Four years later
"Henry! Up! Up, up, up!"
Killian smiled when he heard Joanna's shrill voice echoing over the lawn, and his eyes went to his children. One might not be from his loins, but Henry was as much his son as Joanna was his daughter. He knew it, Henry knew it and even though the peerage didn't acknowledge their bond in any official capacity it was still there.
His heart squeezed as he heart a faint shout from upstairs and he balled one hand into a fist. He wanted nothing more than to run up the stairs and join his wife in their bedchamber, to hold her hand while she suffered through child birth. But she didn't want him there. She'd nearly thrown him out when she'd gone into labor, telling him he should take care of Henry and Joanna. He'd almost stayed nonetheless, until Emma had patted his hand and said 'please'. He'd never been able to deny his wife anything. Her wish was his command.
So now he was here, leaning against the doorframe while watching his children play. He could see worry flicker over Henry's face every now and then but with his nine years he tried not to show it. He was adamant to keep Joanna distracted from what was going on upstairs, and Killian was grateful that his son was playing catch with Joanna since he wasn't able to keep his thoughts away from Emma.
She was about to give birth to their second child and as much as he'd loved watching her grow with their infant inside of her, as much as he'd loved caring for her, massaging her feet or her lower back when the strain had gotten too much, he still recalled very well the day Joanna was born and how hearing Emma's screams of pain had torn his own heart apart.
Shifting on his feet, he forced his thoughts to something else, though a part of him was still listening to every sound from upstairs. Letting his mind go back over the last four years, his heart felt lighter with every happy memory of their life together. Five years ago he couldn't even imagine that he'd ever be this happy, but then Emma stepped into his life and everything changed.
She was the wife he never knew he wanted, the one person that managed to make him feel complete. She'd given him the joy of his children. Henry who wasn't his when it came to law and biology but everyone who said he wasn't his son would get at least a bloody nose, and Joanna who was so much like her mother that every time she curled up in his arms and snuggled up in his lap his heart swelled with love. Every day of his life he was grateful for the priceless gifts Emma had given him, and she was about to give him another one.
Tears welled up in his eyes as he was once again overwhelmed by how lucky he was. Even the last shadows that had darkened their lives had disappeared over the last four years. Not very surprising Neal had died in a bar brawl two years ago, taking a weight of both his and Emma's shoulders. Neal's thirst of revenge had always been something they'd been aware of, and they both breathed easier after his death.
Though Milah had been the smaller threat looming over them a similar fate had befallen her. Only seven months ago a jealous wife had stabbed her to death upon finding her in bed with her husband. The circumstances of her death hadn't surprised Killian either. He might have given Milah enough money to live a decent life without selling her body to anyone, but he'd known her well enough to know that she'd enjoyed the power given her by being someone's mistress. In the end her thirst for power had caused her death.
Guilt caught up to him from time to time about feeling relieved that they didn't have to fear neither Milah nor Neal to mess with their lives ever again. But every time he watched his children and wife, the feeling of guilt ceased. Everything he did to Milah and Neal was to keep Emma and their children safe, and he'd do the same again if it meant Emma, Henry, Joanna and every future children they might have would be safe.
Something small smacked against his legs, yanking him out of his thoughts and he knew what it was before he even looked down into the sparkling green eyes of his daughter.
"Daddy! Up, up, up!"
He gulped away the tears as he leaned down and picked up his daughter. Joanna buried her face into his neck, despite her young age she sensed the unease that everyone else was feeling and she reacted to it. He pressed a kiss on her forehead before turning his head to watch Henry approach, the worry now clearly visible on his son's face.
"Dad, is Mum all right?"
He shifted Joanna on his arm so that he could wrap his other arm around Henry's shoulders and pull him close. He had to admit even though Henry was calling him dad for a while now hearing it still made his heart skip a beat, and he squeezed his son's shoulder in reassurance as he said, "She'll be just fine, son. You know that nothing can defeat your mother."
"Killian?" He turned around upon hearing Mary Margaret's voice coming from the entrance of the drawing room. He couldn't see her face but a spark of fear still pulsed through him that something might have happened to Emma or the child. But Mary Margaret obviously knew where his mind might wander and stepped closer with a huge smile on her face. "Everything is fine. They're both fine. You've a healthy son."
"Can we see him?" Henry asked eagerly, slipping out from under his arm, apparently very exited to see the newest addition to their family.
"Just for a little while. Your mother and your little brother are both exhausted."
Killian followed Henry up the stairs, his heart beating hard against his ribcage as he took the steps. The moment he entered the bedchamber and saw the tiny bundle cradled in Emma's arms he nearly wept in relief. Apparently a small part of him had still feared one of them might not be all right, but the moment his wife looked up and beamed at him this last doubt went up in smoke.
Henry was already climbing up on the bed to take a peek at his newborn little brother when Killian leaned down to put Joanne on the ground. She tumbled over to the bed as fast as possible, Henry helping her up on the bed until she was able to also see their little brother. Henry's serious voice reached his ears as he'd explained to Joanne to be careful because their little brother was still very fragile.
Emma met his gaze over the heads of their children, and his vision blurred as tears threatened to fall. He loved them all so much that his heart nearly jumped out of his chest with happiness. He mouthed an 'I love you' in her direction, and she blew him a kiss back.
"What's his name, Mum?"
Emma looked at their son for a moment before meeting his eyes again, her smile becoming even more radiant as she answered, "Nathaniel George Liam Jones."
He was embarrassingly close to bursting into tears right then and there when Emma said his brother's name. They'd agreed on the first two names a while back, but he didn't know that she decided to give their son the name of his deceased brother, too.
Stepping slowly closer, he never let his eyes wander from Emma's gaze until he was leaning against the bedpost and only averted his gaze to look down at their newborn son. His breath caught in his throat as he looked at him for the very first time. Gulping hard, he stretched out his hand, skimming his finger over the soft skin of his son's cheek. A new life was always something beautiful, but every time it hit him as hard, touching someone for the very first time.
Their bedchamber stayed a madhouse for a few minutes – Joanne babbling things only she could understand, Henry asking questions without waiting for answers and the maids running around to clean up the room. But he was welcoming it; he had a hard time getting a grip on his emotions and as if Emma sensed it her free hand reached for his, squeezing it softly.
He wanted nothing more than to take her in his arms and just lay with her for hours, and it took longer than he'd have liked until everything calmed down. The children left to get ready for bed and Emma and he had a few moments to themselves before Killian would check on the children and read them a bedtime story.
He lowered himself carefully on the bed, shifting until Emma was able to lay her head on his shoulder. Their newborn son was starting to fidget, his small mouth opening on a weak protest that made both his parents chuckle.
"He's probably hungry," Emma said quietly, reaching for her shift and pushing it opened so that Nathaniel could reach her breast. She never wanted a wet nurse, and secretly Killian was glad that Emma wanted to nurse their children by herself.
Nathaniel latched on to Emma's nipple with the strength of a newborn seeking nutrition, and Emma gasped slightly before she relaxed against Killian again. They stayed silent until their son was well sated, his head lolling against Emma's breasts the moment she'd made herself decent again. Their son fell immediately asleep, clearly exhausted by the exhaustion of eating.
"I love you," Killian whispered, pressing a kiss first on Emma's forehead and then on Nathaniel's cheek, settling his hand on Emma's holding their son. "I love you so much."
"I kept my promise," Emma breathed, turning carefully to not wake Nathaniel up. "I gave you an heir."
"I bloody hell don't care ..." he trailed off the moment she saw the amused twinkle in his wife's eyes. She clearly meant to tease him, and he exhaled a long breath before he added, "You're a tease, milady."
"Only because you make it so easy," she replied, her mouth curling up into a mischievous grin he had to stop by kissing her deeply.
"Thank you." He closed his eyes, burying his face in her hair. He was so close to crying again, his throat already closing up, making his next words barely audible, "Thank you for making me so happy."
"I'm the one who has to thank you." Her lips brushed against his neck, sending a shiver through his body. "I don't know what would have happened to Henry and I without you."
"You would have found another way, love. You're the strongest ..."
"I love you." Her words cut him off, her lips pressing a hard kiss on his skin. "I love you, Killian."
Closing his eyes again, he leaned his head against hers, feeling his son's chest rise and fall beneath his hand. A new life was always a miracle. But the greatest miracle had occurred when a strange woman had knocked at his door and asked him to marry her.
Letting her in had been the best decision of his life.
Thank you, thank you, thank you all so much for your reviews, favorites and follows. I might not have reached the goal I've set myself at the beginning, but I got very close. This is the longest fanfiction I've ever written, and even though I made a few mistakes on the way it was an awesome experience all the way. It became even more special because of all of you.
So … thank you. It wouldn't have been the same without you.
As you know every story has to come to an end eventually, and I hope you've enjoyed the ride as much as I did. It does feel a little strange to say goodbye to this story, but I already have two new ideas in the works (so far only in my head) and I'm very exited to start writing them.
Hope to see you all again at my next story. For now I'm sending you all cookies and smoochies. You all rock. Never forget that.