a/n: Thank you for your love for this story! I read every review like a hundred times they make me so happy. Hope you enjoy the chapter :)
Emma inhales a long breath through her nose as she stands next to Killian in the middle of David and Mary Margaret's porch. The outside of their house is just as quaint and perfect as the couple that owns it. A pot of hydrangeas sits in the corner, and off to the left rests a set of white wicker furniture that looks like it came straight out of one of those home and garden magazines.
Killian had done a valiant job in fending off Mary Margaret's desire for one of her so-called friend dinners for as long as he could. And he probably would have held it off even longer if Emma hadn't told him it was okay.
Sure, the last time she'd seen the couple she'd ran off with a desperate need for space and air—but that had been literal days after her accident and she'd had weeks to adjust now. She figures she's going to remember everything at some point, so she might as well start trying to embrace the people that claim they're a part of her life now.
Licking her lips she stares at the dark wood of the front door—a sign that reads The Nolan's in white spiraling letters hangs right in the center—and straightens her spine a little, steeling herself.
She can do this.
The soft sound of Killian sighing beside her grabs her attention and she turns to find a worried frown pressing down on his features.
"We really don't have to go in, love."
She lets out a sigh of her own. She really does appreciate his concern, but it makes her heart ache that 'sad and brooding' has been his mood of choice lately. Especially because she's pretty sure it's her fault. And she wishes it was the other way around—that she was the reason for his smiles or his laughter, instead of the worried crease between his brows that seems to have become a permanent resident.
"No, it's okay. We're already here and besides," she lifts the glass pan she's holding, the tinfoil covering it crinkling slightly, and smirks. Maybe a little teasing will lighten his mood. "We wouldn't want to waste this…what did you call these again? I mean you spent all day on them. It would be a shame if everyone didn't get to try them."
She gives the dish a skeptical look, biting back a smile when his eyebrows arch in mock offense.
"Cheesy potatoes, darling. And don't knock them till you try them."
"Right," she laughs.
His eyes sparkle for a moment as he smiles with her, and Emma feels her heart lighten. But too soon, he grows serious again.
"If it gets to be too much, just tell me. I promise we'll leave."
His gaze is intent on hers, and there's something in his blue eyes that is so beautiful, so safe and warm, that Emma has to blink to try and keep the stunned look off her face. She's had a harder time suppressing the way she feels about him ever since she decided that she was ready to let him in, and it doesn't help when he looks at her the way he does.
Inhaling through her nose, she takes a second to chastise herself—she really needs to get a grip on things.
"I'll let you know if I need a little air. But I want to do this—it'll be good for me to get to know everyone."
He smiles at that, and she counts it as a she'll start tallying his smiles, make it her goal to create as many as she can.
He turns to the door then, and gives it a solid knock.
The sign reading The Nolan's swings back and forth against the dark wood as the door opens.
David stands on the other side, his dark plaid shirt rolled up to his elbows, and his face splitting into a giant grin the second he sees them.
"Emma! Killian! I'm so glad you guys made it."
Killian immediately steps up and embraces the man. "Hey, Dave"
David thumps Killian on the back as he laughs. "We weren't sure you'd come, Mary Margaret is going to be thrilled. Everyone else is already here."
Killian releases a low chuckle. "We're glad we could make then."
When the two separate David turns his attention to Emma. "You're looking better, Emma. How are you feeling?"
David's grin is contagious, and she finds herself smiling in return. "Much better, thank you."
David looks her over as if he wants to say something more serious but stops himself with a tiny shake of his head. "That's good to hear. Here I'll take that—" he hurries forward to take the pan from her hands. "Come on in. I'll take this to the kitchen, I'm sure everyone's going to be excited to see you."
He steps aside and Emma and Killian walk into the front room. The high ceilings give the house an open and airy feel, and everything is as picture perfect as the front porch. The only difference is that the inside has a lot more of a vintage feel. Things are mismatched in a way that is somehow completely charming, and there're plenty of plants and flowers around to keep the space feeling light and fresh.
People are chatting happily to each other and Emma finds herself stopping in her tracks, taking a deep breath as she counts them. There are a lot—more than she was expecting—and she feels the beginnings of panic start to cram itself into her chest.
But as it rises and builds inside her, she's brought back down by the sudden warmth of Killian's hand at her back. She focuses on the contact and instantly the rush of anxiety inside her quiets, her breathing feeling easier.
She looks up to find him gazing at her with an arched brow, as if asking if she's still okay. Nodding, she gives him a tentative smile—she can handle this.
She looks out again and forces herself to really look.
Liam stands in a corner whispering and laughing with Elsa, and Granny's sitting on the couch talking with some brunette she doesn't yet know. But the longer she looks the more she realizes that a few people she already knows, and that most of the rest of them she recognizes from the pictures Killian gave her.
She just needs to keep reminding herself that no one here is expecting her to remember them.
Killian keeps his hand at her waist as they walk further into the house—for which Emma is grateful because she's not too sure what she'd do if he left.
But she should know by now, that she never gets everything she wants.
"Hey Killian!" David calls from the other side of the room, his head poking in from a set of french doors leading to an outdoor patio. "Come out back and help me set up these tables for a minute."
"Sure thing," he calls back before turning to her, his hand rubbing up and down her back almost subconsciously. "You okay on your own?"
"Of course," she tries to shrug off his concern, though she's not quite sure she believes her own words.
He seems to sense her apprehension and takes a moment to bend down and whisper in her ear. "I'll be back before you know it, love. Promise."
And just like that she's left standing in the middle of the room completely alone.
She fidgets on her feet for a minute, unsure of what to do. The noise around her is just a static of indistinguishable talking and laughter as she watches everyone around her. Surprisingly no one's coming up to her—which is quite the opposite of what she expected—and she finds herself relaxing just a little.
She spots Mary Margaret the second the woman steps out from underneath an archway that leads to another room. The petite, cardigan clad brunette comes gliding towards her—the bottom of her white skirt rustling slightly as she all put skips up to Emma, Leo settled snugly on her hip.
"Emma, I'm so glad you're here!"
Mary Margaret's smile is a little breathless and it crinkles her eyes in a way that makes it almost impossible not to smile back.
"I was worried you wouldn't come," she continues. "Killian told us how last time we came over was a little much and I'm so sorry about that. We shouldn't have come over so soon."
Emma shakes her head quickly. It's hard to blame someone like Mary Margaret. She's just so good. "No it's okay, really. I was still adjusting and I got a little overwhelmed is all."
"I still felt terrible," she tells her as she bounces Leo lightly, the baby sucking on his fingers while his other hand curls around the neckline of Mary Margaret's sweater. "But you look beautiful, Emma. How are things going? Any memories come back yet?"
Emma shrugs, wondering just how many times she's going to be asked that today. "A few."
She wishes it was a few more.
"That's good though." Mary Margaret reaches out and rubs a reassuring hand down Emma's arm. "Don't give up hope, everything will come back and everything will work out. It always does."
Emma's not so sure it always does, but she smiles in thanks just the same.
"Oh no," Mary Margaret gasps suddenly, looking across the room at the wooden clock hanging on the wall. "I totally forgot about the ham in the oven."
Mary Margaret places Leo in Emma's arm and before she can even open her mouth in protest the woman is dashing off for the kitchen.
Emma blinks, staring after where Mary Margaret disappeared before she turns her attention to the baby in her arms.
"Hey, Leo" she whispers unsure as she sways back and forth a bit.
Leo grins at her, and it's nothing but gums, before he reaches forward and pats his hand against her cheek.
Emma laughs softly before she reaches up and grabs his hand, all five of his tiny fingers wrapping around just one of hers. "Aren't you sweet?" She tickles at his side a little and delights in the way he giggles and drops his head to her shoulder in an attempt to evade her fingers.
"He's always liked you."
Emma snaps her head up to find a woman with large green eyes and dark brown hair standing next to her. Her lips colored a dark shade of red that matches the burnt burgundy of her shirt.
"Leo, I mean," she clarifies. "He's always liked you."
"Oh," Emma breathes, not sure what else to say.
"I'm Ruby, by the way," she tells her and reaches out a hand. Emma has to shift her hold on Leo slightly to shake it. "Killian told everyone beforehand to give you space and not overwhelm you." She rolls her eyes just a bit, but it's good natured. "He has a tendency to be overprotective."
Emma laughs just a little. The lack of people bombarding her the second she walked through the door suddenly making sense.
"You disagree with his tactics I take it?"
Ruby shrugs and reaches up to rub a gentle hand through Leo's hair. "I've never really listened to him anyways. Besides, I figure as long as I don't hug you, you'll be fine."
Emma laughs out right at this. Ruby's got a bit of fire to her, but she can't help but like how straightforward she is.
"I appreciate that," she tells her, still laughing. "I can't tell you how many people I don't know have hugged me since the accident."
Ruby's lips tip up in a half smile as if this doesn't surprise her. "We're friends, Emma. Trust me. That doesn't change just because you don't remember it."
Ruby's words take her aback a bit, but they still strike a chord that resonates deep inside her. These people are a part of her life…somehow. She's not sure if she can explain it in words, but she feels it.
Silence passes between them for a moment before Ruby brings a hand up and gestures in the direction Mary Margaret had disappeared to earlier. "Well, I'm going to go see if they need help in the kitchen. I thought I smelled something burning earlier."
"Alright, it was good…" Emma struggles for a minute for a word that doesn't sound like she's dismissing Ruby's earlier declaration of friendship, but finds she can't think of anything else. "It was good to meet you."
"We'll catch up soon," Ruby says with a wink before she makes her exit, her heels clicking against the hardwood as she follows Mary Margaret's path to the kitchen.
With a sigh Emma turns to Leo and bounces him till he giggles again. "That wasn't so bad."
He babbles back at her in answer before grabbing a chunk of her hair and yanking lightly. Emma flinches as she gently pries her hair from his fingers and flips it over shoulder and out of reach of his tiny hands.
Mary Margaret still hasn't come back for her baby, and feeling awkward just standing there, Emma makes her way to an empty couch and sits down. She stands Leo up on her thighs, an invitation he takes to immediately start bouncing, his little knees bending and straightening excitedly like it's a game he's played a thousand times.
Distracted by Leo's giggles, Emma doesn't notice Killian come back into the house until she feels the couch dip beside her and hears his voice low in her ear.
"Found yourself a friend, Swan?"
He's close enough that she only has to turn her head slightly to look at him. He has one arm relaxing on the couch behind her and the other hand resting on his leg—which he has propped up, his ankle resting easy on his knee.
He looks relaxed and comfortable, which is so much better than the anxious and worried look he'd been displaying earlier, and Emma finds herself smiling at him.
"He's the best company," she answers as she scrunches her nose and leans forward to shake her hair playfully in Leo's face, laughing at the way it makes him giggle. "He hasn't asked me how I'm feeling once."
Killian lets out a low chuckle and reaches forward to tickle at Leo's side. "That's a lad."
Leo's eyes widen as he looks at Killian, and he begins bouncing again, releasing a happy shrill. They both smile at the noise and Emma's heart squeezes with affection when Leo reaches forward to run his hand over Killian's scruff.
Killian lets Leo rub his cheek for a minute before he opens his mouth and pretends to bite at his hand, which only succeeds in increasing the baby's giggles.
"Dinner's about ready, we should probably head outside."
"Alright," Emma agrees. She looks toward the patio door just as Liam exits through it with Elsa, and Emma pauses a second as she looks at the couple.
Killian and Liam haven't said two words to each other since they arrived, and just from what she knows, that doesn't seem usual for the two brothers.
"You and Liam still fighting?"
Killian looks out and watches his brother through the window, his jaw clenching before he answers. "We just disagree on a few things at the moment."
"You should talk to him."
"I don't think either of us is going to change our stance on things."
"He's still your brother." Emma shrugs. She knows it's probably not her place, but she also knows how she'd give anything to have family the way he does.
Killian sighs, long and deep as he scrubs a hand down his face. "Aye, that he is." He pauses as he pushes himself off the couch and turns to offer her a hand. "Liam and I will get there, don't worry, Swan. Our fights never last too long anyways. Should we go find ourselves a spot to sit?"
Emma can recognize when someone's intentionally changing the subject, so she simply nods as she shifts Leo onto her hip and let's Killian pull her to her feet.
They walk outside together, the fresh air cool and sharp against their skin. Gazing around the backyard Emma stops for a moment. It's clear that Mary Margaret is a woman who probably outdoes herself more often than not.
Strings of lights cross over the backyard, hanging all the way from the roof to the top of the tall fence that lines their property. Several tables are pressed together to make one long dinner table covered in an elegant white linen table cloth. Each chair has a light burlap placemat in front of it, equipped with plates, silverware, and glasses. Several centerpieces of flowers rest in small little glass bowls to top everything off.
And yet, everyone continues to mill about and talk to one another as if something this extravagant is completely normal.
"It's beautiful," Emma comments under her breath.
She hears Killian chuckle a little beside her and she turns to find him smirking. "Mary Margaret does love her dinner parties."
Emma hums in agreement just as David comes walking towards them.
"There's my little buddy!" he exclaims just as he reaches out and takes Leo from her arms. Once he's settled at David's side, Leo instantly rests his head on his dad's shoulder. Two of his little fingers find their way into his mouth, and Emma feels just a little sad to not have him in her arms anymore.
"Why don't you guys find a seat?" David continues. "We should be getting started any second."
Emma ends up sitting with Killian on one side of her and Elsa on the other. Which she's happy for as it seems like the most non-threatening spot at the dinner table.
Mary Margaret stands near the head of the table and clears her throat. She beams at everyone, her hands clasped in front of her as she waits for silence to fall. "I'm so happy that we finally got around to doing this," she gushes once everyone is looking at her. "It's been far too long since we've all gotten together. Not to mention that today is special because Emma's here."
Emma can feel everyone turn and look at her, and suddenly uncomfortable, she drops her gaze to the plate in front of her, figuring maybe it won't feel quite as bad if she doesn't make eye contact with anyone.
"Anyway," Mary Margaret continues as she waves her hands, clearly catching on to Emma's aprehension. "We're happy she's doing better, and I was thinking that, if it's okay with you Emma, we could go around the table and say our names. Just so you can start feeling like you know everyone again."
Looking up, Emma finds Mary Margaret staring at her with hesitant but hopeful eyes as she waits for her to answer.
Emma swallows, reminding herself that these are in fact her friends, and that Mary Margaret only has the best intentions. She glances at Killian, seeking a second's worth of strength before she turns back to Mary Margaret. "Sure, th-that would be okay."
"Wonderful!" Mary Margaret claps her hands once as she sits down, bringing her hands to her chest as she says, "I'm Mary Margaret." She turns her attention to her husband, encouraging him to continue on with her little school game.
David chuckles good-naturedly. "I'm David, and this here is little Leo."
It continues on like that, and Emma does her best to remember everyone's names. But she's not sure if by tomorrow she'll remember who was Regina, or who was Belle, or if the cute little boy with dimples name was Raymond or Roland.
But she does now that it's hard to believe she ever had this many friends. And something swells inside her chest that isn't entirely bad. It's warm and suffocating in a way that almost brings tears to her eyes, but after a while the smile it brings to her lips is a genuine one.
She feels loved, for the first time in a very, very long time.
And overwhelmed, she reaches to her right beneath the table, seeking out Killian's hand. When she finds it she squeezes it hard before turning to look at him. His brow furrows for a moment at the tears in her eyes, but when he catches sight of her smile his face relaxes.
Squeezing her hand back, he winks at her and rubs his thumb across the back of her hand.
And his touch, combined with everything else she's feeling, is enough to make her heart burst.
It's late by the time they make it home, and Killian watches affectionately as Emma flops down on the couch, her body sprawled across the entirety of it.
She sighs dramatically and he chuckles at her as he moves to turn on one of the lamps standing in the corner of the room. He doesn't bother turning the rest of the lights on, letting the twinkling lights of the city shining in through the open windows illuminate the apartment.
It keeps the room dim, but he likes the way the city creates delicate patterns of light against the black night, glittering and blinking like trapped stars. It bathes everything in a soft orange glow, and Emma in particular looks beautiful with the light and shadows of the city dancing across her features.
He begins weaving his way through the furniture, and makes to sit in the armchair across from Emma when she sits up. Her hair falls from her shoulder and swings against her back as she pats the cushion next to her in invitation.
"I'm glad we went," she hums after he sits down, a relaxed tilt to her head and an easy smile on her lips.
He's glad too. Admittedly he'd been hesitant at first—and was ready to get Emma out of there the second she asked—but his worry had turned out to be unnecessary. And as the night went on and Emma only seemed to get happier and happier, he felt like his own heart was soaring watching her.
They're quiet for a moment, the silence between them easy and gentle. It's almost peaceful enough to fall asleep too, and his eyes drift closed for just a second until the sound of Emma resituating herself on the couch grabs his attention.
He opens his eyes to find her facing him, her fingers fiddling in her lap and her eyes downcast.
Killian furrows his brow and watches her. He knows that look just as much as he knows any of her other looks.
"What is it, Swan?"
She looks up at him, her teeth tugging on her bottom lip as if it might keep her from saying what's on her mind. Eventually she releases a deep breath, her small shoulders dropping as she exhales.
"I've just been thinking about a lot of things lately… and I have some questions…"
She trails off, looking at him seriously and Killian feels a weight drop in his stomach.
He swallows, resisting the sudden need to wipe his palms on his pants as dread at what she's about to ask coils and knots in his stomach. She could very well be wondering about anything, but he can't help but fear that she's going to ask about what happened between them.
He knows she needs to know, he knows that he needs to tell her. But in spite of all of this he hasn't been able to bring himself to say it.
It's like his mind knows that telling her is the right thing to do, but his heart is on the defensive, doing everything it can to prevent him from doing something that will inevitably cause him pain.
And he's well aware of how selfish that is.
But people do stupid things when they're scared.
"Alright…" he mutters in a low voice, slow and unsure.
She doesn't say anything right away. Instead she keeps looking down at her lap as if she's struggling to find the right words.
Finally she glances up at him. "I had another memory return a few days ago, the day I got my stitches removed, and in it you asked me out."
She pauses, watching him intently and giving him a chance to interject, but he's at a complete loss for words. Sure that whatever she's going to say next will shatter everything.
But he has no one to blame but himself.
"And then there's this thing between us," she continues, gesturing vaguely from her chest to his. "And then sometimes I catch you looking at me with this warmth in your eyes, and other times its gone and there's just this sadness and—damn it I don't—I don't know what I'm trying to say."
Killian's heart riots against his ribcage as she breathes and looks down at her hands. Because this is it, and when she finds out he's sure she'll run again, and he guesses he should just be grateful he got more time with her then he was ever supposed to.
Blowing out a sharp puff of air, Emma looks up again. "Then there's the fact that I just can't seem to stop thinking about you. And there's this feeling in my chest that fills me until I feel like I can't breathe when I'm around you."
She stops again, licking her lips. And suddenly Killian's not so sure what she's going to ask—his heart racing for an entirely different reason when she scoots closer to him and lifts her lashes to study him.
"Killian," she whispers low and soft. "Are you in love with me?"
The air rushes from his lungs and any coherent thought he might have had flees. He can't do anything but gape at her.
But she sits there waiting for him to answer. Her wide eyes revealing just how exposed and vulnerable she feels at the moment.
But the thing is her question leaves him feeling just as raw.
He breathes slowly for a moment, trying to compose himself. Because any way he answers is going to leave his heart open and lying on the table, just waiting for her to either take it and heal it, or crush it further than it already has been.
Yet despite this he can't bring himself to lie to her.
He doesn't know if he quite has control over the words that leave him next.
"I'm pretty sure I've loved you since the moment I saw you," he breathes, and it's like a wall inside him bursts. The words he's been harboring somewhere deep in his chest flooding forward as he finally allows himself to say it. "I love you still, Emma. I don't think I could ever stop."
Water gathers in her eyes as her lips part, her breathing shaking as she soaks in what he just said. And he can't help but stare at her, captivated by the flecks of gold in her eyes and the light freckles across her nose.
It feels like an eternity later when she finally speaks again. "And did I love you?"
This question is somehow softer than her first, as if she's scared of what the answer will be.
He has to resist the urge to close his eyes, because this question brings an ache to his chest unlike any other. And when he lifts a hand to tuck a bit of her hair behind her ear it's with a sad smile.
"I don't know," he says honestly, his voice low and thick. "There was a time where I was certain you did."
She's quiet as she absorbs this, and Killian would give anything to know the thoughts that must be racing through her head.
But before he's quite aware of what's happening, Emma is leaning towards him, her face tilted upwards. Her lips just barely skimming his when his brain finally catches up with what's happening. It takes everything inside him to lean back, away from her searching lips.
"Emma…" he groans, cursing his bloody, stupid, sense of honor.
She stops leaning forward, only to shift closer to him. And all this does is give him even easier access to her lips.
And bloody hell he wants to kiss her.
"Emma, I can't—"
"Shhhh," she quiets him, her fingers tentatively tracing up his arms. "I want you to kiss me."
Squeezing his eyes shut, Killian tips his head towards the heavens and groans again, praying for any sort of strength.
"Hey," Emma soothes, her hands gently cupping his face and tipping his head back down. He opens his eyes and wonders if she can see how torn he feels inside. "I know something is holding you back," she whispers, her hands trailing from his face to his neck. "But I want this. I don't know what happened between us before, and I don't care. All I care about his right here and right now."
Her words strike something inside him. He exhales a shaky breath and finds himself just a little lost in the softness of her gaze. He's scared to death of the hope he feels in his chest, but she's here and maybe for just a moment she can be his again.
And perhaps everything will fall apart tomorrow, but he can't bring himself to care at the moment.
So this time when she leans forward, he doesn't stop her.
And oh how he's missed her lips.
It's hesitant and shy at first, their lips almost shaking with how softly they trace against each other. But soon enough the uncertainty between them vanishes and Emma is pressing herself against him as she kisses him harder.
He'd nearly forgotten how her kisses could make the rest of the world fall away. How the movements of her lips could be comforting in ways that words would never be. How they could heal him and set him on fire all at once.
They exhale in unison before he surges back in and kisses her deeper. The hungry tug of her lips against his causing him to groan low in the back of his throat. She wraps her arms around his neck and cards her fingers through his hair just as he runs his fingers down her spine, delighting in the little sigh the action elicits from her.
He pulls her closer until there's no space between them and he can feel the rapid beating of her heart against his chest.
He's missed this.
Missed the feel of her against him. Missed the taste of her lips and the smell of her skin.
But more simply he's just missed her.
They kiss a little longer, their lips slowing as they run out of breath. When they do finally break apart, Killian presses his forehead to hers and reaches up to rest his hand below her ear, using his thumb to stroke her cheek.
Breathing heavy, he watches as Emma smiles and traces his lower lip lightly with the tip of her finger.
"You have no idea how long I've wanted to do that," she laughs breathless.
Killian tips his chin up and kisses her again, soft and tender.
"Not nearly as long as I have, love. Believe me."