Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone stuck with and read through this story. It's been a year and a half of my life and I can't believe it's over! Special thanks to Madison of the-savior-swan for being beta for this last leg, I don't know if I'd have finished without your encouragement. (And by encouragement I mean screaming.)
Part of the reason this ending took so long was I couldn't decide how to end it. From day one I wanted to leave the story in a place that fit (more or less) with canon, which meant writing out Lillian. But this is also a universe of happy endings, and I wanted to respect that too.
So, I am gong to pull a Lemony Snicket.
If you like the canon-friendly ending, exit the fic now and sail into your angsty sunset. Buuuuuuut if you want something a little bit happier (and a-lot-a-bit cheesier), please keep your hands and feet inside the fanfic as we proceed into the epilogue.
Goodbye, and thanks for reading!
"Destiny is destiny... No matter what you change of your past, one thing shall remain the same: who you are. And that is a fate you can never escape."
Chapter 26: Epilogue
Emma swayed from one side to the other, Killian matching her every move in a subtle dance. He leaned back and her mouth chased his until she leaned so far forward that she very nearly slipped out of her chair. Their lips parted only long enough for the both of them to breathe and break into smiles. He threaded fingers through her hair, the tips grazing her ear. Her smile widened as he leaned in and caught her lips again, but something about the way his arms curled around her neck caused her heart to squeeze, sharp and sore.
She'd felt this very embrace before. Tasted adoration on his lips. Watched undimmed joy dance in his eyes. Heard the weightless lilt in his song.
She pulled back abruptly, breaking the kiss.
When had she heard Killian sing?
A sharp breath pulled her back to reality and the memory dissipating like a dream scared off by the morning alarm.
She groaned to herself. She was way, way too tired if she was hallucinating about Killian going acapella rock star, but the moment left her on edge. Her magic brimmed beneath her fingertips, ready to fly at the first sign of danger.
"Swan, what is it? Did I-?" Killian bumbled.
"No, not you. Sorry," she grazed a soothing hand down his arm, unsure of if it was him or herself she meant to calm. "Just a weird feeling all of a sudden—like I left the oven on."
Killian traced the dimple at her chin with his thumb. "I remind you of an oven. I suppose there's a compliment in that."
Her fingers danced down his sleeve and across his hook; black soot smeared across its once mirror smooth surface, as if it had sliced through the flames of Hell itself. It even felt warm to the touch. Body heat from their embrace she supposed.
"I mean I feel like something's off—like we're missing something."
The pirate paid no attention to it, his eyes solely on hers and she wondered if he sympathized more than he let on.
"What are we missing, love?"
She curled her fingers around the battered steel, and placed her other hand over his.
"I don't know, but I wish it would come to me soon," she mumbled.
No sooner did Emma voice these words, but light flowed through her fingertips and the hook gleamed with her power. Then, just as suddenly, the magic swept away in a puff, like seeds blown from a dandelion, and danced away in the night air. With them drifted away all her tension. Something inside released, a tight muscle somewhere in her heart, and her shoulders relaxed.
She, of course, could never have guessed that the same magic that returned the players back to the start of their second adventure through time also returned he enchanted hook. Neither could she have known that such a wish made by such a woman with such an object might reset fate and release its captive power.
All she knew was that the battered hook now glimmered with pristine steel, and her stomach growled in relieved hunger.
Only in the passing years, in certain chance moments—the play of the sun on a little girl's braid or the glint of light off the chrome of a wheelchair—would the lightest drift of a thought cross Emma's mind that some unspeakable something lay just out of her reach of consciousness, but every time she grabbed at it, it dispelled.
Even the Jolly Roger, especially the Jolly Roger, taunted her memory when it bobbed in the docks as if it held some sly secret it could never speak.
(She'd have thrown her empty beer bottles at it if she wasn't convinced Killian would protect it bodily.)
No, not until much later did Emma realize what she had missed. Not until she lay in bed, Killian asleep next to her, a tiny form curled on his chest.
It wasn't her happy ending that snuggled against the hairs of the pirate's chest. Not to her mind. No, what had been taken from her, and what Lillian had never had, arrived now like the first rays of a clear dawn: a very happy beginning.
Emma stroked the babe's cheeks. The little girl yawned herself awake and cracked open newborn eyes.
"Hi, Lillian," Emma cooed. "I'm Emma. I'm your momma."