A/N: Once again, thank you all for reading, liking, and commenting on this story! This chapter is double the normal length, a little over 6K, but I liked the flow too much to break it into two different chapters. For everyone waiting to see when Killian's secret will be revealed, I'm planning for it to be soon, after the next two updates, so please bear with me a little longer. As always, please forgive any grammatical errors.

Special shout out to EAL for your birthday, your friendship, and your eagerness to read my writing; you're amazing Smalls.


(November)

A few weeks after their midterm celebration, the first winter front arrives like clockwork, complete with the first snow and sleet of the season. The turn in weather is expected, however Emma's Volkswagen breaking down is not.

Cursing as she attempts yet again to get the engine started, Emma resigns herself to fate. Looking in the rearview mirror, she meets Henry's gaze. "Sorry buddy, it looks like we're going to be commuters this week."

"Okay Mom," Henry says sweetly, as if the news doesn't perturb him in the least. And how could it?

Emma smiles back at her son, her brave little soldier. Letting out an exasperated sigh – (really it's too early for this crap) - Emma buttons up her coat and exits the vehicle, turning to help Henry climb out as well. After buttoning up Henry's coat, she locks the vehicle and entwines her hand with his as they make their trek to the nearest bus stop.

The sky is still dark at this hour and the freezing sleet has already turned both their noses pink. After several minutes, there is still no sign of the bus and Henry's six-year-old patience level is quickly disappearing.

"How much longer Mom?"

Emma grits her teeth and checks the application on her phone. Sure enough, there are delays spanning two stops before this one. "A little longer buddy, just hang in there." She squeezes Henry's hand in reassurance and silently sends up a prayer the wait won't be much longer. She could handle the wait if alone, but Henry is with her and she doesn't want him to catch a cold in the freezing wet rain.

Once the bus finally arrives, packed with only standing room available, Emma lifts Henry into her arms for the duration of the commute. Balancing Henry and both their bags on her shoulders, she prompts Henry to tell her about the toy he's brought for show-and-tell to distract him from the discomfort of the tight quarters. Henry happily explains all about Thor and why he chose the God of Thunder over the other Avengers he considered bringing.

An hour and a half later, Emma makes it to the library with only fifteen minutes before the beginning of her first class. Rationally she knows there isn't enough time to study, but she disregards the thought in hopes of catching Killian before he leaves.

She rounds the corner to the tax law section and ignores the flip in her stomach as she registers Killian exiting the alcove, his stoic face morphing into cheer at the sight of her.

"Swan! I was beginning to worry about you, thought you'd decided to play hooky for the day."

Killian offers Emma the cup of coffee he had been holding as he takes in her appearance. Her hair is sticking out in frizzy waves from under her beanie, her nose and cheeks are flushed pink, and her red coat is sprinkled with evidence of being caught in the sleet. Gods, she's beautiful.

Emma takes a long pull of the coffee, not even caring that it is long since gone cold. Straightening herself, she nods her head in thanks nonetheless. "Unexpected car trouble. Henry and I had to take the bus this morning and there were delays. I just managed to get him to school."

Killian nods his head in understanding, an idea forming behind is eyes, but before he can voice it, he's stopped by the arrival of Robin.

"All ready there, sir?"

Killian sharply inhales and briefly casts his eyes downward before forcing a tight smile and meeting his mate's guilt ridden eyes. Rarely does Robin refer to him as 'sir' or 'your highness' outside of formal circumstances, but sometimes Robin lets it slip more out of jest than dutiful respect.

Still, this isn't how he wanted Emma and Robin to meet. Even though she knows about Robin, he's yet to introduce them or explain that Robin is the very same man she sometimes sees standing outside the alcove in the mornings. He'd also been insistent on wanting more privacy with Emma, and because Robin agreed to be more lax when it comes to guard duties, he's steadfastly ignored thoughts of them meeting out of uncertainty on how to navigate the situation.

Telling her about Robin's role beyond friendship would necessitate coming clean about his identity, something he's loath to do. He cares for Emma and doesn't want to hurt her, but he's also petrified of losing her and he's a selfish enough bastard to want to keep her for as long as possible.

Killian's torn from his internal debate at the sound of Emma's curiosity.

"Sir?" Emma says looking back and forth between the two men. Her eyebrows pinch in confusion as she takes in Robin's green army jacket and sandy scruff. "Wait, I've seen you around before. You sometimes hang out here reading."

Killian doesn't miss the way Emma's eyes narrow in suspicion as she turns her attention from Robin to him, waiting for an explanation.

Killian nods his head and swallows his nerves, choosing to not shy away from her incredulous gaze. "Aye, Emma this is Robin," he sweeps his hand between the two of them, "Robin, this is Emma. I guess it is half past time the two of you became acquainted." Anxious, he shifts on the balls of his feet and tugs at the strap of his canvas messenger bag slung across his chest.

Robin, smiling widely, extends his hand in greeting. "Pleasure to meet you, m'lady."

Emma's brow arches up in surprise upon hearing another Danish accent as she shakes his hand warily, "Um…yeah you too." Turning to address Killian she adds, "Why didn't you tell me this was Robin? Or that he's from the same country as you?"

Killian anxiously scratches behind his ear, unsure of what to say that won't scare her away. He exhales and decides to go with a version of the truth. "Aye, Swan I'm sorry. I should have told you sooner, but I didn't know how. Robin and I have been mates since we were lads in Denmark. When my family decided for me to attend university state side, Robin volunteered to accompany me. He's not a student, but he likes to tag along to classes and flirt with innocent coeds. It's his attempt at entertainment while burning through his trust fund. His reference to me as 'sir' has been an ongoing thing for as long as I can remember, despite our only being two months apart in age."

Emma chances a look back at Robin as she digests Killian's words.

Robin's arms are crossed and his stance wide, but his face is full of mirth, eyes almost twinkling in amusement as he looks past her to Killian. He softly chuckles before shrugging his shoulders and clarifying with a mischievous grin, "He takes himself way too seriously, and he can use a good distraction every once in a while."

Casting her gaze downward, she takes a moment to processes their explanation. Part of her wants to fume at Killian's omission - another deceit, another betrayal, why did she think he would be different? But another part, a foreign part, tells her to accept his apology and move on. They're friends, nothing more, and friends forgive each other. Besides, there is still plenty she hasn't shared with Killian, including introducing him to her friends. So if she's still choosing to keep secrets and remain behind emotional walls, why should he not do the same?

Squaring her shoulders, she lets out a deep breath. With a shake of her head, she meets Killian's subdued gaze. His posture is hunched and his face is crestfallen. "Okay," she whispers.

Killian blinks in response, unsure if he heard her correctly. "What?" He asks hesitantly, face scrunched up in disbelief.

Emma smiles shyly in return. "Okay, I forgive you and I accept your apology." Killian's eyes brighten but Emma holds her hand up in a placating gesture, her gaze earnest, and he readies himself for more. "Make no mistake, I'm ticked as hell that you lied to me. I don't do well with lying, and I know a thing or two about keeping things close to the chest because of the pain that comes from lying. But… friends forgive each other, so let's just be more honest from now on. I mean, I'm not great at this 'friends' thing, but I do know that friends don't lie to one another."

Killian basks in the waves of relief that wash over him. She's not pushing him away, she's not running, and God forgive him but now is the opportune moment to come clean. And yet… as she stands in front of him, a dissonance of soft smiles and sharp eyes, it becomes strikingly clear - he's in love with her. He is in love with Emma Swan, an amazing friend whom he doesn't deserve and who has asked for a truth he cannot give.

So like the covetous old sinner he is, and ignoring the alarm bells ringing inside his head, he simply nods in agreement. "Aye, Swan, friends don't lie." He hopes she can read the beseeching apology in his eyes despite the small, happy smile gracing his lips.

"Good."

"Does this mean we are still on for our morning study sessions?"

Emma snorts but doesn't respond right away, instead she turns to look at Robin, "Does this mean you'll be joining us from now on instead of hiding out here?"

It's Killian's turn to snort and mumble a curse under his breath, but Emma just slants her eyes, giving him a pointed look.

"God's no, I could use the extra hour of sleep now that the two of you are to continue this arrangement." Robin states, his gaze teasingly directed at Killian. He's not a hundred percent on board with abandoning his guard duties, but as he'll be accompanying the prince to classes, he rationalizes Killian can have a morning respite. What harm can truly befall a royal prince in the middle of a university library, in a sleepy American college town? And truthfully, he wants Killian to have this time with the fiery blonde lass. It has been an unreasonable amount of time since he's seen Killian so happy, he doesn't want to infringe upon it.

Emma laughs at the teasing look Robin shoots toward Killian, and the grumbling look of annoyance Killian emits in return. It's clear the two men have a unique bond and she finds it quite entertaining. "Well, it was nice to meet you Robin, finally. I guess I'll see you around. Killian, I'll see you tomorrow?"

"Aye, Swan, absolutely."

Emma turns on her heel and heads into the greater common area of the library, not wanting to be later than she already is to class. Killian and Robin stay back, the latter arching his brow in a silent question.

Killian grits his teeth and runs a hand over his face in frustration, ignoring Robin's questioning gaze. He's royally screwing this up, pun intended. Stomping down on the guilt that's coursing through him, Killian makes to exit the library without sparing a glance at Robin who is already close on his heels.

-/-

The next morning, Killian begins to panic at Emma's absence. Rationally he knows she's taking the bus and may be late, but he still feels guilty for what happened yesterday and is unsure he hasn't truly driven her away. He wouldn't fault her if she chose to end their friendship despite having forgiven him. After all, it would be what he deserves. Yet he knows Emma, knows she is everything he is not – good and honest – and it is that thought keeping him rooted in his seat in their study alcove, anxiously awaiting her presence.

His faith in her pays out as Emma arrives thirty minutes late, flushed from the cold and sleet. Not wasting any time, Killian hands her a thermos instead of the usual paper coffee cup. She quirks her brow in a silent question and he shrugs sheepishly in return.

"I know it's your turn to buy the coffee, but I figured with you commuting this morning it would be easier if I provided the caffeine," he gestures to the thermos with a shake of his hand, "well the hot cocoa this morning."

Emma's mouth upturns in an elated grin before taking a sip of the chocolaty drink. Subconsciously, a satisfied moan escapes her throat as the warmth of the drink spreads through her and the flavors of whipped cream and cinnamon dance in tandem on her taste buds.

Killian feels his body warm at the sound of her pleasure, and he has to look away and scratch behind his ear in order to avoid her witnessing his reddening blush. Bloody hell, he is so screwed.

"Thanks Killian, this is delicious." Emma slowly swipes her thumb across her upper lip in an effort to wipe away a mustache of whip cream tickling her just under the nose.

She doesn't notice Killian's attempts to look anywhere other than her.

Christ, she has no idea what she is doing to him.

"Ooh I burned my tongue a bit," Emma continues, swiping her tongue back and forth between the corners of her mouth in a fruitless endeavor to cool the burn.

The gesture undoes him. Killian stands and takes the thermos from her hand and places it on the table, cursing internally. "Alright there, Swan?" He asks, helping her shrug out of her red pea coat. Beautiful lass has no bloody idea of the affect she has on him.

"Yeah, just another lousy morning. The mechanic said my Bug wouldn't be ready until this weekend and with the weather forecasting snow all week, I'm really not in the mood. Henry's patience level is quickly diminishing, not that I blame him."

Killian steels himself as he sits back down in the chair, unsure how she'll receive his offer. "Love, I know this is not the best of timing, what with yesterday and all…" He pauses to search Emma's eyes for any hint of trepidation or fear. Upon seeing nothing but gentle encouragement, he exhales and starts over.

"Emma, I am sorry about yesterday. I am sorry I was not forthright with you concerning Robin. I am an ass and a royal git, there is no excuse for my behavior and I do not deserve your kindness or forgiveness. The last thing I ever want to do is hurt you. No matter what Emma, please believe that."

Looking into the depths of his cerulean eyes, Emma assesses him for any signs of a lie. Finding none, she places a hand atop his own where it rests on his lap, and gently cups the side of his face with the other.

Killian's breath hitches at her touch, his heart beating frantically at their close proximity. Despite Emma's trek through the snow, her fingers are warm to the touch, and he finds himself drowning in the contact.

"I know, Killian. I believe you…" Emma pauses and straightens ever so slightly in her chair. Recalling the thoughts she had ruminated on the night before – (Killian's admission, her conflicted emotions, their friendship, Killian himself) - she gives him an honest smile and admits, "I trust you."

Without conscious thought, Killian's eyes close as his face leans further into her palm. Though he probably should be smiling for Emma's benefit, he's not, as the guilt alarms begin blaring in his head once again.

Emma allows herself one small moment to gently caress his face before she's pulling her hand away and clearing her throat. Shaking the intimacy off, her new mantra shouting at her on loop – just friends, just friends, - she turns and takes a sip of hot cocoa from the thermos. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Killian righting himself back to the present, clearly also having been affected by the intimate moment.

Killian blinks and his stunned smile contorts back into the smooth signature smirk he knows Emma secretly loves. "Right, well I have a proposition for you, Swan. The weather is only going to get worse and as you said, young Henry isn't too happy with his new routine. Might I offer you my services?"

She squints her eyes teasingly at him, thankful for the easy way in which they can slip back into safe territory. "Depends on what services you're offering there," she says grinning.

He chuckles and rolls his eyes, happily taking the bait to unabashedly tease and harmlessly flirt. "Not those services, Swan, get your mind out of the gutter. I am offering to be your escort for you and young Henry's morning commute until your vehicle is fixed."

"Escort?" She asks with an arch of her brow.

"You must really want to know what other services I can provide, aren't you, Swan?" He fires back with a wink.

"Wouldn't you like to know?"

Killian's eyes narrow in laser precision, honing in on her virescent eyes and supple lips. He quickly debates spilling another innuendo to continue their flirty banter – (and to mask his hopefully subtle attraction) - but then he sees a spec of hesitation sweep across her eyes. Backtracking into safer territory he continues, "Come now Swan, you can flirt with me later, but right now I want to solve the more pressing matter of you versus the weather."

Emma expels a breath, grateful that Killian put the breaks on their flirty banter. She hopes her attraction to him wasn't too apparent.

Taking another sip of cocoa, she considers his proposal. One part of her is sore at his offer of charity - does he think her incapable? She's always been able to provide for her and Henry without needing handouts. At times it's difficult, certainly stressful both emotionally and financially, but she's always prided herself on pulling through. Still, another part is tempted to accept his offer. Apart from the weather being a bitch and not wanting Henry to catch a cold, they are friends, and friends help each other out.

And despite his previous deceit about Robin, she truly does believe Killian to be repentant. Though it hurt that he lied by omission – (as if she's been completely forthcoming about her past) - he didn't attempt to make excuses, but instead admitted to doing wrong. Killian owning up to his mistake is the first time anyone's held themselves accountable to wronging her, and because of that, she is unexpectedly able to trust him.

Regardless, this arrangement would mean he would be meeting and spending time with Henry. She trusts Killian, and she loves their friendship, but her son is another matter.

Decided, she shakes her head resolutely. "I don't think so, Killian. Thank you for the kind offer, but Henry and I will be just fine."

His easy grin slips slightly and Emma feels like she has just taken a needle to his balloon. Before she can assuage him, he beats her to it, plastering that easy grin back into place and lightly waving his hand in the air. "No worries, Swan. The offer still stands if you change your mind. You need only ask." Killian nods his head and smiles genuinely for emphasis.

Emma smiles appreciatively in return and they continue about the morning.

-/-

"Come on Henry, it's time to get up." Emma enters her son's room and moves around the bed to shut off his Avengers nightlight. With a gentle shake, she pulls the covers slightly away from her bleary eyed boy. "Come on kid, we've got to catch the bus again today, remember?"

Unexpectedly, Henry yanks the covers back into place. "I don't want to go Mom."

Startled at this uncommon behavior of her boy, Emma's hands move to her hips and her head tilts in confusion. "But you love school Henry and it's still show-and-tell week."

Henry only pulls the blankets up further so that his head is completely covered. From under the blankets, he shakes his head in a vigorous 'no.'

Emma lets out a frustrated breath. They really don't have time for this. "Henry, I'm going to count to three until you have to get up and start getting ready for school, otherwise we are going to be late and you won't get your after-school hot cocoa." Emma's never had to use bribery on Henry, and she's not sure how she feels about it, but it's too early to try another tactic.

Admitting defeat, Henry pulls back the covers before Emma begins counting. "No Mom, it's too cold. I don't want to wait for the bus in the snow today."

Emma's heart trembles at her son's innocent admission, never mind his sad pouting face. Turns out, her brave little soldier can only take two days of the snow and sleet before tapping out. And as much as she wants to tap out too, she can't afford to miss her morning lab class, and she doesn't want Henry to learn the wrong lesson of it being okay to quit on one's responsibilities.

So taking a step back from Henry's bed and squeezing her eyelids closed with her thumb and index finger, she considers her options. Ruby is out of town this week, Elsa is most likely still at work from the night shift, Mary-Margaret has a newborn, and David has probably just arrived to the sheriff station. She grunts internally at the only option left – Killian. Guess she'll be teaching Henry a lesson about pride today too, though he may not realize it.

"Alright kid, get dressed. I need to go make a phone call."

Leafing through her phone contacts to find Killian's number, she rationalizes she's only calling because of Henry, not because she wants too. Ignoring the realization of this being the first time she's calling instead of hiding behind a text message, and downplaying the meaning of him officially meeting Henry – (Killian's a close friend and Henry knows her close friends, this shouldn't be a big deal) - she's startled when he picks up after the third ring.

"Swan?"

"Hi, Killian. Sorry to call so early, um, did I wake you?"

His laughter sounds deeper through the phone, and she wonders if it's deeper because of the early morning hour or because of the phone connection. She wonders if he's already up and about or if he's lying back in bed, warm beneath the sheets. Halting the breaks on that train of thought, she silently curses herself.

"Not to worry lass, I've been awake. To what do I owe the pleasure of your beautiful voice this morning?"

Emma closes her eyes and shakes off the endearing compliment, despite the smirk creeping across her face. Balancing the phone to her ear, she folds her arms across her chest and continues, "I was wondering if that offer from yesterday still stands? If you'd be able to give me and Henry a ride to campus this morning?" She cringes at having to ask for help, but Henry's honest face comes to mind and she swallows down her pride.

"Of course love, I'd be honored. Is there anything I can get for you and the lad besides the usual coffee?" His tone is sincere and Emma fights the feeling of her stomach flipping over with butterflies.

"Maybe an apple juice for Henry? He'll be solemn if we both have drinks and he doesn't."

The sound of his deep laughter reaches her once again and a blush creeps across her cheeks. "Aye, than an apple juice it shall be. Go about your morning Swan, I'll be there in thirty?"

"Yeah, okay. Um, thanks again Killian, really. I didn't mean to be an inconvenience or -"

He lets out a groan, almost like a growl, effectively cutting off her rambling. "Think nothing of it, love. I wouldn't have offered if I had no intention of following through."

Emma nods her head before realizing he can't see her. "Right, okay."

"And lass," he asks before she can end the call, "you are never an inconvenience."

Killian disconnects and Emma is left staring at her phone, dumbfounded at the fierce yet comforting intonation of his words, as if the very thought of her being an inconvenience to anyone is offensive to him. Composing herself, Emma begins her morning routine and checks on Henry to ensure he's doing the same.

Thirty minutes later, bellies full of Honey Nut Cheerios – (she tries for them to be somewhat healthy) – they're ready to go when there's a knock on the door.

"Okay Henry, remember what I told you? Be good and use your manners. Mommy's friend Killian is doing us a huge favor, so we don't have to wait in the snow for the bus." Emma reaffirms as she helps Henry pull his Avengers backpack on over his jacket.

"Yes Mom," Henry says eagerly, squirming out of her grasp once his backpack is secure as he goes to open the front door. "Hi Killian! My name is Henry! I'm supposed to tell you thank you for taking us to school today!"

Killian's focus is solely on the little spitfire before him, but he hears Emma sigh in controlled exasperation, undoubtedly because Henry opened the front door, which he guesses is most likely against the rules. Still, he bends down slightly and extends his hand in formal greeting for Henry to shake, which the lad enthusiastically does. "Hello, Henry. It is a pleasure to meet you lad."

The pair release hands and Killian finally makes eye contact with Emma. She's standing a few feet behind Henry, her smile a mix of annoyance at her son's disobedience and amusement at the duo's greeting.

"Good morning, Swan. You look lovely today."

Shrugging into her coat, Emma rolls her eyes at the compliment but the smirk she's wearing tells him she secretly appreciates it. "You don't look so bad yourself." Turning her attention back to Henry, who's clearly ready to go if his bouncing on the balls of his feet is any indication, she motions for them to exit the apartment.

As they make the short walk to the parking lot, Henry fills Killian's ears with talk of school. Emma smiles softly as she notices how Killian pays rapt attention to Henry, and even asks Henry questions with that same genuine tone she's come to associate with him.

Killian pulls his keys out of his coat pocket and unlocks his vehicle. "Here we are, lad. There's an apple juice in the backseat just for you, courtesy of your lovely mother."

Henry opens the backseat door and climbs in, an excited "Cool!" escaping his lips followed by a "Thank you!" as he straps himself in with the seatbelt and closes the door behind him.

Killian smiles at the lad's antics, but Emma stands awestruck and rooted to the spot next to him.

"A BMW?"

Emma can't stifle her incredulous tone, but seriously, what college student can afford a BMW X6, and how had she missed this before? She silently huffs as her brain catches up in reminder – oh yeah, tequila.

"It's a lease."

"It's a BMW."

"Family money?" He nervously scratches behind his ear.

"That work on all the girls?" She arches her brow at him teasingly rather than in challenge.

Killian's gaze drops to his boots and he softly kicks at the snow blanketing the ground as memories come flooding back of empty dalliances, promiscuous women, and wild partying days complete with rum induced blackouts following Liam's death. He knows she's merely jesting, but the memories grip him in an iron fist, and it's a struggle to swallow down the bile attempting to rise up in his throat at the man he used to be. "I'm ashamed to say that yes, my family's money has worked in the past."

He's unaware he's clenching his fist until he feels Emma's gloved hand cover his own. He looks up at her and once again, the guilt roars in his head at the sight of her caring eyes.

"And me?" She gently prods, directly challenging him with a tilt of her head and a softly pointed stare.

Killian turns to face her completely, personal space all but eliminated, their boots knocking toes in the snow. He doesn't let go of her hand, instead entwining their gloved fingers. Leaning his head down - he's a good foot taller than her – he gently swipes a wisp of loose hair behind her ear, and holds her gaze. "No Swan," he whispers firmly, "you are not a lass who can be wooed with money. You're much too brilliant for that. Settling for money or security, rather than love and character, is a dangerous game, one you are much to wise to play."

Neither of them misses how Emma's breath hitches uncontrollably, both at his words and the warmth of their proximity. If she were to slightly arch her face up a few more inches, she could meet his lips in a kiss, and judging from the piercing look in his eyes, he's thinking the same. Before she can decide whether or not to act on her desire, Killian takes a step back and squeezes her hand reassuringly.

"Best not keep the lad waiting, aye?"

Flustered at the out he's given her, and at the realization she almost kissed him, Emma collects herself and lets go of his hand before proceeding to the passenger door, muttering a "Yeah" under her breath.

Killian starts the vehicle as Emma buckles herself in. Fully intent on forgetting their little moment, she takes a sip of her coffee as they begin the drive. Just friends. Just friends. Just friends.

"So lad, your mother tells me your favorite super hero is Thor?"

Emma's eyes shoot up in disbelief at Killian's question, her attention firmly on him and not the road. That conversation was months ago - around the time they first began their friendship - he can't possibly remember it, and yet Killian's not looking at her, instead glancing at Henry in the backseat through the rearview mirror.

"Yeah, Thor is the best! He's an Asgardian and wields the power of his hammer, Mjolnir!"

Killian laughs in delight at Henry's enthusiasm and proceeds to engage him in conversation about Thor and the Avengers the entire ride to campus. Emma, - (disbelief turning to endearment) - simply listens and sips at her coffee, completely taken aback by Killian's sincere interest in Henry without having to use her as a buffer or conversation initiator. Part of her is scared at the easy manner in which Killian appears to get along with Henry, but for now, she is content to enjoy their budding camaraderie. Also, she's secretly delighted to learn of Killian's inner geek side.

Once they drop Henry off at the learning center, they make their way across campus. They stop at the Starbucks for a refill of coffee and proceed to go about their morning study routine. For the rest of the day, Emma attempts to rationalize the morning's earlier moment as simply two friends caught up in conversation and their obvious attraction to one another. She deliberately ignores the roaring voice in her head saying if it weren't for Killian breaking the moment, she would have happily kissed him on impulse.

-/-

The next two days follow the same routine of Emma and Henry carpooling with Killian to campus. Once Emma finishes with classes, she takes the bus to work where she's on desk duty until her Bug is fixed, then commutes back to campus to pickup Henry before heading home once again via the bus. She seriously considers asking Killian for a ride home in the evenings as well, but she wants to retain some boundaries and pride.

The second day of their carpool routine, Killian has an orange juice for Henry and the usual coffee for Emma - (they compromise that she be the one to purchase refills at the library). He once again engages Henry in easy conversation, this time about Henry's favorite villains, and is surprised to learn the lad has a soft spot for Loki also. He shares that his favorite villain is the infamous Captain Hook from Peter Pan, which baffles Henry, and has Emma laughing at her son's adorable nose that scrunches up in confusion at him.

"Captain Hook? But he's so mean to Peter Pan!"

"Don't let the Disney version of the tale fool you, lad. Pan was just as mean to the dear Captain."

Emma laughs at Henry's indignant face and turns back in her seat to face Killian, her brow raised in curiosity. "Captain Hook, seriously?"

Killian just grins and nods his head without taking his eyes off the road. "Aye love, quite the misunderstood villain. Why? Got a thing against pirates?" This last statement he says with a slight turn of his head and a wink.

Emma smirks in return, leaning in as close as she can whilst maintaining a respectable distance considering the middle console and Henry in the backseat. "Oh no, as a matter of fact I happen to love pirates, more so than knights, or Asgardian warriors, or princes. Especially Jack Sparrow."

Killian grunts indignantly at her teasing. "Surely not all princes? Also, there should be 'captain' in there, love."

"Yeah Captain Jack Sparrow!" Henry squeals delightedly in agreement from the backseat.

-/-

The third and last day of their carpool routine, Killian arrives with the usual coffee, milk for Henry, glazed donuts for him and the lad, and Emma's cinnamon bear claw. As they wait for the car to warm up, the three of them reach toward the center console with their respected treats in hand and give a toast to it being Friday.

"It's like we're the Three Musketeers, only with donuts instead of swords!" Henry cheers from the backseat.

Emma's heart seizes in her chest at his comment. The Three Musketeers implies the three of them are a unit, a team, a package deal. She's both touched and terrified at the very thought, but the fear wins out as the bear claw begins to taste like chalk in her mouth and she has to force herself to swallow.

He's attached. Henry has become attached to Killian, and she's not sure what to think about it. It's not lost on Emma how easy these past few days have been, how integrating Killian into her life outside of the library feels normal, good, even felicitous - (damn Mary Margaret and her stupid Jane Austin novels as traditional birthday presents).

And she can't deny she's long since become attached to Killian and their friendship. Not the unhealthy co-dependent sense of attachment, but rather she's begun to develop strong feelings for him apart from simple friendship - (her obvious attraction to him aside). Yet despite their relationship and the almost kiss they shared, there is no guarantee Killian has become attached to them in return.

"Aye lad, the Three Musketeers. I'll be Aramis."

Killian's comment yanks her from her thoughts. "No, we aren't doing that."

"Do what, love?" His voice is laced with surprise and trepidation, as if worried he's crossed a line, and it gives her pause.

"Yeah Mom, what can't we do?"

Sharply closing her eyes at Henry's sweet innocence, Emma steals herself and whispers for Killian to put the car in gear. His brow lifts dubiously but he obliges without protest.

"In a minute buddy," she calls over her shoulder to Henry.

Once they're safely on the road, she turns on the radio, eyebrows rising in surprise at the pre-set station – Radio Disney. Her expression is questioning as she turns toward him, but he simply glances in return, shrugging his shoulders. Unsatisfied, she turns up the volume on the radio in hopes they won't be completely overheard by Henry.

"Killian, we are not the Three Musketeers. You've barely known my kid all of two days and he's already taken with you, but I can't afford for him to get his hopes up," she says under her breath, only just loud enough for him to hear over the cacophonous radio tunes.

He steals another quick glance her way, long enough for Emma to view the affronted look coloring his face, before returning his attention to the road.

A pregnant pause lingers under the obnoxious teen pop song filling the car. Emma knows she's hurt him, possibly angered him as well. She turns around in her seat, once again facing the road instead of him. Resigning herself to a silent car ride, she's taken off guard by the sound of his confidently soft voice, curiously devoid of the anger or hurt she expected.

"Perhaps I am taken with him as well. I certainly am with his mother."

Emma's breath hitches in her throat and she wills herself to look at him. He returns her gaze, a sheepish half smile on his face, before he gives her a nod and returns his attention back to the road.

"Killian…" She shakes her head slightly, taking a breath to calm her rapidly beating heart, "I've been fooled by pretty words before."

"I know, Swan," he swallows and his grip on the steering wheel tightens automatically, "but I don't intend to let you, or your boy, down."

They turn to each other once more - sincere yet hesitant blue, meeting unsettled but hopeful green. Emma has never been regarded like this before, as if she holds the power to make or break him. It's a startling revelation, to know Killian truly cares and values their friendship and is as thoroughly attached to her and Henry as they are to him.

Resolving to take another leap of faith, to punch back and see herself differently, she places a hand on his shoulder and smiles assuredly. "I know, which is why I'm going to choose to see the best in you."

Smiling warmly in return, Killian pulls her hand from his shoulder and entwines their fingers, clasping her hand affectionately before resting their joined hands atop his knee, under the steering wheel. "And I with you."

Emma allows herself to relax, no longer holding a rigid posture as she moves to lower the volume of the radio, keeping her hand firmly laced in his. The corners of her lips turn upward in a playful smirk as she asks, "So, Aramis? I see you as more of a Porthos, you know the whole dandy thing."

"You wound me, Swan," he replies in mock indignation.

"You know Henry hasn't read the book, right? It's too advanced for his reading level. He's only seen the Disney cartoon."

Killian chuckles and looks in the rearview mirror, asking Henry which of the Disney Musketeers they all would be.

Henry pretends to seriously contemplate the question, index finger resting on his cheek and face upturned to the ceiling before exploding emphatically, "I'm Mickey, you'd be Goofy, and Mom would be Donald Duck!"

"I'm Donald Duck?" Emma gasps, mouth gaping in mock offense.

"I'm Goofy?" Killian asks in equal mock umbrage.

The duration of the car ride is filled with sounds of Henry's laughter and their unsuccessful attempts at arguing their case against his choices. They continue holding hands the rest of the trip, including walking Henry to class and their trek to the library, only letting go once they reach their study alcove. They don't ask questions and they don't talk about it, simply content to enjoy the contact as both a balm and seal of the morning's promises.