It was only June and already Emma was sick of summer. And it technically wasn’t even summer yet; not for another week.
It’s not that she didn’t enjoy the gradually warming weather, or the nice days at the park with her family and a double scoop of rocky road, or some of the sweet, romantic dates that Killian set up under the stars. It was that for some reason, so much crazy shit had happened in the last two months and it was eating into her happy bubble.
First, there was Walsh. Emma was sure she’d never see him again after threatening him with bodily harm-slash-jail time. To be fair, he hadn’t sought her out. (No, he’d tried desperately to avoid her after their altercation.) But, well, when the owner of the furniture and home décor shop he worked at called the sheriff to come arrest him, running into her ex was kind of unavoidable. Turns out that not only had he been stealing from the registers on a near daily basis, he’d also been hiking up the prices of some of the pieces in the store, then pocketing the extra when people paid for their items with cash. She had bought all of her furniture and bedding from that store when she’d moved to town so she wondered, as she cuffed the dickwad and roughly shoved him into the back of the Bug, how much money he had stolen from her. He didn’t stay in Storybrooke’s jail for long. As soon as he was charged, they transferred him over to a real prison to carry out his sentence. So at least there was that.
Unfortunately, during that whole debacle, the only news outlet in Storybrooke hyper focused on Emma’s life in the papers. For a few weeks it was nothing but headlines like, ‘Sheriff’s Ex-Lover: Swindler’ and, ‘Were Mr. Osman’s Schemes Known to Sheriff Swan?’ And, later, after Sidney Glass got an ‘anonymous tip’ about Emma’s previous prison record – which was supposed to have been sealed – the headlines changed to, ‘Sheriff Swan in League with Walsh Osman?’ and, ‘Sheriff Swan’s Criminal Background Revealed!’ It was awful, not to mention a huge invasion of privacy.
Luckily, Emma had already well established herself as a productive and law-abiding citizen of Storybrooke, and she was good friends with all the other influential members of the town, like David, Granny, and even the mayor, whom she’d developed a friendlier relationship with ever since she took on the role of sheriff. Apparently, the papers hadn’t been selling well for the past several years thanks to the Internet, so it was nothing new for Glass to publish whatever nonsense stories he could to get more readers. But she couldn’t exactly arrest the man; there was the whole concept of free speech and all. (Although Ruby did mention suing for slander a few times and Emma briefly considered that option before deciding to just wait it out.)
Still, while no one called for her resignation or harassed her on the street, the rumor mill never stopped churning out new twists to her dark, criminal past. In one story, instead of going to prison for stealing some expensive watches, it was for physically assaulting someone. In another, her prison sentence was originally supposed to be two years but she got it lessened by paying off the judge. (The most confusing part about that one had been that if she had that much money in the first place, what would have been the point of stealing?)
It was by the support of her friends and Killian that she managed to ignore most of it. She was more worried about Henry hearing about it and being negatively affected than she was for herself. That particular part of her history was something she wished to hold off on sharing until he was older. Much older.
Just when things started to settle down a little, Emma learned that Killian had been struggling with visa issues. He’d originally come to the US on a tourist visa since that’s the only thing he could manage on such short notice. It had taken nearly three months for his work visa to come through but they’d only given him six months. It wasn’t exactly an ideal time constraint when searching for a new career to pursue, so for now he was working at the local library with Belle French. (Emma hadn’t had much interaction with her before Killian came to town, but Belle had quickly become another very dear friend. There was just something so comforting about the woman.) Now that it was well into June and his visa would be expiring in August, he was understandably a bit anxious. After numerous calls and emails to the immigration office, the problems still persisted and Killian didn’t know why.
To make matters even worse, the immigration office in Portland was ‘closed until further notice’ thanks to some serious construction work, so the only option was for Killian to travel out of state. The original plan was to go down to Boston, but he managed to find a cheaper round-trip flight to New York.
And that’s how Emma found herself driving her beloved to the airport in Portland while Henry was busy at his three-day-a-week summer school camp. He was hoping to discuss the status of his green card application with the immigration office in NYC as well as attempt to get the extension on his visa sorted out.
It felt weird saying goodbye to him. It was only for a few days but she didn’t like it. She’d become so used to his presence in the past seven months that it just felt wrong not to have him by her side.
“Don’t worry, love. Won’t be gone long,” he promised, pulling her into a hug. And while she knew she had nothing to worry about, perhaps there were a few unresolved fears lingering under the surface. The last time he’d said something like that, he nearly died and then Emma spent a year without word from him.
But things were different now, she reminded herself. Killian was here to stay. He loved her. In fact, he was going to New York specifically so he wouldn’t have to leave. (And she wasn’t about to jinx his safety by thinking about the numerous ways in which he could get injured while he was away.)
“I know. But I miss you already.” She sighed into his shoulder and his arms tightened around her waist.
“I love you, Emma. There isn’t a single thing in this world that could keep me from you.” He pulled back just enough to show her his reassuring smile and she instantly relaxed. “Even your country’s infuriating government.”
She chuckled at that and pressed her hands to his cheeks, pulling him down for a kiss. He comfortingly rubbed circles over her back as their lips slid together in practiced familiarity. She had an amused twinkle in her eye as she pulled away.
“You seem to like calling it my country when you find it particularly aggravating. But you live here, too, you know.”
“Aye. This is home,” he agreed, and Emma’s heart leapt. He nudged the side of his nose against hers and then pressed another kiss to her lips. “I’ll call when I land. And probably countless times until I’m back in your arms.”
She pulled him close and squeezed him tightly one last time before letting him head past security. When he reached the other side, he waved and blew kisses to her and she just shook her head and laughed. As soon as he was out of sight, she deflated and dragged her feet as she returned to her car in the parking lot.
The drive home was long, a little over an hour and a half, and she spent the majority of it thinking over the past half-year.
Being with Killian was incredible. Not even her most detailed and well thought out fantasies even came close to the real deal. She got to sleep with her body curled up against him every night, his fingertips skimming bare patches of her skin until he fell asleep. He helped Henry with reading and writing and came to all the school events. She got to kiss him goodbye every morning when the two of them split ways to go to work. They grabbed lunch together frequently, usually from Granny’s. (And while he was loathe to allow himself, and her for that matter, to eat greasy, fatty foods almost every day, he had become just addicted to the stuff as she had.) Even her friends were all becoming pretty used to having him around. David and Eric took him out to guys’ nights once every few weeks while Emma was hanging out with the ladies. All in all, she couldn’t be happier with the changes in her life since his arrival.
Things had been going well for Killian, too. She convinced him a couple months in to see a therapist about his nightmares and he had shown significant improvement. In fact, she couldn’t even recall when the last one had been. Maybe March? Regardless, she was glad to see that he was healing. So was Liam. He called a few times a week on Skype to check in and noted that Killian was looking ‘healthier,’ which she assumed was a nice way of saying he didn’t look like a boozed-up zombie anymore. (His coping mechanisms back in England hadn’t been particularly healthy, she’d learned.)
Things were good. Really good, even with all the recent chaos. She loved how easily he fit into life here in Storybrooke.
When she got back, it was just before the school camp let out. She drove her Bug up to the curb and hopped out so she could lean against the side of the car.
Within minutes, the doors flew open and a flood of children poured into the courtyard. She spotted Henry in the middle of them all, slowly and steadily walking across the grass towards her.
Emma immediately noticed something was wrong. His shoulders were slumped and the smile on his face was weak and didn’t reach his eyes. As soon as he reached her, she ran her fingers through his messy hair.
“What’s wrong, baby? You not feeling good?”
He averted his eyes and shrugged. It was very unlike him. She pressed the back of her hand to his forehead to feel for a fever, but his temperature felt normal. He wasn’t sniffling or coughing either. If he wasn’t sick, maybe something happened at school.
In any case, it seemed like he wasn’t in the sharing mood, so Emma figured she’d try to cheer him up.
“Hey,” she said, a bright smile covering her worry. “You wanna go grab some ice cream? You can get a scoop of double chocolate chip.”
He shook his head and Emma blinked rapidly in shock.
“Can we just go home?” he asked, a slight frown pulling at his lips.
“Uh… sure. Yeah. We’ll go home.”
She opened the car door and Henry climbed in without another word.
Okay. So something was bothering him bad. He always confided in her so his unusual behavior worried her.
She tried to engage him in conversation on the short ride back the their apartment, but never got more than one or two-word responses out of him. Anytime she asked what was wrong, he shrugged it off.
At least he let her hold his hand as they made their way up the stairs to their apartment. She adjusted her keychain in her other hand, grabbing her apartment key.
“Mama, there’s a note.”
She looked up to where he was pointing at the door right as they walked up to it.
A slow smile spread over her face as she pulled it from where it stuck on the doorframe and read it.
My love, a few days apart from you is a few too many. I have no idea how I managed to survive a whole thirteen years without being by your side. Never again, darling, I swear it.
I love you and I can’t wait to be home.
Your best friend and lover (whose heart and soul you wholly possess),
Emma had learned a lot about Killian in the past seven months, most notably his affinity for romancing her. She often received little notes like this, just sweet messages meant to put a smile on her face and a comforting warmth in her heart. (Plus, it was a pretty decent way for him to continue to practice his handwriting, which was already looking much less like a toddler’s and more like Killian’s from back in secondary school.)
She chuckled softly as she tucked the note in her pocket and then opened her apartment door.
Henry released her hand and immediately trekked down the hall and into his room.
Well, so much for the good mood Killian’s note had put her in.
She tossed her keys on the coffee table and followed after her son, hoping that she could convince him to talk to her or, at the very least, allow her to comfort him.
He was lying down on his bed, facing the wall, when she pushed his door open. He’d thrown his backpack into a corner, but hadn’t bothered to take off his shoes. She kneeled down next to his bed and rubbed her hand gently across his back.
“You wanna tell me what happened?” she asked softly. She’d already tried this question multiple times on the ride home, but it couldn’t hurt to do so again.
He shook his head silently and she pursed her lips. She decided she might have to call his teacher and ask if there were any memorable incidents during the day camp that may have prompted this mood.
Just as she was going to stand back up and let her almost-six-year-old sulk in peace, her phone buzzed in her back pocket. Killian’s name lit up the front screen and she grinned as she flipped it open and held it to her ear.
“Killian, hey!” Henry’s shoulders twitched and he lazily rolled over to look at her. There was an odd sort of look in his eyes and Emma wanted to bang her head against a wall because of course Henry wasn’t his usual perky self. Killian was almost always there to pick him up from school and today he’d left to go to another state. “You’ve landed?”
“Safe and sound in New York, love. How’s everything at home?”
“Uh, good. Fine.” She reached over and grabbed Henry’s hand, pulling the phone speaker from her lips for a moment to speak to him. “You wanna talk to Killian, baby?”
She had been so sure that he’d immediately reach for the phone, but he didn’t. Instead he looked rather torn, like he wasn’t quite sure whether he wanted to or not. Was she wrong then about his sour mood being about missing Killian?
Eventually he sighed and shook his head, then rolled back over to face the wall.
“Emma? Are you giving the phone to Henry?”
She concernedly patted her son on the back, then leaned over and kissed him on his temple before padding quietly out of his room and into the living room.
“Uh, he’s not really in the talking mood right now.”
“Uh oh. What’s wrong? Did something happen?”
“I wish I knew. He’s been quiet and broody since I picked him up. I hope he isn’t being bullied or anything.”
“I don't think so. Henry gets along with everyone. He’s never had a problem with that before.”
“I know, just… he’ll usually talk to me if something’s bothering him. He even refused ice cream earlier.”
“What? Okay, that’s a little worrisome.”
“Right? I’m not sure what’s going on with him but I can’t make him talk if he doesn’t want to.”
“Aye. Perhaps he’ll be better after a good night’s sleep, yeah?”
“Probably,” she agreed, though she wasn’t entirely confident. She wandered into the kitchen to pour herself a much-needed glass of wine. “So… how was your flight?”
“Fine,” he said, chuckling lowly. “Short and easy. Did you get my note?”
“I did. Warm and gooey as always.”
“Ah, come now. You know you love all my notes.”
“I never said I didn’t,” she said, preening and brushing her hair over her shoulder as if he could see her. Then she took a hefty sip of wine.
He chuckled and then sighed dramatically.
“Three whole nights. I’m already regretting this decision.”
“You don’t really have a choice, do you? If you don’t get the process going, you might not be welcome in the country by the end of the year. And, you know, I’d really prefer that you stay.”
“Aye, I’d prefer that as well. Unfortunately, it can take years to get a green card so I may be dealing with these issues for a while. I can only hope they fix my visa problems soon.”
“Crossing my fingers for you.”
“Thank you, darling.”
The two of them chatted during his taxi ride over to his hotel room, then for about another hour or so after his arrival. It was ridiculous that he’d only left a few hours earlier and she was already craving his company so much that she was afraid to end the call.
But she had to get dinner started and Killian needed to go grab himself something to eat, too, so she reluctantly decided to hold off on their conversation until later that night.
She made sure to peek into Henry’s room before hanging up to see if he’d changed his mind about talking to Killian, but to her surprise, he was sound asleep. It was barely after 6pm.
“Just let him sleep, Swan.”
“But he should eat something. I don’t want him to go to bed hungry.”
“He knows how to fix himself a snack. I promise you won’t be a terrible mother for not making him eat dinner for one night.”
“Shut up,” she pouted, shutting his light off and closing his door. “I’m just worried. You don’t think word’s gotten around to the children about my prison time, do you?”
There was a brief pause on the other end.
“I should hope not. But I doubt Henry would react like this if he heard something like that. Knowing him, he’d probably think it’s cool.”
“It’s not cool.”
“Please, you weren’t even in there for a crime you committed. Henry wouldn’t shut you out for something like that.”
“But Henry doesn’t know that. And besides, with all the weird shit people are making up, maybe he’s heard one of the more awful stories.”
“Just give him some time. Let’s not assume anything about his behavior, all right? I’m sure whatever it is, he’ll come around.”
She chewed the inside of her cheek anxiously, then huffed a sigh at her boyfriend’s comforting words.
After thanking him and both saying their quick, but ever-important “I love you”s, the phone snapped shut and she sunk into one of the dining room chairs. She wasn’t feeling up to cooking if she’d be the only one eating. After downing the last bit of her wine, she opted to continue with water, instead. Then she grabbed a couple of granola bars and watched a few rerun episodes of Friends on the couch, wishing that Killian would be back soon, Henry would stop acting strange, and that she could just have her freaking happy bubble back.
As it turned out, a good night’s sleep did absolutely nothing to improve Henry’s spirits. She almost felt guilty when she dropped him off at day camp the next morning, watching his retreating form with concern. The call to his teacher last night hadn’t revealed any new information; all she’d said was that he was fine one minute and the next he was quiet and mopey in the classroom. She didn’t have an explanation for his change in mood.
It was frustrating. And Emma carried that frustration with her the entire day at work. David allowed her to stay at the station to finish up paperwork while he left on patrol and then brought her lunch from Granny’s to try and cheer her up. While she appreciated his care and support, the only bright spots during her day were the two phone calls she’d received from Killian and the text messages he sent while he was sitting in the immigration office.
But as long as he was in New York and Henry was closing himself off, she was stuck in this hazy, uncomfortable gloom. It didn’t help matters that it had been steadily raining all day, the first break in the sunny, warm weather that had started a month ago. It was almost like her foul mood had the clouds physically following her around.
She tried to put on a warm, happy façade when she picked Henry up. It was a good sign that upon seeing her, he wrapped his arms around her waist and leaned into her. She didn’t ask what was wrong, instead just holding him against her and soothing her hands over his shoulders and back.
Later that evening, Killian called. Henry once again refused to talk to him, choosing instead to quietly play by himself in his room.
“Well, if he won’t talk, will you tell him that I miss him at least?” His voice was wavering a bit and Emma could tell he was upset at not getting the chance to talk to Henry two nights in a row.
“Of course. Don’t take it personally, Killian.”
“I’m not,” he argued weakly. “It’s just been a long, awful day. I need a pick-me-up.”
“I know what you mean. It hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park for me either.”
“Trouble at work, love?”
“No… just… things have been really stressful lately. So with my son being moody and my boyfriend stuck in New York, I’m just not feeling great.”
“Sorry. I promise you, I’ll be back soon. I don’t want to be so far away either.”
“I know. I’m not blaming you or anything.” She rubbed at her tired, most likely reddened eyes.
“Mm. I want to kiss you.”
She snorted at his shift in topic.
“Two more days and you can kiss me to your heart’s content.”
“It will take a lot of kisses before my heart will be content,” he warned.
“I think I can handle it,” she laughed mirthfully.
Minutes later, after they hung up, she peeked into Henry’s room to let him know how much Killian missed him.
His cheeks flushed a little, but not quite in shyness. It almost looked like he was ashamed and Emma just wanted to do nothing but soothe him.
Whatever was bothering him, whether it was related to Killian or not, she just wanted to fix it. To kiss him better. To take away the uneasy crease in his brows that was very uncharacteristic of his normal, carefree self.
Saturday was a bit better. Distractions were working wonders on Henry’s mood. In the morning, they donned umbrellas and took a trip to the park, where he got very sloppy, wet kisses from a couple of dogs on their walks. It was the first time she’d seen a genuine, happy smile from him in days.
They spent some time with Hank and Violet, too. That little girl was by far Henry’s best friend and the two of them did everything together. They chased the chickens on Hank’s small farm, their boots muddied and clothes wet from the rain, and played with toy cars or dolls or whatever else they happened to have. They convinced her to read to them, snuggled up together on the plush rug in Hank’s den. And for lunch, they both split their portions in half and gave it to the other, the hamburger and hotdog both torn jaggedly in the middle on each of their paper plates.
He was laughing again, so Emma was feeling much lighter.
He even had a pleasant, if brief, conversation with Killian over the phone that afternoon. It wasn’t much, but it was progress and that was all Emma needed. And Killian had been ecstatic.
So that evening when they were settling down for bed, she decided to try once more to get him to open up.
“Hey, kiddo,” she said, grinning down at her pajama-clad boy. He smiled back.
“Hey, Mama,” he replied, in a very similar tone.
Her eyes softened and she brushed her knuckles across his cheek.
“You know you can always tell me anything, right?” She nudged his chin with her thumb. “I’m always, always here for you.”
He bit his lower lip, a nervous tic she must have passed on, and nodded slowly.
“Yeah,” he finally said, absentmindedly tugging on the corner of his blanket.
“And you know… if anyone ever did something to you or said something to you and made you uncomfortable or sad or mad, that it would be okay to talk to me about it?”
He nodded again, then scooted toward the side of his bed, silently asking for her to join him. She did without hesitation, laying her head on the pillow next to his and turning to face him. She pulled his hand to her lips and gave it a firm kiss, which he playfully crinkled his nose at.
She stayed quiet for a minute, waiting for him to start. When he did, it was with slight trepidation in his eyes.
“Where’s my daddy?”
The question was shocking and unexpected, so Emma faltered for a moment. He continued before she got the chance to respond, her mouth agape.
“Um… ‘cause, um, I wanted to make a Father’s Day card for Killian, ‘cause… he takes care of us and stuff… but Philip told me I couldn’t give it to him ‘cause he isn’t my real daddy even though I already made it and everything…”
God. Father’s Day was tomorrow and it hadn’t even crossed Emma’s mind since she’d never had reason to celebrate it. Henry probably heard about it in school.
And while Philip Jr. was Henry’s age, her first, rather inappropriate thought, was, Screw you, Philip. Henry can write a card to whomever he likes.
“Oh, baby,” she sighed, smoothing his hair back. He was staring at her expectantly.
This was kind of a heavy topic. Honestly, she hadn’t thought of Neal in a long time and she stubbornly wished not to speak of him at all. He hadn’t stuck around and there was no guarantee he would have if he’d known she was pregnant, but after setting her up and then sentencing her to a year behind bars… he didn’t deserve to be known to their son -- her son, because he certainly was no father to the child he’d abandoned when he abandoned her.
But this wasn't about Neal; it was about Henry. Maybe he was too young to know the details, but as an orphan herself, she felt it was unacceptable to lie to him about this.
She swallowed the painful lump in her throat, trying to reel in her own emotions so as to not upset Henry any further. She had to make this a kid-friendly story.
Ah! A story.
She smiled wanly and pulled him a little closer.
“I’m gonna tell you a story,” she began. His eyes brightened a little even though he looked a tad confused at the subject change. “It’s… kind of a sad story. But I promise it has a happy ending.”
He tucked his hands beneath his cheek on the pillow and gave her his full attention.
“Once upon a time… there was a little baby girl.” It was as good a beginning as any, but even after all these years she still felt a pang at recalling the emptiness of her lonely childhood. “She was alone. She didn’t have a family.”
“What about her mama?”
“Well… her parents gave her up.”
The telltale constricting of her throat wasn’t enough to spur her into tears, but it was a close thing.
“I don’t know. Maybe they were young and afraid. Maybe they thought she’d be better off without them. Or maybe they just didn’t want her.”
“I know, baby.” She was comforted by the thought that Henry would never feel the way that she did. “So this little girl, she moved around a lot. She jumped from place to place, never really knowing what home was like, never really knowing what it felt like to have a loving family. She really wished not to be alone. And then, when she was almost ten, something amazing happened.”
“She made a friend,” she said, grinning at the thought of her first letters with Killian. “A really wonderful friend. The best friend in the whole world.”
Henry’s eyes lightened and she could see the smile forming on his face.
“So she wasn’t alone anymore?”
“That’s right. Never again after that. But see, this friend lived a long way away, so the girl could only talk to him through letters.”
“Like the ones we used to write?”
“Exactly. So when she was sad or feeling lonely, the girl would read her friend’s words and she knew everything would be all right.” She stroked his chin affectionately, lost in the memories for a moment. After a few beats, she shook herself free from her thoughts and continued. “Some years passed and eventually the girl fell in love.”
“With her friend?”
“Shh… that part’s not til later,” she whispered, laughter dancing in her eyes. Then she struggled for a minute to describe her time with Neal. “No, the girl fell in love with a different boy. He was a little older and she just thought being with him felt so good. It was fun and exciting and she was happy when they were together… But as it turned out… the two of them just weren’t meant to be together. So the boy left and the girl never saw him again.”
“He left?” Henry asked, shock and confusion clear as day on his face. “Why would he leave?”
“Well… you know how in stories there’s a difference between ‘love’ and ‘true love’?” He nodded hesitantly. “The boy wasn’t the girl’s true love, so they couldn’t stay together.” His mouth formed a small ‘O’ in understanding. It wasn’t exactly a lie, and thinking about it now she was actually glad that Neal hadn’t stayed. She and Killian might never have come to this point had things been different back then. “It wasn’t until after that the girl found out she was gonna have a baby boy.” She wasn’t about to tell him where she was when she found that out, but she recalled every second of her pregnancy pretty vividly. There was very little else to focus on in prison. “She was… really scared. She didn’t think she would be a good mom.”
“’Cause she didn’t have a mom?” he guessed.
Her son was actually quite perceptive for so young a person.
“That’s right. But, see, the girl’s friend was so good to her. He supported and encouraged her and told her she would do great, that he believed in her. So the day her little boy was born was the happiest, most perfect day of her life. She loved that baby more than anything. And she promised to do everything in her power to make sure she’d be the kind of mother that he deserved.”
The shift in tone and the grin on her face must have relaxed him. He was excitedly smiling back at her, his curiosity and imagination pulling him into her story.
“What happened next? What about the best friend?”
“They kept sending letters to each other, and even started talking on the phone. And the girl began to realize that she was falling in love with him.”
“I knew it!” he cheered, and she chuckled at his enthusiasm.
“But she was scared to tell him, scared that he might not feel the same, so she kept it a secret. They still talked a lot and he absolutely adored her son. He was so excited every time they spoke on the phone or when he got to send him presents.”
The expression on Henry’s face told her that he was beginning to see where this story was going. He was realizing that she was the girl. That the best friend was Killian. That he was the little baby boy. She knew he’d have questions, but she kept talking to stave them off.
“A few years later, the girl and her son moved to a nice, cozy town. They made some really good friends, ones that would last a lifetime. And one day, out of the blue, her friend showed up on her doorstep! He crossed an entire ocean to be with her and the little boy.” She playfully booped his nose, though he wasn’t quite smiling anymore. “Imagine how amazed the girl was when she found out that her friend was in love with her, too, and that he wanted to be a part of their family.”
He was quiet for a good minute and honestly it made her feel a little nervous. Had telling him those parts of her past been a bad idea?
“So… the boy from before…the one who left… that was my daddy?”
Her heart stuttered at his dejected tone.
“Technically, yes. But you know what? I think that sometimes the family that you choose is just as good – and maybe even better – than the ones who share your blood. You decided that Mary Margaret and David were your family, right?” He nodded. “Well… it could be the same for Killian, too, if you want.”
“So… he won’t be mad if I call him daddy and give him my card?” His eyes were full of dread and worry, like all this time he’d really thought that the man who cherished him more than his own life wouldn’t stand the idea of being his father.
“Oh. No, no, baby. He’d never get mad. Do you want him to be your dad?” He shrugged, faking nonchalance. “Because he loves you very much. And I think he’d really like being your dad.”
“Really?” he asked, still looking rather unsure. But there was a spark of hope in his eyes and she couldn’t help the bubble of laughter that came up with her assuring reply.
That seemed to do the trick, a genuinely pleased smile lighting his features. He scooted right up against her, his head tucked neatly under her chin. She sighed and settled back, holding him in place with one hand and smoothing gentle circles across his back with the other.
“So… um… you never had a mommy or daddy?” She hummed a short sound of agreement and Henry lifted his head to look up at her. “I’m sorry.”
Oh boy. She’d made it this far without crying and she didn’t want to start now.
“It’s okay, sweetie. I’ve got you now. And we’ve got Killian and Mary Margaret and David and Ruby and so, so many other very important people who take such good care of us. We’ve got a good family here.”
“Yeah,” he agreed, snuggling back up to her. “I love you, Mama.”
“I love you, too,” she murmured, her voice muffled against his head.
“Can I bring my card with me to the airport?”
“Absolutely.” She worried a little that Killian might break down in the middle of a crowded area, but she was positive that he’d love it anyway. “Can I see it?”
Her son wiggled out of her hold and clambered over her. She took the opportunity to roll and press herself closer to the wall. Henry dug through his backpack for a minute before pulling out a colorful construction paper card, sparkly blue and green glitter shimmering around the edges where he decorated it. He handed it to her and then took a step back, shyly wringing his hands behind his back.
'Hapy Fathers Day,' it read in sloppy block letters. She flipped it open. 'Thank you for being a part of my famly! I am so hapy your my daddy. Love, Henry.'
Well, she’d at least tried not to cry. But his innocent, loving little card had her tearing up almost instantly. She sniffled as quietly as she could and handed the card back to him.
“It’s perfect,” she said, giving him an encouraging smile. He beamed, clearly proud of himself.
After returning the card to his backpack, he huddled back under the covers and soon fell asleep in her arms, cuddled up with her like they hadn’t done in a while. She felt like she could finally breathe easy now, knowing that her son wanted so badly to have the greatest man in their lives take the role as his father. Killian had already, on several occasions, let her know just how much he thought of Henry as his.
It would be an interesting homecoming for him and her lips drew into a soft smile as she imagined how happy Killian would be to hear Henry refer to him as his dad.
She shifted, pulling her son tighter against her and pressing a firm kiss to the top of his head.
The happy bubble was coming back, better and stronger than before.
"Shh," she heard, just as she had been fading into consciousness. Her brow furrowed and she felt the weight of the small bed shift.
She peeked her eyes open and held back a sharp gasp when she saw Killian easing into the bed beside her and Henry. His hair looked to be slightly damp from the residual rain still steadily pouring outside and his blue eyes almost glowed as they reflected the light from Henry’s nightlight. He tossed the covers back and then wrapped his arms around the both of them, Henry squeezed in the middle.
"Killian, what are you doing here?" she whispered. "You weren't supposed to be back until tomorrow morning!"
"It technically is 'tomorrow morning,'" he chuckled softly, a self-satisfied grin lighting his face. She rolled her eyes and gave him a pointed look. "I missed you too much," he admitted. "Got an earlier flight out. It was a little more expensive, but it almost evened out with what I saved on the hotel costs for the night."
"What time is it? How did you even get here?"
"A little past 2am, and I took a taxi."
"A taxi from Portland? Jesus, Killian! How much did you spend?"
"Shh," he repeated. "Doesn't matter, does it? I'm home now."
She reached over and brushed his hair out of his eyes. His fringe was getting long, but she actually kind of liked it.
"Yeah," she sighed. "Welcome home."
He hummed, a pleased sound that made Emma's stomach turn with delight. She watched as he pressed a kiss to Henry's hair, then he leaned over to grant her one on the lips. She melted into his gentle touch, absolutely and perfectly happy to be wrapped up with her two favorite boys, finally.
He pulled back and settled in on the bed as his eyes slid shut, obviously wiped from his late-night flight and subsequent hour and a half ride from the airport.
Within minutes, she heard his soft snores and she smiled as the sound lulled her back to sleep.
She awoke first and carefully eased herself out of Henry's bed to go to the bathroom. By the time she got back into the bedroom, her son was awake and sitting up in bed, staring over at Killian -- his father.
She hovered in the doorway for a moment, struck with just how incredible it was that their family was whole. What she wouldn’t have given to have a home like this when she was a child. Two loving parents, a room all to herself, plenty of wonderful friends always willing to take care of her. The feeling of just knowing she was loved and wanted and that she mattered.
She was so grateful that she could give this to her son.
Henry glanced up at her with confusion marring his expression. She held her finger to her lips and waved him over, so he silently crawled out of bed and followed her as she padded down the hall, past the living room, and into the kitchen.
"I thought we were gonna go to the airport to pick him up," he said. His tone sounded almost disappointed, like his whole plan to greet Killian had been ruined. She lifted him up into her arms and the settled his bottom down on the kitchen island.
"He said he missed us and couldn't wait any longer," she explained, grinning when his face lit up. "I know you wanted to give him your card at the airport, but I bet he'll be just as happy to get it here at home. What do you say? Wanna make your daddy a good Father’s Day breakfast?"
Henry nodded enthusiastically and Emma let him pick the menu. He decided on hash browns and ham, tomato, and cheese omelettes. She did all the cooking, but Henry got to break the eggs (and if she had to pick out a few pieces of shell, so be it) and mix the ingredients together. While she wasn't a fantastic cook -- unlike her master chef boyfriend -- she did know how to make a good breakfast.
The sleepy, gruff voice startled her and Henry both. They turned their attention towards him and the image that greeted them was a man with pillow creases across his cheeks, hair tousled by his tossing and turning, and half-lidded eyes. Still, he gave them a happy smile and made his way over to them in the kitchen.
"No!" Henry shouted, sliding off the counter.
Killian stopped in his tracks, eyes widening with amusement when he noticed the boy's cheeky grin.
Henry grabbed his hand and dragged him over to the table, forcing him to sit.
"Stay," he ordered. Killian obeyed and then watched curiously as Henry darted back down the hallway.
"Care to enlighten me on what's going on with him?"
Emma laughed softly to herself and shook her head in the negative. He'd learn soon enough. And she was pretty excited to see his reaction to everything.
Henry triumphantly returned to the room with the card held above his head, running up to the table and slapping it down in front of Killian. He raised his brows in curiosity, then shock when he read the front.
Emma shut the stove off and began plating, glancing up to watch the array of expressions cross his features, settling on touched and humbled. He traced the words with his fingertips and then smiled softly at Henry, who was now shyly swaying next to him.
"Look inside," he whisper-shouted, the tips of his little ears reddening. Killian obliged and flipped the card open.
He was very clearly trying not to cry, his quivering lip and flaring nostrils a dead giveaway. His eyes were glossed over with a layer of tears as he turned to her -- their -- son.
"You made this for me?" he asked, voice cracking with emotion.
Henry nodded, unsure how to take Killian's reaction.
Henry’s arms wound around Killian’s neck as he picked him up and settled him in his lap. His good hand went to cradle the back of Henry’s head, holding him with such reverence and love that it just made Emma’s heart ache. He smoothed out the boy’s hair and then gently stroked his back, then gingerly kissed his temple several times.
“Thank you, Henry. I love you so very much. You know that?”
Henry nodded against him, the hair on his forehead mussing from the motion.
“I love you, too, Daddy,” he whispered.
It was just barely loud enough for Emma to hear, and she had to turn away as a soft sob shuddered from her chest. She looked up at the ceiling and dabbed at the corners of her eyes to wipe away the budding moisture.
Then, after taking a deep breath to regain control of herself, she grabbed the plates of food and strode towards the table, placing the largest, fullest plate in front of Killian.
He cleared his throat a little and quickly swiped the heel of his hand across his cheeks as he released Henry and looked up at Emma.
“Happy Father’s Day, Daddy,” she said, lips curled into the happiest smile as she leaned over for a kiss.
Killian breathed a laugh that tickled her lips and she sighed, completely satisfied, as she sat back into her own chair.
Henry ate his breakfast in Killian’s lap, the man unable to stop smiling for the entirety of their meal. He occasionally pressed kisses to the top of their son’s head, looking very much like the father he now was -- well, had been for a while now, but now it was almost like it was official.
The rest of their day was spent leisurely at home, the ongoing rainy weather deterring them from any outside activities. She loved that she and Henry both could have a day to dote on Killian. They let him choose the movies, played games he picked, and Emma fixed both lunch and dinner (although she gave credit to Henry, and he didn’t argue).
In the end, it was just the kind of day Emma needed to get herself out of the strange, gloomy funk that had followed her around in recent months. There was no world outside their apartment. It was just her and her boys. Just the way it should be.
For being so dead-set on wishing summer would end quickly, Emma found herself rather enjoying it after the unfortunate trip Killian had to take a month prior. The temperate weather allowed for plenty of exciting adventures outside. Sailing with Eric was so much more pleasant when they didn’t have to wear several layers of clothing. While the water wasn’t warm enough to swim in comfortably, it was quite nice for all of them to sit at the docks and soak their feet while enjoying the summer sun.
They’d gone camping, too. Killian’s only experience with such a thing had been for survival training years back, so he seemed to like making some happier memories with the activity. Henry was more than happy to teach Killian how to be a proper camper. Killian patiently listened to all of Henry’s camping rules, most of which he made up, some of which he only partly remembered from when David had taken him last November. It was kind of fun, but with all her experiences chasing off wildlife from Storybrooke as sheriff, she was constantly on guard and couldn’t really relax.
Horseback riding also became a more frequent and enjoyable activity. They were going nearly every week now and Emma was incredibly proud of how not sore she felt after riding for a few hours. Henry mostly rode with Killian, but Hank had let him ride his smallest, sweet-tempered pony by himself a time or two, always keeping his hands on the reigns and making sure things went smoothly.
It was so strange. Before Henry was born, she couldn’t have imagined ever doing any of these things, let alone being able to enjoy them with her family. She felt… successful. Not in the typical sense by measuring with money or assets, but in the sense that she’d built herself up from being a broke, jobless ex-con with a newborn to being a well-respected and productive member of a community. To being a woman with countless friends to rely upon, some of whom she trusted with her life. To being the kind of mother her kid deserved. Yeah. She had come a long way.
It was a Saturday evening, and Emma was understandably exhausted. The whole day had been filled with strenuous recreation; first the morning ride, then the afternoon fishing with David, then the impromptu game of ultimate frisbee in the park. David sat that last one out, choosing instead to throw some hotdogs and hamburgers on the grill and hang out on the sidelines with Belle, Ariel, and the children. It had been women vs. men -- Mary Margaret, Ruby, and Mulan on her team, and Killian, Eric, Hank, and August on the opposing team. The match was grueling. Honestly they were all a bit more competitive about it than they should have been for a casual game with friends. They all agreed the losing team would buy a round of drinks for the winners at the next get-together. Alas, the men learned just how tenacious Storybrooke ladies were; the game ended 15-11 and Killian had rolled his eyes at Emma’s smug expression. (To be fair, he’d been the one to score at least half of the men’s points; even without use of one hand, he was a force to be reckoned with.)
Henry had gotten himself absolutely filthy at the park, dirt and grass clinging to his clothes and hair, so Emma had to bathe him right when they got home. The poor boy was so tired from the day’s adventures that he could barely keep his eyes open while Emma scrubbed him in the bathtub. She kneeled on the floor and used a fluffy towel to dry him off once he was adequately clean.
She startled when she heard Killian release a loud, frustrated groan from the living room and she peeked her head out the bathroom door.
“You okay in there?”
“Fine,” he growled, though Emma could tell he absolutely wasn’t. His tone of voice and the way he wiped his hands down his face told her he was just barely keeping in a scream.
She manipulated Henry’s arms and legs to put him in his pajamas. He was capable of dressing himself but with him being so sleepy, it would take him a good while to accomplish the task. She wanted to get it done quickly so she could go see what was bothering Killian.
“Okay, little man, time for bed,” she said, giving him a swift peck on the forehead as she stood up.
Henry usually whined and moaned and ran off to avoid bedtime but this evening he was very compliant. He absently nodded and Emma took it upon herself to pick him up and carry him to bed.
“Night night, Daddy,” he called sleepily to Killian as Emma carried him down the hall. She paused and turned, seeing Killian grinning over at them.
“Goodnight, lad. Love you.”
“Love you,” he sighed, eyes drooping.
Emma tucked him in and kissed him goodnight, then wandered back into the living room.
Killian was leaning back on the couch, eyebrows pinched together in concentration as he stared at his laptop. Emma hovered behind the couch and leaned forward, winding her arms around his neck and patting his chest. He laid his head back against her shoulder and she pressed a soft kiss against his cheek.
“What’s up?” she asked.
“Hmm. Three guesses,” he mumbled.
She took note of the immigration website pulled up on his screen.
“Visa problems? Still?” she asked incredulously. “I thought things got worked out when you went to New York last month.”
He huffed in exasperation and shook his head.
“Apparently not. I still hadn’t heard back from them, so I called earlier while we were out and about – just to check – and they said they didn’t have the paperwork I’d filled out. Bloody hell, I was there. I completed all their forms and handed it directly to them but it seems like they’re just hell-bent on losing track of my files and kicking me out of the country.”
She hated this. And she hated that he had to go through this.
Killian sighed heavily and turned, nuzzling his nose into her neck.
“Just want this to be over and done with already. I’ve been trying to get help online but I haven’t found anything useful. I may just have to go back and redo everything… If they don’t have the paperwork, they don’t have it.”
She squeezed him tighter, wishing there was some way to just fix it all without all the stress and frustration.
And it was like a freaking light bulb blinked into existence over her head.
They couldn’t deport him if he got married, right?
But… would he even want to? They’d been dating for just about eight months. Would it be too soon to ask?
Did she want to? Was she even ready for that big a step?
She was rather stunned that she didn’t really have to consider her answer to that. She did. She was completely in love with this man, had spent the better part of her life feeling like he was the only person in the world who understood and appreciated her, and she wanted to be his wife. She wanted to be with him for the rest of their lives, wanted him next to her as Henry grew up, perhaps even wanted to expand their family. She wanted to grow old with him.
“You all right, Emma?”
She relaxed and pulled back a little, realizing she’d tensed up as her thoughts had wandered.
“Uh, yeah. Fine.”
He cocked his head, recognizing the change in her tone. He reached up and brushed his fingertips across her cheek. She sighed into his touch, then dropped her head down against his shoulder.
“Swan, give me some credit,” he murmured against her. “I know when there’s something on your mind.”
He was always so good at reading her.
She slowly released him, trying to avoid any stilted, jerky movements, lest she worry him further. Then she circled the couch and sat down next to him. He shut his laptop and leaned over to place it on the coffee table, then shifted to the side to give her his full attention.
Whew. Well, okay. Thanks to his visa time constraints, she couldn’t really wait on asking. She knew if she tried to postpone it, she’d chicken out. And what if, come the end of August, Killian’s visa problems weren’t fixed? She didn’t want to think about what she’d do if he had to return to England, even if only for a short time.
Her vision blurred a little as she tried too hard to focus on a piece of lint on the arm of Killian’s shirt, so she blinked a few times to clear it. And then she hesitantly looked into his eyes.
And damn it, the affection and warmth in his gaze was something she felt deep in her bones. It was comforting as much as it was nerve-wracking.
“Emma?” he asked, clearly concerned by whatever trepidation he could sense in her expression. “Love?”
“Uh,” she began rather inarticulately, nervously swiping her tongue out to wet her lips. She let out a whoosh of a breath, trying to calm her nerves. “Just… maybe…”
Killian gave her a reassuring, if confused, smile and softly brushed his hand over hers. She relaxed a bit.
God, why was she so anxious? He loved her, didn’t he? He wanted to be with her forever, too, right? She didn’t even need to ask to know that.
She winced at the way it came out, a little loud and a lot harsh and abrupt. Killian’s eyes comically widened and she quickly attempted to rephrase.
“Uh, that- It’s just-… I mean, wouldn’t it be the best way to… you know…?”
Damn it. It’s like her mouth just stopped working, the words stubbornly sticking within the confines of her brain but not quite converting into intelligible speech.
At least Killian seemed to understand her train of thought, briefly glancing over at his closed laptop when he caught on. When he looked back at her, his mouth was agape and Emma began to sweat a little at his apparent inability to speak.
After a tense and unsettling moment, his jaw snapped shut and his eyes hardened and Emma found herself bracing for something she thought for sure she’d never have to worry about ever again – his rejection.
It was the firmness in his tone that really got her. It was hurtful, if she was being honest. She had no misgivings about his feelings for her, but knowing that he didn’t want to take that next step was upsetting, to say the least. She could feel the little pinpricks behind her lids and she stubbornly fought back against them.
“Oh. Okay,” she responded, averting her gaze and trying her best to seem unfazed. She wasn’t sure it was working.
“No,” Killian repeated quietly, almost as if he hadn’t heard her. She glanced over at him and he was running his fingers through his hair, mussing it all around anxiously. “Damn. I shouldn’t have… just… damn.”
“Killian, it’s fine. We don’t have to-“
She was cut off by the swift motion of Killian standing upright. He turned away and began pacing towards the hallway, but then paused, spinning around and pointing his finger in her direction.
“Stay,” he said. Emma gave an incredulous look as he stared at her. “There,” he clarified unnecessarily, pointing to the couch where she was already seated.
She just nodded stiffly and then watched as he rushed down the hall towards the bedroom, still working on processing.
She’d just asked Killian to marry her. And not in a sweet, romantic way either. No, she’d basically just offered him an alternative to deportation without even explaining that that wasn’t the only reason she had for asking in the first place.
She heard a squeak – that damn wooden plank in the hallway that she’d been meaning to fix ever since she moved in – and her head snapped up to see Killian hovering there almost on the balls of his feet, left hand wiping across his jeans and right hand curled into a tight fist at his side.
She swallowed, with some effort, the infuriating lump in her throat.
“We don’t have to talk about it if-“
He cut her off mid-sentence, eyes alight with a fire she didn’t recognize despite the cool, icy blue of his irises.
“This has nothing to do with what we just talked about,” he said firmly. Emma sucked her lower lip into her mouth, teeth finding the soft flesh as she studied him. “That is to say…” He took a few steps forward, wavering for a moment, then continued until he stood before her. He cleared his throat with his lips pressed together. “This is completely unrelated to my visa or green card or anything having to do with… with anything, other than…”
He shook his head, clearly frustrated as he tried to find the right words.
Eventually he just took a deep, shuddering breath and kneeled down in front of her, then held up his right hand and uncurled his fist.
There were little crescent marks left from the force of his nails digging into his skin, and she could physically see the sheen of sweat on his palm. But really, those were petty, insignificant things. Because there was something far more important staring her in the face.
A fucking ring.
A polished silver, blue diamond studded ring, sitting pretty in the center of her lover’s palm.
“Fuck,” she murmured instinctively. She slapped her hands over her mouth as if she could take the expletive back, knowing full well this was supposed to be a moment – the kind you undoubtedly should not be cursing during.
Killian didn’t seem offended, though; actually it seemed like he relaxed a bit after her slip-up. He chuckled lowly, lips curling into a smile that showcased those lovable dimples in his cheeks.
“Admittedly, I was planning on waiting until our anniversary in November to do this…” He sheepishly rubbed his left hand against the back of his scalp.
“How long have you had a ring?” She had no idea how her voice managed to stay steady as she asked. He shrugged cheekily in response.
Vague answer, she thought, which meant probably a rather long while.
“Killian… did you seriously just reject my proposal so that you could do it?” she asked, trying not to laugh even though happy tears were already threatening to spill over.
“Shut it,” he griped, but his grin betrayed just how untroubled he was by her teasing. “I have a ring. Do you have a ring?” He didn’t give her time to answer before continuing with a sound, “I didn’t think so.”
She sniffled and dabbed at her nose with the back of her hand, still unable to stop smiling. He once again cleared his throat, gently placing his left hand over her knee and adopting a more serious and earnest expression.
“Emma.” She could almost feel the love in his voice and it felt so good it hurt. “My Emma. You are the reason for my happiness. I can’t even… I don’t know what I’d do without you. It’s been a true pleasure to grow up with the most unbelievably wondrous and kind and brilliant best friend in the world…”
Tears streamed freely down her cheeks now, unbidden and relentless. She tried wiping them away but new ones quickly took over. Killian’s were on the brink of brimming over as well.
“And it’s been a privilege to love you the way I do. An honor to have you love me in return. And I would love nothing more than to spend the rest of my life with you. To promise you that you will never, ever feel alone or unwanted ever again, no matter what.”
She took a shaky breath, nearly hiccupping as her chest shuddered with emotion. Killian chuckled breathlessly, his thumb gently rubbing against her knee.
“Emma. Darling. My love. Please marry me?”
He already knew the answer and she was glad for that, because she couldn’t speak. Her chest and throat were too tight, constricted by the sheer joy of this moment. She simply nodded in response, her fingers shaking as Killian worked the ring over her finger.
“I love you,” she managed to squeak out as they both stood and he pulled her into his arms. She clung to him fiercely, staring in silent wonder at the ring shimmering on her finger as it rested upon his shoulder.
“Love you,” he laughed into her neck, puffs of warm air brushing across her skin as he finally let his tears fall. “Bloody hell.”
“What?” she breathed, barely a whisper.
He shook his head in disbelief, his facial hair tickling her cheek. Then he pulled away just far enough to press his forehead to hers, noses bumping affectionately.
“I didn’t realize I’d end the day engaged to you.” She grinned as he chuckled in awe. “And I certainly didn’t expect that you’d steal my thunder and propose first.”
“Steal your thunder?” she laughed. “You realize you could have proposed at any time, right? Not my fault you chose to wait.”
“Emma Swan,” he said lowly, eyebrows rising high on his forehead. “Are you saying you’d have said yes if I’d asked months ago?”
She hummed, pretending to consider it. In truth, she’d have probably said yes if he’d asked her the day he proclaimed his love for her. Because he was it for her. There was no possible way she could ever feel anything even resembling this feeling for anyone else.
“Killian?” she asked, intentionally choosing to ignore his question. He tilted his head, watching her carefully, though his eyes gave away his amusement. “Do you believe in soulmates? In the idea that two people were just… meant to be?”
“Aye.” His response had come immediately, without even the slightest hesitation and Emma’s cheeks burned from the tension of smiling so hard. “How could I not, when the universe has seen fit to bring you into my life?”
“Then you’ve got your answer,” she said simply, blinking away the leftover moisture in her eyes.
He beamed, the corners of his eyes crinkling endearingly and strong lines creasing his cheeks. He swooped in to give her a toe-curling kiss, conveying all of his love in the melding of his lips over hers, the insistent swiping of his tongue into her mouth.
She swayed in his arms, grasping at his shirt and tugging on his sleeves, trying to hold herself up despite the sudden weakening of her knees. Her plush lips were pliant and he tugged at her bottom lip with a soft nip. Even after all this time, his kisses still left her breathless and stupefied, her skin overheated and her thoughts a jumble of fuzzy nonsense.
She trembled against him, still reeling from the fact that they were engaged (as in, getting married, and not just for a reason as trivial as providing Killian with an immigrant visa). She pushed lightly at his shoulders when his hands began to wander down her lower back.
“Bedroom,” she whispered urgently, cupping his jaw to hold him back when he chased her lips.
He grabbed her hand and tugged her along behind him as he power walked down the hallway into their room, Emma giggling as quietly as she could so as to not wake their sleeping son.
Once they softly shut the door behind them, Killian proceeded to show her just how much she meant to him, just how much he cherished her with every kiss and caress he laid upon her body. He whispered promises and reverent praises into her skin, then etched an imprint of his very soul upon hers.
Whatever came to be, whatever the rest of their lives held, she’d never stop loving Killian Jones.
With every single passing day, I just become more and more astonished by you. You are a wonder. An enigma. How can one person hold so much strength and beauty and fire?
I often think there’s no possible way I could love you any more than I already do, but then I’ll hear your laughter and see the light in your eyes or I’ll watch as you kiss Henry goodnight and I just seem to fall deeper into this incredible, maddening love for you.
You make me so happy. You’re all I’ve ever wanted.
I love you, darling. And I will continue to do so every minute of every day for eternity.
Your future husband,
She got a little teary-eyed but composed herself quickly. His little notes came daily now, but somehow he continued to sweep her off her feet.
She chuckled a little at his closing. ‘Your future husband’ had become a favorite of his recently and honestly she liked it, too. In just a few days, it would be ‘Your husband,’ though, and that she loved.
Their engagement had been a surprise to no one, but the announcement of their wedding date certainly had been. There wasn’t really time to do the whole year-engagement thing where they planned every single detail out to a T. They had set the date for August 10th, less than a month after Killian had slipped a ring onto her finger, and they didn’t have the luxury of time so wedding invitations were doled out via phone call, text message, and in-person conversations. They didn’t bother trying to book anywhere for a ceremony, either; instead they both agreed to get married by the sea – the one that had separated them for so long, but was now a pleasant reminder of how far Killian had journeyed to be with her, of how far the two of them had come in their relationship.
Will, Robin, and Liam were planning on flying in together the day before the ceremony. Emma was beyond thrilled to meet them and even more so to have them attend the wedding. Killian had already met and befriended everyone she knew, so this was her chance to return the favor, as well as to make a good impression on them. (Not that she thought they wouldn’t like her; she’d already spoken to all of them over the phone and had video chatted with Liam frequently. They all seemed quite friendly.)
Killian’s therapist happened to be ordained to perform marriages, which was lucky and convenient, giving them one less thing to worry about. They agreed to have a casual reception at Granny’s. The old woman was more than happy to host, especially since Killian’s brother and friends would be staying at her B&B. (She might not be young and spry anymore, but if the hearty wink she gave her was any indication, she still had a hell of a naughty streak when she wanted. Ruby’s flirtatious personality had to come from somewhere, Emma figured.)
After that, the only thing Emma had worried about was the dress. The one she’d spent nearly five hours searching for when she, Mary Margaret, and Ruby had taken a day trip over to Portland a few weeks earlier. The one in sheer ivory with a cinched waist and flowing, layered chiffon skirt, with thin, braided straps and a scoop neckline that just barely revealed the swell of her breasts. The one that was simple enough to make her feel like herself, but elegant enough to make her feel like ‘herself’ included descriptors like lovely, graceful, and regal.
The one that was available for pick-up today.
She pinned Killian’s note to the corkboard she’d installed in the entryway, smiling as she realized how full it was getting with all his ridiculous (beautiful) love notes. Then she twirled her keys in her hand and left the empty apartment, taking the steps two at a time as she made it to the loft upstairs.
She barely knocked once before the door flew open and her friend greeted her with a warm hug.
“Is it ready?!” she squealed, clearly just as excited about Emma’s wedding as she was. (Perhaps more so, if she were being honest.)
“I just talked to them over the phone twenty minutes ago and came home to grab my heels, just to make sure everything fits together like it’s supposed to. David said he’ll take care of things at the station for the rest of the day, so… wanna come?”
“Do I-…“ Her friend shook her head and gave her a look, as if to say, Duh, you idiot. “Of course I’m coming.”
She took less than a minute to run back through her apartment to get socks and shoes on, grab her purse, and rejoin Emma in the hall.
“Ruby?” she asked.
“Already texted her. She said to pick her up from Granny’s on our way out.”
They slid into her Bug, Mary Margaret taking the backseat proactively so they wouldn’t have to shift around when they picked up their friend. Ruby’s long legs weren’t exactly fit for Emma’s cramped backseat.
“Where’s Henry? With Killian?”
“Yup. He’s hanging out with Killian at work today. Oh! You should see it – Belle made a little reading nook for Henry behind the circulation desk. It’s the cutest thing ever.”
“What? That’s so sweet!”
“Yeah, he’s got a little bean bag chair and a blanket fort and a storage shelf for all his favorite books and toys.”
“Well it’s no wonder he’s been choosing to spend afterschool hours there instead of with me. I’m gonna have to up my game to win him back.”
Emma gave a hearty laugh at that. Mary Margaret had admitted to her not long ago that she wanted to have children soon. She and David had gotten engaged on Valentine’s Day but their wedding wasn’t until December. Unlike Emma, Mary Margaret had big plans for the ceremony and was inviting the whole freaking town. But now, halfway through the year, the wedding planning was really getting to her and she just wanted to be married already. Spending time with Henry, Violet, and Ariel’s daughter, Melody, had become stress relief for her recently and she hoped that David would be just as keen as her to start building a family soon. Emma had no doubt the woman would be an incredible mom.
When they got to Granny’s, Ruby was already running through the patio area towards them and then quickly pulled the door open, settling in next to Emma.
“Babe, you are gonna wear the shit out of that dress,” she grinned, slapping Emma on the arm as she teased her. “I can’t wait to see how the final product looks.”
Emma laughed and pulled away from the restaurant.
“Have you both got your wardrobe picked out?”
“Got mine!” Mary Margaret piped.
“You know the sleeveless green one with the A-line skirt? Is that one okay? I know it’s a little short…”
“That one’s perfect,” Emma assured her.
Ruby could wear one of her party dresses (a.k.a. barely-there scraps of material) and Emma couldn’t care less. Not a damn thing could ruin her wedding day. As long as Killian was there waiting for her she really had nothing more to ask for.
They rolled the windows down and played loud music in the car on the drive over, all singing along off-key to 80s power ballads, giggling like mad when they received strange looks from other drivers. Emma wasn’t really one for this type of behavior unless properly intoxicated, but she was drunk on happiness and that was just about as effective.
The dress fit perfectly. When they got to the shop and she put the whole ensemble together, she and her friends all got rather choked up. It was strange, getting so emotional over a dress. She was never that girl. Honestly, even as a child she’d never really dreamt about her future wedding. She’d been too busy worrying about they next time she’d get a decent meal or if these new foster parents would last or if anyone would notice that she’d worn the same pair of jeans five days in a row because she couldn’t wash them. Really, most of her dreams for the future back then had been about getting adopted; she’d never thought to hope for something past that.
But for once, she’d have an entire day just to bask in her love for Killian and to share it with everyone she cared about. So yes, she mused, maybe it did make sense to get a little tearful over this lovely gown.
“Ems, not gonna lie, I would totally dump Mulan and marry you right now if you’d have me.”
She choked on her laughter, shoving her friend in the shoulder with much less grace than would be expected from someone wearing a wedding dress.
“Like I’d marry you. You’re too pretty for me, Rubes.”
Ruby let out a cackle and Mary Margaret just puffed a little snort.
“Too pretty? Babe, you’re getting married to a man who gives me a run for my money. I mean, slap some eyeliner on him and I’d be totally on that.”
“Ruby!” Mary Margaret admonished, but they were all still smiling like idiots.
“Please don’t tell him that,” Emma pled. “He’s already intimidated by you as it is.”
“Intimidated? He said that?” Her eyebrow raised in amusement.
“No, but can’t you tell?” Mary Margaret said, clapping her hand on Ruby’s shoulder. “You can be bit much around him.”
“Aw, come on. Even Mulan knows I’m teasing. Killian’s just a li’l shy is all.” She winked with her grin, causing both Emma and Mary Margaret to teasingly roll their eyes.
Banter with her girl friends was relaxing. She and Killian may have decided to scrap the whole maid of honor/best man idea for their quickly thrown together wedding, but her two friends knew they’d have been her choices. (Liam undoubtedly would have been Killian’s best man.)
She put the dress back into the dark garment bag and sauntered out of the shop with a desperate wish for time to move faster. If Killian’s brother and friends hadn’t already booked their flights, she might have convinced him to marry her today, plans be damned.
The drive back was filled with conversation and Emma loved every second. Recently, things had been a little chaotic and she didn’t have time to just hang out with the two of them like this. It had been over a month since their last girls’ night and she looked forward to starting those up again. (Even if she did get ridiculously drunk each time, waking up with cotton-mouth and a head-splitting hangover the morning after.)
Dinner that night was a group affair, a sort of joint bachelor/bachelorette party in their apartment. The children were all still present, so it was family-friendly, but there was quite a bit of beer and even more ridiculous party games that were raunchy enough to incite boisterous laughter from the adults but vague enough that they went right over the kids’ heads. (Or at least she hoped they did. She didn’t really want to have to put her child in therapy after this.)
All the young ones were asleep by the time their friends began their farewells, and it wasn’t until a little after midnight that they were alone again.
“So…” Killian began, tongue cheekily peeking out as his fingers danced along the bottom hem of her shirt. “How’d everything go today?”
“Killian, for the last time, I’m not letting you peek at my dress before the wedding.”
He had the gall to look offended at her accusation.
“I made no such request,” he said, hand placed on his chest in false affront. “I merely wanted to hear about my darling soon-to-be-wife’s day.”
“Oh, I see,” she said, leaning into him, hands teasing the skin of his hips as they dipped under the bottom of his shirt. “Well, husband-to-be, it was very nice.”
“Right, good, but how does your dress look?” She pinched his hips and he yelped in surprise, quieting his laughter so as to not wake Henry. “Is this the kind of treatment I’ve to expect when we’re married?”
“Only when you’re an ass,” she said, one eyebrow raised as she licked across her lower lip.
“Hmm… so, often?” he teased, pulling her closer.
The tip of his nose skimmed along the apple of her cheek, his breath soft and hot over her lips, and her eyes fluttered shut. The push and pull of his lips against hers still made her tremble. (Though, perhaps the numerous empty bottle of beers had just a little to do with that.)
He slowly backed her up against the wall, left hand firmly on her hip and right hand buried in her hair. She pushed her hands up his stomach, scratching her nails through the dusting of hair trailing up and over his navel, traveling all the way to his chest before he pulled back to just take his shirt off, tossing it over his shoulder.
He reached down and hitched one of her legs up over his hip, pressing into her as she struggled to reach between them to unbutton her shirt.
“What are you guys doing?”
Emma nearly fell on her ass with how Killian jumped back, dropping her leg to the floor as if it had burned him. They both turned frantically towards the hall entrance with a distinct flush to their cheeks as their eyes met with Henry’s across the room.
He looked half-asleep, dragging his fleece blanket behind him with one hand, a confused crinkle in his forehead as he looked them over.
“N-nothing,” she said, feeling ridiculous for being embarrassed over getting caught in the midst of passionate kisses (read: full on making out with quite a bit of grinding) by her son.
“Kissing,” Killian corrected.
“With your shirt off?”
Emma turned her head away, lips pressed together tightly as she tried not to laugh.
“I was hot,” Killian argued. He certainly had been, but hopefully Henry wouldn’t realize the double meaning.
“Baby, why are you up?” she asked, praying a change in subject would get him to drop it.
Killian adjusted himself subtly and snagged his shirt off the floor as Emma hoisted Henry up in her arms and carried him to the kitchen to get a drink of water. He chugged the whole thing and then his head drooped onto her shoulder.
She and Killian both got him settled back in bed, kissing him goodnight for the second time, and then went about their nightly routine, the heat from earlier fading as exhaustion hit.
When they were snuggled up under the covers in their bed, Killian chuckled unprompted and Emma tilted her head to give him a questioning look.
“Sorry, just thinking… it kind of feels like we’re already married.”
She puffed a single, silent laugh.
“Missing out on sex because of our kid?”
“Aye. We’ve already been having to sneak quickies in with him down the hall.”
“Or pawning him off on Mary Margaret and David for a few hours for our ‘dates’?”
He laughed as loudly as he’d allow himself for the late hour.
“It’s a good thing they live right upstairs.”
“You realize that when they have kids they’re gonna leave them here with us, too, right?”
“Mm, I’m sure. Can’t say I’m opposed to the idea. Maybe we can make a schedule.” She snorted and slapped his chest and he responded by rolling onto his back and yanking her with him, her head resting against his shoulder. “Have you any idea how much I love you?”
She splayed her fingers out over his chest, feeling for his heartbeat. When she did, she stilled, closing her eyes and concentrating on the gentle thump, thump, thump.
“I think I do.”
Liam Jones was taller than Killian by several inches, something she’d never known just by their video chats. He was also much more handsome in person – his eyes especially, clearly a Jones family trait.
More importantly, he gave fantastic hugs. He’s scooped her up in his arms almost immediately upon meeting her and she held onto him with as much strength as she could muster. He was already family, as far as she was concerned.
His friends were easy on the eyes, too. Robin greeted her with a polite handshake, as did his sweet two-year-old boy, Roland. Will gave her a kiss on the cheek and a saucy wink, dodging Killian’s subsequent punches with what could almost be considered grace.
The madness that ensued in their small corner of Storybrooke when they all invaded Granny’s for dinner was overwhelming, to say the least. Emma was grateful that the men seemed to be handling all the questions and comments (and flirting from Granny, as well as from every other woman in the diner) with ease.
More and more of their friends came by, supplying stories and jokes and causing an uproar of noise and laughter. Emma was sure that they could be heard all the way from the street.
“Mate,” Will began, turning his attention to Killian, a half-empty glass of beer sloshing in his hand. “Not quite sure you’re worthy of a lass like this.” He gestured to her and she bit the inside of her cheek to stop her smile from widening.
“No arguments from me,” he laughed. “I’m the luckiest bloke in the whole bloody world.”
Boy, put a few drinks in his system and throw him around his native Englishmen friends and Killian’s accent became a whole lot thicker. Not that she had a problem with that in the least.
“I’m the lucky one,” she assured him, leaning over to press a swift peck to his lips.
“I’m just happy to see Emma Swan making an honest man out of my little brother.” Killian sighed heavily, muttering something like, “Younger,” under his breath, but didn’t voice his protest aloud. “He’s been absolutely smitten for as long as I can remember.”
“Can we not?” Killian whined. “Clearly, we’ve already discussed this with each other.”
“No, no,” Robin interjected. “Perhaps the lady has heard your side of the story, but I’ll bet you left out some pretty important bits.”
“Aye, like us walking in on him caressing that photograph,” Will said, eyes gleaming with mischief. “Twice.”
“Bloody hell, can we really not?”
“What?” Emma laughed. “You caressed my photo?”
Killian groaned indignantly, wiping a hand over his face. The rest of their table just snickered over his distress.
“For a while, we kept calling it his girlfriend.” Robin laughed around a mouthful of fries. “Not you, that is. The photo.”
“We kept telling him to send a photo back, give you something to think about. But the bloody idiot always made some excuse or another.”
“Probably just couldn’t find one he liked enough,” Liam laughed.
Killian sunk his head onto the table, the tips of his ears red by now. Emma loved it but she didn’t want him to suffer through their teasing anymore.
“Well it was certainly a pleasant surprise when he showed up at my doorstep,” she said, rubbing a gently circle on his back. He peeked over at her, lips curled into a ridiculous smile. “Pretty sure ‘gobsmacked’ is the right term.”
He sat back up and reached around her, resting his arm over the back of her chair as he slapped on a smug grin.
“Oh no, she stroked his ego,” Robin grunted. “Ma’am, I’m afraid you’re fiancé there is looking a little large in the head.”
“Watch out, mates, I think he’s about to blow.”
“All right,” Liam chastised, though still smiling. “I think we’ve done enough damage. Let’s let the man enjoy his last night of unmarried life.”
They all ordered another round of beers, toasting to the couple and their future. Emma couldn’t have asked for more.
When did this become her life? When did the orphan with old thrift-store jeans and shirts two sizes too big, with no home and no friends and no family, with nothing but a Walkman and a baby blanket, become this?
When did she become so loved? By so many people? When did she start believing in happy endings? In the idea that she could deserve this kind of life?
It didn’t matter, she supposed. Maybe it had been fate, being paired up with Killian Jones for that silly class project when she was little. Maybe this was always what was meant to be. It just took some time, and perhaps a little suffering and heartache, before getting here.
She inhaled deeply, feeling the bust of her ivory dress hug her body, then released it slowly.
“Mama, you look like a princess.”
She peeked down at her little boy, so close to six now, in his ridiculously stylish suit, and smiled.
“Thank you. And you look like a handsome prince.”
His chest puffed in pride and she stifled a giggle. But then she heard the gentle music play and her smile faltered as she worried at her lower lip with her teeth. She quickly corrected the behavior, smearing her fingertip over the front of her teeth to make sure her lipstick hadn’t transferred.
This was it. This was the moment where she and her childhood best friend, lover, and all-around best man she’s ever known, became more – became forever.
Henry held his hand out to her in a necessary and also comforting gesture. She took it, then breathed one more solid, deep breath before letting her son tug her out from behind the privacy screen.
Henry led her down the short, makeshift aisle through the sand, her and Killian’s loved ones staring at her like this moment was just as important to them as it was to her. She squeezed Henry’s hand just a little tighter.
Killian was looking at her much like he did when they first met. His eyes traced her features, darting this way and that, taking in every little detail of how she looked in this moment. She wasn’t sure how, but her chest felt heavy and heart felt light at the same time. If someone were to toss her right over into the shallow waters not far away, she couldn’t be sure if she’d sink or float.
And he – God, he looked so beautiful. She knew if she’d voiced that thought aloud, he’d have argued over terminology (“Handsome, Swan. I’m handsome.”), but she couldn’t be bothered to worry about that. He wore fitted black slacks, a black button-up shirt, an incredibly sexy royal blue waistcoat that brought out the bright color of his irises (and made the sea look utterly pale in comparison), and a black two-button jacket that ended just above his thighs. His satin tie and pocket square were the same ivory of her dress. If there was anything odd about his wardrobe, and hers as well, it was their friendship bracelets – striking little rainbows of color on their wrists that didn’t at all match their attire. (Not that she cared. Not that anyone did.)
And he was smiling so wide. She could nearly see each and every one of his teeth, and her heart lurched at the way his smile drew happy lines through his cheeks and next to his eyes. She imagined for a moment what he might look like a few decades from now, those lines forever etched into his skin from the endless happiness of their lives together. She couldn’t wait to see it.
When she finally made it to him, completely unaware of how her feet had taken her there while she was lost in the moment, Henry pushed her hand out towards him with little finesse.
Everyone chuckled softly, a beautiful chorus to this joyful day, and then they began the ceremony.
She worried that her attention was so focused on Killian that she could barely even make out the words spoken by the good doctor beside them. She didn’t even know how much time passed, but then her love began to speak.
“Emma. Gods, where to even begin?” He let out a breathless laugh, very clearly nervous, hands unsteady. But his eyes were clear and shone with love and resolution. “We’ve been best friends for so very long. Even when we were children, I just knew that you and I would be friends forever. I’m not sure why I was so certain. I just felt this odd connection with you, even with an ocean between us and not a single clue as to how you looked or sounded. It didn’t matter. To me, you’ve always been a wonder. And when I began feeling that there was something more, I could barely breathe. It was terrifying and exciting and maddening.
“I’ve always bragged about how well I knew you… little did I know my feelings were not unrequited as I’d thought. And for years. It’s a little unfair.” She laughed quietly, smoothing her thumb across his knuckles. “But no more wasting time. I won’t spend another second of this life stuck in the past. All I need is you…” He glanced to the side, quirking a brow at her son. “And our son.” He returned his gaze to her, standing a little taller now. “You are the best thing that’s ever happened to me, Emma Swan, and I will love you now and forever.”
Thank God Ruby had done her up all nice and pretty with nothing but waterproof makeup. She’d have to thank her endlessly after all of this was over.
After a few fluttering beats of her heart, and reeling in her tears with sheer willpower and a good deal of sniffling, she cleared her throat softly and recited her own vows.
“With the kind of childhood that I had, the bitter loneliness and disappointment and the fear that things might never get better… all I can think about is just how grateful I am to you. You saved me, Killian. You’re the reason I’m not alone today. You’re the reason that the things I felt back then didn’t carry on into my adult life. I’m happy. Like, really happy.” Killian reflected her wide grin and she really wished that they could skip the rest of the ceremony and just get to the kissing part. “And I feel fulfilled every day. I like waking up with you and going to sleep in your arms. I like kissing you over grilled cheese sandwiches and cheap beer. I like watching silly cartoons with you and Henry after work. I like the feeling of knowing that every time I tell you I love you, you’ll say it back.
“I never really knew what having a home felt like. But this? Now? With you here, I know. I feel it.” She released one of his hands in favor of caressing his neatly trimmed scruff, relishing in the feel of it and the look of adoration in Killian’s eyes. “I’m home.”
The rest of the wedding passed in a blur – literally; her tears were ceaseless – but when the doctor said those magic words, her body reflexively moved forward.
A round of applause and the sound of Mary Margaret trying to hold back sobs (as well as a wolf whistle that she assumed was from Ruby) were an apt soundtrack for the impassioned kiss shared between them. She melted into him, his arms sturdy and comforting around her waist, her hands mussing his styled hair. His lips were warm and familiar, smiling against hers, conveying a silent promise.
A promise of a life full of laughter and happy tears, of whispered endearments and loving kisses peppered across her skin every day, of solidarity and warm embraces through the rough times. A promise of his faith in her and his devotion to their family. He promised the very home she’d found here, and the reassurance that she’d never, ever be without it.