a/n: SORRY IT TOOK SO LONG TO UPDATE. I really don't have an excuse, just an apology. Thanks for sticking through it. I once again appreciate all the follows, favs and reviews.
Special thanks to RavenclawPianist for being my beta.
Instead of waking up to Ruby, like she has the last few days, there's a loud, blonde man in her kitchen this morning. He took the earlier flight to get here the day before Thanksgiving. The airport is more than likely an absolute nightmare and she's thankful Killian and Anna made the drive without her this morning.
She'd be a tad more thankful if she didn't have to endure an awkward first impression in a bathrobe.
"Sister!" He cheers, rising from the barstool and making his way to her personal space in no time. "It's good to finally meet you!" and when he hugs her, she fears for her child, because it's tight and air-constricting. The silver lining should be that he hugged her at first meeting, where Anna just barely acknowledged her existence. It should be that, but instead, the silver lining is Killian shouting for him to unhand her before he 'bursts the belly.'
Killian shoves Kris playfully to the side before displaying how one should handle such 'precious cargo' his arms gently wrapping around her middle as he buries his stubbly chin in the nook between her neck and shoulder.
"On second thought, don't touch her like this either." He mumbles against her cheek, laying a quick peck there before disentangling himself from her. "Just leave my lady love alone."
"Why are you yelling so early?" Ellie and Jake make an appearance only a second later, her voice scratchy and sleepy. Kris immediately approaches Ellie and Jake shuffles between them, giving off a warning howl.
"A queen and her guard." Killian muses from beside Emma. "Eloise, do you remember who this is?"
"Uncle Krissy?" Ellie blinks a few times before giving Jake a signal to sit beside her. He lifts her in his arms and squeezes. "You are at my house!" She laughs so joyfully, "I have not even seen you in so long. I'm happy you're here!"
"Me too, you're so big now!"
"I'm five." She holds her hand up as Kris settles her on his hip. "My dad says I'm getting bigger every day."
"I believe it. Last time I held you, I feel like I had to support your head."
"No you did not, Kris." Anna argues, smacking him on the shoulder. "She was three when we left."
"That's a long time." Ellie subtracts two fingers from her hands to put up three. "That's two years."
"Wow, she definitely didn't do subtraction when I last held her." Kris chuckles and Killian sort of looks on with a fading smile, like the joke dies on his end when the mention the time they missed out on.
"Yeah. I'm in Kindergarten now." Ellie educates as Killian makes his way around the island to take Ellie from Kris' arms.
"And she needs to eat before school, isn't that right?"
"Yup. I gotta eat and feed my dog."
"Why does she have to go to school?" Anna whines. "We're gonna go grocery shopping and to Granny's. I don't want her to miss out on all of that."
"She's in Kindergarten, it's half a day. She'll be out in less than five hours." Killian reminds Anna. He does that a lot, reminding her of things he's just mentioned less than a day ago, and each time he does, he sounds more and more irritated.
To be honest, he's been more irritated than not by his sister's presence. They've been bickering all week and it's driving Emma to a state of irritation herself. If this is what it means to have siblings around, she's not exactly thrilled for the later years with Ellie and the baby.
They go grocery shopping without Ellie. It's too busy in the grocery store anyhow, and with her persistence on being 'too big' to sit in the cart, Killian would have a conniption if someone bumped into his love bug without apologizing.
Anna and Kris think rum is a necessary addition to the grocery list, and proceed to put not one, not two, but three bottles in the cart from the spiced kind to the sugary coconut stuff. The baby manages to kick just as Emma's reminiscing on the affects of alcohol.
Killian and Anna argue about Elsa's recipe for five minutes in the canned goods. He insists on fresh green beans and Anna laughs in his face, saying he remembers Elsa incorrectly. Naturally, it doesn't sit well with him so he slams an arm full of canned green beans into the cart and hisses at her, rolling over her foot as he storms off down the aisle.
It's a fucking nightmare and Emma wishes she would have just stayed home.
Emma sneaks out of the house when they come home to unload. They're picking Ellie up in T-minus two hours, but she had already planned this coffee date with Ingrid weeks ago and does not plan on cancelling.
She manages to escape with one kiss and two promises to 'be careful.' Traffic might be a nightmare, but so is her home right now.
One week into her stay and he starts to wonder why he wanted her to come back in the first place. She's bloody insane. Everything she does has a way of burrowing itself beneath his skin and with Kris here encouraging her, he feels his fuse dwindling down to live wires.
"What are we doing for dessert?"
"If I tell you the menu again, Anna…"
"Don't be so grumpy, Kilo." She elbows him in the ribs while he's prepping the vegetables for tomorrows stock.
"Why don't you go bring up all my missing dishes from your room." He suggests after serving Ellie cereal in a coffee mug this morning. Some things never change. She's the worst hoarder he's ever met. "And while you're here, we're going through the storage and throwing out everything you don't want shipped to you."
"No we're not." Anna replies, moving toward the garage door. Kris lingers in the kitchen, smirking behind his glass at Killian.
"I missed this, Killian vs. Anna. It's always a riot."
"People die in riots. There's yelling and destruction and someone winds up hurt."
"Yeah, pretty much what I just said." Kris winks before pressing himself away from the counter. He's following Anna down to their quarters and Killian has to call back about bringing the glass in his hand back up with him.
Why did he think this was a good idea?
She tells him about her coffee date in the car on the way to Ellie's school. Anna and Kris are only halfway listening to them anyhow and she's actually too excited to not talk about it. She's not sure when they crossed over into this territory, into the point where any happy moment in her day needs to be shared with her significant other, but she finds even the smallest of perks are like hot copper pennies burning a whole in her pocket.
"Renovating fixer uppers and selling them for a profit." He repeats back to her once the news is out. "Like all those shows you watch?"
"Yeah. I mean, Ingrid was here a week ago and did an estimate of our value now. It went up from 1.2 to 1.75 and I only spent 32 grand on renovations. That's, like, double."
"It is, you're right. I don't doubt for a moment you'll make plenty profit." He glances at her quickly with this prideful smile. In the midst of it all, he remains her number one fan, her best friend and the best thing to happen to her.
"Thanks." She smiles to herself as his attention is drawn back to the road. "I just need an investor or two and I'll be set."
"Investor?" Anna suddenly tunes into their conversation. "Why? Why can't Killian just buy the property?"
"That defeats the purpose of me making my own money." Emma answers although it's really none of Anna's business.
"Sure, the first house, but you will have enough money to buy the next one, and keep turning profits until you've doubled your money and can pay my brother back."
"Thanks Anna, that's a great idea. I'll have to consider it." Emma quickly replies to shut her up as Killian pulls into the school parking lot. "You know what, if you guys just stay here, I'll run in and get her. I have to ask Mary Margaret about tomorrow anyway."
"I thought she told you she was coming already?"
"No, she is. I need a pie recipe…or something." She slides from the truck carefully and slams the door behind her. She's been biting her tongue, just chalking Anna's annoying tendencies up to her third trimester irritability. It makes no sense to wage a war against Killian's sister. She'll only be here a month and then she goes back across the ocean and Emma can go back to life as she knows it.
"Swan?" she didn't hear his car door shut, but there are children yelling and cars honking and her own thoughts going wild. He tugs on her bicep and she yields to oncoming traffic. "Hey, I'm sorry about Anna."
"I don't want it to start another money argument between us. I don't want you to buy me my first property." He's sweet and he loves her but he has this fixation on providing for her and it's the opposite of what she wants their lives to be like.
"I know. Notice, I said absolutely nothing."
"Yeah, I noticed, but I also know you're private in your arguing."
"Emma, I'm not fighting you on anything. I support you, I'm proud of you, and I'll do whatever you wish to help you succeed, even if that only means bringing lunch to a jobsite."
"Yes. Now, I'd like to kiss you in celebration of you realizing your next career move." There are probably 20 five-year-old onlookers, but she lets him wrap his arms around her waist in the middle of the parking lot and kiss her.
Some days it's like a goddamn earthquake, catching her off guard and wrecking her walls. She spent years building bricks around her heart and he's only spent a few months meticulously stripping her of her defenses. Sometimes it was a week-long discussion, destroying one cement block but there are times like these where it feels like a dozen come tumbling to the ground, effortlessly.
"I love you," he whispers the words she wanted to say. She wonders if she has any inhibitions left when she stands before him completely smitten.
"I want you forever."
"Daddy!" Ellie sprints to Killian before he manages to get on the sidewalk fully.
"Love Bug!" Killian calls back out, taking two large steps before bending and lifting Ellie into his arms. "How was school?"
"Good, how was not school?" She replies.
"Oh, just wonderful. I fell a little more in love with your mother just now, so absolutely splendid, but better still now that you're out of school for the next four days." Ellie smiles at her sneakily before hiding her face in Killian's shoulder. "Are you ready to go to Granny's?" Ellie nods, turning her head to view Emma. She's still grinning when their eyes meet and the ache in Emma's cheeks only signifies Ellie's not the only one smiling this wide.
"If it isn't Anna Jones." The nametag reads 'Anastasia' and it's not an unfamiliar one. She's probably served them a few times but usually the kinder servers take care of them.
"Ana…Hi. It's actually Anna Jones-Olavich. I got married."
"Right, I remember, it was so soon after graduation, everyone thought you were trying to cover up a baby." Anastasia laughs as if it weren't a really rotten thing to say.
"I beg your pardon?" Killian steps forward to defend his sister when Kris ushers him back a step.
"Oh, it's so cute that your brother still stands up for you." Anastasia looks over Anna's shoulder at Killian. "Stand down, soldier. We're friends."
"Well, friendly. But…"
"Oh, and it is just so sad what happened to Liam and Elsa. You know, we used to wonder if you died with them, with how quickly you disappeared."
"Who is the 'we' you keep referring to?" Killian steps up again. It's upsetting how passive Kris is during this slaughter because if Emma were being harassed by anyone, he would not stand behind her and listen.
"Ya know, the girls."
"The girls who work here? Those girls? Or, the mean girls in your head?"
"You could have excused yourself five minutes ago, love." Killian waves her off before turning Anna around and directing her toward their booth. Kris leads the way, sliding all the way in as she follows.
Ellie and Emma slide into the other side. He contemplates who to sit beside and chooses Ellie when she reaches her hand for him. He piles in beside them, pressing his forehead to Ellie's when she continues to beam at him.
"I love you extra today." She whispers.
"Yeah? Extra? Just today then?"
"Yeah, I always love you, but even extra more today." He's not sure what he's done so well on this day in particular, but it warms his heart all the same.
"Well, I love you extra today, too." He glances over her head at Emma's smiling face.
"And my mom, too?"
"Yes, your mother, too." He winks.
They order with a different waitress, Marcy. Emma has a warning from Whale to keep the sodium intake down so instead of her usually grilled cheese and onion rings, she orders a crispy chicken salad. Ellie orders the same in hopes it will help Emma not crave a grilled cheese as much. Killian gets the fish and chips. Anna gets Liam's favorite: a turkey-bacon club on marble rye. Her husband just gets a burger. He says it's damn near impossible to get a normal burger in Europe, they all have weird happenings and American cheese isn't in existence. Killian isn't sure how true that is, but he doesn't argue.
They spend a little time recalling details from Anna and Killian's teenage years. They only attended the same high school for one year. He was a senior when she was a freshman and he did everything to avoid her if you let Anna tell it. Killian remembers differently and he tells them as much.
He remembers her asking him not to overcloud her. Anna likes to talk a lot, and she gave this speech the night before their first day of school that year. He tells Emma and Ellie about the 'Sunflowers can't bloom in the shade of an oak tree' line to which he explains that Anna actually referred to his 17-year-old self as an oak tree. These trees are known to be hundreds of years old so of course it's only fitting.
"I just wanted to find my identity." Anna defends. "I grew into the sunflower I always wanted to be." She says this, but when Liam and Elsa died, she threw everything she was into the harbor and fled the country.
"And you're still that woman?"
"Well, we lose some petals along the way, but I'd say so."
"Hm." Before Anna can harass him for a more elaborate response, Granny approaches the table.
"You'd think spring is here, now that you've awoken from your hibernation." Granny sets her hands on her hips and looks above her glasses and down at Anna. "I thought you'd be spending every meal with me. Ain't that what you said last week at dinner?"
"I know you've been spending the majority of your breakfasts with Ruby." Killian settles back against the booth. He'll defend Anna in front of anyone but Granny. With Granny she's on her own.
"We've got a lot to catch up on." Anna shrugs.
"Don't play ditzy. What did I tell you last time?"
"I don't know how to play ditzy, Granny." Anna promises with her hand over her heart. "Killian stuffed me in the basement, as nice as it is, it's still muffled by cement and no one will hear my screams. Kris didn't fly in until this morning, and Ruby and I have just been hanging out like old times."
"It better not end up like old times, Anna." Anna opens her mouth to defend herself again but Granny cuts her off. "And don't give me any nonsense about you not knowing what I'm talking about." Anna seals her lips and looks down at her half-eaten food.
"It's good to see you, Granny." Kris says as an awkward silence blankets the table. Killian looks down at Ellie, who continues to crunch on crisp lettuce and crispy chicken.
"You too." She replies before smacking Killian on the back of the head. "And you, when am I gonna get a name for this baby? How do you expect me to knit a blanket for you?"
"Oh, we have a name." Ellie speaks up, only stoking the flames Granny is cooking everyone with right now.
And they do have a name finally. A first name, a very good first name which will surely work well with whatever middle name Ellie picks. Why is a five-year-old picking the baby's middle name? Well, Emma couldn't come up with a first name and offered Ellie the job. Ellie jumped at the opportunity, but that's not really a job for a little girl, so he had to beg and barter with her. Now Ellie will be choosing the middle name. Parenting is all about compromise.
"Is that so? Let me hear it?"
"Can't. It's a secret." Ellie shrugs at Granny's raised brow. "We're gonna put it on a stocking and tell it to everybody at Christmas."
"Oh, you don't dangle a secret and not share, Eloise. What's that you call it, Killian? Bad form."
"My daddy wants to keep it a secret, not me. I don't even like secrets, Granny." Killian feels the back of his neck warm under the scrutiny.
"So then you don't expect a blanket for this one?"
"Christmas is still six weeks shy of our due date. You can knit a blanket in a month, Granny. I believe in your talents like no other." He tries to work his magic, smile that smile that usually gets Granny to forgive him.
"What time is everyone getting to your place, tomorrow?" Works like a charm.
"You can come whenever you wish. You know that. If you so wish it, perhaps you come early enough to accompany me in uh, in preparing?"
"Oh, that's right. It's your first time cookin' the bird. Why are you so stubborn, I know Robin offered to do it?" Granny shuffles her weight to her other hip, which means she's stood too long. She's a candidate for hip-replacement but is so damn stubborn. She says she plans on leaving this earth with the same parts she came in with.
"It's my home's inaugural thanksgiving, Granny. You can't expect the turkey to be cooked in any other oven. You know, Emma handpicked that oven, it took her weeks to decide on which oven to install."
"It took me weeks to get you to make a decision." Emma corrects. "Don't drag me into this."
"Semantics." He waves his hand before turning back to Granny with a pleading look in his eyes. "I would love it if you could come over and teach me the same way you taught Liam. It would mean a lot to me." That part isn't charm. It's raw and burning his lungs to express but Liam's turkey was always amazing. Granny showed him how and he never disappointed.
This is the first Thanksgiving Emma's ever had in her own home, there have been very few she's celebrated in her life and the first time she's had a family. This is the first time Anna will be around since the accident and he wants to share only the best memories of it years later. This dinner is just as important as Ellie's party was in proving to everyone that the Jones' are doing just fine.
Granny takes her glasses off to clean them, subtly wiping at the corners of her eyes before she slides them back on and clears her throat. "Well you better be up by seven."
"6:45 to brew your coffee." He shoots back at her. Granny shakes her head a leaves the table.
"Why does she still hate me?" Anna groans once she's out of earshot.
"You know why?" Killian shoots sideways as he readjusts himself in the booth, a little of his own emotions creeping up on him.
"Yeah, you definitely know why." Kris adds. "Have you been doing it again?"
"Don't play ditzy, Anna." Killian scolds. "You know damn well what. This is why Granny gets angry with you. You think everyone is foolish."
"Well…if you're referring to anything involving Ruby, I'll tell you the same. We've been hanging out because she's my best friend."
"Anna, are you leading her on again?" Kris finally comes out to say.
"No!" Anna's voice is raised, startling Emma and Ellie. "Can we talk about something else?"
The conversation is all filler after that. He wants to tune her out all together because the way she always escapes blame boils his blood. They finish up dinner and return home with the same awkwardness still lingering.
"Can I skype Henry tomorrow before we eat?" They're putting Ellie down together. Jake is resting at the foot of the bed with his nose facing her door. They didn't adopt him in the hopes of having a guard dog, but he became that effortlessly.
"Yes, I texted Regina already, she says around two is good." For whatever reason, Regina refuses to deal with Emma. She only texts Killian to make skype dates for Henry and Ellie. She thinks it's to keep Henry and Emma from interacting. As hurtful as that is, the compromise is Ellie gets to talk to him and Emma signed up for no contact when she signed her rights away.
"Okay good. I miss him a lot." Ellie reminds them daily just how much she misses Henry. She's told everyone at school about him now. She draws pictures for him and asked what colors he wanted her to buy frames in so she could send him framed artwork. Killian's been teaching her how to spell his name and the other day they covered the letter 'H' in school. She made two cereal covered 'H's and wants to send them.
Killian thinks it's good for her to understand that sometimes the people we love will be at a distance, but we can still be happy they're living their lives. It's a funny lesson to be taught by the man who gave his sister grief for doing the exact same thing this past year.
"He misses you, too. You'll talk to him tomorrow. For now, sleep, okay?"
"Okay." She nods, squeezing Fredrick closer and closing her eyes. "I love you both so much."
"We love you, too." Emma kisses her first,
"More than ever and a little extra after that." Killian adds, kissing her once Emma's stepped to the side.
He reaches for her hand in the hallway after shutting Ellie's door. It's not the gentle squeeze she's used to, but a careful tug.
"I have to talk to you about something?" He checks the hallway as if they aren't in their own home. "Can we go to our room?"
"Isn't that where we were going anyway?" He purses his lips at her in annoyance. "I mean, of course, Babe, whatever it is. You know you can talk to me." And now he's rolling his eyes and pulling her with him toward the bedroom.
Once inside he directs her to sit on the bed as he fusses with shutting the door quietly behind them. He's wiping his hands on his jeans and beginning to pace, his style of pacing of course. He swaggers back in forth across the floor, looking for the words.
"Do you want to tell me what's going on?"
"As you know, I spoke with Walsh earlier." Walsh. It's bad to hate people you barely know, yet here she is completely turned off by this guy. He's their family's attorney. Killian associates him with bad news more often than not, but he says he handled Anna's adoption so it'd only be fitting he handles Ellie's as well.
"Well…what's right is I was approved and once I sign papers, we're done with that part. No courts or anything."
"Okay…and what's wrong?"
"I mean, in hindsight, we should have considered how difficult it would be…"
"I really need you to get to the point now." He stalls all movement, releasing this huge sigh.
"You're not approved. We could, we could set up an extended application. They do visits with social workers, they…see Walsh isn't the right attorney for this, he didn't know. But once I have full parental rights instated, I would have to give them up to you in order to let you adopt her."
Whale says she has high blood pressure, says she needs to cut back on salt and stress. He didn't say anything about sadness and that's all that consumes her in this moment. Her first instinct is to cry, eyes stinging, throat burning, heart aching, but he rushes to her and she's not sure how she should react. He looks close to tears himself.
"Emma there is another option."
"What's that?" She sniffles, hating the sound. She stares at his left hand on her knee, concentrates on the strength in his voice where she sounds so weak. If parents only want to give their children everything they went without, Emma wants to give Ellie a mother. It's overwhelming how much it hurts to be denied that now.
"Yes. I become her legal father and then…and then we get married? You'd be technically a stepmother for a month or so before we—"
"Did you say married?" The world stills between two syllables as she tries to remember who she is now.
"Emma." That's her name, but that's not who she is now. They haven't known each other long enough to have a baby and she's living with him, and talking about adopting his niece with him and now…
"Marriage?" It never stops. Every milestone a couple can have is being shoved into such a short amount of time, and they will never get to their one-year anniversary because at this rate, they'll be renewing their fucking vows. It's too much. "What are you saying?" She doesn't want to blink and let tears slip out but she can barely make out his expression through them.
"Uh…" his hand slips from her knee as he stands up. "It was just a suggestion, a mere possible solution for our current predicament."
"Is this what you want?" She asks the question but isn't sure she wants to hear any possible answer for it. She shuts her eyes and drops her head in her hands to brace herself for his reply.
"What I want?" It's quiet for a moment, his feet are still and he breathes these slow and steady sighs. She contemplates everything from engagement rings to a messy divorce in the time it takes him to speak again. She gets anxious waiting and looks up at him to see his thoughts. She thinks the worst is when she reads his thoughts. When it's so quiet but his brain is so loud she can almost see sentences in the inky pupils spilling into his bright eyes. His pupils always dilate just before he lies. "I just want what you want."
She thought she had bricks and cement and steel beams around her heart, but he has a titanium block around his head. He doesn't share his thoughts, rarely shares his memories and keeps a close lock on his hopes and wants.
"I want you to lay down with me." She extends her hand to him but he flinches at it, like she's asking for more than a companion in bed, but a blanket over the situation. She's not. She would talk all night about this. He's the one closing off.
"I'm not all that tired right now. I think I'll get a jump start on prep for tomorrow. Goodnight." He presses a dry kiss to her forehead and she stills at the unfamiliarity. Her hand drops to the bed and her mind races with ideas of extremities. People never stay together after some form of rejection. She never said 'no' but he heard it all the same and maybe she's exhausted or irrational, but he looks crushed and she hates it.
It's foolish, truly. He knows her, knows how she thinks and operates and somehow he thought she'd even consider a commitment of this caliber. She's never reacted well to any other commitment he suggests.
Well, not at first.
Maybe he thought she'd consider it because she's let down so many walls as it is, or maybe he was misled by the way she reaches for him in her sleep. She loves him now. Before she wasn't sure or he wasn't sure that she did but he knows now. He knows she wants to be with him. She kisses it into his shoulder as he's putting his shoes on in the morning. She climbs into the shower with him just to remind him before he goes to work. She brings him lunch to the office to say it with food, and when the food is eaten and the day is done, she tells him in more ways than one. 'You're perfect' and 'I want you forever' and 'I love you.' She loves him.
Maybe she'll still consider it.
He thinks about it for the next few hours when the rest of the house is sleeping and he's scrubbing his hurt feelings deep beneath soap suds and scouring pads. He burned the first batch of pumpkin pecan cookies. Elsa used to make them for fall events. He remembers eating his fill. Emma loves ice cream but he devours cookies like a furry blue beast. He bought all the right ingredients including the spiced pumpkin filling you can only find in this one shop downtown. He bought extras in case he failed the first few times.
He's a great cook, not a great baker. Emma's actually gotten pretty great at it and she told him with love in her eyes that she'd attempt the recipe. He remembers the night he told her he wanted to try all Liam and Elsa's old recipes and she responded so supportively it felt like the wedding band was already on his finger.
"What's that?" He's not shocked that she's out of bed and looking for him. It's a quarter to one.
"I burned some cookies and the remains are stuck to this cookie sheet." She's at his shoulder now, her arms wrap around his middle and he aches with a phantom pain of loss. Part of him has already witnessed her walk out the door from this, part of him is so wrapped up in frightening thoughts that he thinks he hallucinates the warmth of her breath on the back of his neck, and the possessive tugging on his shirt.
"Come to bed." She speaks in his ear. It's sleepy and demanding at the same time.
"I want to try a second batch. I'm not terribly tired, love."
"Well, I'm tired of trying to fall asleep without you." She wraps her fingers around his wrists and pulls them from the suds, shutting off the water. He sighs and turns in her hold. "I can tire you out if that's what you want?" She licks her lips and he wants to believe their problems start and stop at every new conversation, but he's still crushed, hours later and it's not going to go away by some gentle fondling.
"Have you been up this entire time?" He reaches for a kitchen towel to dry his hands on.
"I dozed off around twelve, woke up twenty minutes ago and decided to come out and look for you." The seduction is gone from her face, left is caution. "You know I love you. I know you know that."
"Yes. And I you." He fakes a quick smile to save face before turning her by her shoulders and persuading her to walk out of the kitchen and back to their bedroom.
The bedding is a wreck. The duvet is on the floor and the sheets are all spun up and she looks more shameful than she did just seconds ago. He may be crushed, but it's affecting her, too.
"What do you want Killian? Just tell me what you want?" She picks her lips with her teeth when there's tension, but she tears the flesh with her nails when she's scared. "Your happiness matters to me, too."
She wouldn't trick him. She's not the type. If she is asking to hear it then she must be ready to know. "I want to marry you."
There's nothing but silence for a moment. He can't even hear his own heart beat. She blinks once, twice, three times before wiping away a tear.
"Okay." He tries to swallow air and ends up choking on the words.
"Okay?" he manages between hoarse gasps.
"I want that two. I never said I didn't."
"You want to marry me?"
"What changes? If we're married, our relationship as we know it is pretty much at it's maximum right? We co-parent Ellie, we're having a baby, we live together, we have a dog. I think we're pretty much married as it is."
"Well…you'd be my wife." He glances away, afraid the title may have repercussions. Of course he wants her to want this, but he doesn't want her to change her mind because she didn't think it through.
"Great. It's not the end of the world to be your wife. I know you hate when I refer to you as my boyfriend."
"I would rather be your boyfriend than nothing."
"You will never be 'nothing' to me." She implores him to believe her, moving to tug at his shirt again, making him meet her eyes. "You're everything to me. We don't have to make this a big deal. Sure, I had a mini-panic attack when you brought it up, but it didn't take a whole week away from you to realize I want to be with you. That's progress."
"Yes, it is." His teeth make an appearance as a genuine smile spills across his lips. He's just not certain if he's hearing her correctly. "You would want to get married then?"
"I mean, yes I want to sign a paper saying that we're married; no, I do not want a huge, obnoxious wedding with seven kinds of cake pops."
"Who serves cake pops at a wedding?" She rolls her eyes but loses the grin she was wearing. "You don't want a wedding at all?"
"We could go to the court house like everyone else does when the knock their girlfriend up." He knows it's a joke but neither of them are smiling now.
"Right…would we tell people we're married?"
"Ellie would be there and we can tell them once we get married, but we're not having an 'engagement.' It's a decision we made like two modern adults."
It's not as warm and flowery as he imagined as a child. Yes, he imagined his wedding as a child. He imagined meeting a beautiful woman and wearing a tux and flowers and a cathedral. He imagined Liam and Anna as groomsmen. He could almost hear a heartfelt speech from Elsa about the young lad who used to be.
What point is a wedding if they're not here anyway?
Her warm palm finds his jaw, her thumb smoothing over her favorite scar, and when his eyes come back into focus, he notices how sleepy hers are.
"We can sleep now, Swan-hyphen-Jones."
Granny gets to their house at 7:00 and he's exhausted, but he pours her coffee and thanks her for coming to help.
She does more than teach him how to cook a moist turkey. She helps him make Elsa's cookies and makes everyone do their part as well. By 11, Kris is snapping green beans for a casserole after Granny makes him run to the store and get fresh green beans like she showed Elsa years ago, Anna is peeling potatoes for the mashed potatoes and Ellie and Emma roll out pie crust together.
It's insane that he finds her even more beautiful now that she wants to marry him, isn't it? She keeps staring at him with these playfully flirtatious eyes. He likes having this little secret if it means he'll get a thrill every time he says 'Emma' but thinks 'Wife.'
"I can't believe you named this baby and won't tell me." Granny grumbles, smacking him out of his staring contest with Emma.
"I get to pick her middle name, Granny." Ellie brags. She's proud of it and he doesn't want to take that away from her.
"Well, are you gonna tell me what that is?"
"I don't know what I want yet." She has flour dusted on your precious little face as she uses her junior baker rolling pin. "Has to be good, she's gonna be that forever."
"I'm glad you're taking the responsibility seriously, Love Bug." She blinks at him as smugly as a five-year-old can.
"Stop breathing down my neck." It's officially 1pm and Granny's patience has run out. Kris asked her three times if he was 'doing this right' and she lost it on him. Anna asked her to check the potato-ness of her mashed potatoes and she ripped her a new one, and Killian, poor meticulous Killian asked her to be more descriptive so he could take adequate notes on the turkey and she almost smacked him.
Besides Ellie, Emma's the only one Granny hasn't been rude to. She should be thankful but seeing her boyfriend get chastised is a little bit of a buzz kill.
He's been staring at her since they woke up this morning, a secret on his lips and this look in his eyes that makes her wonder how she could ever forget how safe she is with him. He has a way about him, he's trying his hardest to pay attention to Granny's lesson but he looks almost too excited to focus. She did that. For once she did something so good to him that it shows, he's not frustrated or sad or broken, but happy. If she could just figure out how to keep doing it, she'd have no doubts about getting married.
She can't say she has too many doubts now. She does have doubts, of course she has doubts but she literally can't say it. She can't stomach seeing him hurt over her again.
She thinks if she's just spontaneous about it, no planning, no time to turn and run then they'll go through with it and she can keep that look in his eyes. If she just stops feeling like she's suffocating at the idea, they'll go through with it and she'll get everything she wants out of life, a family.
The guests start arriving at 4. Mary Margaret and David are first, and he still hadn't a chance to truly thank them for last week. It's hard to convey how grateful he is that there are people who love Emma so wholly they would do that for the lot of them. He takes a moment with them both, expressing his upmost gratitude before letting them off to mingle.
"Kris?" Anna predicted they'd be excited to see each other again, and for once in her life, she was right about something.
Truth be told, he's been avoiding his sister. Yes, he asked her to come, 'badgered' her if you let her tell it. He kept telling himself to be prepared for a change. When they have a year and tragedy between them, not to mention the Atlantic Ocean, who can expect either of them to be the same?
But she is just the same. She will probably never grow up at this rate and he racks his brain trying to understand how a young woman can maintain a child's mentality for so many years. Just today, for example, she threw a fit because Granny was showing him favoritism. Anna's problem is she has confused favoritism with familiarity. When she up and left town, she left more than just he and Ellie behind.
The most frustrating part is her blatant disgust every time Ellie refers to Emma as 'Mommy' and he as 'Daddy.' He can't count on all limbs the number of times he's caught Anna referring to Liam as her father. She's a goddamn hypocrite and she started drinking at 2pm.
"Is that four or five now?" He gestures to the glass in her hand as she tops it off just before they serve dinner. Without glancing in his direction she shoots back an insult.
"Ellie may call you 'dad' but if you haven't noticed, I don't. It's not cute to count drinks, Kilo." She shoves the glass against his chest, lucky that he catches it as she reaches for another one to pour herself. "Before you became this big bad boss of everyone, you used to embark on your own Parrot Bay cruises, Captain. I think I liked you better then."
He liked her better when she was across the ocean.
Over the course of a week they've managed to avoid any actual arguments, just a trillion snide remarks and irritating facial expressions. She has also managed to avoid spending any actual time with Ellie, the main reason he wanted Anna here. He invited her to a tea party on Monday but she had to reject the offer as she was too busy catching up on American TV. The night before they had dinner together at home and she ignored every question Ellie asked about Liam and Elsa. Then there was yesterday after the diner where she made it seem as if Granny was losing her mind to Ellie, just so no one would suspect Anna to be at fault.
"We're just about to start, Anna."
"Okay?" She shrugs and he contemplates knocking back the drink in his hand and taking hers while he's at it. He's been close to sober since the accident and he doesn't want to ruin that over Anna. He slams the glass in his hands onto the counter and rips away the one she's holding.
"Grab a dish and bring it out." He grits through his teeth. He swears she's still sixteen and he's got none of the patience he had before.
They manage to get everything on the table, everyone is seated and they begin going around the table expressing all they're thankful for. It gets to Emma and she smiles at him, her hand held tight in his.
"I never sat around a Thanksgiving table like this before, I've never done this." She smiles wider until soft tears stream from her eyes. "I'm really thankful for my family now and that this family includes all of you." She sniffles and his heart bursts, so full of love he could just die.
"I guess it's my turn, then." He sits at the head of the table, Ellie and Emma on his sides as Anna caps the other end. "I'm thankful of course for my family, the addition to come, the progress we've all made." She squeezes his hand tightly, her cheeks round and full as she grins wildly. She wants to marry him and they're having a baby. No, he doesn't consider it an even exchange for the loss he's endured, but it definitely grants him the power to forgive the hell he's been through.
"My turn?" Ellie asks, her hand small and gentle in his own. He nods as encouragingly as he can. "Okay, I'm thankful for my mom and my dad and my baby sister and my big brother and my Jakey and all the people who love me and all the people I love so much."
"Well spoken, Love Bug."
And it keeps going until it hits Anna, Kris giving thanks for his wife and the family they have in Boston to come home to. He anticipates the arse he knows Anna can be when she's holding her emotions in. She thinks she's passive, some would say passive aggressive, he just calls it annoying.
"I'm thankful that this town never changes." She raises her glass and everyone scans their neighbor to see if they should follow. Killian doesn't raise a goddamn finger.
"That's all?" Ellie asks, squinting her eyes at her aunt. "Everybody says family, Aunnie Anna. You are happy to be home with us, right?"
"Sure." She shrugs, before reaching to serve herself. Ellie turns back to Killian with a sweet little confused look on her pretty face.
"Why is she being bad?" Ellie whispers.
"Because she is bad." Killian replies just before standing to carve the turkey.
Once everyone has food on their plates, they begin conversation again as if Anna isn't trying her damnedest to sabotage a good time. He thinks if she just keeps stuffing food in her mouth, he'll be able to get through dinner without a fight.
"Oh, Emma, Killian, how's the adoption going?" Belle asks after talking to Robin about adopting a dog for Roland now that Ellie has one.
"Adoption?" Maybe it's the liquor that prevents Anna from telling how loud her voice is as it echoes across the whole house. "Legally?"
"Yes. Just as you're legally adopted." He reminds her. "Emma and I will be legally adopting Eloise."
"I didn't realize you were adopted." Mary Margaret tries to make conversation at a very inopportune time as Anna blatantly ignores her and stands, her chair tumbling backward and crashing against the hardwood.
"Funny, I didn't know you were the handy type but that hammer looks good on you, Kilo."
"Pick up that chair." He voices lowly.
"Look at you, pounding another nail into their coffins." If she was a little more sober, she would have noticed no one was waiting for the explanation to that metaphor. It was idiotic and something only the inebriated would say.
"People don't wear hammers, Anna. Pick up that chair."
"Damn the chair, Killian!" She shouts, slamming her hands against the table. This is the second dinner they've had this month that's been ruined by some sort of drama. At this rate, no one will ever attend another gathering at their house. "When were you going to tell me that you were adopting their daughter?"
"When you showed some interest in her!" And bitterness is an infectious disease as it spreads from the corner he banished it to, to his heart, mind and vocal chords. "This isn't about Ellie, this is about you. What is it to you? Why are you angry? Why are you ruining Thanksgiving?"
Emma adjusts herself in the chair beside him, a deep breath leaving her lungs.
"Why are you yelling!" Ellie shouts causing Emma and Mary Margaret to stand simultaneously.
"Ellie, Roland, let's go get dessert ready." Emma suggests, but only Roland responds, Ellie remains seated with her hand falling over Killian's.
"Why are you ruining their legacy?" Anna fires back and it breaks his resolve. He stands too, slipping his hand from Ellie's as he moves around the table toward Anna. Ruby and Robin stand to stop him, but this is all overdue and he can't let anyone else postpone it. It's about time they have it out.
"Eloise, I asked you to come into the kitchen." He hears Emma repeat. He turns back to find Ellie's arms folded and eyes downcast.
"Ellie, go with your mother."
"I don't want Aunnie Anna to be mean to you!" She whines, scratching at her forehead and pouting. Granny rises and scoops Ellie into her arms. He watches Ellie bury her face in Granny's shoulder, cries bellowing out. The sound only fuels his rage. Once she's out of sight he turns back to Anna, his teeth shaking when he goes to speak.
"How dare you. You think that you have any right? You don't give a shit about anyone here."
"And you don't give a shit about the people who can't be here." She fires back, pushing Ruby and Robin out of her way.
"You don't know anything about me, Anna." He spits, his chest rising and falling every half-second. "Unlike you, I've changed. I've grown. You're still a child, upset when everything doesn't revolve around her."
"I get it, I'm selfish, but you're ungrateful. Don't sit here and give thanks for the family you have, the daughter you took from them."
"TOOK?" He's not the type to scream, especially not with his jaw this tight. "You realize they died, don't you? They are dead. Liam and Elsa are dead, Anna and they left her with me."
"Do I realize they're dead? Are you kidding me? I got to the hospital before you that day, Killian. I identified their bodies. Yes, I know they're dead, you ass." She doesn't cry. She doesn't flinch. She's always been a bull until Liam comes in and she shatters on command. "Seems like they died just in time for you to fill their shoes and have the family you always wanted."
"Anna?" Ruby gasps. He hears a bit of movement behind him but his laser sights are set on the target before him.
"Watch your damn mouth."
"I've been watching my mouth since I got here, I've been pretending not to think it's absolutely disturbing that you would buy a house with the girl you haven't known long enough to have a child with. I've been quiet while you have Ellie calling her 'mom' and I've been watching you erase Liam and Elsa from her life completely."
"You know nothing!" He growls. "They are everywhere in this home and everywhere in her features, her personality. She knows exactly who they are. We have had several talks about them. You know what would be nice, her getting to have a talk with you about them. Why don't you tell her how Liam used to call you 'Sunshine,' or what Elsa was like as a teenager? Why don't you—"
"I don't know what she was like as a fucking teenager!" She screams, throwing her hands up dramatically. "I don't know anything about my sister or Liam's youth. I only know them as parents, because that's all they got to be, Killian. Doesn't it just make you sick? Don't you lose sleep?"
"You would know everything I lost had you been here, had you not been the 3rd on the list of things lost to me."
"You weren't exactly there for me either, Killian. You'd call and we'd talk about Ellie and how great you were adjusting. You never once called me without Ellie, you never asked me how I was surviving. You had no idea what it was like for me."
"You had a husband to talk to, Anna, I had a three-year-old I tried my hardest not to cry in front of everyday."
"I get it, I know all about 'Killian, the father-figure.' I knew nothing about the grieving kid who lost his role models. You hid him well from me so you don't get to tell me I wasn't there. You never came to me about it."
"You never came to me either. You took off and started risking your life like a fucking idiot. You took off and I wondered if you'd ever come home alive, or if they'd ship your body back to be buried beside them."
"I never knew if I'd come home alive either and to be perfectly honest, I liked it that way." He thinks he's done now. She can go jump into a tornado for all he cares. He thinks he wants to comfort Ellie and let Anna burn every bridge in Boston before getting on a plane to anywhere else. She looks so sure of herself at first. Her chin is strong and her eyes look decided. He thinks she's said enough to finish this conversation.
He knows he'd rather be with his daughter than go against the bull before him, but he stays. He stands still because some days Anna is the bull. Some days she's the bumbling, stubborn little girl she's always been, wreaking havoc on the people that care so deeply for her. But that's only some days. Other days she's the china shop. She beats herself up and she breaks. He stays long enough to watch her proud chin tremble beneath her quivering bottom lip. He stays just long enough to see a year and a half worth of porcelain shatter.
"I'd go from 'why am I not living my life to the fullest' to 'why am I still alive when they're not.' I have survivor's guilt like I was in the car, or better yet, the driver who killed them." She sniffles and snorts something disgusting and raw. She's not faking these tears and he's not trapped like he usually is, he's devastated. They tumble down her cheeks like they're both standing in the middle of a storm getting soaked and he finds his cheeks dampening as well. "How can you not feel guilty? They spent their youth struggling to raise us. Now they don't get to raise their own kid? How is that fair? How can you adopt her, how can you just be them when they can't be them?"
"Because they can't be them." He swipes at his cheeks in irritation. "Do you remember your parents, Anna?"
"I was three, you know that."
"So was she." Anna drops eye contact then. "She's not going to remember anything about him. Every memory she has will be borrowed. I get that you loved them, Anna. No one else in this world will understand it like I do, but they're gone. It's been over a year and a half and she wants to move on. We all want to move on. It's not my fault you weren't here to progress with us."
"So what does that mean for me?"
"You either move on with us or get left behind."
The yelling stopped a few minutes ago. Granny has the kitchen radio cranked up and playing Christmas songs already. There's still low mumbling beneath it. Ellie is sitting on the counter in front of Emma as she's settled on a barstool, rubbing circles into Ellie's back. She stopped crying but is still sniffling and sad.
There are more people huddled around the island than in their formal dining room. David and Belle were the last to join the fray.
"Some first Thanksgiving, huh?" Granny approaches with a shareable slice of apple pie a la mode. She means to laugh, but tears slip out by mistake. She's too pregnant for all of this, her stomach's been cramping since Anna shared what she was most thankful for. She thinks if she ignores it, it'll go away, but the pain shoots to her back. "Are you alright?"
She wants to nod but ends up shaking her head honestly.
"What's wrong?" Ellie snaps her head to stare at Emma.
"I just have a bad tummy ache." And suddenly speaking about it makes the pain all that much worse. She turns to angle herself differently on the stool and something that she refuses to believe is a contraction hits her and steals her breath.
"Emma?" Mary Margaret and David make their way over to her, "Are you okay? Is it the ba—" Emma quickly signals her friend to stop speaking with a shake of her head.
"We should get you to the hos—" David begins and Emma cuts him off again with a wide-eyed pleading, motioning to Ellie with a slight hand gesture. She catches sight of movement between Mary Margaret and David's shoulders. She doesn't get a good glimpse until after Ellie calls it out.
"Daddy!" Killian scoops Ellie into his arms, pressing his lips to her temple but Ellie tugs away, grabbing his face with two hands. "My mom's tummy is hurting really bad." She didn't want Ellie to panic but now she's all bug-eyed and frightened. This is turning out to be the worst day ever.
"S'that true?" he cups Emma's face before she gets a chance to downplay it. Sometimes, it's a curse to feel this comfortable with him. The moment he touches her and turns those bright blue eyes on her, she folds, allowing her own fear to shine through.
"I just…are you okay?" She attempts and he widens his eyes, his brow furrowing.
"Emma? Are you in pain? Is it the baby?"
"I don't know."