June 19, 2010
Emma gets hit by a bullet during a shoot out, barely surviving an ambush that takes out another agent. She passes out in a dusty street, the roar of chopper blades in the distance her only prayer of making it out of there alive. Thankfully, she wakes up in a hospital bed, instantly recognizing the German military base she's been stitched up in before.
It takes a minute longer to recognize the slumped figure asleep in a chair beside her bed, and it can't be him, but yet... "Killian?" she croaks, her throat raw as she struggles to swallow. The room spins when she tries to sit up, her side exploding with pain.
He stirs, slowly at first, but then his eyes snap open and focus on her. "Thank god," he whispers, hoarse but relieved as he rubs at his bloodshot eyes. "Bloody hell did you give me a scare, love."
"What are you...how?"
"Apparently I'm your emergency contact." He raises a brow, reaching for a pitcher of water and bringing her a cup he helps her drink, and there's an odd sort of hope in his eyes despite their dismal circumstances. "Did you...why me? Why not your parents?"
"I haven't read them in." Emma tried to tell them, but she hasn't ever found the right words, and as the years slipped away, it's been easier and easier to hide the truth. Her cover in DC is a job at a non-profit whose goal is to bring clean drinking water to remote, far flung places, and she uses that as an excuse for her frequent absences. "Did...are they here?"
"No." He frowns, but his touch is gentle as he helps her to finish the water. "I nearly called your mother, but...I realized you must have had your reasons for not wanting them notified. I had to respect your wishes."
"Thank you. This would be a really shitty way for them to find out." She winces, struggling to find a more comfortable position and offering a weak smile. "Good thing I already have that leave scheduled. Looks like I'm going to need it."
He doesn't smile. If anything, his expression turns graver, and there's a long pause before he says, "Today is the nineteenth."
His eyes are glassy when he looks at her, deep shadows under them, and it hits her just how exhausted he is, his clothes wrinkled and beard ragged. "You...you've been here for almost two weeks. There was a complication with the surgery you needed to remove the bullet, and the bloody doctors weren't sure if you were going to wake up." The last part is choked, his hands clenching into fists at his sides, and she can see the battle for control in him, see him struggle with it.
"You've been here this whole time?" she asks even though she knows he has, knows without having to be told that he's been in that chair from the moment he arrived. That he dropped everything to be at her side, and what the hell are they even doing anymore? These are the calls she didn't want for him, the worry, the fear, the agony in his eyes.
She forgot she put him as her emergency contact, forgot that in a moment of impulse, she thought about who she would want at her side if it all went to shit, and all she could see was Killian standing in a sixth floor walkup doorway, hope bright in his eyes.
"Sod the band." He's angry now, snapping and snarling, and defiant, as though he's gone along with her stupid idea long enough and now he's done.
"I love you, Emma," he says before she can get another word out, and it should be tender, and it should be soft, but it's hard, and it's vicious, and it's an oath she never wanted him to take. "I love you, and I've sat here for two bloody weeks praying to any god who would listen that you would wake up." One tear, then another spills down his cheeks, and he brushes them away roughly, picking up her hand and pressing a gentle kiss to her palm as though he hasn't just shattered her carefully constructed house of cards. "I realize I'm not supposed to say it, that I'm breaking some bloody rule you've insisted upon, but I told you years ago I wasn't going anywhere, and it's time you accept I mean it."
She's speechless, a roaring conflict of emotion brewing inside her. She accepted that she loves him under a Caribbean sky sprinkled with stars, but she never said it, never told him. It wouldn't do either of them any good for her to say it – it doesn't change anything. "I…" She stops, not knowing what to tell him or how to explain the riot within her. "I'm not quitting just because I got hurt," she finally settles on, steeling herself for his anger, his frustration. "No matter how I feel about you," she adds, because she won't say it, won't make it that much harder for him to accept her decision, but he has to know what he means to her.
"I know," he says, surprising her with a rueful smile and another kiss on her knuckles. "But I've just got you back, love, and I don't intend to leave your side until I must."
"I can't give you the life you want."
"Until the next time you get a call from a hospital halfway around the world?" She doesn't mean to be harsh, but the question slips out anyway, her desperation to keep him at arm's length growing. It's harder to walk away every time, and a week is bad enough. With likely months of recovery ahead of her, she's terrified of what that much time together might mean for them, for her. Because she will go back into the field, and she will leave him behind. Again.
"Robin's wife just gave birth, so the band is taking a break right now," he goes on, the only sign he's heard her question the pallor of his cheeks. "Do you wish to return to DC? I have a flat in London now, or we could rent a place for the summer in the mountains where you can get your strength back."
"One week," she forces herself to say, blinking back tears. "That's our deal. One week, and then you have to go home."
"You can't be serious." He stares at her, a mixture of anger and disbelief turning his eyes stormy. "I don't believe you want that. Not after you...not now. Bloody hell, Emma, have you heard a single thing I've said?"
"Nothing has changed," she reminds him, hating that it's come to this, hating that she didn't untangle herself from him years ago when it would have been a clean break. Now it's messy, and she's breaking his heart and hers all at once. "It will only make it harder for us if you...if we...it would be too hard. I can't give you what you want. I've told you that from the start, and every year we do this…I'm selfish, I know I am, especially when it comes to you, but I can't...we spend three months together, and you'll start to hope, and I'll wonder if maybe...and then it will all come crashing down around us when I go back into the field. You know I'm right."
He stares at her, his jaw clenched, a muscle jumping wildly as he presses his lips into a bloodless hard line. They're both stubborn, but he won't force her, he would never force her, and after a long, tense silence, he scrubs his palms over his face and mumbles something about going to fetch a coffee.
They spend the majority of the week arguing about it, but in the end, he gets on a plane and Emma cries until she's certain she doesn't have another tear left.
And then she cries some more.
June 19, 2011
She pushes herself through her physical therapy, training harder than she's ever trained in her life to get back into shape for fieldwork. It's a good distraction, and if she tries hard enough, it almost makes her forget the look on Killian's face right before he walked away from her.
It's what she wants, she tells herself as the weeks slip into months without a word. The last thing he said to her was that he would wait, and he meant it, but she broke something between them when she refused to let him stay, and she knows it.
But just like that, it's June again, and Emma is on a plane back from a successful intel gathering mission, watching a storm in the distance, when she finally admits to herself how desperately she misses Killian.
She's been trying to ignore it, the hollow feeling she's been carrying around for months. The job doesn't have the same allure it once did; she doesn't come home satisfied when things go well. She comes home, and she wonders where Killian is, and if he misses her the way she misses him. She comes home and she wonders not where she'll be sent next, but where they'll spend their week this year.
Except the days fall away, one by one, and there is no email, no plane ticket, no text. They haven't spoken since that day in Germany, and maybe it's naive of her to think things can go back to the way they were, but she checks her email, and she hopes.
The woman who jumps out of planes into war zones is too afraid to pick up the phone and call him herself, because somewhere along the way Killian Jones became far more dangerous than getting shot out of the air.
The nineteenth dawns a cool, rainy day. Emma hasn't slept, her phone beside her as she watches rain slide down the windowpanes, the hollowness inside her slowly transforming into a gaping chasm of loneliness.
It's midday when she makes her decision, and in the end, it's the easiest thing she's ever done. It's been coming for a long time, her doubts and fears and hesitations that she's struggled to ignore no longer willing to be locked away. Her heart isn't in the job anymore, because it hasn't been hers to give for a long time – not since she gave it to Killian on a warm summer night strewn with stars.
She makes the necessary calls, and within an hour, there's someone at her door to collect her credentials and present her with a mountain of forms to sign. It's only once it's all over that she picks up the phone and dials a number she never thought she'd use.
To say Liam is stunned to hear from her is an understatement, and there's an edge in his voice when she asks about Killian. She deserves that and a lot more, but in the end he gives her an address in Maine, another town clinging to the coast a dozen miles north of Storybrooke.
"As far as I'm aware, he intends to spend the summer there. The band begins a rather lengthy tour in the fall." Liam pauses, and the silence is heavy, but it still hits her harder than many a blow she's taken over the years when he says, "You've done a number on him over the years, Emma. I'm only telling you where he is because I know it's what he wants, even after everything you've put him through. He comes back a little bit worse every time, and last year…" Liam stops, his breath heavy over the line, and she can practically hear him gritting his teeth. "Last year, I wasn't certain he would recover from whatever happened between you. You haven't any idea what it's like to watch him fall apart year after year."
Tears sting her eyes, and when he pauses again to breathe, she tries to explain herself. "I never meant–"
"Don't," he cuts in coldly. "Don't attempt to justify yourself to me. Killian is the one you owe an explanation to, but listen to me when I say you bloody well better mean it this time. If you don't, you haven't any business going to him. Stop being so selfish and put him first for once in your life, or let him go."
Liam hangs up on her, and she deserves that too.
Not bothering to wipe away the tears she can't seem to control, Emma shoves everything she cares to take into two bags and starts driving north. It's a long drive, and she's somewhere in New Hampshire when she has to pull over because her hands are shaking too badly. It's after midnight. The nineteenth has come and gone, and Killian didn't call. Perhaps he's finally listened to her and stopped waiting.
But his brother gave her the address, and no matter how angry Liam is over her past with Killian, surely he wouldn't send her all the way up there only to find Killian with someone else, would he? She hasn't seen photos of him with a woman for months, not even the actress.
Unless Liam intends to teach her a very cruel lesson.
Emma gets back in the car, pushed forward by the burning need to know what waits for her at the end of the map. The familiar signs for Storybrooke come and go, and Emma adds that on to the pile of guilt she packed along with her clothes. It's been over a year since she's seen her parents, too, but she's at least talked to them on the phone.
Eventually, she runs out of road, following a long dirt driveway to a cozy cottage perched on the rocks above the sea. Dawn isn't far off, and fog hangs heavy between the trees, the overnight rain clinging to the evergreens and mingling with the brine of the ocean. It smells like home, and for someone who never really thought of any place as home, it's a bittersweet blow. She can hear the crash of the waves as she gets out of the car, the house dark, but a shadow moves on the porch, and she stares in wonder as Killian stumbles to his feet, a plaid blanket wrapped around his shoulders, the blues and greens muted in the gloom.
Taking a deep breath, she crosses the driveway, her boots sinking into the squelching mud until she slowly climbs the stairs. He blinks at her as though she's a ghost or a dream, his jaw covered in a scraggly, unkempt beard, his hair too long. She moves to brush it out of his eyes, and it snaps whatever spell kept him still, his arms coming around her only seconds before his mouth is on hers.
He isn't gentle, and Emma doesn't want him to be. She needs the hard pressure of his mouth and the scrape of his teeth, his bruising grip on her hip, to ground her, to make this real and not a hallucination brought on by exhaustion and regret. She presses herself as close as she can, her own fingers desperately clutching at the flimsy collar of his shirt.
They break apart panting, and Killian leans his forehead against hers, one hand cradling her head as his fingers work their way into her hair, all of his hard edges softening with palpable relief. "Liam...he said you asked where to find me. I didn't think you'd come."
He doesn't say the rest – that he didn't think she would come, but he spent the night on the porch anyway, waiting, watching the mist and listening to the waves, wondering if she would appear. That he kissed her before he spoke, because even now, his voice breaks and his grip is just a little too tight.
"It's our week," she says, because it's the simplest explanation she has. There will be time, later, for the long story, for the explanation she's owned him for almost ten years, but right now all she wants is to breathe him in with the luxury of knowing there is no expiration date looming over this visit.
"Aye." Emma is stunned at the pain packed into a word, sorrow thick in the single syllable as he straightens with a slight shake of his head. "Afraid it's not sailing weather."
She realizes it then, that he doesn't understand, that he thinks she's only come for the week. "I quit," she whispers, tightening her hold on his shoulders when he tries to back away. "I quit, because every time I got on a plane that didn't lead to you, my heart hurt. And I don't want just a day, or a week. I never have. It just took me awhile to figure that out."
"You quit?" he repeats as though he can't believe what he's heard, suddenly very, very still as his gaze holds hers captive. Even the birds seem to have gone quiet, the rush of the waves the only sound in the gray morning light.
"I quit," she repeats. "I love you too much to keep walking away, to keep hurting you." Her exhale is shaky, and she's never felt so exposed in her life as she presses closer, her lips inches from his. "So if you want, I'd really like to stay here for the summer, or however long you're staying."
It's impossible to tell if she's the one trembling or if he is, but it doesn't really matter in the end. He nods, a choked of course I bloody want you to stay breathed against her hair as his arms once again surround her. They stand on the porch for a long time, clinging to each other until exhaustion catches up and he leads her inside.
The cottage is light and airy, even in the muted light of a new day. Pale blue paint adorns the walls, and she glimpses white cabinets in a kitchen as they pass, climbing a beautifully carved staircase. His bedroom is at the end of a short hall, curtains open to reveal a breathtaking view of the churning ocean between the curling tendrils of mist.
He shrugs the blanket free from his shoulders, tossing it onto a bench at the foot of the bed. It's neatly made, a soft gray quilt that reminds her of the fog clinging to the trees spread over the mattress, and a mound of pillows against the headboard. "How did you find this place?" she asks in wonder, running her fingers over the soft fabrics and the carved headboard.
"I own it."
He's watching her when she jerks her head up. "What?" She swallows, glancing out at the sea again. "How? When?"
"The band, as you are likely aware, has been a rather profitable endeavor." He joins her by the windows, his eyes on the sea. "As to when…" He laces his fingers with hers, breathing slowly. "I've always seen Maine as home, love. It's where I met you, and that changed everything. So when the money started coming in, the first thing I did was look for a place that one day might be ours." He chuckles, his grip tightening. "Aye, truth be told, the second thing. The first thing I did was purchase Liam a new truck."
"I have pretty fond memories of the old one," she says quietly, leaning her cheek on his shoulder. He untangles their fingers in response, his arm rising to tuck her into his side, pressing a kiss to her hair.
They linger by the windows, but Emma has been awake for two days, and maybe she's gotten used to that, but exhaustion slams into her all the same. When she yawns, Killian nudges her toward the bed, stripping off his shirt and holding it out to her. It's warm from his body, and as he moves around the room, drawing the curtains shut and lowering shades, Emma trades her clothes for his.
After all those hours in the car, his bed is heaven, and she sinks into the pillows with a quiet groan. Killian joins her a moment later, and she has just enough energy to snuggle into his arms before falling into a deep sleep.
June 19, 2012
She isn't surprised to learn that when the tour was scheduled, before she'd turned up at his door, Killian still arranged for it to wrap by mid-June. "I was going to give you last year," he explains when they go over the schedule, and her throat tightens as she realizes what he's done. "I thought the time alone would help you make a decision."
"You were right," she chokes out, reaching for his hand and squeezing hard.
"I usually am."
They land at the Bar Harbor airport on the seventeenth of June after more planes than Emma wants to think about. Killian tried to warn her about the exhaustion that came with touring, but she hadn't wanted to give up a moment by his side. Besides, she was used to operating on very little sleep, living out of a suitcase, and truth be told, it's a different kind of exhausting, but she has Killian. Though it's the middle of the night when they finally arrive back in Maine, Emma wouldn't change a thing.
Last summer was good for them, those months alone with the ocean for company as they worked through what it meant to be together, truly together. A part of Emma had been afraid of the simple domesticity of it all, afraid she would grow restless after years of living on the edge, but to her great surprise, she loves their life together. It was good to breathe, to slowly let go of her old life and embrace this new one, where thinking of Killian doesn't bring an avalanche of sorrow and regret crashing down on her.
This summer is different. The band is set to record their new album after a month long break, and so Killian and Emma will return to LA by the beginning of August. But that leaves six glorious weeks ahead of them to spend time with each other and visit her parents – to lay on the deck of his sailboat with the stars strewn across the inky night high above them.
It's two in the morning on the nineteenth of June when Emma floats toward waking as Killian slips out of bed. She reaches for him, still half-asleep, her dreams not quite prepared to let her go. With a mumble that she thinks manages to be a question, Emma tangles her fingers in his.
"Just getting a glass of water, love. Go back to sleep." His lips brush her forehead, and Emma sighs, shifting across the bed to claim his pillow. She buries her nose in the scent of him and is back asleep before he's reached the top of the stairs.
It's dark when she wakes again, but Killian is sitting on the edge of the bed, a bundle of clothing in his hand. "I want to show you something," he says softly, lifting her left hand and kissing along her knuckles between her middle and ring finger.
"Humor me, love."
The words stir up an echo within her heart, a sunny marina somewhere in the middle of the Caribbean and the turning point in their relationship – the moment when Emma knew she couldn't lie to herself about her feelings anymore, no matter how little it changed their circumstances.
Her eyes catch his in the dark, and she sees the memory rising up in him too, so despite how warm and comfortable she is, Emma reluctantly drags herself out of bed, slipping into the shorts and sweatshirt he holds out. The sweatshirt is his, and he must have been wearing it, because it's warm already, a small consolation for the lost comfort of the sheets.
She stumbles downstairs, rubbing her eyes and yawning. Killian has only turned on the light over the stove, the kitchen glowing warmly as he presses a mug of hot chocolate into her hands before tugging her onto the back deck.
Yesterday's storm has since passed, a sky full of stars opening up before them over a still-churning sea. The contrast of nature's dual natures is part of what Emma loves about this place, and she doesn't know why Killian is insisting on showing her the same view they've seen countless times over the last year, but she leans her elbows on the railing and breathes in the cool night air. Maybe the Milky Way is just a tad brighter tonight, the humidity gone with the storm.
Killian shuffles closer, his arm around her shoulders. She's awake enough now to sense his nervousness, to notice the slight agitation that has him shifting his weight beside her, the deck boards creaking.
He sighs, and she doesn't notice at first when he sets the ring on the railing, but the starlight catches the diamond out of the corner of her eye, and she almost chokes on her cocoa when she realizes what's happening.
"Ten years ago, I spent one perfect night under the stars with the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen," he says, his voice thick as he sinks down onto one knee, his hands shaking as he grasps hers. "And ever since then, I've wished for an impossible dream. Some years I got it. Some I didn't. But I told you from the start, I would find us a way." His voice breaks, and it's all Emma can do to let him finish, because she already knows her answer, but she won't ruin this for him.
"The first time I stood on this porch, I saw our life here," he continues, releasing one of her hands to pick up the ring. "I saw everything it could be, everything I'd ever dreamed for us. And I realize it's the middle of the night, but I wanted to do this today, on our day, in this place I dreamed of, and I had a plan, a lovely plan, but when I looked outside and saw the stars tonight, I couldn't wait another bloody moment to ask you to be my wife."
The ring sits on the flat of his palm, shimmering as his hand trembles. Emma can only nod furiously, tears stinging her eyes as Killian slides the ring onto her finger and pulls her into his embrace. When he kisses her, he tastes of chocolate – and the future.