The Here and Now
He looks at her one day and asks if she is happy.
She looks back at him, trying to decide how to answer, what kind of sarcastic quip to throw out, all typical them.
He's looking at her evenly, but she knows him, and he's got his heart in his hand, and his stomach in his throat, and his eyes, oh man, she'd never put much stock in that shit about eyes being the windows to the soul, but she swears she can see the way to his.
And so she doesn't joke it off.
Instead she tells him that everyday she wakes up smiling, and she guesses that counts.
His expression doesn't change, but something in his posture does, a minute straightening up of his shoulders, and she thinks that maybe she answered right, this time.
It's all so brand new, that's the thing.
Not just the relationship - though that too, certainly - but the feelings that come with it.
She's never before been seriously involved with someone who wasn't lying to her, either flat-out or by omission.
She's not sure she knows what to do with that.
He'd die before he'd hurt her. This isn't an assumption. She'd known it, bone deep, when they fell into this thing, but she'd had it confirmed to her by her parents. Dear old dad wasn't completely clueless, he'd figured out that something had changed between his daughter and his sort-of bro pretty quickly, and had taken it upon himself to march off for a friendly visit to threaten her pirate within an inch of his life if he ever hurt her.
Killian had just sat there, taking it, listening to every threat her father had come up with, waited until he finished, and then quietly responded that if he ever hurt her, the prince wouldn't have to hunt him down sword first, for he'd hand himself over for the worst he could come up with.
Her father had been left gaping for several moments, before he'd finally clapped Killian on the shoulder, as close to a tacit admission of his blessing as he would ever get.
She hadn't been present for any of this, of course, but her mother had been, and Snow had passed the information on to her well afterwards in a rushed, whispered conversation.
She hadn't known what to do with it either.
Does anyone know what to do in the moment when they realize they have someone completely?
It's not easy. Their lives never will be. Such is the burden of the Savior and her fairy tale cohorts. There's always something; someone who wants to curse them all to kingdom come, or to announce that they're somehow a long lost relative of someone's and then to curse them all to kingdom come. Danger follows them all about, and they both have a 'saving people' complex that always has them running headlong into the fight.
It's normal until it isn't; until the time comes when Killian is cornered and she doesn't think twice, simply throws herself in front of him, taking the hit for him.
She keeps being told that the pirate's fury when she'd gone down is the scariest thing most of the people in town have ever seen; and this is a town in which each and every citizen is familiar with ogres, trolls, and dragons.
Regina had saved her, of course. Magic has its uses. She was completely fine a half hour later, not even a cool scar to show for it.
His jaw had worked overtime for hours, clenched tight while they waited for her son to feel ready to let her out of his young sight in order to go to bed. Once Henry finally had, she'd had but a moment to appreciate the control her pirate had kept while her son had been in earshot; before they had it out.
Turns out, a fight held through hisses can cut deeper than screams. Or sword lashes, as it may be.
He needed her never to do anything like that ever again. She'd do it over and over again, for anyone she cared about, and he made the list. He can take care of himself. She needs to take care of everyone. She nearly died. He would have, if not for her. He can't watch her get hurt like that again. She can't let anyone else get hurt if it's in her power to stop it. He'd do himself in right now if it meant she wouldn't get hurt. She'd thrown herself in front of an enemy's sword to protect him, she'd sure as hell throw herself in front of his own.
They were at an impasse.
He'd growled in frustration then; an impressive variety of curses undoubtably learned from centuries on the seas exclaimed to her ceiling, before he'd yanked her into his arms with a final "Gods above, Emma".
She'd let him hold her as tight as he needed that night.
She held him right back just as tight.
She hadn't thought they'd worked anything out, but he spent every night with her after that, so maybe they had.
She teaches him how to make pancakes. His are better than hers. She doesn't understand how that's even possible, and insists every chance she gets that it is completely unfair.
Henry loves his pancakes. Lights up whenever he makes them.
It's not fair, but it's just right.
They're in bed one night, after. She's curled up, head resting on his bare chest, and he's playing with her hair, and it feels so nice. She thinks maybe she'll fall asleep quickly tonight, with his hand in her hair.
He exhales, long and shaky, and with her head where it is, she both hears and feels it.
"You okay?" she asks, lifting her head just enough to really see him.
He kind of smirks, but doesn't quite manage it, which worries her. She sits up straight, pulling the sheet tight to her.
The dynamic between them is charged in a way she doesn't quite understand, and she just knows she doesn't want to be bare for this.
She hates feeling vulnerable, always has, but there's a shadow to his eyes that scares her. He is rarely introspective like this, and never after sex.
"Killian?" she asks again, and she knows they both know she's pleading.
"What are we doing, Emma?" he asks.
She swallows. She'd never figured Killian Jones - Captain Hook, for pete's sakes - of all people to be one for the 'what are we' conversation.
But then, we all have our insecurities. Maybe this is his.
She can't give him what he needs, not now, not yet.
But she knows she cannot lose him either.
For him, she keeps her gaze steady with his, does not let herself look away, doesn't let herself do that to him, much as she may feel like she needs to.
(She can do that for him. She can give him something.)
"I know you love me," she whispers, forcefully ignoring the way he sharply inhales. "And I'm not scared of it. I'm not running. I'm here."
It doesn't answer his question, but it's an answer all the same.
He lets himself say it now.
Not often. Just every once in a while, when he needs to. A reminder, for them both.
He doesn't push, doesn't rush her. Just makes sure she doesn't forget.
I love you so much, Swan.
She doesn't tell him, but there's a little notebook in her end table where she writes down every time he says it, and secretly treasures the deeper she gets into it.
She saves up for months. Being sheriff of Storybrooke pays decently enough, keeps a roof over their heads and food on their table and current enough video games on Henry's console to keep him happy; but this is not a small purchase and it takes awhile.
The look on his face though, when she's finally able to take him to the docks and point to the small sailboat and tell him it's his, Gods, she'll remember it for the rest of her life.
"Swan," he breathes. "What did you... how did you... why did you..."
"You gave up the Jolly Roger for me," she says, smiling, still in awe of that sacrifice. (No one's ever done anything like that for her before). "I wanted to give you a boat back. I know you missed it. The sea's in your blood. You should be able to go out on the water, be able to take Henry out." She lets herself smirk with that thought. "Without stealing a boat to do it."
He keeps looking back and forth between her and the boat like he's not quite decisive on what he should be staring at, and she feels the slight twist of nerves in her stomach, like maybe she was wrong, maybe this wasn't a good idea.
"I know it doesn't compare to..."
"It's brilliant," he says fiercely, cutting her off mid-sentence. "It's better. Emma. It's perfect, bloody amazing. Best thing anyone's ever given me."
"I want you happy," she says softly, almost shyly. "It's important to me that you're happy, Killian. It's so important."
He kisses her then, pulling her by her hands into it, but by the time she's fully in his arms, there's no ferocious desperation to him as she would have expected, only a gentleness in how he touches her, like she's everything, his whole world right there in his arms.
He leans his forehead against hers.
"I love you," he tells her. "More than anything."
"I know," she says, and she feels his grin against her lips.
She writes it down in the journal, more pages now full than empty. Notes the date, the time, the circumstances. Closes the book, puts it away in its drawer.
Pulls it back out, opens it back up.
In tiny letters at the bottom of the page writes one more note.
Almost said it back.
She likes to think she's casual about it, over at the loft, spending an afternoon with her parents, listening to her baby brother chant "Em Em Em Em Em" for what seems like hours on end without either of them getting tired of it.
But Neal gets put down for a nap eventually, and her dad has made hot cocoa with just the right amount of cinnamon and also made chocolate chip muffins appear apparently from thin air, and her mom is braiding her hair for her because sometimes she just misses having long hair for these things and must live vicariously through her daughter's long locks, and she's just so comfortable and safe.
So she asks.
"How do you know when it's true love?"
Charming inhales half his mug of cocoa through his nose and immediately begins choking.
Snow ignores her husband completely, which is the only thing to do, really.
"There's not many ways to know for sure," Snow muses, still braiding her hair without missing a beat. "Not safe ways, anyway. You know true love is magic?"
She nods. She's definitely seen enough of her parent's to know that.
"It's not a common magic, and not every couple who love each other have it. More than that, it's a magic that generally only shows itself in the worst of situations, and honey, I'd really rather not see you have to be woken up from a sleeping curse. Far too much of a cost even if true love's kiss works."
She nods again, remembering the description of the fire room with a wince. "So there's no other way to know?" she asks, trying to ignore the fact that she's pretty sure she's whining right now.
Her father has managed to stop coughing, and has rearranged his features into an expression he probably thinks is an excellent cover-up for the pained grimace he's actually wearing.
She appreciates the effort.
"There's always the potion," he manages.
Snow looks over at him confusedly for a moment before her expression clears in realization. "Bottled true love, combined from our hairs."
She snorts loudly. "Yeah, because swiping one of Killian's hairs for a magical science experiment, that won't look weird."
Charming grins suddenly. "Tell him we're cloning him. He'll be so delighted with the idea of another him to admire the dashing good looks of, he won't question it."
He looks rather offended when he gets nailed in the head by two muffins thrown at him, though even he can't help but smile when she and her mother crack up.
True love and daughter laughing together, there's not much anyone can do against that.
She doesn't worry about it too much for awhile after that, having other concerns.
The Ice Queen hasn't been heard from in some time, which worries them all. She's up to something certainly.
Worse still, she finds herself the mother of a child who might be dating, and she is quite certain she's not old enough for that.
Killian talks her down more than once, telling her that Grace is an absolute sweetheart of a kid, and thirteen is a perfectly reasonable age for two young people to walk the shoreline together, maybe or maybe not hand in hand, and Henry's not even sure how he feels about any of it yet, besides the fact that he enjoys spending time with her and likes to make her laugh.
Nothing to worry about.
She is distracted, if nothing else, by how much it warms her heart that Henry confides in Killian like that.
He's good to her son, so good, and she adores that, and tells him so, and he lights up in that way of his, so handsome it takes her breath away, and so she tells him that too.
She finds herself worked into bed soon after, and doesn't worry about much of anything at all after that.
Henry is on a date with Grace, and Killian's out doing his own thing whatever that happens to be, and so she's having a quiet afternoon by herself in their apartment, just reading a book, when it happens.
Her whole stomach seizes up, feeling so exactly like she'd been stabbed by the knife she'd saved Killian from all those months ago, and she cries out, clutching at her bare skin as if trying to find and stop up a bleeding wound that's not there.
There's nothing wrong with her. Nothing at all.
But she has read her parents' story enough times to know that this phantom pain can only mean something terrible has happened to the one she loves.
"No!" she screams. "No, no, no, no, no, Killian!"
Somehow, and she will never be quite sure how, given the amount of pain she's in - like she's dying, she feels but doesn't let herself think - she throws herself to her feet and out the door, down the street, to the downtown core. Letting nothing but gut instinct guide her to him, to where he is suffering.
She finds him, easier than she'd thought she might, just outside of the tiny, one-screen movie theatre in town where - she swallows against a fresh wave of terror - Henry and Grace had been planning on going that afternoon.
The Ice Queen has Killian cornered, and though he is stubbornly fighting the need to scream, she can see the agony writ large all over his face.
He's being tortured, she realizes in a fury, the best way the Ice Bitch can - by making a rotation of freezing various parts of his body, seemingly for the fun of it.
"You think I'm just going to let you get away with it?" The Ice Queen screams. "I waited too long to let the likes of you destroy my plans!"
She nails him in the middle with her icy blue magic, his abdomen frozen over, and even Killian, brave, beautiful, stubborn Killian can't fight the cry of pain on that one, letting out a guttural moan.
Fury grips her then; hate such that she has never known, even with all the enemies they've faced, and she throws herself forward, a shield between Killian and the bitch who would dare harm him.
For a moment, The Ice Queen simply looks stunned, before a wry smile works its way to her lips. "Well, well," she croons. "Then I didn't need the boy after all. The pirate works well enough. Tell me, Savior. Does he know you love him?"
Her hands clench into fists for just a second before the magic escapes her; not so much the fire balls that everyone magical in town had tried so hard to teach her as a pure wave of burning fire that engulfs The Ice Queen before she can even see it coming.
Ice is no match against flame.
Regina would be proud.
The other woman's magic seems to die with her, and so no longer forcefully held upright, Killian collapses to the ground.
"Hey, hey, hey," she chants desperately, wrapping her arms around him, "it's okay, it's okay, you're going to be fine, the ice is gone, her magic's gone, she's gone, it's over, it's all over, she's no more."
He's trying to force his way back to his feet already, without much luck.
"Henry," he says weakly, yet somehow forcefully. "She went after the kids... saw... couldn't let her take them... couldn't... told them... run."
"Okay," she exhales, trying hard not to panic. "Okay. They got away, then? They ran?"
He manages to nod. "Distracted her. Gave them time."
"Okay," she says again, knowing she's repeating herself. "Henry would have protected Grace. He would have taken her home. They'll be at Jefferson's. They will."
Killian looks like he's trying to nod again, but he can barely keep his eyes open, and the terror just won't lessen, and she bends to him, kissing him furiously.
"You can't go," she tells him fiercely. "Not to sleep, not anywhere. Not when I'm only just figuring everything out."
His eyes blink back open.
"Hurts," he slurs.
"I know, I know it does. But you're going to be fine. You have to be. I love you, do you get that, do you hear me? You don't get to let go now that I'm finally ready to admit it. I love you."
He's exhausted, and he's weak, but his gaze is steady on her, and he almost smiles.
"Say it again."
She does. Over and over.
It keeps him awake.
At a loss, needing to find Henry but unsure what to do with Killian, she calls her father, who rushes right over, her mother at his side with the baby in a carrier on her back.
"What the hell happened?" Charming demands.
"Ice bitch went after Henry and Grace, Killian stepped in giving them a chance to run, she tortured him, I killed her, now I need you to take him to the hospital while I go find my son," she recounts the need-to-know in the briefest way she can come up with.
Everyone stares at her, including Killian, whom Charming had just managed to get standing upright, which is more than she had managed.
"I'm not going to the hospital," Killian proclaims, staring at her. "No way in hell. I'm coming with you..."
"You just got tortured into a popsicle!" she shrieks, at her wit's end.
"Popsicle?" he asks, the bewildered expression that's almost as familiar and beloved to her as his smile works its way over his face, and the laugh that bubbles up is more than a little bit hysterical even to her own ears.
"Charming can take you both," Snow finally says, looking at her worriedly. "He's got the truck, it'll keep Killian off his feet which is probably the best thing right now, and you can all be at Jefferson's and back within twenty minutes."
It's only a partial solution, but if she can't get Killian to just go to the freaking hospital...
He's looking at her evenly, and with Charming helping him, looks steadier already. "You know I love Henry as if he were my own," he murmurs. "Please don't ask me to stay away now. When I saw that witch go after him... Emma, I need to see with my own eyes that he's alright."
"Okay," she sighs. "Okay."
Her father might break all speed limits on the way to Jefferson's mansion in the woods, but the sheriff can't say she's planning on laying any charges.
The truck is barely in park before she's throwing herself out of it, Killian impressively hot on her heels, though they don't have far to look.
The front door is wide open, to the elaborate entry hall, where they find Grace standing off to the side, sobbing, while Jefferson himself struggles to hold her wildly fighting son in his grip.
"Let me go!" Henry screams. "You have to let me go, you don't understand, she had Killian! I have to go back!"
"Buddy, Killian's a grown man, he can take care..."
"I'm not going to lose another dad!" Henry howls, taking a wild swing at his girlfriend's father's nose.
Next to her, Killian staggers.
"Henry," he breathes, finally capturing the attention of everyone in the house.
They all freeze for a moment, an awkward tableau, before Henry explodes out of Jefferson's grip, sending the older man flailing.
Her son doesn't see Jefferson stumble into his own front table, doesn't even notice her, flying right past her straight into Killian's arms.
"You're alive!" he cries out. "I thought, I thought..."
"I know," Killian soothes, an extraordinary gentleness to him she'd never have guessed possible. "I know what you thought. But the Ice Queen is no match for your mom, my boy. She saved me."
Henry turns to her then, grabbing her hand to pull her into the hug, rather than leave Killian's side to go to hers.
"Thank you mommy," Henry says so softly she can barely hear it, and her throat catches.
In that moment, he sounds so young, and for that, she's reminded of how young he still truly is.
He may hold a pretty girl's hand now, but he's still her little boy, and he's been through too much for how young he is.
They all have.
But they're all here, and they're now.
They're a family, and she holds it tight.
Legend says that if a person of purely good magic breaks completely, they lose their magic entirely.
The Ice Queen had wanted to break her.
She had tried to kill Henry, with Grace as collateral damage.
Killian had literally thrown himself in her magic's path, between it and the kids, and he was only alive now for the fact that Henry and Grace were both so much smaller than he was, and the intended murderous blast of ice had missed his head and heart.
Trapped, half his body frozen, he'd screamed for Henry to run.
Only because Grace had been with him, and he'd thus had someone else to protect, had he listened.
Their whole damn family had saving people complexes that were going to need serious work with Archie.
Henry had gotten Grace home, tried to explain their panic, their terror to her father, and only Jefferson managing to damn near tackle her kid had prevented Henry from running right back to the danger.
The kids now safe, plans destroyed, Ice Bitch had gone into a fury, not satisfied with quick, easy death for Killian, wanting to draw out his suffering, his torture.
She hadn't known that the Savior would feel the pirate's pain from streets away.
She hadn't known there was more than one way to destroy her.
She hadn't known she loved him too.
It's been weeks since. Killian is healthy again, Henry and Grace are both starting to get past the trauma they'd experienced, and Jefferson has proven to be actually kind of an awesome friend when he's not trying to force magic out of you.
(Turns out the man is a big fan of anyone he owes his daughter's life to).
Other than this new presence in their lives, things have pretty much gone back to normal, or as normal as anything gets in FairyTaleVille, USA.
And that's the thing. She'd kind of expected a new normal.
But that hasn't happened, because Killian doesn't seem to know.
He knew what had happened, of course. They'd all gone through the sequence of events together, including the part when she'd had to explain how exactly she knew to come for Killian.
She'd felt the pain he was in.
Snow's eyebrows had shot up so high they practically left her face, and Charming had immediately begun searching Jefferson's living room for alcohol, and Henry had grinned like all his master plans had come to fruition at once, which she wouldn't put past the kid.
But Killian had just looked bewildered, as if she'd said something about her DVD player instead.
"I've never heard of such a thing," Killian says, shrugging. "Your magic must get stronger by the day. You never cease to amaze me, Swan."
The rest of her family (even her long-suffering father with his oh-God-why-me expression) had looked over at her then, waiting for her to correct him, tell him the truth of what had happened.
And she just... couldn't. Couldn't say it. Not then, not in front of everyone.
Not at all, apparently.
Because as it turned out, Killian had only been semi-conscious in the moments after she'd saved him, and he had no recollection of what she'd said.
He didn't remember that she loved him.
And for the longest time, she can't figure out how to tell him. It doesn't seem like something she should just say out of the blue, over breakfast or something. It should be a grand gesture, and she's not the grand gesture type.
But one night of tossing and turning the solution comes to her, and she gets up early the next morning and leaves Henry's book on the table at Killian's spot, bookmarked at the page in her parents' story at which point her mother eats a poisoned apple and her father inexplicably knows that it has happened, even locked in a cell miles away. True love's deadly warning.
And then she takes off.
She spends the day on his boat. Doesn't take it out at all - she wouldn't have a clue what she was doing with it if she did. No, she stays at the docks, just lying flat on his boat, staring at the sky.
It's not until early afternoon that she finally hears him coming, talking in a voice she's never heard him use before.
She sits straight up, staring in his direction, only to find him coming up the docks to the boat, carrying her brother.
"We'll go out on our ship, yes we will, and I'll teach you everything you need to know, and we'll have lots of adventures, and make a little pirate out of you yet, and we'll drive your daddy absolutely nuts, which is the best part of all."
He doesn't notice her at all, so distracted he is by Neal, until he's literally on the boat with her, at which point he freezes completely, leaving them staring at each other for a long moment.
He'd taken the hook off, she thinks senselessly. He's just wearing jeans and a dark blue shirt, his hair is wild already from the sea breeze, and he's not wearing the hook because he's holding a baby.
He's beautiful. He'd probably resent the description, preferring dashing or rakish, but beautiful is all that describes him right now.
And then he's smiling at her, which is never fair, but is especially impossible to deal with right now.
He's beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. And he's hers.
"I should have known you'd be here," he kind of laughs. "I'd gone to your parent's place to see if you were there and found myself instead volunteering to watch the little guy for an afternoon. I'd like to say it was my idea, but I'm pretty sure your mother tricked me into having said idea. She might well have more magical powers than you do."
She laughs. "I wouldn't doubt it."
He's still grinning, fond. "At any rate, I promised this little man a boat ride, and a boat ride I intend to give him. Care to hold your brother, while I set us a-sail?"
She raises an eyebrow. "I am invited on the pirate trip?"
He teases right back. "I believe I once told you you had a little pirate in you. It's enough to qualify."
"Well then," she says, beaming at the baby, taking him from Killian. "I'd love to."
He's distracted for awhile, doing everything he needs to do to get them out on the water, and so she just stays out of the way, sitting back, murmuring quietly to Neal, exclaiming to him about the water, about how blue it is, and from there finds herself telling the baby about all the colours of the rainbow.
"And I'm not quite sure about indigo anymore, they keep changing what they think about it, but I grew up with Roy G Biv and I'm sticking with it. Indigo is a very important colour, I think," she explains, trailing off when she finally looks over and sees how intently Killian stares at her.
She knows she's blushing.
"What?" she asks, trying to play it off.
"You," he says immediately. "You look amazing with a baby."
Oh, she is so definitely blushing.
"Yeah," he replies, so soft she thinks that might be the end of it.
He'd long been one for surprising her though.
"What do you think of having one of our own?"
She gapes at him for just a split second, before she sees the way he smiles.
It's not a joke, far from it. He's completely serious.
It just happens to be the best thing he's ever considered, given the way he's lit up, hopeful and bright.
She bites her lip, hugs her brother closer to her, looks down at him, at his innocent baby face, then back over at Killian, at the man she loves more than she would have ever dared dream she could love anyone.
She can imagine it, she thinks. A baby girl, with his dark colouring and her soft features. She'd be a knock-out, cause him coronaries by the time she's ten years old.
It's the best thing she's ever thought of.
She can feel herself grinning now. She's not sure when the smile started, didn't feel it come on, but she can feel it now.
Killian looks like he's feeling too much at once but has decided to settle on absolute joy, lit up from the inside out.
"I want her," she agrees. "Or him. I want our baby."
He comes over to her then, laughing, wrapping his arms around her, the baby still safe in her own.
"Skipping a few steps, aren't we?" he asks.
"Since when we are conventional?" she banters back.
"Never have been, never will be," he replies easily. "Not possible when you're the type to tell a poor bloke you're in love with him via a book."
"It's not my fault you forgot the last time I told you!"
He looks insulted. "I'd never forget that."
"Ah, but you did, mmhmm. I told you about a hundred times when I was trying to keep you conscious while you defrosted."
He looks like she'd whacked him over the head with a frying pan. "You told me when I was...? ... That doesn't count!"
"Sure it does! A love confession when I'm trying to keep my mortally wounded boyfriend alive, it doesn't get more romantic than that!"
"It gets about a thousand times more romantic than that, Swan," he drawls, wryly. "Try this for size: I love you, Emma. I've lived three hundred years, and I could live a thousand more, and I will never love anyone or anything more than I love you."
She stares at him, trying to blink traitorous tears away.
He grins at her. "Now you go."
She huffs at him, then finds herself smiling in spite of herself. "I didn't think love was in the cards for me. I'd given up on it. Little lost girl, forever. And then I ended up here, in this ridiculous fairy tale life, with a prince and princess for parents, and the truest believer as my son, and a pirate who hung around refusing to ever give up on me. I found family, and home, and love, all because you refused to let me accept less. And I love you. So much."
His eyes are shining, brightest blue, and mindful of the baby in her arms, his kiss is soft, possibly the gentlest they've ever shared.
Exhaling, she lets herself grin at him. "And you sure as hell better not forget it this time."
He laughs, long and hard, enough to get the baby going too, which cracks her up in turn.
She is happy. So she tells him.
Author's Note: If it needs clarifying, my Ice Queen: definitely not the Elsa of the adorable story of sisterhood. No Frozen characters have been harmed in this story.
Snowing fans - Never fear, our ship still owns my heart, and I am in fact working away on Freedom Love. I just needed to get this little distraction out of my head so I could focus my full attention back on giving you all the chapter I owe you so much.
Captain Swan fans - Hello! Nice to meet you all. Hope you all enjoyed my first real foray into CS-Land, because man, do I ever love Emma and Killian.
To everyone - Thanks, as always, for reading.