NOTE: The world probably doesn't need another neighbors AU, but I wrote one anyway. Blame "What's Your Number?" for sparking the idea (even though the fic is nothing like the movie, barring a couple little things). I don't really even like the movie that much, but it's worth seeing for three things: 1. Chris Evans, 2. Chris Evans naked, 3. Chris Evans in a suit. That's about it. You should also blame Erin for being an enabler. Also to blame is Colin O'Liferuiner, for Reasons. This was supposed to be a one-shot, but it got out of hand, so I had to split it in two.
She's the one who started it.
Killian reminded her of that any time she bitched about him eating all her food or hiding out from his one-nighters in her apartment or insisting she watch another '80s movie or texting her dirty jokes and terrible pickup lines.
And she can't really argue, because it's the truth.
She only had herself to blame.
It was probably the smartest thing she'd ever done.
The guy was going nowhere.
Emma hovered around the kitchen, watching over the breakfast bar as the guy — Walsh, she thought his name was — made himself right at home at her table, eating her Cocoa Puffs and making plans for them to visit some art gallery and take in a movie.
What the hell?
This was why she never brought her one-night stands to her apartment; she had no idea what she'd been thinking the night before. He was attractive enough, but Emma Swan didn't do art galleries and movies and dates with men. She had no interest in relationships. She was strictly a one-and-done kind of girl (or "fuck-and-duck," as her friend Ruby liked to say).
Yet here she was, with a guy in her apartment, a guy who was either oblivious to the numerous hints she was throwing out or who was determined not to hear her.
Finally finishing up his bowl of cereal, Walsh took a break from planning their future to go to the bathroom. Emma strongly considered making a run for it, but she was afraid to leave him alone in her apartment; he might decide to move in permanently while she was gone. Sighing, she pulled her door open to grab the newspaper, freezing as she saw her neighbor — her incredibly attractive and very nearly naked neighbor — bidding farewell to his latest conquest. She watched in horrified fascination as the obviously fake redhead with equally fake boobs appeared to be trying to suck his tongue right out of his mouth.
The woman finally stopped swallowing his face and took her leave.
"Wow," Emma said, tapping the newspaper on her leg. "I bet she gives one hell of a blowjob."
The guy leaned against his doorframe and turned his eyes —his incredibly intense blue eyes — on her. She'd seen him before, of course, passing on the stairs or nodding to one another in the hall, but this was the first time she'd gotten the full effect — of the eyes, and everything else. She tried like hell to keep her eyes focused on his face but lost the battle, scanning the dark hair trailing down his perfect abs to where a towel was barely hanging on to his hips.
She was only human, after all.
Lord have mercy, she thought, biting her lip, the things I could do to him.
"A gentleman never tells, love," he said, and she thought life was absolutely not fair that a man this gorgeous also had an English accent. He smirked, gaze zeroing in on her mouth. "However, should you like to see how your skills compare, I could be persuaded."
She rolled her eyes. Truthfully, she should probably be offended or creeped out, but she had started it. And the guy was so hot that if he weren't her next-door neighbor she'd probably be over there in an instant, getting an up-close-and-personal look at what he was hiding under that towel.
For fuck's sake, Emma. You've got a clingy one-nighter holding your apartment hostage, and you're talking oral sex with a complete stranger.
"You wish," she said, turning to go as he chuckled behind her. On impulse, she turned back around, catching him staring at her legs, reminding her that she wore nothing but a long sleep shirt and Hello Kitty slippers. "Though if you mean it about the gentleman thing, you could do me a slight favor?"
He stepped closer, near enough that she could see his skin was still damp from the shower. He smelled amazing, some warm and musky scent that tempted her to lean forward and see if he tasted as good as he smelled, an urge that she valiantly resisted.
"And what's in it for me?" he asked in a low voice, sparking a heat low in her belly without even touching her.
Of course. Of-freaking-course, this sex god who could do things to her with just his voice was someone who lived across the hall from her. Which made him 100 percent off-limits as far as she was concerned. She had a rule about these things.
She wrenched her eyes off his bare chest and tried to remember what they were talking about. Oh, right. What was in it for him?
"My eternal gratitude?" she offered. "The warm glow of aiding another human being?"
"I'm plenty warm, love," he said. "Some might even say hot. What else have you got?"
She sighed. "I could owe you a favor?"
"A favor." He grinned, tongue skimming his mouth in a borderline-obscene manner. So much for being a gentleman. Just the way he said "favor" made her think of dropping to her knees and shoving that towel out of the way ... Good lord, Emma, focus. "I like that. What would you have me do?"
She entered her apartment cautiously. Walsh was planted right back at her table, helping himself to another damn bowl of her cereal.
"Oh, the paper, great!" he said. "We can see what time the movie's playing."
Who even looks at the paper for movie times anymore? Has he never heard of the Internet?
"Listen … Walsh." She paused, just in case she had his name wrong. When he just nodded, she continued. "There's something I need to tell you. I didn't want to say anything before, but …"
On cue, the sex god of apartment 4A made his entrance. Her eyes widened as she turned to face him and realized that he still hadn't bothered to get dressed. Which wasn't a problem, exactly, except that he immediately invaded her personal space, leaning one arm on the breakfast bar next to her, putting all that bare, damp flesh well within touching distance.
"Sweetheart, you won't believe this, but I've no hot water in my shower. Mind if I use yours?"
"Um …" She could feel herself blushing as she fumbled for words, a condition she rarely found herself in and didn't enjoy in the slightest.
He grinned wolfishly, leaning in and nudging her nose with his. "You could join me, eh? Get all those hard to reach spots."
Before she could blink, she was picturing herself washing all that wild, dark hair, running soap-slicked hands over his skin and following her hands with her mouth.
She found herself almost hypnotized, swaying closer without really consciously deciding to, realizing that she may have made a slight miscalculation in inviting this guy into her home.
He winked at her and turned to face Walsh, who was like a statue, comically stuck with a spoon halfway to his mouth, watching. Her fake boyfriend straightened, narrowing his eyes at the other man. "Who's this, then?"
"Um, sweetie, this is Walsh. He's, uh, he's Ruby's boyfriend." She almost laughed at the way Walsh was nodding his head along with her lie. "We all got so drunk last night that they crashed here."
"And Ruby's …?" He raised his eyebrows, as though doubting her story, and she had to cover her mouth for a moment to stifle a laugh at Walsh's panicked look.
"Gone. She … she had to work."
"Ah." 4A leaned close again. "If you don't mind, mate, you can let yourself out? I need to borrow my girl here."
"Actually, I … I was just leaving," Walsh said, rushing to grab his jacket and shoes. 4A ducked his head into her neck, and she could feel him grinning against her skin (which was not at all distracting and did not make her think of sex in any way) as the other man hightailed it out of the apartment without another word.
"Oh. My. God." She laughed and pushed herself away from the bar — away from him. "Did you see his face?"
He laughed with her, wandering over to the table and pouring cereal into the empty bowl that Walsh had set out for her. "I think you'll have no more trouble with him, lass," he said.
"Yeah. You were really ... what the hell?" She took him in, sitting in the same place Walsh had been, shoveling her cereal into his mouth. "I just got rid of one stranger eating my Cocoa Puffs!"
"Aye. But at least I was invited. And I've not seen you naked." His eyes scanned her as he obnoxiously crunched his — her — cereal. "Yet."
She snorted out a laugh. "Yeah, buddy, dream on."
"Oh, I shall, I assure you." His eyes lingered a moment longer on her bare legs before raising to hers as a grin played on his lips. "Perhaps you wouldn't be so eager to get rid of me the next morning."
She shrugged. "Maybe not, but I have a firm policy of never sleeping with anyone I have to see again, so ..."
"Not the best idea to bring the poor fellow back to your place then."
"Yeah." She leaned back on the breakfast bar again, rubbing her forehead. "I don't know what I was thinking. Actually, that's not true. I was thinking it would be a good idea to drink many, many shots of tequila."
She was thinking that all the tequila in Boston might take the edge off of running into her ex while he and his beautiful fiancee were inquiring about wedding cakes at Mary Margaret's shop. She was thinking that getting completely hammered might make her forget that she had never been enough for Neal Cassidy, or for anyone.
The guy finished the cereal and stood up; the towel was briefly endangered, and she closed her eyes as he tucked it back into place. She'd already seen too much, and she had a feeling he'd be playing the star role in her fantasies for a while even without seeing everything he had to offer.
"Ahh, tequila-impaired judgement; I've been there," he said, coming closer. "Once, my brother and I were at this pub and — bloody hell, is that the time?"
She followed his eyes to the clock on her wall. "Yep. About 10:15."
"I'm going to be late for work," he said, rushing for the door and slamming it behind him.
She waved sarcastically at the closed door and then turned to clean up after the cereal thieves.
"Bye! You're welcome for breakfast," she muttered, almost dropping a bowl when her door opened again.
"I'm Killian, by the way. Killian Jones."
She stopped and tilted her head, looking at him but not speaking.
"Come on, love. I like to know the name of women who owe me a favor," he said, raising his eyebrows.
She sighed. "Emma Swan."
"Swan," he repeated. "Suits you, love."
He shot her a grin before pulling the door shut behind him. She shook her head and clicked the deadbolt before dumping the bowls in the sink and grabbing a clean one. She frowned when she picked up the cereal box and peeked inside. Empty.
It was a week before she saw him again. Another Saturday morning, though this time she was blessedly alone — snuggled on the couch with a hot chocolate and watching a "Too Cute!" marathon on Animal Planet — when there was a knock at the door.
Pulling open the door, she wasn't surprised to see her neighbor, though she was mildly surprised to see that he was dressed. Even wearing faded jeans and an untucked plaid button-down, he was unbelievably hot, making her feel like one of Cinderella's ugly stepsisters in her black leggings and Millennium Falcon T-shirt. She wasn't even sure if she'd brushed her hair that morning, though she thankfully had brushed her teeth.
"Swan, can I come in for a few minutes?" He looked back at his closed door. "I've a woman in there who seems inclined to stay a while. I told her I had a dentist's appointment."
She snorted. "Is this the favor I owe you?"
He grinned. "You must be joking. This is simply a visit with a friend. A friend bearing gifts?" From behind his back he pulled out a box of Cocoa Puffs.
She looked from his baby blues to the cereal box and back again before sighing and grabbing the box from him. "Lucky for you, I'm hungry and I've been too lazy to go to the store."
She threw the door wide to let him in. "Your lady friend didn't think it was weird that you took a box of sugary cereal to the dentist?"
"Eh, she's in the shower."
"Nice, duck out while she can't chase you."
"Don't tell me you haven't done the same."
She shrugged, pulling a couple bowls out of the cabinet. "Hey, I'm not judging. You know my rule on that anyway."
She offered him the box and turned to grab the milk out of the fridge.
"Rules were made to be broken, Swan," he said with a grin, dumping cereal in the bowl and pouring milk in it.
"Not my rules."
"So you're going to deny yourself the pleasure of getting me naked, eh? And it would be a pleasure, I assure you. Come on, love, I saw the way you were looking at me."
This time she was the one who stepped into his space. "Looking is fine," she said, trying to ignore the way her heartbeat sped up. "Looking's not against the rules."
"No?" His eyes scanned her body, coming back to linger on her lips while he licked his. "I'll have to remember that."
She clenched her fists, almost overwhelmed by the need to crash her mouth into his, and dammit, he knew exactly what he was doing to her.
The moment was broken as he took a bite of cereal and looked across the apartment. "What are we watching?"
He was across the room and planted on her couch before she could really focus. "Swan, are you watching the puppy show?"
She poured milk into her cereal and stuck the carton back in the fridge. "What?" she asked defensively. "I like dogs. I don't trust a person who doesn't like them."
"Hey, I love dogs. I'd have one myself, but the pet fees in this building are outrageous."
"Tell me about it."
Exchanging a glance, they both turned toward the TV in sync. They watched mostly in silence as a litter of Portuguese Water Dogs got their first taste of the water and adorable Jack Russell Terriers gamboled around the screen.
"We could get one to share," Killian said finally.
"One, what? A dog?"
"Yeah, a dog. Shared custody. Of course, that might be challenging when I move out."
"You're moving out?"
"Well," he said with a laugh, "you won't sleep with me if we're neighbors, so …"
She threw a pillow at his head.
He stood at her door, batting his big blue eyes and holding a carton of her favorite mint chocolate chip ice cream.
"You are a stalker."
"I prefer dashing rapscallion," he said with a grin.
She sighed and glanced at his closed door behind him. "Another dentist's appointment?"
"What can I say? Oral health is important to me."
There were so many possible responses to that statement that she just stuck to rolling her eyes and grabbing the ice cream from his hand. "I'm assuming that this doesn't count as your favor, either?"
Jones just smiled and followed her inside.
Trudging up the stairs a few nights later, Emma considered the effort involved to get some dinner. Once she made it into her apartment, she was definitely not leaving again for at least 24 hours.
Killian was leaning on his doorjamb, watching with a smirk as she dragged her pathetic carcass the last few steps to her apartment.
"You look like hell."
"Well, thank you, Prince Charming. That's what every girl wants to hear." She frowned, turning her back on him and unlocking her door.
"Bad day at work?" He followed her into her apartment without invitation, but she decided it wasn't worth the effort to argue about it.
She headed for her bedroom, rolling her eyes as he followed right on her heels, poking around the room curiously.
"Actually, a great payday," she said, unzipping her boots and tossing them in the general direction of the closet. "But this one was a little more work than I like. These boots may be cute, but they are not made for chasing down perps."
"Are you some sort of cop?" He raised an eyebrow.
"Mmmm, Swan, that's hot," he said, stepping closer. "Do you have a gun? Oh, God, please tell me you've got handcuffs."
She bit back a smile. "I'm not answering that."
"That means yes." He surveyed her room with new interest, tongue poking into his cheek. "Now my fantasy life gains a whole new dimension."
She snorted. "Moron."
"Why is your apartment larger than mine?" he complained, pacing the room. He peeked into the bathroom. "Oi, you've got a tub!"
"Just a shower at my place."
He looked so bummed that she laughed. "Awww, you miss being able to take long bubble baths, don't you?"
He leaned against the doorjamb and smirked at her. "Ah, now your fantasy life gains a whole new dimension."
She shook her head and moved back into the living room. "Jones, my fantasies are none of your business."
"Fair enough," he said, following her again, wandering over to look at her small aquarium and the only two fish who managed to last longer than a couple weeks. "So, Swan, what are we doing tonight?"
"I don't know what you're doing, but I'm getting a pizza and watching 'The Breakfast Club' on Netflix."
"What a coincidence," he said cheerfully. "I too love pizza and '80s movies!"
She sighed, deciding there was no point in trying to get rid of him. And he wasn't exactly terrible company. "Hey, Jones, would you like to stay and watch a movie with me?"
He grinned. "I'll bring the beer, you order the pizza."
"The Breakfast Club" and pizza led to "Lethal Weapon" and Chinese two nights later. Killian had insisted that they watch it once he found out her fish were named Riggs and Murtaugh.
It was actually fun, despite the constant underlying attraction that she'd decided to ignore. Even Killian managed to cut it back to one or two silly innuendoes throughout the evening.
They sat on the floor in front of her sofa, eating off of her coffee table and half-watching the movie.
"So, Jones, what do you do?" She waved her chopsticks at him. "Your hours are almost as weird as mine."
"Is this a sign of interest, finally?" He held a hand to his chest in dramatic faux shock.
"It's just a polite question. Never mind."
He laughed. "My brother Liam and I own a business. We have a couple boats, and we hire out for sightseeing and fishing. It's really our slow time of the year, but things are starting to pick up as the weather gets better. I can take you out sometime if you'd like."
"Yeah, maybe." She'd never admit it to him, but she knew she would love it. Whenever she needed to think or if life got too much, she'd always find herself down at the waterfront. Just being near the water soothed her in a way nothing else could.
"Swan, when you see me in my natural habitat, you won't be able to resist me," he said confidently.
She rolled her eyes at him and turned her attention back to Mel Gibson.
She was afraid he just might be right.
She heard music through his door and was almost afraid to knock. What if he had a woman in there?
Annoyed at herself, she shifted her laundry basket onto one arm and pounded on the door. So what if he had a woman in there? It was nothing to do with her.
The music stopped, and Killian threw the door open. "Swan! What a lovely surprise."
It took her a moment to respond, since she was currently trying to recover from swallowing her own tongue. He stood there in nothing but a pair of plaid boxer shorts, and she squeezed her free hand into a painfully tight fist to prevent herself from reaching out and touching him.
"Um … look, I'm sorry to interrupt whatever's going on, but did I leave my green jacket here the other night?"
"Nothing's going on; come on in."
"Oh, I just assumed … I heard music, and you're not dressed. It's like 2 degrees outside; there is snow on the ground. Put on some clothes." She walked into the apartment, wincing at the fact that she couldn't seem to stop talking.
He raised an eyebrow and grinned. "Does that bother you, Swan?"
She stopped short, ignoring the question and staring ahead of her at the guitar that was leaning against the couch. She hadn't seen it anywhere when they'd watched a movie over here two nights ago.
Not that she was snooping around his place or anything.
"Is that a guitar? You were playing just now? You can play the guitar, too?" The guy was annoyingly attractive, had a sexy accent and was musical? Life was just really, really not fair.
"Yes, yes and yes," he said.
"I want to hear you." She dropped her laundry basket and planted herself in his comfy recliner. She waved at him imperiously. "Play something."
He shuffled his feet and scratched behind his ear. She wanted to throw something at him for being so adorable on top of everything else.
"I don't know … I've not much experience playing in front of people."
"I'm not people, I'm just your weird neighbor."
He bit his lip and picked up the guitar, sitting on the edge of the couch. Taking a deep breath, he began to play, and it sounded familiar. Before she could work it out, he started to sing, "Won't you come see about me? I'll be alone, dancing, you know it baby."
She let out a slow breath, watching him sing a slower, dreamier version of the Simple Minds song, long fingers dancing along the strings as he played. She clapped and whistled enthusiastically when he was done, enjoying the fact that she made him blush.
"That was great, Jones!"
He cleared his throat. "Thanks … um, feel free to throw money … or your panties."
"I totally would, if I were wearing any."
They both froze.
He is off-limits, idiot, don't flirt with him!
"Um, I mean …" Shit, he was looking at her like he could see right through her sweats to where she was, in fact, bare. She stood and pointed at her laundry basket. "I'm overdue to do laundry, and I ran out of clean clothes. And now I'm going to go. And do laundry. So I can have clean clothes. And … bye!"
She scooped up the basket and made a run for the door before she could say anything else stupid.
Yeah, that wasn't awkward at all.
"Wait!" She stopped and forced a smile before turning. He was holding up her favorite green fleece jacket. "You were looking for this?"
"Great, thanks." She snatched the jacket away from him and bolted out the door.
She was wiggling her way into the tight pink dress when she heard the pounding on her door. "Swan, open up! You won't believe what I found!" Killian yelled.
"Ruby, can you get that?" she called.
She heard low voices through her bedroom door as she tugged the dress into place and dug out a pair of heels.
"Ems, there's a hottie out here who says he's your neighbor?" Ruby's voice echoed through the apartment, and Emma rolled her eyes.
She yanked the bedroom door open and stepped outside, holding on to the doorframe while she slipped her shoes on. "Yeah, he's okay. Ruby, Killian. Killian, Ruby."
Killian came bounding into the apartment, stopping short when he saw her. She was not the blushing type, despite recent occurrences, but the way he scanned her from head to toe and back again definitely made her feel flushed.
"Swan, you look amazing. You … you've got a date?"
"Oh yeah," she said, biting back a grin. "Hot date with a dirtbag embezzler who's trolling for women online while leaving his wife holding the bag for his bail."
"Ah, you're working, then," he said. "Poor guy won't know what hit him."
"That's the plan, anyway. So … what did you find?" At his blank look, she continued. "You said I won't believe what you found."
"Oh!" He held up a DVD case. "I found this for 5 bucks at the grocery store this afternoon."
She took it from him. "Wow, 'Better Off Dead'! I love that movie! 'I want my two dollars!'" she quoted.
He shrugged. "I thought we could continue our '80s movie theme. Maybe when you get home?"
She glanced at Ruby, who was watching this whole thing with an annoying level of interest. She looked like she was about ready to settle in with some popcorn. "I might be kind of late."
"That's all right, love," he said. "I'll be awake."
"Emma, I really hate to interrupt, but you're going to be late," Ruby said.
"Dammit!" Emma grabbed her coat and snatched her purse and keys from the table, heading for the door. "Ruby, just … you can borrow whatever you want, though I vote for the red dress. Just lock up when you leave, okay?"
She really, really hated to leave Ruby and Killian alone, and she wasn't sure why. Ruby loved men, but she was getting pretty serious with the doctor she was dating. And why did it matter, anyway? It's not like she had any claim on Killian. Or any interest in one.
None at all.
"You would not believe the complete hunk of a man Emma has living next door."
"Ruby." Emma shot a glare at her friend as they power-walked through the park.
Mary Margaret perked up. "Oh? Do tell."
"Tall, dark and handsome. Killer bod. Perfect amount of scruff. Stunning blue eyes. Sexy accent. Owns his own business. Plays the guitar. Completely and obviously crazy about Emma."
Emma sighed. "Can we not?"
"So, you don't find him attractive?"
"Ruby, I'm a healthy, straight female, of course I find him attractive. That's not the point."
"He brought over a John Cusack movie while I was there the other night."
"Cusack, huh? Sounds serious," Mary Margaret exchanged a grin with Ruby.
"We're just …" Emma shrugged. "We're kind of friends."
"Baby doll, he almost swallowed his tongue when he saw you in that dress. Friends don't look at friends that way."
"Come on. You guys know my —"
"Rules," the other two chorused.
"Okay, I know you think it's stupid, but we all know, I'm shit at relationships."
"No," Ruby said. "Neal Cassidy is an asshole. You need to stop acting like that was your fault."
"Let's not have this conversation again."
"Okay," Mary Margaret said. "Let's talk about Friday night."
"Yes, let's," Ruby said. "Victor is going to be so surprised! And so is Emma."
"Meaning?" She had a very bad feeling about this.
"I invited your sexy neighbor to Victor's birthday party."
The Rabbit Hole was crowded and loud. Even still, the chorus of "Happy Birthday" sung by their group managed to drown out all the other noise for a few moments, causing other patrons of the bar to sing along.
Emma and Killian laughed and raised their bottles along with everyone else in the group, toasting Ruby's boyfriend.
Emma took a drink and leaned her elbows on the table, smiling when Killian mirrored her.
"Is it weird that I'm here?" he asked.
Weird, no. A bit disturbing in that he looked so great in his dark jeans, tight gray T-shirt and black waistcoat that she wanted to forget all about her stupid rule and climb right into his lap.
"I don't know, do you think it's weird?"
"Emma!" Mary Margaret came over to the table holding a large box.
"Hey, M." She rolled her eyes at the way her friend's eyes darted to Killian before turning back to her with a Significant Look. Before she could say a word, David appeared beside her.
"Um, guys, this is my friend Killian Jones. Killian, this is my brother, David Nolan and sister-in-law, Mary Margaret."
Mary Margaret beamed and dropped the box on the table to shake his hand. David raised his eyebrows at her in question, but she just shrugged, so he shook Killian's hand, too.
"What's in the box?" Emma asked.
"Cupcakes, for Victor's birthday!" Mary Margaret flipped up the box's lid. "Killian, do you want chocolate or yellow cake?"
"It's only chocolate for me," he said, accepting the cupcake. "Thank you; this looks fantastic."
"You're welcome," her friend said, handing one to Emma without even asking. "Chocolate is Emma's favorite, too."
Emma rolled her eyes again. Mary Margaret was about as subtle as an explosion.
Wow, we both like chocolate — set the wedding date now.
"Yeah, me and several billion other people, M."
They smirked at each other as Mary Margaret moved on to some of the other party guests. Emma absently dipped a finger in the frosting and brought it to her mouth.
"Mmmm, that's amazing," she said. "Mary Margaret sure knows her —"
She froze as she saw Killian's eyes zero in on her finger in her mouth, and swallowed hard as she watched him lick his lips. God, his mouth just did things to her, and she really wanted it to do things to her, which was kind of a problem.
Danger Will Robinson! Emma, you have to get the hell away from him!
She dropped her hand to the table and took a deep breath, scanning the bar for a way out.
"You know," she said. "It's really not weird that you're here, but you don't have to stick around if you don't want to. I mean, it's Friday night. I wouldn't blame you if you were looking for some … company."
"Company." He repeated flatly.
"Sure. You like redheads, right? There's a pretty one over at the bar alone right now. I think I've seen her in here before."
"Swan, are you seriously trying to hook me up with another woman?"
She huffed out a frustrated breath. The last thing she wanted was to see Killian with another woman, and that was part of her problem. "Look, do whatever you want, I was just trying to … I don't know, be a friend."
"If you want me to leave, love, all you have to do is say so."
"I wasn't —" She growled as he pushed away from the table, grabbing his beer and cupcake before stalking over to the redhead.
Which was totally fine.
She'd all but pushed him over there, hadn't she? It was fine. It was good. Not a problem at all.
She took a vicious bite of her cupcake before looking around the bar again. She wondered if anyone would care if she took off; suddenly the idea of watching Jones pick up another woman was turning her stomach. She frowned as she noticed her friend Robin over at one of the pool tables. His body language was screaming "leave me the hell alone," so naturally, she went over. Better to pick a fight with a friend than watch her neighbor hitting on another woman.
"Rob, you look like you're about to shove that pool cue up someone's ass," she said, finishing the rest of her cupcake in one enormous bite.
"And yet, you still came over to pester me." He frowned and aimed for the 7 ball, hitting the cue ball so hard that the 7 jumped off the table.
"You say 'pester'; I prefer 'delight,'" she said, smirking. She retrieved the ball and placed it back in place on the table. "Ease up, hotshot. Don't want to break your balls."
"Yeah, you're a real delight," he said, but she was pleased to see him fighting back a smile.
"So what's up? Girl trouble?"
He lined up his shot again, sighing. "I'm sick of this bullshit. I love her, you know. I love her, and she's just using me."
Robin had been hooking up with Mary Margaret's cousin for almost a year now, but she would never agree to make it official, even dating other men sometimes. As much as Emma disliked the woman, even she could admit that Regina was somewhat less of a bitch when she was with Robin.
And something about the way Regina held him at arm's length reminded Emma of herself. She had her rule and refused to get involved at all, while Regina got involved but refused to admit it was serious.
"Look, you know I'm not Regina's biggest fan," she said. "And heaven knows I'm no expert at relationships, but I do know what it's like to … to be hurt. And to be afraid of being hurt again. You know she lost her first love. Isn't it possible that she's just trying to protect herself?"
He took another shot. "What should I do?"
"Go talk to her," Emma said. "Tell her how you feel. Best case, she feels the same, you can work something out. Worst case, at least you'll know."
He stood, pool cue in hand, watching her. "Well, aren't you a regular Dr. Phil?"
"Hey, I have years of experience in watching other people's crappy relationships while avoiding them myself," she said with a laugh.
"It's good advice, though," he said, putting his cue away and throwing an arm around her shoulders. "I'm going over there now. Thanks."
"Good luck," she told him. She watched him leave, then turned slightly, unable to stop her eyes from seeking out Killian and the redhead. They were both gone already, and she swallowed hard, trying to ignore the sick feeling in her stomach. She'd like to blame it on a bad cupcake, but she knew that wasn't it.
"Strike out, Swan?"
She jumped at Killian's voice in her ear. It was annoying how she suddenly felt lighter, and she tried to stomp out that feeling immediately.
"I didn't strike out," she said, not sure why she felt compelled to explain herself. "I wasn't even trying to … score. That was just David's best friend from high school. I was trying to help him with his girlfriend."
"Matchmaking now?" He leaned closer. "Me, too. Ariel, the redhead, has been wanting to talk to that guy over there for weeks."
She followed his gaze to where the woman was seated next to a brown-haired man, leaning close to talk.
"You got them together?"
He stared deep in her eyes. "I merely suggested that if she didn't try for what she wanted, she'd always regret it."
"And what do you want, love?"
"I want …" She had to look away, and her eyes lit on the pool table behind them. She forced a light tone into her voice. "I want to destroy you at billiards."
She thought for a moment that he wasn't going to answer, and she held her breath. After a sigh, though, he started racking the pool balls. "It's you who should prepare for destruction, lass."
"I'll let you beat me if you want that favor I owe you," she said in a singsong voice.
He grinned. "Nice try, but I'm not wasting my favor when I can beat you all on my own."
She slowly let out her breath and grabbed a cue.
"Jones, you bastard!" Emma's outrage gave her the strength to bound up the last few steps to where he was leaned in his doorway and aim a kick at his leg. "It's completely your fault that I —"
She broke off with a horrified gasp as the guy — who she now saw was clearly not Killian — turned around.
"Oh my God, oh my God, I'm sorry!" she said. "I thought you were Jones!"
He laughed. "Well, I am," he said. "Liam Jones, at your service."
"Oh, the brother." She could definitely see the resemblance, though Liam was taller and his hair was curlier than his younger brother's and not as dark.
"And you must be the neighbor."
"Emma Swan," she said, and dammit, she knew she was blushing. "I'm really sorry. It's just that your idiot brother made me watch 'The Shining' last night even though I told him I don't like scary movies. I didn't sleep at all!"
"Well, Swan, you should've called me." Killian poked his head around the door. "You could've come to bed with me … for safety's sake."
"Oh, stow it, Romeo." She (very maturely) stuck her tongue out at him. "You don't get to pick any more movies. Liam, it was nice meeting you. I'm sorry for kicking you; feel free to pass it on to your brother. Now I'm going to go die of embarrassment."
"We're heading to the movies ourselves," Liam said. "You should join us."
"Oh, I couldn't. I don't want to interrupt your bro time."
"Come on, Swan, it'll be fun. Liam and I see each other all day, every day. You'd be much more pleasant company."
She bit her lip. She'd had a crappy day, and a nice escape from reality with two hot guys sounded like a nice distraction. "It's not a horror movie, is it?"
"We were thinking something with explosions," the elder Jones said.
"Sounds perfect. Do I have a minute to change?" She pointed at her jeans, which had a very large and not at all stylish rip in the knee.
"What happened? Are you all right?"
"Eh, I'm fine. I just had to tackle a guy who made a run for it."
The brothers exchanged a glance.
"Darling, that is the hottest thing I've ever heard," Killian said. "I think you're going to have to marry me."
She rolled her eyes hard enough to give herself a concussion. "Down, boy. Give me five minutes."
She was back out in the hall in less than three minutes, and they made it to the movie in plenty of time. It was a nice, brainless action flick, and she happily joined the brothers for dinner afterward.
They stopped at a place called Granny's Diner. It was just down the street from their apartment building, and she'd always wanted to check it out but hadn't ever gotten around to it.
While they were waiting for their food, Killian took her hand and rubbed his thumb over her bruised knuckles. "Did you have to fight your prisoner, too?"
She shrugged. "I didn't really have to punch him, but the jerk made me run and called me 'a fucking bitch-whore'. And he made me ruin my favorite pair of jeans. So I broke his nose."
Before she could stop him, Killian brought her hand to his mouth and brushed a kiss over it.
"I didn't know you two were dating," Liam said.
"We're not," Emma said, glaring at Killian and snatching her hand away.
"We're friends," Killian said at the same time.
After a slightly awkward silence, Killian spoke again. "My brother's getting married in June. His fiancee, Abigail, is almost as bad-ass as you are."
Liam grinned. "She kicks metaphorical ass," he said. "She's a prosecutor."
"Cool," Emma said, glad to change the subject. "I know it's getting late in wedding-planning terms, but if you still need a cake, you should check out my sister-in-law's shop. She's the best, and I'm not just saying that because she's family."
"Liam, seriously, this woman makes the best cake," Killian said. "Her chocolate cupcakes were divine."
"Right?" Emma dug a business card out of her purse. "Her name is Mary Margaret Nolan at Fairytale Cakes. Give this to Abigail just in case."
"Emma, I'm sorry if this is out of line," Killian said. "But I've been wondering … how are you a Swan and your brother is a Nolan?"
She paused as the waitress brought their orders and made sure they had everything they needed. She didn't normally tell people about her past, but she found she didn't really mind talking about it.
Once they started eating, she kept her eyes on her plate as she answered. "David's not my biological brother. We were friends in school. I was in foster care, and when I was 14 I was stuck with a really lousy family, so I spent all my time at Ruby's or David's. Eventually, Ruth — David's mom — just decided I was better off there. I don't really know how she did it, but she became a foster parent just so she could take me in."
"We were orphans, too," Liam said quietly.
She sat up straighter and looked at Killian, who nodded. "Our mother died when I was 10 and Liam 15. We eventually came to the U.S. to live with her sister."
She smiled and held his eyes for a moment before looking away. "So, Liam, you must have a few embarrassing stories about Killian, right?"
He laughed. "Oh, lass, how long do you have?"
Emma slipped the borrowed key into the lock and entered as quietly as she could, in case he was sleeping.
"Swan, that you?"
No such luck.
"It's me," she said, walking into his living room, biting back a laugh at the sight of Killian, bundled up in blankets on the couch like a human burrito.
He sneezed hard, and she immediately felt bad for laughing at him.
"Okay," she said briskly, pulling items out of her bag. "I got the Sudafed, Nyquil, some more tissues, cough drops just in case. And some chicken noodle soup from Granny's, as requested."
She went to snag a spoon out of the kitchen and refill his water glass, pulling a TV tray over to the couch and setting the soup out for him.
"Thanks for doing this, Swan," he said, motioning for her to sit next to him. "I guess this is my favor."
"Nah," she said. "This is just … being neighborly."
He sneezed again. "Bloody hell. I hate being sick."
She turned on his TV and flipped through channels while he ate, finally stopping on Maverick and Goose serenading Charlie in "Top Gun."
As soon as he finished his soup, she moved to put everything away, helping him get settled on the couch again. She turned down the volume on the TV but left it on, watching as his eyes got heavier. "We should watch this another time," he mumbled, drifting off.
She totally did not spend 15 minutes just watching him sleep, and if she did, she didn't think at all about how adorable he was while he did it.