She opens the door with all the flourish he's come to expect from Emma in post-stakeout mode, black knit cap still pulled down low over her ears, her black boots discarded in a heap to the left of the door in favor of bright yellow socks. He smiles when he notices they're the ones he gave her last Christmas – the ones with the little ducklings on them.

"Is that what I think it is?"

Her gaze is focused squarely on the box in his hands, shuffling forward and practically shoving her nose into the bag on top. He pushes her back gently, shutting the door behind him, and heads for the kitchen – a very eager and sleep deprived shadow in his wake.

"As if I would come empty handed."

He takes the garlic knots out of the top bag and places them to the side, going to the cabinet by her fridge and taking out the plates that have seen better days. When he turns around, she's already halfway through a slice of chicken pesto pizza, a look of pure rapture etched across her face.

He frowns. "When's the last time you ate?"

She peeks open one eye before taking another gargantuan bite. "Yesterday. Wait, was yesterday Friday?" He shakes his head. "Okay, then Friday."

"So two days ago?"

He hands her a plate with an arch of his eyebrow and she grins at him through a mouthful of chicken, grabbing a new slice before heading into the living room.

"I did find those peanut butter protein bars you shoved into my glove compartment, though!" Her voice carries over the muted sound of the television and he shakes his head, making sure to close the pizza box and grab a beer from the fridge before meeting her on the couch. The peanut butter bars are hardly enough sustenance for two days' time, but at least it's something. Better than those dreadful bags of Swedish Fish she insists on consuming.

He pauses just before he leaves the kitchen, turning back and grabbing another beer from the fridge, knowing if he doesn't he will just have to get up in five minutes anyway.

"I fear dipping them in Nutella renders the nutritional benefits useless."

She rolls her eyes as he falls back on the couch, taking one of the beers perched between his fingers (the one he chose for himself, naturally) and leaning back with him.

"Nutella has plenty of – " her nose scrunches as she searches for an appropriate word. " – vitamins. Or something."

"Vitamins?"

She raises an eyebrow around another mouthful of mozzarella and chicken. "Schmary?"

"Excuse me?"

She swallows, taking a swig from the beer in her hand. "Dairy."

He chuckles and props his legs up on her coffee table, a horrifically disfigured piece of furniture she "rescued" from the dumpster out back when she was moving in. "Whatever you say, Swan."

It takes him a minute to notice that the baseball game on the screen – muted calls from the announcers and the gentle rise and fall of the crowd noise turned down low – is not currently being played. He takes a bite of his pizza. "Is this last night's game?"

Emma is bent over the side of the couch, searching for something, and he keeps his gaze steadfast on the screen instead of the gentle swell of her ass. He is an honorable man, but – she has a lovely ass.

"Yeah, you said you had to work late so I recorded it." She sits back up, prize in hand, an aged bottle of sriracha that has certainly seen better days. He frowns in disgust but she ignores him, putting a generous portion directly on her dinner. "You're also taking up way too much space with all your True Detective and I'm not watching that garbage so you better marathon it out or I'll sacrifice it to the TV gods."

"So you can fill it with Ice Road Truckers?"

She grins. "Exactly."

"Speaking of, did you catch your malefactor?"

She arches an eyebrow. "How did Ice Road Truckers make you think of my job?"

"Trucks, cars, your sorry excuse for transportation – " he gestures between them with his hand and bites his lip against a smile when she rolls her eyes. " – sleeping in said metal death trap in order to locate your evader of the law. Seamless logic, really."

"Oh yeah, definitely." He's graced with another roll of her eyes, but also the corner of her lips ticks up and he counts it as a success. "The skip has been collected and deposited with Portland's finest."

He clinks his bottle against hers. "Another vermin wiped from the streets by your sure and capable hands."

He doesn't miss the way her lips tilt up further. "If only the same thing could be said for my mother. She's – Christ – "

As if on cue, her phone begins to buzz loudly on the coffee table, lighting up in quick succession as a seemingly endless barrage of text messages hit at once.

"Good lord." He mutters, watching in abject horror as her phone continues to dance merrily across the tabletop. "Did she discover the crafting catalogue again?"

Emma presses thumb and forefinger against her temples, and he resists the urge to help – the very real itching in his bones to reach forward and tangle his fingers in her hair and brush it behind her shoulder. He's had a hard time these last couple months (years) deciding what is and what is not appropriate touching when it comes to Emma and the feelings he has long kept buried for her, but pressing his thumb into the dimple just peeking out at him from beneath the hem of her sweater, right at the base of her spine, probably isn't well within friend territory.

"Worse." The merry buzzing finally stops and she reaches for her phone, swiping at the screen and frowning at the messages held within. The furrow between her brows increases with every second spent staring at the glowing blue in her hand and he takes another swig of his beer, content to lose himself in the baseball game while she muses over whatever ailment the gentle Mary Margaret is working through. Probably a new pair of curtains for the sun room or maybe there is some sort of dinnerware debacle that is being waged in the northeastern portion of Maine.

"You know how my mom was running for Mayor?"

"Ah, yes. Are the results in?"

"She won and now her and my dad are throwing this celebratory block party thing for the whole town." Her frown deepens, still scrolling through her phone. He waits for the bad news, for the thing that has her looking like she just swallowed a bottle of rusty nails instead of the craft beer he specifically brought over because it is his favorite.

(Not because when he brought it over from work two months ago, she had said she liked the new double IPA he had been unsure about, her cheeks pink and her thumb tapping lightly at the label design he had been agonizing over with Will.)

"I fail to see how this is an issue, Swan."

"Well," she clicks off her phone after hastily typing away with her thumbs, tossing it on to the table without looking and narrowly missing her discarded plate. "I may have done something terrible."

"That sounds like quite the tale." He reaches over her and snags the remote from the armrest, pausing the game and giving her his undivided attention. "Go on."

She chews thoughtfully on a garlic knot, eyebrows pulled down low. "Did I tell you about Walsh?"

He feels his features darken but does his best to seem nonchalant, ignoring the twisting in his gut that rises every time the folksy furniture owner her mother has been trying to set her up with for months is mentioned. He doesn't like the man. He hasn't met him - but he doesn't trust people who feel the need to craft armchairs out of discarded crates.

"Your Mum still pushing the subject?"

"Yeah, and, well - " Her eyes dart to his briefly before carefully considering the label of her beer. "I sort of gave in the last time I was in town during the holidays and it was fine - he was fine - still definitely not interested - but my mom is just - " She sighs, pushing an agitated hand through her hair, forgetting about the cap still pulled down low and losing a crumb or two in her blonde strands. She tosses the black scrap of knit over her shoulder. "Anyway, I'm going to Storybrooke to help with the block party, and she has been relentless about me and Walsh this, me and Walsh that. Lord knows how he's been encouraging it on his end."

He reaches forward and dislodges a particularly stubborn bit of garlic from an errant curl, still very aware that his expression is bordering on thunderous. "I fear I'm still missing the terrible part."

"I kind of told my mom I have a boyfriend." she sighs, dropping back against the couch with a groan. "That's the terrible part. I lied to my mother. I just wanted her to stop talking about Walsh so it just sort of slipped out and now she is freaking out and she wants me to bring him and she has all these questions and I'm caught in a lie and it's a total fucking mess." She shakes her head with a snort, lolling her head to the side as she peers at him, blonde hair tangled against the soft blue of her couch. "You don't have any plans the week of the 9th do you?"

He shrugs and reaches for the remote again, distracting himself with the television instead of the way his heart is suddenly trying to beat it's way madly out of his chest. He knows she's joking - knows her well enough to know what that sardonic twist of her lips means - but still. It's not the worst idea he's ever had and if it helps her - if it makes things easier with her family, then -

He'd do anything for her.

(Hopefully she doesn't see the heat climbing his cheeks.)

"No." He plucks the crust from between her fingers without looking and does his damnedest to seem nonchalant. "I could accompany you. If you wish."

He says the words slowly and carefully, proud of himself when he doesn't stutter on the last sentence. He can feel her staring at him and he shoves the crust in his mouth to keep himself from rambling on and filling the empty air between them.

Later, he will acknowledge this as the precise moment he loses complete control of the situation.

"Seriously?"

"Try not to sound too repulsed, Swan." He considers going to the kitchen with the excuse of getting another slice of pizza to lick his wounds, maybe walk right out the front door with that bottle of rum she keeps on the bottom rung of her wine rack. "T'was merely a suggestion."

"I'm not repulsed." She taps her fingernail against the glass of her bottle. "I'm kind of impressed, actually. It's not a bad idea."

Again, the effort not to show emotion almost results in several of his teeth cracked from the strain of his clenched jaw. "Is that so?"

She smiles, a little half-grin that he counts amongst his favorites. "Yeah, you'd make an excellent bondsperson. But are you sure? I mean, you'd lie for me?"

He wants to say he'd do a great deal more than lie, but instead he arches an eyebrow, fixes a smile on his lips and shrugs again. He'll probably have a bloody crick in his neck after this evening. "Did I or did I not drag your limp and useless body from the bar on Derby Day?"

"That's different."

"Semantics, love."

"It would be great to have you there," she mutters under her breath, seemingly to herself, and that little part of him that always holds onto hope that she might one day potentially see him as something more stands at attention. She turns sideways on the couch, folding her legs under her. "Are you sure, Killian?"

He throws the rest of the crust in his mouth. He quite literally has nothing to lose.

"Will Henry be there?"

"Of course."

"Excellent, then I can give him a proper whooping at Call of Duty in person." Her shoulders fall from their tense position, a smile curling the corners of her lips. "You'll have to put my Xbox in your bag, though."

-/-

She falls asleep halfway through the seventh inning, stretched out on the couch with her feet pressed under his thigh and a bowl of popcorn still perched on her chest. He snickers when she tries to roll on her side and only ends up curling her hand further into the buttery, sticky mess - a hapless little sigh whispered under her breath.

"Alright there, Swan." He taps her ankle lightly, gently extricating her hand from the bowl and placing the heart attack sprinkled with butter and salt on the table. "Off to bed with you."

He knows not to be offended by the string of muffled curses she garbles in his direction as she heaves herself off the couch. Her socked feet scuffle against the hardwood as he collects their empty beer bottles, her eyelids heavy as she turns and leans on the doorjamb just outside her bedroom.

"Killian?"

He doesn't want to know how long that container of Milk Duds has been wedged between the cushions of her couch. "Aye?"

"Thank you for the pizza." He looks up just as she rubs the back of her hand across her eye, another yawn wracking her shoulders. She looks younger like this, more like the girl he met freshman year of university, pale legs swinging back and forth on top of the washing machine in the laundry room. "Make sure you take some for your lunch tomorrow. I saved some of that tomato soup for you as well."

"I will. Thank you, Swan." Satisfied by his answer she nods, giving him a half-hearted wave over her shoulder before she disappears into her room. He hears a muffled thud as she collapses into her mound of pillows and blankets and he grins to himself, shutting off the television and the lights in her living room. It's a miracle she even has aluminum foil is one of the cabinets next to the sink but he counts his blessings, wrapping a couple slices for himself before throwing the box in the fridge. His mouth practically waters at the sight of the tomato soup in a canister set to the side - the only thing she manages to cook proper and one of his personal favorites. She'll probably ravage the rest of the pizza for breakfast in the morning, but it's better than the strawberry pop tarts she insists have nutritional benefit.

He gets a text as he pushes out of the stairwell into the lobby of her building, pausing by the mailboxes.

Emma Swan: Is today Sunday?

He sighs and walks backwards, elbowing his way back into the stairwell and going one floor down to where the recycling resides. Hers is easy enough to spot. It's the trashcan overflowing with Cheeze-itz and Totino's Pizza Rolls boxes.

Killian Jones: I'll grab the recycling, but you're buying me fries Wednesday.

Emma Swan: Wings, too.

As he totes her recycling behind him (making as much noise as possible outside of her landlord's door - useless little git) into the bite of the evening air, he debates if this plan to fake a relationship is the dumbest or most brilliant of his life. He has long come to terms with his feelings for her and his wish for something more - content to wait in the wings, so to speak, until she has figured it out for herself. He has no interest in pushing her before she is ready, already well-educated on what happens to those in Emma's life that prod at her for a decision before she is prepared.

(He thinks of Neal with a flare of irritation - of Walsh and his mason jar votive holders.)

He knows there are feelings on her end, too. He can see it in the way she stares at him sometimes in his kitchen, legs folded beneath her on the bench that overlooks the water, her gaze serious and her mouth curved in a gentle grin. He can see it in the way her eyes sometimes lingers on his lips when she's had a bit too much to drink, her tongue poking against her bottom lip and driving him absolutely mad with want.

But it's more than the mutual attraction and the swoop low in his belly when she catches his eye over the bar, her lashes pressed against the apples of her cheeks and her fingertips trailing along her collarbone as he pours out a pint. It's the way she's told him every one of her secrets in their years of friendship - her fears of abandonment and the years she spent unwanted and alone in the foster care system. It's the way she's told him about finding Henry when he was a small lad - taking him under her wing and the fierce sort of protection she's always felt for him - the instinct to protect that she's never understood. It's the way she's told him about David and Mary Margaret, her voice thick and eyes glistening with tears as she clung to his hand and told him how she thought no one was ever going to come for her - that she would age out of the system completely alone and have nothing, no one, until - until two people showed up, hardly older than herself, and offered her a home. It's the way she listens when he shares his secrets, too - his own fear that he's not quite enough, that he doesn't have much to give, that working at a brewery and serving half-sloshed college students and tourists is all he will ever be good for. When he talks about his brother and how much he misses him - the only family he ever had torn away from him. It's the way her hand lingers between his shoulder blades, chin resting lightly against his arm as she molds herself to his side.

But a lifetime of disappointments has left its scar tissue. While she very well might return his feelings, he knows she'd rather stay in the comfortable than explore the unknown. Perhaps with this trip he will be able to show her how it could be if she just - if she just let him love her.

"Bloody hell," he sighs, pulling his leather tighter as he makes his way down the block to his own apartment. He's had better ideas in his lifetime, but then again, he's had worse.