a/n: I'm back! Thanks to some gentle prodding, a lot of visual inspiration, and wonderful coaching by swans-and-pirates, I managed to write more and I'm so excited! I hope you'll forgive me for the lengthy delay between chapters. I'll be working more diligently on finishing this story from here on out. :)
"Mommy? Mommy, Killy, Mommy-"
Emma's eyes rip open at the sound of her name and she grimaces when she feels the ache in her neck. The next thing she realizes is that she's slumped against Killian, and Killian is freshly awoken as well.
"Killy and Mommy sleeping," Henry giggles.
Emma licks her lips and keeps her attention on her little boy as he climbs up onto the couch beside them. He crawls into her lap and turns to look at Killian.
Killian clears his throat. "Morning, Henry."
His voice is thick with sleep, reminding Emma all too much of a specific few memories she has of Killian Jones and his sleepy-just-woken-up voice. He rubs his hand over his face and opens his eyes wider.
"Bloody hell, I didn't mean to fall asleep sitting up." Killian mutters in that freshly awoken tone.
"You and me both," Emma sighs.
Henry grins at Emma when she takes her fingers and drags them through his hair. "Cartoons?"
Emma chuckles and cranes her aching neck so she can look at Killian with an arched eyebrow. "You wanna watch cartoons, Killian?"
Killian cracks a sleepy grin and nods his head. "It's the weekend. Why not?"
She has to reach over him to grab the remote from the side table, but thankfully, Killian has quick enough reflexes and grabs it before she can fall into his lap awkwardly and make this situation a hundred times as bad as it already is. He passes her the remote and in their exchanged glances, a blush creeps it's way onto both of their cheeks.
This friendship is still very fresh, even if it isn't new. They might know a lot about one another and might have once been very comfortable in each other's presence, but now it's different.
She tries her best to straighten out her thoughts as she flips mindlessly through the channels until she lands on a cartoon Henry likes.
Her son bounces with excitement and clutches at his stuffed bear that he'd brought to the couch with him. He spends a few minutes in her lap before decidedly joining Killian on his, something that makes Killian laugh lowly.
"What are you doing, Henry?"
Henry scrunches up his nose. "Killy is my friend."
Emma laughs. "Yeah?"
She glances up at Killian. He has a soft smile on his face and he wraps an arm around her son as he lowers his cheek to the top of Henry's head, all while keeping his gaze on the television.
If her heart wasn't already confused, it definitely is now. On a sigh, Emma grabs her phone and stands up to go put on a pot of coffee.
She has a few messages waiting for her, but nothing too pressing. As soon as she puts her phone down and grabs one of her favorite mugs for her coffee, she hears Henry and Killian laugh in unison. It nearly breaks her.
"Hey, Em, are you making coffee?" Killian calls out a moment later.
"Yeah." Emma replies, smiling fondly at the familiarity of it all.
When she glances over at the couch, she finds Killian staring back at her with a little wry smile on his lips. He winks at her before returning his attention to the screen.
It only takes a few more minutes for the brew to be complete, and when it is, Emma pours two mugs of coffee, adds sugar and cream to hers, and carries them both back to the couch. She holds out Killian's dark coffee and he lifts his eyebrows in thanks before grabbing it and having an immediate sip.
"Hmm, thanks, love," he says, obviously preoccupied with the cartoon he's watching with her three-year-old.
Emma hums in response and carries her mug with her back into her bedroom so she can make her bed and clean up for the day.
By the time she's showered, dressed, and her hair has been blown dry, it has been about forty-five minutes. She steps out into the living area of her mini apartment and finds the boys stomping around playing cowboys.
Her son is standing on the couch and he keeps shooting finger pistols at Killian, who takes the fire rather dramatically on his way to the ground. He groans and closes his eyes tight.
"Ha!" Henry cheers. "I got you!"
Emma tilts her head at Killian and goes to stand near him. He groans, tossing his arm over his head as his chest rises and falls hard and fast.
"Don't you have to go?" she asks, kicking at his leg playfully.
Killian scoffs through his nose, then claps his hand over his eyes. "That I do, Your Highness, but I was just spending time with your boy while you got ready for the day."
Emma hums and extends her hand for him to take. She arches an eyebrow. "Well, I'm ready."
Her friend laughs and hesitates for a few moments before grabbing her hand to pull himself up. He slides his legs up just as Henry comes running up to tackle him back down.
Emma sighs. Clearly, this game isn't over for Henry and Killian just yet.
"Okay. I'm going to go because my mom is expecting me. Elsa should-" There's a knock at the door before Emma can continue and she nods her head. "There she is now."
Emma crosses the room for the door. She opens it, listening while her son and Killian talk animatedly behind her.
Elsa smiles when she enters the mini-apartment. "Oh! Killian! Hi!"
Emma shoots Elsa a look, but Elsa just smiles smugly and goes to pry Henry from Killian's chest.
"Morning, Elsa," Killian says. He boosts himself off of the ground. He hurries to Emma's side and grins from ear-to-ear in a way that makes her almost blush. "Alright, time to go, then? I'll walk with you."
Henry waves at them. "Bye bye! See you later!"
"See you later, Bug! I love you!" Emma smiles. She waves at her son and he bounces excitedly when she blows him a kiss. He catches it with an extended hand and presses it to his cheek.
"See you later, Henry," Killian says, a warm look on his face.
When they step out of the hall, Emma's heart flutters. It's been an interesting couple of days and here they are- being friendly, walking places together.
The silence, while comfortable, edges on too lengthy. So, desperate for something to say, Emma blurts out, "Hey, we should get dinner or something. Later tonight."
Killian hesitates. "Ah… I've actually got plans. Robin wants me to meet his son tonight."
Her heart sinks. "Oh. Okay." She manages to smile at him. "Sounds like fun."
"Aye," Killian smiles warmly. "He's been like family since I've been back."
Somehow, it stings, as if she hasn't been enough for him. Though, to be fair she's kind of been the worst at keeping things between them consistent enough for him to feel comfortable.
When they reach the main hall, Emma can hear her mother talking animatedly with Alexandra and Ashley, which only makes Emma sigh as she prepares mentally for the onslaught of the day ahead.
"Well, it's been fun," she says wistfully to Killian.
Killian smirks, looking over her shoulder in the direction of her mother's voice. "You talk as if we'll never see one another again."
Emma laughs. She shrugs. "With the wedding planning that's going on? You never know."
Killian hums. He seems to be caught up in studying her. Emma elbows him playfully and takes a few steps backward.
"I'll see you."
Killian smiles and nods. "See you."
Killian decides to go for a run during his lunch break instead of eating anything. He listens to his playlist of the day and tries to tune out the world around him as his feet hit the cement.
As usual, he gets a lot of looks and friendly greetings from kingdom fanatics, but at least this time there aren't any reporters wishing to get him to trip up on his words.
Killian slows his run when he gets to the bar and he tugs his earbuds out, twisting them up into a neat circle as he enters.
Robin's cleaning the bar while Will carries boxes into the back kitchen.
"Hey!" Robin says. "Killian, how's it?"
Killian smiles. He takes a heavy breath and sits himself down at the bar. He shakes his head. "Good, actually. Properly good. Emma's started talking to me again and we're… friends."
Robin chuckles at that. "Friends?"
Killian shrugs. His heart skips a beat as his hand reflexively goes to the spot behind his ear. "It's childish, yeah, but it's something. It's enough."
Robin hums. He wears a smile that spreads to his eyes and he stops cleaning. "You're still coming over tonight?"
"Yeah," Killian says. "Yeah, of course. I wouldn't miss it."
"Good. Marian's been very eager to see you again." Robin says. "And of course, Roland."
Killian nods. "I can hardly wait."
Robin's quaint apartment above the bar is lovely. The smell of dinner wafts through every room that he's shown on the brief but informative tour, and once he lands in the kitchen, he formally gets introduced to Roland.
"Roland, I want you to meet my friend, Killian." Robin says.
Marian, from her spot at the stove, grins and brushes a hand against the head of hair hiding behind her leg. "Come on, Roland. Meet Papa's friend. He won't bite."
Killian smiles slightly and kneels down, hiding his stump behind him. He digs into his jacket pocket and removes a small token of kindness, a toy train he'd picked up on his way over.
"Hey, Roland, I got you something."
Roland peeks out from behind his mother and then looks up at her. She nods in assent, giving him all the confidence he needs to step away from her, smile, and take the toy ever so delicately from his palm.
"Wow," he breathes in awe. "It's a train!"
The adults chuckle.
Killian nods. "Aye. I wasn't sure if you liked them, but I've got a friend called Henry and he likes toy trains so I thought you might too."
"What do you say, Roland?" Marian prods her son.
Roland grins at him. "Thank you."
"You're very welcome, lad." Killian rises to his feet again and watches as Roland hurries out of the room with his toy train in hand.
Robin clasps his hands together. "Alright, well, now that you've had the tour and met everyone- what do you say we watch some football?"
Killian shrugs. "Alright."
Marian chuckles. "Dinner should be ready very soon, boys. Don't get too into it."
True to her word, dinner's ready within ten minutes of the football match, so they gather at the table with hungry stomachs and light conversation.
Marian smiles at him from across the table. "Robin tells me you're moving here permanently."
Killian hums. "Aye, well, the king gave me a job, so I feel like the universe has made it's mind up about where it wants me."
Marian laughs gently. "That's right. We visited your ship."
"Yeah," Killian nods. He twists his spaghetti noodles on his fork and momentarily struggles with it before lifting it to his lips.
"Well, there are plenty of apartments in the area." Robin says. "Maybe one of these days we could help you find something."
Killian finds the idea appealing. While he appreciates living at the castle with all that it affords, he also finds it slightly uncomfortable sharing a living space with Emma, even if they're rooms apart and on good terms. He just doesn't want to ruin things. They're finally at a good place.
"Yeah, that might be good. I'll let you know when I've got free time."
Robin hums and nods. Silence follows and Killian looks down at Roland when he tells his mother he needs to go to the bathroom. She dismisses him and he grins at Killian before he slips around the table and to the bathroom down the hall.
"So how are things with Emma?" Marian wonders. Killian looks up at her, eyes wide. Marian smiles slightly and tips her head toward her husband. "Robin's told me a lot."
Killian has another bite of his dinner and licks his lips as he considers his response. "Ah… we've actually been doing well. We've agreed to put the past behind us and we're friends again."
Marian gasps and her eyes widen slightly. "Really? That's wonderful, Killian."
He can't help but smile too. "Aye, yeah. I'm glad we've been able to be friends again."
For a few moments, they eat in a pleasant quiet, the only other sound music coming from the speakers of the television that Robin had set up just before they gathered at the table for spaghetti.
"So do you think it'll go anywhere?" Marian asks.
Killian takes a deep breath and shakes his head. "No, I don't. I don't think she wants that and I don't think I'm ready." He smiles in spite of himself. "I'm lucky she's in my life at all."
Marian relaxes understandingly. She nods. "She's a very kind person."
"That she is."
Henry has been asleep for an hour when Emma slips out of her bedroom in search of something to do.
She's a little restless after spending her afternoon buried in research and plans for her potential future foundation. She'd spent the morning overwhelmed with her mother and Alex, but they thankfully took the rest of the day to themselves, leaving Emma to her thoughts about the way Killian had boosted her self confidence about what she wants to do.
Her brain is a little tired now, but her stomach growls, and as she turns into the kitchen, she finds that she's not the only one grabbing an after-dinner snack.
Leo and Alistair are sitting at the middle island with bowls of sugary cereal in front of them. They're both in their most casual clothes and bare feet. Leo's wearing a pair of thick-rimmed black glasses reminiscent of her own pair. The boys both grin toothily at the sight of her.
"Em!" Leo cheers. He has a cheekful of Cocoa Puffs and a spoon in his hand. "What are you doing out of your room at this hour of the night?"
Emma laughs and rolls her eyes. "I know, it's weird. I'm usually holed up in my room." She grabs a stool and slings it around the island across from her brothers. "Ali, grab me a bowl from behind you."
Alistair's already on it, twirling around and reaching above his head to get her a pristinely white bowl that he sets down on the island.
Emma pulls open the drawer near her on the island and grabs a spoon from the tray before shutting it closed. She takes the box of cereal on the tabletop and pours herself an ample amount before she adds milk and digs her spoon into the bowl.
She has a bite and looks up at the boys.
"You don't have to stop talking just because I'm here," she teases.
Leo has another spoonful of his cereal and then leans back slightly. He folds his muscular arms to his chest and licks his lips. "Elsa told me Killian stayed the night in your room."
Emma rolls her eyes and her shoulders fall. "Of course she did."
"Is, uh… anything going on there we should know about?"
Alistair lifts his eyebrows at her curiously when she looks at him for support, as if he can offer her any at all.
She laughs it off. "No. We're friends. Last night he came over to talk and we ended up just falling asleep on the couch. No funny business."
Leo hums skeptically. "Alright, well, you let me know if that changes because I'm ready to give him a black eye if he hurts you again."
Emma can't help the feeling of pride that wells up in her chest. She knew her brothers loved her, but she hadn't realized to what degree. Both of them stare at her with reverence, as if they would do anything to make sure she was happy and healthy.
"Well, no black eyes necessary, Leo." Emma assures her brother. "Because nothing's going to happen. We're being adults about it."
Leo gives her a wry grin and snorts at the back of his throat as he leans in again. He scoops up a spoonful of cereal and chews as he says, "Don't tell Dad that."
Alistair chuckles under his breath.
Emma has a few bites of cereal in silence and then looks up at the boys again. "Hey, do you guys remember when we were younger and we'd prank Mom and Dad?"
Leo and Alistair both laugh at memories that light up their eyes. They turn toward one another.
"Oh man, do you remember that time you planted bug cutouts in the lampshades?" Leo asks.
Alistair laughs. "What about the time Emma swapped out their dessert for styrofoam and they actually tried to eat it?"
Emma laughs. She shakes her head. "What about the time we rigged Dad's phone and intercepted his calls and texts?"
"Your Majesty, I wonder if you need a cough drop. Your voice sounds strange." Alistair mimics.
All three of them can't stop laughing. It reminds Emma of when they were younger, all three of them in one place at the same time like this. So much has changed, but their sibling bond hasn't faded.
"Oh my God, we were awful kids, weren't we?" Leo asks. He lifts his bowl of milk to his lips and drinks it down.
"Yeah, we were," Emma confirms. "As a mom, I think I can say so with confidence."
Alistair smiles at that. He finishes off his cereal and sets his bowl aside. "Do you guys want to go do something? It's been awhile since we've just hung out."
Leo grins at the idea and lifts his eyebrows in her direction, as if leaving the whole thing up to her. She tilts her head and rolls her eyes.
"What do you want to do, Ali?"
Alistair shrugs. "We could… try checking something off the list."
Leo's eyes narrow at their younger brother. "The list? You still have it?"
The youngest shrugs, grinning mischievously. "Yeah. Of course I do. What'd you think I'd do with it?"
"I don't know," Leo admits. "I guess I thought our glory days were behind us."
"Far from it." Alistair removes his phone from his pocket and taps the screen a few times. "Okay, we have… sneak into a concert using our celebrity."
Emma winces at the idea. "Not tonight."
Leo hums. "What else you got?"
"Oh, we could go to the roof and set off fireworks."
Emma laughs. "Didn't we do that already?"
"No, we went to the roof to do it but Dad stopped us." Leo reminds her. "Something about responsibility now that we were getting to be adults."
She smiles and has another bite of cereal. "Okay. Let's do it."
Both of the boys laugh giddily and Leo spins himself off of his stool. "I'll go get the goods."
Emma collects all of the bowls and spoons and realizes that she truly is the oldest, always trying to make sure things are cleaned up and accounted for.
"What's that about goods?"
An immediate and terrified silence befalls them. Emma turns, eyes widening, at the sight of her father standing there, a gentle smile on his lips.
"Hi… Daddy," she grins at him. "We were just talking. Leo was going to set up the Nintendo in the upstairs sitting room in our wing so we could play Mario Kart."
Their father seems skeptical, holding that eerily calm expression as he folds his arms to his chest. "Uh huh."
"Come on, Dad, you can come with. But you're not going to be my partner. I call Emma." Leo says, clapping their father on the arm.
"Thanks, but no thanks." He goes to the pantry door. "I was just grabbing a snack. I'm working on a surprise for Mom's birthday."
Emma takes the bowls from the island and puts them into the sink to be washed. Then, she turns back toward her brothers as their father grabs a bag of pretzels.
"It's good to see you guys spending time together." he says, a gentle glow in his eyes as he looks each of them in the eyes. "It feels like it's been forever since I've heard so much laughter from the three of you."
Emma's heart warms. She smiles and goes to her father, pressing a hand on his chest so she can kiss his cheek.
"Night, Dad." Emma whispers.
Her father's smile is sweet. She's missed him like this, in his evening clothes and relaxed posture, grabbing a snack to help him get through a project. "Goodnight, Emma."
He waves at the boys and then slips out of the kitchen, leaving Emma with her brothers, all of them staring at each other.
"Well, that was close." Alistair says on behalf of them all.
Emma laughs once. "Yeah." She nibbles on her lip. "Maybe… maybe we save the fireworks for another day?"
"Yeah, I was going to say..." Leo drags his fingers through his hair, messing it up on purpose. He shrugs his shoulders and slaps his leg with his hand when it falls away from his head. "Uh… so, Mario Kart? You guys want to?"
"I'm game." Alistair shrugs.
Emma takes a breath. "Yeah. As long as you guys don't mind losing because I'm so good."
Leo and Alistair both laugh. "Yeah, right."
They migrate out of the kitchen together, teasing and laughing the whole way, and Emma finds that it's not a hard sell to keep her here. She loves her brothers more than anything and she hates that she's had to be apart from them, that she's had to miss so much of their lives with her absence.
Any part of her that had been doubting whether or not sticking around after the wedding has switched sides as she sits with her brothers in the sitting room, all three of them yelling and laughing with each lap of the race on screen.
It's fun, getting to relax and forget the worries on her plate. It's always fun when she's with them.
Henry would have so much fun with his uncles when he gets older too.
Emma glances at her brothers as she races them to victory for the umpteenth time, finding that fondness rising up inside of her that makes her want to hug each of them and kiss their cheeks. She won't, not just yet.
The feeling pulls at her heart and begs her to stay here after the wedding. She thinks about what it would be like, getting to spend time with her brothers like this all the time, albeit a bit less with responsibility and Leo being married, but she'd get to see them more often. So would Henry.
Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if she stuck around.