A/N: Hey everyone! So after a while away I have finished the epilogue for this story. It has POVs from CS and Snowing, and includes four snapshots of future moments and then a final diary post from Emma at the end. For the record Snowing's son's name for the sake of this ending is Leo (not quite Leopold, but also not Neal because Neal was never in this AU). I really hope that you all enjoy and I want to thank you all so much for reading.
One Year Later
There had been plenty of moments since the day she found out she was a princess where Emma stood in front of a mirror and wondered at her life and how she'd gotten to where she was. Thinking of those past instances pulled a smile to Emma's face now, but her real and tangible joy today came from the sight before her, for there, staring back at her with nothing but happiness and hope in her eyes was a bride who appeared the princess in every way shape and form.
The beautiful gown that Emma currently donned was a soft ivory color, with meticulous details that heightened the already stunning dress into something so much more. The selected designers had worked tirelessly to create this for Emma, and they put in a lot of effort to get the specifications just right and to walk the line between something befitting a regal wedding ceremony, and a more intimate gown like the one Emma had come to create in her head over the past few months.
The end result was incredible and Emma took in every stitch of fabric and the intricate details from the lace sleeves to the floral embellishments all along the gown itself. Every accompanying piece of jewelry that her mother and grandmother selected for today was stunning, and the way Emma's hair was done was just the way she'd wanted it. She looked effortless, like a model ripped from the cover of one of those wedding magazines, but even in the sight of the beautiful picture she made for, Emma knew that the only thing that mattered was that in a few more minutes time she would finally be descending onto the palace grounds to marry the man who'd had her heart for so long.
Emma was already aware of what would await her: a stairwell filled with adornments would lead to the palace entryway and then a blossom-lined path for her to walk through down into the gardens where hundreds of the royal family's closest 'friends' were waiting. And at the end of that long march set to the sweet sounds of the Genovian players there would be Killian, waiting for her to come and to take his hand and say 'I do' to the whole new slate of adventures they would take together from now until forever.
"Oh my dear, there are no words for you today."
Emma turned from her spot where she'd been quietly contemplating these next steps and saw her grandmother looking truly beside herself in the face of Emma on her wedding day. She wasn't alone in that either, for just to her right stood Emma's mother, seconds away from crying, and then Ruby and Belle, Emma's chosen bridesmaids, who looked awed and equally excited for her.
"Is it time yet?" Emma asked eagerly and Ruby shook her head.
"Not just yet. A couple more minutes to go."
Emma tried not to pout at the continued delay, but she questioned her ability to conceal her feelings when Ruby's grin widened and her friend assured Emma that she'd get to her guy soon enough. Emma could only hope that was true, for every moment where she was still waiting felt torturously slow. She had had enough of waiting, and she was more than ready to go.
"There's something you should see in the meantime," Belle said lightly and Emma's thoughts immediately shifted in one direction and begged one question – what had Killian done this time?
"She knows already," Emma's mother said and Emma knew then she was right. Wordlessly she moved past all of them and walked into the larger room, witnessing a sea of roses that hadn't been there only an hour before when Emma stepped into her bedroom with her stylists.
"How?" Emma asked to anyone who would answer. "Did you guys help him?"
"And deny my almost grandson the chance at his romantic gesture? I don't think so!" Queen Ruth replied, as Emma moved to the center of the room and found a note she knew would be from Killian.
My Dearest Emma,
While I know you'll find these flowers to be beautiful, you should know that none of them could ever hold a candle to you. You are my everything, and I vow on this day and every day that I love you now and forever.
Emma felt tears at the back of her eyes not for the first time today. This wedding would be a life-changing event and she was so ready for it. Screw what time things were supposed to start. They should be leaving right now. When she looked up to say that she saw everyone was already ready to depart. Her mother and grandmother each came up to give her a kiss and wish her luck, which Emma appreciated When they were gone, Belle handed Emma her bouquet and started out the door as well with Ruby following just behind. But right when Ruby was about to leave she halted at the door and tossed one last thought back.
"Yeah?" Emma asked, still fending off the flood of emotion about everything today would hold.
"You know I hate to be sappy…but I just have to say that I can't think of anyone else who deserves this more than you. You're the best friend a girl could ask for, and you and Killian are going to make each other very happy for a very long time. Remember that, okay?" That was it. Tears were falling now down Emma's face and Ruby immediately looked stricken and ran back into the room. "Shit, don't cry! Ruth will kill me."
"I won't tell if you won't." Emma said and Ruby smiled, her eyes looking a little misty too.
"Oh screw it," Ruby said as she hugged Emma tight. "I love you, Ems."
"I love you too. But I really do think Killian will come looking for me if we wait here much longer," Emma confessed. Ruby laughed at that and the two friends wiped their eyes and headed off down through the corridors of the palace.
Where her grandmother had mourned the lack of royal spectacle when her parents were wed, Emma knew Queen Ruth had no cause to worry today. This ceremony was months in the making, and every detail had been meticulously selected to make it an event to remember. Her grandmother had out done herself, even managing to arrange an outdoor wedding instead of the usual church-bound one because she knew Emma and Killian would prefer it, but Emma knew most of the tinier tidbits would evade her years from now. For she was too wrapped up in what was coming, and after waiting for what felt like a very long time to finally tie herself to Killian forever, Emma was here, standing at the precipice of a new chapter in her life.
This chapter was one that Emma was only too thrilled to step into, and as she exited the palace, there was nothing like nervousness in her system. Instead there was a barely restrained energy, and a want to get there faster. Emma moved through the warm light of the afternoon sun and as the music wafted to her ears, and the aisle became clear to her, everything fell into place. The idea of rushing left her all together, and when Emma came into view of Killian, and their eyes met, it was like time stopped ticking on all together.
"Oh good, you made it." Emma's eyes tore from Killian to see her Dad who was dressed in his finest kingly attire and looking so lovingly at her.
"You didn't think I was going to pass up the chance to walk my daughter down the aisle now, did you?" Emma shook her head, the tears threatening again, and she looped her arm with her father's and then turned back towards her husband-to-be, marching step by step to the point when she was able to take Killian's hand and stand before the congregation of people all around them.
The words of the justice officiating the wedding, the ambient sounds all around them, and everything else that could possibly distract her faded away from Emma in that moment. All that remained was Killian, smiling at her like he still couldn't believe that she was truly about to be his. Emma knew the feeling. It was almost too astonishing to believe that this was happening, but it was real. In fact, the feeling of their already being united was so strong and so sure that Emma found herself whispering low enough so only Killian could hear two words that were supposed to wait until later to appear.
The words sparked something in Killian, and he whispered the same affirmative phrase back to her, bringing her hands up to kiss and drawing some notice their way. Yet despite the unanticipated display, the ceremony continued on, and Emma felt a wave of every good emotion she had ever known culminating into one instant, one moment where everything in her world made sense and everything she'd wanted was now in her grasp.
When it was time for the vows, Emma listened to each of Killian's words, wrapped up in that same feeling of contentment that his loving thoughts always brought out. She felt each one flow directly to her heart, and she swore she'd always remember his simple, yet fiercely meaningful words.
"Emma, I have made you many a promise before today, all of which I intend to keep, but now I give to you a few more, ones that I will hold above all others all the days of my life. I promise to have and to hold you and to never leave your side or let you walk the paths that life might send you on alone. I promise to honor you always and to do my best to be worthy of you though I find it hard to believe even still that anyone ever could be enough for someone as wonderful as you. And most of all, I promise to see you as you really are, and to love you for everything that makes you, you. You are my hope and my light, Emma, and I will be yours for every moment that the world exists and then a little longer."
In the aftermath of those promises, Emma felt pulled in two different directions. She wanted to bring him down for a kiss right now, to say screw it to everything else and to everyone around and to show Killian how much all of that meant to her. Yet the other part of her (thankfully the part still calling the shots) knew that right now her words should be her answer, and the love of her life deserved a taste of all the good feelings he was always sending her way.
"I'm lucky enough to know what the face of true love looks like. All I have to do is look to my parents to see a blueprint of what a love that withstands every test can be. It's beautiful, and hard earned, and worth fighting for in every way. True love is a beautiful thing, something to be cherished and followed whenever it can, and I am lucky enough to stand here today and to know with ever fiber of my being that I have found that with you, Killian.
"But no one has ever known a love like ours. It's something different, something special, something magical even. Being with you is Christmas morning, birthday wishes, and fairytale dreams all rolled into one, but more than that it's just… us. There are no words for what we have that do us justice, except to say that it's everything I could ever want, and it's the foundations for a happy life I so desperately want us to have. I love you, Killian. I love you more every day and I will keep loving you in this life and in every other."
When Emma finished confessing her true feelings, she expected the person presiding over their wedding to speak further, but instead Killian's lips were on hers in the sealing kiss far sooner than anyone anticipated. A murmur of laughter and the scattered cheers from their audience of family and guests pulled Emma and Killian apart a moment later, both of them smiling and completely ecstatic.
"I love you, Emma," Killian said gently.
"I know," Emma replied, a tear finally falling down her face that he brushed away quickly. "I love you too. But if we don't let the man finish then technically we won't be-," Killian shook his head before Emma could finish.
"Hold that thought, my love," Killian said and then looked to the official promising that the two of them would be on their best behavior for the rest of the service.
The ending of the ceremony was short and sweet, and as soon as the official 'I dos' were spoken, and the last blessing was placed on the happy couple, Killian pulled Emma in for another kiss, pouring every ounce of his love for her in the embrace as she gave it all back to him just the same. And though they had to wait a while before they could take anything further or before they'd have the chance to be alone and say all those special words to each other again, Emma knew that the wait would be worth it. Because now was the start of their forever, and what a beautiful forever it was going to be.
A Few Years After That…
Being here in the hospital and waiting for Emma and Killian's new baby boy or girl to arrive brought back a whole host of memories for Mary Margaret. There were the more recent ones for example of the day she'd been here to deliver her son Leo. On that day Mary Margaret had David by her side and Emma so close by, which was so helpful in so many ways. There was a whole system in place for her to be protected and supported, but that wasn't the only memory she had of days like this.
So many years ago when she was still a very young woman, Mary Margaret found herself alone and scared in a new city that she did not know surrounded by people who meant nothing to her. She had never been more frightened in her life, and while the pain of giving birth was indescribable, she'd been ready for it. In many ways it felt like the way her heart had broken in a million pieces when she left David behind. Only this time, at the end of all that pain came a miracle – her daughter and her new hope for everything, Emma.
Mary Margaret swore even now that she could taste those tears from so long ago, the ones of pain turned into sweet relief and profound joy. She had no idea what to do next, a host of problems banging at her door, but there was no way to regret anything in the face of her precious baby girl. The only thing Mary Margaret could have wished for was that David could be there with her, but then she swore Emma blinked those beautiful eyes of hers upwards and smiled, her tiny little hand reaching for Mary Margaret's larger one, sealing the bond between mother and daughter that could never be undone.
"The waiting is the hardest part. We've waited nine months to meet our grandchild, but I swear this is harder than all that time was," David said from the seat beside her. Her husband had been pacing back and forth here in the waiting room for hours, standing vigil for his daughter and for Killian who was with her, guarding the newest member of their family who was so close to being here. His protectiveness was heartwarming, but Mary Margaret was also glad that he had finally taken a seat to rest in some fashion.
"You knew it would be hard, David. It's always hard when it's something that we can't control, but I promise all of this will be well worth the wait. "
"Maybe you're right. I just wish I could help," David said genuinely and Mary Margaret took his hand in hers before bringing it up to her lips to kiss his knuckles gently. Instantly she saw the effects of her gesture in her husband's eyes and watched as his shoulders let go of some of the tension they'd been carrying.
"You are helping. Loving that baby and loving his or her parents is the best we can do right now. But soon enough there will be room for more. Just have a little patience."
"A few days ago you were right here with me, anxiously awaiting this new adventure," David replied, his smile returning as he pulled Mary Margaret closer to him.
"I still am. Just saving my strength."
"You are the strongest woman I know, Mary Margaret. What's really going through that head of yours?" David asked. When her husband looked at her like this, seeing through her attempt at deflection, Mary Margaret had no choice but to be fully honest.
"I blinked and she was all grown up. Now my baby is having a baby of her own. It's a beautiful, wonderful thing…"
"But it's also another sign that Emma's grown, and that she has her own life to lead now," David finished for her.
"Exactly." Mary Margaret let out a resigned sigh.
"Well the good news is that our son still has quite a ways to go. Though I will say kindergarten is far more comprehensive than I remember it being when I was a boy." David's teasing eased the ache in Mary Margaret's heart, and pulled a laugh from her chest.
"You should get used to that, because it only gets worse. I swear Emma hit the sixth grade and I was already out of my element with everything they were teaching in school," Mary Margaret claimed as David groaned.
"You know, I can run a country almost without issue," David claimed, "but the day Leo comes home with algebra work, we are in real trouble."
Mary Margaret laughed again, leaning into her husband's chest and feeling the soft comfort of his arms around her. To have peace in a moment like this that should be full of anticipation was amazing, and yet that was David's gift. Whenever Mary Margaret was in need of support or help or love he was always there, providing anything she might want, and never letting her believe for one second that she had to go it alone.
Only a few more minutes passed in that quiet way, however, before Killian was back with them in the waiting room grinning from ear-to-ear and appearing more than shocked at everything happening.
"She's here." The announcement was succinct but it had David and Mary Margaret moving together and hastily entering the room where their daughter still looked beautiful after fighting so hard to get her little bundle of joy into the world.
"Oh she's gorgeous, Emma," Mary Margaret claimed, immediately moving to Emma's side and taking in the serenely adorable face of her first grandbaby.
"Just like her mother," Killian said immediately, prompting a chuckle from David who was on Mary Margaret's other side.
"And her grandmother too," he replied.
"Have you thought of a name yet?" Mary Margaret asked and Emma nodded, looking from the baby to Killian and then to her mother's eyes.
"Her name is Hope," Emma said, her eyes turning back down to her daughter, and filling with happy tears at the sight of her little sigh.
"She's perfect," Mary Margaret said, kissing Emma on the temple and then sending some of her adoration to the new baby.
"Welcome to the family, Princess Hope. We already love you more than we can say," David replied as he let the baby grasp at his finger with a tiny, but still strong grip.
"You mean to tell me the baby is here and no one informed me?!" The cry from outside was clearly Queen Ruth's and it pulled a smile to everyone's face, especially when they all heard Liam's reply.
"Don't look so put out. I only just found out too, and I'm her uncle!"
Mary Margaret stared at Emma and then Killian and David, wondering if any of them had ever even heard Liam raise his voice before. It was so peculiar, and for it to happen with Queen Ruth was even more surprising. Yet if there was anything Mary Margaret knew about Liam it was that he was protective by nature, and fiercely loyal to his brother and this family as a whole.
"I think great-grandmother trumps uncle," Ruth huffed as they walked through the doorway.
"Not bloody likely," Liam muttered, instinctively lowering his voice so as not to startle the currently calm newborn.
"You know there is room in her life for both of you right?" Emma asked, a sense of humor lacing her tone as she handed the baby off to Killian carefully so he could bring her to meet more of the family.
"Yes my dear, we do. I'm just trying to get your brother-in-law riled up so he asks that girl of his to marry him already and gets to work making a baby of his own."
Mary Margaret and Emma both grinned as they watched the blush that crept over Liam's cheeks at the mention of Elsa, a woman he had met while working on assignment a few months back who had broken through some of his tough exterior. It was a sight to behold for sure, seeing Liam so affected by just the mention of marrying Elsa, and Mary Margaret loved seeing it, probably because she so openly loved love.
"I'm sure Hope would like a cousin," Emma offered casually and Liam mumbled something incoherently, still transfixed by his niece.
Everyone doted on Hope from that point forward, spending their time giving her as much affection as they could before visiting hours were finally over, but just when she and David were about to leave, Mary Margaret felt Emma's hand reach out for hers.
"Hey Mom?" She asked, sounding almost like a little girl again.
"I just wanted to say that everything I know about loving Hope I learned from you. I couldn't have ever asked for a better Mom, and if I do half as good a job of you, she's going to be a very lucky little girl."
"You want to know the secret to motherhood, Emma?" Mary Margaret asked, barely holding back her tears as she leaned in and hugged her daughter. "The secret is having a child who is good and kind and smart and beautiful, and you and Killian have that in Hope. Someday she might change the world, but she'll change your world every moment of every day just by being her."
With those parting words of wisdom and a few last kisses to wish her two favorite girls goodbye, Mary Margaret finally pulled away, taking her husband's hand and heading back home to the palace once more. And all the while Mary Margaret wished in her heart that Emma and Killian would find all the fulfillment and love that came with being a parent, knowing already that they absolutely would.
Ten Years After That…
Holding his wife's hand as he waited in the wings at the back of the cathedral, David allowed himself to take her in now all outfitted for a royal coronation. Of course he had seen Mary Margaret in gowns before, between all the balls and ceremonies and a host of other engagements through the years, but today she stood here a vision in pale blue, awaiting a day that had been coming for a very long time.
"I can't believe it's finally happening. Emma is going to be Queen," Mary Margaret whispered.
"She will not simply be Queen. She'll be the best Queen Genovia has ever seen before," David replied, confident in that assessment as he watched Mary Margaret's eyes dart back and forth in this back room. "Something wrong?"
"I'm just waiting for your mother to pop out from somewhere and bemoan you undercutting her legacy," she said, prompting a laugh from David.
"My mother is entirely in agreement with me. We both know that Emma will be the brightest spot in this family's history so far."
Mary Margaret's soft smile at the thought spoke to her continued kindness and nurturing ways. She was still just as fiercely protective and devoted to Emma as she had been Emma's whole life, and though her love had grown to encompass everyone in their family as the years progressed, David knew that for Mary Margaret, every step in Emma's journey was particularly important. Watching their daughter succeed like this after everything she'd been through was a powerful thing, and many times it was overwhelming as well.
"And how do you feel, about all of this? Will you miss being King?" Mary Margaret asked and David shook his head.
"Perhaps in some ways. But on the whole I'm more than ready for this. I'm finally retiring, and I think it's about damn time," David joked to his wife, who already had tears waiting to be shed. All these many years later and David was hardly surprised. It was a joyous day, a day when their daughter was ascending to a dream she'd long held in her heart, and David was touched too, more than he could say aloud.
"You say that now, but you know you'll never truly step away. You and Emma are a team, and if you think a new title will keep her from seeking your advice…" Mary Margaret trailed off as David brought her into his arms and kissed her lightly.
"Maybe you're right. But for a few weeks at least we'll have some time away."
Mary Margaret beamed up at him with the reminder of the trip the two of them would be leaving on in a few days time. It had been far too long since they had been alone together, and at last the chance was here.
"I give us three days before we're reconsidering our choices. We'll miss everyone too much," Mary Margaret said, clearly already missing their family when they still had days before they were set to embark.
"Then I guess we'll just have to find ways to make the best of it," David said in a lower voice, his hand running over his wife's back in a loving gesture. He knew the moment Mary Margaret took his meaning, and he felt that same spark igniting that had been there since the day they first met. There were silent promises made then, ones that they both would make good on as soon as they possibly could.
For now, however, things were beginning to start. The processions were underway, and though there had been some practice for the event, everything King David did he did on instinct, following his daughter's lead and trusting his own heart in moving towards Emma's bright and happy future.
The room of the church where the traditional ceremony was to take place was packed, with a sea of faces staring back at him and Emma, all of them friendly. Since coming to Genovia all those years ago, Emma had endeared herself to every member of Parliament and to people from every sector of Genovian society. There were tens of thousands of citizens in the streets outside awaiting the moment when the new Queen would be revealed, but for now, David's cares didn't lie with those people. All that mattered was Emma, and the confident, radiant smile on his daughter's face.
Thinking back to his own coronation day decades ago as the typical rituals were undertaken, David couldn't help but rejoice at how different the circumstances surrounding Emma's ascension were. There was no loss at the foundations of her becoming Queen as there had been when David's father died. Instead there was an agreement between King David and his daughter that the time for her to lead this country was now. Emma had studied for years about what this country needed, and her vision for this land and the people of Genovia was pure and well founded. David trusted Emma to do right by his legacy and by this nation that they both loved so much.
The length of the coronation was understandably great (for the transfer of power would of course be decked out in traditions and time-consuming customs), but finally with the scepter in her hand and her new crown on her head, Emma was asked the final questions that would make her the official ruler of the Genovian people.
"Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the people of Genovia according to the statutes in Parliament agreed on, and the respective laws and custom of the same? Will you in your power cause laws in justice and mercy to be executed in all judgments? Will you lead with the best intentions of your heart a people tied to you by birth and by right?"
"I solemnly promise so to do."
Emma's voice carried through all of the church, prompting a chorus of delight through the people in attendance, not the least of which came from their happy family waiting to the side. David snuck a look at his wife and son, at Killian and his and Emma's three children, the best grandchildren a man could ever ask for and he smiled, seeing that all of them were just as thrilled for Emma as he was.
"And so it is. Now rise, Queen Emma of Genovia."
When Emma moved back to her feet the whole room filled with applause, another break from the norm, but David was glad for it. Emma deserved more than the custom, and she seemed to take their break from propriety as permission to make her own change. Before turning to leave as was expected, she moved back to him, kissing him on the cheek and holding his hand tightly.
"I love you, Dad," Emma said simply, her smile wide and genuine.
"And I love you, Emma. Always."
With that, Emma moved with grace and precision through the sword salute provided by servicemen in uniform. When she was finished walking through the swords, Killian took his place beside her and then Mary Margaret joined David with the little ones in tow to greet the people outside who were waiting for their Queen. And as David expected, the response was wildly happy, for the people of this country knew just as he did that Emma was going to be a remarkable ruler, thanks to her already being a remarkable person.
A Few More Years After That…
Diplomatic travel was hardly uncommon in this family, and as long as Emma and Killian had been married they'd been in agreement that where one of them went, the other would follow. That pattern continued with the birth of their three children, and carried on now nearly twenty years after Emma and Killian's first meeting when they came back to the place it all began – the consulate in Boston where Killian had first met the woman who changed his whole world.
"Every time we come back I'm amazed at how it's just the same," Emma murmured from beside Killian and he smiled at his wife's confession. He couldn't disagree with her if he tried, and as he took in the entryway he was bombarded with memories from those first few months of their knowing each other.
Of course other recollections flittered in as well, including ones with a nosey Queen Ruth (who all these years later was still just as dedicated to scheming, though on a slightly smaller scale thanks to her increasing age), and ones from more recent visits where they'd begun to introduce their children to the city that their mother first called home.
"We're still going on the duck tour tomorrow, right?" Their youngest daughter Leia asked and Killian looked to Emma for confirmation, receiving it in the form of a slight nod.
"Aye, love. There will be squawking enough even for your liking." Leia rolled her eyes at his words and then patted his arm in a pitying gesture.
"Ducks don't squawk, Dad."
"They don't?" Killian asked, knowing full well that they didn't.
"No. They quack. See." With that his daughter pulled out her whistle from last year's visit to the consulate and filled the whole room with a loud quack.
"Ah, right. Thank you, lass. I think we all needed that very boisterous reminder."
"You're welcome," Leia chirped happily before catching sight of something she fancied further inside and setting off in pursuit of it.
"Do we get to see a game too, Mom?" Their son Emmett asked and Emma nodded.
"Of course we do. We can't miss the Sox can we?" Emma asked jovially.
"No we can't."
"Will Aunt Ruby be there?" Their eldest daughter Hope asked. "She told me next time I saw her that she'd… never mind."
Killian and Emma shared a look as Hope scurried off, knowing that whatever Ruby had planned, it wouldn't be dangerous but it might be slightly problematic. The answer to their queries came from Liam, however, who was joining them not in a security capacity since he'd given up fieldwork, but as a family visitor with his wife Elsa.
"Ruby mentioned helping Hope get colored streaks in her hair when she was at the palace for the New Year celebrations," Liam said calmly.
"She what?!" Killian asked at the same time Emma said, "Of course she did."
"How did you know that?" Killian asked after Liam dropped that bomb and his brother laughed.
"I might not be wearing a headset anymore, but I still know everything, little brother. Remember that." With that, Liam maneuvered his wife up the stairs and to the corridors for sleeping as their two children moved to follow their cousins for some entertainment.
"Seems like we'll have our hands full on this trip," Emma acknowledged. "Between duck calls, ball games, and Hope's teenage rebellion, this should be a real treat."
"It will be. Even in the most hectic of moments."
Killian spoke those words convinced of their truth, because there had never been a time since his finding Emma when he didn't feel truly blessed to have her. Their growing family had only cemented that further for him, and though their lives were often too busy to wrap one's mind around, the key was remembering that through everything they had each other. And it didn't hurt to steal some quiet moments to themselves now and then, which Killian planned to do right now.
"How about a walk before dinner, my love?" Killian asked and Emma immediately agreed, putting her arm through his and allowing Killian to lead them into the gardens.
The space was almost exactly the same and remained that way under the strict instruction of both Killian and Emma. There might be some improvements that could be made, and new landscape designs that would be deemed trendier, but this space was too special to alter. The only changes that had ever been enacted were simple restorations, and the addition of a few more lights, and a few more flowers.
"Looks like we got here just in time," Emma said as her eyes cast out over the garden full of flowers, all in their height of bloom. Killian saw the way these colorful blossoms still brought such joy to his wife, and he gently plucked one from the hedgerow to offer to her.
"For you, Swan."
"Why thank you," she accepted the rose and took in its sweet scent with a happy sigh passing her lips. Even after all this time Emma was still the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen, and seeing her like this, calming after a break neck pace for weeks and weeks was a beautiful sight indeed.
"You know this is the place I first saw you," Killian admitted, standing just where he'd been on that fateful spring day. "Or rather, the first time I saw you in person."
"Oh right, because I was such a risk they had to have a file on me," Emma quipped.
"You were a risk, my love, to everything I'd known before. Whatever path I thought myself destined for then was changed by meeting you, and thank God for that."
"How do stay just as charming as ever all these years later? You never falter, even in the most trying of times," Emma noticed and Killian's hand came up to brush an escaped strand of hair from the style Emma often kept it in behind her ear.
"There's never any cause to. I'm still the luckiest man alive, and you are still in every way the girl I fell in love with all those years ago."
"Killian, you know that's not true. Twenty years, three kids, and years worth of stresses from running a country later and I -," Before Emma could disparage herself in any way, Killian's hand came to cup her cheek, his thumb brushing across the corner of her mouth, distracting her from her words.
"And you are still the same wondrous creature I first met. Perhaps age has brought you more wisdom, my love, and it's certainly made you a wonderful mother and Queen, but in my heart we're still the same. You'll always just be Emma to me, the one person I was made to love more than anything else."
Whether it was his words of love, or perhaps just the need that always lingered between Killian and his wife for more that sparked this kiss out in the gardens Killian couldn't say. But he did know that it was still as pure and thrilling and right as the ones they'd snuck out here years ago. It was an amazing thing to have – love that stood the tests of time and the trials of life so surely - but Emma and Killian had found that in each other. It was true enough to persevere, to thrive, and to grow and it remained as strong as ever during all the happy years they'd been together.
"I was wrong before," Emma said when they pulled away, her smile returning as did the light and the gleam of wanting more that caught in her green eyes.
"About?" Killian asked, wishing like hell that it wasn't so damn early. He'd like to take this interlude with his wife further, but it couldn't be done, not until their children were asleep and the day was done.
"You're not just the same as you were before. You are far and away cheesier than you ever have been and I love you for it."
"I'll show you cheesy," Killian growled out as he pulled his wife in for another kiss, this one burning just as hot as the one before, but this embrace was interrupted by three distinct groans from the hedgerow and then a loud duck whistle.
"Seriously you two?! Could you be any more embarrassing?" Hope asked and Killian only grinned as his wife laughed, resting her head in the crook of his neck.
"It's embarrassing that I love your mother?" Killian countered and Hope put a hand on her hip.
"Yeah it is when you're always making out. Normal parents don't do that."
"We weren't…" Emma's denial trailed off and then she bit her lip to try and hold back her grin. "Okay, maybe we were, but someday you'll meet the person you're supposed to be with and you'll understand."
"Not likely," Hope huffed, turning back to the house as Emmett announced why the children had come looking for them at all.
"Can we have grilled cheese with onion rings for dinner?" their son asked desperately.
"Not tired of it yet, lad?" Killian asked and Emmett shook his head.
"We took a vote and everyone wants it! Even Uncle Liam said he'd 'eat the bloody stuff.'" Leia chimed in, setting off her quack sounds as if they were further confirmation.
"Let's not go quoting your Uncle Liam, love," Killian said while scooping Leia up into a hug and setting her off into a giggle. "Well you'll have to ask your mother. She's the one in charge around here."
"Can we Mommy, please?!" Leia and Emmett asked together, and even Hope's head had popped back into the doorway looking desirous for this family's favorite meal.
"Oh all right. But you know the rule."
"We have to eat all our vegetables when they come. We know we know," the kids chorused before running back inside to share the happy news.
"Did you ever think we'd get this lucky?" Emma asked as she took Killian's hand once more, standing on the walkway, tarrying out here just a few more seconds before heading back inside.
"I knew we would," Killian replied prompting a surprised smile from his wife. He brought her hand up to place a gentle kiss against it and gave a smile of his own. "The day we said 'I do' I knew it would lead to this."
"Well, since you can see the future, any idea where we're going next?" Emma asked humorously.
"Wherever we go, we go together, all of us. And that means it has to be good."
"No," Emma said, pulling him closer by the collar of his jacket. "That means it has to be perfect."
With one last kiss out there on the patio, Emma and Killian made a silent agreement to pick this up later and then returned to the fray of the indoors, enjoying the presence of their children and family. And because they were together, and because they always put their love and their family first, Emma and Killian were insured not just a good evening or a good week away, but a good and happy life all their days together from then on out.
Looking back, it's impossible to say that I haven't had a wonderful life so far; a life filled with so many gifts it's hard to keep count of them all. But each of them was possible because I followed my instincts and the path my heart chose for me. I let love in, I risked myself for the promise of more, and because of that I found home. I found my purpose and the place I was always supposed to be.
In opening myself up, I set a precedent and I let love guide me. I have a man who I love with all my heart because of it, as well as three beautiful children, and five grandchildren (and counting) who have each held a key to my heart in their hands since they day they were born. I have a country that has flourished during my tenure, a people who have hope and compassion and faith, and a belief that all of this, all that I have done, has mattered.
Though today is my last day as Queen, and thirty years of service will be coming to an end, I also know that the future is just as bright as every moment in my past. My love will live on in my children long after I am gone and in their children thereafter. It will live on in my country when the people are happy and doing well. And it will most directly live on in the many years that Killian and I still plan to have together.
As one chapter close, another begins, and my story is far from over. In many ways, in fact, it's just beginning anew, but this time I have so many more answers than I did before. Now I know that the best way to be happy is to let yourself trust, and the best way to find joy is to let love reign in your heart. I plan to do just that and to let that be my legacy. I am choosing love even now, and I if ever anyone reads these diaries, I hope they know that they can do that too, if only they give themselves the chance.
Post-Note: So there we have it. It's bittersweet to officially end this AU as I have been working on it since July and it's been one of my favorites to write so far. However this is always how I planned on ending it, with glimpses into the happily ever after I think CS deserves in every AU. I hope that you guys enjoyed it, and I want to thank you all so much for the support and kind words along the way. It meant so much, and I was glad to write it knowing all of you were as invested in the story as I was. Anyway thanks again and if you haven't already, please check out my other stories. They are all just as fluffy as this one I promise!