"For the last time, Mary Margret, I don't need a timer," Emma huffed, glaring across the diner table at her friend. "I'm perfectly happy being single."
"But Emma, your soulmate is out there right now! Why wouldn't you want to find them?" Mary shot back, "Just think of them looking at a blank timer everyday just waiting for their numbers to appear."
"If I even have a soulmate, they wouldn't be the type of person to buy into this hallmark crap." Emma rolled her eyes. "Just because you and David are a success story doesn't mean everyone is. Besides, I don't have hundreds of dollars to drop on an implant." Emma fiddled with the mug of cinnamon hot chocolate in front of her as she waited for her friend's reply. She knew Mary Margret wouldn't let this go without a fight. It had been a constant source of debate between the two women since they'd met 9 years prior.
"They're not that expensive anymore! $150 tops!"
Emma tuned out her friend who was still animatedly trying to convince her, for the hundredth time, that she needed a man. Mary Margret, otherwise known as M&M by her friends, wanted everyone to have a happy ending. (They called her M&M because she was small and sweet, just like the candy) M&M thought that timers, machines that beeped when you locked eyes with your soulmate, were the answer to all of life's problems. Not that Emma could blame her. M&M had met her husband by using the timers. David had been engaged when he met her, supposed to enter into a loveless marriage for the sake of his father's company. However, through the timers he found Mary Margret and he'd married her instead. Now they were going on 5 years and had three children to show for it.
"Still trying to convince Emma to get a timer?" the voice belonged to their waitress, and friend, Ruby.
"Oh not you too," Emma sighed, Ruby had been on her side about this for so long, but then she'd caved, got a timer, and met the love of her life.
"What can I say, M&M showed me the light," Ruby grinned at the pair, "and it's not like I would have had the courage to ask out Dorothy without it."
"You would have gotten there and you know it," Emma rolled her eyes at her friends. It was getting harder and harder to resist them every time this got brought up. M&M just kept convincing people to get timers, and they kept finding success. But Emma wasn't ready for that. Her last relationship was still fresh in her mind and she wanted to focus on her son and not bring another man into his life. Especially when the men kept leaving them.
Timers had been around for a decade, first coming on to the market while she'd been sitting in prison for Neal's crime. When she got out, she had a baby and no money, and no reason to want a new man in her life. Years had passed before Emma was ready to date again, and that was only because she'd met Graham. He already had a timer counting down but they'd convinced each other that it wouldn't matter. That no scientist could tell him who to love. But then the timer had hit zero and Emma could see how taken he was with his actual match. He wouldn't leave her, he was too much of a gentleman for that, but he wanted to. Emma could see him yearning. So she made it easier for everyone and left first, swearing to herself that she'd never date anyone with a timer again. Which is how she'd been convinced to give Walsh a try.
His virgin wrist was probably the biggest draw. She'd wanted a male presence in Henry's life as he got older, and Walsh didn't have a countdown till he left her. At least not a physical one. She was with him for nearly a year and it was… nice? Okay? Boring. It was boring. It got to the point that Emma convinced him to get a timer, and when his countdown started she proved to him that they weren't meant to be. And now she was alone again. Content to live her life with Henry without any more complications. Or that's what she'd tell herself.
Killian Jones glanced down at his wrist out of habit. The timer was still blank, flashing dashes as opposed to a countdown, same as it had been for the 8 years since he'd had it installed. It wasn't that he'd expected anything different, he knew that the love of his life was already dead. The timer was just a reminder of that, a way that he could remember what she meant to him every time he looked down. And it was a much more private reminder than something garish like a tattoo of her name. Killian Jones was not the type for something as cliché like that.
He always looked at it when he was on a plane. Milah had loved to travel around the world. That's what had originally brought them together. She loved adventure and he had been more than willing to give that to her. But now, every journey just felt wrong. There was something missing, an empty void he knew he could never fill. Listening to the rumble of the engines no longer gave him that sense of excitement it once had. It just made him reminisce on what he used to have.
His brother Liam had been the one to convince him to get the timer in the first place. Liam had always been this big romantic, he'd probably gotten one of the first timers to hit the shelves. He'd nearly immideatly met a Norwegian heiress named Elsa who completed his world. With the ease he'd obtained his happy ending, he'd turned his attention to convincing Killian to do the same. Not that Liam would have succeeded if it weren't for Milah. She'd always been sensitive about their relationship. She was an American divorcee while he was the co-owner of the largest shipping company in Europe. No matter how many times he reminded her that she was his love and he didn't care what anyone else said, she still felt that she didn't belong. So they'd decided to get the timers. In the two years since they'd been introduced, timers had quickly gained legitimacy. Being with your timer match made people not question a relationship further.
He'd been 24 the day he went in to get his. Killian had gotten his first, while Milah was still working. He was grinning like a child on Christmas morning when a time didn't pop up, taking it as proof that Milah was his match. That the timer was just waiting for her so they could start the rest of their lives. But Milah never arrived. She never got her timer. So all Killian was left with was the blinking dashes waiting for their match.
He hadn't dated since that day. His timer stayed blank and he wasn't about to ruin anyone else's happiness. He wouldn't stand in the way of soulmates. That's not to say he didn't spend nights with women who were still waiting for their matches. He wasn't a nun. It just meant that he only gave them his nights. They got his body but never his heart. Never his soul. Those he had buried with Milah 8 years ago.
Killian pulled himself out of his wallowing as the plane started to descend into the Boston airport. It was already nearly 9 p.m. and he knew he should be exhausted from the flight but he was too keyed up from thinking about Milah to sleep. So he simply had his assistant, Smee, bring his bags to his hotel and went out to find a bar. It was one of those nights he needed to bury his feelings in a bottle of rum and a woman.
Though Killian was no stranger to Boston, his work brought him to nearly every port city, he wasn't in the mood for thinking. So instead of combing through yelp reviews he hailed a cab and let the driver decide where to take him. He probably shouldn't have been surprised when he ended up on the other side of town with a sixty dollar cab fare. But he could afford it so he simply thanked the man and walked into the nondescript pub he'd been left at.
Emma had had a no good, very bad day. While in the end she'd gotten her mark it had involved breaking her heels, ripping her favorite dress, and more than a few elbows to the ribs. She needed a drink and a hot meal that didn't end up on her lap. She winced as she pulled open the door to her fridge. Nothing. Not that that was particularly surprising with her eating habits. She and Henry practically lived off of takeout and food from the diner next door. If Henry had been home that night, Emma probably would have just ordered in. But Henry wasn't home, he was spending the night with M&M like he always did when she had to work. This meant that Emma had free reign to dull the ache in her side with tequila.
She changed out of her ruined dress, opting for comfort over looks, and made her way to the Irish pub down the road. She'd been there enough that all the regulars knew to leave her alone and that's all she could ask for. Five minutes later she was sliding on to a stool at the bar, ignoring the surroundings. All she had to do was look up at the bar tender for a shot of whiskey to be set in front of her. They knew her well her.
"Rough day lass?" the accented voice came from next to her. Emma turned her head slightly to give her best 'not in the mood' glare to the poor sap who had disturbed her peace. The glare flickered into an expression of shock when she saw the man sitting next to her. Whatever she'd been expecting to see when she turned, it was not him. Pissed off as she was, she had to admit that he was incredibly attractive with his unruly black hair, a stubbled chin, and piercing blue eyes. This was a man she would not mind bringing back to her apartment for a night of fun. He must have noticed her expression because he flashed her a cocky grin. Her initial irritation flared back up, there was no way she'd stroke his ego.
"Fuck off." She replied before turning back to the drink in front of her, downing it in one gulp.
"Ah, a lass who knows how to drink," he deftly ignored her 'back off' vibes, "my type of woman."
"Ah, a man who can't take a hint," she rolled her eyes, "not my type of man."
"You wound me."
"Obviously not enough since you're still talking."
"If you want me to be quiet love, there are a few more interesting ways we could go about it."
Emma shifted to look at him again, disbelief clear on her face. This guy just wouldn't take no for an answer. She took in his self-confidant smirk before her eyes flicked to his wrist. It was habit at this point. More often than not the guys who tried to bed her had already met their soulmate or wanted one last fuck before they were tied down for life. She told herself she was only looking to see which category this creep belonged in and not because she hoped it was neither.
"Looking for this love?" he pulled his sleeve away from his wrist leaving his timer on display. It was blank. He brow furrowed in confusion as she washed the flashing dashes that indicated no match. This was new. None of her stock of turn offs fit the situation of a blank timer. Blank timers just didn't happen anymore, not when practically everyone on the planet had one. Now when someone did have a blank timer it almost always meant one thing: their match had died. She looked back up to his eyes and saw he was still staring at her. His face was slightly clouded from alcohol but she could still see a slight grimace. The expression of loss she'd seen in the mirror for years. So his soulmate was dead. She supposed a drink with a kindred spirit couldn't be the worst thing in the world. Especially a kindred spirit who looked like that.
"Buy me a drink?"
In all honesty, Killian hadn't expected the blonde to agree to anything. She'd made it abundantly clear that she didn't want anything to do with him yet somehow here they were drinking together. She didn't give him any of the pity that he usually experienced after showing people his blank timer even though she must know what it meant. He had to admit that he was curious about her. He kept trying to spot her timer, get a clue as to why she was like this. He must not have been doing a very good job of being discrete because she stopped mid-sentence and looked at him with raised eyebrows.
"Am I boring you?"
"Not at all love, just wondering what brings a woman as lovely as yourself to a place like this?"
"Ah yes, that explains why you were oh so sneakily looking at my wrists," she rolled her eyes but there was no malice in the action, "well I suppose I could show you mine now that you've shown me yours… Oh grow up," she chided at his smirking expression to her unintentional innuendo. She then held up two perfectly bare wrists for him to see. No hint of a timer, not even a scar from getting one removed.
"Well isn't this a rare sight indeed."
"I have better things to do in life than be concerned with 'soulmates'" there was a level of sarcasm that went into the last word. She obviously had some choice opinions about the whole soulmate business. "Anyway, I don't need some company telling me who to love."
"Have you ever been in love?" All hint of joking was gone from his voice.
"Maybe," she looked him dead in the eyes as she slowly spoke, "once." She then turned toward the counter and the meal that had appeared before her while he wasn't paying attention.
He let her words sink in for a moment or two. There had been too much emotion behind them for him to take her at her word. He had sensed pain and loss when she spoke, emotions he was all too familiar with. He nursed his rum in silence, trying to figure out the woman next to him. She was beautiful, but for some reason he didn't want to just take her back to his hotel and have his way with her. Okay, that was a lie, he did want that but he didn't want that to be the end of it. There was just something about her that was drawing him in. Making him feel something that he hadn't felt in 8 years. But that was ridiculous, he'd known this woman for all of 10 minutes. He knew nothing about her, hell he didn't even know her name. But there was still something that made him not care about all of that. Something that made him want to just pull her into his arms and never let go. And Killian Jones was not a hugger.
Emma Swan was similarly conflicted by the leather clad man sitting next to her. She no longer wanted to tell him to fuck off and leave her be, that ship had sailed a long time ago. Being around him was somehow calming her down, making her feel less terrible about her absolute shit day. And the fact that he had a fucked up timer did not hurt things. Even without him putting it into words she knew he'd felt heartbreak. Out of the corner of her eye she saw him rubbing the timer absentmindedly, with a troubled look on his face. Most people would wonder why he didn't just get it removed. Why he wouldn't want the reminder of a lost love removed. But Emma understood. She felt her fingers seeking out the swan necklace Neal had given her. The one she kept to remind herself what could happen when you trusted someone. She wore it to protect herself from getting her heart broken again. She clutched it tightly while she watched the man next to her, feeling the metal biting into her skin. She'd been letting her guard down around him and that needed to stop.
The pair sat in silence for a while longer, each wrapped up in their own thoughts. Eventually Emma convinced herself to leave before anything happened. She wasn't looking for a hookup but she didn't trust herself to be able to resist this man if he offered. As she moved to get up, the man looked her way again.
"Leaving so soon lass? The night's young yet."
"I have to get my son off to school in the morning," she stressed the word 'son' knowing that it would make him back off. They nearly always ran the second a child was mentioned.
"Aye then, take good care of your lad," she was surprised to see he had a small smile on his lips when he spoke, "may I at least get your name, love?"
"Swan, Emma Swan," she didn't usually go around giving out her name but she couldn't resist this man.
"Killian Jones," she heard him say as she turned her back. She didn't reply, just walked out the door before he did something to make her stay.