The rain is pouring heavily, pelting down sideways due to the steady gusts of wind. Emma clenches her teeth and tightens her hold on the umbrella as she continues the seemingly never ending trudge to the library. The heavy downpour is making it difficult to see and though she attempts to walk in a straight line the wind is winning, causing her to walk diagonally.
Why did she pick a commuter college to attend? Why couldn't she have chosen an older, more respected university that didn't cause students to trek miles from the parking lots to the campus buildings? Seriously, she should have chosen to relocate and attend Boston College or Boston University, why she decided to stay and attend the satellite school Boston College at Storybrooke Emma can't seem to recall at the moment.
Another harsh gust of wind tugs at her umbrella, the force of which causes the umbrella to invert on itself.
Great. Just fucking great. She attempts to untangle and fix the umbrella but the effort proves futile. Already soaked because the damn umbrella was a piece of crap to begin with, Emma chucks the umbrella in the nearest garbage bin before making a desperate sprint the final four hundred meters to the library.
Up the library's thirty steps - (thirty steps with no accessible ramp, a library is supposed to be a place to study in peace, not a place to get an unwanted workout) - Emma finally makes it past the revolving doors and into the warmth of the library's atrium.
Literally soaked from head to toe, Emma shrugs out of her favorite red leather jacket that is beyond water stained at the moment and begins to peel off the woven blue sweater that was once soft to the touch but is now suffocating her body to the point where she can feel sweat beneath her underarms. Once she's out of the sweater, she uses it to dab at her underarms hoping the warmth of the library will both cool her off and keep her warm as she studies in her white tank top. There is not much she can do about the denim of her jeans that cling to her legs like shrunken leather, or her book bag that is dripping wet which can only mean her overpriced textbooks are severely water damaged. God only knows the condition of her laptop. She hopes the protective casing did its job since the crappy umbrella failed. Finally her hair, although she had styled her blonde curls into a cute ponytail that morning, the humidity and gusty winds have caused her hair to poof up in various directions, including her already difficult baby hairs.
Yeah, Emma is a hot mess at the moment.
At least she made it to the library with ample time before her eight o'clock class. The campus may have been horribly designed – all concrete and brick, rectangular shaped, little to no windows in the older buildings that were miles from the various student parking lots (blame the student riots of the 1960's) – but at least the library is open twenty-four hours. Which means that Emma has plenty of time to nab her usual cup of cheap coffee from the cafeteria downstairs before proceeding to her usual study spot in the dusty old library.
After shaking off some of the water from her clothing and hair - (if anyone was watching she would fervently deny she was mimicking a wet dog) - Emma races downstairs to grab her coffee. She desperately wants a hot cocoa with cinnamon given the inclement and chilly weather, but the university's Starbucks will not be open for another hour so she has to settle for the cafeteria's complimentary brewed batch of putrid oil - (seriously, all this tuition money and the university can't afford a better brand of coffee than Maxwell House?). Sighing in defeat, she adds a generous supply of creamer to her cup and makes her way back upstairs.
The library is ancient and therefore always under construction in an effort to update it with new technology and modern conveniences. Three years Emma has been attending the university and still there is no end in site for the new and modern improvements. Thus, finding a quiet place to study away from the construction and noise had proven difficult at first. It wasn't until her sophomore year did Emma find her perfect study corner, away from the construction and noisy students who consider chatting animatedly while browsing Facebook to be a form of studying.
Her study corner is the perfect little alcove in the overly busy library. Located on the third floor, it has a window that faces west with a view overlooking some of the nicer college grounds. The view has always served as a reinforcing agent for Emma to focus and finish her studies. From the winter canvas that promises fun times in the snow for her and Henry, to the summer sky that promises times of relaxing by the pool.
Best of all, her little study alcove is a hidden gem, tucked away from the busier sections of the library and hidden by ancient texts no student would ever venture out to read – tax law circa the 1950's. Her secluded spot offers a lone rectangular table with two chairs - (one for her, one for her feet to rest) - and no power outlet. As she carries a portable charger with her wherever she goes, the lack of an available power outlet is just an added bonus for Emma as it prevents students who always need to be plugged in away from her study corner. It's essentially a hidden treasure perfectly designed for the non-traditional student like herself.
It's the beginning of the fall semester of Emma's senior year, and not once since finding the gem has she ever been disturbed or approached by another living soul in her secluded, and by all intense and purposes, private study alcove.
That is until now.
Emma rounds the corner of the 1950's tax law section and stops in her tracks.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Emma bristles without filter to the back of the stranger's head.
The dark haired stranger turns around in the chair, startled blue eyes meeting glaring sea green. Perturbed at the sudden intrusion, the stranger begins to assess Emma with a look of confusion, if his raised brow and tilted chin are anything to go on.
Is it her imagination or did she hear a faint lilt to his voice? Shrugging off the thought Emma continues, "You're occupying my study spot."
"Your study spot? Forgive me lass, but I don't see a nameplate or a flag indicating this table is yours. And just who are you anyway?"
Yep, definitely a lilting British accent.
"Never mind who I am. Who are you? This has been my study spot for the past three years and I'm not about to give it up so you'd better gather up your things and leave." Emma feels herself begin to seethe. At a quarter to seven, shivering in her tank top and boots because of the downpour outside, it is just to early in the morning for this shit.
"Killian Jones, and you are?" He shifts in the chair and rises to his feet, a soft grin plastered across his face. He takes a step toward Emma with his hand outstretched in an attempt to shake her hand in a proper introduction.
Emma gives him the once over as he stands - dark brown hair, bearded scruff, deep blue eyes, and the tracings of a faint scar on his right cheek. He's dressed head to toe in black jeans, dark shirt, and black leather jacket. Paired with that accent, he can only be trouble.
Instead of shaking his hand, Emma shakes her head in admonishment. "Yeah I'm not telling you my name. This is my study spot. I have an hour before my first class, I'm soaking wet, my umbrella fell apart on me, I need to finish reading a mind numbingly boring chapter, and I haven't even sipped this godforsaken excuse for a coffee." With her left hand Emma makes a sweeping motion over her soaked attire for emphasis and slightly shakes her right hand that is holding the cup of coffee. "Killian was it? Please make this morning easier by leaving."
Killian only stares at her, his eyebrows ticked up in amused wonderment before he drops his outstretched hand and tilts his head down in a soft laugh.
"Is my predicament funny to you?" Emma asks, vexed with his obvious amusement at her expense.
Killian's deep blue eyes twinkle with mirth but his tone is soft and kind. "Not at all lass. Forgive me; I did not realize this spot had been claimed. I shall make my leave." He gives a small bow with his head and turns to gather his belongings, which Emma can see includes a coffee thermos from her favorite independent venue – Granny's Grinds.
When he turns back around to face her, he offers her a sweetly shy yet somewhat flirty smile. "My apologies for having offended you on this already glum morning. I do hope your day will improve." At that, Killian walks around Emma and makes his leave from the hidden alcove.
She stands there for a moment dumbstruck, not knowing what to think. She knows she had acted bitchy, but she hadn't expected polite manners in the form of a handsome Englishman in return for her bitchiness. Aggravated at the start to her day, she lets out an annoyed sigh and shakes the moment off. She is here to catch up on studying, not to think about the deplorable morning she is having or the unexpected handsome stranger she just encountered.
Click. Click. Double Click.
Killian can't focus. He fidgets in his seat for the umpteenth time and continues to obliviously tap away at the ballpoint pen's head. His mind keeps wondering back to the fight he'd had with his father the previous evening and truthfully, this morning's encounter with a green eyed, fiery blonde lass.
He hadn't realized when he stumbled upon the little alcove on the library's third floor that anybody would soon be occupying it, especially considering the early morning hour. His intention had been to spend the hour catching up on his studies before his first class, yet those plans were derailed thanks to a tenacious blonde beauty in a white tank top.
Click. Double Click. Click. Click.
"Oi, mate? Will you stop with that incessant pen? I know the lecture is rather dry this morning, but come off it. You are usually studiously taking notes no matter how boring the lecture is, so be a chum and tell me what it is that has got you so distracted."
Killian turns in the squeaky and narrow lecture hall chair to face his royal advisor, bodyguard, and all around best mate, Robin. The sandy haired man is giving him a questionable look, patiently waiting for an answer.
"Sorry mate, I'll give it a rest." He shrugs his shoulders and straightens in his chair, turning his attention back to the lecture on aerial tactics of the U.S. during World War II.
Robin rolls his eyes. Killian may technically be his employer, heir to their country, and incidentally his best mate, but he will not allow the young prince to get off so easily. Between the two of them, Robin is the one to fall asleep during eight o'clock lectures - (he isn't the one in school) - while Killian pays rapt attention. The prince is double majoring in military history and political science despite already having acquired a bachelor's degree in economics. Although the subjects are not the prince's personal choice, Killian has never shown any disillusionment or appeared distracted from his studies before, so naturally Robin's curiosity is piqued.
"I know you and I know something is obviously distracting you. Since you won't tell me now, I'll settle for you telling me over a pint at the Rabbit Hole tonight."
Killian lets out an exasperated breath, giving up any continued pretense of focusing on the morning's lecture. Sometimes he wishes his friend, trusted advisor or not, didn't know him so well. Yes, he is clearly distracted. Distracted by his father's overbearing presence in his life. Distracted by having his future decided for him. However, the one distraction he doesn't mind having at the moment is the assertive blonde spitfire and the encounter they shared this morning.
"Alright, but only one drink."
Robin laughs and slaps Killian on the back, "Excellent. Did I mention your buying?"
The Rabbit Hole is crowded with it being a Friday night. The air smells a mix of alcohol, sweat, and smoke. Emma is perched on a red velvet upholstered bar stool, sipping her bourbon on the rocks, and waiting for her friend Ruby to finish up flirting and sucking face with her boyfriend, Victor.
"Sorry I'm late. Rounds took longer than usual tonight." Emma happily turns in her seat to greet her friend Elsa. "Bourbon huh? Rough day, I take it?" Elsa asks with a knowing look.
Emma pounds the rest of her drink before signaling the bartender for another. "You have no idea," she says tiredly.
Her day became progressively worse since the morning. Between classes, exams, work and Neal, it was just too much. All she wants is to be home, to be able to read a bedtime story to her son, Henry and then crawl into the comforts of her own bed.
"Well, I'm here now so I want to hear all about it." Elsa turns in her stool to order a chardonnay just as Emma receives her second round.
"I'd rather just forget about it. What about you, hard day at work?" Emma asks in an attempt to deflect attention away from herself.
"Okay you have my attention now that Elsa has arrived. And no Emma, you are not getting out of this one." Ruby returns her attention to her friends while her boyfriend departs the bar with a beer in hand. "You've been sullen since the start of the semester, but today you've been particularly broody. What gives?"
Emma shakes her head and takes another sip of her bourbon before plunging ahead and telling her two best friends the events of her day. She may not have Henry to come home to tonight since it's Neal's weekend with him, but at least she will have the comforts of her bed once the night is over.
Across the bar, out of sight from Emma and her friends, a game of pool is well underway.
"And you didn't get her name?" Robin sets his beer mug down and proceeds to chalk up his pool cue.
Killian winces at his friend's question, more of out disappointment in himself than annoyance at the question. "Aye. The lass didn't give me but a moment to leave her presence. She was rather vexed at my apparent intrusion." Killian stands hunched and leaning over the pool cue with his hands crossed, his gaze directed on the game.
"Have you ever seen her around campus?" Robin asks just as he sinks his shot.
Killian takes a swig from his beer bottle. "I don't think I would have forgotten a woman like her, even if she hadn't been yelling at me. But no, I've never seen her around campus, or in any of my classes for that matter." He lines up another shot and misses, accidently sinking a striped ball instead of a solid into a center pocket. His game is off tonight, but he doesn't really care.
Robin makes his way up to the pool table to take his turn. "Well it is a large campus. Perhaps keep an eye out for her, yeah?" He readies his shot and takes aim, the eight ball entering a corner pocket. "And that's game. What do you say to another round? I'll get the drinks this time," Robin asks with a grin and a little bounce of his feet, the look he gives Killian nothing short of pleading.
Killian doesn't really want another round, but he knows it would be good for him. He's had a stressful start to the semester, a difficult evening the prior night, and a very weird morning. He is notorious for overworking himself, but if he is going to meet the expectations placed upon him, he doesn't have much choice. Still, he is having an off night and it is doubtful he would be able to focus if he made an attempt at studying.
"Fine, but only because I'm the lone idiot on this planet to fall for that puppy dog look of yours."
"You know you love it," Robin teases as he follows the prince to the bar.
The bar is packed tight with bodies of people, but Killian and Robin manage to snag their way into a small opening a few heads down from a group of women chatting animatedly.
"Oh Emma, you probably frightened that poor man into thinking you are 'bat shit crazy' as Ruby calls it. Who goes off on someone like that?" Elsa chides Emma as she takes a sip from her second glass of chardonnay.
Ruby snorts, "Sounds like classic Emma to me."
"And what is that supposed to mean?" Emma doesn't even bother to mask her incredulous tone. This was supposed to be a fun night with her friends, a night to forget about her troubles and decompress, but certainly not a night to get lectured by said friends.
Ruby sets down her vodka cranberry and rolls her eyes. "You know exactly what it means. Emma, you are beyond prickly. Apart from us, you keep to yourself. When you're not taking care of Henry you're either in class, studying, or working. You have no social life. You haven't been on a date in what, two years since Walsh?"
Emma interrupts her then, "Excuse me what does my dating or social life have to do with this?"
Why would they bring up Walsh of all people? He had been the first guy Emma chose to trust since Neal and he'd turned out to be a complete fraud and broken her heart. Since then, she had closed herself off entirely and has been careful not to set herself up for another heartache, or worse, heartache for Henry should he ever get close to someone who will just end up leaving.
Ruby lets out an exasperated breath and motions with a raised brow and tilt of her chin for Elsa to take over in their little lecture – good natured speech.
"What Ruby is trying to say," Elsa continues, "is that you don't take kindly to change."
Emma attempts to rebuttal but is effectively cut off by Elsa holding up her hand in a placating gesture. "Ah, let me finish. Emma, you've built up so many walls that it is impossible to accept new people, to accept change. So when you are forced to deal with change, you run from it instead of adapting to it. The only exception is Henry."
Emma is now openly scowling at her two friends. She is either going to need a third bourbon to finish this conversation, or she is going to have to leave for the comfort of her bed and Ben and Jerry's. The latter is sounding more and more appealing.
"Elsa has a point, Emma. I mean don't get me wrong, I would be crotchety too if I was soaking wet and hadn't had my coffee yet. But would it have been so bad to have gone and looked for another study table? I've never been but it's a library, surely there are loads of other tables available?" At that last statement Ruby shrugs her shoulders and looks to Elsa for confirmation.
Elsa simply rolls her eyes in response.
Emma stands from the barstool and takes a step back with her hands thrown up in defense. "Alright, I've had it. Crotchety? Really?"
As Emma grabs her jacket and makes to turn around and leave, she bumps into something hard and solid. The next sound she hears is breaking glass, and the next thing she feels is cold liquid seeping down her blouse.
Emma looks up then. What are the odds of hearing a British accent twice in one day?
"You!" Emma spits out in annoyance.
"Oh!" Killian stutters. It would be his luck to run into the mystery blonde again only to make an ass of himself and spill beer all over her.
"Yeah I'm so done with today." Emma turns sharply on her heel and leaves, not giving him or her friends another glance.
"Oh no! No, wait. Please!" Killian makes to go after her, but Emma is quicker. By the time he exits the bar to the parking lot, he's lost her.
Killian kicks at the loose gravel under his feet and silently lets out a string of curses. Resigning himself to the day's end, he strides to his vehicle in defeat. He is about to text Robin to come meet him but Robin, ever the vigilant security detail, is already exiting the bar and making his way over.
All Killian wants to do is crawl into bed and forget about the day's events, the spirited blonde, and to use his father's words from the previous evening, everything else he is "screwing up."