an: hello everyone! This is the final chapter! I was going to post it tomorrow, but I figured that since it's done and I'm ready to give it to you, now is as good a time as any. I just want to thank you for all of your support for this story! It has been a really fun story to write, and I hope that you enjoy this final piece because I personally think it's quite lovely.


twenty-three.

David and Mary Margaret's apartment door hasn't ever looked daunting, but as Emma and Killian stand before it, it actually does.

Emma holds Henry in her arms and Killian licks his lips nervously, his hand clenched into a fist by his side as he prepares to knock.

"You okay?" Emma asks, seeming a little nervous herself.

He manages a smile and nods. "Aye, love, I'm just… thinking about how this will go."

Emma takes a breath and laughs once. "Yeah."

Their apology to Granny, Belle, and Will had gone remarkably well. Belle and Will had been hurt, understandably, but they'd forgiven them, and Belle had welcomed Emma with open arms.

They'd spent a solid hour sitting in a booth at Granny's with them after Granny broke out a few of her holiday specials as her way of saying I forgive you, and she'd given Emma a huge hug that he was nearly jealous of.

There's a lot riding on this apology to David and Mary Margaret. While he knows they can't be fuming, he knows there's probably loads of hurt and frustration between them due to the fact that they'd treated them like family for a full week.

"I'm nervous too," Emma whispers. There's a crease in her brow that he immediately leans down to kiss.

"We're in this together," he reminds her softly. "Are you ready?"

Emma nods her head. "We have to start somewhere."

Killian knocks on the door and his heart starts to race just a little bit faster as blood rushes in his ears. It only takes a few moments, but it feels like an eternity goes by before the door swings open.

On the other side, Mary Margaret, still heavily pregnant, stands with a tiny smile on her lips. "Hi."

"Hi," Emma replies.

Mary Margaret glances over her shoulder and then takes a step back. "Welcome back, you guys. We're so happy you decided to come back."

Killian smiles back at Mary Margaret as he steps into the familiar loft apartment. It feels like a dream, as if they hadn't truly been here before, pretending to be married.

Things are different now, and it's painfully obvious when Killian meets David's eyes for the first time. David stands in the kitchen, a plate in hand, and as soon as they stand in the living area, he sets it down on the counter.

"Killian," David says. He seems sad, mostly, and Killian nods at his best friend.

"Hey, mate,"

Mary Margaret, ever the mediator, holds her arm out. "Why don't you sit? Get comfortable. Would you like something to drink? Hot chocolate?"

"No, I'm fine," Emma says quietly.

Killian just shakes his head quietly and helps Emma with Henry while she peels out of her coat. She smiles at him in an attempt to calm his nerves and he smiles back softly.

It's hard to believe that just this morning, he'd woken with her tucked into his arms. They'd exchanged soft kisses for far too long before getting up for the day when Henry decided to rouse them, and then they'd moved all of their furniture into the new house.

They're starting new in Storybrooke, and with starting new comes this step of making things right. It was their plan from the moment Emma told him that she thought they should go back together.

But it doesn't mean it's easy.

Killian and Emma sit together on the sofa and David and Mary Margaret join them, sitting on chairs from the table turned toward them.

They still haven't taken down any of their Christmas decorations, and they have Henry completely enamored and chattering while the uncomfortable silence sits in the air between he and Emma and the Nolan's.

"So I'm sure you must've heard some details as to why we're here," Killian says, leaning forward with his hands between his knees. He doesn't wait for them to say anything, but by the looks on their faces they must have heard something. "Emma and I are living here now. Together. Um…"

He looks over at Emma for support and she smiles softly back at him. She searches for his hand on his leg and takes it.

It provides him with just enough fuel to continue with a swell of his heart within his chest.

"Um… we're dating now," he says honestly. "And we're happy."

Mary Margaret smiles at that.

"And we wanted to come back because we realize that what we did was wrong and hurtful," Killian takes a soft breath. "And I'm sorry I thought I had to be better than you, David. For whatever reason… I felt like after our fight before I left I needed to have it all together, because that's what you wanted from me. You wanted me to have it all together. And when we met in New York, I didn't. I was embarrassed."

David exchanges glances with Mary Margaret and she gives him an encouraging nod. David bobs his head.

"I understand," he says. "It was… elaborate and a little insane, but… I get it." David looks between them and sighs. "I'm just sorry we couldn't have left things in a better place when you left."

Killian nods. "Aye."

Emma sits upright beside him and Killian looks at her as she speaks. "I know how it probably feels, knowing you let us stay with you for a week-"

"Emma, if you think we love you any less, that's silly," Mary Margaret says on a sigh. "Regardless of what happened, we became friends."

Killian has to smile just a little. Emma glances at him and he squeezes her hand.

"Yeah?" she asks, wincing. "I'm sorry. I didn't want to hurt you. I just- I wanted a good Christmas for Henry because he's never had something this nice before. Neither have I."

His heart aches for her all over again and she shrugs her shoulders as she manages to smile at the Nolan's.

"You guys helped me feel like this place was home, so… that's why I wanted to come back, and I hope we can still be friends."

David and Mary Margaret look at one another and both of them grin as they nod.

"Of course," David says.

"You and Killian are always welcome here."

It's a relief to hear those words from them. He knew he didn't have anything to worry about coming into this, but darkness is a tricky thing- it creeps into every thought and lingers.

"So can we talk about the truth? What's going on and how long have you known each other-?" David shakes his head, smiling lightly. "Where are you guys living?"

Killian laughs and so does Emma. He looks over at her and shrugs.

"We met at our former apartment in the city probably about a month before we ran into each other at the store. She was moving in and I came down to see if I could help her with her mattress."

Emma rolls her eyes and groans a little. "And he was being a complete jerk so I told him to get lost and I stepped on his foot."

Killian chuckles. He admires his Swan and licks his lips before turning back to their friends.

"So that much was true," he says. "After that, it was just a series of me going to see if I could talk to her and Emma nearly kneeing me in the groin more than once."

Emma punches him lightly in the arm. "Shut up. That's not true."

"It is," Killian mouths to an amused Mary Margaret and David.

He straightens and looks at Emma and then at Henry.

"Somehow I persuaded her to let me help her with her shopping that morning we ran into you and… pretty much the rest you know. It was a game of keeping up appearances and- somehow over the course of that week, our feelings toward one another changed and…"

Killian can't help from smiling at Emma then and she looks up at him like she does when she wants to kiss him, a small little grin upon her sweet lips.

"When we got back to the city we spent time apart, because we were both hurting from what happened and how everything fell to pieces, but Liam asked me if I might want to come back to town and I thought it might be for the best, seeing as I thought I lost Emma and Henry-"

"But he didn't," Emma moves the story forward. "Because I couldn't let go of him that easy. We stayed in the city for a week together and then we decided we should come back here because this place is… it's home."

Mary Margaret smiles back at them and David nods his head.

"Well, welcome home." Mary Margaret says. "Do you think you'll need help with your new place? Painting or unpacking?"

"We'd love to help," David adds. "Just… let us know."

Killian laughs and shakes his head. "No, no, mate, you've got your Christmas decorations up and Mary Margaret's due date is, what, in a week?"

Mary Margaret laughs and David just gives Killian a look. "You want to help us with the Christmas decorations? Feel free."

So they do. They take the ornaments and stow them away and pack up the Christmas lights. Henry plays in the nursery with Mary Margaret.

Killian steals a few kisses from Emma when he discovers mistletoe and she laughs happily with him. For not the first time since they've arrived he's hit with the thought that it's so good to have come back to Storybrooke with her.

As he and David haul the tree outside, they joke and tease like old friends. David claps him on the shoulder and pulls him in for a hug as they stand out by his truck and Killian has to smile just a little as they pull apart.

"It's good to be home, Dave."

David nods. "It's good to have you home, Killian."

They start the ascent back to the apartment and David looks over at him. "So, if you're interested, I want you to know that you can come work at the bar with Robin and I."

Killian smiles softly. "Yeah?"

"Yeah. Well, you can't drink all of the booze before we can sell it this time, but… yeah. You can."

Killian rolls his eyes and laughs. "Trust me, my days of drinking too much are behind me. I've got a family now."

"Does Emma know you consider her that?"

He gives David a look. "Of course she does."

David hums. "And you don't worry about moving too fast?"

"I do," Killian says. "But it's not like that with Emma. I think we've always known we'd be together. It was just a matter of our hearts being in the right condition."

His best friend nods. "Well, I'm happy you're back, Killian. I missed you."

Killian smiles at David. "I missed you too, Dave."

David pushes open the apartment door after things get a little too real between them, but it's fine by Killian. Their ladies are giggling over something in the kitchen with mugs pressed to their lips.

"What's so funny?" Killian teases.

He and David exchange looks and his chest swells because he and David are actually getting along properly again. He hasn't lost his best friend.

"Nothing," Emma says. She sets her mug down and licks her lips. "So I was thinking we should probably get going if we're going to get to talk with Liam and Elsa before dinnertime. We still have to get to the store and buy some things for the pantry and the fridge."

He nods his head once and sighs. "Aye. I suppose."

Emma licks her lips. "Henry's sleeping so do you want to grab him?"

"I would love that."

Emma smiles back at him as if they're the only people in the room. It's moments like these that he can't second-guess things that are between them.

Even if they'd started on this wild adventure as two broken people, they have somehow found a home in each other in the end, and it's something worth fighting for.

/

"Killian, what do you think about me painting Henry's room?" Emma asks as they drive toward Liam and Elsa's rental cabin in the woods.

Killian glances over at her and smiles softly. "I think it might be nice. What are you thinking of painting?"

Emma hums thoughtfully. She stares out the window at the world as the truck moves steadily on the road.

"Maybe I could paint a circus of animals," she says, a smile spreading on her face. She looks at Killian. "Because he's our monkey."

Killian laughs heartily and nods for a few moments. "That would absolutely work. A brilliant idea, love."

Emma happily bites down on her lower lip as she laughs. "He's never had his own bedroom before. We're going to have to decorate it too."

She starts to think about what kinds of things she'd put in his bedroom, as Mary Margaret had with her little boy's nursery, and she gets a little excited when she considers maybe even getting Henry a themed toy box and pictures for the wall.

She imagines it'll be fun to go shopping for things with Killian's help. She can hardly wait to get started on making this new place a home for them.

"We should decorate your room as well," Killian says. "You've only got your bed, dresser, and a night table, right?"

Emma looks over at him and shrugs. "I don't need to. I'm fine. I don't even have a job yet to pay for anything."

Killian shakes his head, smiling a little. "What if I said it was your belated Christmas gift?"

She tosses her head to the side and her boyfriend just smiles more. He reaches for her hand and takes it, drawing it to his lips. He kisses her hand and it makes her heart weak.

"I love you," he tells her as if he's said it every day for his whole life. "And I want to give you something nice to help you start fresh."

Emma sighs heavily, but Killian just keeps her hand tight in his and smiles softly against the back of her hand.

"David and Mary Margaret already gave us that rocking chair," she tries to protest.

"That's for Henry's bedroom," Killian says, settling their hands down on his leg. "Not yours."

Expertly, Killian turns the truck into the cabin's driveway and then puts it into park. He turns toward her and she releases his hand so she can pull her hat and gloves on.

"Please?" he asks, starting to pout at her. His lower lip looks ridiculous hanging out like it is, so Emma just leans forward, kisses the tip of his nose, and sighs.

"Fine. We can go to Ikea or something and you can be all masculine and build furniture for me and then we can cuddle and eat takeout."

Killian grins wildly. He nods his head. "All right. Sounds like a fantastic plan. Shall I write it into my planner?"

Emma rolls her eyes. "Come on, Killian. We have to go talk to your brother. I have a feeling it's not going to be as easy as David and Mary Margaret."

She stares out at the cabin and her heart starts pounding fast. Nerves tickle under her skin and she gets chills before she steps out into the cold winter air.

Killian lifts the car seat with a sleeping Henry and carries him to the cabin. He looks every bit the doting father Henry hasn't ever had, and while it should make her lightheaded with love for him, she's busy drowning in uneasiness.

Emma has a hard time catching her breath, because all she's thinking about is how completely serious Liam had been about getting them to tell the truth. He'd taken it to a level she hadn't ever anticipated, and she still sometimes dreams of the way he'd forced them to tell the truth.

Killian insists that Liam can't hate her like she suspects he does, but it doesn't mean a thing coming from him because he's incredibly optimistic about his relationship with his brother now that they've had their words for each other.

"Are you… is this okay?" Killian asks her when they stand at the door. He's staring at her with a worried look in his eyes. "If you're not ready we can wait."

"No," Emma insists. "I'm fine. I don't really know why I'm nervous."

Killian takes a breath and releases a white puff of air. "Well, to be fair, my brother did sort of threaten you when we were here last."

Emma looks down at Henry and then up at Killian. "It's fine. We're together, right? You and me."

"Aye," Killian grins. "You and me."

There's a moment they just stare at each other and it gives Emma the hope she needs to knock on the door.

In nearly record time, Elsa pulls open the door and gasps at the sight of them.

"Oh! I didn't realize you were coming today!" She holds the door open. "Please, come in! We were just talking about how you were moving in."

Emma enters first and Killian follows. She nervously glances around, finding Liam standing in the kitchen while Elsa smiles at her warmly.

"You guys can take off your jackets and get comfortable, if you'd like? We have fresh coffee and cookies too."

Killian settles Henry down on the floor and she checks to see if he's still sleeping. He is, but she knows he'll probably wake up soon enough.

She peels out of her jacket and sticks her hat and gloves into her pockets. She hands them to Killian when he silently asks for them and then she slides her hands down her thighs as Killian hoists Henry up from the floor again.

"Come," Liam says. "We can sit in the living room."

So, they walk to the living room and sit together on the couch while Liam and Elsa take the loveseat.

On the floor between them, Henry slumbers with his pacifier between his lips. Emma turns to Killian, uncertain of who should start talking, because for the most part, he's been the first one to speak, and this is his brother.

He just smiles at her comfortably and then looks at his brother and Elsa.

"So, um," he pauses.

Clearly, he doesn't know what to say either.

Killian clears his throat. "Ah… Liam, we've already explained everything to Elsa and to some extent, we've already made our peace with what's happened, but we came here today to explain ourselves and… perhaps move on from the unpleasantness."

Liam looks between them and sighs. "Alright."

It's then that Henry decides to wake up. He starts to kick and fuss, causing Killian to frown and they both murmur at him in an attempt to soothe his mood. As soon as Killian reaches in to grab him, he quiets down.

Killian checks his diaper and grimaces. "Bloody hell. Someone's got to be changed."

Emma laughs a little at Killian's expression. "Do you want me to help or do you have this under control?"

He scrunches up his face at her. "I think I've got this, Swan. Please."

She laughs again and nods. "Okay."

Killian turns his attention to his brother and Elsa, grabbing the diaper bag from where he'd put it down on the floor as he stands with Henry in his arms.

"Do you have a bed I could change him on?"

Elsa pops up and nods. "Yes. Right this way."

Emma waits for them to clear the room, nervously nibbling on her lower lip as she meets Liam's gaze.

"We're sorry," Emma says. Her heart begins to race. "We're sorry we lied." She gets a sick feeling in her belly and shakes her head. "I know you don't like me and you don't think I'm good enough for Killian, or whatever, but… I know I was wrong, but I know that what you did to Killian was worse six years ago."

Liam says nothing and his facial expression gives nothing away.

Emma feels uneasy, so she sucks in a breath and rambles on, "I wanted to help him because I wanted to give Henry a good Christmas. That's the only reason. And then things changed and I guess it turns out Killian isn't as bad as I thought he was-" She pauses and swallows thickly. "And I just want you to know that right now, what we have is real, and I don't want you to hate me because of anything I've done, so-"

Liam shakes his head and cracks a soft smile. "Emma, I don't hate you."

Her eyes widen slightly and relief fills her chest. "You don't?"

"No," Liam promises. "I… I'll admit I was hard on you. Perhaps too hard. But, it wasn't because I hated you. I'm not foolish. I can see how you look at him and I can see how he looks at you. Clearly, you have something good. I've never seen my brother so completely in over his head before."

Emma smiles at Liam's words and nods. "He's really happy."

"Aye," Liam hums warmly. "And I'd wager you are, too."

A blush fills her cheeks and she laughs, nodding. "Yes. I am."

Killian emerges a few moments later with Henry in his arms, much happier, and Elsa trails along after him, laughing at something he must have said.

Emma's heart feels much lighter when she meets Killian's gaze. A smile spreads on her lips and she waits eagerly for him to sit down beside her again. He settles the diaper bag down on the ground and bounces Henry in his lap, tickling at his sides so he'll giggle.

He has this whole Dad thing down and she's so in love with how easily it came to him.

"So," Killian sighs, looking up at his older brother. "What were we discussing?"

"Emma apologized," Liam says. "And it's completely alright. I'm the one who's sorry. I chased you off when all I wanted was your happiness." Liam wears a worried look on his face. "I didn't realize how close you had become while you were here, and Emma, I'm sorry for pressuring you. Did I ruin anything? I would feel awful."

Emma shakes her head. "No." She smiles up at Killian and looks to his older brother. "It turns out, what happened kind of helped us get together for real."

Liam grins at that. "Aye?"

Emma nods as Killian says, "We're here because we want to start new. Together."

Elsa beams at them. "I'm glad you were able to work things out."

Emma turns to look at Killian, finding his gaze bright as can be, his smile spread wide. She mirrors him happily and bobs her head.

"We are too."

/

After they have dinner in the kitchen nook, complete with at least two instances of Killian completely exaggerating stories from his youth just to see Emma laugh until she can't breathe, they put Henry down for bed.

Henry loves having the both of them. He basks in all of the attention and eagerly clings to the both of them as they attempt to get him to lie down in his crib for the night.

Killian's a sucker for Henry when he cries, and Emma gives him a warning look before telling him they need to let him do it on his own.

They split up in order to unpack the boxes in their respective bedrooms. Killian's doesn't require much, but as he's hanging his clothes in his closet, he sighs because this is them, apparently, sharing a home but not sharing a bed in order to put some distance between them.

He understands it, he does, because they've only technically been together for a week and moving in together was a big step to begin with.

But he'll miss waking up to see Emma watching him sleep, or waking up in the middle of the night just so he can admire her sleeping form.

He'll miss sleepy kisses and cuddles and trying to get her to stay in bed longer and her arguments that she can't. He supposes it's just something to look forward to now.

Though, perhaps, he could persuade her to sleep in his bed or maybe he could convince her to let him stay with her in hers if he pushes the right buttons. Just for tonight.

Killian cleans up for bed and then shuffles out of his bedroom to find Emma. She's sitting on the floor in her bedroom, a blanket in her hands from the box beside her, and she has her hair draped around her shoulder.

"What's this?" he asks quietly.

Emma looks up at him, her smile faint. "This... is my baby blanket. It's the only thing I have from my parents."

His heart sinks at her words, and when he steps into her bedroom and drops down to sit in front of her, he notices tears in her eyes.

"They didn't want me," she whispers, shaking her head with that tender smile still present.

Killian takes a deep breath and swallows. "Do you know who they were?"

"No," she replies. She sniffles and puts the blanket back into the box. She licks her lips and puts her hands between her legs. "Sometimes I imagine them, though, if I can't sleep. My dad was probably a blonde. And my mom probably had green eyes."

He smiles at her words. "They don't know what they missed out on." He studies the way Emma's eyelashes hit her cheeks beneath her glasses. She's so beautiful. "You're a wonderful woman, Emma. You're strong and smart and brave. You're beautiful. And I know it's easy to think about how badly you've been hurt, but you don't deserve to."

She shuts her eyes and tilts her head downward. "Do you remember when you told me I needed to heal?" Emma meets his eyes and he nods. "I think you're right. I needed this. I needed Christmas with people that loved me and I needed you."

Killian swallows, becoming just a little cocky when he tilts his head to the side. "I didn't heal you on my own. It was you, Swan. Finding yourself and embracing what you want in life."

Emma hums. She glances up at her bed and reaches her hand out to him. Killian's brow furrows, but she just laughs and stands, pulling him with her.

They end up lying together under the covers of her bed, almost as if they've both just given into the fact that this is their normal.

"Just for tonight," Emma murmurs, smiling at him after she shuts off her lamp and settles her glasses on the night table.

Killian hums and scoots close to her, his arm going around her middle and their legs tangling with ease. He kisses the tip of her nose and then her lips.

"I wonder how many times we'll say that before we finally agree that sharing a bed is inevitable?" he whispers.

Emma giggles and pushes at his chest. "I don't know, but you're only staying with me just for tonight. Because I need you to hold me and keep my feet warm."

Killian kisses her sweetly. "That's actually my specialty. It's on my resume."

"Is it?" Emma teases back.

"Aye," he settles his forehead against hers. "My girlfriend insists I'm good at it."

"Mm." Emma's fingers slip into his hair and she closes her eyes as she releases a contented sigh. "She might have a point."

Killian hums. "Goodnight, Swan."

"Goodnight, Killian."

/

Emma wakes up incredibly early and is unable to fall back asleep.

Killian's still out cold, lying on his stomach with his face turned toward her and his arms under his pillow. She brushes back his hair and leaves a kiss to his shoulder blade before she goes.

She slips her glasses on and shuffles out of her bedroom, intent on having a look at the seaside view at sunrise.

There are rows of windows in the living room that look out at the water, and there are oranges and reds painting the sky as the sun begins to come out of hiding.

She can imagine mornings in the very near future sitting out on the back porch with Killian and mugs of coffee. She can imagine them walking Henry down to the shoreline so he can dip his toes in the chilly water. She can imagine watching the sunset with Killian's arms around her at night, or stargazing together.

And it's what makes her want to paint, for the first time in a long time.

She goes into her bedroom, where Killian's still asleep, and digs in one of her boxes until she finds her supplies, and then she carries them out into the living room, where she immediately plops down on the floor in front of the windows.

The view is what inspires her paint strokes, and she's a little nervous because she hasn't painted in quite some time, but she eventually gets into the swing of things, her wrist doing much of the work as she continues to look up and evaluate the beauty of the crisp winter morning.

"What are you up to?" Killian asks quietly. His voice is thick and sleepy, as if he woke up and came looking for her right away.

Emma jerks her gaze up and turns to see him, her eyes wide. She removes her hand from the painting and dips her paintbrush in water.

"I… I was just… painting."

He smiles. He's standing behind her, looking quite tired, with his eyes narrow slits and his breathing deep.

"Yeah?"

Emma nods. "I was painting the sunrise."

Killian hums. He drops down to sit beside her and looks down at her canvas. She feels weird about sharing her art with him, mostly because Neal had been so weird about it when she'd try to paint when they were together.

But Killian just smiles warmly and then he wraps his arm around her middle as he kisses her temple. "It's beautiful. You're incredibly talented, Emma."

Her cheeks feel hot as she stares at him. "I'm not, but thanks." She looks down at the canvas and bites down on her lower lip. "Did I wake you up?"

"No," he promises with a shake of his head when she looks at him. "Aren't you tired, love? It was a long day yesterday."

Emma shrugs. "I'm used to long days."

He hums. "Well, I have a proposition to make."

"Yeah?" Emma arches her eyebrows.

"Aye," Killian grins. He leans in close to her, enough that she laughs softly. "Come back to bed with me. We can rest for a little while. Perhaps… a little something more."

Emma laughs. "I would expect nothing less from you, my personal foot warmer."

Her boyfriend beams at her and kisses her sweetly. "And then I can make us breakfast."

"Hmmm. That sounds really nice."

"Doesn't it?" he murmurs between kisses. "Would you like to go out on a date tonight? I could show you the bar."

Emma leans back and nods. "I think I'd like that."

"Yeah?" Killian asks. He reaches over to tuck her hair behind her ear and then tilts his head back. "I don't wish to tear you away from your art, so I'll let you decide if you'd rather come to bed or not. But I'm not ready to face the world just yet, so that's where I'll be. Keeping it warm for you."

Emma chuckles. She watches him stand up. "I'll be right there. I just want to finish this, okay?"

Killian smiles at her and lowers himself down for a quick kiss. "Okay."

She watches him walk away, and then turns back to look out at the sunrise. It's the dawn of a new chapter in her life, and she hasn't ever felt more at home.