eight.

Emma nibbles on her lower lip as she studies the book in front of her. She's been reading the same line for at least half an hour now and she's hardly two pages deep into the reading.

Meanwhile, Mary Margaret is in her own little peaceful world flipping through pages like nobody's business, a soft smile upon her lips while she even manages to hum a little under her breath.

She removes her glasses and closes the book before she sets them both onto the side table and stretches her legs out on the couch while her arm goes over her head.

"You know, you're never going to finish the book at this rate." Mary Margaret teases without even looking up from her book.

Emma laughs. "Yeah. I know. I just don't feel like reading tonight."

Her roommate sighs and closes her own book to set it aside. "Emma, you went all the way to Second Star just so you could get your glasses and read."

Emma gives Mary Margaret a look before she places her hands over her face and says through them, "So?"

"So… maybe something happened while you were over there? Maybe a little something with Killian?"

Emma scoffs. "Mary Margaret, this thing you think is happening between us isn't happening… like, at all."

She settles her hands over her middle and bites at her lip. Her belly flips all the same, knowing full well that there is indeed something going on between she and Killian.

"You go over there a lot," Mary Margaret points out. "Do you like him?"

Her mouth falls open and she gapes at Mary Margaret for a moment. "What? No. I just… I like going over because it's kind of nice playing with the kids."

"Mhm,"

"Mary Margaret, I don't like him. How many times do I have to tell you that?"

Mary Margaret sighs and shakes her head. "Emma, I like to think we know each other better now, don't we? It's been, what, almost two months since you moved here?"

"Yeah."

"That wall of yours, the one you have around your heart, it may keep out the pain and the hurt, but it also keeps out love." Mary Margaret says with the nervous worry of a mother. "You don't have to keep protecting yourself from us, Emma. We're not here to hurt you like the people in your past."

Emma swallows at the lump forming in her throat and she shakes her head as soon as she's sitting up, facing the wall rather than her roommate. With a glance at Mary Margaret, her heart squeezes tight and she realizes something. She can't leave.

Emma manages a smile. "I know you're not, Mary Margaret. But he's a different story."

Mary Margaret shakes her head. "He's just as broken as you are. You don't know how much he's lost, Emma."

For a moment, she stares at her roommate and tries to decide if it's worth the argument.

Emma takes a breath and then ascends the ladder up to the loft, where she collapses onto her bed and stares up at the ceiling with her hands on her middle.

She doesn't know what she's doing.

/

He wakes up to the sound of obnoxious knocking coming from the front door of the home. He'd fallen asleep reading in the playroom, of all places.

The sun blinds him only a little and his muscles curse him for the awkward position in which he'd fallen asleep. Killian sets the book aside and massages the back of his neck as he shuffles toward the front door.

When he swings it open, he pulls on a half-smile, tired as he is. "Madame Mayor. What a pleasant surprise on this fine day. What can I do for you, love?"

Mayor Regina Mills gives him a fake smile she doesn't bother disguising as anything but. "I'm here because I've received a number of complaints regarding your children, Mister Jones. Last night, apparently, two of them were streaking through town spray painting the sides of buildings."

Killian immediately groans and shakes his head. "Bloody hell. I-"

"I would call for their arrests for vandalizing town property, but since we're... friends, I thought I'd let you know that you are on your last straw. The next time I hear of something one of these little brats has done, I'll be working on shutting you down."

His heart skips a beat and he narrows his eyes at the mayor. "You can't do that."

"Try me," Regina says with a nearly evil inflection. "I have control here. Not you."

The mayor straightens out and smiles thinly at him. She glances around the doorway and eyes him slightly, as if contemplating the reason behind his misshapen appearance.

"Good day, Mister Jones."

She turns to go and he all but growls as he closes the door in her wake. He spins around, rubbing his face.

The day is about to begin and it's already off to the worse start possible.

To amend this, Killian hurries through the house until he reaches his bedroom and he grabs a fresh set of clothes, his phone, and goes into his bathroom to shower.

/

"Good morning, Emma," Graham says from his office.

Emma hums. "Don't know if it's good yet. Check with me in an hour or so."

Her boss chuckles.

Emma enters the bullpen and sets her mug of coffee down on the desk before she peels out of her jacket and has a seat at the computer. She powers it on, already dreading the day of paperwork ahead of her.

"I've got something for you to do today, actually." Graham says. He holds a folder in his hands and sets it down on the desk. "I need you to follow up on a complaint we got from a Rusty Thompson. He claims somebody's been siphoning gas from his boat."

Emma gives Graham a look. "Really?"

"I know, sounds ridiculous. Just… look into it. Question the boat owners at the harbor. It may have just been a case of forgetfulness but I promised we'd check into it."

Emma sighs. She glances back at her slow-moving computer beast and then at the folder. She grabs the file and flips it open.

"Names of the boat owners and their contact information. Should keep you busy for a day, eh?"

She glances up at her boss and closes the file folder. "Yep."

Emma stands, slipping back into her jacket, and lifts her eyebrows as she grabs her things to go again.

She's halfway to the door when Graham adds, "Take the patrol car instead of your Bug, if you would. It needs gas."

On a sigh, she calls out over her shoulder, "On it."

As soon as she steps outside, the sun blinds her momentarily, causing her to squint and hold her hand up over her eyes. She tucks a strand of hair behind her ear after she opens the patrol car door. Emma glances around, as if to delay the inevitable, and then climbs inside.

It takes her all of ten minutes to get to the docks, and when she arrives, she isn't sure where to go. She takes the folder file with her and flips it open as she gets out of the car and onto the dock.

There are ten boats bobbing in the harbor, one of them much larger than the rest. There are a bunch of kids on it, all laughing and chatting as they climb down the ramp onto the dock.

"See you all next week!" a familiar voice calls out after the group.

"Bye, Mister Killian!"

Emma watches Killian, who stands on the deck with a bright smile on his face. He spies her and immediately, his expression changes, as if the breath is stolen from his chest.

She glances around for a second before she makes the choice to climb the ramp up to the boat's deck, gaining level ground with Killian.

"Swan," he says breathlessly. "Hello."

Emma nods. "Hey."

"What can I do for you?"

Emma has a look around the ship for a few moments and pulls on a smile as she holds out the document folder. "I… was looking for the mastermind behind some stolen gas. Apparently someone's been siphoning from Mister Thompson. I don't know if you know anything about that."

Killian scoffs and shakes his head. "Bloody hell, that old nut is at it again? He'll do anything to stir up trouble." Emma stares at him blankly. "No, I don't know anything about it."

She sighs and nods. "Then I guess I'll go check with the other names on my list." Emma takes a thoughtful step backward and then forward again. "I didn't know you had a boat."

Killian smiles sadly for a second and looks around the ship before he nods. "Aye. It was my brother's."

"And those kids?" Emma asks.

Killian looks over his shoulder at the stragglers and smiles slightly as he waves at one. He turns back to her.

"Part of a sailing program. I'm usually not the one teaching but Smee's out for vacation this week so I've been pulling double duty." He pauses. "We do tours too. Around the harbor."

Emma nods. It's peaceful out here, with the way the water sloshes against the boat and the wind tickles her skin. She takes a moment to bask in it. Then, she turns to Killian. He's staring at her, as if waiting for her to say something.

"Why do you do it?" she asks.

"Do what?"

Emma shakes her head. This question has been on her mind since the very first day she arrived in Storybrooke. She needs answers.

"Why do you have the orphanage and the sailing-" Emma gestures around them. "I don't look at you and think orphanage director. So why are you doing this?"

Her arms go against her chest and she watches as Killian takes a deep breath in consideration. He glances around the ship and the harbor, and then turns to her.

"I was five months old when my mother died," he says. "And seven years old when my father abandoned us. Me and Liam, I mean." He looks down at his feet. "When my brother passed a few years ago, he and I had been planning this whole thing out where I'd run the tours around the harbor and lessons for the orphans, while he and his soon-to-be wife would run the orphanage, with a little help from the community. We… never imagined he'd go. It was sudden and heartbreaking."

"But he passed and I was given everything in his possession, from the house to the ship… and the money he inherited from our mother and the little he'd had saved up."

Killian shakes his head. He has tears in his eyes when he looks up at her.

"It was his dream to make sure children didn't have to feel as lost as we did growing up. He was always trying to make sure I succeeded. All he cared about was making a difference in the lives of the people around him."

"Anyway, he passed, I was left with everything, and I figured the best way to honor his legacy was to open Second Star and to keep our plans in motion." Killian manages a smile. "And so we did, not a month after he passed."

Emma searches his eyes, the weight of grief on her own shoulders. "What happened to his fiancée?"

Killian nods. "She's still in town. We're friends. She likes to help out when she can, but she's busy with work."

As much as she'd like to dismiss him and this story, she finds him all the more endeared. He's suffering, just like Mary Margaret said, but somehow he's moved past it all in order to provide for the kids while at the same time preserving the memory of his brother.

"I… rarely get the chance to come out here anymore," Killian admits with a shy smile. "I spend so much time with the children and in my office working through finances and things."

She watches Killian look out at the horizon.

"I used to think I'd live at sea. I thought about joining up with the navy or becoming a fisherman." He meets her eyes. "How about you, Swan? You always want to be an officer?"

Emma scoffs. She considers her answer for a second, and then realizing he'd shared so much of his life's story with her just now, she decides she should be just as vulnerable with him.

"No. I wanted to be a musician when I was six or seven." She looks at the water and then back at him. "My parents abandoned me when I was born. I grew up in the system."

It's a secret she hasn't shared with very many people before, but she knows Killian won't take it the wrong way. He's pretty much already guessed as much anyway, with his open book spiel a while back.

With a sigh, Emma sits on a bench by the side of the ship. "I used to be a bail bondsperson. I was really good at finding people. And it's for that reason that I came here. I'm a little too good at finding people and it's something people get angry about."

Killian joins her on the bench, their knees brushing slightly. "Did you know that slugs have four noses?"

Emma looks at him and laughs. "What?"

He shrugs. "I thought I'd tell you a fun fact to lighten the mood."

She laughs again and shakes her head as she stares at him. Her smile fades fast as she considers what this is between them. She's afraid of it becoming too real, and it already is. She may as well start working at Second Star full time.

Killian searches her eyes and a smile lifts the corner of his lips. "We're broken, aren't we? The both of us."

Emma's heart skips a beat. She can't find the words to speak, so she nods slightly.

"I suppose it's why we seem to have electricity between us." Killian says. "Where two lost and lonely souls meet, there's always a bond."

Emma finds herself turned toward him more than she had been before. She finds herself leaning in. Finds herself staring at his lips. He does the same.

She could kiss him. She could give into the tension that's been growing between them for weeks now. She could admit to herself that she likes the sound of his voice, and the kindness in his eyes, and the way he treats the kids.

She could admit those things, but she'd be betraying her own rules for how this works. The last time she gave in and admitted such things to herself, she ended up abandoned and alone in a dark alleyway with handcuffs around her wrists.

Emma looks down, away from Killian, and straightens out before she stands up. "I need to go."

/

He watches her go, never once glancing over her shoulder at him.

His heart is in his gut and he immediately feels regret for every word spoken and every thought he'd had that led him to believe Emma Swan might actually be opening up to him.

He knows it's a process. He's had a lot of kids like Emma in the house, and he's come to perfect the nuances and the skills needed to crack her kind of person. But, much like Hannah, Emma seems dead set on keeping things between them distant.

On a sigh, he stands to tidy the ship's deck, and as he works he finds himself thinking about Milah, of all people, and how easy it had been to fall in love with her.

When he's done on the ship, he wanders through town until he reaches the ice cream shop and enters. It's empty, which is peculiar because it's nearly the summer and Storybrooke is actually quite hot today.

"Coming!" Elsa's voice comes from the back room. She hurries out holding a box of napkins and she immediately grins at him. "Hey, Killian. How are you doing?"

Killian smiles back at her, though it's a halfhearted attempt. "I'm… alright. I thought I'd come by and talk to you because we left things on the phone last night kind of…"

"Heavy?" Elsa asks. She sets the box of napkins on the counter.

He nods. "Aye. I apologize for that."

"No, don't apologize. Don't ever apologize." Elsa waves him off. She walks around the counter to join him on the opposite side. "It's hard. Sometimes I get hit with the most overwhelming feeling of missing him too."

Killian reaches out for Elsa and wraps his arms around her in a gentle hug. She responds in kind, and by the time they pull apart, he breathes easier.

"What happened?" she asks as she examines him.

"What do you mean?"

"Come on," Elsa says. "I know you Jones men. You've got more on your mind then you're letting on. And I have a feeling it's about a certain deputy."

Killian sighs. "I… I'm fine. Can you come by this afternoon with ice cream for the kids?"

Elsa eyes him and he thinks she won't let him drop this, but then she nods and smiles. "Of course. Any new allergies I need to worry about?"

"Erm… I don't think so, no."

"Okay. Then I'll see you in a bit. Tell Anna I'll bring her favorite if she promises to come to my recital this Friday."

"You have a recital?" Killian asks, shocked.

Elsa blushes and brushes back a strand of her hair. "Yeah. I've been taking piano lessons. I know it's silly, but I always wanted to learn."

"No, it's not silly. Why didn't you tell me? I would love to see you perform."

Elsa gives him a look. "Killian, you're so busy. I don't think you'd have time for half an hour on Friday afternoon."

"Says who?" Killian asks.

Elsa's eyes widen almost comically. "I do. I know better than to ask you to step away from your business for something personal. You haven't taken the time for personal in a long time. It's part of the reason we can't work together."

The bell tinkles above the door, causing their conversation to end as Elsa slips back behind the counter.

Killian looks over at the guests and then at Elsa. He manages a smile at her. "See you later, then."

"Yep." Elsa nods curtly. "Hi, how can I help you guys?"

Killian leaves the store feeling anxious and angry. He figures the best way to resolve this is a trip to the gym, but he doesn't have the time, what with a conference call in a half hour and a meeting with Peter and Felix after that.

He holds it inside instead, the frustration mixing with the grief he'd felt when Emma wouldn't open up to him.

When he arrives at Second Star, he finds the place in disarray, with screaming children streaking through the lower level of the house with nothing but underwear on.

Anna comes shooting out of the downstairs bathroom with a panicked look on her face, "Grace! Come here!"

Killian narrowly avoids being hit with a paper airplane sent down the steps by one of the boys and he clears his throat twice before calling out, "Alright, what's all this about?"

It gets quieter then. Anna, hair mussed and silly makeup on her face, steps into the foyer from the playroom with Grace in her arms and Eliza Jane clinging to her leg.

"You were gone for a while," Anna explains. "I called for help, but everyone was busy, so I've been trying to come up with fun things to do, and for whatever reason Grace and Eliza Jane have the worst sugar rush of all time-"

Killian sighs. "Okay, well… Anna, why don't you gather the children and take them outside for a game? I've got a meeting in ten minutes, but after that I will be outside with you."

"Okay," Anna nods. "Kids! We're going outside!"

/

"Killian, you look sad." Eliza Jane says.

He smiles and shakes his head at the girl. She's standing at the bathroom door, waiting her turn. The rest of the kids are outside, and he's here to make sure the trip to the bathroom runs smoothly.

"I'm not sad, darling," he promises. "I'm just fine."

Eliza Jane narrows her eyes at him. "I don't know."

"You don't know?" he asks on a laugh. "What does that mean?"

"When you're sad, you don't smile with your eyes." Eliza Jane says. "Because that's what Miss Anna says."

Killian sighs heavily. "Well, I can assure you, love, I'm going to be alright."

The bathroom door opens and Grace steps out. "Okay! I can go play again."

"Good girl," he smiles. He gestures to the bathroom. "Go on, Eliza Jane. Bathroom is all yours."

Eliza Jane goes to him and hugs his legs for a second before she hurries into the bathroom and closes the door. Grace hurries around him for the door and he watches her go.

He hears something upstairs just then. A bang.

Killian frowns and hurries up the steps. When he reaches the second floor, he does a quick scan of the bedrooms and then he hears a sniffle coming from the upstairs living area.

He discovers Hannah curled up on the couch near the window that looks down at the children in the backyard. She's reading a book, appearing completely relaxed and at ease.

"Hey, Hannah." Killian says with a smile. He sits down on the couch cushion opposite her and she looks up at him.

"Am I in trouble?" she asks.

"No, no," Killian smiles. "You've got the right idea, actually. It's chaos out there. And bloody hot."

Hannah smiles at that and closes her book. She keeps her fingers in it to hold her place.

"How are you?" he asks her.

The teen looks away from the window at him. Her eyes are wide. She doesn't speak. She usually doesn't when he approaches her. Often he's met with her wild and unkempt intensity, something that comes from protecting oneself for years on end.

Silence sits between them. He takes a breath and stares out the window at the screaming children playing games with one another. He can see Peter and Felix joking together near the swingset and it makes him shake his head.

"Peter hasn't been bothering you, has he?" Killian asks.

Hannah shakes her head 'no' but doesn't speak. He can tell she's being honest though, so he's relieved.

"Good. I worry about that." He smiles slightly. He runs his hands down his arms and folds them against his chest. "I'm not having a very good day." He sighs. "Sometimes I wish I could start over again. Do you ever feel that way?"

Hannah thinks about it. He can see it in the way she stares at him. When she makes her decision, she nods. "Yeah."

Killian stares at Hannah for a moment. "Do you like to run?"

She's caught off guard by his question, so he adds, "Every morning I go for a run around town. If you ever want to join me, I'd love the company. We don't have to talk. I like to listen to music or audiobooks while I run, actually. Keeps me on pace."

Hannah smiles softly. "What time?"

"Ah… 'round five tomorrow morning," Killian says. "I know, it's early-"

"Okay."

A smile fills his face. It's a small victory in a day full of failures. Joy blossoms in his chest and he bobs his head.

"Good. I look forward to it."