Another hiatus is upon us, so I decided it was high time for another story. This one is a Regency Era AU, filled with lots of love, angst, intrigue and eventually fluff, and I hope you are going to enjoy it. Since I am still writing it, next chapter will be up tomorrow, and after that they will come every three days.
Lady Emma Audrey Nolan does her best to contain her excitement as her father, the Earl of Misthaven, lifts her from the carriage and sets her down on her feet next to her mother.
It is a bright summer day and Emma is wearing a pretty blue dress that flares from the hips and that is going to be a nuisance later on because Liam is probably going to insist that they all climb trees, but perhaps Killian is going to stay with her on the ground, or even teach her how to throw rocks into the lake so that they bounce off the surface of it eight times like his does.
"Lord Misthaven! Welcome!" Killian's and Liam's father, the Duke of Storybrooke comes rushing down the front steps and Emma follows her mother's lead, bowing into a curtsy and trying not to bounce back up in anticipation of the fun ahead. "My Lady, it is so nice to see you again."
"Likewise, your Grace", mama says and the Duke winks at Emma, then shows them all into his grand house, inside which Emma always feels like she should talk in whispers.
Killian and Liam never do so, and always after half an hour of quiet playing in the nursery wing they end up sliding down hallways in their socks and laughing out loud until the governess comes to shush them and ushers them outside.
"You will have to excuse my wife today. She is not feeling well", the Duke is telling papa while mama lays her hand on Emma's shoulder to keep her from breaking into a run like she wants to do; it has been a week since she had seen Liam and Killian and she is starved for their company.
Emma's governess is so incredibly dull and she does not let her do anything fun.
Papa says it is good for building character, but Emma heartily disagrees.
"Miss Robson, there you are. Please take Lady Emma to the nursery wing", the Duke says when the governess appears and Emma beams at her, takes her outstretched hand and waves at her parents.
"Be good", mama says and Emma nods, then hops along the hallway with Miss Robson, wishing that the pretty young woman could be her governess instead of old, stuffy Miss Tucker.
"Swan, there you are at last!" Killian exclaims as soon as Emma enters the playroom and Liam clears his throat pompously, making both Emma and Killian giggle.
She quite likes that nobody but Killian calls her Swan and thinks again how she should devise a nickname for him too; once she tried calling him Killy and he was so offended he did not talk to her for almost an hour.
"Nice to see you again, Lady Emma", Liam intones, then breaks into a grin too, bowing over her right hand while Killian does so over her left.
All three of them find it infinitely amusing to pretend they are adult, but they can never quite keep a straight face while doing so.
"Oh stop it you two, and let us just play!" Emma giggles and wipes the back of her right hand against her dress, but does not do the same with the left.
A blush creeps into her cheeks and she distracts the boys with a new game; they are both wounded soldiers and Emma is their nurse, wrapping bandages made from the dishrags stolen from the kitchen around Killian's arm and Liam's head.
Liam is a terrible patient, complaining all the time how he is dreadfully cold and how he wants water and how much pain is he in, while Killian just grits his teeth and lets her hold his hand.
Once they grow tired of that game, the governess lets them out and they run to the lake and Emma picks flowers as she goes, thinking how nothing is ever going to be as wonderful as this summer has been and hoping that it never ends.
She does not want to go back to the City where her only playmate is going to be cousin Jefferson who makes her play his stupid games, and when she suggests something different he tells her that a proper lady always has to bend to the will of her betters.
He might be eleven and she is only six, but that does not make her lesser than him; Emma's mama always says that all people are the same inside, no matter their age or social status.
Maybe things will change once she tells him about her summer and how Liam and Killian had never forced their games on her just because she is younger.
"Swan, look!" Killian calls and she lifts her head to find him standing at the edge of the lake, poised to throw a rock along its surface.
She can see Liam rolling his eyes even from where she stands, but she ignores him and smiles encouragingly at Killian, coming closer to see better.
The rock skips eleven times before it sinks and Liam looks horrified because his younger brother has just broken his record of ten.
"Did you see that?!" Killian exclaims and jumps in place until Emma grabs him by the shoulders and presses a sloppy kiss that catches the corner of his lips instead of just his cheek, and her stomach feels funny when she pulls back and finds him looking at her with eyes as blue as the depths of the lake.
"I am sorry", she says in a squeaky voice, drops all the flowers at his feet and runs back toward the house, feeling mortified and thinking that she will most definitely be punished if somebody tells her parents what she had done.
Everybody knows you are not allowed to kiss boys until you are married, and although she is uncertain what the punishment for doing so before it is allowed is, she does not doubt that it is something most unpleasant.
Emma runs faster and bites her lip because if she knows one thing, it is that ladies do not cry in public.
That is why the black funeral veils were invented.
Lord Killian Andrew Jones wants to go back in time more than he wants anything else. He wants to return to a Friday in the week previous during which the Lord and Lady Misthaven had visited with their daughter, known to the world as Lady Emma, but addressed by him as simply Swan.
On that particular Friday nothing much had happened until the moment his Swan had given him his first kiss, as a type or reward for skipping stones more times than his brother, and although that was a memorable occasion in itself, it was also the last time he was truly happy.
Swan ran away before he could offer her marriage and the next day his mother had died.
He grits his teeth and squeezes his eyes shut, but the tears are still burning in his throat, his father's hand heavy on his shoulder.
Liam, of course, does not look like he might cry, but he is twelve years old and so he must be stronger than Killian just for the simple fact that he is two years his senior.
There are not a lot of people attending the funeral because their estate is too far in the country, and Killian thinks it is not fair that none of mama's best friends are here, except for Lady Misthaven, who is leaning heavily on her husband.
Killian wishes Emma was here, because he is pretty sure he could be strong for her.
His stomach feels tight when he remembers what father had said before the funeral; they are not to stay here beyond today, and it means he might never see his best friend again.
The trunks are already packed and the future seems too bleak to endure, and Killian blinks furiously, avoiding everybody's eyes.
What do they know anyway? He has spent the whole of yesterday asking why mama had died, and nobody could tell him.
After the service ends and everybody returns home for refreshments, Killian and Liam are banished to the nursery where Miss Robson hugs Killian close like his mama used to do and tells him that everything will be alright.
He knows she is lying because she also tells him that he will not need her anymore now that he too is about to attend a prestige private school that Liam had started last year, so Killian extricates himself from her embrace and refuses to even look at her for the rest of the afternoon.
The next morning Liam gives Killian two of his better marbles and then their father appears in the nursery and tells them that it is time to say goodbye to the staff and leave.
He does not think it necessary to inform them exactly where are they going, but it is fairly clear that he does not intend to return to a place where his wife had drawn her last breath.
Killian would feel the same if there was not for Emma, and his stomach twists again because the person he wants to say goodbye to the most is not here.
And so he refuses to utter the word to anybody, swallowing the lump in his throat when Miss Robson brushes his hair away from his forehead and remains as silent as he.
Father looks so old all of a sudden, and he lets Killian's rudeness slide, ushering his sons outside and into a waiting coach before he mounts his horse and the sordid procession moves up the driveway.
Killian refused to look back, staring at his lap and tasting tears on his lips as they move by the neighbour estate.
He had lost his mother, his best friend and his governess in less than a week and he will bloody well cry if he feels like it.
Liam puts his arm around Killian's shoulders and softly repeats what Miss Robson had said.
"Everything is going to be alright, little brother."
He is lying and they both know it.