an: it's been forever and a day since I've posted anything resembling a fic, so I'm both excited and anxious to embark on this crazy endeavor. Let me know what you think please! I'm posting this against my standard fic writing method so updates might be wildly spaced out if I can't manage to write, but I have had this chapter just sitting on my computer for weeks so I decided to put it out there in hopes that your support might spark my fire. I hope you like this first chapter!


one

Emma sits on her sofa, fidgeting with the ring dangling from the chain against her chest. She slips her pointer finger into the golden band and the cool metal slides easily against her skin.

She bites down on her lower lip and glances down at the coffee table where her cell phone sits. She's been waiting for a phone call for a while and hasn't been able to stop fidgeting while she waits.

After a moment of playing with the ring, she slips it back under her shirt and closes her eyes. She doesn't know why she still wears it. The memories the ring brings back to her aren't good ones. Not most of them, anyway.

Emma swallows the lump in her throat and rises from the couch. She skims her fingers down her sides and straightens, sucking in a breath as she glances around her messy apartment.

"No use waiting around for him to call, Emma," she murmurs to herself. "That's not what he does."

Feeling restless, she goes to check in on her sleeping little boy.

His nightlight glows warmly, coloring the night sky onto the ceiling, and when she steps up to his bed, she finds his legs and arms flailed around him like they always are. His hair is ruffled and he breathes in deep and low, a slight whistle accompanying the sound of his breaths because of a recent bout of sickness.

He is the very light in her day and she doesn't think she'd be here today if it weren't for him.

Emma reaches up to brush back his hair and she lowers a gentle kiss to his forehead before slipping out of his bedroom.

She just barely has his door closed when there's a knock at her apartment door. Her heart rams against her ribcage and then falls straight into her gut. Her mouth feels dry and her eyes widen.

Emma crosses the room to the front door. She checks the peephole and as soon as she does, she squeezes her eyes closed before subconsciously reaching between her breasts for the ring that always hangs near her heart.

It takes her a few moments. She stares at the locks on her door and she contemplates hiding or pretending she's sleeping, but the visitor knocks again. This time, with more urgency.

Her eyes feel like watering and she doesn't know what else to do, so she quickly unlocks the door and rips it open.

"Killian? What the hell are you doing here?" Emma asks, her voice much rougher than she'd intended.

He hasn't changed at all, well, minus the facial hair and five years of time apart.

He's dressed in one of his worn tee shirts and jeans, his hair looks run through, and he sports a hesitant smile. There are cuts on his face and stitches against his forehead. He looks a little more than worse for wear. He almost looks like he should still be in the hospital.

Her heart races at the sight of him. He's standing right in front of her. The last time she'd seen him in person, he'd looked so different.

"Hey, Em." Killian's lips curve upward slightly, as if he's regretting the choice he made to come to see her.

All breath is stolen from her lungs for a moment. Just hearing his voice is cause for her goosebumps to pebble up her flesh and she gets nervous butterflies at the sound of her nickname.

No one calls her Em anymore, so hearing it from his lips takes her back to a time where she was younger and more naive. Back when she didn't know heartbreak and pain. Back before the arguments and the identity crises.

Emma hears her phone ringing from somewhere behind her and she shuts her eyes for a moment. It's her mother's ringtone, indicating she has no choice but to answer.

"Come in. I have to get that. It's my mom."

She hurries into her apartment without a glance over her shoulder and scoops her phone up off of the coffee table in her living room.

Her apartment isn't much to write home about, but it's quaint and it suits her needs. Henry likes getting to see all of the cars when he comes and tackles her in her bed every morning. He calls them ants and he likes to pretend he can squish them with his thumb and index fingers pressed together.

The thought of her son reminds her of so many things that need doing and she answers the phone with a quick, "Mom, I can't-"

"Emma, Killian's back."

She sighs heavily, watching as the man in question gently closes the door behind him and has a look around her apartment. She can only imagine what he thinks of it and of her choices.

Once upon a time, things were so different. Once upon a time, she could have lived her whole life in a castle and been waited on hand and foot by any number of individuals. She could have had him, too.

It hits her like an arrow to the heart when she thinks of what she could have had.

Part of her is thrilled to see him here. Part of her wishes he'd leave.

The other part of her, the one she supposes she inherited from her parents, believes in first love and mending old wounds with a simple apology.

"Yeah. I know." Emma replies.

Her mother gasps so loudly she thinks Killian must hear, because he stares at her and seems to be hiding a smirk as he reaches up to scratch behind his head.

"Tell him we're here for him if he needs us."

"Mom."

"Emma, this is a big deal. He was your first love, and I know he hurt you, but… I think we all know he was going through a lot. Just like he is now."

It's not an excuse for what happened between them, but Emma just heaves a breath and nods. "Okay."

"We want to help him. And I know you were going to come next week for the wedding, but… maybe you could come tomorrow?"

Emma sucks in a heavy breath. She turns on her heel away from Killian, lowering her voice. "It's not… for me, okay? It's for him."

She can hear her mother smile. "Yes. Of course."

Emma's teeth dig into her lower lip. She stares down at the floor and traces the toes of her right foot in a broad circle. "I don't want it to be a thing."

"It won't be a thing, Emma."

"Really?" Emma snaps quietly. "Because last time I came there was a parade-"

"No parades. I promise."

Emma sighs heavily. "Okay."

"Tell Henry that Grandpa wants to teach him sword fighting!" her mother gushes. "Oh, this is going to be so nice to have you back home again, Emma!"

Not feeling incredibly comfortable at the moment, Emma manages a quick yet gentle, "I have to go, Mom. Goodnight."

"Goodnight. Good luck!"

She rolls her eyes minutely as she hangs up and she stuffs her phone into her pocket as she turns back to her former best friend. Emma's arms fold against her chest and she sighs.

"Sorry. Mom… still likes keeping up with me even though I'm living on my own."

Killian arches an eyebrow. "Well, I think it's understandable. Considering the circumstances."

She stares at him quietly and then drops her gaze when her heart jumps against her ribcage. Emma doesn't think about the circumstances. They're almost always way too much to think about, especially with a three-year-old in the mix.

Emma crosses the room, going to clean up the dining table from Henry's arts and crafts as well as her homework. She slips the crayons back into their box and she glances up to find Killian just staring.

"Why are you here?" she asks wearily.

"Is it so wrong that I want to make a social call? You're my best friend."

Emma scoffs. She looks over at the stove clock and shakes her head. "It's ten o'clock at night on a Tuesday and you're here to 'make a social call'. Yeah, sure. Did you forget about my superpower?"

Killian shifts on his feet and sighs. "Fine. I… I've run into a bit of trouble. And I thought you could help me."

She stops what she's doing and stares back at him. "Killian-"

He looks ashamed, dropping his gaze to his feet, and then he looks back up at her with tears in his eyes.

"I'm sorry, Emma. I know I really shouldn't have come here. I could have just gone to your parents, but…" He searches her eyes. "I just thought that with our history, perhaps you'd be more lenient."

Emma shakes her head. "What did you do?"

A self-depreciating smile fills his cheeks and he shrugs his shoulders. For the first time since initially seeing him, she actually sees him, especially when he lifts his left hand and she finds that it's missing.

It's a shock, but she'd already known that it had been severed. She'd seen the medical reports herself.

"I was in an accident," Killian explains, and it does nothing to help the mixed feelings bubbling up inside of her. "I lost my hand..." He shakes his head. "And I can't fathom being home right now. Wherever that is. So I thought, perhaps..."

Her heart falls into her belly.

"I'm sorry that happened to you, Killian," she says softly. Not knowing what else to say or do, she looks down at the kitchen table, scooping up the rest of Henry's things as she starts to think it all through.

"Emma," Killian pleads. "I was seeing a woman and she broke it off with me right before I was in the accident. I don't have any place to go. My apartment is filled with tainted memories and… all I thought about while I was in the hospital was our last discussion."

She finishes putting Henry's things away and goes to tuck them into a cabinet in the kitchen before she slides her textbooks into a pile and gathers up her papers to stick them into their folders.

Their last discussion flashes briefly through her mind and her instinct is to recoil, to snap at him, and to send him back out into the night, but she instead steels herself as she sighs, "The one where you tried to explain why you left me and instead got angry with my life choices?"

Emma meets his eyes then, expecting the remorse that fills them. He shakes his head at her. "Emma, I'm sorry."

For a moment, it all comes back. She's back home, young and naive, waiting for him to pick up his phone or something so she'd know he's okay.

And she's sitting on the bedroom floor of her new place, a baby growing inside of her, listening to the sound of his voice, thinking maybe everything could be okay between them, but then it's not.

"You know I have no real reason to let you into my life again," Emma tells him. "You told me you loved me and I guess I thought that meant staying together no matter what." She closes her eyes with a wince. "I'm sorry."

"No, you're right to be angry," Killian sighs. When she opens her eyes, he rakes his fingers through his hair. "I was bloody awful to you. Leaving the way I did and then when we spoke again-"

He trails off, clearly not wishing to go there right now. She's glad for it. She doesn't want to go there either.

Emma's jaw clenches tight and she feels tears burning at her eyes.

"I'm going home tomorrow. Leo's getting married and they want me there to help," she tells him lowly. She sucks in a breath and straightens her spine. "Do you need somewhere to stay tonight?"

Killian nods his head, a slight smile on his lips. "If you'd be so gracious." He glances around and gently suggests, "I can take your couch?"

Emma manages a smile. "Okay."

She tries to forget the sensation she has to just collapse into him and to let him hold her in order to wash away all of the pain she's had to deal with over him for the past few years, but it's hard.

She stuffs that feeling away and holds her head up high as she starts to go toward her bedroom to grab him a blanket and a pillow.

When she goes to find him standing at the fridge, studying the colored pictures Henry did for her and the photographs of the two of them taken in various places and poses and ages.

"He's three now, isn't he?" Killian asks quietly.

Emma nods, smiling at the picture he's studying. "Yeah."

She walks away from the fridge and settles the blanket and pillow down on the couch. She clears the floor, tossing Henry's leftover toys into the bin with a practiced grace, and Killian comes to stand before her as she's standing upright again.

Seeing him again, after all of this time, is a strange feeling. Despite feeling angry at him, she isn't.

She's missed him like crazy. She's missed his dimples when he smiles at her. She's missed the late night talks and the early morning walks. She's missed his stupid stories and his laughter.

She's missed him. But she won't do this all over again. Not now.

"I missed you, Emma," Killian whispers. "And I know I can't expect you to forgive me straight away for abandoning you after I got word of what happened to Liam, but… I wish you would."

Emma stares at him and tries to memorize the new lines and details of his face. She catches his scent in her nose and hopes it'll stay.

"Goodnight, Killian." She whispers.

As she steps around him, he sighs. "Goodnight, my princess."

Emma closes her eyes tight at the sound of his words and she tries with everything in her to not go back to those childhood memories she has of them goofing off in the garden or by the water.

She gets a glimpse of him in her mind's eye, kissing the back of her hand on her sixteenth birthday, when he officially asked her to court him, and her heart begins to betray the anger she feels.

When Emma gets into her bedroom and shuts the door behind her, she curls up on her mattress cross-legged and opens up her nightstand drawer. She finds an envelope she'd stuffed into it just a few days ago and unfolds the paper she finds inside.

Dear Killian,

I've heard that you were in an accident and I want you to know that I want to help you. I'm sorry. You must be hurting. Despite having unfriended you on social media, I do manage to keep tabs on you. Guess being Princess has it's perks sometimes, huh?

I don't really know what I should say. Things between the two of us haven't really been great since we broke up. I just want you to know that even though you left, I never felt abandoned. Just confused and frustrated and, yeah, I guess with time, I got angry. But it's only because my best friend took off and didn't tell me what was going on.

And then you called and when I told you I was pregnant you didn't let me even explain what happened with Henry's dad. I'm sure if you knew you wouldn't have been as ridiculous as you were.

That's probably why I hated you. That's probably why I don't want to see you anymore. It's not about Liam. It's about you thinking I have some obligation to being next in line for the throne.

Did it ever occur to you that I know that? Every day of my life I've known that.

Anyway. I don't know if I'll even send this letter to you, because I got way too rambly and now I'm thinking you don't deserve my help right now. Maybe.

I have a lot of schoolwork to do right now anyway. I guess if you get this, you get this. And if you don't- oh well.

-Emma

When Emma gets to the end of her letter, she folds it back up and catches a glimpse of the words she'd written in small print on the very bottom of the page.

p.s. I miss you. p.s. I love you. p.s. I'm not going to tell you any of that. -Love Em

Emma bites down on her lower lip and shuts her eyes. Her fingers go to the ring hanging from her neck and she fishes it out so she can feel it in her palm.

Now that he's here, lying on her couch in just the other room, everything's going to come back to light, and she isn't sure she's ready.

/

"Mommy, lookit the ants," Henry says, squinting as he pinches his fingers together.

She watches, amused, as her son watches the traffic down below. She brushes back his hair and leaves a kiss to his cheek that he scrunches his nose up at.

"Do you want to get on an airplane today, Henry?" she asks.

Henry's eyes widen and he grins. He holds up his toy airplane and makes whoosh noises as he gusts it through the space between them, landing it on her head so she'll laugh at him. He giggles delightedly at the sound.

"I'll take that as a yes," Emma chuckles. She reaches up to brush back his hair and smiles. "You want to see Grandma and Grandpa? Grandpa wants to play swords. Uncle Leo too."

Henry smiles at her and nods his head. "Yes."

"Yes?" she teases. She pinches his side until he squeals and she suddenly remembers the man sleeping in the other room. Her mood dampens just a little and she sighs. "Okay. You hungry for breakfast, Bug?"

Henry bobs his head. "Yes please!"

Emma scoops her son up off of the bed and hauls him down onto the floor. He giggles happily as she walks with him into the kitchen and she immediately finds Killian standing by the fridge, his hand in it's favorite position behind his ear.

Oh, she's missed him like this.

"Ah…" Killian blushes just a little. "Good morning, Em."

Her heart flutters at the sound of his voice and it's like she's sixteen again. "Good morning."

Killian's attention falls to the little boy at her side and she jerks herself back to present-day.

Emma sighs, mostly because her son stares at Killian with bug eyes and wraps his arms around her leg as he attempts to hide. "Hey, Bug, this is Mommy's friend Killian. Can you say hi to Killian?"

"Killy?" Henry attempts.

Emma laughs softly. "You can call him Killy."

Killian drops down to be eye-level with her son and smiles at him. "Well, good morning, Henry. I've heard so much about you."

And if she weren't attempting to figure out whether or not she should be mad at him, she'd think he was being ridiculously sweet and she'd love him all the more for it.

Henry slowly untucks himself from Emma's leg and smiles at Killian before showing him his toy truck and plane he's carrying around.

"Oh, that's brilliant," Killian grins. "Do you like to play trucks?"

"Trucks," Henry repeats in his three-year-old voice. He zips the wheels of the toy across Killian's face and that's that- they're officially friends.

She listens and watches as Killian plays with her son in the living room, smiling at the delight that bubbles out of her son's mouth, and at the kindness Killian shows the little boy.

It's a bit much, she thinks, as they're sitting around the kitchen table and Henry refuses to eat and just wants to play with his new best friend Killian. Killian just smiles at her son and somehow tricks him into digging in and eating his cereal.

The fact that Killian and her son are now best friends makes her just a little jealous, though she can understand why it would happen. Killian can truly sweep anyone off their feet if he so much as smiles their way.

"So you're going home," Killian says as Emma's having a bite of cereal.

She sighs. "Yeah." Emma drags her tongue over her lips and plays with her spoon in her bowl. "Leo's getting married."

The thought is humorous, considering Leo as an individual. He'd been something of a loose cannon for a while. But, apparently, while she's been gone, he's been busy.

Killian smiles a little. "Ah."

She senses something bittersweet in the way he drops his attention to his bowl.

"My parents are expecting you." Killian arches an eyebrow, confused. "They're king and queen, Killian. They have an idea of what's going on in the world. Especially to people they care about."

Killian's expression softens and for a moment, she wonders if he has an idea that she must have known what happened to him before he came to her, too.

"Then I suppose I should get ready to go back to Misthaven as well."

Emma sucks in a deep breath.

Something about both of them returning home together feels natural, albeit daunting and terrifying. She doesn't know what it'll mean for them, if anything, and she doesn't know if she wants to find out.

Henry says her name, blessedly cutting she and Killian's dialogue short.

It takes a while to get ready to go, and to no real surprise, the front door opens as Emma's trying to get Henry into his boots and Leroy steps inside as he has more often than she'd like. He narrows his eyes at the sight of Killian Jones standing in her living room and she just smiles up at him thinly.

"Morning, Grumpy."

Leroy rolls his eyes. "Good morning, Your Highness. If you're ready, the car is downstairs and your plane is waiting."

Emma secures Henry's right boot and straightens him out before rising to her feet and grabbing her son's hand. "Okay. Yeah. Let's go."

Leroy gives her a wary look. "Is he…"

Emma doesn't have to glance over at Killian to know Leroy's worried about him. "He's coming with us."

"Killy!" Henry shouts as they start to walk forward.

Killian just laughs warmly and it makes her heart warm despite the fact that she'd very much like it to stay neutral.

"I'm coming, Henry," Killian promises. "I haven't left."

Emma pulls her son to the side and waits for Leroy and Killian to leave her apartment before she locks it. Briefly, she meets Killian's gaze and remembers what she'd written in tiny print on the back of her unsent letter to him.

She still feels it, pressing up against her breastbone: she's missed him and she loves him.

And she won't be telling him that because there isn't room in his heart for her, or for her son, and it's something she's used to, so she accepts it as it is.

She tucks her keys away and lifts her eyebrows at Leroy as she steadies herself. "Okay, Leroy. Take us back to Misthaven."