Chapter 17

The exchange had been quiet but Killian felt as though the words had been screamed at him. Emma had either had an abortion or put a child up for adoption? His head was spinning with the information. He felt her hand touch his and before he could think he pulled his hand away, unable to receive or give any kind of comfort at the moment.

"Emma, I just.."

"Don't worry about it Killian."

It wasn't the anger in her voice that struck him. He anticipated that. Anger not only at Neal but at him. What struck him instead was the raw pain he first heard and then saw in her emerald green eyes.

"Emma, please I just need a moment."

"Take it then."

There were no more words as she headed towards the car. She held her back and shoulders rigid but Killian was under no illusions that she was okay. Neal had shaken her and when she had reached out for him he had pushed her away. Still as he followed behind her to the car he wasn't able to speak to ease her hurt. Instead he climbed into the drivers side of the car, white knuckles making clear that he was upset. The drive back to the castle was nearly silent as each was caught in their own thoughts. The day he learned Milah was sick was one of the worst days of his life but it wasn't all because of the diagnosis. They had been trying to get pregnant for a long time, taking test after test, but every time the results came back negative. Until just before she got sick. When the doctor told them that she would have to end her pregnancy in order for her to have even a chance at survival they were devastated. Milah had considered forgoing treatment until the doctor told her that without the treatment she would die before the baby would be able to survive. It wouldn't just be a death sentence for Milah but for both of them. So they had made the decision to end her pregnancy to try to save her life, which was ultimately futile as he had lost both of them in the end anyways. He didn't fault Emma if she had opted to have an abortion. He knew enough about her relationship with Neal that he could understand her reluctance to bring a child into it. Still the thought of it reopened the wound that was the loss of his own child. When he had ended her pregnancy Milah hadn't wanted to talk about the baby and he was okay with it. Part of him didn't feel like he had a right to grieve that loss because he hadn't been physically connected to the baby. It was growing in Milah but for him the baby was still an idea. A vision for the future, until that future was gone. It felt like he was taking something that belonged to Milah by grieving the child as though he had been connected to it somehow. It only helped build his anger at a universe that seemed determined to do anything to rip everyone he loved from him.

Still he knew that at the moment it wasn't about his grief and pain. Never did his pain or grief make it okay to take it out on Emma. Since she had come into his life there was light in his life that was driving out the darkness. He hadn't noticed it at first because he was so busy trying to keep his ever-growing feelings for her at bay but day by day she was bringing him back to life. His whole world had been taken from him, with the exception of his parents, but now it felt like he was having new life breathed into him. Now she needed him and stupidly he had rebuffed her silent request for comfort. After they arrived at the castle she immediately bolted from the car and he questioned whether the best course of action would be to go after her or to leave her be for a while to cool down. The question was answered for him though when he entered his room and found her sitting on his bed, eyes red rimmed with unshed tears and legs held to her chest by trembling arms. She looked like a little girl and he wanted nothing more than to take her pain away.

"It's not true Killian. It's not."

With her clearly in so much pain he felt his feet move of their own volition. He knelt on the bed next to her, pulling her close with one arm and caressing the side of her face with the palm of his other hand.

"Emma, I don't care if it's true or not. He had no right to treat you like that."

"But Killian it's not true. I was too far along in my pregnancy to have an abortion. Any idiot would know that."

"So you put your child up for adoption. That's not bad Emma. It's noble. Not everyone can do it. I know I certainly couldn't have."

"No Killian. That's not what I mean. I never put a baby up for adoption."

She looked heartbroken and without question he knew that she had never spoken about whatever was weighing on her.

"Emma, you know I trust you right? You don't have to tell me anything if you're not ready."

"No, I do. You're my husband. You should know, especially with Neal running around threatening me. It could affect the crown."

"Sod the crown Emma. My concern is not with that at all. It's only on you and if you're not ready we'll deal with Neal. We'll give him what he's asking for."

"He would never stop. He'd be back over and over again, always asking for more."

"Whatever happened Emma it was before me. You'll never know everything that happened before you and I don't expect you to tell me everything that happened before me."

"It's not a thing Killian. It's the thing. If you want to know me then you need to know this piece of the puzzle."

He could see how much whatever it had been hurt her but he could also see how much it mean to her that he knew. Slowly he nodded his head, indicating for her to go on.

"I was just in my second trimester when Neal left. He had been staying at his place a lot. I constantly felt like I was walking on eggshells with him all the time so honestly I was okay with him not being around. I guess it should have been a clue that things were bad between us but I desperately didn't want to lose him. My parents had the fairytale and I guess on some level I felt like I had to live up to that."

"Did your parents make you feel that way?"

"Not really. At least not intentionally. My mom talked about meeting and marrying my dad was the most important thing that she had ever done. I can't really fault her for that but honestly it was always hard to relate to. She always felt like if I could just find the right guy to marry and settle down everything would fall into place for me. That the world would just magically right itself."

"And you didn't feel the same?"

"No, I always wanted more. I always related more to my dad because of it. He got my sense of adventure but mom always wanted me to settle into life. Somehow though I always felt like if I didn't fulfill mom's dream of happy ever after it would be a failure and I wanted to get it right. Especially with a baby on the way. I should've known things wouldn't work though. No matter what Neal thinks or says I didn't get pregnant intentionally but I was happy. I thought we were building a life together and I was naive enough to think that he'd want to settle down once he found out. The night that I went to tell him about the baby we had had a fight because he wanted to go out and he didn't. So, I thought I would surprise him to make it up to him. That was the night I found him in bed with Tamara. I found them out together and he told me I was being crazy. I went home and then decided to make things better by telling him about the baby. I let myself in and found them in bed. I don't know why he even bothered but somehow he convinced me it was a one-time thing. Made sure I knew it was a reaction to some behavior that I had that he didn't like. Taking responsibility was never really his strong suit but I stayed. I was having a baby in a place far from home so I stayed. It was hard and it wasn't good for either one of us really. The confidence I had in our relationship was shaken by his cheating so I kept throwing it in his face. Naturally he didn't think that was fair, and I suppose it wouldn't have been if I hadn't learned later that he was actually was still seeing Tamara. So ultimately totally fair. We started fighting all the time and I was just super stressed out and insecure."

Killian felt a sense of dread go down his back but he pushed it away. She hadn't looked up since she started talking but he could hear the tears in her voice. Knowing her as he was coming to he knew that she was probably doing everything she could to stay strong. Discreetly he looked at her, her eyes fixated on her fingers and the nail polish she was chipping off the nails. Wherever she was she wasn't there with him anymore.

"Finally one night he was just gone. I was twenty-five weeks pregnant. I woke up with some back pain, which wasn't all that unusual, but this felt funny. It was just different so I called Neal. By that point he was practically staying at his place every night. Always made sure I knew it was because he couldn't stand my nagging and complaining. No one answered at his place and the pain just kept getting worse. Finally I called the coordinator for our location. She was going to look into it and see if she could find out where he was but I had a bad pain. I hung up and called for an ambulance but I think I already knew what was happening. When I got to the hospital the doctors did everything to try and stop my labor but it was too late. I was just barely past the six month mark and the likelihood of my baby surviving was incredibly low. He was a boy. I had a son. So tiny. Not even two pounds but he was beautiful. He was so beautiful. They took him to the NICU and put him on oxygen to help him breathe. As soon as they'd let me I went in and sat with him. I sat there with him for two days, pouring every drop of my strength into him, but eventually I told him it was okay to go. The doctors said it was a struggle for him to breathe and hat he likely would never have normal brain function. I would have loved him no matter what Killian, but I gave him my blessing to stop fighting. I held his little hand as he slipped out of this life. Less than a day later the coordinator, Miss Blue, got in contact with me and told me that he and Tamara had left earlier in the day the day the day my baby was born. In the same day I lost my child and my boyfriend. My son was forty-six hours hold and Neal shows up here today exploiting him for money."

Her story told she hunched over, quiet sobs wracking her body. More than anything he wanted to destroy Neal Cassidy for the way he had tried to break her. He had cheated on her and abandoned her while she was pregnant and now, four years later, he was back trying to extort her for cash over her dead child. He may not know the child was dead but he did know that it was his. He never asked about the child, only assumed the worst of Emma while trying to cash in on their marriage.

"Emma? Love, are you okay?"

"I haven't been okay since the day I lost my child. I didn't know what to do when I got back. I didn't want to admit my failures so I just didn't talk about anything. I stayed quiet and went out on my bike. Went on whatever adventures I could go on just to get my mind off of things."

"Right now. Are you okay right now?"

"I don't know what to do. I don't know how to fix this. Neal is here and he's threatening to expose all this and I don't know what to do. Do you have any ideas?"

"It all depends on you love. It's about what works for you because I honestly just want to have him arrested for extortion. He forgets that he's dealing with a member of royalty now. I can have him arrested without it being a big, public thing but I can't hold him without due process. Snakes like him rarely ever slink quietly back into the night."

"I don't want him arrested. I don't know what to do. I feel like I should just tell everyone and take away his ammunition but after all this time how do I do that? How do I tell my parents that they had a grandchild and I never let them grieve for him?"

"Emma, they'll grieve I'm sure but this was your loss. It was personal to you and no one, not your parents and not even Neal would ever be able to understand it. I'm going to tell you something and I don't want you to think I'm trying to shift the conversation. I'm not."

"Okay. What is it?"

"Milah and I were pregnant when she got sick."

For the first time Emma looked up at him. Her eyes were red-rimmed but there were questions dancing in them.

"I'm so sorry Killian. What happened?"

"She was a few months along. We were over the moon, we'd been trying for a while, and then we got the good news that she was going to have a baby. It's why we didn't catch the cancer sooner. We thought her symptoms were pregnancy related but they weren't."

"Did she miscarry too?"

"No, she didn't. Unfortunately because her cancer was so advanced by the time we caught it the doctors told us that the only slight chance to save her would be to end the pregnancy. She considered trying to carry to term but the doctors assured us that the cancer would kill her before the baby was viable outside of the womb."

"So it was either save her and take the baby or lose them both."

"In the end it didn't really matter. I lost them both anyways."

Emma could see the depth of his grief reflecting in his eyes. She had been certain he wouldn't understand her grief. To lose something you've had was one thing but to lose something you've never had was very different.

"Did you know if it was a girl or boy?"

"No, it was too early for that. It makes it easier in some ways but in my head I always imagine it was a little girl. I don't know why."

Unbidden the image of Killian with a blonde haired little girl riding on his shoulders came to her mind and she had to stop herself from gasping. She had seen pictures of Milah. Her hair was long and dark. The blonde child was clearly an image of Killian with their little girl. In an instant she wanted it so badly that the pain of not having it was nearly palpable.

"What would you like to do about Neal love? Whatever you decide is fine with me. I'll follow your lead. But whatever you decide know this. You have no reason to feel guilt or shame for the loss of your lad. He was your child and you loved him."

"But how is parliament and the rest of the kingdom going to feel about a princess who had a baby outside of marriage. For them it's normal but they forced you to get married because of an antiquated law. I doubt that they're going to be accepting of the fact I was pregnant and not married."

"Sod them Emma. You were abandoned by the father and left to suffer the loss of your child alone. If they feel anything but compassion for you tough."

"You say that because you're my husband. What about your parents and parliament?"

"Well there's only one way to know about my parents love. Would you like to tell them? I can ring them and we can tell them together."

"I don't really want to but I do feel it would be best. But will you tell them the story Killian? Please, I can't go over it again. My own parents don't even know yet."

"Of course lass. Whatever you wish. Do you want to tell your parents first?"

"No, we need to get this situation with Neal taken care of first."

"Alright. I'll call my parents and we'll talk to them."

An hour later found Emma and Killian in the living room with his parents, a worried expression on their faces. Emma was sitting next to Killian, her feet tucked up next to her while she burrowed in as close as she could get. Whatever was going on clearly was upsetting her and on Killian's part he looked like there was a quiet rage simmering just below the surface. Louisa was the first to speak. "So Killian, what's going on?" You both seem rather upset."

"We have an issue that we need your guidance on."

"Are the two of you having a baby?"

"No mother."

"Then what's going on?"

"We went for coffee earlier and ran into one of Emma's exes. He's trying to blackmail her."

"What kind of information does he have to use?"

"When Emma was in the Peace Corp she was with this guy, Neal Cassidy. They were all but living together and he was assuring her that he wanted a life with her. She ended up getting pregnant just as she learned that he was cheating on her. They tried to make it work for a while but then one night she was having some pain and when she called him she couldn't find him. She went into premature labor and had a son. He lived for just shy of two days before he passed away in the NICU. The next day she found out that Neal had left the Peace Corp with the woman he'd been cheating on her with, with no way to contact him. He showed up today and he's demanding money or he's going to go to the press and tell them that she either aborted the baby or put it up for adoption."

The story told he waited for his parent's reaction.

"Killian, that's terrible. Emma, are you okay?"

"Not really."

"That's a tragic tale Emma, no doubt. I do wish that you had told us about it before though so that we were able to handle it in advance."

Killian's jaw clenched but Emma put her hand on his arm, calming him almost instantly. Where he was driven by emotion she was calmer and that calmness soothed him in a way that he wasn't able to fully understand.

"I've never spoken about this to anyone Louisa. Not even my parents. I was so ashamed and so broken by the loss of my child that I just came home and put it behind me. I was actually planning on telling Killian soon but then Neal showed up."

"Well obviously I understand all that Emma but we are royals. We're not really allowed to have these types of skeletons in our closets."

"Mother…" There was a warning in his voice that made Emma slightly uncomfortable.

"Killian, I know that it's unpleasant but it has to be thought of. We're not just people."

"No, we are. We have a title and yes, a birthright but the pressure to be perfect all the time is wrong. I had to run away from my people after the loss of my wife because I knew my grief would be picked apart. I've even read articles criticizing my marrying Emma because she was not familiar with royalty and how things are done. Emma had a right to her grief and she had a right to deal with it in whatever manner she saw fit. She was not obligated to tell anyone about her loss."

"Well of course it's not fair Killian but it is the way that it is. Royals are under scrutiny at all times."

Finally, his tenuous grasp on his temper snapped.

"Mother, I'm telling you right now that you need to be thinking about Emma right now. I understand that the crown is important to you but I am your child and Emma is my wife. This man left her completely alone in a place where she had no one while she was pregnant. He never even knew that she had to face the loss of their child alone. Yet he's back here trying to extort her and you're more focused on damage control than on making sure that she's okay."

"Don't you take that tone with me Killian Jones. I am your mother."

"At this moment you seem to be more focused on being my queen."

"That's not fair and you know it."

"What's not fair is that instead of getting any kind of compassion from her mother in law, not her queen, your mind immediately went to chastising her. This is not the kingdom's business. If and when the information is released it should be done because Emma wants to share it with them, not because the deadbeat who left her is demanding money from her."

An idea hit Emma in an instant.

"Killian, I have an idea if your parents are open to it."

"What's that love?"

"I want to get the money but I don't want to give it to Neal."

"What are you thinking?"

"I want to have a press conference here, tonight. I'll call my parents first of course but it needs to be tonight. I want to share my story with the press, to take away his power, and then I'd like to take the money that he's requesting and donate it to a charity for pregnancy loss awareness."

"We could just donate the money lass. No one needs to know."

"I'm not ashamed Killian. As you stated I didn't do anything wrong. If we don't take it to the press then Neal keeps his ammunition. We need to stop him. If the people are going to know about my past I want it to come from me. We could tell Neal the truth but the fact of the matter is that he's not going to care. That baby meant nothing to him and even now he sees him as only a meal ticket. I have to take that power away."

"Emma is right Killian. I think that she's come up with the perfect way to diffuse the situation."

Killian glared at his mother, frustrated by the fact that once again his mother was focusing on the situation instead of on the fact that Emma was being pressured into releasing information about her personal life against her will.

"Emma, are you sure." He chose to ignore his mother, knowing that right now wasn't the time to focus on their relationship. Emma needed him to be present for her and all he could think about right now was making sure she was okay. Since it appeared that no one else in his family was going to do it.

"I'm sure Killian. Let's call my parents first. I need to tell them. They can't find out on the news. But I want the press conference tonight. Are you sure it's okay to donate the money Louisa?"

"It's fine Emma. In fact, I think it's a great idea. Especially since it's so personal to you."

"Not just personal to me. I know that Killian lost a child during Milah's pregnancy too. I want the money to be from both of us, in honor of our children."

Killian's head shot up, looking at Emma in disbelief. How was it that this woman was his wife? There were flaws, on both of their parts, but in the middle of all the mess that had been his life the past few years she was a rare bright spot. Her kindness and compassion radiated from her. She was beautiful for certain but his draw to her was more because of her heart. He wanted to make sure she was serious but he didn't really need to ask the question. He knew the answer. In the midst of this nightmare that Neal was putting her through she was thinking about his grief and trying to honor his pain as well as hers. He wasn't sure how he'd gotten so lucky.

Across from him on the couch the king watched with amusement as wonder and a sense of dawning seemed to flash across his son's face. It was as though his eyes were being opened for the first time and Brennan counted himself lucky that he got to be there for this moment. The situation was hardly ideal and the next day was going to be taxing for both Killian and Emma but in this moment, he could see that his son was having that moment that so rarely gets to be witnessed by another person. The moment that he realized he was very likely in love with his wife.