh," she grunted, "I am such a selfish bimmff." Killian's hand muffled the derogatory word. "Where is he, Killian?"
He sent her a conspiratorial grin, "At Leo's, probably getting drunk. Liam too," he admitted, "I'll be here to help you get him into bed."
She studied him for several minutes, "Thanks," she told him softly. "Now, let's see if I can get a small birthday cake made for David before he gets back.
"Of course. Is there any other choice?" she teased.
They exchanged skates for shoes before climbing the steps to the old farmhouse, "Can I lick the bowl?" Killian pleaded as she walked past him into the warm house.
David snuck into Leo's thinking he'd watch a little of Emma's lesson and possibly talk Mary Margaret into having lunch while he was in town. His girls, as he thought of them, were in the middle of the ice, huddled closely together. When they broke apart, Emma skated around the ice before executing a complicated move causing his breath to catch at her beauty on the ice. She had been skating since she was four, and he had always known she had talent, but since working with Mary Margaret, her skill had risen to the next level.
The night of his twenty-first birthday, Liam's girlfriend had introduced him to her roommate, Mary Margaret Blanchard and they had been dating since. She had been someone in the skating world and once Emma discovered that, she had used every opportunity to get Mary Margaret out onto the ice with her. Luckily, for him, and Emma, she hadn't minded and somehow it had morphed into lessons for Emma and other young skaters in Storybrooke. David couldn't be happier his sister seemed emotionally stronger each day, and some of that was because of the woman he was seeing.
Emma had changed since that night when he left Killian with her and gone out with Liam. And even though he still felt guilt over leaving, their grief counselor said it had been the right thing to do...for both. The goal, he claimed, was to move forward and not back. David had done that by re-enrolling in classes at Storybrooke U and starting something with the lovely Miss Blanchard. Emma had continued her skating, but with Mary Margaret's help, she had set goals and her skill on the ice grew daily. His sister had also been spending time with Killian Jones, and while David liked the boy, he also knew Killian's reputation. His eye was on them, much to his sister's chagrin.
The banging of the gate that enclosed the rink pulled his attention back to the present, just in time to see Mary Margaret's smiling face as she launched herself in his direction, "David," she squealed, wrapping her arms around his neck. "I didn't expect to see you today."
David caught her, pulling her close and gave her a much too quick kiss, "I was in town and couldn't resist stopping to ask you to lunch."
"And to check on Emma, "she added laughingly.
He grimaced and thought about denying it, but knew she could read him easily, "Is it that obvious?"
"No," she looped her arm through his, leading him toward her office, "at least I don't think it's obvious it's really Killian you're watching...and not your sister."
David shook his head, but didn't admit to anything, "So what was the powwow in the middle of the ice? Is there a problem?"
"No, no problem." she assured him quickly. "But Emma and I have been talking about the possibility of her entering a few skating competitions this summer."
"Competitions?" He lifted his eyebrows in surprise. "Is she that good?"
"Oh David," Mary Margaret shook her head, "yes. She's very good. Shall we talk?"
She walked past him into her office and just before he followed, he looked back over his shoulder one last time and watched his baby sister do a series of jumps across the ice. When a chill went up his spine at how beautiful she was out there, he knew the answer to his question; yes, she was that good.
After Mary Margaret skated off to spend time with David, Emma continued to work on several spots in her routine. A competition, she thought, wanting to shriek with excitement, a real live competition. What would Killian think?
She knew the answer to that without having to think too hard about it; he would be excited for her, but why was she constantly wondering what he was thinking? Since David's birthday, there had been a subtle shift in their relationship, almost to her brother's dismay. She kept saying that Killian wasn't her boyfriend, but David didn't seem to believe it. He was even more skeptical when Killian started appearing wherever she was, whether it was at her home...or in town.
At first, she hadn't thought anything strange about Killian being around all the time because she learned that when he was, she felt safe. But as she grew stronger, her therapist warned her about depending on Killian, or anyone, too much. When that had happened, she had gone the opposite direction, pushing him away without even the benefit of an explanation. She hadn't gone so far as to push him completely out of her life but stopped confiding and spending time alone with him. Killian hadn't said much about the change in her behavior, but the look in his eyes when she happened to catch him watching her, said he was not only confused, but also hurt. That Killian had been willing to allow her to see those things, left her unbalanced, a not all together comfortable feeling.
It had taken a few well-placed words by her brother before she finally admitted that the way she had been treating Killian wasn't fair, to either of them. Where to go, and how to get there, were questions her sixteen-year-old brain was having difficulty answering. Love, with all its nuances and levels, was scary, but was that even the word she should have been using?
Emma was surrounded by people who bandied the word around every day, but when she broke it down, the word didn't mean the same thing to each. Ruby loved clothes. Ashley loved babies. Ruby loved Graham. And David, he loved Mary Margaret. Was the way her heart flipped when she looked in Killian's eyes, love? Or was she trying to make sense of something that she couldn't? She needed to discover what she wanted, how much she wanted and most importantly, whom she wanted. Was it Killian? If the answer was yes, then what was she going to do about it and did he want her too, especially after what happened during the Spring Sleigh ride.
The night of the annual Spring Sleigh ride arrived and all Ruby and Ashley cared about was looking good and making sure they found a seat in the same sleigh as the boys they had been drooling over for the past few months. Emma, on the other hand was a basket case because they would drag her onto the same sleigh and Killian would be there. That Killian would be there wasn't the big problem...the problem was what exactly she should say to him.
"Emma," Ruby bounced around, her dark eyes shining with excitement, "I did it. We're in the sleigh with Graham, Sean and Killian." She squealed, "It's so exciting."
"That's great." Emma smiled feeling like her face was stretched in an unnatural position, "Just great." She was happy for her friends. Ashley had gone out with Sean a couple of times, but Ruby had been trying to get Graham to ask her out the entire school year. Getting to spend the evening with him might just be the opportunity that either pushed them together or...leave Ruby with a broken heart because whom she thought she wanted didn't want her. Was that her hesitation in not trying to reconcile her feelings for Killian?
"Come on, Emma," Ruby encouraged, "Don't you think it's time?
Emma played dumb, hoping to put off whatever her friend was trying to push for just a bit longer. "It's not time to go yet. We still have a while before the event starts."
Ruby rolled her eyes, "I know what you're doing, Emma. Stop it and go talk to Killian."
"Ruby," Emma groaned in frustration, "stop it. I'm not ready to go talk to Killian right now." She could see him out of the corner of her eye as he stood off to the side talking to Graham. She wasn't close enough to hear what he was saying but the way he was gesturing with his hands made her think he was talking about her. And if that was true, his gestures said it couldn't be good.
"Come on, Emma," Ruby continued to plead, "you know you want to."
Did she want to talk to him? Yes she did, but what did she say? Helpless to resist, Emma looked his direction and when her eyes met his, the words, 'run to him,' kept playing over and over in her mind.
The past few months had been some of the best months of Killian's life but also some of the most confusing, and it all centered around a blonde, green-eyed female, Emma Nolan. He'd thought that after the night of David's birthday, they had reached a new level in their friendship, and for weeks afterward life had been great. They spent time together, skating, watching movies, hanging with friends, he hadn't cared, as long as he was with her. There had been many times during those few weeks when it had seemed natural for him to hold her hand or kiss her goodbye, but he hadn't as he wanted to allow her to set the pace. She was younger, only sixteen, and as his mum had told him, it was up to him to guard Emma's heart.
However, his mum forgot to tell him that if he was the one guarding Emma's heart, who was responsible for guarding his? He hadn't ever thought he needed to worry about that until one day Emma was there and the next, she was gone. Not that she had left Storybrooke, and not that she had completely left him, but that was how it felt. The walls were back up and he was once again on the outside looking in and wondering what he had done that was so wrong.
He had floundered silently because he knew that neither Graham nor Sean would have any idea what to tell him, but it wasn't until he had flunked a test that his mum had taken matters into her own hands. She had explained what was going on with Emma, not only with her healing process, but also tried to give him a bit of insight into the mind of a sixteen-year-old girl. But where did that leave him? Was he supposed to continue to let her set the pace? Was he to move on? How was he to know what she wanted when according to his mum, chances were, even she had no idea?
Seeing her had become like having one foot in heaven and the other in hell. She was beautiful, caring and kind and when she smiled at him his whole being was overcome with joy. But being around her yet having her treat him no differently than she treated any of his friends had hurt and frustrated him, until that is, he discovered an outlet for his frustration.
His outlet of choice, for the frustration he had been bottling up, was the video game Super Smash Bros and the more he played, the more addictive it became. The problem was balancing his school work with college decisions but when he was in middle of a game, he felt as if his head was once again on straight. But with the Spring Sleigh ride in front of him, he would be near Emma and since he had no clue how he should behave, he was worried.
"You were playing Smash until what time?" Graham laughed at Killian as he fought off yet another yawn.
"Hmm, 5:00 or maybe 6:00 this morning," he admitted sheepishly, rubbing his hand over his face hoping to push away the fatigue. "Then my dad woke me at 9:00 am to help clean the garage." he groused at the memory of how he had spent his morning.
"Don't you just hate it when your parents..." Graham started to say before his words stopped and Killian only had to turn his head to know that Ruby Lucas had garnered his friend's attention.
"You could ask her out, you know?" Killian teased.
Graham swallowed hard, his eyes still trained on Ruby, "Think she'd say yes?"
"As if you even need to ask." Killian scoffed. A flash of yellow crossed his vision reminding him of a recent Smash match he had played and lost, "Let me tell you about my match against an opponent called the Villager." He went on to explain how he had been defeated by the opponent, even going as far as acting out some of the moves he had used during the match.
"That's what kept you up?" Graham asked finding his voice once again.
"Yes, it was..." Then he realized the yellow belonged to Emma and his words got stuck in his throat. She had arrived and he still had no idea how he should behave.
"Go talk to her, dickhead." Graham pushed him toward Emma and as he closed the distance between them, what to say so she wouldn't feel threatened ran over and over in his mind.
"Hi," he settled on, giving her the smile he had been practicing in the mirror. "How are you?" He mentally kicked himself at his lack of originality. When she just smiled, he tried to think of something else to say, but then she dropped her eyes and he panicked, moving away from anything personal, "Ever played Super Smash Bros?"
"Super Smash Bros?" her brows rose, "no, I haven't. Why?"
"Well, you..." He explained the rules of the game, telling her about a few of his matches, but before he was able to finish, it was time to start the ride.
The sleigh that he, Emma and friends would be in was a smaller sleigh with a seat up front for two of them and one behind for the other four. "I'll drive." Killian watched Graham and Sean settle Ruby and Ashley into the back seat, tucking wool blankets around them.
He held his breath as Emma exchanged looks with Ruby before climbing up onto the front seat, "Coming?" she asked tucking the blanket around her leg on one side leaving the other open for him.
Bloody hell ran through Killian's mind as he registered the size of the seat that he had to sit on. There was no way he was going to be able to sit next to her and not touch her. If I touch her, he decided, he would just think Mario, Luigi, fire flowers, super stars and with his plan in place, climbed up next to her.
The beginning part of the ride wove in and out of open fields before they trailed into the woods and the shadows around them grew longer. The night was quiet with only the jingling of the horse's harnesses, and the soft sounds of the sleigh's runners as they slid across the packed snow and the hushed voices of the riders.
Killian found himself relaxing the farther they rode away from the starting line, as he became more sure that if Emma's leg slid against his, it wouldn't be any big deal. That was until there was a quick right bend in the trail and she slid closer, her thigh aligning tightly to his. He bit his tongue, the sharp pain briefly taking his mind away from the feel of a part of her touching a piece of him. His heart raced, his body flamed, he needed...Waluigi, mushrooms, jumps, throws...he repeated over and over until his heart slowed and his body cooled.
When they arrived at the finish line where a large bonfire was already burning full force, Killian pulled the sleigh up into an open spot. The popping of the flames and the creaking of the leather seats served as a backdrop to the various conversations going on around them. Initially, Killian was comfortable with the silence until it became obvious that the four individuals behind him were communicating nonverbally. The moans, sighs and slurping noises ratcheted up his feeling of unease and after surreptitiously checking the time, he glanced at Emma, who looked just as uncomfortable as he felt.
Unable to think of anything to say at that time, Killian took off his glove and found a video of one of his Smash matches, "Look, here's that game I was talking about." He pressed play and leaning close kept a running commentary of the moves, the characters, and the weapons until it was time to leave.
The ride back was uneventful and while Emma hadn't said much, Killian didn't feel like the silence was uncomfortable. Emma's thigh slid along his again and just as before, he thought about getting home and diving back into another match. The evening hadn't been everything he wanted it to be, but he felt sure that he hadn't given Emma any more reasons to run farther away.
Coming back to the present, Emma couldn't help but think that the whole evening had felt weird. On one hand, Killian hadn't given her any reason to feel uncomfortable, but the night certainly hadn't turned out as she had anticipated. There had been one or two times when she had looked into his eyes, and thought she saw some unspoken emotions, but what came from his mouth said, buddies. Yes, she wanted to be Killian's friend, but his buddy wasn't what she had in mind. She was buddies with Killian's friends and his brother, Liam and she certainly didn't stare at their lips wondering what they would feel like if they touched hers. "Argh," she moaned, picking up speed ready to attempt a triple axel.
Emma skated around the ice twice, lined up for the forward takeoff and spun around. Reaching the third revolution, she counted in her head, trying to time her landing, but even though she landed, it was with both feet causing her to lose balance and sprawl onto the ice. "Damn."
"Need a hand?" A familiar voice appeared out of nowhere, its timber sending a little thrill through her system.
Emma lifted her head to see Killian standing above her, holding his hand out to help her up. She slowly lifted hers and when his fingers closed around her smaller one, her entire being immediately warmed. How was it, she wondered, that just a small touch from this boy takes away all the coldness inside of me? "Thank you. Were you looking for me?"
"Aye," his blue eyes darkened, "I wondered if maybe we could talk...sometime." he added, almost as an afterthought.
Emma was torn. She really wanted to talk to him, but what if he just wanted to talk about Smash? "Ugh...sure, but..."
"Emma," David called from the other side of the wall, "ready?" Then as if he had just noticed whom Emma was talking to added, "Oh, hello Killian," his grin turned wolfish, "decided on a college yet?"
Killian met her eyes, obvious frustration hidden in the blue depths as he answered her brother, "Cornell." The look he gave her told her college was one thing he had wanted to tell her.
"Nice. Liam thought that was the one you would choose. Ready, Emma?"
Emma sent Killian an apologetic look, "Another time?"
"Sure," he whispered. "Call me?"
Once the decision was made for Emma to enter a skating competition in late summer, her training changed drastically. The relaxed practices and flexible schedule were replaced by rigorous ones that involved ice time before and after school and longer practices on Saturdays. Mary Margaret also made her follow a healthier eating schedule and add dancing and yoga several times a week. Emma no longer had time to just hang with friends, in fact she barely had time for sleep.
The roller coaster situation with Killian popped into her mind at the oddest times, but each time she shoved it away as she still hadn't come to any conclusions about him...or about them. She tried not to think about it but when Mary Margaret casually asked about him during one of their practices, somehow everything spilled out. Looking back on that conversation helped get her through weeks of running from one thing to another because Killian's behavior, according to her wise coach, was that he was just as confused as she. With that in mind, she parked her car and slowly walked toward Granny's and Killian's graduation party.
The craziness that he thought was his life before the sleigh ride was nothing compared to what it became after. Between college decisions, exams and graduation he barely had time for anything, most especially dealing with his confusing emotions about Emma. He knew she was busy with training and while he wanted to spend time with her, he contented himself with sometimes watching her practice. When she started staring in his dreams in her tiny skating dresses, he realized his heart had made its choice. But with his mum's words, "guard her heart, Killian" ringing in his ears, he was at a crossroad as to what his next move needed to be.
The decision didn't keep him from wanting to be with her every opportunity possible. With that very thought in mind he had invited her to his graduation party and secretly counted down the days until it arrived. He wanted the chance to just be with her, no pressure, no expectations and with dancing, loud music and most of their friends there, his hope was that fear would not be present...for either of them.
The night of the party, while he wanted her to be there the entire time, he knew that was impossible. She had other obligations and even though he knew she was going to be late, it hadn't stopped him from looking at the clock every few minutes. He felt when she had appeared as the place quieted and the very air in the room sparked to life.
She took one step inside the door and stopped to look around, he hoped for him. "Dance?" Without really giving her a chance to say no, he led her into the middle of their friends and pulled her into his arms. "Alright?" He fought to maintain a normal voice, but with his heart racing he was afraid he sounded like a right git.
"Perfect," she murmured sliding her hand up to his shoulder, her fingertips barely grazing the side of his neck.
Killian bit down on the inside of his cheek, hoping the pain would keep his mind where it needed to be and not where it wanted to go. When the metallic taste of blood flooded his mouth, he mentally rolled his eyes thinking reciting Smash terms was much less painful, but tightening his arms, pulled her closer, as being this near heaven with her was worth the pain.
He kept her on the dance floor, and in his arms through several songs before she laughingly reminded him she still had on her coat. "Bloody hell, Swan, why didn't you say something?"
"I just did, silly." Her grin weakened his knees, but when she handed it to him and he got a good look at her dress, every clean thought flew out of the room and his entire body stood up and yelled, "Here I am! Here I am!" He couldn't think of anything to say, but with a slight nod disappeared to take care of her wrap.
Later that evening, as the last song of the night was playing, Killian, once more, brought her into his arms. "You look beautiful tonight, Emma, in case...you know...I haven't told you." Her skirt was short, her top was tight and the back was completely open, exposing her creamy skin.
"Don't worry," she gently patted his cheek, "you've told me that dozens of times." Her dimple appeared and her green eyes sparkled, "but feel free to tell me again."
"I'm sorry," he felt panic start to rise, "I didn't mean to sound like a ponce."
"No," she laid her index finger over his lips shushing him, "I wasn't complaining. Okay?" He was barely able to form words when she leaned closer, tucking her nose into the V of his shirt and sighed contentedly. Killian gently rested his head against hers and in her arms dreamed of the day when one day he could claim her as his.
"Ready to go?" David carried their suitcases to the car and when Emma still hadn't shown up, ran back inside to yell again. They still needed to pick up Killian and Mary Margaret before heading to Philadelphia for the summer championships. If they didn't hit traffic, they would get there in time for check in and while Emma didn't seem nervous, he was carting around plenty of anxiety for them both.
Once at the arena, he stood next to Killian watching Emma skate around the ice warming up. Periodically she would skate off to talk to Mary Margaret and then skate back onto the ice to fix whatever they had talked about. "She looks beautiful out there." he murmured, the lump in his throat growing when he thought of how proud their parents would have been of her.
"Just like a swan," Killian responded, with something like ahh in his voice.
"Are you nervous?" David finally asked, realizing the longer he stood there, the more anxious he grew and made a decision, "I'm going to go find my seat. You coming?"
"Uhh, well," Killian ducked his head, "Emma handed me this, " he held up the coach's badge, "and asked if I would stay with Mary Margaret for support. That okay?"
David looked off in the opposite direction and bit his lip that kept wanting to lift into a smile. Finally, feeling he had his emotions under control, he glanced back at Killian and answered gruffly, "Sure. Tell her good luck."
Emma had never skated in competitions and with no expectations for her to win, her plan was to just go out onto the ice and have a good time. When her group was called to warm up, she felt relaxed, easily landing her jumps, until, that is...she skated off the ice. When that happened, the butterflies flying around inside, seemed to wake up...all at once.
She would skate in the middle part of the group and while waiting for her turn, she took the time to evaluate what was going on inside her head. There was a part of her that was terrified, but the other part...it was ready. Ready to show others what she could do. And most of all...ready to have fun.
"Ready, Emma?" her friend and coach Mary Margaret repeated what she was thinking.
"She's ready." Killian's hot breath blew across her ear sending a little chill up her spine. "Aren't you, Swan?"
Emma slanted a glance his direction and sent him a quick grin before her eyes skittered back onto the ice as her name was called. "I was born ready," she whispered pushing away from the wall to take her place in the center of the ice.
Once the music started, Emma felt her whole body relax as she set her arms and feet into their starting position, "This is you for you, Mom." she whispered as the music flowed through her and she became one with the ice.
A split jump.
Double axel into a double toe loop.
A flip jump into a lutz.
A salchow jump into a sit spin
Double toe loop, single toe loop.
Around and around she skated, her momentum and excitement growing with every jump she landed. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the crowd responding to her skating, clapping and cheering, making her feel more powerful than she had ever felt.
When the music reached its crescendo just before slowing, Emma threw herself into her last two jumps, ending the faster part of the routine with a Biellman spin. The roars gave her a thrill and as the music slowed and she glided across the ice with her arms spread wide, slowly undulating in and out and her leg out behind her, she truly felt like the swan that Killian said she resembled.
With one last push she arched her back and stretched her arms even wider than before, allowing her fingers to gracefully fall into position, as if she were wrapping herself in a large pair of wings. With the last notes fading, Emma smoothly skated to a stop and bowed her head.
The swan had come to a rest
She had done it. She had competed in her first competition against girls she had watched on television in what seemed like forever. With the crowd's roars in her ears, she bowed and skated off the ice into the arms of Killian Jones, her champion.
Regina Mills knew talent when she saw it and Emma Nolan had talent. Hers wasn't polished like you would expect from the skaters in the Olympics, but raw and natural: a gift. The kind that brought coaches rushing for the opportunity to work with them, because they knew that with the right coaching, the skater could develop into something special.
As the owner of Mills Stars on Ice, Regina wanted the opportunity to be able to mold that talent. She knew that finding good skaters was easy but finding a great skater...that was rare. She had been part of the skating world long enough to know what to look for, and Emma Nolan might very well be it.
"And that's why I got up at the crack of dawn," mumbled Regina as she drove into the town of Storybrooke, Maine.
According to her sources, the woman who was acting as Emma's coach could be found working at a place called Leo's. The hope was that the coach would introduce her to Emma and her family and she could leave Storybrooke tomorrow having signed a new skater.
The town wasn't very large and it didn't take long before Regina had located and was parked in front of Leo's. Based on its looks, she expected the place to be like any other gathering place in a small town and when she opened the door, she wasn't disappointed. The cold air from the ice, the loud music and the smell of sweat, salt and spilled beer assaulted her senses all at once. "Just like home." she murmured as she followed the signs to where the office was located in the corner of the building.
As it was still early, the place wasn't crowded, with only a few individuals preparing for the day. Regina was directed to the back where she was told she could wait for Coach Blanchard. As the offices were in the back corner, it forced her to walk around the entire rink, allowing her the opportunity to watch the woman work.
The group of students she was working with were young, maybe five or six, and they appeared to love their coach. Her voice carried across the ice and without raising it each of the young skaters performed as directed. Very little acting out or misbehaving and when the lesson was over they hugged their teacher before skating in the opposite direction from where she was standing. When the woman stepped off the ice, Regina was waiting, "Mary Margaret Blanchard," she held out her hand, "I'm..."
"You're Regina Mills," Mary Margaret interrupted her. Regina inclined her head in agreement. "You want to coach Emma, don't you?"
Regina studied the petite woman in front of her, surprised by her direct comment, "I do. Do you think that's a possibility?"
Mary Margaret shrugged, "That's up to Emma."
The few weeks after they returned from Philadelphia were a blur for Killian as, he was sure, they were for Emma. She was leaving in the morning to move to Boston to begin training full-time for what might be the Olympics and he was leaving for Cornell. They had grown close the past few months, but he still found he couldn't shake his mum's words about guarding Emma's heart from his head. She had known too much loss and he was determined that its fragile state would never shatter because of him. He wanted her to fly free, knowing somehow, that even though she reminded him of a beautiful swan, what he saw now was her as a cygnet. Her fully mature form would outshine them all, of that he had no doubt.
Their last night together Killian planned to take Emma sailing. He wasn't sure what they would say to each other, but it was important to him that she knew that he cared. He needed to hold her in his arms, inhale the sweet scent of her shampoo and run his fingers through the silky strands of her hair before their lives changed.
He sailed his small boat into the middle of the Bay and dropped anchor. This far out, they were away from the lights of town and millions of stars could be seen spread out above them. The gentle back and forth motion of the boat served to settle him as he reclined back onto the deck, "Lay with me, Swan?" He patted next to him and just as he'd hoped, she lay back, "Well," he clasped her hand in his, "how did I do?" He indicated the canvas that was the sky above them.
Emma rolled toward him, propping her head on her hand, "You expect me to say you did a good job because you got lucky and it's not cloudy tonight?"
He sent her a cheeky grin, "Aye."
"Please," she poked him in the side, "you're pretty cocky, aren't you?"
Her choice of vocabulary words created all kinds of visions in his head but before they could completely coalesce he shoved them aside. "Are you excited about tomorrow?" he asked changing the topic to a safer one.
"A little," she giggled when she correctly interpreted his disbelieving look, and admitted, "okay, a lot. But I'm worried about David being alone. Think he'll be okay?"
Killian had watched the way Emma's brother behaved around Mary Margaret while they were in Philadelphia, "Something tells me he'll be fine. After all," he rolled toward her, imitating her position, "the lovely Miss Blanchard will be there if he needs her."
"True." she answered softly, her eyes locking with his.
The longer he stared into her eyes, the more he felt he was sinking, being pulled into their green depths. His body was following as if there was a magic bond tying them together. Her hot breath blew over his lips, her eyes slowly closed and Killian could imagine closing that last little gap and covering her lips with his.
"Killian?" Emma's small hand cupped his jaw, "Don't you want to kiss me?"
A low groan escaped before he could stop it, "Bloody hell, Emma," he pleaded, "don't do this to me."
"Do what?" she asked obviously confused by his statement."
Killian rolled onto his back and pinched the bridge of his nose, wondering what he should say, but then finally admitted, "More than anything, but I was trying to be..."
"Killian," Emma's face suddenly filled his vision, "I'm sixteen—-"
"And I'm eighteen," he interrupted her. "I'm supposed to,"
Emma put her finger over his lips, "You're supposed to," she touched her lips to his, lightly, innocently. "Teach me," a closed mouth kiss landed on one corner of his, "show me."
He tried to be strong, tried to resist, but she was too close, and she smelled too good. When her little sharp teeth nipped at his earlobe, he couldn't resist any longer and wrapping her in his arms, pulling her lithe frame flush with his body. "Open for me, Swan." He nipped on her bottom lip, her top lip, back to her bottom one. She tasted just like he had imagined, and he wasn't sure he would ever get enough of her. Slowly, he slid his tongue inside her mouth, lazily allowing it to meet and greet its mate. Killian's whole body was on fire, but he wasn't ready to let her go. One more kiss, he thought again plundering the depths of her hot mouth. One more kiss then I'll take her home.
The kiss went on and on and just as he felt that the top of his head was going to blow, he backed away, "Don't forget me, little swan."
"Oh, Killian, never," Emma cried throwing her arms around his neck. "I'll miss you."
"And I'll miss you," he promised placing one last lingering kiss on her lips.
Killian walked Emma up the steps of the old farmhouse, kissed her on the cheek and pushed her inside. "Fly free and grow, love. I'll be waiting for you at the end." he promised.
April, ~ three years later
Emma's day had been long thanks to the yearly skating exhibition thrown by the Mills Stars on Ice. She had been up at 6:00 am, practiced, lunch then several exhibition events before being expected to attend the party afterward. Smiling and exchanging chit-chat with the sponsors and press was wearing thin, giving her a claustrophobic feeling. She looked around and without telling anyone slipped away from the noise into another part of the facility, one that not many visited unless there was a special event. A smaller, quieter rink where she often escaped, if she needed to be alone to think.
Since being away from Storybrooke, her dreams and goals had collided, becoming a reality. She had won ribbons and medals, slowly working her way up into the upper echelon of the female skating world, but she had to admit...she didn't love it. The more the coaches expected from her, the more she found she didn't know who she was any longer. The more she pushed to please them, the more she sometimes felt like running. Those were the times she usually went looking for solitude; a place to skate the darkness away.
The rink had been used for an exhibition earlier in the day and instead of clear ice, a corner of it had beentaken overwith tables and chairs. However, since the area was relatively small, Emma didn't care and stepped onto the ice. There was a hush in the air as she skated around, immediately giving her a sense of peace, but the quiet in her head didn't last long. It didn't take many revolutions before the opening strains of songs that she had skated to started playing, begging her to skate for them just one more time. When the music from home took its turn, a chill ran through her system and the routine she had skated came to life.
She was one with the ice, gliding, jumping and spinning. With every revolution around the rink, her cares and the darkness that had been threatening blew farther and farther away. The routine was almost over when the sound of a door opening distracted her and her skate rolled over an electrical cord, sending her sliding face first across the ice. That she was going to hit the furniture that was where it shouldn't have been, zipped through her brain a second before impact and her head bounced against the ice, once...twice.
"Emma!" Someone screamed, just as the darkness claimed her completely.
As soon as Killian was back in Storybrooke, he made a quick stop at home before making his way to the Nolan farm. Something was going on with Emma, but exactly what it was, he was in the dark. He had noticed though, that lately she had become distant, refusing to listen to any of his concerns, but not by just brushing them aside, she was ignoring them...ignoring him. And while he was buried in school work and in another country, it was easy to overlook the distance between them, but now that he was home, he could no longer let it go. Since the summer he graduated from high school, there had been something developing between them and even if she refused to see that, they had been friends. He'd missed her friendship...he'd missed her.
When he turned off the main road, onto the drive leading to the Nolan farm, he immediately sensed that things were off...different. He hadn't been to the farm in almost a year, but the house looked somber, darker, almost as if the light surrounding it had gone out. "Oh, Swan," he whispered exiting the old truck and running up the steps to knock on the door, "it's going to be bad, isn't it?"
The door was opened slowly, hesitantly, almost as if the person behind it wasn't ready to face what was on the other side, "Yea," David bellowed, then as if he registered who it was, responded in a softer voice, "oh Killian. It's you." The gruff voice of the man who opened the door was a shock, but not as shocking as his appearance. He was dressed in clothes that looked like he'd been wearing them for days, he hadn't shaved, his hair was sticking up at odd angles, and his eyes were bloodshot. What was most telling about his state of mind though, were his eyes. David's eyes usually sparkled with life and light, but the eyes looking back at him were dull, almost defeated, as if he was unsure about where to turn and what to do. Even after his parents and brother were killed David's light hadn't completely gone out.
"David," Killian asked hesitantly, "what's going on?" The thought that he wasn't going to be allowed inside briefly crossed his mind, but then David opened the door a little wider and walked away, leaving the choice to him.
Was he prepared for what was going on inside the walls of the old farmhouse, floated through his mind as he stepped through the door, but if Emma was in trouble, there was nothing he wouldn't do to help. The somber, dark feeling that he had recognized from the outside continued in the house. The air was stale and the clutter and chaos that greeted him surprised him, almost to the point that he felt he needed to go back out and check to make sure he was in the right place. This wasn't the cozy Nolan home he was used to seeing.
Killian moved aside debris and sat down on a chair across from David, who was sitting, leaning forward, elbows on his legs, his head bowed. "Where's Emma, David? Is she alright?" As soon as the words were out, David lifted his head and the look in his eyes answered his question, "Bloody hell, David. Tell me!" he demanded fighting to keep the panic he was feeling inside from rising to the surface.
David looked at the younger man and the peace that came over him solidified his decision; he was telling Killian everything. Emma had made him promise not to call the younger man in England, but now that Killian was back in Storybrooke, all bets were off. They needed help, especially Emma, and the man who had been there for her the last time was waiting for an explanation, "There was an accident."
"Bloody hell, David," Killian barked impatiently, "I know about the bloody accident. I spoke to Emma after it happened and she assured me she was fine."
"She lied," David took a deep breath and bluntly laid the rest of the story out, "she's blind."
"What!?" Killian snapped, pushing up from the chair to move restlessly around the room. "What happened? Why is this the first I've heard about it? What's being done?"
David let him vent until he ran out of questions, "Sit down and I'll tell you what I can." Without holding anything back, he told Killian that yes, after the accident, everyone, including the doctors thought Emma was just fine. But the next day, against everyone's advice, she practiced, and half-way through the session collapsed and was rushed back to the hospital. "Regina called me with the news and I drove to Boston." David told him about the fear and the helplessness that he felt as he drove south. "When she woke up in the hospital, her vision was gone." The feelings of being helpless still weighed heavily on his mind.
Killian was silent for several seconds before quietly asking, "What do the doctor's say?"
Unable to sit still any longer, David paced the room, "Wait and see, mainly." He shrugged, "They gave me a lot of medical mumbo jumbo, but the gist is, there's swelling that's causing the blindness. They think it's temporary but are unable to give any kind of timeline."
"And she sees nothing?"
"Shadows, I think, but she doesn't say much." He took a deep breath and continued, "Yesterday, I took her to a specialist who was surprised that she was seeing so little. He said it seems like her body is fighting her." He didn't mention the rest of the doctor's comments about the longer there's a problem, the less likely it was that her vision would return completely. That was not an option for his sister. She would see again.
Killian finally relaxed and dropped down into the chair across from him before asking, "How's Emma handling all this? And why didn't she want me to know?"
"Well," David took a deep breath, "initially, while it kept her off the ice, she treated it like she expected to wake up one day and she would be able to see again. But then as days turned to weeks, which turned to months," he shuddered remembering their ride home yesterday, "she closed herself off."
"But I'm her friend," Killian cried brokenly.
"Trust me," David sympathized, "I tried reasoning with her, not only about you, but this entire town; however, she didn't want anyone to know about her condition. Said she didn't want anyone's pity." He didn't say anything to Killian, but Emma's situation had also affected his relationship with Mary Margaret and even his time with friends. He was at a point where he didn't know how to help either Emma or himself.
"Why would she think I would pity her?" Killian shook his head in confusion, "I've never pitied her," and then as if he had missed something wondered out loud, "have I?"
"It wasn't your pity, she worried about," David tried to get the younger man to understand. "She was worried you would just run out on your studies. She was worried about your future, Killian." David watched Killian try to process everything he had just been told and hoped that he would be able to talk some sense into his hard-headed sister.
"Will she see me?" Killian finally asked, the pain he was feeling evident in his eyes.
"I don't know, Killian." David sighed, "The news yesterday was the toughest yet and since we've been home, she hasn't said much." He pointed upstairs, "You're welcome to try. I'll be in my room if I'm needed." He picked up his phone on the way down the hall thinking he had someone he needed to call.
Emma lay curled up on her bed, Killian's old sweatshirt wrapped around her, earplugs in her ears, listening to songs from her skating world. After her parent's death, when the darkness threatened to consume her, the only things saving her were skating and being held. David helped, and she loved him for it, but it had been Killian's arms that chased the darkness away. This time though, she couldn't get away from the darkness, as it was there all the time. Threatening to overwhelm and drag her into an abyss so deep she would be lost forever.
Time to her didn't hold the same meaning as it had just a few months ago. Then time had revolved around daily dance class, yoga, practice, meals, and lights out and on a grander scale, competitions, exhibitions, and coming home. Now though, she had no concept of time. She couldn't exercise in the same way. She couldn't skate. She couldn't see.
Initially the darkness had been complete, almost as if you were in a room that was pitch black and no matter how wide you tried to make your eyes, you couldn't see anything...not even your hand in front of you. It was like a vacuum pulling her down. Thankfully, that hadn't lasted long, and the darkness gave way to grey. Then she could see shadows. Then she could tell if it was day or night.
She'd found Killian's old Storybrooke High sweatshirt one day not long after David had brought her home, and even though it had been years since she had worn it, she could still smell him. It wasn't as warm as he was, but she found that wrapped in it the darkness right in front of her face never came any closer, that is, until yesterday's news. The visit hadn't given her much hope that she would one day be the Emma of old, in fact just the opposite. She had heard the doctor's tone of voice. It said, 'I'm giving up.' It said, 'prepare to be blind for the rest of your life.' But if that was the case, then how did she prevent the darkness from swallowing her whole?
When Killian arrived, Emma had been on her way downstairs and had stopped to listen. But the gentle buzz of his voice talking with her brother had been too much too handle. Her first thought had been to hide, which had driven her back to her room, but what was next? Being alone wasn't easy, especially not after the craziness of the last few years. When she was alone there were too many questions she kept asking herself but was too afraid to answer. And when she was alone, there were too many dreams waiting to be filled.
On the way up the stairs, Killian tried to make sense out of everything David had said, but the only things that kept running through his mind were Emma's blind and why didn't she tell him. That hurt, and he was going to have to deal with the pain, but later, much later. Emma needed him, and he would be there for her in whatever capacity she allowed.
When he reached the landing just outside of her room, it was almost too quiet. Emma and David liked music and with their louder is better motto, complete silence was rare. Had Emma's time away from Storybrooke, and him, changed her that much? He needed to hope not, but as he prepared to enter her room, he found he was holding his breath concerned at what he would see.
The door wasn't shut completely, but when he knocked softly his touch pushed the door open. His first view of the room was nothing had changed, but the once vibrant colors inside had faded over time. Killian located Emma lying in the middle of her bed, unmoving, eyes staring straight ahead, sightless...empty...looking very lost.
She had her earplugs in, and knowing she wouldn't hear him, he walked toward the bed on shaky legs. Seeing her in this condition was tearing him apart, piece by piece and that wasn't what she needed right now. She needed his strength. She needed his love.
She must have sensed his presence for when he reached the bed, Emma had sat up, removing her earplugs. "Killian?"
"Aye, love, it's me," he answered softly, sinking down next to her. "How did you know?"
Her lips lifted in a semblance of a smile, "I smelled you." Her answer was stiff and her voice scratchy, as if she had forgotten how to use it.
"I smell that bad?" he teased. "I showered." His arms, as if they had a mind of their own, needed to touch her and picking her up, Killian brought her small frame onto his lap, hugging her tightly.
She curled against him naturally as if she were made to be in his arms, "You don't smell bad, Killian. But," he felt her shrug, "like you."
He wasn't sure exactly what she thought he smelled like but had to admit that she also had a unique scent, "And you, Emma, smell like you." She sent him a quick smile before snuggling a bit closer, "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Why?" He thought he heard a touch of uncertainty in her voice, "You can't tell me that you've never made decisions for my own good."
"Bloody hell, Swan, that's—-"
"—-Don't tell me that's different," she snapped, some of her old fire rearing its head. "My inclination was to make sure you didn't ignore what you were supposed to be doing." She wilted, the fire draining her quickly, "Besides, it's over, a moot point. You're home and I'm blind."
Killian closed his eyes, trying to control his emotions and what she must be feeling, "What can you see?" he whispered.
"Shadows," she leaned back, tilting her face up to his, "When I look at you, I can see your dark hair, dark," she hesitated, lifting her hand to cup his jaw, "beard? This is new."
He laid his hand over hers as it rubbed back and forth along his jaw, "It's fairly new," he admitted, "thought it made me look dashing."
"Hmm, I like it." She replaced her hand with her cheek, "even though it is a little rough."
"Oh, Swan," he groaned as her nearness broke through every other feeling that he had been experiencing, but he couldn't...wouldn't go there. "Talk to me. Tell me what I can do to help you."
She didn't answer for several minutes, "I want you to take me skating." she revealed as if it was the most obvious choice in the world.
Killian picked Emma up early the next day and after assuring David he would take care of her, they drove to Leo's. As he had hoped, the ice was empty, but it didn't do anything to calm his nerves. He wasn't convinced this was a good idea, but Emma had reminded him that when the darkness threatened before she had skated. "Emma," he tried keeping his voice calm, "are you sure about this?"
Emma squeezed his hand, "I need to skate," her green eyes pleaded with him. "You know why."
She sat down, pushed off her tennis shoe and easily slipped her foot into her skate. "Let me help," he reached for the laces, his hands covering her smaller ones.
Emma pushed his hands away, "I need to do this, Killian."
"Fine." He sat next to her and went to work on his own understanding her need, but not liking it.
Emma had finished lacing up the first skate and had moved onto the second before she said anything else, "It never changes, does it?" There was a melancholy sound to her voice he hadn't heard before.
"What?" He was confused by her abrupt shift in topics, "Your skates? Leo's?"
"Leo's." She leaned against his shoulder, "The smells, the sounds. I'm hoping the feel of the ice too. Ready?"
"Are you sure?" He probably shouldn't have but he had to ask her once more."
"Killian," she leaned even closer, her breath mingling with his, "I need to do this for me. Do you understand that?"
Did he? Did he understand her need to be independent and do it on her own? He finally nodded, but then realized she couldn't see what he was doing, "Alright, Swan. You win this round."
Her smile lit up the room with its beauty and heaven help him, he knew he was in trouble, because whatever he had been feeling as an eighteen-year-old was nothing compared to what he felt for her now.
Emma took Killian's hands and allowed him to lead her onto the ice. Her vision today was different, her greys were turning whitish, but still blurry, unable to distinguish specifics. The ice felt strange under her feet, and her natural inclination was to try to see where she was, both on the rink, and on the ice."
"Stand up straight, love," Killian murmured, pulling her slowly along.
"I'm trying to see," she admitted, "my balance is off."
"Maybe close your eyes? Just get a feel of the ice." His suggestion made sense and once she did that, her movements didn't feel as jerky and unnatural.
Holding on to Killian, Emma felt secure, safe, knowing there was no way he would allow her to be harmed. When he let go of her hands to move beside her, she had a brief feeling of unease, but as soon as his arm circled her waist, that unease dissipated. They skated in tandem, the ease of their movements serving to relax her muscles even more.
"How close to the side are we?" she asked, trying to decide if she had the courage to try skating alone.
Killian's hesitation had her wondering if he was going to ignore her question, but then he answered, giving her more than she had anticipated, "About five feet, we're skating a wide circle near the back where Mary Margaret's office is located."
After spending so much time at the rink, it wasn't hard for her to picture in her mind the place and exactly where they were. She started counting their steps each time they turned, working to get a handle on the timing. Things felt familiar and the more they skated, the greater her confidence. She could do it, "Let me go, Killian," she requested before she changed her mind.
"Let you go? Why?" His hold tightened around her waist, as if he could read her thoughts and was hoping he was wrong.
"Let me skate alone." Emma pushed away from him, evading his reach, even without her eyesight. "I can do it. Please let me try."
"Bloody hell, Swan, you're going to give me a heart attack." Killian sputtered.
Emma ignored him, all her concentration going to what she wanted to do. She thought about where she was on the ice and set up for a sit spin, throwing her leg in the air, landing on one foot to spin around. She could feel the ice beneath her skate and just as the thought, I've got this, floated through her mind, her concentration broke causing her to slip and fall across the ice. Nice move, Nolan, she chided herself.
She heard Killian's stop, before he demanded, "My hand's in front of you, use it."
Emma lifted her chin and not for the first time, wished she could see. There was something besides anger in his voice and while she really wanted to snipe right back, she didn't. She laid her hand in his and as soon as she did, he hauled her up and into his arms as if she were a treasure that needed to be sheltered.
"You could have been hurt," his voice was thick with emotion. "I can't bear the thought of your being in pain."
Emma's heart warmed in response to Killian's behavior toward her safety. It was everything she had dreamed about having someday and more, and as they stood in the center of that cold ice rink, her heart heated, opened and bloomed.
It had been several days since Killian had taken Emma ice skating and he still hadn't gotten the vision of her going down on the ice out of his mind. She could have been hurt, but what had she done? Thanked him for helping her up and done another one, and this time, she had executed it perfectly...at least he thought so. She had rolled her eyes, made a self-deprecating comment and tried again. And each time his heart climbed a little higher in his throat. She very well could be the death of him.
Of course, that hadn't stopped him from jumping into his truck to meet her at Leo's the minute she called. That she hadn't wanted him to pick her up had him curious. Was it possible that her vision had returned, and she wanted to surprise him? Or was there something else she wanted to share?
David, Mary Margaret and Emma were sitting in a booth not far from the door and as soon as he slid beside his golden-haired swan, David turned angry eyes his way, "Can you talk some sense into her." He pointed at his sister, "She's bound and determined to get herself killed. And this one, " he indicated his girlfriend, "is willing to go along with her."
Killian looked back and forth between the two women, "Would one of you explain what he's talking about?"
Emma nibbled on her bottom lip for a few seconds before she slanted her body toward him, "I'm going to start training again and enter a competition in late July."
His gut clenched at the thought that he might lose her to Boston again, but if that was what she wanted then he would support her. "That's terrific, love. So, your sight came back?" The look that crossed her face answered his question, "You mean to tell me you don't have your sight back?"
"No," Emma whispered, "but I need to do this for me. Can't you support me?"
His girl had more courage in her little finger than anyone else he knew, but he could admit to himself, it terrified him, "What do you think?" He raised a brow and waited for Mary Margaret to give him her opinion.
Mary Margaret looked back and forth between Emma and David, "If she wants to do it, I say we help her. Emma knows her limitations better than we do."
The beatific smile that Emma gave him melted his heart and anything negative about her plans flew out of his head. His job was to protect her and give her all her hearts' desires and if skating one more bloody competition was what she wanted, then that was what she was going to get. He would be there for her every step of the journey.
Emma listened to Killian's voice as she followed him around the rink, "You're about ten feet from the side. Five feet, now turn." She turned and listened for the next measurement.
"Follow my voice." He had moved to her left, "You're in the center now."
"I'm going to try a jump." She sent him a quick grin as she set up, executing a single axel and landing it perfectly.
"Whoop, Swan," he caught her in his arms, swinging her around, making her head swim and not from the motion. "That was amazing."
Emma laughed and rolled her eyes, "It was only a single, but thanks." Yes, it was only a single, but it helped her confidence, almost as much as he did.
"Alright, Miss. Nolan, what's next?" He set her back down onto the ice, quickly moving back into his job of helping her with distance.
"Watch," she called, skating away to set up another jump. When she landed a double axel, triple lutz, she couldn't keep the squeal of excitement from escaping.
Killian squeezed her hand, pulling her toward him, "You take my breath away, Emma." he whispered against the side of her head.
Emma leaned back and tilted her chin up slightly, "Is that a good thing?" She lifted a brow, "or a bad thing?"
He tightened his arms, fitting her flush against his hard body, "A good thing." His hot breath blew across her lips, "A very good thing," he finished just before his lips captured hers in a kiss so hot she was sure the ice melted around them.
Late July – Summer Championships
Emma hadn't wanted any of her rivals to know she was visually challenged and while he was holding her hand that had been alright with him. However, as soon as he let go of her and she skated onto the ice for her group's warm-up, his heart sped up and he kept feeling like he couldn't get a deep enough breath.
"Killian," Mary Margaret squeezed his arm, "she's going to be fine."
"But what if..." was all he got out before her music started and she began her routine.
He couldn't take his eyes off her as she performed, her beauty and grace, completely mesmerizing him. The arena was packed and every person appeared to be enamored with her, cheering and clapping as she skated the final steps and spun to a stop. As one, the crowd stormed to their feet, the noise louder and more powerful than he could ever remember hearing.
Emma took a bow to one side of the arena, then turned to bow to the other, and just before she started skating back to where he was standing, out of the corner of his eye, he saw things flying onto the ice. "Oh, no," he cried, wanting to cover his eyes at what he knew was going to happen.
"Killian, no!" Mary Margaret's tear stained gaze met his. She grabbed his hand as they watched Emma's skate catch on the flower stems that littered the ice, causing her to go down onto all fours.
One second the arena was louder than it had ever been, and the next, silence, "How could I have forgotten those?" he berated himself.
Without waiting, Killian opened the gate and made his way across the ice to where Emma had fallen. "I'm here, Swan. I'm sorry we forgot the flowers." He hadn't been sure what he would see when he got there, but the gentle smile on her face certainly wasn't it.
She put her hand in his and as he helped her onto her feet, the arena came to life. Louder, even more so than before with everyone chanting one thing, Emma's name loud and strong. He led her to the center of the ice to take a final bow, "Stay with me?" she whispered.
"Always." he murmured for her ears only. When he stepped back, the light surrounding her was so bright it could only come from inside. His swan was free at last.
Emma was in that space half way between being asleep and fully awake. Her dreams of kissing Killian were too delicious to say goodbye to just yet, especially if it meant opening her eyes, to the blurry world she had been living with for almost six months. Besides, today was her birthday and every girl deserved to have their birthday wishes come true.
Her phone buzzed and without looking she knew who it was, "'Lo." she mumbled.
"Happy Birthday, Swan." her boyfriend's sexy voice greeted her. "Ready for your gift?"
"Hmm hmm," she hummed.
"Good. You've got fifteen minutes to get ready or I'm dragging you from your bed." he teased.
"You wouldn't dare!" she squealed.
"Try me!" he taunted before hanging up.
His laughter ringing in her ears, Emma threw off the blankets, grabbed some clothing and ran to the shower.
Killian chuckled at how quickly the shower started after he hung up. "And you didn't think I could get her out of bed that fast." He shook his head at the look on David's face. "Oh, ye of little faith."
David grinned, "You do have the magic touch with her." His voice became serious, "Killian, really though, I want to thank you for everything you've done for her. I owe you a debt I'll never be able to repay."
Killian ducked his head, thinking that some day when he asked, he knew exactly how David could repay him, for today though, he just smiled, "I'd do anything for her. You should know that by now."
"I'm beginning to see that." David studied him for a few seconds, "So, what's on the agenda today?"
"A little of this, a little of that," Killian quipped, earning a frown from Emma's brother.
"That's my sister," David began.
Killian interrupted, listing several of the activities he had planned for them.
"I made it." Emma ran into the room preventing any further conversation and with little fanfare, his girl was seated next to him on the bench seat of his truck and they were on their way.
They started their day horseback riding on some mountainous trails not too far from home before taking a long walk on the beach. From there they had lunch at Granny's where he picked up a basket containing their dinner, and then he drove them to the docks.
"Sailing?" She looked back and forth between him and his sloop.
Killian gave her a sheepish smile, "Do you mind?" His voice dropped an octave, "I want you to myself."
The look she sent him doubled his heart rate, "Oh?"
He nodded slowly, only then realizing what she said, "Wait! You saw the sloop." He cupped her face, "Can you see me?"
Emma's eyes filled with tears as she nodded her head, "I wished it, but then with the rush this morning it didn't really register until," she shrugged, "I looked at you and didn't see shadows...I just saw you."
"Oh, Emma." Killian thanked the fates the truck had bench seating and pulled her across his lap, covering her lips with his. She had learned a thing or two since the first time their lips connected all those years ago and as her tongue slid along his, his body was set on fire. He wanted to go on kissing her forever, but there were certainly more comfortable places for them. "Swan," he tore his mouth from hers, "you're killing me here."
She opened her eyes, and the green orbs drew him closer until their breaths were once again mingling, but just before their lips meshed, she scrambled across the seat, "Race you." and she was off.
Killian watched her scamper along the dock, so carefree and beautiful and before she climbed onto his boat, he had scooped her up in his arms and carried her on board. "I've got you, Swan."
"No," she wrapped her arms around his neck, "I've got you."
Their kiss was much quicker than he wanted, but he was in a hurry to set sail. With a few well-placed instructions, they motored away from the dock and spent the rest of the day sailing around the bay.
As the sun started to set, Killian dropped anchor and handed Emma her birthday gift. "I hope you like it."
He held his breath while she was opening it, worried that maybe he had moved too fast. Worried that maybe he had misread what her feelings were for him.
As soon as she opened the box, she squealed and launched herself into his arms, "I love it!" she cried peppering his cheeks with kisses.
Killian couldn't keep the huge smile off his face, "I'm glad. I was," he hesitated, "worried, I guess."
"Oh Killian," she sighed, "why would you worry? You should know that I'll love whatever it is...because it's from you. And this is beautiful," she held the necklace, its diamond-shaped heart sparkling in her hand. "I can't believe you gave me a diamond heart."
Killian brought her hand holding the pendant close, laying it on his chest, "It's not the first heart I've given you, love." Emma smiled at him, her eyes shining with unshed tears. "You've held mine far longer than I can remember. I love you, Emma."
"I love you too," she murmured. "Thank you for loving me." Her smile turned sexy, "Any suggestions on where we should go from here?"
"Well," he twisted their bodies, taking her down onto the deck, "I have a few ideas. Shall we start here," he gently kissed her lips, "and see where it leads?"
"Hmm, I like how you think." was all she had time to say before he sealed their deal with a kiss...or two..or...
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