So I am guessing many thought I was giving up on this, but here is almost the final chapter. It's a long one, as it was originally going to be two but I got carried away. I could make my excuses of another job change, a move, and three weeks without internet, but I won't. If and when I finish my paper for my class I am taking this fall, I'll update my other two stories too. Enjoy!
Portland, Maine was not the largest town in the world and its entertainment scene was somewhat lacking. Still the annual Christmas Tree lighting brought in a huge crowd on Thanksgiving night with a few very special musical guests headlining the event. Elsa knew that it was a special moment for her and her career, though she was sad her sister didn't want to take the stage with her and that Liam had to stay behind in Storybrooke after the altercation with his youngest brother. Thankfully Anna and Kristoff had traveled with her and she would be home in bed in just a few hours.
"I think she's up to something," Anna said, sitting in the canvas chair that someone had placed in the backstage area. "I can just sense it you know. I think it's the hormones."
Elsa stared at her sister's reflection in the mirror and then back at herself as she dabbed on a bit more of the pink lip gloss. "You think Ingrid's plotting?"
"Not Aunt Ingrid," the younger sister said in exasperation. "Emma. Didn't you notice during lunch today? She was kind of there but not there. I think she is planning something. When's Killian's birthday? Maybe it's a party. You know like a surprise. I love surprise parties."
Elsa closed her eyes. "I don't think it's that. She's not acting that weird." Elsa appreciated the friendship she had with her manager and friend, but she hated the idea of gossiping.
"You just aren't observant. I am." Her sister's sweater stretched across her quite noticeable baby bump, hands on either side of it. "Number one. She was making a list. I couldn't quite see it to read it, but it was definitely a list."
"She's hosting a huge thanksgiving dinner tonight. You think that might have something to do with it?"
"She was doodling hearts on it." Anna laced her fingers together in front of her. "And then there were the looks."
"I know I'm going to regret this," Elsa said, running her brush through her long blonde hair. "But what looks?"
Cocking her head to the side with a satisfied smile, Anna wrinkled her nose. "The ones they kept exchanging. Killian and Emma. When someone mentioned what their plans were for Friday they touched hands and smiled at each other. Then Emma asked Mary Margaret if she and David would mind watching Henry Friday night. And then someone asked about their wedding plans and Killian actually coughed. And Emma said something about other priorities right now."
"Of course they have other priorities. Killian's brothers were in the hospital for that fight and threatened with jail. So he's got one sleeping on his boat and the other in need of a babysitter since I'm here. Emma's ex is getting married this weekend. Killian's father is dying and he's the only one who can…"
"But," Anna interrupted triumphantly. "Why was Killian asking Regina what time the courthouse opened? You want to know what I think? I think they are eloping." She scrunched up her nose. "Wait. Is it eloping if they go to city hall? Don't you have to go somewhere to elope? Vegas? So maybe it's not an elopement. Maybe it's a…I don't know what you would call it."
"I don't care what we call it. Why would they do that?" The brush clattered to the counter without so much as a flinch from either sister.
Anna looked defensive, squaring off her shoulders. "I think it's romantic." She gave a quick wave to her husband standing near the security team lead for the event. "I think I need to go take my seat. Don't worry. We'll be watching you." The rust haired woman laughed then. "That sounded creepier than I meant it to sound. I don't mean we'll be watching you like we're keeping track or something. No, I just meant that we'll be watching you like we want to see you shine up there."
Elsa smiled sweetly and braved the idea of smeared lip gloss to kiss her sister's cheek. "I understand, Anna. And thank you."
Gingerly tugging back the curtain over the sink, Emma looked across the dark dock toward the boat where Killian's younger brother was staying the night again. She had not exactly met him yet, having spent most of the day playing hostess to their little holiday gathering. The house was nearly empty now with everyone heading off in various directions except their core group of friends besides Elsa and Anna.
"So I was thinking I might sleep at Elsa and Liam's condo tonight," Killian said, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her back to collide with him. "Bad luck to see the bride before the wedding and all that. But then it occurred to me that it was unfair to leave you here with my younger brother on the boat. Perhaps I should stay out there with him."
She rubbed her cheek against his and covered his arm with her own, the other snaking back to let her fingers dive into his thick, dark, hair. "Superstitious?"
"Well, if you must know…" His nose skimmed the shell of her ear, breath and voice warm and low. "I just don't wish anything to spoil our day, my love."
She wanted to close her eyes and sink into his embrace, forget all their troubles for a moment and simply get lost in his soft touches and naughty little suggestions in her ear. For the life of her, she wasn't sure she could stand a night away from him even if he was being adorable about it all. The practical side of her looked over where Ruby seemed to be holding court, sipping on wine and talking to Mary Margaret about hot yoga and losing pregnancy weight. When had Ruby become such an expert on postnatal care? Granny was complaining rather loudly that all this new way of doing things was not at all better than the classics. Everyone seemed relaxed though, eyes hooded with the warmth of the fire in the fireplace and full stomachs from what had been a massive dinner.
"You look like you're up to something," Henry announced, carrying a glass that had not been picked up during the initial sweep earlier. "Just so you know, Ruby noticed and has been asking me."
Emma flushed, grabbing the glass out of her son's hand and turning back to the sink. From the corner of her eye she could see Killian clear his throat and place a guiding hand on Henry's shoulder. "That lass is obsessed with conspiracy theories. Don't tell me that she has convinced you that we are mutant space aliens."
"No," Henry hedged, allowing his future stepfather to turn him back toward the living room. "But you guys did say you wanted to talk to me tonight. And you keep sneaking off and whispering to each other."
Killian raised his eyebrows high at the list of observations. "You're quite an astute young man, but why don't you go see if the pup is still appreciating his temporary spot?"
"Are you getting rid of me?"
"Not at all," Killian said with all seriousness. "I just wished to protect the office upstairs from the hijinks of that pup."
Offering no new protests, Henry ran up the stairs, his sneakers clomping loudly as he went. Emma, who had finished handwashing the glass, turned to watch him. "He'll be excited, or happy, or I don't know," she noted, more to herself than to Killian. "I hate keeping secrets."
"Aye, so do I, love, but it is necessary. If we tell all our lovely family and friends of our little plan, they will surely want to have a say in it. And our private ceremony will take on a new color with the courthouse full of celebrants. Let them keep planning the big event. Tomorrow is our day."
She cupped a hand on his cheek and kissed him lightly. "I love you, but our friends will kill us if they find out."
"Then we should quit talking about it with them only feet away." Leaning forward to kiss her again, he pulled back and then in again to add a third kiss. She laughed against him.
"You know if Mary Margaret and Ruby find out, I'm totally blaming you. This was not my idea. I am being forced." She pulled the dish towel off of his shoulder and tossed it toward the counter. "You should be glad that I love you so much that I'm willing to do this."
"Every day," he grinned, capturing the hand still on his cheek and jaw and drawing it forward. He placed his lips against her palm and then lowered their hands down between them. "I am grateful every day for your love."
They tried to hide their grins as they joined the others, Killian topping off glasses of wine and laughing at Ruby's latest antics being retold. Emma nudged in next to Mary Margaret, handing her pregnant friend a hot cocoa instead of the wine. By the time Killian joined Emma on the sofa, everyone seemed relaxed and paired off with arms and legs entwined and drowsy heads resting on shoulders. Even Granny was settled in the largest of the chairs and sipping happily as she chimed in with an opinion every now and then. She went to check on Henry only to find him texting with Violet to which she informed Emma that it was far too soon for the boy to be that serious about a girl.
"I knew this was horrible mistake," the older Liam said, looking appropriately disgusted as he entered the room from upstairs. "You fill us with all that food and then turn our stomachs with all that love and affection."
"You are just jealous that you can't canoodle with Elsa being halfway across the state," Ruby stated insightfully, her own legs thrown over Graham's lap and her eyes heavy. "I'd invite you over here, but I'm not interested in a threesome right now. Why don't you go sit with Granny? She's had enough wine now that she won't bite."
Liam made a big show of perching himself on the arm of the chair where Granny had taken up residence and throwing and arm around her as he placed a loud but sweet kiss against her cheek. "Lovely company is so hard to come by," he said flirtatiously as Granny half shoved him backwards.
"Ooops," Ruby announced, recrossing her legs. "I might have been wrong. Watch out, Liam. Granny does have fangs."
Graham's low warning to his date sent them all laughing as Liam collapsed dramatically into the chair closest to the fire and pulled his guitar into his lap. "I suppose I could manage to play a little."
"If you practice, I'm quite sure you'll get better," Killian teased good naturedly, forgoing a drink to link his hand with Emma's. He hoped his caressing of her ring finger was not too big of a sign that something was planned for the next day. She would look at him and smile sweetly, dropping her head to his shoulder and sometimes even burying herself into his side.
"My brother is both a teacher and a comedian," Liam groused, adjusting the strap over himself. "I thought that Anastasia and Will were planning to come over too?"
"Perhaps they wanted some privacy," Graham suggested, his bottle of water standing out among the drinkers. "Will is not too happy to share a meal with a man in law enforcement."
"He's not too terrible of a bloke and I don't think he has any outstanding warrants," Killian said, surprising even his brother in defense of a guy who had been in jail twice for petty theft. "And I daresay that many of us in this very room have had one or two run ins with the sheriff, even if just a traffic offense."
"I haven't," David announced proudly, ducking as Ruby threw a pillow in his direction. "Well, I haven't."
"And that's why I love you," Mary Margaret laughed, grabbing the now discarded pillow and putting it behind her back. "You don't make me feel like such a goody two shoes." It had been a longstanding joke between the three friends that Mary Margaret was far more innocent than the others. Ruby often put sister in front of her strongly Catholic sounding name to refer to her as a nun. So to hear her call someone out on being more innocent than she was made them all giggle and chortle at the irony.
Liam played a bit more, letting the songs linger in the air and each of the guests sang along despite some off key voices and questions about lyrics. By the time Henry joined them, everyone was trying to outperform the others. Emma squeezed her son in between herself and Killian, mussing his hair and pinching his cheek when he warbled out part of a song that he totally shouldn't have known.
As the last bit of daylight lingered into a cloudy and drizzly twilight, Killian carried a bit of dinner down to their other brother and the guests tuned the television into the event in Portland to catch a glimpse of Elsa. Emma dug back out the desserts and offered up slices of pies and cakes to fill already full stomachs as they watched a group of dancers perform on a smallish stage that was made smaller by oversized presents and elves that were supposed to glow with lights.
"You do realize the purpose of setting these items out was so people could serve themselves," Granny said to Emma. "And you're fooling no one by the way."
Emma sliced through the still warm pie. "I don't know what you're talking about."
Granny inspected the slice that Emma gave her and must have found it satisfactory. "You and Killian were angels to host everyone here. The loft where the newlyweds live is much too small, and while my diner is larger it's a tad impersonal." Emma let out a sigh of relief that the woman's questioning seemed to be distracted. She should have known better. "But you two are positively giddy like newlyweds. So do you want to tell me why? I am the one who introduced you and tried to get you to date. I think I deserve to know if perhaps we've moved up the wedding."
If the blush on Emma's face wasn't enough to tell everyone that she was indeed guilty of hiding something, the way her hand shook as she sliced another piece of pie was clearly evidence. "I don't know…"
"You are a horrible liar, which is a good thing, but nonetheless. So when is the big day?" Granny leaned her soft green covered torso over the counter and lowered her voice. "Don't tell me you're knocked up too?"
Emma shook her head and lowered the knife. "We wanted to get married to make sure everything was…you know with the surgery and all…I mean it's not guaranteed or a done deal, but I just…and he…"
Granny must have translated Emma's ramble that wasn't like her normally blunt self. "I was hoping to cater your reception and sit front and center to watch you say your vows. But I understand. At least tell me you're going to have a new dress. Ruby will throw one of her fits if you walk down the aisle in something you've worn a million times."
"We haven't really had time," Emma protested. "And the dress doesn't matter."
There was a gentleness to Granny's annoyed scoff that thankfully didn't arouse any attention from the others. "Tomorrow morning. First thing. You and I are going to the store and buying you a damn dress. I won't have you looking like you're headed to work on your wedding day."
Emma knew better than to protest and gave a short nod. "I guess that would…"
"And you're going to have a honeymoon, right?" The woman was clearly already going through a check list. "I mean you can't get married and then just come back here to help Henry with his homework and take that dog for a walk."
"With Killian's little brother here at the boat and Neal's wedding this weekend, we can't really do that now. But we will. We're still…"
"Henry'll come stay with me and Ruby. And we'll take him to that Neal's wedding. Nope, it's just tacky for your honeymoon to be nothing more than coming back here as wonderful as this house is and all. And as for that brother of his, I'll see what I can do. What do you say that we find that boy a room at the bed and breakfast? Surely someone will be checking out by then. If not, I'll open up that room that Ruby's been trying to refashion. It'll be fine. Now I know you don't want anyone to know so a reception is out. What about a cake though? You have to cut a wedding cake."
The older woman snapped her fingers and dug her phone out of her pocket. "I'll call my head cook. He'll be baking early in the morning. I'll get him to concoct some little sheet cake or something for you two."
"You don't have to…"
"Hush," the woman said, pulling the phone up to her ear. "I insist. And you know me. I'm too old and set in my ways to change my mind. You're essentially like family and I'm not half the control freak planner that Mary Margaret can be in these situations. You get these pies and cakes cut and I'll get back to you about flowers and everything else." She ambled toward the door to the deck, clearly seeking a bit of privacy from being overheard. "Oh and Emma," she said, rotating the phone so she wasn't speaking directly into it. "Congratulations."
The party finally seemed to disperse after the television performance and Granny's insistence that they had all intruded long enough. Nobody even noticed the wink she threw to Emma and the hug she gave Killian before reminding him that he needed to be out of the house by midnight if he was going to keep with that tradition. The man had smiled widely at her muted suggestion and told her he would go just as soon as they had their chat with Henry. Granny had appreciated that and even thought to herself that it was quite sweet that Emma and Henry would spend Emma's last night as a single woman together.
"You're up to something," Ruby said, shrugging out of her coat after a long and private goodbye with Graham. Granny was mildly surprised that her granddaughter had not gone back to his place. But the question was clearly plaguing her. "Are you going to tell me or do I have to…"
"Threats are not necessary and completely useless."
"It's something about Emma, right?" Ruby continued, kicking off her heels next to the door and padding her way into the shared living space in the diner and bed and breakfast's private quarters. "Is something wrong? Killian's going to have that surgery, isn't he? He's probably feeling like he's got to be the hero for his father." She made a sour look. "I am not surprised. Emma's probably freaking out."
"You jump to conclusions," Granny muttered, flipping the slick pages of her cookbook. "Did you taste that pie that Killian made? It practically melted in my mouth. Do you think he would share the recipe with me? I think Leroy would particularly like it. I'll ask Henry when he spends the weekend with us."
There was a moment of silence before Ruby ducked under the counter of the kitchen bar and pulled out a bottle of aged whiskey that Granny kept there for medicinal purposes. "So what's going on then?" she asked, more to herself. "They were acting strange. Not bad strange, mind you. But just really affectionate." She hummed under her breath as she poured some amber liquid into a glass. Looking at it critically she poured a bit more. "Emma was drinking tonight so she's not pregnant. And then…wait. Did you say that Henry's spending the weekend with us? Why?"
"I thought it might be easier if we took Henry to his father's wedding. It'll give Emma and Killian some time alone without having to plaster on smiles and pretend to like Neal, Gold, and the whole bunch."
"You do realize you're making yourself sound more and more guilty, right? So let's see here. We have you, Emma, and Killian whispering. I saw Emma looking like she could burst into song like a Disney movie. Mary Margaret suggested something about their wedding and Emma didn't freak out about it. Killian…You…What are you looking at…" Ruby lunged toward the older woman and swiped the book off of her lap. "You're looking at wedding cake recipes?"
"There is a wedding this weekend," the woman said defensively. "I'm just getting prepared."
"You're not catering it," Ruby reminded her not so gently. "So…wait, you were talking to Emma. She hugged you. She never hugs you. I mean she loves you and all, but she never hugs you. Did she…She's freaking eloping, isn't she?"
"Ruby, dear, I don't think it is right for me to spill secrets." The woman snatched the cookbook back from her granddaughter. But that hardly stopped the younger woman's mind from racing. "Ruby, please."
Waving her hands as if trying to stop the older woman from instructing her on what to think, Ruby considered her information again. "That's it, isn't it? But why? Okay, I don't need to know why. Why won't they tell me? I'm half a mind to call her up and give her…"
The older woman removed her wire rimmed glasses with a sad sort of expression. "Ruby, don't ruin this for them. They made the decision to do it this way. Don't ruin that for them. Let them do this. Let them get married. From what she said, they are planning the larger wedding this spring. It'll be beautiful and include everyone."
Looking slightly defeated, Ruby's shoulders rolled forward as she sank down on the floral couch her grandmother refused to part with and stared into her glass. "Does she even have a dress? Please tell me she's not getting married in a pair of old jeans or a business suit. Please?"
"I'm taking her shopping in the morning."
Ruby's eyes rolled backwards as she bopped her head from side to side, clearly thinking about possibilities. "You know, I have that dress that Zelena had commissioned and then chose something else. It's shorter than a typical wedding gown, but it's cream colored and a-line which she seems to love. And I know her measurements from working on the dress she wanted. I could alter it to fit her."
"You can't let her know that you know," Granny admonished, placing her glasses back on her nose and smoothing down the page of her book. "She's not wanting…"
"I won't. You give her the dress. Make up some story about how you swiped it. It can be her something borrowed. That way you can skip the shopping for it. Make an appointment for her at the spa or something. They won't be busy the day after Thanksgiving. I assume by your cookbook that they want a wedding cake."
The antique clock on the mantle chimed the late hour and both women frowned at it. "She said no, but you can't have a wedding and no cake."
Humming around the rim of her glass Ruby took that information in and processed it with what she knew of her friend. "What if that's when we surprised her? It doesn't have to be formal. We can shut the diner down after lunch and throw a small reception here. It won't be meal time so just finger foods and cake, champagne for a toast."
"She won't be happy that you know…"
"She'll get over it. They have to tell us eventually. So this just makes it easier. I'm not talking about inviting the town. But if we call Mary Margaret in the morning, I'm sure she'll gather the troops. Elsa, Liam, Anna, Kristoff, me, you, her, David, Henry. I'll check on Graham's schedule. Do you think that Killian would want us to see if his dad…Okay, bad idea. We'll just keep it simple."
Granny turned another page and smoothed it into place. "She's going to kill you. I'm not sure even with my crossbow that I could protect you."
The dark haired woman lumbered up from the too soft couch and groaned before kissing her grandmother's cheek. "If I worried every time that Emma threatened to kill me, I'd be on anxiety meds. Now you pick a cake. I'll get the dress."
Elsa's face was illuminated by the screen of her phone as she slipped into bed next to Liam who she thought was still asleep. Smiling at the latest message, she let out a little sigh, and drew her knees up like a table and rested her back on the tufted headboard.
"Should I be worried that you're more interested in that bloody phone than me?" he grumbled, tugging at the edge of his pillow. "Welcome home, by the way."
"I was only gone a few hours," she said, delivering a peck to his lips and giggling when he seemed upset at her pulling away so quickly. "And you have been busy with your brother and friends, haven't you? Not sitting around here pining away for me."
"You did beautifully, darling," he said, the warm affection and pride seeping through his put upon pout. "Radiant."
She blushed, finally lowering her phone. "I wish you could have been there."
That seemed to break the sweet moment between them as he ran a hand through his hair and rolled onto his back. "I never meant to leave you alone on that stage. If I hadn't…"
She reached over, a long elegant finger placing itself over his lips. "I'm not mad, Liam. Save the apologies for something else. But I do have something I probably need to tell you."
The sheets and blanket were around his waist as he turned back to face her. "I'm all ears. It is good news, is it not?"
She lifted one shoulder and tilted her head as she pulled back her hand. "So I don't know how you're going to react. Anna thought that your brother and Emma were acting weird. She actually suggested that maybe they were planning to elope." His eyebrows shot up and once again she silenced him with her finger on his lips. "I told her she was crazy, but you know…they have been acting strangely. And well, Ruby and her grandmother noticed too. So I have been texting with Ruby." She held the phone up as evidence of this conversation. "They are getting married at noon tomorrow at city hall."
"My own brother isn't…" His lips moved against her finger before the single digit pressed harder.
"It's about them," Elsa reminded him, knowing he was twisting it into a slight against him. "They want to get married. We aren't going to judge."
"This is complete bollocks." He pushed off from the firm mattress and stood in the darkened room. "I am about to go kick my brother's sorry arse."
She laughed, lowering her legs and crossing them at her ankles. "Can I suggest you get dressed first? You're just wearing a pair of boxers."
He huffed, heading in the direction of their shared walk in closet before whirling around to face her. "They are sneaking off as if they are doing something to be ashamed about."
"They are in love and want to be together," Elsa reminded him gently. "It's about them, not you or the rest of our friends. Now Ruby's planning to throw them a smallish reception at Granny's tomorrow afternoon. Are you going to be okay by then? Or should I make our excuses?"
He folded his arms over his bare chest. "He's my brother. I should be there. I should…"
"You will be there for the bigger wedding. This is just…" She smiled slightly and motioned for him to come back to bed. "I get it. If Anna had eloped, I might have been upset too. But this is them. They aren't into all the fancy parties. Let them have this. You can be the big brother in other ways."
He took four steps toward the king sized bed rather slowly, dragging his feet along the way. "Can we at least…"
"He knows you love him. He knows you're happy for him." She held out an arm to beckon him. "You can joke about this in your speech over champagne." The mattress dipped as he sat again, finally reclining next to her. "You want to do more, don't you?"
"A courthouse wedding just seems so impersonal. Don't you think that should want more than that?"
She seemed to think about it for a moment, holding a splayed hand on his chest. "Such as?"
"I don't know exactly, but it feels like we should do something more."
Emma folded her robe and placed it over the softly worn chair next to the bed. The bed itself seemed overly large without Killian there reading from some creased paged book or thoughtfully making notes in that notebook of his. Even the house was quieter than normal, despite Henry and Sparrow's presence that should have more than made up for his absence.
"Only one night apart, love, and then I'll be at your side for all eternity," Killian had said in that annoyingly poetic way he had about him. She was not sure why she was agreeing to his silliness about not seeing her before the wedding. Her only real excuse was that he had been so sincere about it that she couldn't help but give in to him.
Having puttered about the bedroom long enough, she sank into the bed and tried to ignore the empty spot beside her. Everything felt off and odd without him there, her cheek missing the wiry hair on his chest where she would rest her head, her shoulders missing his blunted arm around them. She curled her arms around his pillow and thought about all the nights as a teenager in group homes when she would do something similar and imagine a night when she wouldn't feel so alone.
It wasn't that she felt alone now. She knew that Killian was not all that far away on his boat, probably awkwardly talking to his younger brother. Her son was excitedly sleeping next door, having been nearly impossible to get to bed after news that his mother would be getting married the next day. Henry had begged for details she couldn't provide, but had been more than satisfied when Killian suddenly asked him to serve as best man since Liam was in the dark about the nuptials. Henry had been in awe of the responsibility and promised to keep the rings safe with the most earnest of vows.
Staring at the alarm clock, she groaned. There weren't that many hours to sleep and the thought of her son solemnly swearing made her wonder if she too needed to consider writing vows for their ceremony. Killian had said nothing of it, but would that stop him. He would probably be able to deliver a speech that made her tear up without giving it much time at all. She was not that kind of writer. She loved him. That would have to be mentioned. He made her feel like the broken pieces of her heart and life were beautiful and not as tragic as they had once felt. He made her feel important, loved, cherished. All of it seemed too cliché. It was a time like this she wished she could call Mary Margaret and ask for some advice about what to say.
She could do this, she told herself, flipping onto her back so that her head rested between her pillow and his and created an almost cave like feeling. She would just think of everything that he had done, said, or even tried to do to make her understand that he wasn't like the rest of the guys she had dated. There was that sweet way he always tried to make her feel special, the way he held her hand. It wasn't about protecting her or guiding her as much as it was a show of his support and wanting to be by her side. The way he danced with her was similar, their bodies moving together and the smile on happiness that couldn't help but escape from both of them despite the desire to keep it cool. It reminded her of the way they made love, passionate and deliberate, lazy and affectionate. There were more sides to their relationship than any coin or set of dice.
The beeping of her phone pulled her from her thoughts, smiling she held it above her and giggled (yes, she was capable of that sometimes) at the picture of him he had sent. He was in a dark bunk on the sailboat, his hair somewhat a mess from having changed into a shirt and sleep pants. One eye was shut tightly and the other peeking at her through his phone. The text read, "can't sleep, can you?"
She texted back just as quickly, "no, I can't. Someone woke me by texting me."
Killian: Bloody bastard. You should sic your fiancé on him.
Emma: I don't know. He's kind of cute. Might want to keep him around.
Liam paced outside the diner with one hand in his pocket and the other digging through the curls of his hair that were damp from the slight drizzle of the morning. He'd known that things would be crazy on the roads. But two cars almost hitting him, three pedestrians wandering out in front of him, and a plastic Santa being swept in front of him by the wind was a bit much. Elsa had discerned from a few very early phone calls with Ruby and Mary Margaret that Emma was due at the diner momentarily to join Granny for a quick dress shopping experience. While he had not even told Elsa of his early morning errand, she had been too preoccupied with some idea that Mary Margaret and David were concocting.
"You can wait inside, you know," Ruby said, hefting up a bag of trash that she was taking to one of the canisters. "Granny won't bite. Well, today anyway. She's already had her breakfast."
"I was waiting on Emma," he admitted, brushing his hand across his forehead. "I know that you don't want me telling her that we all know about the wedding. I just wanted her to have something…"
Ruby peered over his hand to look at the shining object in his other hand. "That is…"
"It was my mum's necklace. It's just a cheap little bobble that probably turned her neck green. But I thought…well, what with her becoming my sister today that it was appropriate for her something old. That is the tradition, is it not?"
Ruby pressed her lips together in an effort not to laugh. "You do realize she's marrying your brother to have him as a husband not to gain a brother in you?" Her stiff white and red uniform was a bit wrinkled that morning after hours of sleepless toil over Emma's dress. Still she was a stunning woman with a thick mane of chestnut hair and long legs that seemed to defy reason under a short skirt. "Though I know Emma. And she's probably excited to be getting more family."
"Aye, I'm just a part of the package," he laughed. "I know it would mean a great deal to my brother as well. Our mother…well, she would have been so proud of us both for having fallen in love with such strong, beautiful, and kind hearted women. I wish she could be here for it."
"I miss my mother a lot too. But they are with us even though we're not able to see them. I think she's probably very excited knowing her baby boy is getting married today." She made a show of dabbing at her eyes as if she had been crying. "Just so you know, Jones, I'm not sentimental. Not at all."
"Of course not," Liam smiled. "So Emma is…"
"She got here about an hour ago. I think she's back with Granny trying on the dress she's going to wear and working on a style for her hair." Placing a long fingered hand across her chest, Ruby smiled brightly. "And I'm pretending that I totally don't know what's going on in there."
"So I'm out here waiting for…"
"No good reason at all," Ruby finished. "You can find your brother down at the flower place though. I overheard that he and Henry were determined to buy Emma a bouquet to carry, which I admit is kind of romantic."
Liam jogged off in the direction of Game of Thorns, ignoring Ruby's declaration that she was just being helpful. If his brother wanted a private ceremony without anyone about, he could understand that. Still he felt the need to at least offer a family support that his brother would probably miss without him. And he'd be lying if he considered saying he wasn't hurt by the exclusion.
And while he understood Elsa's insistence that this was simply something for Killian and Emma, he knew that his brother would regret not embracing the day as something for their small family. He wouldn't push himself onto the celebration, but at the least he could offer to help. If Emma would accept it, he would offer her the necklace as well.
His brother had always been a horrible liar, no less so when confronted with something that he was excited about. To his satisfaction his brother turned beet red at being found in a flower shop with his hand pointing to various blooms. "Brother, you're…"
"Here to lend a hand," Liam offered, not worrying over the fact that he was losing an opportunity to out his brother's secrets. "I understand we have some nuptials to plan?"
His brother shifted his weight and glanced apologetically at the store owner. "We didn't mean to…"
"I don't think we have time for the excuses, brother. Let's be getting on with all this. I have a suggestion, if you don't mind." The oldest of the brothers clamped his hand down on Henry's shoulder. "You have a capable best man right here. I am happy to relinquish that title if you allow me a bit of a moment myself."
Killian raised an eyebrow high, his dark hair in stark contrast to his white shirt that was clearly meant to be below a suit jacket. "A bit of a moment?"
"Aye, I was thinking that perhaps you would want something more family oriented than a courthouse. So what do you say if I perform the ceremony? I know the two of you well enough to do a load better than any barrister or magistrate. So what do you say, brother?"
Henry's eyes grew wide at the suggestion and he was already bobbing his head at the same time that Killian was coming up with reasons why that would not work. "You aren't a commissioned naval officer any longer. I am not sure it would be legal."
"Perhaps not, but I could become ordained online. It's a rather simple process they tell me. Perhaps the good man here would be so kind as to…"
Belle's father, who had owned the shop for as long as anyone could remember, took a step backwards and held up his hands in surrender. "Far be it from me to stand in the way of true love. I happen to know just the site you need, sir." He left Killian standing there with a half bundle of flowers resting on the counter. "Right this way."
Liam did not go alone, dragging Henry back with him to fill in the appropriate blanks. By the time Killian was back to picking some more of the flowers, he only heard one gripe from his brother at having to pay the $50 expedited charge to print the ordainment on demand. As he went to pay for the flowers, chuckling that Henry was trying out names on his soon to be uncle that included titles of pastor and reverend, he thanked Moe French for offering to supply a few loaner arrangements if they found a place on short notice.
"I think we should stick with the courthouse," Killian offered, ducking into his jeep after depositing the flowers into the back of it next to Henry. "It is far too complicated to get the license and all that plus plan an event."
"Very well," Liam said, scanning his phone to find the proper words to deliver his now required speech for the ceremony. "I should have printed this out. It's going to look a bit awkward with me trying to read off a phone."
The trio did a few other odds and ends that needed taken care of with Liam offering to run interference between anyone who balked at the short notice. It wasn't until they stopped for two coffees and a hot chocolate that he voiced his concern over keeping it all a secret. "I don't know the particulars, but it would seem that Emma's friends have picked up on the fact there is a wedding today. I know you don't wish to make it too big of a deal, but perhaps…"
"I doubted you kept it from Elsa and she most likely didn't keep it from the rest of our mates. Who else might I expect to see there today?"
Liam's lips moved with the words on his screen, ignoring his brother's direct question. The truth was he didn't exactly know. Elsa had been rather quiet other than saying she wouldn't interrupt the ceremony just to show that she knew what was going on that day. Ruby was probably up to something more than supplying a dress and hosting the reception. It was Mary Margaret he wondered most about since the woman loved a wedding and was dreadfully inept at keeping secrets.
Mary Margaret's mint green dress was more appropriate for summer than fall, but maternity clothing was hard to come by at the last minute in a small town. Her low heeled shoes didn't exactly add to her height, but they were serviceable and comfortable. It was David who pointed out that they would be better for running in case Emma threw a fit at their presence.
"You do realize we could be wrong about all this," David mused, pulling on his suit jacket as his wife paced in the rounded corridor of city hall. "Maybe they aren't…"
"They are," the teacher corrected, peering down the hall way again with her green eyes searching out anyone familiar. She had promised Ruby and Elsa that she would not do this, but the pull had been too great. Emma was like a sister to her so the thought of her having a wedding with no celebrants or witnesses other than her own son and a stuffy judge was not just sad but horrifying. Like the teacher she was, Mary Margaret had packed a bag that was now at David's feet, including her new camera that would take the best pictures of the ceremony.
"She's going to be angry," David observed, clearly trying to warn her off from getting too excited. The night before had been a sleepless one after they returned home from Killian and Emma's house. Mary Margaret had been vocally going through every possible scenario and secret that Emma could have been hiding from them. However, phone calls from Elsa, Anna, and Ruby had meant that Mary Margaret was not only right but on a mission.
"She'll thank me once she realizes that we are just trying to give her a special day that she won't regret later."
While it wasn't the bride that overheard that comment, it was Anna who appeared at the top of the stairs sans husband or sister. "You think Emma will regret marrying Killian?" she asked, her jewel toned purple dress a good combination with her rust colored hair. "I thought they were in love."
The two women hugged fiercely and left David shaking his head. "No, I just meant that she might regret getting married here without her friends." She scrunched her nose as she looked down the corridor again. "Shouldn't one of them or both of them be here by now?"
"Killian's jeep is out front," Anna informed them, "as is Ruby's car. I think Granny must have driven that since it is parked a little crooked and Granny tends to do that." She lifted a hand to check her earring, rolling her eyes at the inquisitive looks from the couple. "What? I'm observant, okay?"
"Wait, so they could both be here and we're up here waiting for…"
Anna's eyes grew bright as she caught on to Mary Margaret's meaning and the two expectant mothers ran or more like speed walked down the stairs and down the hall where they found Henry pacing in front of the bank of restrooms tossing the velvety ring box up and then catching it. David was just a few steps behind with Mary Margaret's bag of tricks slung over his arm and shoulder.
Henry realized immediately that his mother's friends were not there for purely social reasons. "She's going to kill you," he said against his teacher's shoulder as she pulled him into a hug. "I don't know why she is hiding this, but she is."
"I brought David and Anna to protect me," she responded, hugging him tighter. "David's pretty good in a fight and Anna's scrappy." She pulled back and inspected him. "So before we have this brawl, what is the plan? How do we make this day more special?"
Ruby pressed her lips together tightly and tilted her head in the cramped space of the women's restroom. "It's kind of simple."
Emma's eyes met hers in the mirror and narrowed at the gigantic can of hairspray in her friend's hands. "I'm getting married at the courthouse on the day after Thanksgiving when most people are out shopping. I think I'm okay with simple."
"There's nothing wrong with simple, but your hair is so beautiful. Maybe you'd like…" Ruby took a step forward, tilting her head and already going through possibilities in her head.
Emma's hair hung in loose curls down her back and was framed by a fat braid over the top of her head that was fastened behind her right ear. Tiny glittering pins were placed within the folds of the braid, creating a shining halo when the light struck just so. "Are we really doing this right now? In the middle of a public bathroom?"
"You're the one who wanted to elope," Ruby said, digging into her bag after shoving the hairspray into her grandmother's hands. "Romantic and all, but still it's a pretty special occasion. I say we should bling you up a bit."
"I say no," Emma announced, her green eyes sparkling. "I promise that when we have the big ceremony." Her fingers made air quotes that she hated most of the time. "When we have that, I promise that I'll do my hair differently and even wear more makeup."
"Wait, you're not putting on more makeup?" The appalled tone of her dark haired friend made Emma glance toward Granny for support. The older woman grabbed Ruby's arm in warning. "Got it. It's your day. You do you."
Emma's phone, which was being held by Granny, rang loudly, startling all three women. Peering out of the bottom of her glasses, Granny smiled at the name and picture on the screen. "It's Killian," she said, handing the bride the phone. "Ruby and I'll be outside." Before Ruby had the chance to protest, she was shoved out of the cramped space with her hairspray in one hand and a brush in the other.
"Is calling me not bad luck?" Emma asked as the door clanked shut. "I thought you were all into the superstition thing."
His chuckle, even through the electronic connection, was warm and welcome in her ear, reminding her of nights by the fire or the way his lips would brush against her shoulder blade in the morning. "Just so you know last night away from you was torture, love. I don't plan to repeat that any time soon."
"Me either," she agreed, leaning toward the mirror to inspect the mascara she was wearing that had a tendency to clump if she wasn't careful. It looked fine. "So what's up? Are we not doing this thing? Did you get cold feet? Or did something come up?"
"Perish the thought. I am anxious to marry you. I simply wanted to warn you of something." His voice caught and she knew he was probably scratching behind his ear with that nervous twitch that was such a tell to his state of mind. "My brother knows of our plans. He showed up this morning and even did a thing to make it legal for him to marry us."
"Your brother," she said slowly, as if repeating the words, "went from naval officer, to unemployed musician, to bar manager, to minister? Or are you telling me he joined the priesthood. Am I going to have to call him Father Jones now?" Her laugh was light and she hoped somewhat soothing to her nervous sounding groom. "It's okay, Killian. People are going to have to find out. So he found out sooner? It'll be nice having him there. He's your brother."
"He's not the only one who knows."
Her sharp intake of breath cut off her easy laugh. "Elsa? Anna? Ruby knows because Granny told her."
"Mary Margaret and David as well," he managed to say. "I'm afraid they are all here. I haven't spoken to them yet, but I went to track down Henry and saw them all in the hallway outside the restroom I think you must be in right now."
Taking three steps toward the door, Emma groaned as she head the muffled yet familiar voices. "We suck at this," she told him emphatically. "So I guess we have an audience."
"I suppose we do. Do you wish to welcome them or should I? And just so you are aware, Liam said Elsa was the only one steadfast enough in her resolve to respect our wishes. She isn't here. But he will call her if you should like."
"Call her," Emma agreed, smoothing her hand down the front of the cream colored dress. "Call her. I'll talk to our friends and then meet you at the mayor's office in 15 minutes?" They were going to have to get a special license for the ceremony, as they were marrying in fewer than 24 hours after application. It should not be a problem, but Emma's less than optimistic nature had her worried. Since the mayor was her boss's mother, she was sure that maybe some red tape could be avoided. She squared off her shoulders after telling her soon to be husband that she loved him and headed into the crowded hallway corridor to face her friends.
Mary Margaret and Anna did not kill her, instead they were misty eyed and supportive as they both hugged her in tandem and then separately. "I know you wanted to…I'm just so happy for you. This is your day!" Mary Margaret squealed and squeezed her friend tighter. "He's your very own prince…"
"I'm glad you're here," Emma told Mary Margaret, holding her a bit longer than necessary as she looked toward David with a slight nod that said she wasn't in fact mad or angry over the added company. "The only thing wrong with our plans to do this today was that we couldn't share it with all of you."
Anna was less schmaltzy than the teacher and reached out tentatively to touch one of the curls that had had wound its way onto Emma's arm. "You're a beautiful bride, Emma. I love the dress."
Ruby might not have intended to make it a wedding dress, but it was fitting the bill quite nicely. The rounded neck showed off Emma's shoulders well and the wide cream colored straps left her defined arms bare. Its precise stitching was highlighted with pearl luster buttons on the back and a full skirt that swished about Emma's legs and ended just above her knees. Emma had thought it was perfect for the occasion, especially when Ruby and Granny had agreed that she didn't need a veil or other trappings of a more traditional bride. They even managed a quick trip to the store to buy some shoes that were far more expensive than she had intended but matched the color perfectly and added height to her already long legs. Even with the heels she was still sure to be a few inches shorter than her groom, which Granny had slyly told her was perfect for their first kiss as husband and wife.
Anna wasn't done with her commentary though, complimenting Emma's hair and her light touches of makeup before lunging for Mary Margaret's bag to remind the other woman of their accessories. "So we know this totally isn't a wedding type of wedding, but you have to do the traditional things too. You know something, old, new, borrowed, blue."
Emma laughed nervously as Mary Margaret and Anna pulled various items out of the teacher's bag of tricks. There were gaudy sapphire earrings that neither woman would admit to being a contribution and were summarily dismissed. The next was a blue garter that Mary Margaret had said was her own second choice and a fine addition to the thrown together plans. Emma accepted the gift, laughing that she did need one after all. Anna pulled out a familiar box and pulled out a thin silver bracelet.
"Okay, I was planning to give this to Elsa for Christmas and then I started thinking you'd need something new so I am giving it to you. It's pretty new. See, it's got the price tag and everything. Wait! Don't look at that. You don't need to actually see the price." The rust haired woman leaned forward and clipped the bracelet around her friend's wrist. "Okay so that is blue and new. What's next?"
"Old," announced an added voice to the group. Wearing a sheath dress of rich purple, Elsa rushed up to them quite breathlessly. "We're going to talk about the fact that we all said we were going to meet at Granny's and I was left there without anyone. But first, I have this." She dug into the clutch she was holding and pulled out a velvety box with a pair of pearl earrings. "You've borrowed them before. Your first date with Killian, I think. They were our mother's and her mother's before that. They will certainly work as the old here."
"Much better," Mary Margaret announced as a newly earringed Emma hugged Elsa too. "So that's it right. I mean you're borrowing the earrings that are old. The bracelet is new. My garter is blue…"
"I guess I'm all set," Emma said, laughing as Ruby rushed forward saying she forgot something.
"It's a tradition, according to Granny," Ruby announced, holding up a penny. "See, it's your birth year and everything. Put it in your shoe and you'll have good luck. Or lots of kids. Or great sex. I don't know. It's good luck." Granny covered Henry's ears as the adults laughed toward Ruby's blubbering and gibberish. "I mean I guess the great sex could lead to kids. It's got some sort of meaning. Just put in your shoe and hope for the best."
"You can Google that silly tradition later," Elsa interrupted, pointed down the long hallway toward where her boyfriend was reading the words of the ceremony again. "I think you need to go deal with the paperwork aspect of all this. Liam's looking nervous so I can just imagine that Killian is too."
Emma nodded, gathering the skirt in her hand and then releasing it when Ruby shouted out in panic about wrinkling the material. So with a roll of her eyes instead of a hug, Emma marched toward her fiancé and his brother in hopes that this would not take too much longer. To her surprise, Liam looked paler than his brother as he greeted her nervously and cut off Killian's comment about how beautiful she looked in her newly fashioned wedding dress. "I have a bit of business to take care of with sister in law here," he noted, shooing his brother with one hand and shoving his phone back into his pocket.
"I know the lasses have already given you your good luck baubles or whatever, but I was thinking…" He looked down toward his feet, his eyes closing for a moment. "I have this necklace that belonged to mine and Killian's mum. She wore it on special occasions."
Killian must have swallowed hard, as she heard a slight noise from him as Liam presented her with the silver chain and knot like charm that was set off by deep blue sapphires. "It's beautiful," she said, her voice barely a whisper and her hands not daring to touch the necklace yet. "I would be…I would be honored."
That seemed to relax the oldest of the brothers as he loosened his grip on the jewelry. "She would have been wearing this today if she had lived to see this occasion," he commented, stepping behind her and clasping it, giving his brother a satisfied smile. "I thought perhaps this would be a bit like having her here."
"I'm truly sorry I never got to meet her," Emma said to them both. "She must have been an amazing woman to raise the two of you."
"Aye, she deserved more than her lot in this life." Killian clapped his brother on the shoulder and extended his left arm toward Emma. "Raising two hell raising sons was probably not the life she dreamed of for herself."
"No, it wasn't, but it wasn't always so dreary. Passersby and even some family used to think Killian here was a girl. He had the longest eyelashes and thickest hair you'd ever seen on a wee babe. He was quite a sight with it. Mum dispelled that rumor quickly, but still everyone we knew made that mistake once or twice at least."
Emma grinned as Killian's face turned pink. "You know I kind of like those lashes of yours. They make your eyes even more blue." She leaned over and kissed him softly, earning a groan from Liam.
"Let's get this done now. I have been studying like mad to perform this ceremony and poor Henry's hands may never completely unfurl after carrying those rings of yours so carefully. It's likely he's going to have arthritis from that vice grip of his."