Killian is stunned when his name is called. The walk to the stage is a blur, his heart racing as he concentrates on not tripping in front of colleagues and millions of TV viewers alike.
He never expected to win. Aye, it's a Hollywood cliché, but it is an honor just to be nominated.
His eyes find Emma's as he steps up to the podium and the rest falls away. Regina made him prepare a speech despite his protest he had almost no chance of winning, and he's thankful as he launches into it.
The rehearsed lines calm him, the sensation of slipping into a role known territory. But even as he rattles off the appropriate thank yous to studio heads and directors, there's really only one person he wants to thank.
"And the biggest thank you of all to my incredible fiancée. Emma, you are the best part of my life, and I wouldn't be standing here without you. You make me a better actor, and more importantly, a better man. I love you."
Killian catches the shine in Emma's eyes as he turns to walk off-stage, one hand hovering over her chest where the engagement ring rests on a chain below her dress. She had insisted on it, not wanting to turn this particular night into a media circus over their engagement when the attention should be on him and his accomplishments.
Of course Regina had agreed with her.
Despite her death-trap shoes, Emma manages to make it backstage only moments after him. "I won," he says unnecessarily, grinning for all he's worth as she stops in front of him, very obviously trying not to smile.
"Yes, I see that. But I told you tonight was about you." Emma huffs, but her eyes sparkle and she's doing an increasingly poor job of hiding her smile.
"Aye, but you're a part of me, love." The award is heavy in his hand, and he still can't believe it's really his, but it doesn't stop him from pulling Emma into his arms, her familiar softness and scent grounding him from the overwhelming rush of the win.
"Congratulations, Killian. You deserve this. I couldn't be prouder." She leans back enough to kiss him lightly, but as they break apart the silver chain around her neck catches the light. He rubs his thumb against it, grazing her neck and drawing a shiver out of her that makes him wish they were alone at home.
"Since the jig is up, do you think perhaps…"
Emma smiles up at him, reaching to pull the long chain over her head. The diamonds sparkle as she slides the ring off the chain and puts it in its proper place on her left hand. It's barely been twenty-four hours since he put it there and his chest tightens at the sight. He slips his fingers between hers after carefully tucking the chain into his pocket, placing a gentle kiss on her knuckle above the ring before brushing another against her forehead.
"I don't suppose we could sneak off home to celebrate on our own?"
"Regina will kill you."
"Aye, she'll be here any moment, I'm sure." He ducks to kiss Emma once more, this time making it count. It will be hours yet before they get home, hours of press and appearances. As Regina has so helpfully pointed out, a win at the Globes makes him a strong contender for an Oscar nomination – a bloody Oscar – so it doesn't hurt to socialize with the Academy members.
The award is important, and it's a monumental achievement – but Killian is more interested in celebrating his engagement with his soon-to-be-wife.
"C'mon," Emma says, wrapping her arm around his waist and nudging him with her hip. "The sooner you do the press room the sooner it's over." She stops, giving him what he supposes is her idea of a stern expression. "This night is about you and your accomplishments, okay? They can ask all their questions about us some other night."
"Whatever you say, darling."
Regina finds them on their way to the press, scowling deeply. "We agreed…"
"I'm terribly sorry."
"No, you're not."
"Not in the slightest." He grins at his manager, brushing one last kiss against Emma's cheek before releasing her. "Time to feed the lions," he says cheerfully to Regina, glancing back at Emma. The ring twinkles in the lights as she waves him on his way.
Much, much later, David finds him at the bar of yet another after party as he waits for Emma's wine and his rum. They told their friends about the engagement this morning, along with a call to Henry, but David still slaps him on the shoulder with a hearty, "It's about damn time."
"Why, Dave, I never knew you were such a fan of my work."
"You're an ass. I meant Emma."
Killian's eyes automatically find her in the room, happily chatting away with Mary Margaret. The ring flashes as she moves her hands, leaving a deep sense of contentment in his chest. "I almost can't believe she said yes, mate. To know that she's truly mine, that we will be together…"
David's expression softens, his eyes finding his own wife. "I know the feeling."
Killian is nominated for the Oscar.
In the very early hours of the morning, Emma watches from the doorway as he carefully places the statue next to his other awards, the same awed expression he's been wearing all night still clinging to his features.
He's not wearing his suit jacket, the sleeves of his shirt rolled to the elbows, his tie discarded, but he still paints an appetizing picture. She's seen plenty of Killian in formal wear, but there was something about him in his tux tonight, something about knowing he's going to put on a tux on another important day in the near future, that makes him irresistible.
She walks up behind him slowly, folding her arms around his waist and kissing his shoulder as she rests against him. He leans back into her ever so slightly, a content sigh falling from his lips. "I listened to you tonight. I did not gush, as you so delightfully put it."
Emma smiles against his back, her grip tightening. "They had their fun talking about us last month. Tonight was all about you and your incredible talent."
He turns away from the awards, threading his fingers through her hair. "I wouldn't be here without you."
"I don't know about that."
"Emma." He's serious when he says her name, his eyes as dark blue and intense as she's ever seen them. "I know. You saved me."
She's quiet for a moment, tracing the line of exposed skin between the open collar of his shirt as she tries to gather her thoughts. It's been an emotional few weeks, the high of his win and the stress of the new nomination, all for a movie that represents a dark chapter of their past – but also a testament to their strength.
"Before I met you, hell, even after I met you, I was convinced no one was ever going to save me. I had to save myself. I had to do everything for myself, because I was the only one I could rely on. I was wrong. We've saved each other, Killian. I know it hasn't been an easy road for us, but I can't wait to be your wife."
"I will call you Mrs. Jones every chance I get, until you tire of it."
"I don't think that's going to happen."
"Is that a challenge, Mrs. Jones?"
"That's cheating. We're not married yet."
"Shall we go to the courthouse tomorrow?"
Emma laughs, rolling her eyes at his hopeful expression. "If I thought you were serious, I would say yes in a heartbeat. But I know you. You're too romantic to not want the white dress and the cake and the dancing." Her thoughts wander back to that first Halloween, dancing together in the entryway by candlelight. "Especially the dancing," she adds, voice soft.
His hands slide into position without a word, and there's no music, but they sway together around the room to their own tune. Emma's heart could burst with happiness as she lays her cheek against his shoulder, breathing him in and sighing as his arms curl around her waist.
"We haven't spoken much of the wedding," Killian says after a few minutes. He doesn't stop their dance, still moving easily with her, but there's an undercurrent in the words. "I know you wished for me to focus on the awards, but it's over now."
"You had enough to stress about."
"Marrying you is not a cause of stress."
Emma sighs, stepping out of his embrace and pushing her hair out of her eyes. She doesn't want to have this discussion now – she wants Killian to keep dancing with her, or to strip her out of her dress, or anything but this conversation.
But once she opens her mouth, she can't stop.
"It's not getting married. It's the logistics of getting married. We have to find a venue that we like but won't be overrun by the paparazzi. And is available on a date that works with your shooting schedule. And I'm sure Regina has a mile long list of people she wants you to invite. And I have to find a dress – a dress that every magazine is going to print pictures of and scrutinize and judge. And I don't want to care about any of that, because I want so very badly to marry you, but I do care."
"You've been holding onto that for a fair bit of time, haven't you?"
"Yes," Emma admits reluctantly as she leans back against the wall. "I just... you had enough to deal with."
He frowns, scrubbing his palm over his face before capturing her gaze with a piercing stare. "I need you to understand you are not now, and you will never be, something I have to deal with. I want to know when you're upset, darling. Even if you're upset with me." He crosses the distance between them, tugging her back into a fierce hug. "And I don't give a damn about anything other than you being happy and my wife."
"I don't want a giant Hollywood wedding," she mumbles into his chest, the last of the words she's been holding on to for weeks finally escaping. "I know it's expected, and I know this comes with the job, but…"
"There is a lot that comes with this job, but our wedding day is ours, love. Ours. Forget Regina. Forget what you believe is expected. What do you want, Emma?" He leans back enough so their eyes catch, and though his voice is gentle, there's a fierce determination in his expression.
"I want to marry you."
He chuckles, kissing her forehead and running a hand down her back. "Aye, and I'm bloody glad for it. But you must have thought about it, if not before, then certainly since we got engaged." His hand finds hers, his thumb rubbing over the ring on her finger.
He's right – she has thought about it. But what she really wants and what's possible…
"I want our house by Granny's," she begins, relieved when Killian only hums in agreement. "I want small. Really small. I want spring when everything is green. And I want daisies even though I know they're not supposed to be wedding flowers. And I don't want to wear shoes."
"All right?" Emma fidgets with her ring, finally looking up into his eyes. "That's your answer?"
"Aye. It all sounds lovely. And our home is surely available on any date we choose," he says with a chuckle, his palms cupping her cheeks. "Whatever you desire, Emma. I mean it."
"I still have to find a dress."
"Afraid I'm a bit useless in that department. But Mary Margaret would surely go with you and you will be stunning no matter what you choose."
"She is a bridesmaid. I hear I'm supposed to torture them a bit."
"Their wedding was lovely. I recall her being quite beautiful in her dress, so I'm sure she will be glad to assist."
Killian smirks, bending to kiss her. "Not as beautiful as you shall be, love," he all but growls right before delivering a breath-stealing kiss. "Now that's settled, I believe we should go to bed after such a long evening."
"Not a bit," he responds with a gleam in his eye. "But I will be when I'm through with you."
"I saw that yawn," Emma teases from Henry's bedroom door. It's late, probably after midnight, but he's staring blearily at the video game he's been playing nearly since they arrived after nine. "Killian will understand if you fall asleep, Henry."
"His flight lands any minute. I'm good."
She smiles, stepping into his room and pressing a kiss to his forehead. He scowls, pulling away immediately with a face. At sixteen, he isn't overly fond of his mother's affection – or at least, he likes to act as though he isn't. "You know what LAX is like on a Friday night. He won't be home for hours."
Her son frowns at her, pausing the game and setting down the controller. "I told him you've been sick. Maybe Dad can make you go to the doctor."
Emma's stomach flips, a flush rising to her cheeks as her hand goes automatically to her belly. She has been to see a doctor – but she needs to have this conversation with Killian before she tells Henry. "I'm fine, kid. You can go to bed assured I will tell Killian everything."
Henry's look is suspicious but he nods as she wishes him a good night and leaves the room, the sound of the game unpaused following her into the hallway. Emma sighs quietly as she returns to the kitchen, eyeing the cooling cupcakes she made earlier in the evening. Henry didn't think anything of it – Emma usually makes cupcakes when Killian returns from a long trip.
But these aren't just any cupcakes.
Emma hums to herself as she pulls out the ingredients for frosting, her thoughts wandering. Who would have guessed all those years ago when she told Killian she found baking soothing it would lead here? They even had cupcakes at their wedding, a sentimental touch Killian insisted on and Emma loved him for.
And she'd finally told Elsa the real reason she collapsed on her kitchen floor that horrible night.
Emma smiles in spite of the dark memory, glancing at the wedding photo barely visible from where she's standing on the hallway wall. True to his word, Killian made sure she got exactly what she wanted – a small ceremony at their house by the ranch with only their closest friends. Even still, she was shaking while Mary Margaret and Elsa helped lace her dress, but the sight of Killian at the end of aisle – and Henry next to him – had erased all trace of nerves.
Three years later, their life is as close to perfect as she could have dreamed up. They have two beautiful homes and a loving family – not long after their wedding, Killian officially adopted Henry. His career has continued to flourish, and though she eventually made the decision to give up her job at Granny's, she's found fulfillment in other ways, volunteering and mentoring troubled kids. They've had their moments – they're both stubborn, hot-headed people – but Emma has never doubted Killian's love for her or for Henry.
She falls into the rhythm of frosting the cupcakes, muscle memory taking over as she swirls the piping bag over and over. She's not sure why she's nervous about this – they've been trying – but she's pretty sure it has something to do with the last time she was in this position.
And how very different things were.
"This time is different," she whispers to herself firmly, her palm flattening against her belly as she pauses frosting. She won't be alone and terrified – she'll have Killian at her side.
Setting down the piping bag, she starts to carefully arrange the cupcakes in a neat row, the house silent. She listens hard for a moment, trying to determine if Henry is still up before padding down the hall to his bedroom. The TV is still on, but her son is curled up in the middle of his bed, sound asleep. With a smile, she sets the game controller on shelf by the TV as she turns it off and eases his door closed.
Back in the kitchen, she feels a little ridiculous as she resumes her cupcake arrangement. The idea sounded so cute when she heard it, but was it just her weird pregnancy hormones making her overly sentimental and cheesy?
With Killian overseas, she hadn't wanted to share this news over the phone, but she was dying to tell someone. Mary Margaret would tell David, who wouldn't be able to hide it from Killian, so Emma called Elsa, who happened to be in the car with her sister.
"Oh my god, congratulations! How are you going to tell him?" Anna demanded, peppy as ever even over the phone line.
"Um...when he comes home?"
"No, I mean, like are you going to get a baby–sized jersey for that soccer team he likes? Or write a cute message out someplace he'll find it? Oh! You make those cupcakes all the time! You should totally use that!"
"However you want to tell him, he's going to be so excited, Emma," Elsa's more level voice cut in over her sister's rambling. "I'm really happy for you both! I think I have some time clear next month to come for a visit if you'll be around?"
"I would love that."
Which is how Emma came to be spelling out welcome home daddy in white chocolate chips across a row of chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting at one in the morning.
She cleans up the kitchen once she's finished, her eyes drifting back to the careful display every few moments, as though her mere presence in the room might disturb the message.
She's fidgeting in the kitchen when she hears the door open, and her heart is instantly hammering in her chest. "In the kitchen," she calls softly once the door shuts, Killian's steps echoing in the still house.
"Mmm, you've been baking." Killian rounds the corner into the kitchen, his expression tired but happy. Emma wipes her hands on her pants, nervously standing in front of the row of carefully arranged cupcakes.
"These are special," she says softly, running her thumb along his stubbled cheek before kissing him to hide the tremor in her voice.
"Special, you say?" he asks as they break apart, curious. He leans around her to get a better look at the counter. "What's so…" He stops suddenly, gently grasping her arms to move her aside until he's standing right in front of the line of cupcakes. "Henry has never called me daddy," he says slowly, his eyes finding Emma's.
"No, he hasn't." Emma takes a deep breath, gesturing toward the cupcakes before resting a hand on her still flat stomach. "But this one might."
"You're pregnant?" he whispers, eyes wide and awe–filled. He glances between the cupcakes and Emma's tentative smile, taking a step close to her. "Truly?"
"According to two at-home tests and the doctor, yes. I'm pregnant."
She's in his arms before her mind can catch up, his embrace gentle in spite of the rather passionate kiss. His eyes shine with tears just as they did on their wedding day, and Emma finally allows herself to breathe and be happy.
"Bloody hell, I love you." He kisses her again, sighing happily as they break apart. "Henry mentioned you hadn't been feeling well last time I spoke with him. I assume from his insistence that I force you to the doctor's office upon my return you haven't told the lad?"
"I wanted us to do it together."
"Aye, together." His brows furrow, hands running over her. "Has it truly been that bad? I would have come home early."
"I was sick a lot with Henry the first trimester," she admits, leaning into the solidness of Killian's chest. Now that she's told him, the anxiety and adrenaline is fading and tiredness is catching up to her. "It will probably be the same this time. There's nothing you can do other than put up with me when I'm grumpy and fat."
"I will call Regina in the morning to clear my schedule."
"You don't have to do that. Save it for later. I'll be okay on my own."
"I know that, love. But you don't have to be. I want to be there for every moment of this." He nudges her until she looks up at him, his eyes still glassy but filled with love. "We talked about me cutting back when this happened. I'll wrap up this movie in another month or so, and I'll talk to the studio about the other."
"Don't you dare pull out of that. They're shooting in LA. You purposefully picked one that was filming here in case I got pregnant," she reminds him, pressing closer. "I'm pregnant," she repeats into his chest, the wonder of saying it out loud – of telling Killian – making it fresh all over again.
"You're pregnant," he repeats, kissing her hair and holding her snug against him. "We're going to have a baby."
"I hope she gets your eyes."
"You already know? I thought…"
Emma laughs at the baffled expression on his face, pulling away slightly to run her fingers up his jaw. "No, I don't know. It's just a feeling. We won't know for awhile."
"A little girl," he whispers, tangling his fingers in Emma's hair. "I must confess, I hope she has her mother's eyes. And smile. I love your smile, darling."
"Whatever she looks like, I know at least one thing I'll have to teach her."
Emma laughs, gesturing to the countertop. "How to make cupcakes, of course."
So this is probably going to be the longest note you've ever seen from me, but here goes.
Someone said very early on that this was going to be the fic that got them through hiatus. I laughed at the time because I was sure I would be done posting by maybe mid-July. And here it is, hours before 5x01, and the epilogue is just now going up. I suppose this is more my style, sneaking in right before the self-imposed deadline.
It has been such a blast to have you all along for this incredibly fun ride. Obviously TWFI isn't my first CS fic - and probably not my last - but it's been the most popular and a consequence of that has been getting to talk to so many of you. Your messages and notes and comments have made some truly shitty days over the last few months infinitely better, and you've given me back confidence that maybe I CAN just do this writing thing after all. Maybe the novel I've started will actually be the first one I really finish.
A couple extra-special thank yous:
oncepromised - TWFI wouldn't have gotten written without you. Thanks for picking fake-dating over roommates as the trope I went for next, and for the long rambly plotting conversations and pre-reading of the early chapters.
onceuponsomechaos - I don't actually have enough thank yous for the beta work you did on this. You pushed me to be better even when I wanted to just delete the whole damn thing and walk away. Also, you're a damn good friend. So thanks for threatening to jump off a cliff.
oncesnow - Many, many thanks for stepping up to the beta plate on these last few chapters when life got crazy. You've been wonderful. Mwah!
Finally, for those of you still waiting on outtake requests, I promise they're coming. I grossly underestimated how busy this month was going to be, but at least one of them is nearly finished, so those should trickle in over the next few weeks. And then I suppose I have to figure out what on earth I'm writing next...