"Where's Henry?" she asks as they run across town, their destination marked by a dark cloud swirling ominously in the sky. His response is immediate, voice reassuring when he tells her the boy is with her mother, as is baby Neal. David is on his way with Regina and Gold; both sorcerers no doubt making an appearance in their attempt to show the town their dedication to turning the proverbial leaf.
The sun is blotted out by the roiling mass of grey and the shadow it casts falls over them as they near its domain, the snow beneath their feet thickening so their gait slows to a jog.
Magic crackles in the air, its smell becoming more potent the closer they get until she's sure they are on the verge of the source. Killian pulls her aside before they can turn the corner to where their most recent foe awaits, arctic eyes intense as he drags her into an alley with a firm grip on her elbow.
"What's wrong?" she asks, alarmed by the abrupt detour.
His lips become thin for a moment, eyes dropping to her collarbones, and she can see him trying to form the words that are clearly important if he is stealing her attention from the Snow Queen's domineering presence. The usual lilt of his voice is edged by tangible concern when he meets her gaze meaningfully.
"Promise me you'll take caution with this woman. Promise me you won't make any irrational decisions just to secure her defeat."
Emma's mouth falls open and she just stares at him for a moment, trying to process the absolute sincerity in his expression. Unfortunately, he takes her silence as an indication of personal insult and he stammers to correct himself, "I just – I know of your penchant for martyr acts, love, and you haven't faced the Snow Queen yet and I..." He squeezes his eyes shut, good hand closing in a fist while he continues to try to fathom his thoughts into coherent sentences. It's strange to see a man with an obscenely extensive vocabulary struggle for words.
Eventually he finds them though, they come out in a pained rush.
"You're the Savior but that doesn't mean you have to save everyone at your life's risk."
A thousand reactions occur to her: indignation that he doesn't trust her to look after herself, bemusement at the trivial notion that she would ever make a deliberately life-threatening decision, indifference in a pointless attempt to distance herself from the way his all-too-knowing eyes are penetrating her. Instead, her eyebrows furrow and she swallows down the sudden, inexplicable weight in her chest.
"Okay," she nods numbly, "I promise."
The connotations belied in his words begin to overwhelm her and she spins on her heel, ready to make her way towards the source of the mass of darkening clouds overhead, but his hand is still on her elbow and he pulls her back. His lips are firm when they meet hers, and she melts into the kiss for a short second before pulling back.
Clenching her hands in the lapels of his jacket, she holds his gaze, a silent exchange passing between them in the transitory moment.
"You too," she mumbles, choking on any other words that might expound just how much she needs him to stay safe (Emma Swan has never been good with words). But then, he's not the target – he may be handy with a sword, but in a magic battle he is a liability if anything. Which is why she and Elsa and Gold and Regina are the Snow Queen's most recent targets of choice; their power makes them unequivocal threats to the pallid woman's unknown (but undoubtedly abysmal) plans for Storybrooke.
He nods and smirks softly, "Aye, as you wish."
The turn of phrase pulls at the corners of her lips and she releases him to turn away and run out of the alley. This time he follows her and, as the distance between them and the frozen sorceress diminishes, Emma has the strangest feeling of foreboding in her stomach, making it knot and twist uncomfortably. Their exchange in the safety of the alley flashes in her mind, their promises making the squeezing in her gut intensify. Something feels wrong; but she can't pay it any mind – not when they've just moved into the Snow Queen's line of sight and the woman is staring directly at them.
Emma pulls to a stop and Killian mirrors the action, already unsheathing his sword and adopting a defensive stance. Employing Regina's techniques, she begins to internally call on the magic in her veins and it thrums to life almost instantly. It sparks under her skin and tingles at her fingertips like a live wire that has been routed through her entire system.
The Snow Queen's crystalline eyes latch onto the young woman before her with a knowing smirk.
"I was beginning to fear you would force me to garner your attention using other, far less placid methods," is her curt greeting, teeth bared in a cold grin befitting of her title. She tilts her head ever so slightly and considers Killian with traceable amusement, "You brought along your plaything. How quaint."
Beside Emma, Killian's teeth grind together at the insult and, instinctively, she glances at him to quieten the storm already brewing in his bones.
"However," the sorceress redraws their attention as she begins to pace in a small circle in front of them, flecks of snow rising up as she disrupts them with her calculated steps, "I did not perform this little display," she gestures above her to the churning sky, "to attract you and your companion. I only need you, my dear."
Strangely enough, warning bells toll in Emma's head. That was a lie. But why would she want Killian here too? Frowning at the woman across from her, she almost doesn't notice the way the snow is shifting unnaturally around them.
"So I suppose I shall simply have to distract him while I deal with you."
A split second passes where the Snow Queen's words do not register, her voice far too calm for a threat. Like a shark preparing to strike in undisturbed waters. But when they finally do, it is too late to run because the downy white matter beneath their feet is taking shape, rising up to form jagged silhouettes, hardening into ice. In a matter of seconds, there are at least five ice monsters in front of them, every edge of their profile razor sharp and lethal.
The Snow Queen grins inhumanly and then they are lunging, glowing eyes fixed on the source of their blood-lust, as they engage in a sudden and unavoidable battle. They both manoeuvre around the monsters; Killian cutting them down with each swipe of his sword in a fluid dance of metal and ice, Emma conjuring fireballs with enough heat to melt the limbs from the arctic creations before they can touch her. Through no fault of their own, they are separated, their aggressors forcing them further and further apart so they fight as two solitary units.
From her peripheral vision, Emma can see their enemy observing the battle with idle curiosity. The antagonistic woman's gaze drifts between the Savior and the pirate and, so consumed with fending off a potentially deadly blow, Emma doesn't notice the way her foe smiles with cruel satisfaction. So she definitely doesn't notice when the Snow Queen pulls her arm back, something transparent and blue crackling in her outstretched hand.
She is too preoccupied with the icy demon in front of her to realize the sorceress' intent before it is too late. Killian is not.
"Emma!" he bellows frantically.
Dispatching the last immediate threat with unerring swiftness, Emma pivots to see a blaze of pale blue and silver rushing towards her. Panic slams violently into her chest, heart leaping out of her ribs while her eyes widen and she prepares to bear the brunt of the spell. Only she never does.
There is a flash of black leather in front of her, a cry of pain and then deathly silence.
"Killian!" she screeches, her mind finally catching up to the image before her. He is standing in front of her, arms outstretched, sword forgotten somewhere on his left where he dropped it as he sprinted towards her. A short moment passes where shock replaces the panic pounding in rhythm with her heart but then the two emotions are mixing, stirring together in her chest to smother her; especially when he stumbles on the spot.
Completely ignoring the very real threat that may still surround her, Emma snakes her arms under his shoulders before he can fall. His weight lands heavily against her chest and she struggles against it, gritting her teeth and forcing herself to lower him gently to the ground so his head is cradled in her lap.
His eyes are closed.
His eyes are closed.
Muffled footsteps thunder in her ears and her head snaps up at the sound, ready to scrounge up whatever magic she has left to defend his limp body. But her eyes are met with a perplexing sight: the Snow Queen, along with all of her monsters, have disappeared. The footsteps are her father's as he rapidly crosses the space between them, Gold and Regina following closely behind.
She relaxes marginally, but it is short-lived as she lowers her gaze to Killian once again. His shirt is torn, the impact of the blow clearly hitting him square in the chest. The black fabric is torn enough for her to see bruising as well as a littering of tiny, insignificant scars peppered across his skin, blood already seeping from the shallow wounds. That is not what terrifies her; his breathing is shallow enough that the rise and fall of his chest is nearly imperceptible. Scrambling to her feet, Emma's not sure what words pass her lips, only that it prompts dread to ripple through the faces in front of her.
The following hours pass in a blur.
Regina and Gold transport them instantly to the hospital. Emma is steadfast at his side as they wheel him down winding corridors, until she can't follow anymore and she is forced to wait with her parents in the stifling reception area. Eventually they are directed to his room where he lays sleeping, chest bandaged and face slack. Dr Whale explains that the abrasions were caused by fragments of glass but, other than that, he should be fine.
He is physically fine. He should make a full recovery and all there is to do is wait.
The minutes pass into hours. Her parents leave. The hours drift by, the sun disappears behind the horizon and she falls asleep with her head on the side of the bed and her hands clutching his wrist. When she wakes, golden light filters into the room and she stands to run her fingers through her hair and stretch.
And that's when he stirs.
Her heart leaps into her throat and she shoves the chair away from the side of his bed so she can stand there, mentally recording every infinitesimal shift in his expression until his eyes finally begin to open. The sigh of relief that escapes her lips is what alerts him to her presence and she's weighing up whether she should just kiss him now and risk the smug grin she'll undoubtedly receive in return when he blinks several times in rapid succession.
Something heavy settles in the pits of her stomach at the look he gives her. Confusion.
All the air is punched violently from her lungs when his first three words are a completely honest question, one eyebrow arched high on his forehead in curiosity.
"Who are you?"
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