a/n: will be T in the first chapter-ish, but rating will change soon.
(noun) the inability to remember a word or put your finger on the right word
"Now, like, can you explain what you're doing?" the brochure reporter asks, her voice high-pitched and grating on his nerves. It's just past the dinner rush, so the kitchen is down to its normal buzz of activity instead of the frenzy that occurred a mere hour ago. Stations are getting cleaned up and restocked, food prep is happening all around the kitchen, and Killian, even though he's technically done working, is doing a demonstration of knife skills to the ditzy woman standing beside him.
He grits his teeth while keeping a smile on his face, putting on a charming air as he explains the difference between julienne and batonnet cuts.
"Wow! You're like, really good at that Kevin," the young woman gushes.
His sigh is internalized. It's not like they wear nametags in the kitchen. He isn't quite sure how she got 'Kevin' from 'Killian' but he's not going to correct her.
"Thanks, love. It's all about practice," he says, deftly continuing his cuts. The owners of the country club were insistent that the interview be done, and by being the Executive Chef, Killian was in charge of making sure the restaurant at this overpriced haven for people with too much money sounds as good as the food tastes. It's the one day a week he doesn't close the place down, and yet he's still stuck here as this vapid woman makes some comment about how Julianne is her favorite name, and if she had the choice to change her name, that's what she would change it to. He chuckles politely, but his mouth gets the better of him.
"I would change mine to Killian, since Kevin is just so dreary."
"Oh my god. What an exotic sounding name!"
Somewhere to his left, his sous chef, Will, chokes down a laugh and snorts, and Killian has to bite the inside of his cheek.
"Right. Is there anything else I can do for you?"
"Well, we could talk about it some more over some drinks if you'd like." She reaches out and touches his forearm, exposed from the way his sleeves are pushed up to his elbows. In the past, these kinds of interviews have gotten him dates. This time –
His phone chirps a few times, the bird call sounding sweet and innocent, and very unlike the person the ringtone is intended for. He was only mildly disappointed that an exhaustive search yielded no swan calls. He almost sighs in relief as he pulls out the phone, reading the text message quickly and hiding his grin with an apologetic look. Saved by his savior, even when she's the one in need of saving this time.
"I'm afraid I can't. Friend in need." He types out a quick response and hits send before motioning to whoever is closest, a quiet chef that he recently hired to join the team. "Can you take over here, please? This should last the night and anything else can get stored for lunch tomorrow." His request is met with a steady "Yes, Chef" as the lad moves in to take over, and Killian slaps the boy on the shoulder with an approving nod. He turns back to the reporter and tries to plaster on the sincerest look he can. "I do apologize, lass. I hope you've got what you need for the article. It was a pleasure meeting you. If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask any of the other members of my staff. The men and women that work in this kitchen are all highly trained professionals that have a deep appreciation for their craft."
By the way her eyes light up and she begins scribbling furiously, he knows she's taken the bait for the quote and he gives her a brilliant smile when she looks back up at him. He's able to extricate himself from his position near the salad station soon after and drops into the cooler to grab a couple containers he filled earlier. While he intended them to be his lunch for a couple days, they will be much better appreciated where he's heading next.
As he's climbing into his car, chirrups sound out again and Killian quickly checks the message.
Swan: Take your time. I'll be on my couch dying.
"So melodramatic," he mutters and starts his car. He has two stops to make before he'll reach his ailing friend, and surely she won't be dead by the time he reaches her.
He stops at the pharmacy first, trying his best to not run through the aisles to find specific items, before hastening back home to shower and change. The shower is short, so even after he dries off, he can still smell the faintest hint of the kitchen clinging to his skin. Luckily, his companion won't be able to tell, so he grabs his phone and his keys and heads back out the door. Five minutes later, he's parking behind the familiar apartment building of Emma Swan and letting himself in with the keys she gave him years ago.
Killian peers over the back of her couch, only to find Emma nested amongst what must be five blankets. He's not quite sure where blankets end and she begins. With only the television lighting the room, everything is cast in a weird blueish-white tint. He carefully sets a canvas bag down on the end table closest to him as he moves around the couch, keeping hold on the small bag from the pharmacy.
"You look ridiculous," he tells her as she tilts her head to try to see around him.
"You look ridiculous," she responds, burrowing further into the blankets she has piled up around her. The couch appears to be swallowing her whole. Her nose is red, her eyes puffy, her face pallid, and she's sulking. He resists stealing her signature move of eye rolling.
"I brought your disgusting medicine." He holds up the requested item, knowing the protest is on the tail end of his statement.
"I don't want to take medicine," she whines, and he has to inhale deeply. The air fills his lungs and he counts to five slowly before releasing it through a thin aperture between his lips. He remembers how much of a pain in the arse she can be when she's ill, and he's thankful that this is only the third time he's had to attend to her as such.
"You told me when you texted me that I was to make sure you took the medicine, Swan. Don't fight me on this." He stares at the pouting face that blinks out from the fort she's built around her. "Swan."
"I know! Fine! Geez, lay off already," she snaps. This time, he's pressing his lips together in an attempt at not laughing, because he does not wish bodily harm upon himself right now. He's brought back to the issue at hand when she coughs, the force of which rattles her whole body as she extricates herself far enough from the couch to sit up. "Gimme," she croaks out when the coughing subsides.
Killian sits on the edge of a cushion and pulls the bottle of green liquid from the pharmacy bag. He breaks the safety seal and pours a measure out for her, handing it over when he's sure it's the correct amount. She's grimacing the whole time, the furrow between her brows the obvious tell of her displeasure if it weren't for the sullen look of a child settling across her lips.
"Bottoms up," Emma grumbles mockingly, upending the little cup into her mouth and swallowing. She makes a loud sound of disgust as she hands it back to him. He moves to the kitchen, grabbing the second bag on his way before rinsing out the portion cup and placing it back over the lid.
He busies himself with the other bag he brought with him, storing the homemade soup and tea in their appropriate places before he wanders back to the living room to ask if she needs anything else. He rounds the corner, opening his mouth to question, but then promptly shuts it. Emma is already asleep again, the blankets abandoned around her waist. He scrubs his hand over his face once before moving closer and covering her back up.
Snagging the remote from the end table, Killian settles into the blue arm chair he knows so well and absently flips through the channels, keeping an ever-vigilant eye on his sleeping companion. Sometimes he tries to remember how this all began, but finds the whole thing hazy in his memory. What he does know is that it took a ridiculously short amount of time for Emma Swan and Killian Jones to go from strangers in a grocery store to best friends.
Four years earlier…
It's been six years that Killian has been living in Storybrooke, hired as the executive chef of the Crystal Springs Country Club (which the proprietor of the space insists sounds much more appealing than just calling it the Storybrooke Country Club) after he graduated culinary school. As such, he knows damn near every face that lived in the town in the off season. The tourist season is about to start anew, and Killian has spent the day interviewing one of three candidates for the sous chef position in his kitchen in preparation for the onslaught of customers they'll get over the next few months.
This one was a gamble, a brand new chef with no formal training – a brand new chef that would not be working in his kitchen, thank you very much. The interview went exceedingly well, however, the tasting sample had not. It had taken an hour for him to realize what exactly was wrong, when the burbles of his stomach had become too loud to ignore, but then he had taken all necessary measures to get home as soon as possible, with a quick stop at the grocery store first before making his way home.
A peek at Killian's basket reveals ginger ale, Tums, actual ginger, plain rice, and he's dragging his feet in the direction of the aisle that holds toilet paper so he can finally return to his apartment and die in peace. Judging by the picked-over appearance of the shelves, he surmises that they're getting a shipment in the morning. He only prays that the last item on his list is still in supply. He cannot afford to drive one town over for this item.
The package, tipped over on the floor next to what appears to be a soda explosion, is just a few feet away from him when a blonde woman appears at the other end of the aisle. Not a local, so he would normally be intrigued, except she's eyeballing the toilet paper and shifting to look at him, only to start rushing her cart over to where it sits.
"Wait, wait!" Killian calls out as soon as he realizes her intentions, "I need that!" He hurries his steps as much as he can and reaches to rip the package away from her grasp.
"I need it, too!" she fires back, brows furrowing and hands tightening on the only thing he cannot leave without. "I just moved in, and they have one roll of sandpaper that came with the place, complimentary. I need it."
"My heart aches for you, really lass, but I ran out this morning. I have none."
"I'm on my period!" she blurts out, protectively clutching the package to her chest. She probably expects him to recoil, back away, apologize, whatever it is that most men do when the topic of menstruation comes up. But he has one better. "You're a guy. You can make it without for a night. Just use tissues or something."
Killian heaves a huge sigh, unwilling to expose his reasons but seeing no other option. He is usually a gentleman, first and foremost, but this is one time he cannot be. She did admit she has a roll at home, afterall.
"Split it with me," he proposes. Trying to hold off explaining one last time.
"Just take half the rolls, I'll take the other half. We both walk away happy."
"One of these is damaged," she explains, turning the package to show where it has, in fact, been resting in soda. "So it'll be uneven. What then?"
"You can have the extra roll," he insists.
"I have never seen a dude fight so hard for toilet paper before."
He sighs again, groaning softly. "The young man I interviewed for a chef's position today did not properly clean his utensils. He did not get the job, and I've had to switch out shifts with someone tomorrow for sick leave." He explains it in a rush, hoping she just takes pity on him already.
She tilts her head to consider him, taking in his whole demeanor and facial expressions, his posture. Whatever she is looking for, she finds it. "You just trumped my period card with diarrhea. I'm impressed." She loosens her death-grip on the toilet paper.
Killian considers just snatching it and running for half a second before common sense kicks in. He wouldn't make it two steps without embarrassing himself, and he has already done enough damage for one meeting.
"Lass, I don't want to hurry you, but this is a time sensitive decision. I will buy the whole lot, just give me at least one roll out of it and we'll call it a day."
He watches as she bites her lip, trying to hold back laughter. He knows. This is one of those situations that will be hilarious one day. But today is not going to be that day.
Finally, finally, she nods her head in the direction of the checkout and starts heading that way.
He upholds his half of the bargain, paying for the whole package and graciously accepting the two rolls she hands him after she finishes bagging her items. They part ways without even exchanging names, and Killian is just fine with that. He has little desire for her to know who he is, especially after having to use his digestive ailments as leverage to barter toilet paper from her.
But of course, small towns mean that the chances of running into her again are fairly good.
There she is at the park just two days later, jogging his usual path towards him as he's halfway through his run, and in the first lights of dawn, he realizes she's radiant. She catches sight of him before he can even think of changing course to avoid her, and the smile that lights up her face has him groaning.
"Nice to see you looking healthier, chef. Keeping hydrated?"
"Ha bloody ha. But please, my friends call me Killian," he responds, holding out a hand to her.
"Is that what we are now? Friends?"
"We're already privy to some intimate details, love. Might as well call ourselves friends and get it over with," he adds.
"I was lying about my condition that night. So really, you're the only one that gave away anything, Killian."
The hand that was held out to shake hers comes up to scrub over his face. The groan that comes out is long suffering, but still impressed that she was willing to go through such extraordinary lengths to get the product in question.
She snorts out a laugh and holds out her hand. "Emma Swan," she says, the smile lighting her face genuine and friendly. "I just moved here. I wasn't lying about that. It's nice to meet someone other than Granny. Not that she isn't great! Just, yeah."
Killian takes her hand, ending her rambling but not the smile. "Nice to meet you, Swan."
She smiles wider at his use of her last name. "Likewise. You know, your willingness to admit your weakness the other night was impressive. You might be – "
"Suave?" The interjection causes her to furrow her eyebrows, but there's humor dancing in her eyes.
"No, more like – "
"A dashing rapscallion?" He makes sure to wiggle his eyebrows as he says it.
"Uh, not quite. More like – "
"A handsome scoundrel?" Killian takes extreme pleasure watching her face battle it out between irritation and holding back laughter.
"I was going to say 'decent guy' but I think I'll amend that to jackass. You seem like a jackass, but I'm okay with that. See you around."
With that, she edges around him on the path and jogs off, leaving him with one last remark.
"Hope that toilet paper's treating you well!"
Killian's head drops back, an explosive sigh coming from him, as he knows from that point on, Emma Swan is going to be an interesting addition to his life.
One thing was for absolute certain, Killian was correct on that assumption. Since that day, and all the subsequent times he ran into Emma in those early days, his life has not been boring. He would discover her comfort at the use of her last name, as a member of the Army Reserves and the newest deputy at the Storybrooke sheriff's department. She would find out that he was more accustomed to calling his chefs by last name as he worked beside them. They just fit.
While she was not there to tend for him during that particular instance, they have been there for each other for every other bump and bruise, every sniffle, sneeze, or otherwise.
It's still dark when Killian wakes up, the sound of Emma's coughs echoing around the small living room and rousing him to care for his friend. He stands up and stretches his limbs, sore from falling asleep in the armchair, especially since he didn't even recline the damn thing and just curled into a ball. Feeling a little more limber, he makes his way to the kitchen to measure out more of the liquid he knows from experience tastes like utter shite and leaves it on the counter in order to fetch Emma. The coughing subsided, she has burrowed back under all the blankets.
"You know how this works," he says sleepily. "You get soup and tea if you promise not to put up a fight when you're done eating." His voice is quiet and patient as he gently nudges the arm that's poking out of the blankets. One bleary eye cracks open and he knows she's scowling at him.
"You look like a pirate," he says cheekily, and she glares harder.
"I hate you so much right now I can taste it," comes the muffled response.
"You were able to string together a full sentence of hatred. Come on. Sit up and I'll go heat up your favorite."
A noise comes from under there somewhere, and he grins. He knows the vegetable soup from his own recipe is her weakness. It's the carefully perfected spices and homemade broth that make the simple concoction what it is. Otherwise, it's the tail-end of vegetables left over from the prep on any given day he makes it.
"Yes, I brought the veggie mess. But you have to sit up and remain awake while I heat it up. Think you can manage?"
There's another noise, something that sounds a lot like a growl but also sounds like another derogatory remark, but then she's shoving the covers down and pushing herself into a sitting position.
"There's a good lass," he says, knowing full well she doesn't have the energy to hit him and her face shows it. Instead, she very deliberately lifts her middle finger. She sits there like that, blinking slowly and clearly trying to shake the sleep for a bit.
"I'll take that as a suggestion if you keep it up much longer, Swan," he tells her as he rises from the couch and heads off to the kitchen to re-heat some of the soup before she can react. He can hear the thump of her feet on the floor as she sluggishly drags herself after him and props against the doorway of the kitchen.
"You may be a jerk, but you're a lifesaver," she says. He can hear the gravel in her voice, and moves to find her kettle. Once it's filled, he lights a burner and places it on to heat. As that's going, he grabs a container out of the fridge and empties it into a saucepan, lighting another burner and setting that to simmer.
Killian is almost as familiar with Emma's kitchen as he is with the one he uses at the country club. He doesn't include his own kitchen because it has an electric stove and he barely uses the damn thing if he can avoid it. Instead, he finds inventive ways to use the oven, a separate griddle, his beloved grill, and a slow cooker (which Emma is always fond of). He's aware of her staring from the doorway, and he wants nothing more to tell her to just go sit down and he'll bring it to her when it's ready. He knows her better than that, though, knows better than to even try. She would probably just stand closer and breathe down his neck in defiance, and while he loves her, he is not prepared to deal with such tomfoolery tonight.
Instead, he carefully checks the temperature of the soup and pulls the kettle when it starts to whistle. It's all like a dance to him, much like it is when he's in the kitchen at work, much like it's always been to him with any kitchen he was ever in. He has vague memories of the terrors of culinary school. The voices of his instructors still ring in his ears, even now, when all he's doing is reheating something he made with nary a thought while he was prepping for the lunch rush this morning.
He forgets about Emma standing at the door to the kitchen, focusing on his movements as he pulls out a bowl and spoon. He grabs her favorite mug and drops the steeper filled with her favorite tea blend into it and pours the steaming water over it. Then he's back to the stovetop to tend the soup, stirring so nothing settles and sticks to the pan, tapping the spoon on the edge to shake the last drops of broth free. Delicate movements, not too hurried, not too wide, but not at a snail's pace.
When he turns again, Emma is staring with her jaw slightly dropped.
"You make it look like fucking art," she blurts out, and he can't help but chuckle. Killian is used to hearing this from her, because every time he cooks for her (soup and tea not excluded, apparently) she says much the same.
"It's just reheating and tea, darling," he responds. He was never very good at taking compliments from her. The bowl is warm, but not scalding, so he places it in his upturned hand, balancing the spoon between his fingers and placing a couple cracker packets on his wrist. Before grabbing the mug of tea, he removes the steeper and places it in the sink, prepared to clean it when he comes back to do the dishes. He nods at her to move back to the living room as he grabs the handle of the mug, letting her lead the way back to her makeshift sick bed.
Once Emma is situated with her food, he heads back to the kitchen to clean up. It's just like cleaning his work kitchen, the dance continuing as he puts away the rest of the soup, taps the used tea blend into the bin beneath the sink, carefully cleans each item he used, and then wipes down the entire counter before he's satisfied. He knows he'll still have dishes to tend to once Emma is finished eating, but a clean kitchen is a happy kitchen in his mind, so for now he's as happy as he can be with his best friend miserable in the next room.
He checks on her after he surveys his work, deeming the inspection complete before turning off all the lights except the one above the stove. She's still sipping at the tea, so he brings the medicine in to get it out of the way before she finishes the chaser. He watches as her eyes begin to droop closed longer and longer with each sip. When she places the mug down on the coffee table, he knows the medicine is winning out over her desire to stay upright, and so he helps her get settled again, all whilst listening to her whine and moan about her nose being too clogged on one side, or her ears needing to pop in that scratchy voice that sounds like she's been a pack-a-day smoker for twenty years, but it still somehow turns him on.
Nipping that thought off, he collects the dirty dishes from her dinner and heads to the kitchen to clean them. He fishes around the pantry for the vinyl gloves he keeps there before heading back in to the living room. Tissues and other scraps of trash are collected from the tables around her, disposed of before he grabs the anti-bacterial spray from the bathroom. Every surface gets wiped down before he moves on and does the same to the kitchen counters.
It's not that he has an unbreakable immune system, it's just that by the time Emma calls him, she's too far into the illness to be contagious anymore. It works out well for him. When he gets his yearly cold in two months, she'll be there taking care of him and the cycle will continue.
He's just about sanitized her whole apartment before he puts all the supplies away and washes his hands. Emma is snoring, her head tilted back on the pillow and mouth gaping open and a pang of affection goes so sharply through him that he almost can't stand it.
The bond between them is complicated at times, because there's obviously love. And sometimes it's platonic love and name-calling, and other times their eyes linger a little too long. Sometimes his hand stays on the small of her back when they're out. Sometimes she links her arm through his when they're walking and lets her fingers play in the space on the inside of his elbow. Sometimes, she talks in her sleep and he knows he's not alone in these feelings. But neither of them want to move beyond what they have, especially because if it ended, neither would be okay losing the other. He has this in mind, even as he urges her to sit up in her sleep. She complies, because she knows the soothing sound of his whispers even when she's unaware of everything else.
Killian manages to maneuver her to a position that will make it easier for her to breathe. He's content when her snore is just a mild thing, much less irritating to her already agitated throat.
He settles back into the recliner and channel surfs until he finds a movie, knowing he won't make it through half of the damn thing before he falls asleep, as well. Before he forgets, Killian grabs his phone from the end table and texts David, Emma's fellow sheriff and their resident father-figure. Killian only needs to say that Emma is sick before David assures him he'll take care of it, more than likely accessing the tree-like system of workers at the department to find coverage for her shifts. It takes a handful of minutes before David gets back to him and confirms the time off.
Realizing he's supposed to close at the country club the next night, he also sends a text to Will and calls in the payback of a favor. Will still owes him for the last time Killian had to spring him from the drunk tank. The response is griping, but affirmative. This is just a perk of calling the shots in the kitchen.
With his phone placed off to the side, Killian curls up in the recliner and manages to keep his eyes open for ten whole minutes before he's out like a light, Emma's softer snores and the hushed television acting as the sweetest form of lullaby.