I'm alive?! WHO KNEW! I've had this churning around in my head for a while and I'm glad to finally get it out. I hope you guys enjoy! Also thanks to Amber, the best beta in the entire universe.
Emma turns 28 the day her life is turned upside down.
All she wanted that year was a nice, peaceful birthday. She didn't want to have to chase a bail jumper at the last minute. She didn't want to have to explain to her son (sweet, sweet Henry) that their plans would have to be held back an hour or two. She didn't want to finally catch her breath and start cutting the cake with Henry when she got home only to hear a knock at the door and a woman on the other side telling her she was a long lost princess.
The last part isn't even a joke, as much as it feels like one.
Emma just blows out her candle (well, let her eleven year old blow out her candle) when she hears the knock. She's mildly irritated to have her peaceful night in interrupted yet again, so when Emma swings open the door she's not at her most sociable.
"Can I help you?" Emma asks the tall, blonde woman at the other side of the door.
The woman doesn't miss a beat. "I think the right question is, 'can I help you?'"
Emma's patience dwindles quickly after that. "Listen, I'm not really in the mood for salespeople right now. It's 9 o'clock at night, it's my birthday, I ju-"
Her attempt to close the door is blocked by a foot enclosed in a high heel that looks like it costs more than her entire wardrobe.
"I know what day it is, Emma Swan." the woman says, perfectly calm. Emma is starting to get a little terrified. "And I'm not trying to sell you anything. Have you ever met your parents?"
Emma stiffens. "I don't know what kind of twisted prank you're trying to pull here, but I am not playing along."
"I'm Ingrid Fisher, I work for the government of Misthaven - a small, sovereign island off the coast of Europe. Your parents sent y-"
"Now I know you're crazy." Emma mutters under her breath.
Ingrid rolls her eyes, then continues without missing a beat. "Your parents sent you here when you were a day old because they hoped you'd be safe. The two of them fought tooth and nail to get that country independence - a lot of people did, right beside them - and there was a lot of unrest in Misthaven for years. Now, they finally feel it's safe enough for you to come home."
Emma blinks. "Do you even know how crazy you sound right now?"
"I'm well aware that what I'm saying sounds preposterous, but I can assure you, I'm telling you nothing but the truth."
"How do I know you're not a crazy person going to kidnap me and my son? People pretend to be royalty for scams all the time -"
Ingrid huffs, irritated by the line of questioning, and shoves a paper from her overpriced purse into her hands. "Here. A copy of your birth certificate. Your real birth certificate. We were able to pull some diplomatic strings with the U.S. because we were afraid of what would happen if anyone found out who you really were, but -"
"I don't know how easy it is to make a fake birth certificate." Emma replies defensively. "You can do a lot of things with Photosh-"
She's interrupted by Ingrid shoving her phone in her face - a Google result lighting up the screen.
"Misthaven is real, Emma. Here it is on Google Maps. Here's a Wikipedia entry detailing its history and population and whatever the hell else. If you read the news, you'd find articles like this from BBC detailing how your parents overthrew their predecessor, and here-" she finishes, finally, scrolling to find an image, "are your parents. The resemblance is uncanny, huh?"
Emma can only gape. The couple have aged well, she has to admit, and she can see the shape of her chin in the woman and the color of her hair in the man. If she were to imagine what her parents would look like...this would be it.
"And it case you still don't believe me," Ingrid mutters, finding a listing of Misthaven's cabinet with some ease. "there I am. Ingrid Fisher, director of communications. You can even see my picture."
Emma doesn't know where to begin.
"Do you believe me, now?" Ingrid
"Why did they give me up?" Emma asks, hating the way her voice cracks and the feeling of the sudden rush of moisture in her eyes. "Safety or not - why not tell me the truth? Why did I grow up alone, thinking there was no one out there who gave a damn about me?"
Ingrid sighs and, for the first time since the beginning of this exchange, Emma can see some warmth in this woman. "That's a conversation you need to have with your parents. Believe me, I know how difficult that is."
"How?" Emma replies, disbelieving. "How can you possibly know?"
Ingrid looks down at her shoes. Emma can tell this is an uncharacteristic gesture for a woman who seems so proud. "Because - much like your parents - I wanted my nieces to forgive me for trying to protect them."
Emma pauses for a moment, unsure of how to respond. "Did they?"
"They have big hearts." Ingrid replies, a soft smile coming across her face. "So do your parents. You should hear them out."
"Mom?" Henry appears over Emma's shoulder and she whips around to face him, quickly wiping under her eyes.
"I heard all of that." Henry says, matter of factly.
Ingrid grabs a card out of her bag, scrawling a phone number on the back of it. "I'll be here for the next few days. Call me when you've decided what to do. Your parents would love to meet you."
Emma sighs and takes the card, slumping against the door after she shuts it.
Henry just stares at her, all quiet understanding. Somehow that almost makes it worse.
"What do you think we should do, kiddo?" She has a feeling she knows what his answer is going to be before he even opens his mouth.
"Well, a castle does sound pretty cool," Henry supplies helpfully and she can't help but laugh. "And - don't get me wrong - you're the best mom, like, ever. But it's been just the two of us for a really long time and my friends always have these huge Thanksgiving and - again you're the best mom ever - but it'd be pretty sweet to have a big family, too."
Her heart breaks a little, then. The fact that she was - through and through - a friendless orphan hasn't just affected her, but her son. Emma frowns.
"C'mere, kiddo." she says, crouching down to get eye-level with him. Emma flattens his collar with a sad smile. "Do you really want to do this?"
"I don't want to make you sad, mom," is his immediate response, eyes trained on the tile. If her heart wasn't broken before, it's grinded into small dust by now. She swears she wouldn't trade this kid for the world.
"Whatever you want, it won't make me sad," she swears, moving to push a strand of his hair behind his ear. He should really get it cut, Emma idly notes.
Henry looks up at her, with all the vulnerability only a child can muster. "You promise?"
"Pinky swear." Emma nods, holding out her finger.
Henry links his with hers, apparently satisfied with the legitimacy of this oath. "In that case, I say go."
"Then we'll go."
That's how she ends up on a flight to Misthaven, Ingrid on one side of her and Henry on another.
She spends the flight mainly reading through news articles about her parents she's saved for the trip. Emma reads about how they were the epitome of leadership and how they stopped their predecessor, Regina's, gross mistreatment and even murder of those who threatened her power. Apparently, the last of Regina's dwindling power had been taken away from her only a few months ago when she was sentenced to prison time by the Misthaven Supreme Court. She'd spent the years beforehand dodging all of their attempts to capture her.
It explained their timing, why they took so long to even try to reach out to her, if nothing else did.
Emma falls asleep with one of their many biographies lighting up her screen.
They arrive there at a small airport and leave in Ingrid's BMW - really, Emma is just impressed at all the luxury items the woman manages to buy considering it doesn't look like there's anyone who sells them in the entire country.
Misthaven, as it turns out, doesn't look all that different from small town America. There's a few boutiques and shops, a bed and breakfast, and a handful of restaurants. Small business seems to thrive here, considering she can't spot a single chain store in the area.
"Welcome to Storybrooke, Miss Swan," Ingrid announces when they arrive to their apparent destination, gesturing to the sign that has the very same words printed on it. "The capital of Misthaven."
"Storybrooke?" she asks skeptically, "So, the capital of Misthaven is Storybrooke?"
"I didn't name this place," Ingrid rebuffs, a little defensively. "I just live here. Do you want to talk about what a weird name Massachusetts is?"
"Storybrooke, though?" Emma repeats, scrunching her face.
Henry pipes up, "I think it's cool."
Emma gives Ingrid a look that says Henry is proving her point.
"We had a re-naming contest." Ingrid explains with a sigh, "A third grader won because David is putty in the hands of small children."
Emma tries to divert from the painful subject of the father she's never met with children. "What was the name before, then?"
"Evil Queen City," Ingrid says, in a complete deadpan. "I think I like Storybrooke better."
Emma cringes. "Yeah, fair enough."
"Anyway," Ingrid replies airily, "follow me. Your parents' home is just this way."
Emma stills as she enters the room and sees her parents for the first time.
It's eerie, how much she can see herself in them. Pictures are one thing, real life is another. She can see her hair in the king, her chin in the queen, and the awestruck expression on both of their faces would have been enough to feed her childhood fantasies for years.
Emma tries to speak, but no words come out.
Mary Margaret is the first to speak. "We're so happy to get to see you again, Emma."
'You were gone for my entire life', she wants to say. 'I was bounced from foster home for foster home - were these scars made by shitty foster parents worth separating the two of us when there was a shot of us making it together?', she wants to say. 'I gave birth to my son in prison because I was so desperate to find a home and Neal offered me the closest I ever had to it,' she wants to say.
Instead, she can only say, "Me too."
Mary Margaret (her mother, a word more foreign to her than this strange country) is still crying, but David's previously composed face starts to crumple and - oh no, oh no, oh no. Her mother was bad enough, she doesn't know what to do with the both of them breaking down in front of her. Emma does not deal well with crying people, with maybe her son as an exemption. And that was only after enduring his seemingly endless wailing when he was a baby.
Trying to deal with two sobbing, fully grown adults that she still - in spite of their explanations - harbors some resentment at for abandoning her is, well, a little too much for her to deal with.
"I'm sorry," Emma says as a reflex, hoping the words will just make them stop. It's a habit she still harbors from childhood. "I'm so, so sorry. Sorry. I'm just - sorry."
They both look alarmed at her response.
Mary Margaret manages to compose herself first, "What on earth do you have to be sorry for, honey?"
Emma can't help but flinch at the term of endearment. "I didn't mean to upset you guys."
"Upset?" David repeats, eyebrows shooting to the top of his head. "Emma, we're ecstatic to see you again. We didn't know if we'd ever - damn, my eyes are filling up again."
He laughs at himself a little, then. And then Mary Margaret starts laughing. Emma has no idea how, but somehow she finds herself laughing with them - laughing so deeply her ribs ache and her abdomen is far from happy with her.
The emotional extremes are giving her whiplash, honestly. She's starting to get a little lightheaded.
David regains his composure, looking to the corner of the room. "Who is this?"
Emma turns around to see Henry, Ingrid at his back, gazing in wonderment at his grandparents.
"My son," she breathes out in a shaky exhale, "Henry. C'mere, kiddo, meet your grandparents."
Henry races towards them as enthusiastically as only an eleven year old can be. They both accept his affections, gladly, and she sees them give her son a bone-crushing hug that Henry returns tenfold. That meeting requires a lot less explanation, oddly enough.
Emma still doesn't have all her answers. This is almost enough for her, though.
The next six weeks are something like pandemonium. She gets fitted for dresses, listens to various affairs in politics, and attempts to learn archery for her mother's sake and sword fighting for her father's. She's miserable at the first and decent at the second.
Really, it's like the 1970s meets the 1700s.
Emma feels like she is suffocating.
It's not that she doesn't love her parents. It's not that she doesn't appreciate all the privileges she's been given - especially after living without them for...well, her entire life up to six weeks ago.
Her parents tried so hard to compensate for the life they couldn't give her for those years they spent apart from her. They didn't seem to get that their now 28 year old daughter couldn't fill the gap of their lost newborn daughter any more than her parents could fill the gap of 28 years alone.
Then, there was Henry to think about.
He'd be fine if she were just gone for a day, she reasoned. He had plenty of people to look after him and who doted on him. He bonded to his grandparents immediately and the staff was endeared to his every movement.
All she needs is a day.
Emma tells her father as much, feeling a little ridiculous asking her father for permission to leave home at 28 years old.
He nods in perfect understanding (they've both been so understanding it almost makes her want to weep, want to tell the little girl who thought she'd always be an orphan to just hang in there a little while longer) and tells her that he's one step ahead of her. Her identity has been completely protected, minus a few of their closest friends and staff (most of which, he tells Emma, she's already met).
Emma has trouble reconciling that announcement, "So, what, my face isn't plastered all over Twitter by now?"
David grimaces, "I guess that's one advantage of us being a little behind all the times after Regina's takeover. As long as you stay away from Leroy, you should be okay. If you want us to tell everyone who you are immed-"
"No, no," Emma insists quickly, anxious just at the prospect of that level of scrutiny. "Thank you for letting me make that decision, David."
He flinches a bit at the first name, but offers her a small smile just the same. "You know we'd do anything to make you feel comfortable here."
She smiles back the best that she can, even though internally she's screaming that - parents or not - she's never felt more out of place.
Emma leaves the next morning and decides her first move will be to go to a place no one would expect a princess.
One of Storybrooke's seedier bars, named the Rabbit Hole - as if this place wasn't already weird enough.
David must have really not been lying about the lengths they went to protect her identity. No one bats an eyelash at her. Maybe she should be thankful for the fact that Misthaven's technology hasn't evolved past 2001. She contemplates this, sipping at an expensive beer she normally would never buy.
Not even drinking is the same here.
She's contemplating this when a distinctively male, British voice interrupts her train of thought.
"You a tourist?" the man - early thirties, scruffy, lean, and dark haired - gestures over to her from a few seats away at the bar.
"Yup," Emma replies curtly.
She's looking to go exploring a little bit. And, by the look of him and the way he's looking at her, the only thing she'd explore with this guy is, well, his…
"-body could tell from the look of you that you're new to Misthaven," Killian finishes a sentence, the first half of which she's completely missed because she was too busy rationalizing why she definitely should not be playing too nice with this guy.
"Emily" she introduces herself reluctantly, barely able to catch herself at the fake name. Emma really needs to get better at this if she expects to keep this charade up for long. "since you're probably going to keep on talking if I don't give it to you now."
"I'm still talking, Emily," Killian laughs wryly, eyes twinkling. "I'm just going to make sure to bring up your name as often as possible in conversation."
Emma shrugs indifferently. "Not really conversation if you're just talking to yourself."
"Am I?" he asks, raising an eyebrow. "Talking to myself?"
She looks a little begrudged, but offers a humble, "Nope."
"So, what brings you to our country?" Killian asks without missing a beat.
Emma sighs, figuring she should have predicted this question. "I don't know. You act like you've got me so figured out, why don't you tell me?"
"An escape, then?" he supplies nonchalantly.
Emma pauses for a beat. "Yeah, you could say that. How'd you guess?"
"Let's just say you're a bit of an open book, love." Killian grins at her.
It seems the two of them have moved closer and closer as their conversation progressed from a solid three feet away to now where she can now practically feel his breath. Emma stiffens at the realization and draws back.
"Congratulations on guessing literally anyone's reason for vacationing," Emma mutters.
Again, running around with men in her...whatever this place is to her (weird, fever dream place with the parents she fantasized about) isn't going to help her conceal her identity. What Emma wanted was a break. What she wanted was five minutes where strangers clamored over meeting the long lost princess (at last!). What she wanted was to get away from all of this. What she wanted was -
"You seem like you could use an adventure." Killian notes, mischief creeping into his tone as he practically reads her thoughts. Is she really that transparent? Emma typically prides herself on being guarded since the foster homes and Neal and well, the last time...
"Last time I went around with a guy promising adventure from a bar, I ended up -" Emma catches herself up before she can say the word 'pregnant'. If she thought Mary Margaret was a terrible liar, it must be contagious. "...regretting it."
He rolls his eyes, "I can assure you, Emily, you'll have no regrets about what I'm about to show you. I'll even cover your tab."
She's about to protest and tell him that she can cover her own damn tab, thank you very much, before she realizes that her method of payment - credit card, why didn't she think to bring cash? - would be a dead giveaway of her identity. Damn it.
And, after all, she did want to explore the area a little bit. This weird, outdated, more progressive version of a Medieval-esque area.
Emma huffs, glowering at the drink she's already halfway through. "Only because you're paying for my drinks, buddy."
Killian chuckles. "I'd expect nothing less, Emily."
Somehow, they end up at the edge of the woods.
The woods aren't more than a mile's walk from the bar, but there still has to be something wrong with her for agreeing to this.
Emma says as much, "Let me follow this stranger into a secluded part of the forest. That's definitely something that people who don't get murdered say."
Killian only rolls his eyes good naturedly. "Try something new, darling. It's called trust."
He extends his hand to her dramatically. Emma pointedly ignores it.
"Point taken," he says, unconcerned. "However, I do believe you wanted an adventure, however, and that's precisely what I shall deliver."
"In the woods?"
Just as Emma says that, there's a rustling in the bushes. She nearly jumps.
Killian merely scoffs in the direction of the bushes, "Oi, Merlin, you're startling Misthaven latest tourist!"
Sure enough, a man looking approximately their age emerges from the brush. "You're the one who texted me to show you the way, Jones. I assumed you were expecting me, given I live on the damn property."
"Emily, Merlin. Merlin, Emily." Killian introduces the two of them quickly. "He's here to help me show off some of Storybrooke's finest offerings."
"You must be the guy he called to help bury the body," Emma deadpans.
"I apologize for his lack of manners on his behalf." Merlin adds. "It's rare that we get tourists, to be fair. After what happened with Regina…"
"I know. Evil dictator, nearly crashed this place into the ground." Emma recaps quickly, eager to get the discussion away from royalty. She hasn't been recognized yet, but there's no harm in being cautious. "Is that why this guy is so intent on being my tour guide?"
"More like intent on having me be your tour guide and take credit for all my work," Merlin teases, but the words don't have much bite in them.
"Merlin here," Killian gestures to the man in front of them, "is going to take us to see some of Misthaven finest sites. Really, they're...magical. Merlin will show you some real magic."
"Ha ha," Merlin mutters sarcastically, though he doesn't look too offended. "First time I've heard that, especially from you."
Emma stifles a laugh. She's a little glad that she isn't the only one to have noticed all the surreal names here. "You know, the people in this place have interesting names. I've met an Ariel, an Aurora, a Mulan...now Merlin. Does Disney have a lawsuit against this place yet?"
Merlin sighs heavily, as if this is a matter that constantly weighs upon him. "Our parents had senses of humor, I guess. You should meet Tinkerbell."
Emma's lips twitch and Killian doesn't even try to mask his laugh.
"You should hear what people call this guy," Merlin says, gesturing to Killian with a smirk.
"I don't quite believe that's necessary."
Emma raises an eyebrow. "Oh? Do go on, Merlin."
"Captain Hook," Merlin grins, looking quite satisfied with himself. "We started calling him that after the git started to tease us with Little Mermaid this, I'll Make A Man Out of You that.
"It isn't bloody fair. I get a big nosed, perm-wearing, loon?"
"I get an old white guy." Merlin points out. "Which one is farther from the truth. Two of yours are true."
"Oi! My nose is perfectly proportiona-"
"As much as I would love to hear the rest of this conversation," Emma interrupts, "is there a reason you brought me here, bar guy?"
"Bar guy?" Killian repeats, seeming a little offended. "Bar guy. Alright, Emily, let me show you one of Misthaven's finest sites. Besides your handsome companion, of course."
"I'm touched, Killian."
"Bugger off, Merlin.'
That's how she winds up in the middle of a meadow, after hiking for a little bit with the two men.
Emma isn't much of a nature girl, not really. She had a boyfriend who was into camping once, and spent a trip with him sunburnt, bitten by mosquitos head to toe, and miserable. The extent of her hiking experience is whenever her marks decide that they'll run from the bail hunter into the woods.
It's not a fun experience for either her or the bail jumper.
But there's something about this meadow - so picturesque it's more well suited for a Monet painting than real life - that makes her gasp, a little bit. It's all green grass and pink petals, the sort of thing people dream about when they're kids.
The sort of place a lost little girl dreams of fleeing to after being shuffled around for so long without a home.
"If you're looking for an escape, I can't imagine many places that could compete with this." Killian murmurs in her ear. "Want to go in?"
"What if there are, I don't know, bees?" she mutters. Bees liked meadows, right? Emma is grasping at straws, she knows, but she figured the attractive guy from the bar would take her to a few tourist destinations. Not romantic meadows in clearings.
(Not that she dislikes the flowers. She wishes she disliked them, maybe.)
"Bees?" Killian repeats, amused. "I don't see any at the moment, so I reckon we should be alright."
"What if we trample the flowers?"
He sighs exaggeratedly, picking a small, pink flower and presenting it to her with a dramatic bow. "A beautiful flower for a beautiful lady."
Emma flushes. "I'm embarrassed for you for that line. Is that really your best pick up line?"
"I second that." Merlin calls from behind the two of them.
Killian only shakes his head, unphased. "Take a piece of Misthaven with you for wherever you go next, Emily."
It really is a pretty flower.
Killian walks her back to Main Street, once they've said their goodbyes and thanks to Merlin.
"Well, thanks for the flower." Emma says, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear and avoiding his gaze as they walk - she's not great with accepting gifts from men. The last time that happened with, well, Walsh and the failed proposal... "I'm sure if all tourists were shown sights like that, Misthaven would be bustling."
Killian grins. "I appreciate the vote of confidence, but we're not quite done yet."
Emma looks over to him, puzzled.
"Did I ever tell you I had a ship?" he says, pride in his voice.
"In the two hours that we've known each other?" Emma replies, skeptically. "I don't think so."
Killian holds out his arm for her to link hers with. "It's a short walk. You ever been sailing?"
She hesitates before taking it, but she does end up threading her arm through his. "I can't say that I have."
"That's a tragedy we must rectify."
As it turns out, he wasn't lying about the ship. It looks straight out of a Pirates of the Caribbean movie - with grand sails
"Welcome to the Jolly Roger," he announces grandly, gesturing to the ship around them.
"Jolly Roger? Like the pirate flag?"
Killian grins. "Aye, good ear. That's the very one. It makes me feel a tad rebellious, I suppose."
"You know, it'd be cheaper to get a motorcycle." she points out.
"Not nearly as satisfying."
Emma can't help but agree with him.
"Any ports where you're from?" he asks airly, leaning against the railing of the ship. "If not, that would help explain the atrocity of you never experiencing the ocean."
Emma shakes her head "I'm from Boston, actually. I have no excuse."
He shakes his head dramatically. "A bloody tragedy, that is."
Emma laughs. "I've always wanted to, though. Something about sailing always sounded nice. Getting away, wind in your hair, all of that."
"I often find the sea quite calming." Killian adds, "The good news is, now you have the opportunity to reap its therapeutic advantages as well.
"Lucky me," she replies, off-handedly.
"Lucky me," he repeats, the words taking on new meaning. "Let me show you something."
He tells her of the story of how one of the floorboards broke, how he learned to tie one handed (miserably, as it turns out - the story of how he lost his hand was for another time), and of stories from his childhood on deck.
When he mentions that he grew up orphaned, it's automatic for her to reply that she was (is) the same.
He stares at her with soft understanding. "We all have the same look in our eyes. The look of someone who's been left alone."
She thinks of her parents. She thinks of the answers she still hasn't gotten, not really, and sighs. "Yeah, I guess we do."
Wind pushes her hair into her face a beat after she says that, and Killian doesn't hesitate to brush it out of her face for her. His hand stills on her cheek for a moment and she thinks that maybe, maybe this place wouldn't be so -
Emma snaps away at the thought and his hand drops.
"You all right, Emily?"
A reminder of the fact that this isn't real. Emma hates that she almost wishes it was.
"I do have one question, though." One she shouldn't ask, probably, but there's something about the sea air and the sails flapping that gives her the nerve.
"Ask away, love."
"Why go through all this trouble for a random woman at a bar?"
He pauses for a moment before grinning down at her, dimples and all. "Perhaps I just like you."
Emma rolls her eyes and tries to ignore the way her heart speeds up, just a little.
It seems that their next and final destination is a diner. Which she wouldn't expect a fully grown man to be so excited about, and yet...
"This," Killian gestures to the diner around them, "is Granny's. The finest dining establishment around."
"A diner?" she asks skeptically.
He exaggerates being affronted at the appraisal. "I won't take that kind of criticism, Emily. That mouth of yours will be too full of the world's best grilled cheese to make those kind of personal attacks on this town."
Emma rolls her eyes, but orders the grilled cheese with a side of onion rings.
She's kind of mad when he's right - it's easily the world's best grilled cheese. Easily.
"My son is going to be so mad that he's not here to eat this," she groans, "if he thinks what I can barely accomplish with a Kraft slice and Wonder Bread is impressive, then -"
Emma stops mid-sentence, realizing what she's just said. It's not as if she's counting on this guy to stick around past whatever weird 'adventure' he apparently springs on tourists, but she cringes at the awkwardness that's sure to follow once she reveals she has a kid.
Killian isn't deterred in the slightest. "I'm sure you have fine culinary skills that your boy appreciates, Emily. It's just I'm afraid none of us are quite up to snuff in comparison to Mrs. Lucas."
She can't help but smile a little bit at that.
"How old is your son?"
"Eleven," she answers fondly. "Sometimes I'm astounded at the wisdom that comes out of that kid, how young he is."
"Aye." Killian nods. "I'm sure he gets some of it from his mother. Always able to see underneath the surface."
Emma snorts. "He's just lucky that he didn't get my sparkling personality."
"Nonsense," Killian insists, looking almost upset on her behalf. "You're guarded, is all. Someone hurt you, is my guess, so you have a right to be. You let your walls down when people earn it. And those that earn it, well, I suppose they're some of the luckiest people in the world."
His knowing eyes don't leave hers for the duration of his statement. She feels like she's under an x-ray, with how much he seems to see through her.
Emma stands up abruptly. "I should really go."
"Emily, wait," Killian starts, on her heels on the way out of the diner, bells on the door chiming behind them. "What's wrong?"
"I've already said way too much about myself to a stranger. I'm sorry. Trust me, all of that," she gestures around them, trying to encompass the town, "wooing wouldn't be worth it if you knew who I was. I'm not...I wish I just were a clueless tourist. You have no idea."
Killian stands for a moment, mouth agape as if he isn't quite sure where to go from here. Emma turns around and starts walking away again instead of trying to answer that question for him.
"Emma!" he calls after her, "I know."
"You know?" she replies, puzzled "Know what?"
He raises an eyebrow at her in response and it's only then that she processes his words.
"You…" she stumbles over her words, "What did you call me?"
"Emma. Or should I say, Princess Emma Blanchard-Nolan of Misthaven, if you'd prefer your full title, your majesty."
"It's Emma Swan," the correction is a reflex, one she'll chide herself for later, "and...what? How did you - what?"
"Your father asked me if I'd provide a helping hand today. I'm a captain in the navy." Killian explains, uncharacteristically soft spoken. "He knew you were uncomfortable with the area and didn't like being made a spectacle, so he enlisted my help. It was the least I could do after all your parents have done for me."
"So you lied to me?" Emma summarizes, eyes hardening.
"It's not like that," Killian reassures her.
"Really?" she rebuffs, heat rising, "So you just made me look like an idiot this whole time, trying to keep up this facade of being normal."
Killian replies quickly and smoothly, but even that isn't enough for her right now. "You seem quite normal to me, love."
"Normal people don't have naval captains trailing them - God, that explains your ship - around as a bodyguard while pretending to flirt with them." Emma spits out, gesturing to him. "Normal people aren't long lost fucking princesses from some weird ass island. Normal people -"
She's about the finish that thought when he cuts her off, "Now, I wasn't pretending to flirt. That was all genuine charm for a beautiful woman, mind you."
Emma lets out a sound that can only be described as pure aggravation.
"Can you stop? Nothing here makes any fucking sense - the people here have the names of fairytale characters and all the computers are still on Windows XP and I keep on seeing a bunch of VCRs and I'm supposed to rule this place one day and I have -" Emma takes a deep, gasping breath in order to continue her rant. "no idea what the fuck I'm even doing here. My parents are strangers, a G.E.D does not qualify me to lead a goddamn country, and I want to go home but the problem is I've never even had one."
Killian just stares at her for a moment after she's done. Emma doesn't know how to interpret it.
"You're here because this is your home, Emma." he says softly, earnestly. "Even with all the madness, it's yours."
Emma shakes her head angrily. "You lied to me. David lied to me."
She stalks off angrily, not looking back at the aghast expression on his face.
David is the next to bear the brunt of her fury when she gets back to the castle.
"I realize that you didn't get to parent me before, but that doesn't mean that you get to hire one of your lackeys to trail me."
"Emma, it's not like that."
"Isn't it?" she fires back, anger making her see nothing but red. "I'm not a child anymore, David. I'm a grown adult. You missed your opportunity to be overprotective of me when you and Mary Margaret shipped me off."
"You don't think it killed us every day? To not know where our daughter, our baby was while Regina was destroying everything we cared about?" David replies, voice thick with emotion. "I held you for the first time and swore I'd always protect you from any harm. And then...then I had to give you to Gepetto and not know if I'd ever see you again."
Emma looks down, trying to mask the tears clouding her vision.
"We were told it was your best chance. It was all we ever wanted to give you." Mary Margaret's voice fills the room and both Emma and David turn around to face her.
David nods, meeting his wife's eyes for a minute. "There were so many times we wanted to come and get you. But they never told us where you were. We heard 'she'll only be safe when this is all over' so many times…"
"The happiest day of our lives was when you came back, Emma," Mary Margaret adds, almost pleadingly, walking over to Emma to wipe away one of the tears she was unable to keep at bay. "Please believe that."
Emma lets all of the unanswered questions, all of the foster homes, the stealing, the being alone for so long hit her and can't help collapsing into her mother's arms with a sob.
"Shh," her mother soothes, combing her hand through Emma's hair. "We're so sorry for what you've been through, Emma. We're so sorry."
David joins the embrace. "It wasn't that I didn't trust you to take care of yourself, either, it's just… we want you to be happy here. We want you to think of this place as your home, if you can bear it. I thought having someone show you around...we'll never be able to take back leaving you, ripping you from your home. All we can do is try to give you one here."
It's what Emma has always wanted, anyway.
Emma catches a familiar leather jacket in the halls of the castle (which looks so out of place in the middle of Storybrooke, honestly, but the previous owner was hardly one for taste) and quickly turns in the other direction as quickly as possible.
It was one thing to break down in front of her parents. In front of a stranger that worked for them? Out of the question.
Emma has always been good at avoiding her problems, anyway.
That is, until she literally runs into it with full force the next time she turns a corner.
"Apologies M'a - Swan?"
How did she forget that hallway went in a circle, anyway?
"Killian," she answers, shortly. "Sorry."
"I'm the git that wasn't looking where he was going." he replies with an air of self-deprecation. "Listen, I wanted to apologize for something else, too-"
"No need to," Emma says, and there really isn't. After the conversation with her parents, she gets it. He was just doing his job. It's her fault for feeling anything for a random stranger anyway. "I'll just be going."
"Wait," he pleads just as she turns around. "I want you to know that the only thing I said to you that day that was remotely untruthful was calling you by the wrong name."
She stills, back still turned to him.
"I took you those places because I wanted to. I had this whole plan, before I met you, that I'd take the princess to these boring museums and historical landmarks but then…" he trails off. "I met you. I saw you. I talked to you. I saw something of myself in you, that guardedness. That look in your eyes."
She turns around to face him and, when she does, his eyes meet hers immediately.
"I wanted to take you those places because I liked you. I like you, present tense, rather. You're strong. You're intelligent. You're funny. You're caring, though you pretend not to show it." he smiles a bit at the last comment, and she can't help but mirror him. Killian cautiously takes her hand in his. "I care about you, Emma."
Emma wants to believe all of this, she wants to, but experience has taught her better. "Killian...we've known each other for what? A day?"
"I said I care about you, Swan
Emma feels the urge to run, but she plants her feet to the ground as solidly as she can manage.
She's done running.
There were some chances that were worth taking, here.
Emma grabs him by the collar and tugs his lips to meet hers. He reciprocates passionately, hand immediately curling into her hair and kissing her back with everything he has.
When they break apart, he grins down at her with his eyes creasing and dimples flashing. "How do you feel about Misthaven, now?"
Emma laughs at him, hands curling into his lapel and smile bright and blinding. "I'm warming up to it."
"You sure?" he asks, quirking an eyebrow suggestively.
"Well, I don't know," she replies, a smug smile giving away her intentions. "You might have to prove it again a few times…"
Which he does.
Before he's interrupted by none other than her son.
"Ew, Killian, why are you making out with my mom?"
They break apart pretty quickly after that.
Emma gapes at the two of them. "You two know each other?"
"Duh, mom." Henry responds as if it's the most obvious thing in the world. "He helps grandpa teach me how to swordfight, Killian is the coolest."
"You're giving my eleven year old a deadly weapon?" Emma whips around to face him accusingly.
He raises his hand defensively. "Wooden sword, love. And technically it's your father giving him such lessons, I'm just helping."
"He's even better than grandpa at swordfighting." Henry says smugly. "I saw Killian beat him in a swordfight. Grandpa was so mad. It was awesome."
"Now, young Master Swan, what did we say about being a sore winner?"
Emma doesn't know whether to be more concerned over the fact that David has evidently been taking Henry to do more than horseback riding (as he told her they were doing, honestly) or how endeared Henry is to Killian already when she's just realized she has feelings for him.
Killian already has Henry wrapped around his little finger.
The two of them end up in the courtyard, Killian says something about 'good form' and 'practice' and Emma ends up watching them a few minutes later. Henry is as enthusiastic as can be and Killian, well, Killian isn't much better.
It's easy to see why Henry already takes such a liking to him.
After a moment of watching Kilian playfully commend Henry on his quickly-developing sword fighting skills, though, Emma thinks that maybe it's the other way around. Killian is practically mush in her kid's hands.
When Killian turns around to face her, face lit up in something like delight and eyes searching hers for something like approval, Emma wonders if he's like that with more than just Henry.
"I thought I'd find you here."
She hears the familiar voice on the other side of the clearing and whips around her head to face the intruder.
Killian trudges up next to her in lieu of greeting. "It helps clear your head, doesn't it?"
Emma nods and Killian sits down next to her. A beat of comfortable silence passes between the two of them.
"I think maybe you were right."
"I often am," Killian says playfully.
She snorts. "Humble, too."
"I do have to ask about what specifically, love."
Emma pauses for a moment, playing with the flower - plucked around a half an hour ago - in her hands. She looks around at the meadow and meets his soft gaze. "About this being home."
"What is home if not the place you're surrounded with the people who care about you?" he supplies, a proud smile on his lips.
"And the people that you care about," Emma offers in turn, bumping her shoulder against his.
"Aye, of course. Your parents, Henry…"
Emma doesn't know what possesses her to rest her head on his shoulder as he sits next to her, but she does it anyway. The leather of his coat is soft enough to keep her comfortable and the way he wraps his arm around her waist to help keep her snug is going to keep her warm enough for days.
"You," Emma says the word so quietly she can hardly hear it.
Killian raises an eyebrow, shifting his chin so it rests on top of her head. "What did you say?"
Emma stays silent for a moment, wondering if she should even risks saying it again, but he's so warm and he adores Henry and he's been keeping her sane for the last few days.
"The people that make a place home, that care about you and who you care about...my parents, Henry, and you."
"Aye," he says, uncharacteristically quiet and sincere. "Me."
She kisses him, slow and soft, in a field of flowers and wonders if her life really has become a fairytale.
"Welcome home," Killian tells her with a grin once he's leaned back enough to meet her eyes.
She thinks maybe she can get used to hearing that.