an: hi friends! I know it's been a while since I've published anything. I'm going through a bit of a life change and I'm also having trouble writing much of anything at all, but this story has been in my head for a year now and I've suddenly started having the easiest time writing it, so I thought I'd start sharing it. Hopefully, hopefully, hopefully- I will update it more frequently than my other multichapters. No guarantees, but I promise I will be trying to update those too now that I seem to have found my groove again.

Anyway, please enjoy this first chapter, and as always, feel free to let me know what you think!


one.

Emma Swan washes her face in the sink of the ladies bathroom. She uses a paper towel to dry off and meets her own eyes in the mirror, finding dark circles under the green of her irises.

Her hair is knotted and flat, so Emma pulls it up into a ponytail and nervously nibbles on her lower lip. She's a royally hot mess, but it's not as if she has any way of resolving this issue. At least, not right now.

It's her first day as Storybrooke's newest deputy, a job she wouldn't have necessarily chosen for herself, but with the pressure of needing something to get by and the offer given to her by the town's sheriff, she couldn't refuse.

Long story short, she'd helped capture one of Storybrooke's most elusive criminals, a man named Will Scarlet, when the man decided to steal her car keys.

The irony isn't lost on her in the slightest that her twice stolen beat up VW Bug's keys were stolen for a third time.

Emma has been in Storybrooke for two days now and everything about this place screams small town intimacy, which should be terrifying for a person like her, but she has run out of options. Big cities are full of people looking for her and Storybrooke is a town that wasn't even on the map she looked at in the gas station two towns over.

She takes a deep breath as she slings her red leather jacket on over her white tank top and she flexes her fingers while keeping her eyes trained on her own in the mirror.

After years of running around, she's weary. She doesn't have a place to call home, not even temporarily, and the closest thing to family she has is someone she'd rather forget.

Emma walks out of the bathroom of the local diner and sneaks out the back door, heading toward her new workplace with a purposeful stride.

The people of Storybrooke are far too friendly, always smiling at her when she meets their gaze, and Emma can't manage one in return, so she just averts her eyes as she walks to the station instead of keeping her head up.

As she enters the building, Emma releases a sigh.

"Ah, Emma!" her new boss, Graham, stands in the hall with a folder file in his hands. "First day on the job. Nervous?"

She rolls her eyes, scoffing. "No way."

Sheriff Graham Humbert wears a sweet smile on his lips and he presses the folder against his chest as he tilts his head toward the bullpen. "Let me show you to your desk. Then I'll take you out for a drive around town to show you the sights."

Emma, for the first time all day, peels back a smile. "Sounds good."

Graham guides Emma into the bullpen and stops at a desk. There's not much in this room, except for a few desks with clunky computers resting atop them. There are two jail cells, with cots and bars, and there are filing cabinets against the wall beside the area where mugshots get taken.

"So, this is your uniform," Graham says, grabbing a star shaped pin and a uniform from the top of her desk. He holds it out to her and she takes it, the material of the uniform top scratchy.

Emma raises an eyebrow at her superior. "Seriously? You don't have to dress a woman like a man to give her authority."

Graham shrugs in response, a smile curling at his lips. "Well, then it's your choice. Wear what you'd like." He watches as Emma folds down the shirt and settles it back onto the desk. She fidgets with the badge in her hand and Graham tips his head toward it. "I do think the badge is a necessity."

Emma takes a soft breath. Storybrooke Sheriff's Department.

Her fingers run over the corners of the badge before she secures it to her side, and the moment she does, the door to the station whips open and an angry voice carries down the hall toward them.

"Sheriff, I found another one of those miscreants in my shop this morning."

The crisp accent of the male voice makes Emma turn, and she's not disappointed to find the man older, with graying hair and a cane to help him move.

He's dressed to the nines in a suit and tie, and he has anger in his eyes. He's holding the arm of a boy, probably around thirteen, who keeps his gaze averted and his lips pressed together in an angry snarl.

"Ah," Graham sighs. "Peter, I think we've discussed this and we've decided that breaking and entering is a crime."

The boy, Peter, looks up at Graham and shakes his head. "I didn't break in. The door was open. I was trying to get my hat back. He stole that from me."

Peter finally yanks himself away from the older gentleman and Graham nods his head. "Well, Mr. Gold, would you like to press charges?"

Mr. Gold, despite how infuriated he appears, gives the boy a side glance before shaking his head on a sigh. "No. Not this time."

Graham hums. "Alright."

Emma watches as the man gives Peter another hard look. "But if I catch you anywhere near my shop after hours, I'll have you put behind bars and your precious guardian won't be able to save you."

Peter doesn't reply, just gives Gold an impossibly angry look, and then Gold tips his head toward Emma.

"I haven't had the chance to meet you, Miss-"

He waits for her to fill in the blank and Emma adjusts her weight on her feet awkwardly, feeling as if this man could do any number of things at the flick of his wrist.

"Swan," she informs him. "Emma Swan."

Gold bobs his head. "A pleasure to meet you, Miss Swan. I'm sure we'll be running into each other again."

And just like that, he's headed back down the hallway and out the front door. Emma releases a breath and meets Graham's expectant gaze.

"He was… something."

Graham laughs. "His name is Mr. Gold. He owns a pawn shop and pretty much everything else in Storybrooke."

Emma raises her eyebrows. "Interesting."

The sheriff turns to the boy standing before them. "Alright. Let's get you back home. Do they know you've run off again, Peter?"

Peter gives Graham a sass-filled look. "Oh, absolutely. They all know where I've gone."

"It's a wonder you're still an orphan," Graham grumbles, taking Peter by the arm a touch roughly. Her boss looks over his shoulder at her. "Come along, then, Deputy."

Emma rolls her eyes and casts a long look at Peter. An orphan. Just like her.

It hits a little close to home, sending chills along her spine, and she has to steady herself a bit before following along.

Graham settles Peter into the back seat roughly and Peter groans and complains. Emma glances back at him as soon as she's in her seat, finding that look in his eyes. He's hiding a lot from the world, who he is down to his very soul, behind walls and safeguards.

She can relate.

As Graham starts to drive, he glances over at Emma. "He lives on the edge of town in the only orphanage in Storybrooke."

Emma hums.

"He's one of the troublemakers that live there. The other, erm, I think his name's…"

"Felix." Peter fills in the blank nonchalantly from the backseat.

Graham's eyes light up as he looks into the rearview mirror. He nods his head. "Ah. That's right. Felix."

"We're gonna get out of here soon enough," Peter informs them. "No more of your silly rules."

Graham laughs humorlessly. "The law applies to everyone. Especially when they're older."

Peter doesn't have anything to say then, maybe he just doesn't know what to say, and they sit in silence. It takes only a few minutes to get to the house, and when they do, Emma stares at the gray-blue building with her jaw unhinged.

It's a nice house. Huge. With white trim and white picket fencing. There are toys in the front yard and there appear to be multiple chairs along the wrap-around porch. The curtains over the windows are brightly colored, happy things.

As Emma just begins to take in the way the sun seems to shine specifically on the building, the front blinds open up and she's invited to see a laughing redhead, who carries a little girl on her hip while a few smaller children dance around her.

"Welcome to Second Star to the Right." Graham says, ripping Emma from her reverie.

Emma turns to her companion, then turns to look at Peter, who seems less than interested in heading back inside.

"Why don't you take this one, Emma?" Graham asks.

She meets his eyes and lifts her eyebrow. "You sure?"

Graham shrugs. "I don't think both of us need to go in."

Emma takes a soft breath. She's never done this before in her life. She's never been an officer before. This is her first day on the job, with very limited training.

There are two ways this could go: okay or terrible.

"Alright, Peter," Emma says. "Let's go."

Emma steps outside of the squad car and takes Peter by the arm to walk him up the pathway toward the front door. Peter gives her flack for it, but he's otherwise quiet as they walk.

She scans her surroundings and she discovers that the pathway is covered in chalk drawings and names written in curly font. There are a few cars in the driveway leading toward the garage and there's noise emanating from open windows on the massive home.

Chatter, music, laughter. All sounds that Emma finds just a little odd for an orphanage. At least, in her experience.

When she reaches the door, she knocks at the door and rings the doorbell. Peter squints as he looks up at the overhanging roof as if it's incredibly interesting, and Emma just prepares herself mentally for the chaos of a group home.

It's been quite some time since she's been at one of these places and having the memories of her past rushing forth while she's attempting to just do her job makes things tougher than they could be.

The door swings open. The redhead from before, still carrying the little girl, stands there. Her eyes grow wide at the sight of the boy and she gasps.

"Peter! I didn't even notice. Oh, gosh," she presses a hand to her forehead and steps backward. "Come in, please."

She has Peter enter the house first and then Emma follows.

"Oh!" she gasps, looking at Emma. "I haven't met you before! Hi! I'm Anna. I work here."

Emma shakes her hand. "Emma."

Anna pulls on a sweet smile and bobs her head once gracefully. "It's lovely meeting you, Emma. I'm so sorry. Things have been crazy this morning. One of the little ones is celebrating a birthday and-"

"Anna!" the little girl on her hip yells. "Down!"

The woman sighs. She nods her head and drops to her knees in order to do just that, watching as the toddler runs into another room. Anna rises to her feet and clasps her hands together.

"As I was saying," Anna says, her cheeks flushing. "We're going to try to be better about this. Peter-"

An older girl with blonde hair comes rushing down the stairs then, her expression empty and her eyes equally so. She wears a backpack and steps to the door. She grabs a pair of shoes from the many gathered there and steps into them.

"Hannah," Anna says, quickly turning to the girl. "If you want a ride-"

"I'm fine."

Anna shifts to Emma, a worried little knit in her brow over the teenaged girl. "If you'd like to talk to Killian, he's just down the hall."

Emma takes a steadying breath and nods. Peter's arm is still held tight in her hand and when they reach an open door filled with noise, Emma slows to a stop.

When she gets her first glimpse into the room, her heart unexpectedly jumps.

There's a man Emma presumes is Killian sitting in the front of the living room, a little girl with pig tails happily resting in his lap, her arms around his neck, while he reads animatedly from a book in his hand.

He's almost devastatingly handsome, with his dark hair and beard. He has sparkling eyes and a happy, contagious smile. He's wearing a loose plaid button up, with his hair a wild untamed mess, and jeans. His arm muscles are flexed and he has a sharp jawline. Clearly, he works out.

He's kind of attractive. And he's looking straight at her.

His smile falls with his jaw and she sees his attention bounce between the two of them at the door before he sits upright and looks to the kids in the room.

"Tim, would you read?" he asks, holding out the book to a boy who eagerly takes his place.

The man settles the little girl onto the floor, but she follows him anyway, clinging to his leg when he comes to stand in the doorway.

Mostly, he looks disappointed when he sees Peter standing there, his gaze fallen and his arms folded.

"What did he do?" he asks, looking straight at her.

Emma shakes her head. "He was caught in Mr. Gold's shop this morning."

Killian drops his shoulders and stares at Peter, as if he's trying to decide what to do with him. "Peter, my office."

Peter groans and Emma releases his arm when he yanks it away. The boy walks down the hall with a belligerent shuffle.

"He's troubled," he tells her. "He's been here two months and he hasn't adjusted very well."

Emma sighs. "Well. Next time he's caught at Gold's shop he said he'd press charges."

"Of course," his brow creases.

He lifts a hand to the back of his head and exhales. The little girl at his leg lifts her arms out, causing him to lean down to take her back up.

Killian takes a breath as he stares at Emma and she quickly averts her gaze, feeling as if he's studying her just a little too much, with his eyes scanning each and every line of her face as if he's enamored with the way she looks.

She hasn't even had a shower in at least a week.

"What's your name, love?"

Emma swivels her attention back to Killian and says, "Swan. Emma Swan."

He arches an eyebrow so high she thinks it gets lost in his hairline and he grins wildly. "Ah. A pleasure to meet you, Swan. I'm Killian. Killian Jones."

Killian holds his hand out for her to shake and she does, hesitantly, because he keeps staring at her like he's trying to understand her and she doesn't want him to. She doesn't need him to.

His grip is firm, but gentle, and his fingertips are calloused. And his eyes, she could probably get lost in them, but she's only trying to give as much as he is.

Part of her is curious. Why does he run this place? He could be doing a hundred other things with his life. Without kids.

There are questions she has about this man but it's always better to not get involved. Because involvement means attachment and she doesn't get attached.

Emma pulls her hand away as Anna comes toward them. "Eliza Jane, I was hoping you would help me decorate cookies for your party."

"Yes please!" the little girl cheers from Killian's arms. He settles the girl on the floor, but she turns to him first. "Killian, don't forget it's my birthday."

He laughs warmly. "Sweetheart, I don't think I could ever forget your birthday. I'm very excited for your party later."

She giggles when he presses his index finger to her nose and then she goes to Anna, reaching up to take her hand as they head down the hall.

Killian rises up again and she shouldn't be surprised that he can't stop staring at her, but she kind of is. "You must be new in town, then, Swan?"

Emma nods. "Yeah. I got here two days ago. Started working today."

Killian bobs his head in understanding. "Aye."

They stare at each other for an obscene amount of time and Emma straightens. "Well, I should go."

"Aye," he agrees. "Of course. Thank you for bringing him to us."

Emma nods once and smiles slightly before she turns to go to the door. She's halfway there when she's stopped by a hand on her arm.

Immediately, she whirls around, her eyes wide, and she's met with Killian standing impossibly close to her, a blush in his cheeks as he laughs to himself. "Erm…"

Killian stares at her. He doesn't seem to have anything to say and she feels her stomach twist because of it.

"Perhaps next week you could come in and give a talk?" he asks, lifting a cautious eyebrow while his voice lowers. "We try with Peter and Felix, but they don't like to listen."

Her mouth falls open and she shakes her head. "Why not have Graham-?"

He starts to get a little nervous, his fingers retreating to the spot behind his ear as an embarrassed blush crawls against the skin of his neck. "I- I suppose Graham could come speak."

Emma studies him, and how he continues to stare at her. She finds a fierce fire in his eyes, as if he's determined, and it makes her wary.

"I'll ask him."

She turns around again and she hears a few voices beckoning for Killian sweetly, resulting in his heavy sigh.

"I'll be right there, darlings," he calls. "I've got to speak with Peter first."

Emma turns when she closes the door and the last thing she sees of Killian is him gasping at a toy a little boy hands him and then ruffling the curls on his head before he glances toward the door with a big smile on his lips.

She has a lot of questions about Killian Jones, but she won't ask them. She won't.

/

Killian stares at Peter in silence as they sit in his office.

It's hard to get through to him, especially with his thick skin and snark, and Killian feels himself getting angrier with him by the end of their meeting. He sighs heavily and leans forward at his desk, searching the boy's eyes.

"Peter, I want to help you feel comfortable here," Killian tells him. "This is your home. We can be your family, but only if you allow us to be."

Peter gives him a look and presses his tongue against his inner cheek. "I don't think you'll ever qualify as family, mate."

"That's fine," Killian admits.

He leans back again and stares at the image of his older brother on his desk. The two of them are standing on a cliff overlooking the ocean, their arms wrapped around each other, huge grins on their faces. It's one of the last pictures they ever took together.

"But if you're living here, you have to follow my rules," Killian says firmly. He looks at Peter. "Which means you obey the law and you don't patronize the people of Storybrooke just because you don't like them."

Peter heaves a sigh. "Fine."

Killian searches his eyes. "Okay. It happens again and I'm going to let you suffer the consequences. Understand that."

The boy rolls his eyes as he stands. "Aye, aye, Captain."

Before being dismissed, Peter starts for the door and Killian closes his eyes on a sigh. He presses his face into his palms and rests his elbows on his desk.

There are good moments and there are bad moments. This just happens to be one of the latter.

A knock against the door makes him sit upright. "Come in."

The door opens and Anna, with a sweet smile on her lips, enters the room and plops herself down across from him.

"Eliza Jane's birthday cookies are all finished. You can thank Granny for that miracle. Just last night she wanted cake but this morning she decided on cookies."

Killian laughs. "She's a sweetheart. Have we decided on a gift?"

Anna bobs her head. "I'm going to bring her to Elsa and Ingrid's shop this afternoon for ice cream. I think she'll love that."

He hums, thinking of one afternoon in particular that Eliza had spent with him one-on-one. She'd had chocolate running down her chin and she wouldn't stop giggling because of it. It was absolutely worth the effort it took to get the stains out of her shirt and skirt later that night.

Killian drops his gaze to the calendar on his desk and he shakes his head. "We've got a lot this week. Parents are coming to meet Becca and Katie tomorrow. Tim's having his meeting this afternoon."

"Oh, no, not my Tim!" Anna frowns, clasping her hands over her heart. "He will be so loved. I have no doubt they'll want to take him from us."

Killian smiles, though he carries a twinge of sadness in his heart over having to say goodbye to children as often as they do. It's part of the process, but it doesn't mean he can't get attached to the little hands and minds that come through here.

"The older ones are off to school?" Killian asks.

Anna nods. "Yes. I think we might want to talk to Hannah after school today. She seems to be having a hard time adjusting."

Killian bites on his lip. "You can do that, Anna. I don't think she likes me very much."

Anna laughs. "Killian Jones, these kids adore you."

He feels a blush creeping up his neck and he shakes his head. "Andrew hid from me for months because he was afraid of me. Do you remember him?"

Anna smiles softly. "Of course I do. You were inseparable once he realized you weren't a scary pirate."

Killian rolls his eyes. He has a glimpse at the time on his computer screen and sighs. There's so much to be done and only so many hours in the day.

"So… that cop lady was pretty." Anna mentions casually, having a look at her nails.

He gives her a look. "Anna."

"What?" she giggles, sliding forward in her chair. Anna gives him a knowing grin. "I saw you with her. You were absolutely smitten!"

"I was not!" Killian argues, laughing. "I was just… chatting."

"Anna!" a little voice calls. "Anna where are you?"

Anna shakes her head as she stands up and her fingers press against the edge of his desk. "I want you to know that it's perfectly fine to be interested in a lady. You spend every hour of everyday thinking about others. Think about yourself for once."

Her little smile as she starts heading for the door makes him give her a look. "She was pretty."

Anna hums. "That's what I thought."