Rating: this part's tame-ish, latter ones won't be | Warning: Emma is dating Walsh at the beginning of this tale.

Killian's sitting at the end of Belle's bar. Robin's sent him a stack of photos and sketches from his latest excavation and he probably shouldn't be trying to make heads or tails of them in the dim light of the bar, but unlike his office, Belle has a nice bottle of rum she keeps tucked away for him. Plus there's the pleasure of her company, even if she is pulled away more than occasionally to tend to actual customers. He looks up to check on her and finds her standing a few stools away, laughing with a woman he doesn't recognize.

The woman is gorgeous, there's really no other way to describe her. All long, blond curls and thick eyelashes, high cheekbones and a mouth that curves in a way that leaves his tongue itching to explore its contours. She's head to toe in black, sky high heels paired with a black leather dress that has a hem riding high on her thigh. In another time and another place, he'd flirt shamelessly with her, using the next ten minutes to talk her into some dark corner. Instead he flexes his fingers around the pen he's holding and turns his attention back to the field notes Robin's sent him.

There's a proposed alternative rigging design on a Minoan ship on the sketch before him that should be holding his attention, but from the corner of his eye he can see her take the glass Belle's slid her and knock back its contents. He tries to ignore the bob of her throat as she swallows, but it seems his mind has ideas of its own. When she stands up and slides onto the empty stool next to him while she sets her glass to the bar, his grip on his pen tightens further and tries to pretend like he wasn't staring.

"What's that?" she asks, nodding to the stack of papers and photos he has spread out in front of him.

Killian glances sideways to find her wearing a genuinely open expression. Hoping he's not about to bore her, he responds, "A friend asked for some feedback on some research he's doing on construction methods of Ancient Greek ships."

She tilts her head and eyes him, a small smile pulling at the corner of her mouth. "So some light Thursday night reading, then?"

Killian laughs. "You could say that." He nods when Belle catches his eye and signals for a refill on his drink. "Can I have her pour you another as well?" he asks with a tip of his chin to her empty glass.

She pulls her phone from her purse, glancing from the clock face it flashes back to him before tucking it back inside. Pushing the bag across the bar from herself, she says, "Sure. I've got a few more minutes." She points to the photos on the top of the stack. "Old boats your usual thing or is your friend calling in a favor?"

"Bit of both," he says as Belle fills both of their glasses, glancing between them and pursing her lips at Killian before walking away without saying a word.

He wonders a moment if he should take Belle's clear warning and end the conversation, but then the woman fingers the edge of one of Robin's sketches and he's too caught up in his struggle between watching her hands and the creep of her hem as she leans in to get a closer look to give Belle any mind. Instead, he starts to tell her about some of Robin's work and his own interest in ship design. She asks him a few questions, having him to clarify a bit with the rudimentary drawings he has in front of him. It's only when her phone buzzes from within her purse and her eyes widen that they stop.

"Shit!" Scrambling from her stool, she offers him a guilty smile. "I'm sorry. I've got to run. Didn't realize I kept you talking that long."

"No need for apologies, lass. I'm the one who's kept you." He reaches his hand out and she shakes it. "Killian Jones," he offers.

"Emma," she says, letting go.

"Been a pleasure, Emma," he says with a small bow of his head. "Hope to see you around again."

She smiles and steps away with a turn, and its only then that he catches sight of the zipper that runs the length of the back of the dress. He mutters a curse to himself and his vow to lay off the one night stands as his brain floods with images of tugging on its tab, the slow peel of it as his lips and tongue trail the skin it exposes. Turning back, she says, "See you around, Killian." It's all he can do to collect himself long enough to offer her a smile in return as she disappears out the door.

A few minutes after Emma leaves, Belle makes her way back to him and places a glass of soda water in front of him. "Don't," she says without preamble, pushing the drink towards him and taking away his empty glass.

"What?" he asks, feigning innocence.

"She's not available," is all Belle offers.

Killian shrugs. "Who said I'm interested?"

The look Belle gives him is unamused at best, and she wipes at a non-existent spill and grumbles.

"What's that, love?" he prods, swirling his drink stirrer.

"Don't play coy, Jones. I know you." She levels a stare at him before turning to serve a customer at the other end of the bar.

"Was just a friendly conversation," he calls after her

She turns back, narrowing her eyes at him. "Uh huh," she mutters.

His students' final project assignment seemed like such a good idea before the semester began. Now staring at stacks of design logs and the observation notes that go with them, he's beginning to question his sanity for thinking he'd manage to get them graded and back to them all within a week and a half.

"Hey there, sailor."

Killian starts and looks up to find Emma once again sliding into the seat next to him.

"Fancy seeing you again." He picks up some of the logs he's managed to spread over far too much of Belle's bar and piles them neatly on the other side of himself. "Twice in as many weeks, to what do I owe the pleasure?"

She laughs as she gives Belle a wave. "Think we've both been coming in here all this time and just never noticed one another?"

He sits back and gives her a once over. She's in tight, dark blue jeans with boots skimming along her calf and a white tank top. It's nearly as devastating a look as the dress from last week.

"Perhaps," he agrees, running his tongue at the corner of his mouth. "But I'd like to think I'd notice a woman such as yourself."

She narrows her brow as she eyes him but tips her chin in the direction of his stack of papers. "In all the talk of your friend's work, you neglected to tell me you're a professor in your own right," she says.

"Only a mere adjunct stuck grading final projects, I'm afraid," he teases, raising his eyebrow at her. "Reading up on me, were you?"

She has the grace to blush, pink spreading from the bridge of her nose and across her cheeks. "Professional hazard," she offers.

He cocks his head.

"Private investigator. It can be hard to turn it off." She turns and offers Belle thanks when a glass with amber liquor is placed in front of her.

"Truly?" he asks and takes a sip of his drink. "Do I want to know what else you managed to unearth?"

She takes a healthy drink of her own and says, "Only what I could turn up in a Google search, I swear."

"Fair enough." He polishes off his drink and continues, "So you discovered I teach. What else?"

She smiles down at her hands before looking back up at him. "You own a design firm specializing in sailboats, seem to have a pretty decent publication record for being a mere adjunct, and were apparently a very good soccer player while in university."

Now it's his turn to blush. "Ahh, found that did you?"

"There were some fairly impressive photos out there," she answers with a grin before raising her glass back to her lips and raking her eyes down his chest.

He bites his own lip and turns towards her, elbow resting on the bar as he props his head on his hand. Belle's not wrong. Emma's all sorts of his type. And despite her warning, he's tempted to inch into Emma's space, stretching out his foot and resting it between her legs on the rail of her stool. He wonders if she'd allow him to curl his palm over her knee.

"Well, love," he drawls, opting to stay put. "You seem to have me at a distinct disadvantage. I don't even have your last name."

"Swan," she replies without pause. Her hand seems to be drifting towards his arm when someone calls her name and her eyes go wide. She straightens up, reaching for her drink on the bar instead.

She turns as a man steps in next to her, sliding his arm around her waist and kissing her temple.

"Walsh? What are you –"

"I was about to ask the same thing," he replies. He doesn't move back, instead he moves his hand to her hip, his fingers curling around one of her belt loops as he turns to look at Killian. "Thought you'd be home tonight."

Killian's jaw flexes involuntarily as he holds the look Walsh is leveling at him.

She shrugs and turns her head so she can look up at Walsh. "Henry's staying with a friend tonight. Thought I'd get out for a bit."

Walsh frowns. "You should have called. I'd have been happy to take you out."

"It was a last minute thing," she says with a wave. "They had a science project to work on and Aidan's dad said he'd help them, so…"

"So you met your friend here?"

Killian glances over Emma's shoulder to find Belle standing at the far corner of the bar by her office door, biting her lip as she's watching them.

"No. Came to say hi to Belle, Killian just happened to be here."

"Killian?" he asks, eyebrow raised.

Killian nods and holds out his hand. "Jones," he says, hoping his tone is neutral.

Walsh let's go of Emma and takes his hand, giving a perfunctory shake before turning back to her. "Well, feel like getting out of here?" He grabs her bag like it's a foregone conclusion and Killian has to take a hold of his glass to avoid doing something stupid.

Emma shoots Walsh a glare but gets up to follow him. Before she takes two steps, she turns back to Killian.

"Sorry," she mouths and he nods before tilting his chin towards Walsh to encourage her to follow him out.

"No worries, love." He tips his glass to her. "Hope our paths cross again."

She smiles, a small thing that just barely curves at the corner of her mouth before she turns back to follow Walsh out the door.

Because this seems to be the way of things now, Killian's barely surprised when he gets in line at the coffee shop and finds Emma standing in front of him. She in a black sports bra and knee length leggings this time, skin covered in a sheen of sweat and hair pulled up in a messy knot. He's as charmed by this as her other looks, and he finds himself once again fantasizing about talking them into darkened corners. As he lets his mind wander despite himself, his eye getting caught on a particular bead of sweat sitting at the hollow of skin at her clavicle and is imagining what it be like to let his tongue chase after it when he hears her laugh.

"Really?" she asks.

He shifts his gaze to smile at her. "Should I be offended at that?"

She shoots him a mock frown. "Should I wonder if you're stalking me?"

"I'm not the one who admitted to Google stalking last time we met," he replies with a shrug

"True." A smile plays at the corner of her mouth. "How about you let me buy your coffee and give me a chance to even the playing field?"

He glances at his phone. He has an hour until his next client meeting and despite knowing he should walk away, he grins at her as he agrees. "Coffee with the tiniest bit of cream. I'll grab us a table."

Her face breaks out into a full smile and his stomach does the smallest of flips.

"Got it," she says, turning back to the counter.

He walks towards a table in the back corner and sets his bag on one chair as he pulls another out for her before taking his own. He's doing his best not to stare at her ass in those leggings, but he's man enough to admit he's failing utterly. He follows the curve of her back up to where her sports bra is a mess of crisscrossed bands across her shoulder blades that leaves the better portion of her muscled back exposed. He runs his tongue over his teeth and has to stop himself from imagining his hands on her hips, pulling her back to feel the weight of her pressed against him. However, when she turns towards him with two paper cups in her hands and gives him a smirk, he knows he's been caught out.

She raises an eyebrow as she slips into the chair he pulled out for her, but says nothing so he gives her a lopsided grin and a shrug of his shoulder.

"Sorry about Walsh the other night," she says, sliding his cup to him.

He waves her off. "No need. You weren't the one being an ass."

She clicks her tongue. "True, but to be fair we don't get to see each other most weeknights. He was frustrated."

Killian hums and wonders if she apologizes for him often. She doesn't seem like the type to put up with bullshit, but then again he doesn't really know her.

"So, professor," she teases, "what do you want to know about me?"

He nearly has to bite his tongue to keep his initial response of 'everything' from falling from his mouth. Instead he settles back into his chair in an attempt to match her teasing tone. "Well, Emma Swan, while I'll haven't being sleuthing, I can be quite perceptive." He taps his finger to his lips. "Let's see what I've gathered so far. Runner," he starts, eyes falling briefly to her trainers.

"Uh huh," she replies, resting her chin in her hand as she leans her elbow on the table.

"Private Eye. Mother," he continues, counting on his fingers as he goes. "And girlfriend to a man who seems like an enormous prat. What am I missing, love? I'm sure I've barely scratched the surface."

She sighs and appears to look past him and through the window at his back. "Make that a maybe fiancée to a man who seems like an enormous prat."

Killian's stomach lurches and does his best to swallow the coffee in his mouth without sputtering. 'Ah, Belle,' he thinks as he chances a glance to Emma, finding her staring at her hands, which are notably devoid of any rings.

"He's asked you?" he asks and she nods. Her smile has faded and he wants to reach out to offer her comfort but keeps his hand wrapped around his cup. "But you haven't given him an answer?" he prods.

She raises an eyebrow as she looks back up, but after a moment nods again. "You can see why he may have been a little upset the other night," she says, fiddling with the cardboard band wrapped around her cup.

There's another jab at Walsh on the tip his tongue but he bites it back, instead choosing a kinder route. "Can I ask why the hesitation? Would seem to me that this is the sort of question where the answer should be pretty clear."

"It's a big step." She takes a long sip of her coffee and shakes her head. "Why am I even telling you this?"

"Perhaps it's easier, talking to a relative stranger."

She shrugs and purses her lips. "Maybe. Henry thinks I should say yes."

"Your boy?"

She nods and sighs, "Yeah. Thinks I should take the chance."

He gulps at his cooling coffee. "What's stopping you?"

"I don't know," she offers.

He can tell it's a lie, but lets it pass. He switches to asking her about her running and they get lost in a web of talking about their favorite trails and a trip she took with her son to Acadia a few months back. He almost loses track of the time, it's only the clock over the register that reminds him he needs to cut their conversation short.

As he stands and shoulders his bag, he smiles down at her. "What are you doing Friday?"

She cocks her head and narrows her eyes. "Case work, probably. Why?"

"My last class of the semester lets out around 10. I was planning to go for one of my long runs afterwards. There's a good trail in the forest preserve that borders the campus. You could join me; clear your head. Maybe the answer you're looking for will come to you if you get lost for a while."

She taps her fingers against side of her cup.

"Just think about it." He looks down at his phone and realizes he really needs to go if he's to make his meeting on time. "Tell you what. If you decide to join me, you can meet me at the clock tower on campus at 11. It's impossible to miss."

"Ok," she says with a half-smile. He squeezes her shoulder as he passes, and she glances up at him through her eyelashes to give him a small smile. It's truer than the one she offered earlier and he smiles in return. "Thanks for conversation."

"Any time, Swan. It's been a lovely diversion."