A/N: Hey everyone! After a spell of time away, this chapter comes bearing a long awaited milestone. That's right – it's proposal time. In my typical fashion I have made it a fluff fest, and I may have overcompensated a little just because it will likely be an even longer hiatus away until I can update this story (and any of my other stories) again. Hope you guys enjoy and thank you as always for reading!
"And you're sure you're okay with me and Killian going to the dance together?" Emma asked Henry for probably the hundredth time as they stood at one side of the town gymnasium hanging streamers for tonight's holiday party. Henry, meanwhile, only sighed like her question was too ridiculous to engage with.
"Mom, come on. You know I'm okay with this. Killian's the best, and I mean you guys are a couple and that isn't changing any time soon, right?" he asked and Emma shook her head.
"No it's not," Emma assured her son. "It's just that this will be our first year going where you aren't my date, kid, and I don't want you to feel left out."
"Answer me this, Mom: If I wanted to come with you and Killian and for it be the three of us, is there any chance in the world that Killian would say no?"
"No," Emma replied instantly, seeing Henry's point as she bit back a smile.
"And if I was actually sad about the plans today, don't you think that you, as my Mom, would know that? You can read people better than anyone, so what is my face telling you right now?"
This time Emma did break into a smile because Henry exaggerated his once normal features into a huge, over the top grin. He looked so strange, and to any passing neighbors he would appear downright ridiculous, but Emma got the point.
"That you're a goof ball, but a happy one who is not at all distressed about tonight."
"Exactly," Henry said with an air of finality. "Besides, it's a good thing you and Killian are going together because I have my own date."
Emma chuckled at Henry's response, assuming it was an attempt at teasing her after her making such a big deal about her date with Killian, but either her son had established a world class poker face this afternoon or he was serious. Emma didn't know which reality would shock her more.
"You… wait what? Henry, what are you talking about?"
"Didn't I mention it?" Henry said, clearly giving away by the tone of his voice that he knew full well he had not. This was sneakiness at its finest, and whether it was the general cheer of this time of year, or the extra business of the holidays that had allowed this change of status to slip past Emma she couldn't begin to comprehend. Instead all she could fixate on was the bizarre and highly unanticipated news her son had just shared.
"Uh, no you didn't. I think I would remember if my ten year old came to me and said he had a date," Emma chastised, her hands coming up to her hips as her brow arched questioningly in Henry's direction.
"It's not a big deal, Mom." Not a big deal? How could this ever be construed as 'not a big deal?'
"What's not a big deal?" Elsa asked as she appeared beside them with a new basket of hand cut snow flakes for Emma and Henry to string from the ceilings and tape up to the walls.
"Henry got asked to the dance tonight," Emma said, expecting shock from her friend, but getting the opposite instead.
"Oh yeah, I saw it yesterday! It was so sweet the way Grace made you that sign. I didn't realize kids were starting that trend so young these days."
"Wait what?! You knew about this and didn't tell me?" Emma asked and Elsa finally had the good sense to look surprised as it dawned on her that Emma might be in the dark about an incredibly important detail of her kid's life.
"You didn't know? Emma, I'm sorry, I thought you did. I assumed Henry would tell you or if not him than pretty much anyone else in town. She asked right there on Main Street. It was kind of hard to miss actually."
Emma blinked at the statement as she tried to understand exactly what was being said and what was happening right now. Was she seriously being told that her son had experienced a big grand gesture and she completely missed it? That was a terrible feeling, and now Emma didn't know how to move or act. Was this a childhood friendship turned into a crush? Was Emma already at the point where she would have to talk to Henry about relationships? Please God, let her have a little more time! She could handle a lot of things but she couldn't handle this. Not yet anyway.
"Don't worry, Mom. Grace and I are just friends," Henry promised, obviously seeing her worry and utilizing his most sincere expressions and voice to try and calm her. "She just asked me as a social experiment."
"An experiment?" Emma clarified at the same time that Elsa asked the same question.
"Yeah, a social experiment. We were learning about them in school and how the scientists observe people instead of like chemicals and stuff – you know what, it's a long story. Basically Grace just wanted to see what the old ladies at Granny's would say if she asked me. Then she took a bunch of notes in her field journal about what they and everyone else said and did. She says she's going to write a book about Storybrooke someday and this will make for a good opening chapter."
"Isn't she Henry's age?" Elsa whispered to Emma and Emma barked out a laugh but nodded, knowing that Henry had chosen a very driven and intellectually adventurous girl to be his best friend. It was funny though, because to anyone else the thought of a ten year old conducting a social experiment would be crazy, but to Emma it made more sense than the romantic alternative that five seconds ago had had her near a state of full blown panic.
"So just to be clear, you and Grace are scientists, not actually dating."
"Correct," Henry said with a smile and Emma expelled a shaky breath as she smiled too before suggesting they get back to work to transform this gym for the dance to come.
Despite the hiccup in her afternoon where Emma had a mild heart attack over her son growing up too quickly, the decorating and organizing for the dance went very well. Emma was happy for all of the laughter filled moments and even with the chaos of trying to get everything done and done up to her friends' standards, there was so much fun to be had. This was another tradition that all of them loved so dearly, but this year for Emma there was an underlying hum of anticipation thanks to Killian's being here.
Killian, Liam, David, and Graham had been in and out of the gymnasium most of the day doing some heavy lifting projects and basically responding to the beck and calls of Emma's friends. But for the last two hours or so they'd all strangely gone missing. Okay maybe not missing, per se, since Killian had come over and told her he'd be busy with some tasks away from the dance hall and would pick her up in a few hours time, but they'd been absent, and that absence had spiked a clouded mix of curiosity and yearning in Emma. She wondered what grand scheme Mary Margaret or Ruby must have for decorating the town as a whole since they were the ones running the show, but she also kind of wanted to ditch her post and go see if she could help with whatever it was they were doing so she and Killian could have another moment together after a long afternoon spent apart.
Nevertheless, Emma stuck with her duties until the end, and even when she'd been dismissed after hours and hours of busy work and was headed back home with Henry to get ready she didn't get the chance to get a full view of the town. She'd wanted to, and she'd even pitched the idea to Henry with as much enthusiasm as she could, but he was adamant that they had to get home. Social experiment or not, he had a date to get to, and Emma grinned to herself knowing that she had an actual romantic evening awaiting her if only she were patient.
Still, despite her rational thinking that everything would pay off in the end, patience was a hard commodity to come by. Emma grappled with wanting time to fly by all evening as she managed to get herself together for the dance, but she was ready with precious minutes left to spare and at one point her anxious anticipation grew so great that she was about to just give in and start pacing. Luckily for her, Henry could see right through her and he came to her side and offered a perfect solution just when she needed it the most.
"You know what always helps when you're feeling restless, Mom…"
"Cocoa," they acknowledged at the same time, and though they were dressed in a much fancier way than on normal days, Emma and Henry went through the same routine they always did to make their special drink together.
Extra care was taken given the risk that a simple spill could upend either one of their night's completely, but as Emma mixed together the sweetness of the cocoa to get it exactly right and Henry dolloped some fresh whipped cream on top before adding their touches of cinnamon, she felt any of her earlier tensions slipping away. In this space the two of them were just a mother and her son, and there were no plaguing questions of what lay ahead and what milestones Henry would face next. He was just her little boy, and Emma was the woman lucky enough to have a child with such a kind heart and a good head on his shoulders.
"Hey Mom?" Henry said at one point, breaking into the rhythmic cycle and bringing Emma's attention directly back to him. "Can I ask you something?"
"Anything, kid," she assured him as they each took their mug of cocoa and brought it to their lips.
"Are you still scared of being with Killian?"
It took everything in Emma not to choke on her drink at that because it was entirely out of left field. The answer was wholly and completely no. Emma was not afraid in any way of Killian or the light he had brought to her by opening her up to love again. She had been afraid at one point not too long ago, but the tides had definitely shifted and now Emma was past that stage. She was firmly rooted in acceptance now, acceptance of Killian and all that he brought into her world, acceptance that romantic love actually was something she could have after all, and acceptance of herself and her past scars that might never fade but which wouldn't keep her from giving Killian and this relationship everything she had.
"No, Henry. I'm not scared. Why do you ask?"
"I don't know," Henry hedged, although it was clear he did since he'd asked the question. "It's just that you're always worried. Like with the dance tonight. You didn't know if you wanted him to be your date."
Understanding washed over Emma as he said that and she suddenly realized what was happening. Here she was trying to make sure that Henry was okay at every step of the way given all the change in their lives, but it was having the opposite effect of what she hoped. Her goal was truly to make sure that her son was okay with this. He was clear in his affections for Killian, and he'd always been the biggest cheerleader of this relationship from the start, but Emma liked to be sure of things, and when it came to Henry's happiness she couldn't take chances. Yet even with all that said she could see in retrospect that maybe she was a bit overbearing, and maybe those queries could have been taken a different way to a young boy who didn't understand the world as fully as she did.
"You want to know why I worry?" Emma asked, sidestepping the question of whether or not she'd wanted to be Killian's date for a moment to get to the heart of this faster. Henry nodded, eager to try and fix the problem, whatever it was. "I worry because I'm a Mom, a mom to an amazing kid who gives so much of himself to so many people. You have a generous heart, Henry, and while it's beautiful and wonderful to be that way, it's my job to make sure you don't give too much. I need to be sure of everything, and most importantly I need to be sure of you. So what you see as worry, I see as checking in to make sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are as okay as you tell me."
Henry let these words sink in as he sipped at his cocoa, and Emma swore she could track every thought that floated through his mind. He was so expressive and so open as he came to terms with Emma's actions, and when he stumbled on the fact that it was all done out of love and that these moments of questioning didn't reflect at all on the security of Emma and Killian's bond, he smiled widely.
"That makes sense," Henry agreed. "But I promise you Mom, that when it comes to Killian you don't have to check with me. I chose to make him a part of our family just as much as you did."
Emma was struck by the choice in Henry's words on two parts. The first was the most glaring: Henry had just described Killian as part of the family, and while Emma felt that too, it wasn't technically official. There was love here to be sure, and Emma knew that Killian was not the type of man to leave or to take back his love. He was a constant now, someone who would stay and be with them as long as he could possibly do so, but family was such a strong word it had to take Emma aback a little bit.
The other strange thing was that Henry said there'd been choice involved, and for some reason it didn't feel like his choosing to support Emma's decision was what he meant. Emma might have just been digging into things that weren't there, but that niggling voice in the back of her mind was at it again and it was telling her there was more to Henry's understanding of events than she realized. Before she could let the thoughts solidify though or manifest more lines of questioning for Henry though, her son was hopping down from his stool and heading for the door.
"Killian's here!" Henry announced, though Emma heard nothing to give that away until a few seconds later when a knock sounded. Since Henry had a head start (thanks to what kind of magic Emma couldn't say), the door was opened immediately, and Emma was barely in sight of it when Killian was revealed and she stopped in her tracks.
It dawned on Emma that this was the first time she'd ever seen Killian really dressed up. Their first date had been a mix of elegant and sleek, but this was something else all together. It made Emma's heart race and her mouth water to see him looking so sharp and put together in that tux, and then his eyes caught hers and his slightly tilted grin graced that handsome face making her knees go weak. Damn him and that constantly sexy demeanor! Here she was trying to rise above her constant state of attraction to him and then Killian showed up like this, threatening her resolve and making it impossible to conceal anything that she felt. Her desire for him was written all over her face she knew, but despite that vulnerability Emma had to thank the heavens for this year's Storybrooke dance. Because even if she felt more than a little tongue-tied and could sense the embarrassing tint of a blush reddening her cheeks, she was damn glad to have this chance.
"This is usually the part where people do the talking," Henry said after a moment, pointing out to both Killian and Emma that they'd been staring at each other for far longer than was normal and it pulled them both back into the moment with Emma biting back a groan and Killian chuckling as he ran a hand through his hair.
"Apologies, lad. I'll admit I was a bit too stunned by your Mum's beauty to rise to that challenge at first," Killian stated easily as his eyes locked on Henry before sneaking more glances at Emma that she felt like an actual caress on her skin. She'd wondered before about this deeply colored red dress she'd chosen for the evening, but with Killian's clear and blatant approval so readily on display Emma had no room left for doubts.
"That's okay," Henry affirmed with all the patience a ten year old could ever hope to muster in a situation like this. "At least you're better than Liam. He just makes those grunting sounds at Elsa and I have to try to translate. It's exhausting."
"It is indeed," Killian replied conspiratorially. "I trust you won't be moved to nonsensical sounds when we pick up Grace tonight."
"No way! We've got too much to talk about with the…" Henry trailed off before casting a glance at Emma and backtracking. "Well you know just everything."
"Well if that's not a reason to get a move on I can't imagine one. Shall we go?" Killian asked and Henry agreed as he ran over to Killian's car leaving Emma and Killian with a moment alone.
"Hey you," she whispered as he took her into his arms and Killian hummed out a happy sound at her greeting.
"You really are stunning tonight, Emma. I wish I had other words, but again you leave me speechless."
"You don't look so bad yourself," Emma said, trying her hardest not to turn any pinker as she did, even when a gleam reached Killian's eyes that spoke to mischief and stolen moments all of which she wanted right now. "This look really suits you."
"I'm glad you like what you see, Swan. I'd make a jest about how you should see what's underneath, but we both know time's not exactly on our side."
Emma did know that, but it didn't stop her from pulling Killian in for a kiss for just a taste of what would no doubt come. It was short and sweet but packed with passion, and as they came apart again, walking hand in hand to the car, Emma carried the tingling feeling of attraction and desire with her. It would hum throughout her system all night long she knew, but after they'd arrived at the hall and gotten inside to see the full display for the dance, and after Henry had run off with Grace and Killian invited Emma to dance, she felt that flare of wanting fire up even more.
Pressed together as close as was decent, with Killian's undeniable prowess when it came to dancing on full display, Emma felt the magic of this moment. This was what the movies made such a big deal of, and for the first time in her life Emma was experiencing that. She felt the rest of the room, and the world there with it, fall away from view until all that was left was the music and the man who held her close. It was intimate and perfect, and though interruptions came – because they always came in Storybrooke no matter what – Emma couldn't remember ever enjoying a town function as much as she was enjoying this right now.
It was hard to imagine that this moment could get any better. Being here, surrounded by the town, and celebrating at one of the events Emma had always loved but never got to fully take part in, she felt that same undeniable sense of security and joy. The aura around this whole place was tangibly that of the Christmas spirit, and swaying around the room in Killian's arms, knowing that she'd finally found someone to share these romantic moments with was truly touching. She couldn't figure how they could possibly improve on all of this, but when the sixth song they swayed to ended and the next one began, Killian stopped dancing and spoke once again.
"I hate to steal you away from this place when it's clear how much you're enjoying yourself, love, but I was hoping to share something with you and think now's the time to do it."
"Okay. Lead the way," Emma said without hesitation. If Killian was running the show Emma was sure there was something wonderful in store, and the thought that he might be pulling her away from the crowd for a little more privacy thrilled her. This would still be here when they returned and the night was far from over. So why not spend a little time in whatever thoughtful way Killian had up his sleeve?
On the walk from the dance floor through the hall, however, Emma caught the eyes of most of her friends. They too had been dancing, but had all stopped to watch Emma and Killian sneak off and it was strange. Not that they were watching, because it often felt like they always were, but that they all shared the same expression. They were pretty far away, but Emma swore she even saw something resembling tears in Mary Margaret and Anna's eyes and she was tempted to go over there and investigate until both of them sent her two thumbs up. Okay, seriously? What was going on here?
Something important, Emma's mind said as the realization. Something big is about to happen.
There wasn't a way to describe how Emma knew that. To an outsider her musings might seem coincidental or like she was reading too much into her friends' reactions. But in her heart Emma's instincts were on alert. They knew something, something she didn't know, and as she looked back up at Killian and she took in the look on his face that was a cross between love and a little bit of anxiety, her intuition started to piece it together. What could possibly make Killian worry? What could make him nervous other than the possibility that they weren't going to be together? The unwanted thought of a situation where they were no longer a couple clung to Emma in the moment that they walked out of the dance hall, but what awaited them outside washed all of the negativity away:
Snow, fluffy and white and picturesque, was currently falling down in the first flurry of the season and seeing it had Emma smiling immediately. Ever since she was a kid the first snow of the year had always been special. Nothing and no one could taint that feeling in the air when the crispness of winter yielded the first icy flakes, and for Emma, it was the thing that made this time of year magical. Before she had family, before she'd found home, she had this, and now that she had all of those other things, the first snow was even more captivating. She closed her eyes, breathing it in and expelling her breath in a dreamy sigh soon thereafter.
After a moment Emma felt Killian's hand tighten in hers and she opened her eyes again to look at him seeing that the nerves of before had all now dissipated. He was looking at her instead with so much hope and she felt struck by it. Suddenly it dawned on her that this wasn't just happenstance. Killian had to have some kind of plan, a plan that hadn't fully dawned on her yet.
"How did you know it would snow tonight?" Emma asked, shaking her head as she tried to make sense of it and watching as a bit of red crept into Killian's cheeks. He smiled still, but it wasn't his voice that sounded out to answer her. It was Henry's.
"He knew because we planned it that way."
"He knew because we planned it that way."
The explanation from Henry was blunt but also very true, though Killian knew as Emma turned to face her son that she still didn't fully comprehend. She was putting the pieces of the puzzle together but it would take time for her to realize just how much organization and thought went into all of this. After all, Henry might have some powerful magic, but summoning snow was hardly easy, especially not enough snow for the activity that Killian had in mind to share with Emma right now. It had been a team project, something undertaken by Killian and Henry with the help of all of Emma's friends, but it was worth all of that effort for the reaction his Swan had etched on her face right now.
"You two planned the snow?" Emma asked, her voice charged with emotion as Henry nodded. "That's so sweet."
"That's not all, Mom. Not even close."
Emma looked back to Killian with questioning on her beautiful face but he didn't respond, not when the answers she was seeking were turning the corner right now and saddling up to the where they were standing. In just a matter of seconds the plan was fully revealed, but as Emma's eyes caught on the horse drawn sleigh before them Killian's own gaze stayed trained on her. He didn't want to miss a second of her reaction and what he saw made all of the waiting he'd had to bear one of the best investments he'd ever made. It had been torture to delay proposing once he knew for certain that he had Henry's approval, but as Killian saw Emma's expression painted with every good emotion and so much raw excitement that it couldn't be contained, he knew this was right. This was the opportunity he'd been seeking and now all that they needed to do was take it.
"Oh my God," she whispered to herself only to repeat the phrase of exclamation again with more ardor. "Oh my God!"
The grasp that Emma had of Killian's hand tightened substantially as she took in the majestic beast that led the old fashioned mode of transport, and Killian grinned at how she couldn't seem to stop looking back and forth between their ride and him and Henry. It made his whole being fill with true elation to see Emma with this rejuvenated, child-like wonder, and he could see Henry was just as thrilled at their success right out of the gate. One trait that the two of them undoubtedly shared was their deep desire to see Emma happy, and it was one of many things that had made them such a good team in planning parts of this together.
"It seemed high time that we remedy the past, Swan, and I believe fate owes you a ride."
"Seriously?" Emma asked, like she couldn't believe this was really happening even as Killian brought her over to the gentle giant of a horse leading the charge. Emma was so awed by the large animal but when she reached out to pet the horse it became clear she was a natural.
"Seriously," Henry agreed, and Emma looked back to her son and then to the sleigh that looked like it would only fit two people in the back behind the driver in the old-timey costume. The tiniest trace of concern creased at her brow, but Henry nipped it in the bud immediately. "And don't worry about leaving me behind, I have dibs on the next one with Belle."
"The next one?" Emma asked as Killian helped her up into the carriage. He shrugged casually in response as he supplied her with a bit more context.
"Well it hardly seemed right to deny this experience for everyone else after we discussed it all together… so there are more sleighs waiting in the wings to gather the others on their own rides around town."
"God I love you," Emma blurted out and Killian chuckled, bringing her hand up to kiss lightly and feeling the warmth of her skin despite the chill in the air around them.
"Hold on to that thought, love. It'll come in handy later."
Emma was still too in shock to say much of anything after Killian rounded to the other side of the horse drawn sleigh and got in. He didn't mind though, not when she looked as happy and awed as she did. Instead he pulled out the softest blankets that he could find in town that he'd prepped the sleigh with before and he built for them a cozy sort of comfort in the mist of a snowstorm. During that time their friends all exited from the dance, coming to stand with Henry on the whitened sidewalks to await their own tours of the sudden winter wonderland, and waving goodbye to Emma and Killian as they moved into the Storybrooke night.
The drive as they set off through the heart of their little town was idyllic and beautiful, and whether it was from the tint of Henry's (and the rest of Emma's friends) magical interference (which had also provided a mildness of temperature that no actual snow could bring so as to keep Emma and the others all comfortable tonight), or just Killian's own excitement at the moment still to come, Killian swore he saw this silvery sort of sheen around everything. It looked like a world retouched with movie magic or seen through some otherworldly lens and it was breathtaking. They had truly managed to make a winter wonderland from the foundations of the village they all called home, and that was exactly what Killian had wanted for Emma to have and hold on this special night.
"So what do you think of all of this?" Killian asked after a while tucked up together and Emma only shook her head as she looked back at him and smiled.
"I think I must be dreaming. I honestly can't figure how this is possible," she murmured as Killian brushed a strand of her wayward golden hair from her face and tucked it behind her ear. "I mean magic, obviously, but you and me and us being here, having this it's… it wasn't supposed to be like this. I didn't think – I didn't know – I never imagined my life would end up here. You know what I mean?"
"Aye. It's difficult to grasp that such happiness can be real. But it can be when we are together, Emma. Of that I am totally and completely certain."
Emma agreed with a soft kiss and then curled further into his side, soaking him through with a warmth and wanting that hummed through his system in a heady kind of high. This was just a taste of what he could be feeling in a few more minute's time if Emma and the heavens were kind to him, but Killian couldn't spare a shred of doubt or questioning on how this would turn out. He was unwilling to undermine the truth he carried with him always in his heart: that he and Emma were meant to be together and that they were both willing to take any steps needed to make sure that they had a forever spent side by side.
Yet even in his sureness Killian couldn't help the acceleration of his pulse or the sudden rapidness of his beating heart. As they neared the one spot in particular that he hoped would change their lives forever, Killian tried to fathom what was to come and came up empty. All he could do was wait and hope and trust that this would all work out as he'd dreamed it would since realizing he and Emma were a forever kind of love.
He tried to keep himself contained as their driver this evening took them off the main roads and down the forest paths that had been carefully chosen for this night. All afternoon Killian and his brother and friends had worked to set these twinkling lights and lanterns up to line the path, but he never imagined they'd work so well. In the darkness of the night they shone like the stars he'd envisioned, and yet even with their beauty and the flawless way it had all come together, it was difficult for Killian to keep it together. He knew the route they were traveling so well after weeks of planning, and he could feel them getting ever closer to their destination, the one perfect spot where he wanted to propose to Emma after searching the town over for a place beautiful enough for her.
Finally they arrived in that all too rare location, a small glen that was still removed from the main road but close enough to see it through the trees now bare of leaves. Once there, the sleigh drew to a stop and the older man leading their horse went along with the plan Killian had proposed at the start of all of this. He apologized for the delay and said that he needed to check in on another sleigh that was just on the next street ahead of them. He promised to be back shortly (though not too quickly in actuality) and then proceeded to tell his horse to wait before heading down the road before them. Meanwhile Killian's sense of urgency began to climb exponentially. He couldn't fathom that they could actually be at this point he'd wanted to reach for so long and the adrenaline was beginning to overtake his senses, but it was Emma's hand running over his chest that pulled him back together and into this perfect moment once more.
"I hope everything's okay," Emma said as she watched the man go, and then her eyes caught on where exactly they were.
She likely noticed that this meadow was even more pristinely illuminated than the path before it had been, and that was intentional. Killian had wanted the stage set in a precise manner, and with this glen as the setting, it was easy to make his own kind of magic that hadn't required supernatural abilities or anything more than the love in his heart.
Killian had chosen this place for many reasons, partially because when one thought of this kind of outing, it was the embodiment of romantic sleigh ride in every way. But the real deciding factor for his picking this corner of the world was that it happened to be situated right on the edge of the property where the house Emma loved most resided. If one looked carefully, they could even see the lights from the home just through the tree line, but Emma didn't seem to realize that right now caught up as she was. However, someday, after she'd said yes to being his wife and the two of them had stood up before God and their family and friends and said 'I do', Killian hoped this would be the place he and Emma would build many more years of memories. He didn't know how long it would take to get them there, but he did know that having this piece of their story already taking place here would mean the world to him and to Emma.
"I can't believe you did all of this," Emma said, pulling him from his own runaway train of thoughts and back into the present where his hand was already in his pocket and fingering the ring that resided there. Then her green eyes caught his gaze, and it all clicked into place. The time was finally now, and Killian wouldn't waste another second not taking what he wanted.
"There is nothing in the world I wouldn't do for you, my love. But I was hoping tonight you might do something for me."
As he said the words, Killian maneuvered with a deft (and yes, pre-practiced) skill to shift from his seat to kneeling in the back of the carriage. He watched then as Emma's eyes widened and her free hand came to cover her mouth which had opened in a silent gasp, and her eyes stayed firmly locked on him even when the ring he wished to give her was in plain sight. Tears were forming in those pools of jade that always saw into his very soul, and though Killian hated to see Emma teary eyed, he knew they didn't come from any kind of pain, but pure hope that rivaled the hope in own heart right now.
"I was hoping you would agree to be my wife and take me as your husband."
A giggle bubbled past Emma's lips and sounded out even through the fingers that remained in front of her face, and Killian found himself laughing too, filling the beautifully charged quiet between them with more words that Emma deserved to hear and know for now and forever.
"I realize that this is fast, and perhaps more rational men would call me foolish for pouring my whole heart out to you now and in such a way. But I know anyone who would question what we have is the real fool. Love like this cannot be turned away from. It can't be quieted or pushed aside, and I would never dare to do so. Instead I promise that I will choose this love and choose you, Emma, every day for all my days. You've changed something in me, Swan. You've brought light where there was none before and if you'll let me, I'd like to spend the rest of eternity returning that favor. I want to give you everything, since you've given me the world just with your love. So, with that being said -,"
"Yes!" Emma squeaked out before covering her mouth once more and then shaking her head as she laughed again with the sweetest sound of sincere bliss etched in every tone. "Sorry, I got ahead of myself. I love you. I love this. Just keep going. I mean ask me, or maybe – oh heck I don't know, I -,"
This adorable rambling was the final straw for Killian and he disregarded her instruction as he came back up to kiss her, pulling Emma fully into his lap and reveling in the fact that she curled up into him just as quickly. This kiss was a raging flame amidst a sea of falling snow flakes, and all thoughts scattered except that he was holding his future right now and he was never letting her go. Emma was in this too. She'd said yes! His miraculous Swan had said yes and he was so far above the fray of the world in response. Killian was soaring above anything resembling an obstacle or annoyance, touching and feeling heaven itself, and that haze of golden pleasure didn't fade even when they broke apart and he leaned his forehead against hers trying to catch his breath.
"So you'll marry me then?" he asked in a whisper and Emma smiled so wide it was impossible not to return the emotive expression.
"Yes, Killian. A thousand times yes."
She said the words and Killian responded by slipping the ring always meant for her on her finger. It slid into the place Killian had long hoped to see it, but he couldn't get too caught up in that image, not when Emma demanded more from him. She spared the ring enough of a glance to call it beautiful and perfect, and Killian knew she meant it too, but then she was pulling him back down to her lips and brought him back into the fray of all this glorious emotion. There were no words to describe this, no known means of expressing just how glad he was in this moment and how desirous he was for it to never end, but the real celebration would have to wait since privacy would only be theirs for a few minutes longer.
"Much as I might like to run away with you right now, love, I've certain promises to keep. There are some people who want to wish us well now that you've given me everything."
"Henry was in on this from the start wasn't he?" Emma asked, her voice portraying that she didn't really need an answer but wanted one all the same.
"He was. He realized my intentions at Thanksgiving and then he informed me that I was going too slowly for his liking if you can believe it," Killian explained, smiling at how Henry had been nearly as impatient as Killian was to get here and how neither of them had made any attempts to hide that fact.
"Oh I can believe it," Emma replied with a laugh. "If Henry had his way we'd be married with a baby on the way already."
"Is that so?" Killian asked, his tone having dropped into something more flirtatious automatically at the mention of these next steps.
Emma swallowed harshly and her green eyes widened even as they darkened in their own form of wanting. She could no doubt witness the desire springing forth into his expression at the mention of all life's possibilities, and the hint at all that they could have with a wedding and more children someday… well it was almost overwhelming. No matter what she wanted or what path she choose to travel, Emma would always be enough for him, but the thought of a life built side by side with her that brought more life into the world did something to Killian he couldn't deny.
"Hold that thought, Jones," Emma said as evenly as she could, though Killian saw the traces of her own wanting lingering in her eyes and lacing the sweet sound of her voice. "Let's just take this one step at a time all right? We can leave the whole planning out the future thing be until after we go tell everyone the good news."
Killian was tempted to make his case about his being a hell of a multitasker, but deep down he knew Emma was right. As splendid as this moment might be, they lacked the proper span of privacy for a conversation of that magnitude. A chapter like that with all its implications and details would require more time, but Killian took comfort in the fact that they were already taking steps towards forever. Everything else would come in due course, but for now the two of them had every reason for joy in the simple (yet truly remarkable) fact that Emma had said yes and that the two of them would one day be man and wife.
"As per usual you make an excellent point, love," Killian said eventually, pulling another smile from Emma since he understood her own opinions so easily. "Besides, I know for a fact your friends will never forgive me if I don't bring you to them soon. So your restraint is likely sparing me some serious bodily injury."
"I can't believe they all knew," Emma mused to herself with a tangible sense of disbelief as her hands continued to run over him absentmindedly. "I mean they're usually so terrible at keeping secrets, and this one… well let's just say I can't believe they actually pulled it off."
"I think the thing that sealed everyone's resolve was the thought that you deserved a night like this. There's not a person in this town who didn't want that for you, Emma, and your friends all wanted – nay, needed – to play a part in this. You mean so much to them, and all they wanted was to see you happy."
"Well it worked," Emma whispered as she held onto him, leaning into him once more until something caught her eye and she gasped. "Oh shit!"
"What? What's wrong?" Killian asked, turning to where she'd looked and finding the problem in all its glaringly brilliant glory. Because there, where once untouched and unvarnished white snow had been, there was now a growing presence of flowers all around. It was a mystical mix of springtime and winter, and there was no earthly explanation for it save for magic. It was a beauty that should not logically be, and yet Killian had never seen anything, save for Emma herself, that instilled such good feelings in his heart so quickly.
"How are we going to hide this?" Emma asked anxiously and Killian was confused until he realized her concern. She didn't recognize their driver this evening since he was from out of town, and she was looking back from where he'd gone to make sure he wasn't seeing this.
"You know Old MacDonald and his wife who own the farm at the edge of town?" Killian asked, confusing Emma even as she answered affirmatively. "Turns out he has a brother, a brother who is fully aware of the unusual events surrounding Storybrooke and who I'm told abides by all manner of discretion."
"Oh thank God," Emma said with a relieved smile as she let go of a tight breath. "Because I really don't know how to make this feeling go away."
"I hope it never does," Killian replied and Emma gave another happy sigh in agreement as she stole one last kiss from him before they were set back on the path for the night ahead. The driver returned, the sleigh ride continued, and eventually the big reveal came at the center of Storybrooke where everyone was waiting for an answer one way or another.
In retrospect that night, important and life changing as it undoubtedly was, felt like it was there one minute and gone the next. There were so many people to see, and so many details to share that Killian found himself already beginning to forget some of the particulars. The whole town wanted a part of this union they saw as a happy ending in the making and many folks were quick to give their two cents or let their thoughts be known. But the one thing Killian could never forget was Emma and the way she made everything all the better. Throughout it all she was right there with him, and even when they were separated for moments as people asked their questions and shared their joys, Killian never lost sight of the woman who'd changed his whole world just by being herself.
And in the end, after all was said and done and Emma, Henry, and Killian all finally had the chance to head back home, the best feeling in the world was getting to go together. For there was no more hiding the truth that everyone had known for quite some time anymore: Killian's place was with them – with the miraculous mother next door and her precocious little lad – for now and forever more, and nothing would ever change that as long as they lived.
Post-Note: So it is my sincere hope that you all have enjoyed this chapter. I actually wrote it over a week ago, but I just couldn't get the time to even reread it. Even now I'm sure there's a million and a half typos, but it had to get out there and I just had to share the long awaited proposal. Like I said it's a real fluff fest, but it just felt right given how fluffy this story has been otherwise. I am always looking for new ways to broach the proposal situation, and this one felt very fitting. Having Killian recreate a memory for Emma and bringing joy to her kid and her friends? I mean, it's perfect. Plus it reminded me of one of my favorite episodes of Gilmore Girls where their small town gets to go on these sleigh rides. It is truly just holiday cuteness at it's finest, and I hope that you guys enjoyed. Anyway thanks so much for reading, and again I thank you all in advance for your patience. I'm really not sure when I will get the chance to update again, but someday the ending of this story will come. I have it all plotted out in my head I just have to write it!