A/N: This is it folks! The last "real" chapter, though there will be a fluffy epilogue eventually. After all the angst in the last chapter, I promised that this one would make things better. And it does. Eventually...

So, without further adieu, I present - THE HAPPY ENDING!

CONTENT WARNING: Speaking of happy endings, there is significant SMUT at the very end of this chapter. If that's not your thing, start skimming where Killian asks if he's in trouble now, to where Emma says it was definitely not a one-time thing.

Emma awoke before dawn to a loud thud followed by muffled cursing coming from the other side of her bedroom wall. Killian...

Her knee-jerk reaction was to run after him, but what would she say? Sorry for trying to climb you like a tree, and then turning into a frigid bitch when you shot me down? That hardly seems to cover it. Actually, she thought, maybe it does...

Still, she owed him some kind of apology. She knew that much.

She dashed to the bathroom, scrambling to rub the inky smudges of mascara out from under her eyes and scraping her hair into a ponytail. Great. I've gone from looking like a zombie to looking like a corpse. Guess this isn't the time for vanity.

Grabbing a rumpled t-shirt and shorts off the floor, she tugged them on and ran for her front door, but as soon as her fingers touched the handle, she hesitated, her courage faltering. She wasn't sure she could face actually having to watch him as he walked away this time.

No. Don't be a coward, Emma. Go apologize like a grown-ass woman and tell him goodbye properly. He deserves that.

The creak of a door followed by more swearing and the rattle and squeak of luggage wheels told her this was it – the last minute. Emma opened her door just in time to see Killian slam his angrily, the reverberations strong enough to topple his suitcase, which hit the hallway floor with a clatter.

"Bloody buggering hell!" Killian hissed, rubbing his forehead. "What the fuck else is going to-" He froze, finally sensing her eyes on him, and slowly turned toward her. The look on his face stopped her heart.

Empty. His eyes were completely empty. Not only were they devoid of his usual light and warmth, but there wasn't even a trace of anger or sadness. Just nothing. Any hopeful delusion Emma had harbored was snuffed out that instant.

She crossed her arms protectively across her chest. "I- I couldn't let you go without telling you how sorry I am for how I acted last night. I was- I was just awful. You didn't deserve that, and I didn't want to leave us with such a bad goodbye."

Something Emma couldn't identify flashed behind his eyes, and she relaxed slightly. Any emotion from him was better than the nothingness she'd seen first. He took a step in her direction, and she saw his fingers twitch, but then he seemed to retreat inside himself again and turned away, reaching down to haul his suitcase upright.

He took a deep breath and finally turned to meet her eyes again. "I appreciate that, Swan." He nodded once, the corners of his mouth tilting slightly upwards in a weak imitation of his smile. "I hated for us to part that way as well."

That's it then. I was right. This is over. We're over. Emma shifted awkwardly, not knowing what to do with herself. "Um, okay then. I, uh, hope you have a safe trip." What the hell am I saying?

He cast his eyes down and stepped back. "Oh. Ah, yes. I should probably be going." He replied, hiking a thumb toward the staircase behind him.

Before she could stop herself, Emma's hand shot out in front of her. "So, then goodbye. I guess." A handshake? I'm offering him a fucking handshake?

Killian paused looking at her hand, an inscrutable expression on his face. He took her hand in his, then turned it over and brushed a kiss against her palm. "Goodbye, Emma," he breathed against her skin then released her hand. He turned and walked away without so much as another word or backwards glance.

Emma allowed herself five seconds to watch him go, then darted back into her apartment. She shut the door behind her, leaning her back against it then sliding down to the floor. She sat there rooted to the spot, her sadness deepening by the second. Unmoving, unblinking, so still that her first choking sob startled her. Then came another sob, then another, the pain of losing him breaking over her in waves.

When she finally peeled herself back off the floor and let her hiccups subside, she checked the clock. Ruby was due at the airport soon, and Emma didn't have her car. Killian had driven her home from the bar last night before... before everything went to hell. A deeper ring of hell, anyway.

She dug her phone out of her purse and dialed Elsa's number. After multiple rings, Elsa answered grumbling a few incoherent syllables that sounded distinctly like curse words.

"Hey," Emma croaked, her throat raw from sobbing, "Could you come pick me up?"

"Wow, you sound like shit," Elsa replied, slightly more awake by now. "Where the hell are you and why the hell do you need to be picked up at the crack of dawn?"

Emma sighed wearily. "I'm at home," she answered, "but I left my car at the bar last night. I'm supposed to pick Ruby up from the airport in a little over an hour."

"I'm getting the sense that there's a story here?" Elsa interpreted.

"You could say that."

"And I'm also guessing it doesn't have a happy ending?"

"You're two for two." Emma's voice cracked slightly. "Elsa knows all." Emma tried to laugh, but it came out as choked, painful sound.

"Oh, honey," Elsa sighed sympathetically. "I'll be right there."


Elsa arrived at Emma's apartment about 20 minutes later. For once, she didn't look like her fresh and frosty self. Instead of a Pinterest-worthy side braid, Elsa's hair was twisted into a haphazard knot. Fuzzy, Cookie-Monster-blue slippers graced her feet. Even in her current mental state, Emma couldn't help but snicker, albeit half-heartedly.

Elsa pointed a warning finger at her friend. "I don't want to hear it. You drag me out of bed on a Saturday morning, this is what you get."

"I'll behave," Emma replied. "It's just nice to see you looking like one of us ordinary mortals for a change."

Elsa rolled her eyes. "How are we doing on time before Ruby's plane arrives?"

Emma checked the time on her phone. "Fine. Plenty of time for you to drop me at my car and for me to drive to the airport."

"Do we have time to drop your car back here in between?"

Emma frowned in confusion. "Probably. Why?"

"Because there's no way in hell I'm gonna miss this story. Let's get your car taken care of and we'll pick up Ruby together and all go to Granny's so you can tell your whole family at once. With coffee. And pancakes."

Emma's eyes misted and she blearily nodded her assent. "Thank you," she squeaked. She cleared her throat before saying, "Let's go."


When they retrieved Ruby from the airport, it was all Elsa could do to get her to back down and allow Emma wait to tell them everything when they got to the diner. ("Alright, but dammit! I'm never leaving town again if every time you pick me up, you're in the middle of an existential crisis!")

When the three arrived at Granny's, the elderly woman took one look at Emma's face and shook her head. "You girls, go sit down. I'll get the coffee and join you in half a sec."

They did as instructed, taking up residence in a corner booth. Soon enough, Granny ambled over with a carafe of coffee in hand, pulled up a chair to the end of the table, and poured them all a cup.

Ruby had done all the waiting she could stand. "Honey, I'm not even going to ask if you're okay, because clearly you're not." She reached across the table and took Emma's hand, giving it an encouraging squeeze. "So, spill. Now. Whatever happened, we're all here for you."

Emma took a deep breath and spilled her guts. She told the whole sordid tale of Neal's betrayal, earning her several angry are-you-shitting-me's from Ruby and an offer from Granny to "take the crossbow out of retirement." Elsa didn't make a sound, but Emma could feel her friend shaking with rage next to her.

Before her surrogate family could burst into supportive indignation on her behalf, Emma continued with what transpired between her and Killian. There was no more righteous wrath from the group this time. As Emma's voice shook and finally broke into a watery sob, Elsa wrapped an arm around her shoulders and Ruby and Granny each gave one of Emma's hands a quick tight squeeze.

"So, it's over," Emma finished. "I pushed him away, and he let me. He's gone."

"No!" Ruby smacked the table with her hand emphatically, and pointed at Emma. "Don't you even think that. That man is crazy about you, and I'm pretty sure the feeling is mutual. You are not the girl that gives up, Emma. You just need to talk to him."

"I did talk to him," Emma sighed. "He literally said 'goodbye'."

"No. Ruby's right, Emma Ruth." Granny chimed in. "You need to fight for your man. A woman who doesn't fight for what she wants, deserves what she gets. That goes for your job, too." Granny paused, narrowing her eyes in contemplation. "Seems to me that since your fella is out in the middle of the ocean right now, it might just be a good idea to let him - and you - cool off for a bit. Take care of putting this Neal character in his place first. I'm sure the three of you girls can come up with some kinda plan, but if you get stuck, my crossbow is at your service."

Granny stood, then leaned in and gave Emma a maternal kiss on the forehead. "I've got faith in you, honey. You'll figure out a way to give those boys hell. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got customers to attend to, at least a little bit."

As soon as Granny had shuffled away, Elsa growled. "I feel completely impotent here. I'm just so pissed that that bastard Cassidy managed to time this so we'd be locked out of the system for the weekend." She slammed her fist on the table, then froze.

Emma waved a hand in front of her face. "Earth to Elsa. Where'd you go? I can see the cogs whirling in that brain of yours."

Elsa snapped to attention, grabbed her phone, and stood. "Do you guys mind if I step outside to make a phone call?"

Ruby raised her eyebrows and gestured toward the door. "Knock yourself out."

While they waited for Elsa to return, Ruby continued to try to convince Emma that Killian would come back. That he'd probably just show up one day with some silly romantic gesture and they could just kiss and make up.

Emma smiled wanly at her friend, but in her mind, all her thoughts were disparaging. I've been left behind again, and this time I know it's my fault. I pushed him away. I had the chance for something real, but now I'll never find my way back. Once a lost girl, always a lost girl.

Elsa returned wearing an expression Emma lovingly referred to as her "game face." Okay, let's deal with the problem that maybe we can actually fix, Emma thought, steeling her resolve. She huffed out a breath and sat up straighter in the booth.

"So what's the plan?" she asked. "I can tell you have one. Gimme something I can work with." Emma lowered her head and waved her hands toward herself as if to say lay it on me.

"Okay," Elsa began as she slid back into the booth. "I just got off the phone with Belle. You said Neal deleted all the emails between HIMSELF and you about the Midas brief. He didn't say anything about the ones between you and Belle or between you and me. We're gonna have to work really fast Monday morning when the system comes back online. As soon as it does, Belle and I will print out all those emails, and you can march right into Regina's office with at least some kind of proof."

Emma brightened as a small flicker of hope ignited inside her. "Do you think it'll be enough?"

Elsa shrugged and gave her a half-smile. "It's not much, but it's better than nothing. Belle and I will come with you for back up, too, if you want."

Emma wrapped an arm around Elsa and leaned her head on her friend's shoulder. "Thank you," she replied earnestly.

Elsa chuckled to herself. "It's the least we can do." She briefly rested her head atop Emma's. "It'll serve him right, and be a nice little piece of poetic justice to boot. That jackass always forgets about the paralegals, so it's only fitting that we get to help take him down."

One corner of Emma's mouth twitched up at that. They had a game plan. If nothing else, it gave her something to think about that wasn't the Killian-shaped hole in her heart.

No. I'm not going there now. One thing at a time.

Emma took a deep breath to center herself, and raised her head up from Elsa's shoulder. "Okay, enough about my mess." She turned her attention to Ruby. "This is the second deposition trip where you've come back only to have me rain on your victory parade. So, now it's your turn to spill. Did you make another witness cry?"

Ruby beamed and flicked her hair over her shoulder dramatically. "Damn right I did! They didn't even know what hit 'em. You mess with the She-wolf, you get the teeth." She punctuated the statement with a predatory chomp on a piece of bacon.

Emma and Elsa laughed, but Ruby went on talking excitedly through her mouthful of food. "Seriously guys - opposing counsel is now offering us a multi-million dollar settlement!"

Emma's jaw dropped open. "Rubes! That's amazing!"

"Hell yeah!" Elsa exclaimed, high-fiving Ruby across the table.

Ruby waggled an eyebrow and half-shrugged feigning nonchalance. "Ehn, all in a day's work."

Emma smiled, genuinely happy for her friend. If the smile didn't fully reach her eyes - if there was a shadow of pain still lingering there - then her friends had the good grace not to mention it.


Monday morning, Emma arrived early to work and headed straight to Elsa's office. Belle was already poised behind Elsa's computer when Emma arrived, the three having planned to meet there since Elsa had her own printer. It would be slower printing everything on the smaller device, but this way there was no risk of Neal catching Belle reproducing the incriminating emails on the industrial-sized communal machine.

At a quarter to nine, the announcement went out over the office intercoms that the system was back online and ready to use. Belle flew into action, logging into her email on Elsa's computer and sending everything to the printer as fast she could. The machine hummed to life, but it was slow and tedious. Sitting in a chair across from the desk, Emma couldn't help bouncing her knee nervously and stealing frequent glances at the clock.

8:50… 8:55… 9:00… Shit, the meeting is starting right now. I'm really going to have to storm the castle. I was hoping to get in there before Neal did.

"Done!" Belle pulled the last page off the printer with a flourish, and handed the stack to Emma. "Now you go get 'em."

"We'll be right behind you," Elsa added, giving Emma's arm a squeeze of solidarity. "Do you want us to come in with you?"

"No. I've got this," Emma stated with conviction. "But if you two don't mind waiting in the hall in case Regina wants to talk to you…?"
"Of course," Belle agreed. Elsa nodded her acquiescence as well.

Emma took a deep breath, gathering her courage. Her palms were beginning to dampen, and the feeling in the pit of her stomach was less the flutter of butterflies and more the swarming of angry hornets, but she was not about to back down.

"Then let's go," she replied. With that, she turned on her heel, squared her shoulders, and marched toward Regina's office. She was reassured more than she could say by the supportive click-clack of two additional sets of high heels against the polished wood floor behind her.

Just as the three arrived at Regina's door, it opened to reveal Neal Cassidy leaving. Emma froze but stood her ground, narrowing her eyes at Neal's cold glare until he stalked away. Despite maintaining a cool exterior, a pit opened up in the bottom of Emma's stomach.

I'm too late. The damage is done. She's not going to believe me.

"Miss Swan!" Regina's voice rang through the now fully opened door, snapping Emma back to attention. "Unless you intend to loiter in the hallway like a vagrant for the rest of the morning, I suggest you come inside."

Emma nodded and walked slowly and as calmly as she could into Regina's office, feeling every bit like a grade schooler being called in to see the principal. She noted with surprise that neither Cora Mills - Regina's mother and the other founding partner of the firm - nor Gold were present. Emma stopped behind a chair and gripped the back of it tightly with one hand, reaching out with the other hand to offer the stack of emails to her boss.

She took a breath and prepared to deliver the speech she'd been rehearsing in her head. But before she could utter a word, Regina took a cursory glance at the stack of papers in Emma's hand and held up her own hand in a stop gesture.

"Sit down, Miss Swan," Regina stated flatly. "Those won't be necessary." She indicated the emails with a tilt of her head.

Emma felt as though the ground was about to swallow her whole. "But, Ms. Mills…" she began desperately.

Regina raised a regal eyebrow and fixed Emma with a silencing stare. "I think you may be interested to know that Mr. Cassidy has just been fired."

Emma's eyes flew wide. What the? But… WHAT? She lowered her arm and absently placed the stack of emails on the seat of the chair in front of her.

Noting Emma's apparent sudden onset of muteness, Regina continued. "Do you recall several weeks ago in Miss Arendelle's office that you spoke to me about a strategy of yours regarding the Midas brief?"

Emma blinked, thinking back. She had talked to Regina about it - just a barely a few sentences, but then that was what had prompted Regina to ask for -

"The original red-line. You asked Elsa to send you the link." Emma replied, trying to keep her voice even while her thoughts did handsprings around her brain.

"Indeed." Regina nodded, seemingly pleased. "It was the oddest thing, you bringing up that brief to me. You see, Mr. Cassidy had never mentioned that you, or anyone else for that matter, were helping him with it. So, I checked the tracking on that red-line every so often. Just to see what other surprises Cassidy might have up his sleeve. Do you know what I saw?"

Emma shook her head, not wanting to say a word for fear the hope bubbling up in her chest would burst and dissipate.

Regina inclined her head toward Emma. "Your name in the metadata, Miss Swan. And eventually, Miss French's. No other user names had edited the file. Oh, Mr. Cassidy may very well have opened it and read it, as did I, but it appears he never so much as corrected a typographical error. That gives me a fair idea of who actually did the work." Regina paused and raised both brows, gesturing to Emma with one hand. "Unless of course, you're here to tell me that he dictated every word to you and you merely typed it up for him?"

Emma furrowed her brows, incensed. "Did he seriously try to tell you that?"

Regina scoffed and leaned back in her chair. "No, no. I'm afraid he wasn't quite creative enough to come up with that excuse when I confronted him this morning."

Some of the tension left Emma's body at that, her fists unclenching at her sides, as Regina continued. "You see, we at GMM - and most specifically I - do not take kindly to employees attempting to steal credit for the work of others. So, I canceled the meeting with the other partners this morning and called Mr. Cassidy in here to see if he could give me a satisfactory explanation as to why the red-line file I'd been watching for weeks suddenly and mysteriously disappeared Friday afternoon only to be replaced by a brand new nearly identical file minutes later."

Emma's heart hammered in her chest, but she managed to keep her voice steady. "Nearly identical?" she asked.

"Yes. The new file only had one author's name listed. Fancy that," Regina deadpanned. "And if one were to look at the tracking on the new file, it would appear that the entire document had been written in one sitting and within the span of about 5 minutes. Mr. Cassidy has a certain low cunning, which I presume he inherited from his father…" she paused giving a slight roll of her eyes, "but he's not quite as thoroughly clever as he thinks he is."

Emma huffed an incredulous laugh. "Apparently not."

"Needless to say, we do not tolerate such behavior at GMM - even from the son of a partner." She paused again, running an appraising eye over Emma. "I take it from your lack of response to my referring to Cassidy as Gold's son, you were already privy to that fact?"

Emma flushed slightly at the still raw memory of how she'd come to know of Neal's parentage. She nodded quickly. "Yes. I've, uh, been made aware."

Regina hummed. "Very well. Enough about Cassidy." She laced her fingers together and leaned forward resting her forearms on the desk. "Now let us discuss your future at this firm."

Emma blanched, briefly feeling as though the floor had disappeared from beneath her. "Ms. Mills, I-" she stuttered.

"You're a very talented attorney, Miss Swan," Regina interrupted, and Emma clamped her jaw shut with a soft click of her teeth. "And the work you did on the Midas brief is inspired. I have no doubt the clients will be very pleased with the outcome of our appeal. Moreover, I am impressed that you took the initiative that day in Miss Arendelle's office to tout your own work to me, and to come down here to speak up for yourself this morning. I respect a woman with backbone. Judging by the hovering presence of Miss Arendelle and Miss French in my corridor, you also seem to have earned the trust and respect of the administrative staff, which shows promising managerial and people skills. All these are necessary qualities for the partnership track."

At those words, Emma found her voice again. "Partnership track?"

"Yes, Miss Swan. The firm is prepared to offer you the position of Junior Partner effective immediately. The title comes with certain additional responsibilities including training and supervising new hires to the firm, as well as marketing and client relations, and, of course, maintaining your existing case docket. Miss Arendelle will be assigned to you exclusively to assist you with these additional duties. Do you accept?"

Relief and joy washed over Emma in waves. She stood, sure that she was grinning like an idiot, and extended her hand to Regina who gave it a curt, but professional shake. "Yes, ma'am. I accept."

"Good." Regina replied with a nod. "In case you are curious, the other Junior Partnership position is being offered to Miss Lucas as we speak. I trust the two of you will be able to work together?"

If possible, Emma smiled even more brightly. "I believe we can handle that."

"See that you do. Miss French will be re-assigned as Miss Lucas's paralegal effective immediately as well. Consider it your first act as Junior Partner to inform her, assuming she is still camped outside my door. Your new contract will be delivered to your office later this afternoon for your perusal. Now, if you'll excuse me, there is apparently quite a bit of paperwork involved in terminating an employee. Please shut the door behind you."

"Yes, ma'am. Thank you, Ms. Mills." Emma bobbed her head in what she would realize later embarrassingly resembled a curtsy and exited the office.

She ignored Belle and Elsa's questioning expressions, grabbing them each by an arm and practically running with them in tow to the break room. She gave them a quick whispered summary of the conversation in Regina's office, and they all hugged fiercely, squealing like schoolgirls. Emma finally felt like things were looking up.


"Rubes! Hurry up! Belle and Elsa will be here any minute," Emma called. She opened the fridge to check and see if the bottle of champagne she'd bought for the evening's celebration was properly chilled yet. Not that she was any kind of connoisseur, but it seemed cold enough to suit her. It would be just the thing to fancy up the dinner out they'd planned at her favorite B.Y.O.B Italian place.

"Alright, alright. I was emailing Vic the good news. Lemme just fluff my hair and I'll be good to go," Ruby replied from the next room.

I was emailing Vic the good news. It was a perfectly innocent offhand comment, but it hit Emma like a punch in the gut. The person she most wanted to share her good news with was gone. Maybe Vic will tell him, she thought. Maybe he'll care. Maybe some part of him can still be a little bit proud of me.

Emma allowed herself a few seconds to indulge in wistful misery, but as soon as she heard the knock on the door heralding Elsa and Belle's arrival, she shook off her dark humor and plastered on a smile to greet her friends.

There were moments during the dinner when Emma forgot the ache in her heart, when she laughed out loud, when her smile lit her whole face. Looking around the table, Emma was overcome with gratitude for these women. Like Granny had told her just over a week ago, she did seem to have a lot of family for an orphan. People who cared, who would fight by her side, who would pick her up when she fell.

After the check was paid, Belle rose from her seat. "I better head home and get some rest. Don't want to be late tomorrow, or my new boss will have my head," she said with a cheeky grin at Ruby.

Ruby laughed. "Yeah, I hear she can be a real bitch." She stood and pulled Belle in for a quick hug, Emma and Elsa following suit.

After Belle's departure, Emma turned to Elsa. "How about you? You wanna come over for popcorn and re-runs of trashy reality shows? I'm pretty sure your new boss is more scared of you than you are of her, so I think you're safe if you run late tomorrow."

"You got any Real Husbands of Storybrooke on the DVR? That's my fave," Elsa replied with exaggerated seriousness.

Ruby looked scandalized, pressing a hand to her heart. "Um, yeah! That one's the best. Hellooooooo Hot Dads Club."

Elsa chuckled, nodding her agreement. "Then I'm in. I'll follow you over there."


Back at Emma and Ruby's apartment, Elsa and Emma were seated on the couch while Ruby puttered around the kitchen getting the popcorn ready. Elsa played Sudoku on her phone and Emma restlessly flipped through the channels, only half-listening as Ruby prattled on about her favorite Real Husbands cast members.

"But seriously, Ginny and Josh - I mean, relationship goals right there. I just ship the hell out of them. I know you're never supposed to ship real people, but it's okay when they're actually married in real life, right?"

"Yeah, I think you're safe there," Emma murmured as a breaking news bulletin caught her eye. She stopped her channel surfing and turned up the volume, swatting Elsa's leg to get her attention. Elsa looked up at the image on the television and dropped her phone, completely ignoring the clatter as it hit the floor.

"Ruby," Emma called over her shoulder, unable to tear her eyes away from the screen. When Ruby continued her monologue ("There's no way that Sean getting Bex pregnant was an accident because come on - she's Lana's sister, but they don't look that much alike!"), Emma practically screamed at her. "RUBY!"

Ruby finally looked at the TV and stopped her drabble midword. She walked into the living room and sank slowly into her arm chair. "Is that…?" Ruby asked breathlessly, taking in the scene the reporter was describing in voice-over. The picture showed an oil platform nearly obscured by thick black smoke, with occasional bright licks of orange flame. The caption read: "Rig Fire in Gulf of Mexico."

"I was hoping you would know," Emma answered, her voice sounding strangely dead to her own ears. "I thought maybe you or Elsa knew the call sign or serial number or whatever the hell it is for the rig that Victor and Graham are on."

And Killian. Killian would be there, too.

Ruby shook her head. "I mean I do know it, but you can't really tell anything with all that smoke. It's not like I could pick a drilling platform out of a line-up."

"Same," Elsa added. "We should try to call them." She gave a sidelong glance to Emma, when she felt her friend tense on the couch next to her. "Vic and Graham, I mean. If it wasn't their rig, they should have a wifi signal, and we can reach them on Skype."

Emma pulled her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them, still clutching the remote control in one hand like a lifeline. Ruby grabbed her phone off the coffee table as Elsa recovered hers from the floor, and both women began frantically tapping their screens. Several painful moments later, they both lowered their phones from their ears. Emma looked desperately back and forth between her friends.

"Straight to voicemail?" Elsa asked.

Ruby exhaled heavily and nodded.

A reporter's face appeared on the screen, and Emma waved her free hand at the TV to direct her friends' attention. The news anchor stated that there were multiple reports of injuries, but the full extent of the damage and casualties was as yet unknown. All personnel were being evacuated. She gave the identifier of the rig and one look at Ruby and Elsa's faces told Emma exactly what she had feared. It was that rig. The horrifying image of smoke and fire and destruction they'd been watching on a loop for the last ten minutes - the guys were there.

Killian is there.

Ruby stood from her chair and moved toward the couch, giving Emma a nudge to indicate she should move over. Emma scooted to make room, and Ruby settled next to her grabbing a throw blanket from the arm of the couch and tossing it over her legs. Emma took hold of an edge of the blanket. She spread it so that it covered the three of them, and they all huddled together in silent commiseration, eyes glued to the TV.

Over an hour later with no new information, Elsa exhaled dejectedly and stood. "I'm gonna go." She mumbled, rubbing her tired eyes. "They're not going to tell us anything new tonight. There's no way to reach the guys, and even if by some miracle they had a cell or wifi signal, they're kind of in the middle of a crisis right now. I'm sure they're all focused on getting everyone evacuated." She paused, meeting both Emma's and Ruby's eyes in turn. There was a barely detectable crack in her voice as she continued. "We should all get some sleep. See what we can find out in the morning."

Emma and Ruby stood and walked her to the door. As it clicked closed again, Ruby turned to Emma. "She has a point, you know. We're really not gonna learn anything new about the accident tonight."

Emma rubbed the tense muscles at the back of her neck, then tilted her head up as though the ceiling could provide her the answers she wanted. "I know," she sighed.

"But there's no way in hell I'm going to be able to sleep tonight," Ruby added.

Emma lowered her face to meet her friend's empathetic gaze. "Me either," she replied with a small shake of her head.

Ruby pulled her into a hug. They didn't cry. Crying would make it too real, would be like some admission of defeat. They just held each other for a few moments, each grateful for the other's understanding, each happy to lend a little bit of her own strength to her friend.

"The guys are gonna be okay, Emma," Ruby whispered as they pulled away from each other. "All three of them."

Emma took a deep breath and nodded. "I'm just so…" she paused, wiping a hand across her face. What am I? Terrified? Angry with myself? Miserable? "I don't know. What if the last thing I get to say to him is 'goodbye, have a nice trip'?" She laughed bitterly. "What if I never get to..." Emma scrunched her eyes shut. "To tell him -"

"That you love him?" Ruby interjected with a knowing look.

Emma's eyes flew open, and she knew her face had gone white as a sheet as she stammered, "Ruby, no - I don't - I mean it's only been -"

Ruby crossed her arms and raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Mmhm. Girl, please. I can practically smell it on you."

Emma's heart pounded, her mouth hanging open. Is she right? She can't be right. It's way too soon. I mean that's crazy. Isn't it? Besides even if I do love Killian - and I'm not saying that I do - I've already fucked it up. I fucked it up, and he left, and now he might even be…

Rather than process her own emotions, Emma decided to go on the offensive. "So then what about you? Did you ever say the words to Victor?"

Ruby looked down shyly with a small half-smile. "I did, actually." Emma was stunned, both by Ruby's answer as well as her usually brazen friend's sudden demure behavior. Before Emma could formulate a response, Ruby continued, her voice now resolute, "Which is why I refuse to accept that our boys are anything but fine."

Emma blinked twice and exhaled heavily. "Fair enough, I guess. So…" she gestured in the direction of the couch and television. "If we're not going to sleep tonight, what do you say we get that Real Husbands marathon started? It'll be a good distraction so we don't go crazy, and we can check the news between each episode so we don't miss any updates."

Ruby grabbed Emma's hand and gave it a quick squeeze. "Sounds like a plan."


By a little after 1:00 the next afternoon, Emma was nursing her sixth cup of god-awful breakroom coffee, struggling to stay awake. She and Ruby had finally passed out in the wee hours of the morning, but even those few hours of sleep had been fitful. The silly reality show was supposed to have been a distraction, a means of taking her mind off the horrible fear and angst. But, the way one of the couples looked at each other...it was exactly the way that Killian looked at her. (HAD looked at me. Before.)

One of the guys, Colin, even looked a little bit like Killian if you squinted. Killian's eyes were much bluer, of course, and his smile more devilishly handsome, but the resemblance was enough that Killian's eyes haunted Emma's dreams. Specifically, the way those eyes had looked at her the last time she'd seen them: distant, hollow, unreadable.

She knew now. God knows I've been thinking about it enough. She knew that he had been as scared as she was. That he was as much a lost boy as she was a lost girl. Yet he had wanted to be there for her, to fight for what they had together (COULD have had together), even after she let Neal make a fool of her. Even after she'd made a fool of herself, trying to use Killian as little more than a plaything to soothe her battered ego. She was thankful now that he'd had the self-respect to stop her, to keep them from doing something that they both would've regretted later. But at the time, she was so broken, so terrified that he was finally seeing her for what she really was, that it had just felt like one more rejection. So, she'd rejected him instead. Rather than let him protect her heart, as he'd asked of her, she'd tried to protect it herself by shutting him out and managed to break both of their hearts in the process.

And now... Now, at least she'd gotten to apologize to him, but it wasn't enough. There was so much more she wanted to say, needed him to know. She didn't expect him to forgive her, (he shouldn't forgive me) but she owed him an explanation for her actions, needed him to know how thankful she was for everything he'd done for her, how much he meantto her. Means to me.

More than anything though, she just wanted him to be okay. Alive and whole. As much as she couldn't imagine her life without him, she would deal with it just as long as he was alright. She could find a way to deal with never hearing his smooth, soulful voice again. Never seeing the way the deep blue of his eyes flashed with light as he laughed and darkened with desire as he pulled her close. Never feeling the soft warmth of his lips or the way his strong calloused hands caressed her so gently. Never again spend hours just talking with each other, or wake up to his sleepy smile and tousled hair, his spicy, intoxicating and distinctly male scent surrounding her. Emma would find some means of making do without all of those things as long as Killian was safe and well.

Oh God, Ruby was right. I am in love with him. I love him and I need him to be okay. Please, God, just let him be okay.

Her silent prayer was interrupted by Ruby dashing frantically into her office holding a cell phone out in front of her. Seconds later, Elsa followed, looking perplexed.

Before Emma could do more than shoot Ruby a puzzled glance, Ruby tapped an icon on the phone and spoke. "Vic. I have Emma and Elsa here. You're on speaker. Now tell them what you just told me."

Emma stood and moved around her desk to huddle closer to the phone as Victor's voice crackled in from the other line. "There was a blow out on the rig. We still don't know exactly what the hell happened, but it ruptured one of the gas lines which caused the fire. I'm a little banged up, but Graham is still in the hospital in Houston."

Emma and Ruby both cut their eyes to Elsa, taking in her stricken expression and the way she unconsciously pressed a hand to her chest.

Victor's voice continued. "He and I were both hauling ass to evacuate our crew and Graham took a pretty good hit to the chest from falling debris. The doc said he's lucky it didn't crush his heart, but he's gonna be okay. Just some broken ribs right now. They're keeping him there for observation, they said. Make sure there's no internal bleeding or whatever. Hell, I don't know. I'm no doctor." Emma heard Elsa sigh in relief as Victor hesitated, seeming reluctant to go on. Emma held her breath.

"I haven't seen Killian since before the blow out. He was on the other end of the rig from me when it happened, and the hospital was a madhouse - people rushing around everywhere." He paused awkwardly, and cleared his throat. "For what it's worth there haven't been any reported deaths yet."

Yet. To Emma, the word seemed to hang in the air like a specter.

"Thanks, baby." Ruby spoke up. "Are you on your way up here?"

"Yeah, I'm on the road right now. I'll see you in a few hours. Love you, Rubes."

Ruby actually blushed. "Love you, too. Call me if you hear anything else."

Elsa had been looking down at the floor, lost in her own thoughts, but her head snapped up at that. She shot Ruby an incredulous look that clearly said 'we're talking about this later'.

Tucking her hair behind one ear sheepishly, Ruby ended the call and turned to Emma, but before she could say anything, Emma spoke first. "Elsa, you should go ask Regina if you can take off a day or two to go see Graham."

Elsa looked momentarily taken aback. "Oh." Her eyes darted between Emma and Ruby. "Do you think she'd approve it?" she asked hopefully.

"We don't have any pressing deadlines at the moment, and if something comes up, I'll get Belle to help me. You never take time off. You should go."

Ruby nodded her agreement. "Go. We'll somehow trudge along without you."

Elsa smiled gratefully and a little guiltily. "Thank you. I've got a few things I need to finish, and then I'll go talk to Regina. I'll call you both later tonight."

After Elsa's departure, Ruby turned her attention back to Emma, who seemed utterly fascinated with picking at her own fingernails. "Hey," she said softly. "He's okay. You know he's going to be okay. Victor said-"

"He said 'yet', Ruby. No reported fatalities yet." Emma murmured. She flicked her eyes up to meet Ruby's for a split second to let her point sink in, then resumed her anxious cuticle assault. "Even still, he could be hurt. You heard what happened to Graham." She looked up again and gave a curt shake of her head. "I just want to do some mindless paperwork and try not to think for a while."

Ruby offered her a sad smile. "Okay, honey. I'm here if you need me."

"Thanks. And Rubes? I'm really happy for you and Victor. Even if I don't exactly look it right now."

Ruby nodded and gave Emma's arm a pat, then turned and walked away. Emma flopped wearily into her desk chair, grabbed the nearest stack of documents to review and a red pen to mark them with, and buried herself in her work. She only allowed herself to think about Killian every fifth page or so. Maybe every third.

Eventually, she gave up trying not to think about him, her eyes constantly drawn to the cell phone sitting next to her coffee cup. Ruby got through to Vic finally. Maybe I could… Maybe he's…

She was pushing the 'Killian' speed dial button on her phone before she could talk herself back out of it. After several rings, a mechanical voice came on the line. "Killian Jones is not available at this time. Please leave a message and he will return your call as soon as possible."

Emma smiled ruefully to herself, cursing her own foolishness, and waited for the beep. "Killian, it's me. It's Emma. I heard about what happened on the rig, and Victor called Ruby, but he hadn't seen you, and I know we're not…" Emma paused, her breath hitching. She knew her voice was cracking like a pubescent boy's, but she didn't care as she continued, "I just want to know that you're okay. Please. Just let me know if you're okay."

She hung up the phone and rested her head in her hands for ten seconds. Ten seconds she allowed herself for another silent prayer and wallowing in self-loathing, then she picked her pen back up and got back to work.


Emma didn't look up from her laptop when she heard the tentative knock on her door hours later. "Elsa, it's after 5:00. Get your ass on the road. I am perfectly capable of holding down the fort without you, while you take care of Graham."

"So Elsa's off to see Graham, then?" It was the last voice Emma expected, and the one she was most desperate to hear. Her fingers froze on her keyboard and she slowly lifted her eyes to see Killian standing in her doorway. He was scratched and bruised, one cut on his right cheek looked deep enough to leave a scar, but he was alive and intact and right there in her freaking office. "That's good. He's restless as hell in that hospital. I know he'll be glad of her company."

Emma felt as though she was seeing a ghost. Her mind struggled to comprehend and catch up. Brows furrowed, she shook her head slowly, almost expecting the image of him to disappear if she angled her head the wrong way. A breathless "How are you here?" was the only response she could manage.

A flush crept across Killian's cheeks, and he shuffled his feet nervously. "Oh. Well, a receptionist let me in. I guess I should've asked her to buzz you, to see if you were busy." He babbled, becoming visibly more anxious by the second, but Emma was still too shocked by his presence to interrupt him. "I, ah - I got your message. I would've called to tell you I was coming, but my phone ran out of battery on the drive up from Houston, and my charger is at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico by now." He shrugged and restlessly fiddled with his rings. "So, you saw on the news about the accident?" He took a step closer to her.

Emma nodded mutely, never taking her eyes off his face. The accident where I thought you were dead or lying in a pool of blood somewhere? And I never got the chance to talk to you again? To tell you - ! You mean that accident?

Seeming to realize that Emma either could not or would not be contributing to this conversation, Killian cast his gaze to the floor, thumbing at the inner corner of one eye and then continued. "After they evacuated us, by the time I got to the hospital, Vic had already been released. I checked in with Graham, and then hit the road as soon as the doctor cleared me."

He gave a hollow laugh and self-deprecating smile as he paced closer still. "I drove straight to Dallas. Dirty. Bloody. No sleep. I went to your apartment, but you weren't home. I figured you were still at the office, so I just showered and came straight here. I…" He paused twisting his rings again. "I suppose I should've waited until you got off work and came home, but I was too keen to see you, to hear your voice."

The earnestness in his voice caused Emma's breath to catch, the slight sound making Killian finally look up to meet her eyes again. A few more steps brought him to stand behind one of the chairs across from Emma's desk. He gripped the back of the chair. "I hate the way we left things, Emma." His voice was stronger now, still hesitant, but without the undertone of defeat. "I, uh, also wanted to give you something. Victor told me about your promotion before the accident. That's bloody amazing, Swan." His eyes shone with pride for her, and Emma felt her own begin to mist. Say something. Say anything. Don't just sit there.

He pulled a tiny drawstring pouch out of his pocket as he moved around Emma's desk to stand beside her. She raised one hand, and he gently placed the item in her upturned palm. Then he took a seat in a chair across from the desk, looking at her expectantly. "Maybe now this could be considered a congratulatory present."

Emma opened the pouch, and pulled out a small gold disc, about the size of a dime, strung on a delicate chain. The disc had an eight-point star cut out of the middle, and as she turned it over in her fingers, she could make out tiny engraved letters at the four cardinal points: N, S, E, W. Her mouth dropped open as recognition blossomed, her breathing becoming shallow.

"It's a compass," she whispered as much to herself as to him. She raised her eyes to his face, only to catch him grinning sheepishly, one hand scratching behind an ear.

"Aye. Well, you see," he began awkwardly, "I saw that in a shop last week, before -" He paused and gestured vaguely between them, a shadow passing over his expression. "Before what happened. Actually, I found it the day after you accepted my key." He paused, a small smile briefly lighting his features at the memory. "It stuck with me, what you'd said about feeling like a lost girl. I'd felt deeply lost myself for a long time. You gave me hope and direction again, Emma. You became my true north. You are my compass, guiding me home. And you deserve to have that, too. To find your home and family and- and love." He barely breathed the last word, casting his eyes to the floor again.

Emma's eyes widened. What is he saying? He can't mean - not after how I've treated him.

He huffed out the ghost of a laugh and looked back up at something in the distance, a wry half-smirk twisting his lips. "When I heard your message, I- I hoped that..." He closed his eyes and cast the thought away with a quick shake of his head. "No matter." He opened his eyes to finally lock on hers, and she could see the quiet resolve in their blue depths.

No. No he thinks that- Say something. He's gonna leave again if you don't. Why can't I make words?! Ugh!

He spoke with calm determination. "You need to know you're worthy of those things - home, family, love, all of it - and I have every faith that you can and will find whatever you're still seeking. I thought maybe now the compass could be my way of reminding you that you don't need to feel lost ever again. You truly already have a home and people who love you - a family of the heart instead of blood. I'd like to be a part of that still, if you'll allow me. We can go back to where we started - mates again, or-"

"Killian, stop." Emma finally found her voice again. "I don't want that. I don't want to be mates."

His face fell. "Right." He absently nodded and quickly rose from the chair, looking anywhere but at her. "Right, then. I'll just-"

"I love you." She said it simply and quietly, unconsciously clenching her fingers around the tiny golden compass in her hand. Killian stood still as a statue, his turn to be bereft of the power of speech. "I love you. I was scared and I pushed you away and then you were gone - just gone."

Emma stood and walked around her desk toward him, her voice getting louder and more ragged with each step, the words tumbling over each other. "And then everything went right - Elsa and Belle and I, we stopped Neal and I got the promotion. But you were still gone and I should've been happy, but I couldn't be - not really - because I couldn't share it with you. And then last night -"

She was right in front of him now, ignoring the stupefied look on his face, wanting to smack him as much to make sure he was really there as anything else. All the fear and anxiety of the last 20 hours (had it really been less than a day?) suddenly coming out as anger.

"Last night everything went to hell-" she struck his shoulder with the flat of one hand, still clutching the compass in her other fist "-and I didn't know if you were alive or dead-" smack! "-and you didn't call-" smack! "-and don't you ever do that to me again!" The last phrase came out as a snarl and Emma stood panting, glaring up at Killian with eyes of fire.

He pulled her into a crushing embrace. Emma stiffened in his arms, still huffing, but didn't resist. He buried his face in her hair, closing his eyes and breathing in her scent. "I must be going mad," he murmured, then pulled back again, just far enough to look her in the eyes. He searched her face for a moment in disbelief, then broke into the brightest, goofiest grin Emma had ever seen on him, and she knew that he must have seen the love she felt shining back at him. Oh, it was mixed with anger and fear and relief and the dozen or so other emotions swirling through her, but the love was definitely there, clear as day.

He raised one hand to caress her face, catching a golden strand of her hair and idly sliding it through his fingers. "You're mad." He chuckled. "And bloody brilliant and beautiful." He smiled softly at her, his eyes glowing with wonder. "And I love you, too. God, Emma I love you so much."

Though she couldn't have said who moved first, Emma's lips touched his, a tentative brush, then building into something sensual and intimate, brimming with promise and light. Emma twined her arms around his neck, smiling against his mouth as their bodies swayed together.

Killian broke the kiss first, eyes still closed, and leaned his forehead down to touch hers. "I was so afraid I'd never get to do that again. I'm so sorry, love. I never should have left, but I thought that was what you wanted. I was hoping you'd change your mind." He leaned back enough to look her in the eyes, and furrowed his brow. "But then you didn't knock. On the wall, I mean. I took that as a sign that you were done with me. And then that next morning, you just..." He shook his head. "You just seemed to want to tell me goodbye. To let us part on good terms. I mean, I did appreciate that. I don't think I'd have been able to survive seeing you every day, living right next to you, if we couldn't even talk to each other. But there you were, offering me the hand of friendship and bidding me adieu, when all I wanted was to pull you close and hold you until the world made sense again."

Emma raised her brows in disbelief. "Are you kidding me? I thought you didn't want me anymore. The way you looked right through me, and then walked away..." she shuddered at the recollection of his empty eyes. "And rightly so. I'd earned it."

Killian scowled at that, but before he could protest, Emma sighed and cupped his face with her hand pressing a silencing thumb to his lips. "You have nothing to be sorry for, do you hear me? I meant it that day, when I said I owed you an apology. I didn't listen to you. I shut you out and pushed you away. All that after basically trying to use you as a sex toy."

Killian raised a rakish eyebrow, nipping at Emma's thumb and making her laugh as she snatched it away. He curled his hands around the curve of her hips, pulling her closer. "Under more favorable circumstances, love, I'd be more than happy to be your sex toy." The low growl of his voice sent a wave of warmth through her body. Though she rolled her eyes at him, the way she instinctively wet her lips betrayed her.

"You're incorrigible," she declared. "And I really am sorry."

"You're forgiven," he replied. "And I really do love you."

Unable to contain her happiness, Emma claimed his lips again, pouring into the kiss every last drop of emotion that she'd been saving up since she'd last seen him. Her pain and fear, yes, but now her relief, her joy, and, most of all, her love.

And maybe a little bit of desire.

Okay, maybe a lot.

He wrapped one arm firmly around her waist, then slid his other palm slowly up her back, fingers splayed until they tangled into her hair. With every brush of their lips, every glide of their tongues, he pulled her closer, closer, as though any speck of empty space between them was intolerable.

When they finally broke for air, Emma took a step back and opened her hand, holding it out to display the compass necklace still in her palm. She batted her eyelashes coquettishly. "Help me put it on?"

Killian plucked the delicate chain from her hand with a roguish grin, and Emma turned so her back was to him. He gently swept her hair to the side, trailing his warm fingers across the back of her neck and leaving goosebumps in their wake. He stepped closer and Emma could feel the heat of his body even though they weren't touching yet. He leaned in, running his hands down her arms, and pressed a kiss to the little spot of flesh left exposed by Emma's neckline right where her neck met her shoulder. Emma squirmed in delight as his scruffy beard (slightly longer than usual, she noted) tickled against her skin. As he draped the necklace across her throat, his fingertips gently caressed her collarbone, making her shiver. Carefully, he fastened the clasp, then pressed one more hot, open-mouthed kiss to the nape of her neck. Emma moaned softly, letting her head tilt forward as her eyes closed.

"You, sir, are a menace," she purred.

He wrapped his arms around her, pressing himself flush against her back. "And you love me." She could feel the rumble of his voice in every part of her. He nuzzled the shell of her ear. "Say it again."

Emma smiled turning her head so their cheeks brushed. "I love you, Killian Jones."

As Emma turned back around to face him, the next thing she knew, Killian gripped her waist and lifted her off the ground, spinning them in a half-circle with a carefree laugh before setting her back down again. Emma giggled, actually giggled, as Killian very formally took her right hand in his, keeping his other hand on her waist. He began moving the two of them in a rhythmic pattern.

"What's this that we're doing now?" Emma laughed again as she stumbled over her own feet.

Killian arched an eyebrow at her. "It's called a waltz, love. Don't worry. I've got you." He winked and flashed a sultry grin.

"We're in my office," she replied, eyebrows raised.

"It's after hours," he countered with a shrug, then leaned in to whisper conspiratorially. "Didn't stop you from making out with me a minute ago, did it, darling?" He crinkled his nose mischievously. "Just go with it," he replied giving a suggestive pop to the final 't'.

Emma shook her head, as she relaxed into the movement allowing him to sweep her along. Smug bastard, she thought, there's not even any-

Before she could finish her thought, she realized Killian was humming, his lips pressed together, still smiling like an idiot. It only took a few bars for her to recognize the song he'd played for her the night they'd had their picnic during the blackout. Her smile faltered and blood rushed to her face as she remembered their other activities that evening. Wanton thoughts flitted into her mind, making her wonder what else might have happened if the damn fire alarm hadn't gone off.

Her gaze wandered down to his mouth, just in time to catch him grazing his teeth across his lower lip. She looked up into his eyes and found them impossibly darker, lids lowered slightly in an expression that might have looked lazy if not for the obvious want lurking in its depths.

Killian slowed their movement until they were simply swaying clutched tightly to each other like teenagers at a school dance. Emma closed her eyes and rested her head against his shoulder, sighing in contentment. Killian pressed a kiss to her forehead, and quietly sang one final chorus:

I won't give up on us, even if the skies get rough,

I'm giving you all my love, I'm still looking up.

They stilled completely, so engrossed with each other the outside world might as well not have existed. Emma raised her head, threaded her fingers into his hair and kissed him as though his lips were her only source of oxygen.

She had no idea how long they stayed that way before a familiar and unwelcome voice from her doorway interrupted the moment.

"Well isn't that just adorable," Neal sneered.

"The hell are you doing here, Cassidy?" Emma snarled, instinctively placing herself between Killian and Neal.

"I just came by to finish cleaning out my desk, thanks to you. Nice job throwing me under the bus with Mills. I honestly didn't think you had it in you. But don't worry, honey, I'll make sure you get what's coming to you for that little play."

Killian stepped around Emma toward Neal. "Actually," he interjected, stalking closer to Neal with a predatory grace, "I don't think you've quite gotten everything that you have coming to you just yet." Before Neal could react, Killian punched him squarely in the face.

"Fucking psycho!" Neal's hand shot to his nose, and Emma could see the blood dripping down behind his fingers. "This isn't over," he growled and stormed out of Emma's office.

Emma stood frozen in place for a split second, gaping at Killian as he rubbed his knuckles, his jaw still clenching in anger. That may have been the single hottest thing I've ever seen, and I'm not even gonna think about what that says about me. A heady mixture of pride, gratitude, and, most of all, arousal for her pirate (and he has never seemed more like a pirate than right now) flooded through her body.

When she spoke, her voice came out low and thick with desire. "Killian."

He looked up at her, brow furrowed. "My apologies, love, but that bloody git deserved it."
"Killian," she repeated breathily. "Lock the door." She raised an eyebrow to mimic his signature lascivious smirk.

A feral grin crossed his features as he finally caught her intentions. He closed the door, twisting the deadbolt home with a click, then rounded on her. "Oh?" He pursed his lips suggestively, canting his head to the side. "Am I in trouble now, lass?"

He swaggered toward her, leading with his hips. Before he'd gone three steps, Emma closed the distance between them and pounced on him, feverishly capturing his lips. Killian's back hit the nearest wall, and he growled low in his throat as Emma's mouth moved away from his, her lips and tongue tracing the scruffy line of his jaw. She reached his ear and scraped the lobe between her teeth just hard enough to make him hiss. "What do you think, pirate?" she whispered.

She felt the vibration of his moan through her chest, and leaned back to look at him, keeping their hips pressed firmly together. He looked wrecked, hair mussed by her wandering fingers, eyes nearly black with lust, and she knew she must look just as far gone.

He studied her for two heartbeats, seeming to consider something, the only sound their heaving breaths. Then without warning he pushed off the wall, bowing his head to mouth "Hold on" against the pulse of her throat.

Killian cupped her ass with his hands and lifted her. Emma gasped, but took the cue, wrapping her legs around his waist (glad I wore a dress today!) and locking her hands at the nape of his neck. Her lips found his again and she arched into him as he slowly walked the two of them over to her desk.

Emma felt herself jostle slightly. The swish and clatter of papers and office supplies being knocked to the floor registered somewhere in her hazy mind, but with the way Killian was sucking on her lower lip, she just couldn't bring herself to give a damn. As soon as he deposited her on the desktop with a soft thump, her fingers reached for the hem of his t-shirt, breaking their kiss to pull it up and over his head. She took a moment to take in the view, seeing for the first time the extent of his injuries. Besides the marks she'd seen earlier on his arms and face, Killian had a bruise the size of her palm on one shoulder, and the muscled planes of his chest and stomach were marred with smaller welts and scratches. Emma was jolted by the realization of just how close she'd come to losing him forever.

"Hey." He ducked his head into her line of sight to make her meet his eyes again. "You don't have to worry about me, love. I'm a survivor." He slid his hands up her thighs under her skirt, the contact with her bare skin scorching her. "As you can see, everything important is still in tact."

Emma rolled her eyes and smiled, leaning forward to kiss him.

Those lips still seem to work.

That tongue, too.

She reached for his belt buckle, but he pulled back from her. A pang of doubt shot through her for a split second, but his intentions were made clear when he moved a hand from her thigh to untie the belt of her dress, unwrapping the fabric from her body. He placed his hands on her waist then ran them up her ribs. His thumbs grazed the sides of her breasts as his hands continued up to her shoulders, caressing back down her arms and removing the last remnants of her dress in the process, leaving it to drape across the desk beneath her like a blanket.

His eyes roamed over her every curve and freckle, catching on the tiny golden compass around her neck, his expression awestruck. "I want to worship every glorious inch of your body, Swan, but to be perfectly honest, I don't think I have the patience to do that right now."

Emma laughed and took his hand in hers, guiding him to where she was aching for him, the wetness of her arousal evident through the thin cotton of her underwear. Killian inhaled sharply, his tongue darting to the side of his mouth as his fingers began to stroke her, making her hum with pleasure.

"As - mmmm - you can see - oh!- I'm a bit impatient myself." Emma gasped as his hand found its way past the waistband of her underwear and into her slick bare flesh, his fingers dipping, teasing, coaxing.

Emma let her head drop back, bracing her hands against the desk to keep herself upright. His free hand moved from her hip, slowly gliding up her stomach, his thumb tracing idle circles as he went. He cupped her breast, testing its weight, squeezing gently. One hand worked the pebbled flesh of her nipple, while the fingers of the other curled inside her, hitting just the right spot (God, those hands are amazing!), and she began to see stars. But, it wasn't enough. She needed all of him. Now.

She took a deep, shuddering breath and sat up straight again, taking hold of his wrists to still his ministrations. "Pants. Off," she commanded.

Killian hesitated, concern creeping into his lust-darkened eyes. "Emma, are you sure?"

She gave him her brightest smile and pulled him in for a quick, soft kiss. "I've never been more sure of anything." She replied, reveling in the joyful grin he offered her. "And I don't want to wait another minute."

He stepped back, hastily unbuckling his pants and sliding them down his legs along with his boxer briefs, pausing only to retrieve a small foil packet from his wallet.

As Emma slid her underwear off, she asked with a wry smile, "Do I want to know why you had that with you?"

"Ah, well…" Killian placed the packet in her open hand with an unabashed smirk. "I may have put that in my billfold right after our little late night picnic. Good form to be prepared and all that." He waggled his eyebrows at her. "Care to do the honors?"

Emma laughed and opened the packet. She relished his groan of pleasure as she sheathed him, giving him a few extra strokes with her hand for good measure. She scooted to the very edge of the desk, inviting him into the V of her thighs and running her palms up to rest on his chest.

"Now. Come here." The light in her eyes belying the serious tone of her voice.

"As you wish, love," he replied simply, then claimed her body in one smooth thrust.

They moved slowly at first, giving her body time to adjust to his size. Then their pace accelerated, becoming frenetic, desperate. Needy.

Oh, yes. God, I just need more.


Right there.

Oh, fuck yes.

Killian's hand reached between them and rubbed his thumb hard against her sensitive nub. Seconds later, Emma had to bite down on his shoulder to stifle her cry of ecstasy as they tumbled over the edge together.

As they held each other, basking in the afterglow, their breathing finally slowed to normal. Killian gave her a slow, lazy kiss. "That was-"

"Amazing," Emma finished. "And definitely not a one-time thing."

"Thank heavens for that," Killian chuckled. "What say we set ourselves back to rights and head home for another go?"

He nipped playfully at her chin, as she tossed her head back in a laugh. "Still in a hurry, are we?"

"Not at all, my love. We have all the time in the world. I merely intend to make the most of it," he replied with a wink.

Emma smiled and kissed him again before they broke apart and went about the mundane business of tidying up. Finally deeming themselves presentable again, Killian moved to the door to unfasten the deadbolt. Emma paused next to the section of wall where she'd pinned him not so long ago.

Killian's hand stilled on the door handle as he heard her tap the wood paneled wall three times with her knuckle. He looked up at her and was once again overwhelmed with the emotion he read in her eyes.

"Love you, Jones."

He took her in his arms, kissing her senseless for a few precious seconds, then reached a hand up and tapped the wall three times as well.

"Love you, Swan."

A/N (continued): I hope you all enjoyed reading this half as much as I enjoyed writing it! Special thanks to my wonderful betas/editors captainswannl29 and accio-ambition for kicking my ass to make this story better. I love you ladies!

As always, I'd love to hear what you thought about the story. Review, review, review!