Killian sat in the library of Queen Snow and King David’s castle, reading through his books and taking as many notes as he could.
He was in his last year at the naval academy and he needed to ace this next test in order to graduate. There were too many people counting on him. Liam was looking for his younger brother to join him on the high seas. King David was sponsoring his education and he could not squander the money spent on him by failing at the last marker. His teachers and professors were all puffed up with pride over him because he was the youngest student in his school but at the top of his class and he felt the need to justify their adulation.
More than anything, he felt the need to prove his worth to himself. He needed to be better than his cowardly drunk of a father, who died in disgrace branded a pirate and a thief. If that meant studying until his eyes felt like popping out of his skull, then needs must.
He heard a quiet popping sound but ignored it in favor of his reading. After a paragraph, he heard it again in rapid succession. He looked up only to see bubbles floating down from the sky, popping before they could reach their destination. He shook his head and rolled his eyes. He figured that it was probably just Tinkerbelle’s boredom inspired antics.
The mischievous, jumpy, bright eyed ball of energy had latched onto him the moment they met and wouldn’t leave him alone. He didn’t mind nearly as much as he intimated, she was like the annoying younger sister he never had, but he had to study. He decided if he ignored the fairy long enough, she’d get bored and go look to annoy Baelfire or indulge in shenanigans with Nova.
Out of the corner of his eye he could see the bubbles turning into different shaped animals: dragons, chimeras, oxen, snakes, griffins, wyverns. Then they turned to animals more indigenous to other realms: koala bears, zebras, kangaroos and the like. Those animals were more from the land without magic rather than the Enchanted Forest and Tink had never been to that realm. The only person he knew who had been there and would take it upon herself to annoy him was—
“Emma,” he exclaimed in an annoyed tone as his book suddenly vanished from his hands.
The princess slipped from the shadows between some bookshelves with a teasing smile on her red lips, mischievous eyes dancing behind her glasses and his book in her hand.
“Give it back,” he ordered, not caring about her status as princess like he usually did.
They’d been friends a long time. She would sneak out of the castle and play in the woods with the raggedy street rat he was before he found Liam again following his father’s abandonment. Only recently had they tentatively evolved to courting secretly. Surprisingly, not a lot changed about their relationship despite the shift in status. Emma was still playful and annoying as ever and Killian was still as straightlaced and serious as he’d always been. Emma still brought him out of his bubble of rules and regulations and he still inspired her to think more before she did something reckless. The only real difference was that now they could kiss each other without being awkward afterwards. This was one of those moments he wished them being together stopped Emma from being... well, Emma. Alas, it was not to be.
“Emma, give me the book back,” Killian requested with a sigh.
“Why,” she asked, opening it to look at what he was reading.
She wrinkled her nose in disgust at the words on the page, a bunch of navy procedures and regulations.
“What do you mean why? I was reading it, that’s why.”
“I couldn’t imagine what for. This looks dreadful.”
“If you must know, Princess, I have a test tomorrow. It’s the final exam and it will determine whether or not I graduate the naval academy.”
Killian was sure the worry he felt was clear in his voice. Emma smiled reassuringly while rolling her eyes, a strange combination few could make work.
“Oh, you’ll definitely pass.”
“You think,” he asked with some vulnerability shining in his eyes.
“Totally. Just like you pass every other test you’ve taken... ever, Mr. Ivy League Vocabulary.”
Killian rolled his eyes; Emma always teased him about some of the words he used.
“Simian? Just say monkey. It won’t hurt you to mingle with us linguistic peasants every now and then,” she’d tell him.
She slammed the book closed before looking up at him.
“It is a beautiful day outside and instead of enjoying it; you’re cooped up in here studying.”
“Emma, it’s freezing out there. The snow is at least two feet high.”
“As I said, it’s a beautiful day. Let’s go out.”
“I have to study.”
“Killian, let’s go. We can come back in and I can have the kitchen staff make that delightful drink we discovered in Agrabah. What was it called again?”
“Hot chocolate,” he reminded her, though he was thinking more about how their relationship changed officially in the sandy dunes of the desert lands.
“Yes, hot chocolate with a smidge of cinnamon. I don’t know why’d they’d need this warm beverage, it’s so hot in Agrabah, but it’s delicious all the same. Come on, we can make snow angels and if the water is frozen enough, we can skate with mermaids swimming below the surface and, hey, do you wanna build a snowman? You love that!”
She sounded so hopeful and childlike that he was reminded of days frolicking in the woods and fields with her, enjoying a few snatches of companionship in his otherwise lonely existence. His face softened as she beamed at him but he had to remind himself that he needed to succeed, and success came through hard work.
“Fine, but if you want your lousy book, you’re going to have to come and get it.”
She still kept the childishness in her voice, but the hopeful inflection now turned to a poutier one. He sighed but got up and approached her as she held out the book. As soon as he reached for it, she moved it out of the path of his hand. He looked at her through narrowed eyes and tried to get the book again only to have the same result.
“I said you had to get it, I didn’t say I’d make it easy.”
He spent the next minute trying to get his book back from her. He couldn’t help but have his spirits lifted over the fact that she was smiling, even if it was because she was annoying him. Finally, he trapped her in his arms, but that wasn’t enough to deter her. He watched with an air of awe as the book vanished in thin air.
He turned her in his arms so they were face to face. He immediately felt the atmosphere change from the playful one they were embroiled in into one of tension as she stared up into his eyes through hooded lids.
“Bring it back,” he requested softly.
“I propose a trade,” she answered in a breathy voice.
“What trade would that be?”
“I’ll bring your book back… for a kiss.”
He leaned and gave her a quick, chaste kiss. She looked at him exasperatedly.
“A real kiss.”
“A real kiss? You mean, something more along the lines of this?”
He leaned in again as if he were going for her lips, but at the last minute he redirected himself to her temple, placing a kiss there. He kissed his way to her ear and gently pulled the lobe into his mouth, knowing how much she liked that. He was rewarded with her bunching his shirt into her fist. He kissed his way down her cheek and placed a slow kiss to the corner of her mouth before continuing down to her jaw.
“Killian, stop teasing me.”
He ignored her complaint and kissed down to her neck. He paused, pulling the patch of skin above her pulse into his mouth. Her other hand went to his shoulder, pulling him closer as she tilted her head back giving him more room. He restrained himself from marking her, not wanting her parents to see. He kissed up her neck, her jaw and cheek before finally placing his lips against hers.
She sighed into his mouth, pulling him even closer to her and reciprocating with fervor. She swiped her tongue against his lip and he opened his mouth, swallowing her contented sigh. Their tongues languidly massaged each other’s, their hands pulling each other impossibly closer before the need for air got too great and they had to part. He placed three more chaste kisses to her lips before resting his forehead against hers while they both regained their composure.
“Now, that was a kiss.”
“I’m glad that was more to your liking. Now, my book please?”
Emma pouted as he pulled back but waved her hand. The book crashed onto a table close by along with a puddle of water. Killian looked at the book with wide-eyed alarm before looking at Emma. She looked just as surprised and a little embarrassed.
“I wasn’t expecting that. I thought I sent it to my bedroom, but I may have sent it to the fountain or perhaps the ocean. Sorry?”
Killian sighed before he began walking towards the exit. He stopped when he saw Emma wasn’t following. He turned back to see her looking at him with a kicked puppy expression.
“Aren’t you coming?”
“The book is useless now. Might as well build that snowman.”
Emma beamed at him with a smile like the sun before practically hopping towards him and jumping into his arms. He reciprocated the hug with a grudging smile. He wasn’t happy the book was ruined but he would never mind spending time with Emma. She pulled away and began dragging him from the room.
“I knew you’d find your sense of adventure eventually.”