"How's the house?" Ruby asks as Emma slides into the passenger seat, aforementioned house glowing invitingly.
"Perfect." Emma grins, her smile infectious and radiating happiness. "He's perfect, Ruby."
"Oh, the house is a boy now?"
Emma's glare is far from convincing. "I can go back inside, you know. Killian will be home in a few hours and he'll be happy to see me."
"Okay, okay. No need to get all upset, Blondie." Ruby puts the car into gear, grinning back at her friend. "It took us forever to figure out a night for this. We're going."
"Does it make me boring that there's a part of me that rather wait at home for him?"
"Nah." Ruby pats her knee sympathetically. "Victor is pouting about this."
They share a grin, Emma settling back into the seat and tugging her skirt into place. It's been a long time since they've had a girl's night, and Ruby's right – between their jobs and the house, it's been impossible to find a night to hang out. So this night out in Portland is long overdue.
"Killian seemed the most sad he wasn't going to see me all dressed up," Emma says wryly. She's a little sad, too, if she's being honest. She looks fantastic in a short red dress, hair perfectly curled and a pair of heels that have lived in the back of the closet for far too long. "Do you think maybe we should stop by the bar?"
"If we stop by the bar, we will never make it to Portland. And you two will be having sex in the back of my bar. You know who has sex in the back of my bar? Me. Not you. Not Killian. You guys have sex in your house."
Emma flushes to almost the same color as her dress, staring out the window. They'd gotten carried away last weekend when she had stopped by, and Ruby had walked in on them, Emma's skirt around her waist Killian's pants undone. The look on her face at the time was bad enough, but Ruby continuing to tease her about it is the real revenge.
"All right, all right. No bar."
"Well, just not my bar."
They share a laugh, the highway signs coming into focus as they head south. Emma sings along to the radio – badly – looking forward to the night out. Her dates with Killian have been wonderful, but a night out dancing isn't exactly his cup of tea. That's okay with her – it's not something she needs to do all the time.
And it's sort of been her and Ruby's thing for a long time, anyway.
It's their pick me up – get all dressed up, go find a club with overpriced drinks, and spend a night dancing together, ignoring all attention of the male variety. Emma isn't exactly in a place where she needs a pick me up – and Ruby says she's not either – but a night of fun can't hurt.
But it is different now. Emma snaps a picture of them in the car together before they go inside, sending it to Killian with a smirk to herself. He's been harassing her since he got to work for a picture. This one is a tease and she knows it – the neckline of her dress is out of the frame, but the swatch of fabric that shows on her shoulder is enough to give away its color.
Killian may have been teasing her about the paint colors, but she knows he likes red.
Her phone buzzes in her hand before they even make it to the door. If you get home before me, you must leave the dress on until I can take it off you. She shows Ruby with a laugh, and her friend rolls her eyes.
"I don't want to know, Em."
"Liar." Emma loops her arm through Ruby's, shivering in the cool night as they make their way to the entrance.
"He is a lot easier to work with these days. He sings to himself, you know, when he thinks no one is listening."
"He does it at home, too. He cooks and he folds laundry and he sings to himself." Emma shakes her head at herself, the music of the club washing over them. "Let's not stay late, okay?"
Ruby's lip curls into a small smile, the same smile that she wore the night David carried Emma out of the bar while Killian asked after her. "Sure thing, Blondie."
They order drinks, Emma with her tequila, Ruby with her whisky, and they dance and dance and dance. Killian makes her laugh plenty, but it feels good to laugh with Ruby, to twirl around the dance floor and revel in it.
She also drinks a little more than she meant to.
"Shit, are you drunk?" Ruby catches her mid-spin, her hands on her shoulders. Emma just giggles, grinning.
"Yep." She's got a smudge of mascara under one of her eyes, and her hair, once beautifully curled, is a tangled mess.
"What's wrong? I'm not driving." Emma pulls out of Ruby's grasp, tugging her friend further into the sea of bodies moving to the music.
Ruby continues to curse to herself, but Emma ignores her. She's probably worried Emma's going to throw up in her car, but it's not going to happen. Emma isn't that drunk – she's just happy and floating along on a cloud of giddiness and liquor and music.
They don't stay much longer – happy, drunk Emma turns quickly into sappy, missing Killian Emma. Ruby is still muttering under her breath as she helps Emma into the car, the heels much trickier to navigate with the influence of Mr. Jose Cuervo.
"Don't you fall asleep on me or throw up," Ruby threatens her from the driver's side as they make their way home through the dark streets and darker night.
"I'm tired," Emma whines, kicking off her heels and curling her legs up into the seat. Ruby only sighs.
"He's going to kill me."
"Killian doesn't care if I'm drunk. He thinks I'm cute." Emma looks especially pleased with herself as she says it, her lips curling into a soft smile. "He thinks I'm cute."
"So you've said."
Ruby doesn't answer her, gripping the steering wheel tightly. This seemed like such a good idea at the time, but as she pulls into the driveway of Emma and Killian's home, she just feels guilty. This isn't at all what she was supposed to do.
"Put your shoes back on. It's cold."
"Don't wanna." Emma slides out of the car, her heels hanging from her fingers. It's still too cold for her to be walking into the house barefoot, but Emma can't seem to feel the cold under the spell of tequila.
Ruby rushes to get out of the car, grabbing Emma's arm and guiding her up the stairs to the front door. She manages enough on her own, but Ruby is pretty sure if she falls, she's never going to forgive herself.
Killian swings the door open as Emma is digging in her bag for her keys, and she looks up with delighted surprise. "You're home!" She throws herself into his arms, pressing a sloppy kiss to his lips as Ruby stands behind her, shrugging her shoulders helplessly when Killian's eyes meet hers over Emma's head.
"I tried to stop her."
"I suppose you did."
"Hey, you're all dressed up," Emma blurts out, finally noticing Killian's dress shirt and vest. She runs her fingertip down the edge of the vest, the smooth fabric slippery under her touch. "New look for the Rabbit Hole?"
"Not quite, love." He pulls her into the house, mouthing a word of thanks to Ruby as she turns to go.
"Oh, it's so pretty!" Emma drops her heels on the floor by the door with a clatter, the fire crackling along merrily. There are white candles all over the living room, flickering on the mantle and dancing in the windows in delicate glasses. She turns back to Killian, looping her arms around his neck and leaning back in his grasp as he steadies her. "Did you do this for me? You knew I was going out with Ruby."
He chuckles, and she has to wonder if she's imagining the nervousness in it. "Yes, love."
He starts to speak, but then he stops, and she's never seen him look so lost for words. Instead, he smiles that nervous smile again, and all of a sudden, her alcohol-infused brain catches up.
Emma backs away from him, one hand going to her hair where she grabs a fistful of it and groans. "I'm ruining it, aren't I?"
"You planned this, with Ruby. You're going to…" She bites her lip, looking around the beautiful room with all the candles, spots the bottle of champagne in a bucket of ice on the table, two actual champagne flutes next to it. They don't own champagne flutes, so he must have bought them…for something special. "And I'm sort of drunk."
"You're beautiful." His thumb brushes against her cheek, lightly scrubbing at the smudge of makeup left there from her rubbing her eyes in the car. His hand falls to her shoulder, then slowly trails down her ribs until it settles on her hip. "This dress is lovely too."
"I'm a mess."
He shakes his head slowly, gently nudging her closer. Her hands fall to his chest, playing with the buttons on his vest. "Do you know when I find you the most beautiful, love?"
"When I'm on top of you?" Emma giggles as she says it, and he can taste the tequila when he kisses her. When he pulls back, she's staring at him with a saucy smirk, one eyebrow lifted in challenge.
"That is a lovely sight, to be sure." He runs his hand down her back, a slow, soothing stroke. "And you've got these lovely dresses. But my favorite…" He's backing her into the living room as he talks, until they're standing right in front of the fire, its heat pleasant on her bare legs. "My favorite is when we've settled in front of this fire, in our home, and you haven't a care about how you look. My favorite is at three a.m. when you're half asleep but you wake me anyway, because you are simply insatiable."
Emma flushes at his words, the heat dripping from them nearly as strong as the fire. "That's two favorites," she protests lightly, focusing on trying to unbutton his shirt.
"I have many favorites, love."
"You shouldn't ask. I've spoiled it with the tequila."
"You haven't spoiled a thing."
"But the candles and the fire and…you got champagne flutes." She's whining, and she knows it, but she just feels so awful. "I'm sorry."
"No more apologizing. I fell in love with you when you were halfway through a bottle of tequila, remember? You were much more belligerent that night. Tonight…tonight you're sort of adorable."
"I'm not…that was so long ago…you didn't know me at all."
"I loved you anyway." He takes a deep breath, pushes her hair back from her face, tucks it behind her ear. "If I ask, you're not going to walk away, are you?"
"That's not nice," she protests, fisting the shirt she's managed to wrangle one button free from. She sighs, looking up into his eyes and growing serious. "I'll never walk away from you." It's a fierce whisper, one of her hands trailing up his chest, her fingers caressing his jaw.
"And you trust me, love? You believe me when I say I will never walk away from you again?"
She nods, her eyes beginning to fill with tears, because the alcohol is making her emotional, but also because this is it. He's going to ask her this question, this all-important question, and she can't wait another second, in spite of her messy hair and tipsy state.
"Ask me," she whispers, her fingers tightening on his shirt, bright green eyes locked on his. "Ask me."
His hand leaves her waist, sliding into his pocket, and she can see how nervous he is. She kisses him impulsively, a deep, passionate kiss that has her pressing every inch of her body to his. She's breathing heavily when she finally pulls away, her lack of shoes making her short enough to press her forehead to his shoulder. "Ask."
He chuckles, a quiet, low rumble in his chest. "You've got to let go of my shirt, love."
She lets go reluctantly, taking a step back as he sinks down to one knee, her heart hammering in her chest. The firelight catches on the sparkling stones as he unfurls his fingers, displaying a delicate band of white gold. "Emma Swan, my heart has belonged to you from the moment we met. I love you, and I love our home, and I wish for this to last forever. Will you marry me?"
"Yes." The word is hard to get out, the tears finally breaking free and pouring down her cheeks. Her hand is shaking as he slides the ring onto her finger, still on his knee until Emma tugs on his hand, pulls him up and kisses him with everything she's got.
They make it no further than the couch, Emma's fingers growing less clumsy with the buttons. As they move together, the firelight catches on the ring, making it sparkle and shimmer like fireworks on her hand, but it's hard to keep her attention on any one thing for too long, Killian's lips and tongue and fingers dancing across her body.
By the time they've migrated to the floor in front of the fire, wrapped up in blankets from the couch, most of the candles have guttered out. Only the tall pillars on the mantle remain, the fire burning low in the hearth. Emma is mostly sober, a slight buzz leftover from the champagne they opened in between making love on the couch, but the giddiness of their engagement, the perfectness of the man she's half sprawled across, that's not going anywhere soon.
"I picked the ring myself," he says softly, catching her admiring it in the firelight. "I wanted you to know, that even with Ruby's help tonight, I did that part on my own."
She smiles, a sleepy, satisfied smile, stretching up his body to kiss him while one of her hands slides into his messy hair, thoroughly mussed from her attentions. "It's perfect. You're perfect."
"I am, aren't I?"
"Mmmm." She kisses his chest, the soft hair tickling her cheek.
"Shall we go upstairs?"
"So you can have your wicked way with me?"
"So I can kiss my future wife in our bed," he replies, emotional and serious and eyes filled with love. He grabs her hand, kisses her knuckles just above the ring.
She smiles, slowly rising and blowing out the candles while he banks the fire for the night. She doesn't expect it when he lifts her easily into his arms, heading for the stairs to their bedroom.
"I'm not a bride yet, you know," she teases as they enter the bedroom, Killian carefully maneuvering her over the threshold before setting her down on the bed.
"Practice," he murmurs, the word half lost in the kisses he's already trailing across her stomach, his hand on her thigh. Emma's eyes slide closed, her breath catching as his tongue dips lower.
This is her life, now. A man who loves her, a good man, and a beautiful house, and soon, a husband. Friends and family who care for her, who help her, who make her feel cherished.
It's a place where the dreams win over the nightmares, where the firelight chases away the shadows, and where she falls asleep easily, wrapped in Killian's arms and promise she believes in.
Well, we've reached the end of this particular tale. It was tough to finish this one. I love these two, and this might be my favorite version of them I've written yet. It's been so lovely to have you all along for the ride, for the kind things you've said and your support. I hope it's a satisfying ending.
I haven't 100% settled on the next project, but right now, something with pirate Killian is winning. He's fun.
Happy last Sunday of the hiatus!