Los Angeles, Three Years Later
“You know, the last time I was here they only gave me those itty bitty bottles of water.”
Killian laughed to himself but kept his eyes trained to his phone. He knew if he looked up the love of his life would be scowling at the unnecessarily large bottles of expensive water lined up along the counter of the green room they were waiting in. Emma Swan was prone to many wonderful things but graciously giving up on a grudge was not one of them.
“The last time you were here you hadn’t won five Grammys in one fell swoop. When I was doing the first interviews with Realm of Jewels we were lucky to get cups of tap water. We thought a slice of lemon was the height of luxury.”
“Yeah, well that was what? Three hundred years ago?” She teased, moving across the room to flop down beside him on the couch with a huff, “They should at least have a water cooler or something. Reusable bottles are the way of the future.”
“First you complain about the water they’re providing and now you’re complaining about the one their not? Can they do nothing to please you?”
He looked over at her with a raised brow and she gave him a smirk.
“They fired Walsh so that’s a step in the right direction.”
“Thank bloody fuck,” he growled, turning back to his phone with a scowl.
Emma had eventually told him the full extent of what had happened the day of her interview with Walsh Hoakley. Not only had the wanker reported gossip as though it were truth, which caused the brief falling out between him and Emma that had made them both miserable, but the berk had hit on her not ten minutes after. When she finally had told him, only a few days after they had reconciled, it had taken an hour for him to calm down and at least a week for her to convince him not to fight her battles for her. The news of Hoakley’s firing less than a year later had been celebrated with a sparkling cider toast.
“So-” Emma peered over his shoulder and he felt some of his tension melt away, “What’s got you paying more attention to your phone than the expensive goodies they’re trying to get on our good side with?”
With a snort he tilted his phone towards her, “Just going over the contract one last time.”
“We have a fancy lawyer for that don’t we?” She asked crossing her arms as she sat back, “And Ruby wouldn’t try to scam you. I mean, look what’s happened since she decided to become my manager instead of staying in my backing band.”
“Well, aside from those five Grammys I mentioned-”
“What?!” Emma’s brows shot up and her mouth dropped open in clearly feigned shock, “I won five Grammys? I had no idea!”
“Hush, love, you deserved them and I’m honored to brag on your behalf,” he chided though he gave her a wink, “Although, I don’t rightly think we can give Ruby the credit for that.”
She scoffed and burrowed further into the couch, “If she hadn’t forced me to let you audition then we wouldn’t have met. Then we wouldn’t have had our grand romance that in turn inspired In the Middlemist and I wouldn’t have won those Grammys.”
“I believe that we would have met eventually, love. If not through our careers then we would have certainly been invited to Ruby’s wedding where I would have been immediately smitten with the blonde in the crimson bridesmaid dress,” he said lowly, pleased to see her cheeks flush.
“And I probably would have freaked out even more meeting you for the first time there than at the studio. You know how much I like seeing you in a suit-” she said huskily, leaning up to press a soft kiss under his jaw. Then she sat back and smiled wide, “Even then Ruby would still be the reason we met. That’s why I dedicated it to her and not you.”
“Is that why? I thought it was because you were still upset with me over the tiny misunderstanding over your choice in vehicle.”
He gave her a knowing look and she glared right back at him. When he raised his brow in challenge she rolled her eyes at him.
“Fine, that was part of it,” she conceded, “But I did mention you in every acceptance speech.”
“Which was wonderful aside from the camera they kept shoving in my face to capture my every proud tear in HD,” he grumbled, remembering the repeated messages from Will that were just the GIF of him crying after Emma had said she loved him onstage holding her third award of the night. He blew out a breath, “As I was saying: aside from all that I will admit that your career has flourished under Ruby’s care. She has become quite the adversary of Regina, stealing her best clients away.”
“Regina’s over it now,” she dismissed with a wave of her hand, “Ever since you reintroduced her to Robin in a non-business setting and then moved to that corner office things have been great.”
Just as he was about to make a somewhat lewd comment as to exactly why both those things would put Regina in a good mood there was a knock on the door. It was opened a moment later by the intern that had initially led them there.
“They’re ready for you, if you’d like to follow me.”
He let Emma proceed him as he stowed his phone in his pocket. She was right, of course, Ruby wouldn’t dream of sneaking in last minute changes to the contract making her his new manager. If anything she would have been fine with a verbal agreement and the promise of making her the godmother of whatever child he and Emma might have. Unfortunately all of their fancy, and expensive, lawyers required things in writing and in triplicate.
The intern led them to a broadcasting studio that looked like every other one he’d ever been interviewed in. One glaring difference, however, was the radio host who squealed when she saw them and practically skipped towards them with open arms.
“Finally, you guys! I’ve been waiting all week for this!”
Emma laughed and accepted the hug easily, “Us too, Tink. Killian’s had it marked in all of our calendars the second Ruby booked it.”
Tink pulled back from Emma and gave him a wide smile, “I’d heard she finally got you to make it official. There’s no stopping her now.”
“As though there was a chance before,” he chuckled. “Lovely to see you again, TInk.”
“If you guys lived here I’d see you more,” she chided gently before stepping forward to wrap her arms around him, “Everyone’s still on for dinner tomorrow, right?”
“Of course, Will wouldn’t let us hear the end of it if we didn’t,” he scoffed, giving her a light squeeze before letting go.
“Great! I still can’t believe he ditched Emma to be in your band,” She said with a laugh, grinning broadly at Emma’s frown. Something over his shoulder caught her eye and she nodded before focusing back on them, “Alright, my producer’s about to throw a fit if we waste any more time. Go ahead and get settled while I do my thing.”
As he and Emma moved to the seats awaiting them Tink bounced over to her chair and donned her headphones. With a bit of awe and intimidation he watched Tink easily slip into performance mode, softening her accent and dialing up her enthusiasm as she introduced herself and the start of her broadcast block. She hadn’t been a DJ for long but he could clearly see she had found her calling. When she teased their interview she gave them an overexaggerated wink that had him stifling a laugh.
After two songs and a small promo of Enchanted’s other stations Tink gave them a thumbs up as her producer let them know that their mics were live.
“That was the latest from The Killers and I don’t know about you but I’m more than ready for their new album to be released. I’m Tink and this is Rock Alt, home to all the alternative rock hits here on Enchanted XM. Today is a very exciting day because in the studio with me, right this very moment, are two people that you should be very familiar with: five time Grammy winner and indie darling Emma Swan and two time Grammy winner and alt rock god Killian Jones. Once upon a time I toured with Emma as part of her backing band and on one of those more memorable tours Killian decided to join us. Welcome, welcome!”
“I can truthfully say we’re excited to be here,” Emma chimed in brightly, her grin wide and happy.
“Yes, thanks for having us, love,” Killian said warmly. “Though I feel it’s only right to mention that those two Grammys were won with Realm of Jewels.”
“Aw, it’s only a matter of time before they’ll be joined by plenty of others, especially with this new album-” Tink waggled her eyebrows and he had a feeling she wasn’t going to go easy on them just because she was their friend. “There’s no question that you two are more than just friendly collaborators, with a couple of writing credits on each other’s albums and a duet on Killian’s acoustic cover album of Realm of Jewels’ greatest hits. We’ve also seen the red carpet photos and Instagram glimpses of your romance.”
He looked over at Emma and received an eye roll in return. When they’d first truly started dating they’d kept it hidden from anyone that wasn’t close friends or family. They had both felt that they wanted to start their relationship without the hounding from the press and scrutiny from the gossip mongers. It wasn’t until nearly a year and a half later, when Emma had clearly been his date to American Music Awards, that they’d gone public. Even then they had both agreed that they’d keep their personal lives as private as possible and continued to do so. Including the fact that they’d been married for two years.
“But now you’ve released a surprise album as a duo,” Tink continued, “going by the name Charles & Leia, which also happens to be the title of the album. It’s amazing by the way and if any of you out there haven’t listened to it yet I suggest you do so, but only after this interview is over, of course. So, how did this come about and why Charles & Leia?”
Emma gave him a shrug and a nod and he leaned closer to his mic, “As you mentioned earlier we’ve been playing together for some time now. After that tour I was a part of we were both starting on our next albums and would often work through arrangements or fine tune lyrics, using the other as a sounding board. This has, as evidenced, continued through the years until one day we thought we might try our hands at creating a whole album together.”
“We didn’t want it to be an album of my songs featuring him or vice versa though,” Emma chimed in. “Then it would have just been the same thing we’d already been doing which would have been fun but kinda boring at the same time. We wanted to challenge ourselves to create something new together from the beginning. Luckily our label was open to the idea and let us run with it.”
“And the name?” Tink prodded.
“A bit of an inside joke, really,” he said with a chuckle, reaching over to clasp Emma’s hand in his, “Whenever we made reservations or had to give a name for whatever reason I used Charles and Emma used Leia. I don’t even remember why-”
Emma snorted, “When he made the reservations for our first date and they asked for a name he panicked. We’d been watching The Crown and he blurted out the name Charles. At least he didn’t completely lose his shit and say Elizabeth.”
Emma’s eyes widened at the curse and clapped her hands over her mouth. Tink waved her hand in dismissal. Not a moment later the producer let them know through their headphones that cursing was fine but to keep it to a minimum if possible.
“Anyway,” Emma said evenly, though her cheeks were pink, “When it was my turn to make reservations I kept it going. Princess Leia was my hero when I was a kid. Still is actually.”
“As she is for us all,” Killian jumped in, “Of course we no longer use those as our aliases but when we were trying to decide how we wanted to present ourselves for this album this seemed appropriate.”
“We also figured it would give people the chance to listen to the songs without already having an idea of what they thought it should sound like because they knew it was us,” Emma explained, “I mean, it’s not like we’re trying to deceive anyone or anything but a lot of times people don’t try something out because they think they know exactly what it’s going to be. I know I’m totally guilty of it sometimes.”
“I’ve been listening to the album non-stop since it came out last week and you’re absolutely right, if I hadn’t already known that it was you two I wouldn’t have even been able to guess. Now, I’ve played alongside both of you and have been a fan of each of your music since both of your beginnings and I have to say, Charles & Leia is nothing like the music you’ve released before. What would you say were the biggest influences on how you approached the creation of this album?”
Killian took a moment to consider Tink’s question. He immediately dismissed sharing the long convoluted answer that began with innocent questions about one another’s past that led to a months long search into the mystery of Emma’s beginnings that came up empty while he nearly spiralled out of control once more over the unhealed pain of his borderline abusive and neglectful father. They were still working through some of those issues in therapy and even with the personal nature of the songs they’d written he didn’t feel it was necessary to elaborate on what the lyrics already implied.
“I can’t speak for Emma but for me it’s a look to the past and what influence it has on the present and the future. Take the title track for instance, my mother was Irish so I looked to the old Celtic folk songs and the instruments used, mimicking the flow of the music before playing around with more modern sounds. The result was entirely unique but still felt familiar, like an auditory deja vu, if you will.”
Tink was nodding furiously while Emma rolled her eyes at him, “I definitely won’t be that eloquent but yeah, we both have things in our past that sometimes takes a toll on who we are today. Our music was already pretty personal. I mean, I’ve written songs about growing up in foster care or when I was in jail but this was something else. Every day when we finished recording whatever song we were working on I felt like I’d been turned inside out and then wrung out but in a good way? It makes no sense but I’ve also never been this proud of one of my albums.”
“Well you should both be damn proud! I may be the tad bit biased but I think this may be the best album to come out this year and we’re only halfway through,” Tink effused.
“Thank you lass,” he mumbled as he scratched behind his ear at the compliment.
He caught Emma’s eye and she gave him an indulgent smile. She was well aware that sincere praise always tended to discomfit him, as he felt he was undeserving of it, especially when it came from someone he knew well. It was something he was working on getting better at accepting, with her help of course.
“Since the album was a surprise release there hasn’t been any confirmation of a tour yet. Any chance we’ll be seeing you two taking this act on the road?”
“We’re doing a kind of a mini tour on the east coast and then a couple of dates out here,” Emma explained, her eyes sparkling, “We didn’t want to get too ahead of ourselves and book a bunch of dates and then not have anyone show up.”
“I doubt that will be a problem,” Tink dismissed with a bright laugh, “From what I’ve been told nearly every show is sold out. So if any of you listeners out there want to see Emma and Killian perform songs from this brilliant new album I’d say don’t wait to buy your tickets. I already have mine.
“Now, I know this album is only weeks old and you both have flourishing solo careers but I have to ask: can we expect even bigger things from you two in the future?”
With a smile he had no hope of quelling he gave Emma a wink, though he was reasonably sure that it was nowhere near subtle. It didn’t matter though, as no one had a clue what it could mean since she had only shown him the positive pregnancy test earlier that morning. Emma gave him a beaming grin of her own and he kept his eyes on her as he spoke into his mic.
“I think you can, Tink. In fact, I’m quite certain that this is merely the happy beginning of grand things to come.”