Chapter 13: Days, Minutes, Seconds

Killian yawned again.

His mind felt fuzzy in the sense that every word his professor spoke was turned into a deconstructed mess of familiar sounding terms and unfamiliar garbled nonsense. The new material they were going over didn't make his statistics class any more exciting and after a sleepless night of turning, tossing, and constantly readjusting his 'sad'—by Emma's definition—pillow around four o'clock that morning, he was sure that his mind had wandered him into certain exhaustion for the rest of the day.

The sleeplessness didn't bother him so much because today he wouldn't make the trip down to the hospital for Emma's lunch. David was going and bringing Mary Margaret, too, with Emma's consent, and Killian felt it best to give up at least one of his visits for the day. But he wondered how she was doing there; if she still felt alone, if her scars were still the source of that loneliness, and hoped that David and Mary Margaret could offer her some comfort.

He liked Mary Margaret and knew enough from his new conversations with David that she had a familiarity with the mental health healing process. He'd already had his suspicions based on her suggestions and the information she brought to their MHA meetings. Not that knowing anything in particular about the field meant anything personal, but he'd heard Mary Margaret and Ruby talking rather openly about Mary Margaret's daily calorie and nutrition intake app on her phone and about the subject of eating disorders in general with Dorothy. Killian's intuition pointed him in the direction of Mary Margaret possibly having some experience with them, and the fact that she had directly asked him ahead of time if Emma's visitors list at the hospital was very strict and if she needed to be added because sometimes they were lenient, he surmised that Mary Margaret knew the system too well for a Communications major. She either knew someone or knew personally how it all worked, and now that she'd been told parts of Killian's own history through David… Well, he only hoped that if she felt the need to connect with anyone about her experiences, she could come to him, too.

But Mary Margaret wasn't what kept him up all night. It was the thrilling fact that Emma had opened up to him about her most private part of herself, her self-harming, but also the immensely troubling reality that they were really there and he'd finally seen it for himself. Her injuries weren't a concept anymore; they weren't imaginings on her arms under her long sleeves. They were real and, like Elsa had once told Emma, they hurt to look at especially as someone who knew how heavy each mark felt against your skin and on your spirit.

He wished he could spare her from it—from ever having experienced this, from ever having to experience the hurt that healing inevitably brings after you decide to stop, but it wasn't something he could control, he couldn't do that work for her, and the best possible thing for him to do now was to stay by and support her; tell her the truth when she needed to hear it, but be gentle and sensitive about it when she was reluctant to accept anything else than the familiar, vicious thoughts that had plagued her for years.

Finally, he'd managed to drag himself back to his room and dumped his bag and textbook on the ground beside his desk. After he shed his jacket, he paused, his curiosity taking over, and walked over to his mirror, angled his arm forefront, and pulled up the sleeve over his shoulder. Underneath resided every mark he'd ever made. Even the earliest and most tentative wounds still lay pressed to his skin in dark pigments; blotches from lit cigarettes and heated lighters, anything sharp and edged. Some were slightly puffed up from when he'd been particularly cruel to himself.

They weren't going away any time soon. Maybe years from then, they'd fade away into slight marks on his arm, but from the first moment he'd hurt himself, he had wanted it to show. He wanted to feel a new manifestation of his pain, something that maybe hurt worse than what he felt aching inside his chest and the evil urgings inside his numbed, hollowed mind. He wanted to see what the hurt inside himself had looked like and now, years later, he could still see the remains.

Over the years, there had been plenty of times when he regretted it so fully it nearly sent him spiraling again, just as Emma had experience the day before, but what he really regretted wasn't just doing it in the first place.

It was for continuing to hurt himself for as long as he did. For not allowing himself the chance to heal when he'd had so many people, counselors, family, strangers and new friends from support groups, all encouraging him on and trying to shine some light on his darkness. Wishing you had never done something was normal. It was human to regret that first misstep that led you down a path you realized in hindsight wasn't the way you would've wanted to take now. But, the amount of time following that path is what made him cringe even years later.

All that time spent torturing himself physically because processing his emotions was too much too soon; all that time scarring himself because he felt just as scarred on the inside and didn't want to let anything else in that could maybe take it away. Maybe he wasn't ready, that's what he had to tell himself because what other reason could there be to keep hurting yourself for as long as he did. It was the kindest answer he could give himself—it was the answer he would give Emma is she ever asked herself the same question, and rule of thumb, if it was honest and true enough for a loved one then maybe if he loved himself, it could be enough, too.

He took one last hard look, this time letting the feeling of accomplishment come to him instead because he had done it. He'd done one of the hardest things a person could do; he'd learned to love himself again, to give himself a chance even when he was his own worst critic and warden. And, to be honest, it was a long process with twists and turns, steps forward and huge knocks back. The trip wasn't anything linear at all, but it was his own personal journey and he'd eventually learned to have enough faith in the hope of others until he'd found enough hope in himself to stay strong and stay clean.

He was grateful that he had become someone Emma could trust, someone who could truly empathize and understand, and only his experiences—his father's abuse, his mother's suicide, his own attempts to avoid killing himself by hurting himself in other ways… It was only his experiences that could have given him the strength and knowledge to know how to help Emma help herself.

And to him, that made the difficulty of surviving all worth it.

When she was called to meet with a physician to examine her scars, it was around the same time of morning as the day before; the sky outside starting to turn the darkness away just as she was learning to do with the start of every new day, too. Even if yesterday her darkness had poked its now ugly head, even when it once seemed almost alluring and enticing, she'd found a way to send it somewhere else. She'd gone to sleep where everything was gone and had been blessed with not a single dream, just blank, plain, rejuvenating rest.

Killian was right though. What was a couple hours in comparison to pain on her skin every time she moved? What was a nap compared to having to heart-wrenchingly betray and hurt herself like so many others had in her life?

Though she'd wanted to, she didn't. And that was that.

She didn't validate their feelings and thoughts about her worth, about her character, strengths, and shortcomings. She didn't give them—the parents, the kids, the people who put her down in so many ways—the power because she was trying to make things right by her, and it started with giving herself the chance to heal. Whether she found a way to stay clean from then on out wasn't her concern; it was staying true and hopeful and to remember that she deserved the treatment she thought Elsa, David, and Killian did. They deserved kindness and happiness, to not be beaten down by anyone's hand or words, including their own. They deserved it and so did she.

She was going to try to love herself, as vague and foreign as the concept now seemed, and the first solid step she could think of was by giving herself the same treatment she would give someone she loved; someone like Killian. And she knew she must've loved herself deep down or else she never would have made the friends she had—she never would've let Killian near her and into her life. She wouldn't have opened up her heart to him if she hadn't had some hope deep down that she deserved something better than what she knew and what she gave herself.

So here she was, another day clean—another hour, another minute, and another second stronger than she had been the day, minute, and second before. She didn't know what would happen this time around if she relapsed. She'd relapsed when everything went to hell the weeks before her realization with Killian at the drop-off that she needed help. Everything was going so well. She had been clean and then, like that, she wasn't.

'Progress isn't perfection,' as they say. But if it did happen again—if she found out she wasn't perfect and harmed herself again, at least she could try to go after 'progress' instead; at least she could give herself the chance to try again. And, she'd decided late the night before that she'd rather spend the rest of her life trying and fighting for those days, minutes, and seconds harm-free.

Today was another test, this moment was another challenge, and waiting in the medical room a nurse had led her to was her latest battle—and even if a battle or two or, hell, ten might be lost, she was going to win this war. She was going to laugh again with her friends, she was going to enjoy the holidays at David's family's house again, and she was going to get out of there, self-harm free and enrolled in the Out-patient program at the hospital with a therapist and a psychiatrist to tweak and fine tune her medications until she had a great balance like Killian's.

She was going to go back and snark at Victor and Kristoff with Dorothy and challenge Elsa to art challenges where she didn't have to draw a thing but instead shout out different images—'bird in a cage,' 'sunset over the mountains,' 'a moon over water'—while Elsa created mini-masterpieces in less than fifteen seconds. She was going to get back to MHA and make ribbons and hot glue Killian's fingers by accident because she always did and he was a big baby about it now that they knew each other; and she'd tell him to stop whining while he'd protest, "Excuse you, I do not whine, Miss I-hate-mornings-and-will-tell-the-whole-world-until-I-get-coffee." And she was going to do the night march for Mental Health Awareness, and she was going to have Killian next to her while they followed their friends out of the dark morning and into the bright sunrise of day, and then she was going to ask Killian out on a real goddamn date because she loved herself enough to get out of the hospital on good, observable progress with outside resources to help her keep going, and because she loved herself enough to give them the chance.

But for all of this to happen, she needed to make it passed this next hurdle.

She had to show a whole new physician what her skin looked like. She had to take whatever feedback they gave, evaluate it clear-mindedly, and toss out the negative like foul garbage. As Emma undressed and lay her clothes in a neater and more careful pile this time on the chair, she found herself with a thrilling sense of bravery because she knew that no matter who looked at her, no matter what someone else could possibly say, she had friends who knew what she'd done and still cared about her. She had Elsa and Killian who had actually seen her darkest self and David and Mary Margaret who were supportive all the same. Hours after the friendly encounter with the new physician, she was alive, survived, and well. She was also sitting in front of David and Mary Margaret during her visiting lunch hour.

"Thank you for adding me to your list, Emma," smiled Mary Margaret.

"Thank you for bringing me home baked goods and lasagna," said Emma between alternating bites of sugary glaze and cheesy pasta sheets.

"Dessert and tomato sauce—really, Ems? That's kind of gross," remarked David with a scrunched nose.

"Don't ask me to choose between the two. My taste buds are perfectly capable of telling the difference, you simple man."

"Well, I'll tell mom that you ended up swallowing all the scones faster than usual," he said.

"I bet she'll be happy to hear it. I am her favorite eater, after all. And, Mary Margaret, it goes without saying that your lasagna is amazing, so thank you and thank you guys for keeping me company while Killian is busy." She knew very well that Killian 'busy' meant 'Fine, I suppose I'll give your brother his own visit with you.'

"MHA has been taking everyone's spare moments," said Mary Margaret, "and with this month being the big month, Anna's been running around on fire trying to get all the weekend events organized and everything up and ready for the march."

"How's that all going, by the way? Killian doesn't mention it a whole lot when I bring it up—I don't think he wants me to worry or something."

"The march is going to be big. We're working with the next few towns over and everyone's getting sponsorships organized," said David.

"And different colored ribbons for days," said Mary Margaret. "For every disorder, disability, and condition you can imagine. There are barrels full of them back in the meeting room. There's hardly room to meet in there anymore with all the banners, tables, and chairs they're bringing in. And, we still have tents coming in, too."

"Wow… That's great," replied Emma, trying not to sound disappointed about missing out on all the planning. "Hopefully I can make it in time to actually do something helpful."

Mary Margaret looked over at David who now had that worrying expression as he watched Emma intently trying to cut off another corner of lasagna with her plastic, safety-certified fork.

"You are doing something helpful. You're being a model of pro-activeness. One day, you might feel different about your situation—you might want to share it more with people," said Mary Margaret as she reached for David's hand and smiled. "In all honesty, Emma, you look so well despite everything that's happened so recently."

"Please," she snorted. "I'm a comfy but frumpy looking mess right now. Have you seen my hair?" she joked.

"Seriously, Emma," David smiled, "you look rested. You're standing and sitting up straighter than I've seen you in a while. Your head is up to the world. I don't think you realize how much good work you're doing in here."

"There are people who aren't open to change that quickly, you know… I was one of them, too," confessed Mary Margaret. "Like Killian was, but in my own way."

David and Killian had both hinted that Mary Margaret was familiar with treatment and therapies. It was part of the reason why Emma was okay with David bringing her today. And not to take for granted the love that David showed her by visiting today, there was just something nice about having at least one person in their conversation that had experienced some of the same things. It was especially comforting to know that Mary Margaret—hard-working, optimistic, driven, and capable Mary Margaret—could rise from a place like this and become someone who exuded self-confidence because she wasn't afraid of a little hard work.

"I just miss everyone and I feel like I'm missing out," said Emma glumly, "but you're right, what I'm doing in here is pretty much the epitome of Mental Health Awareness month—being aware and, well, getting treatment for it. I just have to keep reminding myself that this is all worth it."

"That you're worth it," added David.

"Yes, that I'm worth it," she amended. "So," she huffed out a breath and tried to clear the darkness beginning to cloud around her, "if I don't bust out of here in the next two weeks, what am I missing event-wise?"

"There will be no busting out of anywhere, Emma Swan," said David sternly.

"As long as I'm supplied with regular helpings of lasagna, I suppose I can be persuaded to stay a little longer." And with that, her mood lightened—faster and more effectively than ever before, her humor brought her to a lighter place and being with friends whom she didn't have to hide from made it all the easier.

Their conversation came to a halt when David had to leave the unit to hunt down a bathroom for visitors, and Mary Margaret and Emma were left to have their first one-on-one conversation; no buffers to fill in the blank spaces, just them.

"So… How's my brother doing with all of this?"

"Honestly, I think he has some practice from being around me all the time, but he's still pretty new to everything. He asks a lot of questions about you—'Are they feeding her right?' came up a lot in the beginning." Emma laughed. "But mostly, he just misses you. He wants you to take all the time you need, but don't be surprised if he's in a party mood when you're discharged."

"That's nice, actually… I don't like him worrying about me, but I'm glad he's still being supportive about it all and not just putting up a front."

"If the people in your life don't step up when you're going through something like this—if they're making it harder for you when things are already hard enough—well then, tell me, who's got the real problem?" said Mary Margaret with a certainty and strength that caught Emma off guard. "Friends, families, even the wrong doctors and therapists, if they're not being a part of the solution then maybe they don't deserve to have important places in our lives."

"That could be reserved for other people who do really want to help. Yeah, I get that," said Emma. "David's there for you, no doubt about that."

"But he wouldn't have been."

"What do you mean?"

"David and I met on our study abroad. The same program I never would've went on if I had listened to all the negativity from my family. My step-mother wasn't… helpful when I came out about my eating disorder and in some ways, I think she tried to control me by guilt-tripping me all the time."

"She tried to manipulate you through your disorder? Who does that kind of shit?" asked Emma, simmering a little for Mary Margaret's injustice.

"She would just tell me awful things about how I was trying to steal attention away from my dad. How I always had to be the center of everything then turn around a purposely comment on the way I looked. That my hair didn't suit my 'face shape,' that my clothes didn't suit my body… Hell, that my body didn't suit anything. I had a problem long before she came into the picture, but she didn't help and unfortunately, while the world has people just as sweet and supportive as David and Killian… it also has some bad ones that hurt us on purpose or just hurt us through ignorance, too."

"I'm so sorry, Mary Margaret… I had no idea that you had to go through something like that. I didn't think you would even have a disorder or anything. You're so positive."

"So is Killian and he's been admitted, too. So is Elsa and she used to have panic attacks every day because her own thoughts were too triggering. And even Ruby, her dad's Obsessive Compulsive Disorder made things very difficult for him while she was growing up, but he raised Ruby himself and managed things as best as he could, and now, he's the happiest and most agreeable man I've ever met. Disorders, illnesses—they happen to everyone. We all have our challenges."

"I'm still new to this. I don't know how I'm going to make it out of this sometimes, but other times, I'm so sure that I'll be okay. It's frustrating."

"I just want you to know that I've been in this place and I made it out," she smiled, "and those voices in my head that told me I was less than a person, the ones that sounded like my step-mother and told me I was nothing, they don't sound as loud anymore. Actually, most of the time, I don't hear them. I don't give them the time of day when I do start to either."

"I can't wait for that day. I can't wait to not hate myself for the things I've done. I just don't know when that day will come."

"If you keep listening to those voices, if you give those people around us or in the past the room to spew out their negativity then you're giving them power over you, and the only real way to fight all of that is with love. Ruby is my best friend and during our breaks, I go with her family because they're all so full of acceptance. If I had found a way to make room for all my step-mother's negativity, I figured I could make even more room for love then, too. Eventually I stopped replaying it over and over again and my step-mother's voice faded away. Love for yourself and love for other people is highly underrated."

"Killian always says hope is my strongest ally in this whole ordeal."

"Hope was important to me because without it, I never would've escaped my old life. I never would've looked forward to things that could change my life. Hope opened me up to love and the possibility of loving my body again. I have love for people I've never met in real life and even new people who come to my body dysmorphic disorder groups because they're all going through something I had to fight, too. And, you've got a lot of love in you, too. I see it when your brother is around—I especially see it when you're with Killian. I have no doubt that when you find a way to heal from all of this, you'll help others heal, too. You've got that savior quality about you, Emma. You're so strong and I'm getting the feeling that you don't know exactly how inspiring it is to be around you, what a leader you are. But keep hanging around Killian. Something tells me he won't rest until you realize it, too."

Emma felt a small smile tug at her lips. "I was thinking the same of you, y'know. You're the perfect student, you're in a great relationship, you have internships and volunteering… I can't even bring myself to wash my face every night so I don't get acne the next day."

"Self-care is hard when you're depressed or panicked about everything."

"Face washing is self-care now?" snorted Emma.

"It is taking care of yourself. It's doing something now in hopes that it will pay off in the future, and when you don't see a future for yourself, skipping another shower doesn't seem to matter."

"I do always forget how good I feel after a shower even though it's more of a hassle for me to get changed back in the dorms."

"May I ask how they are?" said Mary Margaret.

She meant the scars. How were the wounds and scars doing? And at first, Emma didn't know what to say to that, but then she rubbed her covered forearm and relished how the sensation didn't hurt, how it comforted instead.

"These ones are healed up," she said. "It's just all light scabbing on my arms from scratches. I—I wasn't used to doing it there and I guess I got scared about doing anything too, well, you know… I don't think they're going away any time soon, but right now, my goal is just not to add any more."

"Trust me when I say that I understand that because for me, each day is another goal to meet and some days it feels harder than others, but as long as I'm trying to climb back up and not just let myself fall, I guess that's progress," spoke Mary Margaret, eyes downcast and fidgeting with her bracelet.

Emma took the moment to truly look at Mary Margaret and realized that without intending to, Emma had just made another friend—one that didn't just bring her lasagna, but one that wanted to understand where Emma was coming from, what she was going through, because it was so similar to her own experiences even as different as the diagnoses were.

In that moment, Emma felt the true power of a stranger turning friend and hope turning into possibility just from sharing stories.

Killian was fifteen minutes late when he arrived at the lobby outside the unit. He signed in quickly, a messy signature he didn't give one care about, and entered the unit, immediately scanning for blonde hair.

Emma was sitting on the couch with Merida, Mulan, and some other patients, all rejoicing over one of the nurses actually letting them use the main room's TV on the wall. It had been 'broken' for the longest time, but for Emma, that was just code for 'needs to be hit a couple of times.' Funny enough, some connector—gadget-and-gizmo something or other—cable must've been out of place because the slap on the side actually worked and a commercial for a new children's movie played on the screen.

"You did it!" cheered Merida.

"Amazing, we can watch something other than the news," said Mulan with a dramatic, relieved sigh. The news was always playing in the TV room by the other patients. Nothing else seemed to be allowed and the remote was always dominated by an old woman who wasn't particularly concerned about being obliging.

"They have movies, what should we watch?" asked Merida.

"Anything with crude humor and explosions usually entices Emma," said Killian from behind the group.

"That's my girl," praised Merida, holding out her hand for Emma to slap it. She did then instantly got up and moved passed the others to Killian.

She hugged him with the largest grin on her face—a mixture of winning the TV, seeing David, having a long talk with Mary Margaret, good food, and, of course, seeing Killian's absurdly handsome face.

"Thought you forgot about me," she said, walking with him outside.

"You know very well that wouldn't happen."

"Missed you today."

"You just missed my devilishly good looks, but now you have TV so I suppose you don't need me to look at me anymore."

"Aw, don't sell yourself short, babe—I use you for smuggling me in candy, too," she teased and started patting down his pockets for her latest request; one of those sugary cherry lollipops from the drugstore near campus. "Well, today was actually kind of fun."

She was tearing apart the wrapping while he heard her 'babe' echo throughout his heart.

"I totally see why David is all heart-eyes for Mary Margaret; they're too perfect for each other. I got to talk to her by ourselves for a minute and she really helped me out. I mean, she said a lot of the things you say, too, but it was interesting hearing it come from someone with a different type of disorder than the things we share." She popped it into her mouth and contemplated her next words.

"She's been through a lot, I know, from what Dave has told me."

"You and my brother are besties?" she smiled. "I know what you mean now. About making it through this and being there for someone else. I don't think I'd feel this hopeful if it weren't for you and her being so open with me. It's almost contagious, this positivity thing," she chuckled.

"Hope is catching. That's why my depression always attacks that first when it comes back around."

Emma swung her leg over the other side of the bench and faced him, swiveling her lollipop to the side of her mouth to speak.

"How often does your depression come back?"

"Not very often and not for very long anymore either," he answered.

"And the other thing… Sorry, I can't remember what it's called," she apologized.

"No worries. Mania, and depression is it's opposite of sorts."

"Ah, that's right. Manic-Depression. That's what it used to be called, right? Why'd they switch it?"

"People thought it to be a little too antiquated, but Bipolar is pretty self-explanatory, too, once you know what the two polars are. I don't know exactly why they changed it, but it is a little more vague, so discretion, maybe? Things just change, for the better, I like to think. Like, DID, Dissociative Identity Disorder, was called Multiple Personality Disorder, but that wasn't accurate at all."

"And when did things get 'normal' for you? When you started therapy?"

"It wasn't while I was in the hospital, I can tell you that much. The medications they gave me after I left weren't necessarily bad. There were some side-effects I wasn't happy with, but they were mostly just not that effective."

"And when did you start taking the stuff you're on now?"

"My new psychiatrist, well not new, but latest, started me on this medication two years ago, but before that I felt like I was barely getting by—not self-harming, not getting into fights, just… trying to be better, but I felt like I had so much stacked against me. Then I swapped one little pill for this newer stuff and, I don't know, all the bad didn't seem insurmountable anymore."

"Huh, your medication changed that much?"

"It gave me more options than 'wallow in despair' and 'get by.' I guess I just felt more like myself—how I'm truly supposed to be; not addled by anxiety and irrational depression."

"Do you think mine will do that, too?"

"Only if you do the therapy and groups, too. It doesn't work if you don't have the coping techniques to guide you through while your brain 're-hardwires' itself, remember? Medication is powerful and the right one might be the dosage of Prozac they're trying to get you up to or something else completely. It's trial and error, this whole thing, unfortunately."

"Well… what if I end up getting some guy who thinks I should be on something else?"

"If you feel like you should be taking something else, that's all that matters. If your psychiatrist doesn't agree to test something new out, to try something you haven't tried yet then sack 'em. Not worth the effort when there are so many others out there willing to listen to you."

"Damn… This stuff is kind of overwhelming."

"Maybe you won't feel that way in a few days. You're still working up to a therapeutic dose and I think it's already working for you. You look amazing, Emma."

"You guys are too nice. Like I told David and Mary Margaret, I'm a mess in here. I mean, my hair for one."

"Your hair is always stunning, but that's not what we mean. I came in late and you were fine. Imagine your first couple days here if I hadn't shown up. Do you think you'd be laughing and smiling with the other people here while you waited?"

"I knew you'd come eventually."

"But when we're depressed and lonely and distressed, a break in schedule like that, a crack in routine would send us haywire. We'd assume the worst about the situation or them or ourselves. Our anxiety and despair would sky rocket. But you weren't like that when I came in. You were confident and taking charge, trying to listen to everyone's suggestions at one time. Emma," he grinned, "you're getting better."

"Who would've thought that all this time—" She paused, staring off into the distance with a serious look in her eye.

"Yes…?" asked Killian.

"That after all this work… That after all the talks and therapies and medication, the thing that would really get me noticed as a functioning, hope filled person—"


"Someone who was better…"

"Your dramatic pauses are getting worrisome now, Emma."

"…Was just getting the TV to work."

"Bloody hell," he rolled his eyes, smiling all the same.

"Killian, I think two more fixed TVs and I might be able to leave the hospital."

"Glad to see your sense of humor has returned full force."

"I'm perfectly serious, here," she tried to say with a straight face, failing.

"Yes, I'm sure you are," he laughed and snatched her lollipop out of her hand. "No more sugar."

"Hey!" she whined, trying to take it back, but he held it out of her reach. "Come on! They don't give us caffeine, everything is low-sugar. Don't take this away from me, too." She gave him a sad pout and let her shoulder slump in defeat, and Killian was helpless to it. He held it out to her and she took it, instantly perking up.

She looked at him then narrowed her eyes, pressed her lips to the sloppy hard candy and planted a sugary kiss to Killian's cheek.

"Did you just leave a bunch of sticky sugar on my face?" he groaned, playfully pushing her away.

"If it helps, it's cherry flavored."

"Wow, thanks, Swan," he said dryly. "I can't even wipe it off."

"Sucks for you," she sang.

In a more flirtatious tone, he offered, "If you ever want to try that again without all the sticky candy, by all means, don't stand on ceremony."

"You're such a flirt," she said, twirling the lollipop stick.

"Only with you, love."

She smirked, he grinned, and without hesitation, she popped the sticky wet candy out of her mouth and tried to press it against his cheek again.

"Emma!" whined Killian. "Not sanitary."

"Eh, I'm done with it anyway. Here, want some?" she laughed, waving it near his face.

After forty-five minutes of joking around—Emma running into her room for a wet paper towel to clean up Killian's cherry stained cheek—they walked to the double doors and were saying their goodbyes when Dr. Talbot walked out of one of the meeting rooms.

"Oh, Emma," she said with that same drawl, "and Killian. Great that you're visiting."

"Always, doctor," agreed Killian.

"So, I'll be in after the weekend to meet with you, Emma."

"Um, I was just wondering how long until I start taking the full dose of my medication?"

"Tomorrow, in the morning. I was just checking in about that. But, we'll meet on Monday. I think it's time to discuss your plans for when you're discharged. According to the staff, it may be well within the next two weeks. But we'll see how it goes, yes?"

"Cool. Yeah, thanks."

With a polite, professional smile, Dr. Talbot continued on her way to the main desk, leaving Emma and Killian alone once more.

"Hear that, Swan? Give it a few days and your medication will really start working."

"Did you hear that? Two weeks, Killian! Less than two weeks! I might be out of here in time for the club events. This is so awesome."

"Told you, Swan. Everyone can see it. You're getting better."

"Thank you," she smiled.

"This is all you, Emma." He hugged her close and pecked her on the cheek before turning and leaving through the doors.

"Hey!" she shouted after him.

"Fair's fair, love. Just be glad yours wasn't sticky."

And with that, Emma returned to Merida and Mulan. They watched two movies and convinced the graveyard staff to let the three of them stay up until midnight watching on their new TV. Merida teased her about Killian's very friendly encounter and then she went to bed.

Blissfully hopeful.