New fic! To quote someone else, this one is a bit grittier than you're used to from me. There is questionable morality and some dubious consent, almost all of which is in the first chapter (though the events do come up again later). If that's upsetting to you, maybe skip this one. I wanted to write something different to push myself, and I think I did that. Oddly nervous about posting this, but I hope y'all like it. Giant thanks to oubiliette14 and kliomuse for beta duties. Oubliette14 made me a gorgeous graphic to go with that's posted over on Tumblr (nowforruin there too) if you want to come check it out!

"Well done, dearie."

Killian sketched a mocking bow, allowing himself just the proper amount of disrespect to keep character without losing life or limb. "I'm a man of my word."

"Indeed." Gold considered him from his spot behind a massive desk, his fingers forming a steeple as if in thought, though Killian knew from experience any thoughts the wretched man had were sinister at best. A long moment of tense silence followed, not a soul in the room daring to so much as breathe too deeply.

Including the frightened-looking girl standing at Gold's elbow in a poor excuse for a dress, the hem barely long enough to cover the essentials. Her name was Emily, and that was all he knew – even the dignity of a last name was denied her. Beyond that, Killian knew what everyone else knew: the girl belonged to Gold.

The taste of bile on his tongue, Killian waited until Gold's lips twisted into what passed for a smile. "Well, as it turns out, I'm a man of my word as well. I did promise it would be worth your while if you came through."

"Your payment was generous, though hard be it for me to refuse your gratitude." He turned up the charm, ignoring the heavy thud of his racing heart. The last thing he wanted was to be standing in front of such a monster, dueling with quips and barbs. He had much larger concerns, but he needed to maintain his access to come and go as he pleased.

Someone's life depended on it.

"Yes, it was, wasn't it? See, this is what I like about you, Charles. Criminals these days, they lack manners. They don't understand a man's word is his currency no matter his station in life. But you, you understand." Gold smiled at him, a reptile in a suit. "Given your excellent execution of your task, allow me to extend my hospitality. Emily is yours for the evening." The girl showed no reaction, her eyes on the floor even as Gold gave her a none too gentle push in Killian's direction, her tangled blonde locks spilling over her shoulder as she nearly lost her balance in her heels.

Killian swallowed, his thoughts scrambling for a response. Of all the things Gold could have offered him, the barely legal girl who was either his prisoner, or his whore, or both, was the last thing he wanted any part of.

"If rumor is to be believed, a man once lost his hand for merely touching her," he finally said, relieved to have found a plausible excuse. "I hate to think what I might lose should you change your mind. I'm rather fond of all my parts, you see."

"You doubt my word?"

"No," Killian replied instantly, sensing the danger of the man's dark question. "Merely establishing the rules of the game."

"Ah." Gold's smirk returned, eyes slithering back toward the girl. "You've never been prone to breaking your toys, Charles. Return her in one piece, and there will be no trouble."

Cursing silently, Killian tried one final angle. "If I may, many a man has made a bargain and delivered. Why offer her to me?"

"Money matters little to you, Mr. Ellis. You don't require my payments, and that makes you unpredictable. I'd be blind and stupid not to see the way you watch the girl. Do you think me either blind or stupid?" The words gleamed with a dangerous edge, sharp and deadly.

"You know I do not." It wasn't a lie. Gold was a lot of things, but he wasn't stupid. If he was, Killian wouldn't be there – and Gold would be rotting in a prison cell where he belonged.

"Take the girl. Enjoy your reward. She'll make it worth your while. And when you want another taste of her, remember who is was that gave her to you in the first place."

"Thank you," Killian forced himself to say, turning his attention to the girl. Time for a Hail Mary. "Go get your coat, darling." If he could get her out of this place, he could save her any further degradation – and find out what she knew. "Not that you'll be needing it for long," he added with a leer, conscious of Gold's eyes on him as he raked his gaze over the girl.

Stupidly, he believed it had worked when Emily obediently turned for the doorway into the hall. But he should have known better.

"That won't be necessary. I hate to bother you with having to return her. She'll show you to your accommodations."

"You do think of everything." Killian plastered a grin back on his face, swallowing past his revulsion.

"Yes, dearie, I do. Enjoy your evening." Gold waved them off, Killian's hope leaving with the man's attention. The girl didn't say a word, merely starting for the door once again. Knowing his choices were limited, Killian followed.

He shoved his hands in his pockets, a practiced smirk gracing his lips even as his heart pounded against his rib cage. Fighting the urge to clench his fists in his pockets, he focused on keeping his swagger lazy, his eyes trained on the swaying hips leading him down the hall – all the while frantically trying to think his way out of this corner in spite of having exhausted his limited options.

Two years, Killian. Two endless years you've been working this, and you're out of time. The girl has to know something. Gold never lets her far from his side. If you play this right, it could be an opportunity to gain her trust.

Or she could hate you. She probably already hates you.

Some mornings, he barely recognized himself in the mirror. Oh, the shaggy hair, the jaw in need of a shave and the blood-shot eyes, that was well-known territory. Five tours and four years working intelligence had established that reality through and through.

But two years of deep cover, that was a nightmare of an entirely different sort. His time overseas had been bad enough, but he'd had his team, then – he had men he respected at his back, brothers in arms.

Now his days were filled with the scum of the earth, a constant churn in his gut as he worked to remember the bigger picture, to swallow the smaller crimes and his own sins. Yet even that wasn't having the effect it once had, his nightmares a constant battle of the war he once fought in uniform and the war he that had become a part of him once he returned.

Until three weeks ago.

Killian didn't have a whole lot of people in his life he'd be quick to call a friend, and no family left to speak of, but he'd known Belle since they were teenagers inches away from living on the street. He joined the military the minute he could, and she read every last scrap of a book she could get her hands on until she gleefully presented him her college acceptance letter – with a full scholarship. He'd left for the Navy the next day, convinced it would be the last time he saw her, but she was too stubborn to give up the friendship. Her enduring optimism got him through some of his darker moments, a fact he wouldn't soon forget.

Which was why he had to do this, why he couldn't refuse to follow this girl down this hall – because somewhere else, in some other hall, Belle's fifteen-year-old daughter was sure to be leading some other man along to a back bedroom.

Or much, much worse.

Swallowing the dark thoughts, Killian stopped mere inches from the girl – his reward – and dragged his eyes down her body like the disgusting criminal he was meant to be. They were still in the hallway where anyone could see them, and he knew as well as anyone how quickly a tiny mistake could cost someone their life. "Well, love, I'm told you have a reward for me. What've you got up your sleeve?" He let the words drip with suggestion, his tongue running obscenely over his bottom lip as his eyes ran along her bare arms. "Or perhaps up your dress?"

He swore he saw a flash of defiance in her eyes, still a bright, determined green despite the life she lived, but the beaten down meekness was back so fast he must have imagined it. This was exactly why he was here – Belle's daughter couldn't end up like this.

"After you," she said softly, gesturing to the room beyond. Bare walls and a mattress on the floor greeted him, and his stomach flipped once more. With one last smirk for any lingering audience, he slid his arm around her waist and tugged her with him into the dingy room.

He released her the moment the door was closed, dropping the smirk and adopting what he hoped was a sheepish grin. "Trust me, darling, I'm well satisfied all on my own. I prefer my women willing." He shoved down a fiery brand of temper scalding the back of his neck at the thought of this girl, and all the men before him who didn't give a damn about willing.

"You want willing, you've got willing. Whatever you want, that's what you'll get."

"And if there's nothing I want?" he asked quietly, struggling to walk the line between his cover and the tricky task of earning enough of her trust to get what information he could from her.

She rolled her eyes, tossing her hair over her shoulder and sighing before wrapping her arms around his neck, curves rubbing up against him. "All men want something."

"As I said, I prefer…"

She stopped her movements, drawing back sharply as her eyes narrowed. "Listen, you and I both know that when he said reward he meant for me to fuck you. If I don't fuck you, that causes a problem for me, and since you'll be refusing his offer, a problem for you. So stop acting like we don't know how this ends." Her voice was flat, emotionless, the coy smile and practiced look of desire wiped clean. "Stop acting like you're somehow different than him."

But he was different – his stomach roiled at the very thought of the girl finding him a bit like Gold. But that was the rub – she hadn't met Killian Jones. If she had, it would have all gone down a lot differently. He let his thoughts wander for a moment, the impossible situation weighing on his shoulders like a ton of lead.

He didn't want to do this. She was maybe eighteen, and he'd done a lot of terrible things to keep from blowing his cover, but he never forced a woman. Sure, she was claiming willingness, but this girl was property, and property didn't have free will to choose anything.

For the first time in his life, Killian wasn't certain he could rise to the occasion.

She was pretty enough, could probably be just his type in a pair of jeans and a sweater instead of the painted on mini-dress and sky-high heels that put them on eye level – or more importantly, wearing a genuine smile of welcome instead of hardened determination like armor. Maybe then a simple look of invitation would send desire coursing through his veins, but the picture before him only stirred his temper and desire for vengeance.

When he remained silent, she sighed and turned toward the rickety dresser against one wall, reaching into the top drawer while gesturing to the mattress. "Lay down." Her voice was flat, resigned, and when she turned she was holding a condom and a bottle of lube.

Killian felt his cheeks flame even as his eyes closed in mortification and horror. In that moment, he would have given anything to be anywhere but in that sad excuse for a bedroom – hell, he'd be on the first carrier back to the Middle East given the choice. Anything but sex with a woman – a girl – who knew from the start this was a task to be completed and expected nothing enjoyable from it.

"Charles." His eyes snapped open at the sound of her voice, watching as she balanced one hand on the wall to slip off her heels. The grim determination was replaced with an expression of desire so carefully crafted, he might have been fooled if not for the cold calculation of her assessment of their situation not five minutes earlier.

Without the heels, she only seemed younger, more delicate, and Killian swallowed heavily against the revulsion rising in his throat.

She could know something. She's right – Gold will be insulted if you don't go through with this. It's already been three weeks. How will you explain to Belle and Will you let your best chance yet get away because you didn't want to have sex with a prostitute?

Belle would forgive you, his mind immediately argued back. Belle would understand. Even if she is a prostitute, I'd be hard pressed to believe she chose this life for herself.

A mother will never understand when it comes to losing her child.

Emily stood in front of him, her delicate hands smoothing over his T-shirt in a practiced caress that did absolutely nothing for him. She looked up once more as her hands travelled south, fingers curling around his belt, wide green eyes that had seen far too much in her short life. She opened her mouth like she wanted to say something, but in the end only shook her head and pressed closer.

"Relax," she murmured against the shell of his ear, her breath warm as her fingers worked up under his shirt. With her pressed so tightly to him, she couldn't see as he screwed his eyes shut tightly once more, struggling to keep in character, to remember that Killian Jones wasn't in this room with a barely legal girl commanded to reward him – Charles Ellis, notorious drug runner and dirty cop, was. And Charles Ellis wouldn't have an issue with the situation.

Still, he jumped at the damp heat of her tongue on his neck. That only seemed to frustrate her, her brows knitted together as she pulled back. "Do you need to take something? Gold keeps a supply."

"Take something?"

She rolled her eyes again, gesturing toward the bed. "So you can enjoy your reward."

Buggering bloody hell. Killian's face heated all over again, and he fought the urge to close his eyes. Charles Ellis wouldn't be embarrassed – Charles Ellis would be right pissed she would suggest him incapable of performing.

Whether Killian could or not was yet to be determined. And for a flash of a moment, he wondered if perhaps that was how he could get through it. Allow science and chemicals to take over, to force his body to act how it should if he were a drug dealing sociopath with no regard for anyone but himself.

But that would make him too much like these people he was trying to put away – no, if he was going to do this, he was going to be present for every terrible, awkward moment of it. He would never speak of it again, and the memory would be his burden to bear alone. Belle needn't ever know how he got her daughter back, only that he had.

"Perhaps you just need to be more enjoyable," he forced himself to spit back, the mantle of his persona sliding back over his shoulders.


Emily smiled at him, darkness twisting her lips and pooling in her eyes as she reached for the hem of her dress and pulled it off in one quick movement before reaching for his belt with determined fingers. He caught a glimpse of a bruise blossoming across her hip, another on her thigh, and he bit down on the inside of his cheek to keep his mouth shut. She was thin – too thin – her hipbones jutting out sharply, ribs visible through her pale skin. Whatever Gold was feeding her clearly wasn't enough, and Killian wondered for one heartbreaking moment when was the last time she'd seen the sun.

Charles Ellis does not give a damn about a few bruises and what Gold feeds or does not feed his girls. You cannot react.

By the time she stripped Killian of his clothes, he was disgusted to find his body had far fewer problems with the naked blonde straddling his lap than his furiously spinning mind. Between deployments and his undercover work, he had precious little time to even consider a meaningful relationship, but he was no saint. He enjoyed women, and he made damn sure they enjoyed their time with him. Sex wasn't how he'd intended to gain Emily's trust – he had been certain she would accept his casual refusal and play along – but perhaps all wasn't lost. Had a single man ever given a damn about her pleasure as they used her body for themselves?

He was going to have to shower in bleach when it was over to ever feel clean again. The rationale felt flimsy even as he thought it, but the crinkle of foil brought him back to the present.

"You know, for a man claiming a reward, you don't seem all that interested." Her voice was cool, her hands efficient as she stroked him. Killian swore under his breath as she moved her thumb, a low pull in his belly beginning to burn in spite of himself. "Oh, that's what you like?" Her voice was a caress in itself, nearly a purr, but something in it was off – just a little too calm and collected for a prisoner. "I was beginning to wonder if maybe you were just gay and didn't want to admit it in front of Gold or your precious crew."

"If I did prefer men, everyone would bloody know it, but I assure you, darling, I prefer women." He ground his teeth as she slid down his thighs, the condom packet momentarily forgotten on the mattress as she lowered her mouth. Her hum of agreement did things to him it had no business doing.

She didn't linger long, spending enough time swirling her tongue and hollowing her cheeks to make his breath short and his heart pound. She released him without warning, reaching for the condom and rolling it on with the same quick movements she'd done everything else.

"Wait." He grabbed her wrist as she reached for the bottle of lube, the wrongness of the entire situation warring against the desire she'd managed to awaken. "Allow me to render that unnecessary," he forced himself to say with all the swagger of Charles Ellis.

"Why bother?" was all she said before uncapping the small bottle. He was too stunned by her chilly reply to answer, words trapped in his throat as she ran her fingers along his length once more, coating the condom in preparation for what came next.

"I suspect no one has bothered before," he finally answered, his hand pressing lightly against her hip to stop her as she rose onto her knees above him. It was a dangerously honest statement, far too much Killian and not enough Charles, and he saw the flicker of curiosity in her eyes before they hardened.

She didn't say a word, ignoring his touch and sinking down in a practiced move that took him fully inside her body. She set a steady rhythm, blonde hair tumbling over her shoulders and her eyes fixed on the wall above his head. By the expression on her face, she could have been watching paint dry, even as her hips moved expertly over his and her palms rested against his bare chest.

What did he expect, what with her downright clinical actions – Killian was nearly certain this was the definition of being serviced – but the longer it went on, the more he couldn't shake the thought that she wasn't even in the room with him.

Is that what happened to the girls who got caught up in this mess? Did they become vacant, soulless bodies to be used and discarded? That it was so very horrid the only way to endure it was to mentally check out, little more than a robot performing their assigned task?

Killian spent far too much time looking down the barrel of a gun to consider himself a romantic, but bloody hell, a woman deserved better.

Perhaps that was what made up his mind – or perhaps it was the stark realization that he was a part of it one way or the other. He wasn't saving her from anything by lying there, attempting to lock his soul up in some bloody compartment of his mind far, far away from that room. No, he was saving himself from the choking shame of being a party to it.

Or perhaps it was the simple point of male pride that Killian Jones had never left a woman disappointed in his bed.

She made a small noise of surprise as he flipped them over, her hair spilling across the pillow as he adjusted the angle of his hips, watching her face for any reaction. Her eyebrows knit in confusion for all of a second before her face transformed back into the illusion of seduction she'd worn so well in front of Gold, almost as if she'd suddenly remembered she was supposed to act like she enjoyed this. "Look who decided to wake up." It was meant to be alluring by the low pitch of her voice, but the glint of jungle green staring up at him was a taunt more than anything.

Her behavior was a puzzle he would have to sort out another time – how was a girl barely eighteen, Gold's favorite whore, at once the meek, beaten down possession Killian expected but also…something else. Something unbreakable and proud, with an intelligence lurking in her gaze that made him want to drag her out of this place.

But for now, he turned his attention to the task at hand. Ignoring her jab, he slowed his pace, determined to give her something out of this.

Fancy yourself a saint, do you? You know you're only doing this to get her to trust you, not from some noble attempt at goodness.

Blocking out the conscience he would have to face soon enough, he bent over her, hitching her thigh against his hip. The startled gasp was the first genuine sound she'd made since they walked into the room together. Using the rise and fall of her breaths as a map, Killian traced a path over her skin with his tongue and fingers, keeping the rock of his hips steady against hers.

And for a split second, with her cheeks finally flushed and her eyes closed, her legs tight around him, Killian forgot – forgot he was undercover, forgot the cruel and ruthless role he was playing, forgot that Emily was all of eighteen and had been given over to him as a reward for making charges disappear.

Forgot he would hate himself for it when it was over.

Reaching between them, he picked up speed, his thumb working to bring her along to the finish line with him. Her hand shot out, fingers curling around his wrist and eyes flying open at his touch. She seemed to wage war against herself, her teeth worrying her lip as she stared at him in silent question.

He wanted to ask if she was all right, if she wanted to stop – but that was what Killian wanted. And in that moment, he couldn't be Killian.

He saw the moment she made her decision. Releasing his wrist and nodding her head ever so slightly, she leaned back into the pillow, pushing her hips into his. She held his stare for a long moment, her eyes scanning his features as if he were a great mystery to solve, until a sudden curse and arch of her back snapped her eyes shut tight.

If he closed his eyes, the room could disappear. Instead of hard determination and a bare mattress, he could have Emily in his apartment, in his bed, luxurious cotton sheets against their skin. Her features painted only in the early morning light – completely free of the heavy makeup and weight of being a man's possession. Emily there entirely because she desired it.

But she wasn't there because she desired it.

The thought snapped him back to reality, and whatever physical pleasure he'd felt at her arched back and quiet gasp vanished. Her eyes were still closed, but nothing about her expression hinted at pleasure – she was all grim determination once more.

Almost as if sensing his indecision, she looked up at him with an arched brow, a silent, mocking question on her lips. It was a bucket of ice water dumped over his head, and he stopped moving entirely, staring back down at her.

"Guess you should have taken one of Gold's pills after all."

"Bit hard to maintain a bloody interest when you so obviously don't share it," he ground out, not entirely needing his persona to find the words. She was taunting him again, and while he agreed Charles Ellis would deserve an insult of that caliber, some sense of male pride lingered.

"I'm right here." She smiled sweetly, the curve of her lips a fierce contrast to the daggers in her eyes. She jerked her hips up into his, one of her hands trailing down his chest. "Whenever you're ready."

Her icy barbs did nothing to heat his blood. Perhaps that was the problem – the cold, clinical nature of what was happening between them was never going to get either of them to the finish line. Maybe a more gentle approach would get them further.

"What are you doing?" He realized his lips were half an inch from hers only when the sharp question reached his ears.

"I…" He stilled, balanced above her, their lips inches apart. Charles Ellis, he repeated to himself, narrowing his eyes at her. "I'm taking my reward, darling."

"I think you've had your chance." The redness of her cheeks rose with her sudden temper, her eyes bright green and flashing like a feral alley cat trapped in a corner. "No kissing. Even Gold doesn't subject me to that."

"Love, I only…"

"Tricked yourself into believing I wanted you?" She laughed, a bitter, harsh laugh as she shoved against his chest. Defeated, disgusted, and a little bit humiliated, he rolled off her and stood to clean himself up. She was already using the sheet to wipe her thighs before reaching for her discarded clothes.

Weighing his options, he directed his attention to the scarred and pitted wall, a laughable attempt to give the girl some privacy after what they'd just done. Time was running out for Rose. He would have preferred more time, more confidence Emily would take his offer, but it had to be now. This was the only chance he was going to get to turn her to his side, and he had to play the hand he'd been dealt.

"You could get out of here, you know," he said quietly, tugging his underwear back into place and looking around for his jeans. "I could help you." Scooping up his trousers from the floor, he turned back to her. "Let me help you."

"Oh? How's that? Am I to warm your bed instead of Gold's?" Whatever attempt she had been making to conceal her anger and resentment had been abandoned, her movements jerky as she tugged her bra back into place, arms twisting to fasten the clasp.

"No!" Hastily fastening his belt after buttoning his jeans and checking his gun, Killian left his shirt on the floor to cross the room and lightly grip her biceps, surprisingly solid with muscle despite her thin frame. "If you would allow me to explain, I…"

A deafening bang cut him off mid-sentence, the rattle and pop of gunfire in the outer rooms surrounding them. Instinct and training kicked in, and Killian shoved Emily to the floor, covering her body with his. "Stay down!" he hissed in her ear, reaching for the gun holstered at his hip and clicking off the safety.

The door burst open, and it was all Killian could do not to sag with relief at the uniforms. The shouts of "Boston PD" were interrupted by the familiar stride of his partner, Robin, his expression baffled as he took in the scene before him. "Killian? What are you doing here?"

"Killian?" Emily echoed, shoving at him and grabbing at the sheet to cover herself. "What the hell? You're a cop?"

"Aye." He rose slowly, gesturing toward the blonde now wrapped in a sheet. "She's not armed." Killian scrubbed his palm over his face, the curious stares of his fellow officers lingering on his bare chest and the girl. He would deal with that later. He had other priorities now.

"Rose?" he asked Robin, his jaw tight as he waited.

"You don't know?"

"It seems I do not."

"That's why we're here, Killian. We got a tip she was here. You were supposed to be…" The radio on Robin's chest squawked to life as if on cue, and Killian's knees nearly buckled in relief at the words – and the terrifying realization that if he had found a way into the basement instead of what he'd done with Emily, he could have located Rose a hell of a lot faster. "We've got her, Detective."

"She's been here this whole time?" Killian swallowed past the tightness in his throat, struggling to collect himself in front of his growing audience.

"We're not sure. What the hell are you doing here, mate?" Robin's glance flickered to Emily and back. "Sergeant said you were finally using your vacation days to help Belle and Will through all this, that you'd claimed you were going out of the country to cover your UC position."

"Aye," was all Killian said in reply, refusing to meet his friend's questioning stare as guilt and shame threatened to swallow him whole. The only reason he had had sex with an eighteen-year-old girl was to find Rose, to save his oldest friend from the horror of losing her child – and she'd been here the whole time.

"You could lose your badge over this."

"I'm aware." Killian sighed, holstering his gun and lifting his shirt from the floor to pull over his head before turning back to Emily. "I'm going to need you to come with us and give your statement."

"Like hell." She tugged the sheet tighter around herself, eyes narrowed into dangerous slits. "I'm not going anywhere until I speak with Regina Mills." Her defiance was back full force, the glint of steel he'd seen before straightening her spine. Whoever this girl was, there was nothing meek about her – it had been an act. A damned fine one.

"Your attorney can meet us at the district," he said wearily, wondering how a girl like her had ended up in a place like that. She was obviously intelligent, and at times displayed an element of fearlessness that was bound to get her killed in her current line of work.

He told himself the overwhelming urge to tear her out of a life of prostitution and away from men like Gold was guilt - he'd been doing the job long enough to know he couldn't save them all.

Emily's laughter was brittle against his ears, and it wasn't until her statement registered that he realized what a bloody mess he was in. "Regina Mills is Special Agent in Charge of the Boston FBI Field Office." She held out one hand as if to shake his in introduction, her lips twisted into a smirk. "And I would be Special Agent Emma Swan. You've just fucked up my investigation."


"Explain to me how it is that the team found you half-naked with an undercover FBI agent in one of Gold's flophouses." David Nolan's voice was dangerously calm, a sharp contrast to the slam of his office door as he crossed the room. He didn't take his customary position in the chair behind his desk, instead looming over it with a black fury Killian couldn't recall ever seeing on the usually sedate man's face.

"At the time, I believed she would be a useful source of information."

"So you slept with a girl you thought was eighteen?"

"She's twenty-eight," Killian mumbled, the quick glimpse of Emma's FBI profile he'd managed to pull up on his phone before David stormed in flashing through his mind. The photo of her that accompanied the file was the worst part, her natural beauty allowed to shine through without the caked on makeup. She was every bit as beautiful as he imagined she might be.

And far more dangerous.

"Oh, and you somehow knew that when you decided it was a good idea to have sex with a girl you thought was a prostitute?"

Killian didn't know what to say. He obviously hadn't known she was twenty-eight at the time – he certainly hadn't known she was an FBI agent who very much was making her own choices, not a helpless teenager. It did nothing to explain why she hadn't taken the out he'd offered her, though. He understood a frightened teenager not wanting to defy Gold, but this woman had put herself in that house, had actively sought out the position at Gold's side.

Don't even think of making excuses for yourself. You know bloody well enough you should have found another way. You allowed desperation to get the better of you.

David took a deep breath, finally falling heavily into his chair. "You said you were taking vacation time, Killian. You lied. None of us knew what you were doing. Do you have any idea how stupid that was?"

"Aye, bloody stupid and reckless." Killian leaned back in his chair, studying the small scars littering his hands. "It was Belle's daughter, Dave. What would you have me do?"

"You should have told me."

"You wouldn't have allowed it."

"You're damn right I wouldn't have."

"Am I suspended?"

"You should be."

"Aye, I likely should." Killian paused, cursing himself even as the next words came out of his mouth. "But Emil-Emma, she knows things that could help us take Gold down for good. Rose was just one girl. There are more. A lot bloody more."

David frowned, his gaze falling to his phone's suddenly lit up screen. "You think I don't know that?"

"I make no excuses for my behavior, and I am aware I'll have Internal Affairs to sort out, but we can make some good come out of this. My cover isn't blown, and…"

"Your cover isn't blown? You walked out of Gold's and who knows who saw you! If you wanted to keep your cover, you should have been handcuffed and put in a squad car like the rest of them."

"No one saw…"

"You can't know that for certain. If you think I'm letting you take the chance that someone wasn't watching from a window or rooftop, you are mistaken." David's phone lit up again, and he sighed, gesturing to it. "Regina Mills keeps calling. You might as well stick around for whatever she has to say. My money says it has something to do with you and the mess the FBI claims we've made of their case."

Killian nodded, and David tapped the screen. He barely managed to say hello before a woman's sharp voice came through the speaker.

"Just what in the hell do you people think you're doing?" she demanded. "I've gotten calls from the mayor and the damned Director. Explain how it is that an off-duty detective ended up in the middle of my investigation?"

"Ms. Mills, I assure you…"

"You local cops and your ridiculous sense of entitlement. I don't want to hear one word about jurisdiction. Miss Swan has been working on Gold, gathering information on his various deals, for years. We were weeks away from taking the whole thing down. Do you have any idea how many girls that despicable excuse for a man has trafficked over the last decade?"

"Ms. Mills, I…"

"That's Special Agent Mills. And the answer is hundreds, Sergeant. He has trafficked hundreds, if not thousands of girls. All while staying three steps ahead of us, in spite of a host of other illegal activities. Do you understand the enormity of what your detective has done? I want his badge."

"You can bloody well have it." Seething with self-loathing and guilt, Killian stood, shaking his head at David's incredulous expression. "You want my resignation, Special Agent, it's yours," he spat, ignoring the other man's sharp glare. "But know that I would do it all over again to save Rose Scarlet. That girl is the closest thing to family I've got. So you win this time. But remember this when the day comes where you have to choose between your family or your sodding job, and you have to make that decision in the blink of a bloody eye."

"Killian, wait." David grabbed his arm, stopping him from placing his gun down on the desk beside the badge he'd slammed down while talking. "It's not…"

"Get your man under control, Sergeant."

"Don't tell me how to run my shop. I'll call you back." David ended the call despite her protest, moving around the desk to stand next to Killian with a firm hand clapped on his shoulder. "You quitting doesn't solve anything. Her agent may know a lot, but you've been working this for years, too. You know more about Gold's operation than anyone in this department. I need you."

"Dave, you've been a great friend these last few years. I'm proud to have served under you. But we both know I'm a political bloody nightmare, and you can't go up against the buggering FBI. You're going to need Emma Swan." Killian struggled not to wince as he said her name, guilt and shame shredding him from the inside out. "She won't work with me, and you need what she knows."

"There's something you aren't telling me."

"I'll write up a full report from home and email it to you by end of day tomorrow."

"Sleep on it. Take your badge and your gun. You still want to quit tomorrow, we can talk about it then."

Killian shook his head, forcing himself to meet his friend's gaze head on. "No. This is for the best. Don't worry, mate. Now that I'm unemployed I've all the time in the world for your wife's trivia nights."

Ignoring the wrenching pain of giving up the job he loved even when he despised it, Killian clapped David on the shoulder one last time and walked out.