Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters or Once Upon A Time. Sadly, they belong to the trolls Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis. If I did, they'd be doing the frick frack most of the season. Shhhh don't judge me.

It was strange, to be seated in his 'safe haven'; where he usually came to get his fix of sugary breakfasts and coffee, where the sharp banter and ingenious jokes of the owner left him in a lighter mood no matter what... and not being able to snap out of his detached demeanor. If he were a cartoon, a black cloud would probably be drawn over his head, following his every move.

Sadly, he was not a cartoon, where things could be fixed just with the help of an eraser. If only it was that easy.

"You okay there, Jones?" Granny's inquiring voice startled him, and he looked up at her, waving her concern away with a try at a charming smile.

"Everything's fine, Granny. Just the usual."

She wasn't buying it, he could tell - but he also knew she wouldn't pry if he insisted. "Looking a bit under the weather."

"Nothing to worry about." He met her eyes intently. "Really."

She shrugged, leaving him to his devices - as in, sitting at the corner of his booth, leaning his right shoulder on the wall and staring moodily at the rain splattering against the windowpane. He probably looked like a lame emo popstar CD cover. "Okay. Coffee it is, then."

As soon as she was gone, he sighed, dropping his head against the table for a second before lifting it again to rub his face tiredly. He really wasn't sure what was wrong with him - it was just... one of those days, he guessed. There was really nothing off with his life. It was pretty satisfactory, if he said so himself. He had a nice place to stay, friends who cared about him and put up with his crap - which not everybody could speak for, - a job he rather enjoyed doing...

And a girl whose bed he frequented too many times.

He pinched the bridge of his nose. Milah wasn't being half as subtle as she thought she was when she dropped hints about them 'moving onto the next level'. He had made it very clear from the beginning - he was not interested in a relationship, and they were just that: fuck buddies. Sure, he liked her enough. He liked seeing her sometimes when they were not between the sheets making each other scream in pleasure, but he didn't want to get into that. And it was not her fault, not by a long shot: she was gorgeous, and funny, and smart, and he genuinely enjoyed her company.

It was just... she was not it. And the thing was, he wasn't sure he was even looking for it, either.

And he kept wondering why Milah didn't either A) dump the fuckbudding accord they had going on, B) at least confront him about it so she would stop trying to force him to start a committed relationship. She knew she deserved much more than him, someone who would give her what he wasn't able to - or didn't want to, - but she still held onto the hope that he'd finally change his mind. And he, for the life of him, couldn't stop seeing her, going to her place and take what she offered him, even if he knew he was being unfair.

Having someone caring for him like that... it was difficult to let go.

And so here he was, troubled, guilty, confused, and sad because of the rain and the winds that reminded him of days when he had been scared of storms and his brother had been there to calm him down.

His thoughts still drifting towards the light in Liam's eyes when he'd tell him stories about the Navy and days at sea, he spied a black stain on his fingers, and he looked down at his hand, confused. He had been drumming and rubbing the corner of the table absentmindedly, and had somehow stumbled upon someone's written message on it, the letters small and precise, almost hidden. He inched closer, squinting his eyes as to read it.

Worst. Breakfast. EVER.

He snorted. Same here, stranger. He noticed there was something else below, and his amusement grew.

(No offense to Granny's food. The company & conversation weren't too riveting. My hangover wasn't helping matters) (I'll shut up now)

It was as if whoever it was had been afraid of Granny reading it and chastising him for it.

Or her.

Feeling a sudden kinship with whoever it was that had left such a random message there, he patted his jacket's pockets in search of a pencil (if he used a pen Granny would chase him down the street until he scrubbed it clean, he just knew it). He found one - he always carried around a couple because, well, work and all - and set to answer.

He didn't know if he'd even get a response. Hell, he didn't even know if this stranger would even come back to this diner - for all he knew, he wouldn't, as the breakfast had been so terrible - but he couldn't help himself. If he couldn't clean up one of the messes in his life, he'd try at least help someone else's. Even if it was such a small mess as a hangover and terrible company.

Try the pancakes for the hangover with some tea and honey. A true miracle. (And maybe earplugs to ignore the dull conversation)

"You have been acting... weird lately," August commented as he tapped the side of his mug, trying to appear nonchalant. Killian huffed out a laugh, leaning back on his seat, smirking at his friend.

"Dude. You call me weird all the time."

August smirked back. "I mean... weirder." His expression cooled, leaning over his elbows as he inched closer over the table. "Is something wrong?"

He wanted to roll his eyes or shake his head in amusement at the concern in his friend's all-too blue eyes, but even if he wanted to, he wouldn't be able to. August saw too much at times. Killian didn't want to bother him with his crap, though. "Nah, not really. A bit stressed because of work and stuff."

"...nothing else?" Why was nobody buying his crap lately? Dammit.


With one last look, August seemed to give up - at least for that day - and he picked up the mug with his hands, holding it closer to his face to hide a shit-eating grin. "Well, we all know how you like to de-stress..."

Killian faked a gasp. "That's disgusting - especially coming from you."

His friend snorted. "Come on. You always claim how sex is the best way to do that."

"And I am known for my unlimited wisdom, of course."

August almost choked on his coffee, and left the mug hurriedly, spilling some of the liquid over the pristine white surface while he tried to recover. "You're an idiot," he croaked, and swung his legs to the side so he could leave the booth, walking in long strides in the direction of the bathroom. Killian saw him leave and exchange a couple of warm words with Granny as he did, and he shuffled on the stuffed booth, smiling against his will at the creaking noise he made. It had been a couple of days since he had come to the diner - he tried to make it a habit to visit at least twice a week - and he attempted to forget the thoughts that had brought him there the last time. There hadn't been much improvement in that department, and his sudden melancholy over Liam's absence hadn't helped. He wasn't one to wallow in his misery or past experiences, but sometimes it was too much, he guessed.

An unexpected whiff of cinnamon made him sniff the air, and he shook his head, trying to clear it. It had been a while since he had had cinnamon. Or anything apart from copious amounts of coffee to stay awake at work, now that they were at it. The thought made him recall the strange message written in that very table, and he cocked his head in order to see if they had answered. To his surprise, there was a new line written for him.

Will do next time I find myself in here almost passed out. As for the earplugs - already got them, just couldn't find a moment to wear them without being too obvious. Thanks... Mr...?

He smiled. The words were meticulously written, in even and small strokes, tiny handwriting that screamed 'woman' at the top of their lungs - thought he could not be sure, of course, but...

He looked over to check if August was coming, but he was still in the bathroom. Killian fished one of his pencils and tapped the end of it on his lip, thinking of how he should introduce himself to Miss-I-Like-Writing-To-Strangers.

Mr. T is fine. You know. Because of the T-EA and all.

And you are... Miss...?

(Or Mr...?) (Cool beans with anything I'm just glad to be helpful to some other poor alcohol-poisoned soul out there)

He didn't want to assume, even if it looked like it was a girl who had answered him. He smirked at his disastrous attempt at a joke - though he didn't have much time to dwell about it, seeing as August chose that moment to come back and drag him out of the diner so they weren't late for their date with Philip and Aurora.

The following week, once he sat on his usual place, he didn't even wait to check if there was a message for him.

Miss Honey is fine. Nice to meet you.

"You don't have to leave," Milah murmured from the bed, looking up at him with a mixture of eagerness and seduction that had him out of sorts for a moment.

God, he was fucking this up for real.

He sighed heavily, roaming around her room to pick up his jeans and belt, putting them on hurriedly. "I do, too. I got that project to work on and I want to go home to take a shower first."

She looked over at the clock standing over her desk with a frown. God, he hated that clock - its ticking was so loud, at times he had had to hide it inside the drawer just so he'd be able to sleep. "But you still got time."

Finally getting a hold of his shirt and jacket, he patted the pockets to find that his things were still there - he wasn't really keen on having to come back once he realized he had left his phone at Milah's again. Shrugging them on in a swift movement, he strode over to her and gave her a quick peck. "Traffic will probably be a bitch. Go back to sleep, love."

He tried really hard to ignore the slight falling of her face as he turned and left her room, but he couldn't. It was fairly obvious what she wanted from him - and what he wanted and took from her in return. They just didn't see eye to eye. At first he had thought they did, but now it had spiraled out of his control. He cared about her. Really, he did.

Just not in the way she wanted him to.

He walked to the bathroom to wash his face and try to tame his sleep/sex hair, sighing at his reflection in the mirror: same ever-present guilt behind his eyes. The very same every fucking time he came there.

God, he had to do something.

The sound of the front door slamming closed brought him to the present, and he checked his watch. Ah, that must have been Ruby, Milah's roommate. He had first met her once he and Milah had started their little cat-and-mouse game, and they had stricken quite the friendship. She was the kind of girl Killian would find perfect for himself, but for the life of him, he had never felt like it. Same happened to her, apparently. Of course, the fact that her roommate was completely head over heels with him hadn't really been the most motivating of factors, but oh well.

He left the bathroom intent on saying hello and asking the brunette about what her plans were for the weekend - she was friends with his own mates, and sometimes they got together when they were all free and usually had a great time together - when he heard soft humming coming from the kitchen. He frowned, confused - that was not Ruby's voice. He had heard Ruby singing and it didn't sound like that, as lovely as she might have been.

He turned the corner and leaned against the doorframe leading into the kitchen to find a strange blonde roaming around the cabinets, a messenger bag slung over the chair and some bags from the market littering the counter.

He was about to clear his throat to make his presence known when she turned around, her arms up about to twist her hair into some sort of bun when she saw him standing there and her hand flew to her chest, startled. "Shit. Sorry. I wasn't... expecting anybody."

He laughed. "That's an understatement." He squinted at her, taking in her flushed cheeks and startling green eyes. "Who are you?"

She mimicked his obvious perusal, and crossed her arms over her chest - his eyes following the movement on its own accord. "Who are you?" Suddenly, her expression morphed into a grimace. "Are you some new conquest of Ruby's?"

He lifted his hands in surrender. "Oh, oh no - Miss Lucas hasn't had a bite of this yet. Her roommate, on the other hand can't say the same." If he sounded too smug for his own good, she obviously noticed. The grimace turned even more pronounced if it was possible.

"Ew." Realization clouded her features, and she cocked her head to the side, still inspecting him. "Oh. You're Milah's... whatever."

Huh. He had never been called that, but he guessed there was a first time for everything. And she wasn't that far ahead, so he'd give her that. "Yeah. 'Whatever' sounds about right. Interested, stranger?"

"Right," she rolled her eyes, and without another word, set to work on placing the rest of the things she had bought into the fridge and shelves. Killian didn't bother to move, content with staring at her while she bustled around, knowing she must be irked as hell. When she was done, she picked up the messenger bag and tried to leave the kitchen - finding him blocking her path. She stopped in her tracks, glaring up at him. "Could you please, you know, find somewhere else to lean so I can leave?"

He smirked. "Of course. As soon as you answer me - who are you?"

She huffed, passing a hand frustratedly through her mussed hair. "A friend who is staying for a couple of days. Why do you care? It's not like we're gonna see much of each other anytime soon."

"Perhaps I'd like to."

Why had he said that.

She looked as surprised as he was - and disgusted. She curled her lip accusingly, the despise clear on her features. "You just banged a girl in this very apartment and the morning later you're trying to flirt with me? No wonder you're just a 'whatever' and not her boyfriend."

Leaving aside any form of pleasantries, he stalked towards her until they were nose to nose, and he was not that surprised when she didn't back away from him, standing her ground. "Don't talk about things you don't understand, darling."

She dared to stand even closer to him, until he could smell a touch of cinnamon and something else even sweeter from her hair. "Don't treat me like I'm your plaything and then I won't," she growled. They glared each other for another long moment, measuring and observing and clashing and burning, until she waved a hand towards the empty hall behind him. "Now if you please..."

With a last sigh, he stepped aside. "Jones. Killian Jones."

She shook her head, rearranging the strap of her messenger bag over her shoulder as she sidestepped him, not even bothering to look at him one last time before sauntering towards Ruby's room. "Then, goodbye, Jones. It was a total displeasure running into you."

The venom in her voice could have probably burned him. He stood there, still incensed and weirdly impressed, but mostly annoyed at the nerve the girl had displayed. "Likewise," he said as she left from his sight.

It wasn't until he was out of the apartment that he realized he hadn't even learned her name.

For the following weeks, Killian found himself frequenting Granny's more and more. He tried to tell himself it was not just to see if Miss Honey had answered - the place was near where he worked, and the coffee and pancakes were to die for, and Granny's barking was too amusing not to witness every day.

He knew he wasn't fooling anybody, especially himself.

The writing started out tentative and random, perky and light: a suggestion here, a joke there. Snark from her, teasing from him. Slowly, it became obvious that they enjoyed their little exchanges too much to leave them at that, and Killian was amazed to realize how much of themselves they were starting to pour into short lines written over a table. So much they were willing to share.

He had no idea if Granny saw them, and if she did, she never complained or said anything. Maybe she enjoyed the entire thing as much as watching a soap opera.

He tried not to think too much about it.

He was way more interested in her words.

Message for Mr. T: tried his suggestion and am forever in his debt. Really interested in knowing how he realized he had hit the jackpot of hangover's recipes.

Does Miss Honey really have to ask? I was hangover. (If she really wants to know, I put a finger over the ingredients on the menu and chose at random. It was fate, believe me)

Miss Honey should probably try this little cafe where they serve the most amazing pumpkin pie if she's interested too.

Mr. T would probably die over the stupid joke my coworker told me yesterday. I laughed until I cried.

Miss Honey's friends must be so delighted to have such a funny pal to hang out with. She seems like a champ.

Mr. T should know flattery won't get him anything. And Miss Honey isn't as fantastic as he'd make it seem. In fact Miss Honey is everything but.

Mr. T finds that hard to believe.

Then he'd probably be the first.

"Hey, gimme that!" He tried to snatch the towel Milah had used after their shared shower and that she was about to use to wrap her hair with.

She, instead, put it behind her back, away from his reach. "No way. You go pick one up for yourself."

"Milah, come on." Puppy-eyes. Batting his eyelashes.

...Not working, apparently.


He rose an eyebrow, challenging her. "You do realize if I go out there completely naked your roommate may throw herself at me, right?"

She slapped his chest with a laugh, thought it was such a soft attempt it was almost ridiculous. "You're such a primadonna. I told you to bring one from my room!"

He waved a hand towards his naked chest. Well, his naked everything. "And as you can see - I forgot. Now..." He let the sentence hang in there, expecting her to give him the towel. With a huff and a final brush to her wet hair, she threw it at him - this time, way more violently. She sauntered to the shelf where she kept all the lady products she was so proud of, carefully picking some oily-looking lotion that she proceeded to rub on her legs.

God, this woman was trying to kill him.

"I still doubt Ruby would jump you, you know. She's really into that Victor guy."

Killian turned around to stare at himself in the mirror, both to avoid the temptation of taking her right there once more and to fix his hair. Priorities: he got them. "Is she? That's cool. The couple of times we've hanged out we had fun. He's crazy." He stopped himself, thinking about what he had said. Ruby was crazy alright - and so was Victor, that, he could vouch for. "Huh. I guess they are made for each other."

"I guess." Milah's voice sounded strangely longing, and another pang of guilt stabbed him. He did his best to look nonchalant and not to meet her eyes in the mirror. There was silence for a minute, until she cleared her throat and said, "Anyway - don't try to use the 'Ruby is gonna be all over me' excuse next time."

Killian grimaced at her in the mirror, though he was not sure she realized it was meant towards the 'next time' comment instead of her jab at Ruby not wanting to do anything with him, at least sexually speaking. Ha. Like he hadn't seen the smoldering gaze the girl would throw at him from now and then - and who could blame her?

He was hot. And the girls in the apartment knew it.

Another girl in the apartment came to mind then. "In fact - what about that other girl? The blond chick?"

"Who?" Milah's head snapped up at him in confusion. He shrugged, picking up the toothpaste and leaving some on his finger to use as an improvised toothbrush. He was not going to use Milah's, that was for sure. He didn't want to give her any more ideas.

Or false hope. More than she got anyway.

"The other day I ran into a girl in here just as I was leaving. Said she was staying for a couple of days."

Milah 'ahhh'ed in understanding. "Oh. That was Emma. She's Ruby's best friend."

Emma? "Huh. Never heard of her." He frowned. He may have but had forgotten? Ruby had this annoying habit of chattering non-stop, and sometimes it was difficult to keep up with her crazy stories. He knew some of her friends - David and Mary Margaret, the epitome of high school sweethearts who could do no wrong but were fairly fine to go out with - but he really didn't recall any Emmas. "What was she doing here then?"

She stood up and joined him by the sink, stealing the toothpaste after playfully bumping his hip with hers. "Apparently she had some big break up or something and needed a place to stay before she found one of her own. She's settled in already, just stayed for a week."

Huh. "She lived with her boyfriend?"

She shrugged. "I don't know the details, and didn't want to pry. Didn't strike me as the over confident or trusting person, either way." She paused, toothbrush midway to her mouth before meeting his gaze in the mirror, her frown deep and obvious. "Why the sudden interest?"

Killian glared at her. God, was she jealous? Of the girl who had insulted him as soon as she saw him? "Interest? She was a plain bitch to me. Believe me, the last thing I want is to run into her again."

Milah stared at him thoughtfully for a moment before shrugging and continuing brushing her teeth, humming under her breath. He hadn't been lying, though: he really didn't want to see this Emma girl again. Though he had to admit there had been something in her eyes, something that hadn't been so strange or unfamiliar - something he could see right then, staring at his reflection, in his own.

Where are Miss Honey's hilarious jokes? Mr. T misses them. (He misses her too but that may be inappropriate for Granny's shining tables.)

Sorry. Miss Honey's life hasn't been... very sweet lately.

Killian frowned. Huh. He was so used to find something written by her every time he visited Granny's, it was unusual - and quite disappointing, he had to admit between gritted teeth - when he didn't see her elegant handwriting and sharp quips to tease him with.

But of course there was someone behind the scrawled letters: someone with a life, with friends and a job and a family and problems like the rest of them. She wasn't there for his sole entertainment, and the staggering realization brought him to a halt. She had been such a source of warmth for him, he felt oddly empty at her absence - but he felt even worse knowing she may be having a bad day.

He shook his head, and took his pencil, thinking carefully of his answer.

Well, Mr. T doesn't really know how to offer his services... except to ask for Granny for something sweet.


Taking his things with him, he stood up and left his booth - their booth? - and walked up to the counter. "Hey, Granny?"

The older woman rounded on her heel to stare at him from behind of her glasses. "Yeah?"

"Can you do me a favor?"

Dropping her rag over her shoulder, she put her hands over her hips, waiting. "Sure. Shoot."

He took a breath, wondering how crazy it would sound when he told her what he was about to ask. "If a girl asks you for a free drink from Mr. T, would you give it to her? It's on me. Whatever she asks for," he said, fishing a twenty from his wallet and leaving it between them and praying for his cheeks not to blush too much.

Because Killian Jones didn't blush. Ever. Especially not for invisible mysterious girls who exchanged secret messages with him.

Raising an eyebrow, Granny looked from the bill to him, a smirk pulling at the corner of her lips. "And you don't know who this mysterious girl is?"

Huh. So she must have seen the messages but had chosen not to say anything. "...No?"

"And you don't want to know once she comes asking for it?," she inquired, and at the positive wolfish grin she sent him he knew she already knew who Miss Honey was.

Damn. He was intrigued. He really was. But, as much as he was itching to find out how she looked like, how she was like, if Granny had any idea if she was with someone - Killian had seen enough Catfish to fear everything and anything of anonymous exchanges, internet or not - he felt like it'd be unfair of him to dig for information without her permission.

It was, after all, the gentlemanly thing to do.

Dropping his gaze to the granite surface separating them, he said, "No... she's not ready yet."

Granny snorted a laugh, picking up the twenty cheerfully in her hands and stuffing it into her pocket before spinning around and running to the other side of the kitchen. "Neither are you, if you ask me."

Killian sighed, letting his head fall against the counter. "Yeah. You're right."

The next time he passed by Granny's, almost like a second thought on his way to work, he ran to the booth and, ignoring the couple already sitting there who were doing gooey-eyes at each other, leaned over the side to read if she had answered.

She had.

Thanks for the cocoa.

And so, he learned that Miss Honey's comfort drink was cocoa.

"Man, look at them. They're so ditching us to go home," Graham said, and Killian followed his friend's eyes to see Ruby grinding against Victor on the dancefloor.

Thank God there were no kids around to witness such an spectacle. He wouldn't want to have his friends bearing that guilt on their shoulders. Though, if the night progressed in this way, they wouldn't stay for far too long, as Graham had claimed.

"I'm sure they will. Pussies."

"It is not considered 'pussies' when sex is a possibility," Graham remarked amusedly, turning to him with a wicked grin. Killian rolled his eyes, sipping from his rum.

"Right. Are you trying to tell me something, Humbert? Wanna go home with me tonight?"

Graham shoved him on the shoulder good-naturedly, almost making him spill his drink. "We live together, dumbass." He then made a show of looking over Killian's shoulder pointedly. "And I'm sure you'd rather leave with a brunette beauty who won't stop eating you with her eyes..."

Killian didn't need to turn to know who Graham was staring at. Milah was there, of course, and she had been not-so-subtly trying to get him to dance with her, much in the way Ruby and Victor were right then on the other side of the club. It wasn't usual for all of them to go out together, but apparently some of his friends had invited Ruby and of course she had dragged Milah along, and then Milah had dragged some of her own friends too, and in the end Killian hadn't even bothered to keep up who had brought whom to their night out to celebrate Jefferson's promotion.

One way or another, he had tried to stay clear of Milah's way for the night. For now, at least - he knew she would corner him sooner or later, and seeing the alarming speed at which his rum was disappearing, it wasn't too far-etched to believe he'd go home with her. "And maybe not just with her eyes..," he told Graham with a saucy wink, to which his friend shook his head.

"You're a jerk."

"Don't be a hater, dear," Killian sing-songed, but Graham wasn't listening. Instead, he left his drink over the bar and towered over him to wave a hand in the air, calling for someone's attention.

"Hey, Swan! Over here!"

Killian frowned confusedly. Swan? Who the hell was Swan?

He turned to see the girl who had been at Milah's apartment weeks before making her way towards them, grimacing here and there every time she tried to sidestep overly-excited dancers or guys attempting to coerce her into a dance. Oh. So she knew Graham? Wait - this was the Emma his roommate had been talking about lately? He had never gotten to meet the girl he kept hearing about at home, but this plot twist, he hadn't expected, that was for sure. He had been teasing Graham about his little crush for a long time now, and well, now he guessed he could understand the appeal. He spent the rest of her trek to their place at the bar examining her carefully - she looked positively sinful, he had to admit, wearing a rather fitting outfit of thin, see-through shirt and tight pants that did wonders to her curves.

She may have been a bitch and rude and obnoxious, but hell, she could work it.

Speaking of which, rude, obnoxious bitch got to Graham's side and smiled relievedly for a second. "Hey yourself." She didn't look half as pleased when she realized it was him drinking with her pal, though, her smile turning thin and forced. "Oh. It's you again."

"Please don't look so excited."

"I'm not," she assured him, and Killian had to snort a laugh - the girl had guts, that was for sure. She didn't even bother on deigning him with another word, ignoring him and talking to Graham in a hushed whisper. "Listen - can we talk for a minute?"

Graham caught the apprehension in her voice, - so did Killian, but well, he was not her friend and he did not care what her deal was, so he was just content with his drink, thank you very much, - took her gently by the elbow and guided her away, giving Killian an apologetic look over his shoulder that he waved away. "Of course."

The rest of the evening went as expected: people drank, people danced, people flirted, people almost got into fights. Killian was given far more hungry looks and phone numbers written over napkins that he had imagined, though Milah made sure to scare off the competition by grabbing him by the collar of his shirt and slanting her mouth over his every time some girl tried to stay talking to him for too long.

It always worked.

After she had left to have a dance with her friends - not after advising him to wait for her later if he 'wanted to collect', he stood by the bar once more with Jeff when Ruby and Victor showed up, both looking sweaty and a little disheveled. "Already leaving, Whale?"

Victor grinned down at Ruby, eyes lighting up at the suggestion. "I don't know. Are we?"

Ruby smacked his arm. "Not yet. I need to check up on Emma."

Jefferson whistled under his breath, leaning on his elbows as he faced the dance floor. "I don't think she needs your help right now."

"Yeah she does," Ruby insisted, crossing her arms over her chest challengingly, and Jefferson lifted an eyebrow at her reluctance to believe him.

"I think Humbert is taking really good care of her, trust me." As soon as he said that, he jerked his chin in the direction of a platform at the side of the club, and all of them followed his gaze. Ruby's eyes widened, and Victor clapped a hand over his neck, rubbing it nervously.

Killian just stared, unimpressed. "Well, would you look at that."

If Ruby and Victor had been the epitome of dry-humping, these two could be the definition of 'scandalous'. He could recognize it was them because of Emma's unmistakable golden curls and, even if it sounded crude to admit, her delicious ass - which he had taken note of earlier - and, well, he knew it was Graham because of his outfit. And he was his friend and all.

It was quite strange to be privy of such sordid behavior by his friend, his hands roaming over Emma's hips and back, tangling in her hair as hers grabbed his forearms and ran her hands over his shoulder. He could see her giggling and smiling up at him - probably when he grabbed her as to not have her falling - but... it almost seemed forced. Killian canted his head to the side, studying them for a moment, noticing the way she moved and danced with him, how forcefully she pushed him against her, the way she claimed his lips against hers in an intense and sloppy kiss that most definitely must have left Humbert with a little situation to deal with.

There was something going on in there.

Thus, him clapping mockingly as soon as she was within earshot some time later, when she appeared to have had her fix of Humbert to play with and have a shot at the bar. "Great show out there, Swan."

She waved at the bartender, who showed up as if she had fucking summoned him by magic, not even gracing him with a second glance. "Piss off."

"No, really. For a moment I even felt like covering my eyes. So indecent," he said, sliding by the counter until he was right at her side, hip by hip. She took the shot the waiter gave her, leaving some bucks on his hand before turning to face him.

"What the hell do you want, Jones?"

"For you to stop playing with my friend."

She looked like he had slapped her. "Excuse me?"

Ha. Like that'd make him change his mind. "You know. Graham? Puppy eyes following you everywhere you go? Sandy curls? Irish accent? Wait, let me narrow it down - the one you were dry-humping back there?"

She actually growled at him. "This is none of your concern. Leave me the fuck alone."

"It is my concern when you're breaking my friend's heart by leading him on when you're clearly putting on a show for whoever it is that got you so freaked out."

"Oh, you're one to talk. Fucking Milah whenever the hell you want and stringing her along but when something as close as 'relationship' comes up, you run away." She had turned to take the shot glass in her hand. She shoved it down in one gulp, not even flinching, and licked her lips as she set it down back on the sticky wooden bar.

The fact that he had followed the movement of her tongue as she licked her moistened lips was clearly not sitting too well with him. Nor did her words about the issue he had been having so many headaches about lately.

He stalked her until they were nose to nose, warning and disdain ringing in his words. "At least I have always been upfront with what I do. You're just using someone to give a show, and you know what's the funniest thing?" Cheeks brushing, he whispered in her ear mockingly, "You're not fooling anybody, no matter what."

He didn't even see it coming.

One moment she was looking up at him with contempt, thinking she had the upper hand and clearly not giving a flying fuck of what he thought or said about her; the next she had slapped the hell out of him. He was so stunned he almost missed her words, hissed under her breath, every ounce of hatred she may have possessed oozing of each syllable as poison leaking out of an opened wound. "Don't pretend to know me. Don't you dare talk to me like you know a thing about me."

She whirled, her hair flipping like a halo and slapping his still stinging cheek, and stormed away, shoving dancers aside in her wake to his amazement. He stood there, completely out of sorts and dazed but positively raging, almost shaking in his anger.

Fuck, that had been messy. Who the hell did she think she was? Calling him out on his shit but as soon as he did the same to her she hit him? What the fuck had that been about?

He shook his head and decided that another rum wouldn't hurt him - it would most probably ease his mind at this point, maybe. He spent the next fifteen minutes trying to get the bartender's attention - see? Another reason to hate Emma Swan: she had made it look so effortless, of course she'd get her drink in a minute and he'd have to wait like a loser until the guy deemed it proper to get his order - until Graham sidled up to him. "Killian - have you seen Emma? Ruby is asking about her and we can't find her anywhere."

Huh. "I think I saw her leaving."

Leaving, as in, running away after leaving a handprint on my face. Both possibilities were good.

Graham scratched his beard, confused. "Oh, that's weird. She was waiting for us to leave. I'll text her." He was about to get his phone when Killian slammed his glass down on the counter with a bang.

"Why bother, Graham? You and I both know what is going on there."

His friend gawked at him, looking even more confused than before, until something passed before his eyes. "You mean I know she's not into me."

Killian gulped. It wasn't a conversation he intended to have with him at all, but hell, he was just looking out for him. "At least not how you're into her."

Graham nodded. "You're right. I know that. And she knows too. It's not the first time we've talked about it."

Killian frowned, completely lost. "Then why would you let her toy with you?"

"What?" Graham's whole demeanor changed, and understanding crossed his face. "Oh God - no, no. What you saw earlier in the dance floor? It wasn't like that."

It was not really everyday that Graham got so worked up about something, Killian was starting to realize. She must mean a lot to him to get him to defend her so fiercely.

"Look... Emma has had a lot going on lately. And even if she knows I would be with her despite everything - even knowing she doesn't return my feelings - she won't. I was just helping her."

Killian passed a hand over his face tiredly. He was already done with this. It was obvious he shouldn't have tried to say anything about it. "Helping her with what?"

Graham sighed. "Her ex is here." Killian didn't look overly appeased by that - so what? Did that excuse that behavior from her? He wasn't so sure. Graham noticed his disbelieving expression, and rushed to explain. "It's... kind of messy. They were together for quite a long time, but he was bad news - petty thievery and all. She asked him to stop it so they could, you know, start a life together." He paused, eyes distant and voice turning harsher. "He disappeared. Left her alone, with nothing, nowhere to be seen, no trail to follow." Turning back to Killian, he signaled in the direction of a couple on the other side of the bar: a dark-skinned girl, with long and straight hair who had her arms looped around a guy's neck. Disheveled brown locks, scruff and winking eyes who wouldn't stop lighting up as he kissed his girl's nose.


"And now, years later, he is here with the girl he found the home Emma had asked him to build with her."

Oh. "Okay, that's fucked up, but then..," he started hesitatingly, but Graham cut him off.

"Then she told me she knew he was here, knew he may try to talk to her or apologize or something. I asked her if she wanted me to punch him, but she preferred to just... you know. Make believe we were a thing so he'd back off. Show him she was okay. That she was better without him, that she didn't need him at all."

Killian observed the couple for a long time, wondering how it must have been for Emma to have everything - her hopes, her dreams of getting a home and a family with that guy - ripped out from her and now have it waved in front of her like a white flag.

Or a rather hot chick that wasn't her.

Yeah, from what he had seen, Emma definitely was not okay. And as he had told her, she was not fooling anybody - not his ex, not Graham, and most definitely not him. Not even herself.

There were times when Miss Honey was sad. Or upset. Or lonely. Or... something. She didn't act... like herself, and how Killian could tell, he wasn't really sure. Or how he knew that about a complete stranger just from some idle conversation scrawled over a table - opposed to when sometimes he was needed to be told about someone's obvious distress, - he was afraid to ponder about.

It was... in the details, he guessed. He had always prided himself on being quite good at reading people, but this girl - they connected, as cheesy as it could sound. The way her teasing dropped, or the laughing at his ridiculous jokes and curious interest in whatever it was they were commenting. He didn't know why the fact that he knew she was melancholy bothered him so much - it wasn't like she was truly his friend, or something... even if she was, in a way. And it did. Bother him, that was. It unsettled him, and he didn't like it one bit. When these blues of Miss Honey came, he tried to cheer her up as much as he could. He told her random facts about him and his friends and promised her to introduce them to her sometime whenever she wanted to spend a day crying at humanity's failure via their idiocy. He made up conversations between the two of them when she wasn't as willing to talk. Once he even taped to the table a small recipe of his favorite dessert that his mother had prepared for him and Liam when they were boys. He had no idea why, but after leaving that one for her, it was like she had known too, that it had been something that brought out some of his own demons. In response, she made some doodles for him to try to lift his spirits.

The doodling became her thing from then on. She was pretty good, he'd give her that. Sometimes he even made her requests and she would graciously concede, whereas other times she'd leave something for him to guess what or who it was. Her portrayal of Granny's profile was still his favorite - he laughed so hard when he saw it, the rest of the patrons in the diner thought he was delirious.

The one request she never accepted no matter how many times he begged her for it was a self-portrait.

Smart girl.

That day he had found a rather perky message from her, and Killian bit his nail absentmindedly, thinking if he should go for it or not. He had been debating about doing it from a long time now, and he reckoned there was nothing wrong with it. Because friends - or whatever it was they were, - asked each other things. Because they were interested in each other's lives.

And he was dying to know.

So, Mr. T has a strange question for Miss Honey... something that has been on his mind lately. He would love to know if Miss Honey is currently spoken for. If Miss Honey would like to share of course. Not that he'd be incredibly frustrated if she didn't tell him or if she was. Not at all.

Yep. He needed to know if she was married, if she had a boyfriend, if she had a girlfriend, if she had anything. If he had any chance. Which was crazy because he didn't even know her but...

God, this was so cliché, it wasn't even funny. They could probably make a lame rom com about his situation. They could cast that guy with the great hair from that doctor's show to play him. That'd be fine with him - all the girls did dig him...

Not giving himself more than a day to check, he hurried to Granny's the very next morning, already feeling like an idiot because who said she had been there already and seen his last message? Sometimes it was days or even a week since they answered the other.

But, to his surprise, she had seen it. And she had answered.

Miss Honey is shocked at Mr T's audacity. But if he must know... No. Miss Honey is free like a bird. And of course now Miss Honey feels compelled to ask the same.

She was single. And she wanted to know if he was single, too.

Oh God. Was she interested? Was she just being polite - quid pro quo? What the hell did she want from him? What the hell did he want from her, now that he thought about it?

He was screwed. So screwed.

Mr. T won't admit he smiled like a goof. He won't. And no, he is not spoken for either. Which is good. Right?

How just a line answering him made him feel happier and lighter than he had been in the entire month was still a mystery.

Good. Right.

He tried to squish the small pang of guilt that stabbed at him when he thought that he may still be seeing Milah from now and then. They were not a couple, though, so technically they weren't a thing, and he was definitely not tied to her. So he was not lying. But still. The possibility of Miss Honey doing the same to him - lying so he would hear what she wanted him to hear - wait what - made him nauseous, and he tried to wave it away.

It would be very bad form to go on invisible dates with a total stranger if any of us were committed to someone else.

Agreed. But wait - are we really strangers? I feel like I know more about you than some of the people I do know in the flesh.

He smiled. She always said - or wrote - what he was thinking. He still wondered what they were, and here she was - admitting that, as unconventional this was, it was still something worth maintaining.

I guess we are... ghost friends. Scared yet, Miss Honey?

In your dreams, Mr. T.

"Humbert, do you mind if I borrow one of your...," he said as he opened his roommate's door, only to stop in his tracks at the sight in front of him. "Oh."

Emma Swan sat over Graham's bed, legs crossed under her, hair a mess and lips red and bitten. Now that he noticed it, she was wearing one of Graham's t-shirts. "Jones."

He nodded at her, averting his eyes from her bare legs. "Swan."

Graham poked his head from behind the closet, rising his eyebrows at him. "Hey, Killian - what is it?"

Killian shook his head, still trying to come up with an explanation as to 1) why was Emma Swan there looking as if she had been fucked to the next century, and 2) why it would bother him in any way or form. "Um, nothing, I was gonna ask you if I could borrow a shirt but I see you're out. Don't worry."

He was about to close the door behind him when something hit him in the head. He turned to find a fresh t-shirt, courtesy of Graham, who had thrown it at him with an easy grin. "Here - have this one."

He kneeled and took it in his hand, slinging it over his shoulder. "Thanks mate." With a last look at him - and then at Emma, who was cautiously avoiding his eyes, - he left for the bathroom to take a shower.

And no, he was not thinking about what those two may be up to in Graham's room.

When he was done, he told himself he was not really trying to hear what was going on at the other side of the wall. He wore his earphones while he typed on his laptop, then watched an episode of his favorite TV show, then another - until he realized he had been fucking marathoning the thing without him really realizing it, which was a pity - and in the end settled on a movie he had been meaning to check out after August had claimed it'd 'blow his mind'.

He wasn't sure August and he were on the same wave, so to speak, but he was willing to give it a chance.

At 2AM, after having dozed off at several points during the movie - he had been right, it wasn't really his thing at all, what was August even thinking, - when he tossed the blankets around him and got out of bed, ready to get something to drink. There was silence in the house, and even if he had successfully avoided any sound slipping through his earphones during the evening, - even though he would have sworn there had been voices there, but from a conversation, not... from other activities, - he wasn't really sure he was ready to run into another awkward scene again.

Though he ran into a ghost alright.

"Holy shit. Don't ever do that again," he hissed angrily at Emma's silhouette, perched over the window in the living room. She almost blended in with the shadows and curtains that hanged from the ceiling, which she had used as a blanket pooling at her legs.

He tried not to think about her naked legs. Unsuccessfully.

She looked almost apologetic while he fetched some water from the sink and took a sip, still trying to gather his bearings. "Sorry."

He huffed. Turning around, he inspected her for a moment, and the faraway look in her eyes made him halt his steps back to his room.

The obvious tracks of shed tears might have had something to do with it, too.

He took one tentative step in her direction. "You alright there, Swan?"

She straightened her spine, staring up at him defiantly. "Do you really care?"

He really should have expected it. It was no surprise she was attacking him, considering the last time they had interacted - even though it had been her who had attacked him then. Physically. Though he could admit it had been him who had started the attack. Verbally. Right?

God, this was messed up.

"Right," he said, scratching the back of his neck nervously. He advanced towards her, and he could see her bracing herself - for a fight? Poor girl. "Look, I - I know last time we saw each other it wasn't pretty. But I wanted to apologize. Graham told me he was just trying to help and he was okay with the whole thing as long as it made you feel better."

She looked as surprised as he felt, probably. She looked down at the shirt she wore, a wistful smile quirking her lips as she caressed the material softly. "He's a good guy. Too good, in fact."

He nodded, mimicking her smile. "The best. You could do worse."

She really could. Graham was one of the best friends he had ever had, and he was... happy, he guessed, that she was kind of giving him a chance - or at least letting herself do something about what was between them.

She frowned, and turned to stare at him curiously. "What makes you say that?"

...was she for real? "Well...," he started, nodding towards her choice of attire, hoping she got the hint. You are kind of wearing the guy's clothes, Swan. She looked down at the t-shirt, and realization passed over her features, and to his surprise, she blushed.

He didn't want to dwell too much on the fact that she looked quite cute doing so.

She gripped the hem of the t-shirt in her hands, grasping it tightly. "No, no, it's not like that. I needed a place to crash."

He sat down on the couch next to the window, leaning against one of the armrest and picking up the stuffed elephant that Ruby had given them a long time ago and had claimed its place there. "I thought you had already found a place of your own."

She closed her eyes, flinching. "I did but..."

"You don't have to tell me," he said quickly, but she didn't seem to hear him - she went on, to his surprise.

"It's just - my ex. My neighbor called me telling me he has been waiting at my door to talk to me and I don't want to see him."

Killian furrowed his brow. Her ex? "The one in the club?"

She lifted her head to gawk at him, surprised. "Neal? Oh no. He doesn't have the balls to come close to me after what he did." She looked almost amused, and if it hadn't been weird before talking about her ex, it definitely was now. There was... bitterness, and pain in her face, and he was almost tempted to go over her and smooth the wrinkles on her forehead. He didn't, though. "Walsh. We were together for a year or so. Not anymore."

There was a pause, and he felt like filling it, just in case she left him wondering the rest. "What happened?"

A sigh. Weary, tired. "He proposed."

...Okay, that wasn't what he had expected at all. And now he was even more confused about the whole thing. He had wondered if her mood was due to the idiot that Graham had told him about, but this was news.

Not that he knew that much about Emma Swan, but here they were. Weird.

"Oh." Another pause, because it wasn't awkward enough. "I'm lost," he confessed.

She huffed under her breath, and passed a hand through her tresses with a growl. "I am not ready. I thought I was - I thought I could finally find something good. Someone to care for me. And the stupidest thing is, when I finally did - I realized I can't do it. Maybe I never will." She stopped herself, shaking her head rapidly, as if telling herself to shut up. "I'm sorry, I don't know why I'm telling you this."

He chuckled quietly. "Well, sometimes it's better to share secrets with people you hate."

That seemed to bring her out of her musings, and she stared at him, a pensive look stealing her features. "I don't... 'hate' you. I'm sorry for lashing you about Milah. It wasn't my place to say anything."

"You're right, it wasn't," he admitted, and he tried not to feel too self-satisfied with himself for her squirming under his gaze. He sighed, plopping himself languidly on the couch. "Though I guess it was about time someone said anything. Even if that someone was you right before slapping me."

She perked up at that. "Did it hurt?"

"Someone asked me the next day if I had painted that handprint myself on purpose."

They had. It hadn't been pretty.

She giggled. "You deserved it."

"Maybe," he shrugged, and they both shared a smile, the small moment of companionship unfamiliar but... soothing, in a way, he guessed. There was a long moment in which neither of them said anything, just basking in the sound of their breathing, thoughts flying and spiraling, far away from them to reach anymore.

He broke the silence after a while, cocking his head to stare at her with a knowing look. "So. What are you going to do now? You know you'll have to talk to that Walsh of yours at some point."

She slumped her shoulders, leaning against the windowpane and rearranging the curtain around her as if it were a skirt. "I have no idea, but I guess I will." She didn't sound too convinced about it, but he didn't push her. Instead, she fixed him with a strange look back. "What about you? Are you ever gonna man up and cut the crap with Milah?"

He met her eyes, the same long lost look he had found so intriguing the first time he had met her, and did something he had found lacking in his life as of late.

He said the truth.

"I don't have a damn clue."

Without either of them realizing it, Killian came to the conclusion that he and Emma Swan had become, much to his surprise, friends. He would text her when he felt like everything was too much and they'd meet to take a walk or grab a coffee.

(He never took her to Granny's though, and something tugged at his heart at the knowledge that he was so messed up for still being completely enamored with the idea of meeting Miss Honey and keeping her his dirty little secret from everybody. He didn't even consider telling Emma, who, as he had admitted, was slowly becoming one of his best confidents.)

And friends met each other. And talked. And did things together, even when the other didn't want to. They'd just be there for the other.

Sometimes she'd show up at their place and offer them doughnuts or pizza when she needed a pick-me-up. And even if Graham was there, it was obvious that she was seeking Killian out just as he did with her. Furthermore, it became quite obvious for him when she started showing up when she knew Graham wouldn't be there. He didn't mention it to her, though. Especially for the tiny detail that he rather enjoyed their private tête-à-têtes.

He hadn't really put a finger in what it was that made their relationship so unique and exhilarating at the same time - especially considering how it all had started - but it was something he slowly but surely started treasuring and cherishing the more it grew. Most of the time they disagreed on everything they ever discussed: from political views to what were the most overrated books of all time. Hell, she even mentioned how they'd never work out because of their lack of common ground on pizza toppings. When he had wondered aloud what that had anything to do with a couple's compatibility, she had just stared at him and shaken her head, muttering under her breath how 'he didn't know a damn thing about life'.

Not that he thought too much about the possibility of Emma and him being together. At all. He was still seeing Milah, so he was, so to speak, 'off the market' in a sense - and Emma was... well, she was still Emma. Emma Swan, with her trust issues and her total lack of interest in getting someone close to her heart after her messed up break up, marriage proposal included. He was worried about her - because that was... what friends did, right? Maybe his attempts at making her work on those issues of hers weren't exactly the most convenient, though - because yelling at each other and leaving in a huff wasn't really considered a success, or so he had been told - but he was just trying to be supportive.

At the same time, Emma gave as strong as she got: she would confront him about his zero disposition of letting go of Milah. In fact, she had thrown it at his face when he had once joked about him taking Emma out on a date. As a joke. Of course. It wasn't like she would ever accept going on a date with anyone, least of all him. (And why the thought of her rejecting everybody besides him minimally soothed him, he would never know.)

She had snorted under her breath and rejected him on the spot. When he had asked why, she had explained how she'd never go out with him because he clearly kept going to Milah whenever he 'was in a mood'. She had looked at him then, knowing he would understand what she meant when she said that. Unfortunately, he knew it too well: the loneliness, the feeling of not belonging, the self-doubt - all of it crept inside of him, taking a vice-grip of his insides, almost making him gasp in ragged breaths. That was when he ran, knocking on someone's door, someone he knew would give him something he so desperately craved.

Emma had sighed, then, giving him a measuring look. "Listen, I know it is... like an addiction. You can't find it in yourself to stop from taking something offered to you that makes you feel good. But it is still a jerk move and she deserves better."

"I haven't seen her lately," he had blurted out unconsciously. Not since I have been hanging out with you, anyway.

They had stared at each other for a while, in silence, reading the other's expression, no words needed, until she had looked away, a slight blush on her cheeks that she had tried to cover with that curtain of blond curls. They hadn't said anything else on the matter, instead focusing on the lame TV show playing in the background and finishing their slices of pizza. It wasn't until she slapped her hand over his so he wouldn't eat the last Fromaggio one that the easy banter they had somehow mastered over the past weeks came back, and he felt like he could breath again.

Because, as it happened, Emma Swan managed to leave him breathless.

That was why he found it too funny when he managed in return to make her breathless - and not by invading her personal space or coming up with an outrageous innuendo. To be honest, he was still surprised - and a little confused - at her reaction when he thought about it: he had just made a note about the tea and honey recipe for her when she had groaned about Ruby getting wasted that very same weekend, a soft smile on his lips when he recalled his first interaction with the ghost girl at Granny's.

Emma had stilled, the pencil she had been playing with her fingers falling to the floor with a faint clanking sound, and met his eyes, a blank look on her face as she did. Eyebrow rising in question, he was astounded when she had picked up her things and, with a muttered farewell and an excuse about something she had forgotten before meeting him slipping past her lips, she had fled the scene, leaving him once away speechless.

The girl always bested him, no matter what.

"You've been avoiding me."

She leaned against the doorframe, crossing her arms in front of her. If she had given him this very same expression months ago, when they first had run into each other, he wouldn't have known what to look in it - he would have assumed she was bored, irked, done with him going to her place to see her.

But now - now he knew how to read her. And the poker face was utter crap.

She was nervous.

"I have not," she said, and when he didn't say anything back, she sighed, dropping her gaze to the floor and shuffling her feet. "Don't give me that look."

He almost pitied her valiant attempt at bullshitting him. "I'm giving you the look because you know I'm right."

"I have just been busy," she tried, and he rose an eyebrow, almost grinning when she pursed her lips when she noticed. She kept whining about how he was insufferable in the eyebrow-quirking department.

"Busy ignoring me."

She stood up straighter, throwing her arms in the air. "Not everything is about you, okay Jones?"

He shrank back, taken by surprise. He knew sometimes Emma got... defensive, but he had believed that they had made progress and even when he pushed her she treated him somewhat differently from the way she did with the rest. Because they did understand each other.

Seeing her rejecting him in such a harsh manner hadn't been what he had expected - at all. And he had to admit: it hurt.

He looked down at his feet, suddenly feeling stupid. "I know it's not. I just..." Rubbing his hand over his neck nervously, he sighed. Time to go, he guessed. Let it not be said he was not a gentleman: if he wasn't wanted, he'd leave. "Fine. Whatever."

As soon as he had turned around, about to press the elevator's button on the wall, Emma's hand gripped his arm, stopping him. "Wait..." He froze, still not meeting her eyes, waiting for her to go on. He wouldn't admit his heart was pounding furiously inside his ribcage, as if he had been running a fucking marathon just to see her, sick and tired of her silence. "I'm sorry. I should have called you or something. Things have been a little weird lately."

He met her eyes, concerned. He hated it when she sounded so... defeated. Deflated. Detached. The three D's. "You could have told me."

"I didn't want to bother you."

"You never bother me."

They both jumped a bit at his confession, and there was an awkward pause in which Emma gnawed at her lower lip and he tried for all that was holy to make sense of what he had just said. The thing was - it was true. Even if he was having the shittiest of days, or he was tired as hell, or he just wanted to stay under the blankets and hide away from the world, he wouldn't mind if it was Emma who showed up to try to talk about it. Or just stay silently by his side, because she knew what it was like. Not Graham, not Milah, not anybody. Hell, the only other person he'd find himself willing to have a try at lifting up his mood would be Miss Honey - though that would imply getting out and going to Granny's. (He would be willing to go no matter what.)

It was just... how they worked. Because they worked. They clicked.

And, as they did, he knew the thing he had to say to make the awkwardness that had silently shaken them go away.

"Woah, that got really intense in no time. What about a drink?"

The fleeting quirking of her lips spoke of gratitude and understanding, but was quickly replaced by her trademark you're-a-pain-in-the-ass expression she solely reserved for him. "You're not gonna accept anything but a yes, right?"

"You know me so well," he said, and draped a hand over her shoulder before dragging her outside of her apartment. "Come on."

After a brief 'please Jones I need my keys and, you know, proper shoes' discussion in which they had to go inside her place, wait for Emma to get ready ('You don't need to get ready, you look good!' 'Don't even start!' 'Women' 'Do you want me to change my mind?' 'Okay, fine. Get pimped up for me, Swan. Go ahead'), waiting for Emma outside of her door after she kicked him out for being an idiot, and her finally showing up 'properly ready', they left her building, walking aimlessly around, oddly silent for a while.

"So. What's new," she finally asked, and he smiled. She seemed like she wanted to make up after being set on ignoring him.

"Nothing much, really. Milah has been bothering me these days, probably because I have been ignoring her calls and not visiting lately." He bumped his shoulder with hers playfully, only gaining a way more violent shove from her in return. "Then you have been avoiding me, which has made my life a complete bore, let me tell you."

She smirked, green eyes glinting up at him. "I thought you could handle my absence."

He returned the smile, chuckling softly. "Clearly not."

He should have his speaking filter checked, he really did. It stopped working every time he was in Emma Swan's presence, and it was getting oddly unnerving, if he said so himself.

Emma's cheeks had turned a lovely shade of red - which made his annoyance at his speaking filter drop a couple of points, but whatever, - though he found it safer not to point it out, knowing it would only result in pain for him. "Okay," she muttered, and they resumed their walk.

It wasn't until he saw the green picket fence surrounded by plants covering the diner he so had frequented for the past year, when he stopped at the door, chancing a peek inside. He hadn't heard from Miss Honey for a while, too.

When Emma had started avoiding him, he had been through... a lot of phases, he'd say.

First, it had been confusion. He didn't get why she suddenly stopped wanting to hear from him, or plain see him, just like they had been doing on a daily basis. Getting closer and knowing the other and being there. He raked his brain for anything he might have said to upset her or made her angry at him, but couldn't for the life of him remember anything. So that led to stage two.


He blamed her for forgetting about him, for leaving him, for being fine without him. It was cruel of her, depriving him of her presence. And it was childish and stupid and he knew it, but he couldn't stop himself from being mad at her - for not needing him like he needed her. He had spent more nights grumbling to himself and staring daggers at his phone more times he could recall, and stalking every picture of hers and notification on her Facebook, making faces and despising her. One night he had been so angry, he had gone to Milah's, banging on her door and almost taking her right there in the hall as soon as she opened, obviously surprised at him being there at all.

He hadn't stayed the night, though. After kissing her furiously, snaking an arm around her waist to get her closer to him and making her gasp in response, he realized he was making a mistake. He kept doing it - he kept going there, and taking what he wanted, her feelings withstanding and now his mixed feelings towards Emma added in the mix. So he left, muttering an apology and promising Milah he'd call her soon to talk.

(He still hadn't, but he would.)

At last, the third stage brought with it sorrow and self pity. 'She doesn't care at all about you', 'she clearly doesn't want anything to do with you', 'you are not what she wants'... all of them running through his head. And that was when he had found himself at Granny's, realizing that, apart from the fleeting acknowledgment that they were still alive, he hadn't really talked to Miss Honey for a while. And so he wrote her, desperately and lonely and aching to talk to her - and not just because of Emma's unexpected abandonment. He just missed her, but had almost forgotten to miss her when Emma had been there.

And so, he wanted to make sure she hadn't answered yet, because, as much as Emma, Miss Honey hadn't been too receptive either.

He stopped at Granny's door an turned to her. "Hey, do you mind if we go in here for a second? I need to... check something."

Emma's eyes widened, and he frowned. She plastered a rather fake smile on her face pronto enough, though. "You said we were getting a drink. Wouldn't a bar be more fitting?," she said, and he noticed amusedly how she was wringing her hands together. What was with her?

He shook his head, smiling, and tugged on her hair softly before making his way inside. "It's just a moment, I won't be long." He hadn't even made it to the door when Emma gripped the back of his shirt, and he turned, completely baffled, intent on warning her not to do that ever again because that was his favorite shirt in the entire world and if she did it any harm so help him he would kick her ass, but her stricken face caught him completely off-guard.

"Killian, please, don't - just... let's go, please." She was begging him, and something nagged at the corner of his mind, something warning, ominous and wrong, but he shook it off - as well as her hand, giving her a reassuring smile before jumping the steps inside the diner.

"Emma, it's just one minute, I promise."

He gave her one last look, still puzzled by her request as to not stop there - was there something wrong with Granny? It wasn't like he had taken her to some seedy, smelly pub of questionable legality or whatever, Christ - and so he entered the diner, ignoring the jingling of the small bell over the door as he ran quickly to the booth on the back, anxiously checking for anything from her. He had left more than one message - though some of them got cleaned by Granny, probably after they didn't get answered in days - but he could see the last three he had left for her.

In the last one, he had finally caved in.

Moment of truth: my name is Killian. And Killian - or Mr. T, whichever you prefer - would be honored to find out your name. He believes it will finally make you answer him, because he's pretty much desperate to hear from you again.

There was only one word written below his desperate plea, and he had to shake his head a couple of times and reread it just in case.


Killian couldn't breathe. He definitely, truly, for real couldn't breathe, oxygen wouldn't reach his brain, everything around him swayed and moved in swirling colors and it felt like he was passing out.

A cluttering sound behind him made him jump, and he whirled around, finding Granny banging a tray over the next booth. She looked at him and then turned to the door, where Emma stood, pale and shaking and freaking out - probably as much as him.

He knew there could be a dozen other possible Emmas walking around this town, yet he knew it was her - as soon as he had seen her name written under his own. Her strange mood swings, the avoiding - Jesus, as soon as he had mentioned the tea and honey mix, of course. How hadn't he realized earlier?

Granny lifted her arms in the air, as if praying to some deity above "For the love of God, it was about damn time. I was going to tear my hair out until you two finally ran into each other!" She waited for a moment, maybe for them to say something, to move, to hug, to kiss, Killian wasn't sure; but when she realized she wasn't getting the reaction she wanted, she put her hands over her hips, frowning at them. "Okay, that wasn't the face I was expecting."

Killian was about to choke some excuse when Emma apparently decided it was time to flee: she grasped the handle in her hand, she slammed the door open and flew down the steps towards the sidewalk. With an apologetic look at Granny's, he followed her, jogging down the street until she got to her. He grasped her wrist and halted her, effectively stopping her from running away again. "Where do you think you're going?"

She attempted to set herself free. "Let me go."

"You are Miss Honey?" Instead of freeing her, he took her other hand, letting her no choice but to look up at him. "You knew? The whole time?"

She gasped, outraged. "No! I only found out a couple of weeks ago."

She had known for weeks and she hadn't said a thing? "And you didn't think I should know?"

She set her mouth in a thin line, pinching her brows together in defiance. "Clearly not - that's why I was avoiding you!"

That made sense. That was when she had fled - both her, and Miss Honey. "Why didn't you tell me?"

Taking advantage of his sudden rage, she shook her hands free from his and stepped back. He was already closing the gap between them when she snarled at him, "What was I supposed to tell you? Knowing that you are still fucking Milah and at the same time flirting with me - and the girl behind the messages on the table? What was I supposed to do?"

"Oh, I don't know - maybe give me a chance?" Speaking filter not working again. At all. Emma was as flabbergasted by his answer as he was, as if she considered it completely ludicrous. She let out a derisive laugh, an ugly sound that made him flinch in discomfort.

"Isn't that what I have been doing all this time? And you fucking blew it"

His eyes widened in surprise. "Did I?"

"Are you kidding me? You jumped Milah as soon as you saw I wasn't answering."

It was as if she had slapped again, right like back at the club that night so long ago. Emma blinked hard, and at the telling glistening in her eyes he realized he had hurt her, by going to Milah's. God, how had she found out? He hadn't told her but she somehow knew...

He swore under his breath. Ruby. Of course.

He hadn't done anything with Milah that night, she had to know that - if Ruby had told her he had been there, she must had told her that he had left as soon as he got to the apartment, right...? But anyway, it was no excuse for her to throw it at his face now, not when she hadn't told him she was... that she was... "Then why are you here now? Why did you come with me? Why the hell did you write your name if you think I blew it, if you don't want this?"

She froze, and so did he, and they just stood there, confronting the other, drowning in angry shouts and accusations and overwhelmed by confessions and feelings and God did his head hurt.

And everything, every tiny cell in his body ached for him to reach out to her and hold her, kiss her, tuck her head under his chin and smell her hair - things he may have done already, others he had wished to do for quite a long time, things that he craved to have now. Maybe he had always known yet had never realized about it.

There was no time to ponder about it, though: Emma sniffed, the dampness in her eyes now freely running down her cheeks, and whirled around, striding away and ignoring his desperate calling behind her.

Weeks passed, and each one of them Killian felt like adding a mark on his wall - one day more away from Emma. Away from Miss Honey. Away from the woman who had showed up twice in his life, from different angles and at different times, and both captured his heart somehow. And now here he was: without her, - any of them, so to speak, - because he had, in classically Killian Jones style, messed up.

And he missed her. God, he missed her.

He still couldn't believe how he hadn't realized it was her. He had noticed she carried around a worn-out notebook for her notes where she kept loads of doodles, though she had never let him saw them because she claimed they were horrible and he would only make fun of her. He knew she took cocoa with cinnamon on it, for fuck's sake. He had seen her handwriting before, too. Some of her jokes, the dry humor and easy banter... how the hell had he not seen it?

In his defense, he'd say she hadn't recognized him either, so there was that.

He hadn't dared to approach her - not until the both had time to cool it off and maybe come to an understanding on where they stood. It was obvious he wanted her - he had wanted her since way before he found out about her 'secret identity', anyway, even if neither of them had been able to admit it. The casual brushing of skin on skin that would feel like fireworks, the shared smiles, the comfort they sought from each other - a hug lingering longer than what was considered appropriate between them, holding each other's hand in an attempt to calm the other. Killian had found himself staring at her mouth too many times, wondering how that'd feel like, how she'd react if he went for it, if he closed the aching distance between them...

But he had never dared. Nor had she. Not that he knew if she wanted him to, anyway, but she had answered him with her name. That had to count, right?

But, before he did anything concerning Emma, he had to clean up another mess of his.

As in having the dreaded conversation that he had postponed for so long with Milah. Funny how, after Emma left him in front of Granny's without a second word or glance and stalked away, his first instinct had, as always, been to run to Milah's. He hadn't gone, of course - because, after all, wasn't that what Emma would expect of him now? Of him to hurt her again, by choosing someone else when she had been opening herself to him? And, on the other hand, he didn't even want to go anymore. Milah's had been his refuge for so long, it was almost like a reflex to flee there and bury himself in the afterglow of warmth and care that the girl in love with him gave him, but not anymore. And now that he saw it - now that he knew how wrong it was and that he was finally willing to let go, he did it.

Emma's words rang in his ears when he confronted a heartbroken Milah. "Because it is easy and familiar. You're not doing her or yourself any favors by dragging it out". That was what he told her, and how sorry he was for being such an asshole, and how he really would understand if she needed to stay away from him for a while, to get her space, if she wanted so - though he would always want to keep being friends. But it was all her choice, and he would respect it.

She had just sniffled, choking a laugh and assuring him that she had known it was coming. After all, he had been slipping away from her, quietly, almost in the dark, like a ghost.

(He smiled sadly at that, thinking of how fucking fitting that sounded of him. 'Ghost friends', as Miss Honey, Emma, and he had dubbed themselves on Granny's table.)

She also reassured him it wasn't all his fault, and how she had been guilty, not putting a halt to it all, knowing there was no future, knowing he would never change the way he felt about her but wanting to keep him to herself as long as she could. It was bittersweet, and sad, and nostalgic; both of them clearly hurting, but it was also eye-opening, and tinged of the tiniest bit of hope.

And with such guiding him, he went to Granny's, intent on doing what was left for him with the person that most mattered to him and whom he had to set the record straight once and for all.

Taking his pencil, he set the lead over their corner in the table, and braced himself, breathing heavily. Then, he started to write and he did that that he had been not doing much for the last months again. And once more, in Emma's presence - as metaphorically as that could be:

I fucked up. I'm sorry.

Debating on wether he should add something more or not, he rubbed his temples warily until he went with what his gut told him to do.

I miss you.

He stalked the booth for days until he found the handwriting he so had missed - and how the fuck had he not noticed it was Emma's, God, he was an idiot - and almost spilled his coffee in his haste to read it.

His heart fell.

I'm sorry too.

"Please Granny, please." He used his best puppy eyes and pout, the combo he knew that did mostly everybody in whenever he asked for something. He should have known better with Granny though - she just glared at him, giving him her best 'are you seriously using that with me, son' look, and he groaned. "I wouldn't ask if it wasn't a complete emergency."

"Define 'emergency'", she sassed, carrying empty plates from one booth to another. He followed her around, picking up mugs and cutlery as if his life depended on it.

"Emergency as in you need you so I can win back the love of my life."

She chortled, serving a pot of coffee once she was back behind the counter. "Drama queen."

"Come on. Please. It's not much - just a text." He sat on his favorite stool before her, and passed a hand through his hair, knowing it'd look a complete mess after all the tugging and restless sleep he had been going through for such a long time, but whatever.

"If the girl doesn't want to see you I believe there must be a reason, huh?" she stated with a knowing look, and he dropped his head on the granite surface, huffing tiredly.

"I know, I know I fucked up, and I'm trying to make it up. But for that, I need your help." He met her eyes, pleading and honest. He had been stalking the diner for weeks, yet he still hadn't caught a glimpse of Emma. He wasn't sure if she was avoiding it just in case they ran into each other, or if their timetables just plain clashed and thus that was why they had never met there when they still didn't know they had been writing to each other without them knowing. In any case, he had tried to go to her place a while ago only to find her gone - and when the next door had slowly closed, a piercing eye intently observing him, he had realized she must have fled to someone's place to stay for a while, probably fearing he would try to see her. His stomach had dropped uncomfortably at the realization that it was the same she had done when her ex, Walsh, had proposed and she had fled to his and Graham's apartment.

It was history repeating itself: someone hurt her, she ran away. And now it was him who had hurt her.

He just wanted it all to stop hurting, both her and him. And hopefully fix it all together.

Granny measured him for a long moment, until she decided she was content with whatever she found in his face, and conceded to help him.

It was simple, really: as soon as she saw Emma coming into the diner, text him. He vowed to himself to do anything and everything in his hand to show up there so he could talk to her.

The text came six days later, right when he had quite the important meeting. He swore under his breath, cursing the blasted woman for making it so difficult - because of course it would never be easy with her, of fucking course - and he made up a lame excuse, ignoring the disbelieving looks of his colleagues and running out of the building, choosing the stairs instead of the elevator just so he could get out of there faster and praying to every deity ever believed in that she was still there.

And she was.

As breathless as he was from his run, - in a suit, no less - he was even more at the sight of her. He kept drinking her in: the pale skin of her neck, her impossibly long lashes and that hair he had so missed ruffling, knowing it would annoy her, and caressing when she was not aware of it. When the door shut behind him, bell ringing angrily over him as he froze in his staring, she turned, startled, and he saw her rightening her posture, frigidly swirling her stool to stare back at him.

He had no idea how long they spent just there. It felt like an eternity since he had last seen her, right outside of that very diner, the table where they had spent so much time learning about the other mere feet away. And now she was there, and at least she wasn't running at the sight of him. Small victory, if he said so.

He took one tentative step in her direction, and when she didn't try to leave in a panic, he kept walking until they were standing in front of the other.

"Hey," he said awkwardly, his hand already going to scratch the back of his ear, his signature move that she had picked on long ago for when he was nervous. She looked at him, a mix of nervousness and bewilderment crossing her features.


There was a pause, and he took in how she studied him from head to toe, frowning to herself. "I - I hope you don't mind if we talk?," he asked, crossing his fingers behind his back just in case. He needed every stupid lucky charm out there with this woman, and he knew it now.

She picked up on his words, and crossed her arms over her chest, giving him a knowing look. "How did you know I would be here?"

There was no point in lying. Not anymore. "Granny told me. I kind of bribed her so she would text me when you showed up in here. You are quite hard to run into when you're determined not to be found, you know that? I have been in here for hours and yet you..."

She interrupted him, voice barely above a whisper, and he stopped mid-sentence to catch what she was saying. "You... you come from work?," she said, signaling towards his wrinkled suit.

...did she mind he was in his suit and tie? She was going to be the death of him. "Sorry, I had no time at all to change, okay? I left as soon as I got Granny's text, I didn't know how long you would stay and I couldn't miss..."

"You left work to meet me?" she repeated, incredulous, and he threw his arms in the air exasperatedly.

"I was in a meeting. I'm sorry I couldn't change. I really am, but I..."

She put a hand over his mouth, and he saw her disbelieving expression, clearly direxted at him. "Why are you apologizing? I just..." She shook her head and dropped her hand. "I can't believe you would do that, just to see me."

He was really tempted to scream at her how he had already told her he had been practically living inside that diner just in case he saw her, or how he had been ding to talk to her for so long but she hadn't given him the chance - but he didn't. He realized where she was coming from, though. After everything he had learned from Emma Swan, it had been a constant in her life for people not to choose her or put her first. The fact that a simple gesture as missing something as mundane as a meeting - important as it may have been - got her so choked up only made him crave for her more, shower her with affection and love and proof that she was, indeed, worth sacrificing anything for.

"I'm sorry," she said, and he frowned, ready to tell her she had nothing to apologize for, but she cut him. "I... I heard about what happened with Milah."

Oh. Ruby must have told her, of course. He sighed, looking at the tip of his shoes as he recalled his encounter with Milah. He had not heard from her since then - as he had suspected, they needed time apart from each other, and until she didn't give him any indication that she wanted to maintain their friendship, he'd stay away from her. "It was a long time coming. Everything's fine." Recalling the last time they discussed his little accord with Milah, he looked at her earnestly, begging for her to listen. "Emma, you have to know, that night - I just kissed her; I was so angry because you were ignoring me, but there was nothing more. There hasn't been anyone else on my mind since you came. You have to know that."

Emma exhaled loudly, like it was too much information to process all of a sudden, and closed her eyes. He waited, knowing that it was hard for her - it was for him, too, - to take it all in and 'speak girl' and talk about feelings and let herself be vulnerable and honest with what she was feeling. But he needed her to try.

She finally opened back her eyes to meet his, and she cocked her head to the side, wonderingly. "Not even Miss Honey?"

He sighed, relieved, at the smallest teasing in her voice. She was not angry - at least, not anymore. He stepped closer to her, until he was almost standing between her legs. "How lucky can a guy be to fall for the same woman twice?"

She looked almost apologetic, pursing her lips in thought. "So you're not angry with me for not telling you?"

Oh, if only she had asked him a couple of weeks earlier, he would have been anything but happy about that. "I'm just angry I didn't realize earlier it was you." His lips twisted up into a sincere grin. "You bested me."

She smiled back, but it dropped quickly, and the hand-wringing Emma Swan he knew and loved came back with a passion. "So. Now what?"

He picked up one of her hands in his, and tangled their fingers together, taking note on how perfectly they fit against each other. "What do you really want now?"

She lifted her gaze to his, biting her lip nervously. "You know the mess I am. You know what my deal is."

He considered her words, scratching his scruff with his free hand and noticing from the corner of his eyes how her expression dropped at his apparent lack of interest. He then put his fingers under her chin, tilting it up so that they were eye to eye. "Well, you are my mess," he said, kissing the top of her nose, and he relished in the quiet exhale of her breath, clearly relieved. "My favorite mess," he added, and punctuated it by kissing the corner of her lips. He kept his mouth there, not sure he should follow, waiting for her, always for her. At the almost imperceptible nudge of her nose against his, he took it as an encouraging sign, and brushed his lips against hers softly, savoring them. She let out a small sigh that he eagerly drowned, and then she was tangling her hands in his hair and pulling him closer. There was a full-on minute spent on tongues clashing and teeth nipping, and by the time they pulled apart, he had almost forgotten how to breathe.

Yep. Everything he had ever expected from a kiss with Emma Swan was a lie.

It was even better.

"You know," he murmured, as he dragged his lips along the shell of her ear, "I'm kind of upset Miss Honey doesn't taste of honey."

Her answering slap and quiet huff of laughter set off his own laughing, and he kissed her once more, tasting her and knowing in a faraway corner of his mind he'd crave that unique flavor that was Emma for as long as he'd live.

Maybe it wasn't honey, but it was sweet alright.

Don't even ask. Idea came, idea was written. nini loves her some AUs as you can see. kdjfglsejgaedfadgbadgbknea. that's how much i love AU tropes.

Hope you liked! :)

PS: "Swimming", by Florence and the Machine and an insane amount of Coldplay was involved in writing this.