As always, a huge thank you to icecubelotr44 for being my beta, and couldnthandleit and hopeandbeans for being such amazing artists!
Killian choked out a sob. He'd lost her, just as he'd lost… as he thought he'd lost his mother all those years ago. All because of his damned temper.
Liam was always on his case about it, and Killian had that firsthand knowledge of how easy it was to lose control. It was something that hadn't happened in centuries, but the threat was always there. He could feel it simmering in his blood every time he got angry.
After his first night in the castle, both his brother and Merlin helped him learn how to keep the dragon at bay. To control the wild magic he had just discovered to be a part of him.
Control was hard, but he'd been able to get a handle on things… until now.
Now, Emma was dead because of him. A cold feeling of dread washed over him as he called for her in vain. He'd just destroyed another woman he lov-
A loud, hacking cough cut through the silence, forcing him to put away the rogue thought for now. His breath caught as he moved autonomically towards the sound. "Emma?" he asked cautiously, not wanting to get his hopes up too high.
Another cough sounded, and soon, Killian could see a small form moving through the dust. He ran without hesitation. It was her. It was her, and she was alive.
He practically bowled her over when he reached her. She was shaking in his arms, knees buckling under his onslaught or the harrowing experience she'd just survived, Killian wasn't sure. He just knew she was warm, breathing, alive in his embrace.
Relief made way for absolute joy, and Killian couldn't help himself. He squeezed her tightly as he peppered her with little kisses, reveling in her giggles.
"Killian!" she squeaked. "You're smothering me!"
"Sorry, love," he loosened his hold on her, giving her a little space, but also making sure she stayed upright.
"You're okay…" he gasped.
"Yeah," she let out another little cough.
"Let's get you out of here." He lifted her into his arms and carried her away from the wreckage.
Once they were clear from the dust and debris, he sat her down next to his mother, who was still unconscious, then joined her on the sand. "You're okay…" he said again, wondering if this was just some hopeful delusion. " How? "
"Magic… I think…" Her brow furrowed as she tried to recall what happened. "I just… I tried to stop everything from caving in, but it was too much. I couldn't do it. I'm sorry."
"No, Emma," he shook his head, " I'm sorry. None of this would have happened if I hadn't lost my temper. I shouldn't have put you in that position…"
Emma looked over at his mother, then back at him. "Is she going to be okay?" She asked.
He could see the guilt in her eyes. None of this was her fault, and yet she still carried the burden. The one he placed on her. "She's healing," he said, "it will take some time, but she'll get there."
"I tried…" she sniffled. She quickly wiped away the lone tear that rolled down her cheek.
"You were bloody brilliant." He placed a kiss on her cheek. "Amazing," he punctuated his belief with a kiss to her other cheek. "We never would have made it out alive without you."
She nervously checked on his mother again. "Are you sure-"
"Emma, she's fine." Maybe it sounded cold, but she was worrying too much. "She'll likely be out a while, but she'll recover. It's you I'm worried about."
"I'm fine," she protested, "and your mother is passed out-"
"You don't know her like I do," he interrupted. "She prefers to heal herself. If she could bring herself back from near death, a simple knock on the head isn't going to keep her down. You, on the other hand, have had three traumatic experiences just today."
"I'm okay," she insisted. "A little dusty maybe, but otherwise unharmed."
"Glad to hear it."
"So…" she smirked and gave him a little nudge. "You were supposed to explain that whole fire thing. I mean… if we're going to just sit around and wait for your mom to wake up… maybe you could tell me now?"
"Right," he chuckled. He was hoping she'd forget about that. "To be perfectly honest, I don't really know all that much about it. What I do know, is that it's not really fire… more of a magic thing. From what I've heard, it just has a tendency to happen from time to time."
"From what you've heard ?" she teased. "Are you saying you've never actually had that happen before?"
"Well… ah…" he scratched nervously behind his ear. "No." He shot her a look, and could tell she had a smart remark just waiting for him.
"Oh…" She barely managed to force the word out without a giggle.
He eyed her suspiciously, but she just shrugged. Judging by her expression, she was trying hard not to laugh. Deciding she wasn't going to tease him anymore, he turned to look at the water.
"So… virgin, huh?"
"Oh bloody hell!"
Emma fell over in a fit of giggles, making it difficult for Killian to be even the tiniest bit annoyed. "You're hilarious, darling," he tried to talk over her laughter. "Go on, insult me for your own amusement. But a bit of advice: when I jab you with my sword, you'll feel it."
The giggling stopped, and Killian thought maybe he'd gone too far. Then she was grinning from ear to ear. "So… you're more experienced with swords than with fire?"
"Are you finished ?"
"Sorry." She sat back up, and looked as if she was trying her hardest to be on her best behavior. "I do have one… serious question though." She waited for him to give her the go ahead, smiling when he gestured for her to continue. "I know you're a little lacking in the experience department-"
"Don't you dare start again," he warned, though there was no fight in his words.
Her hands went up in mock surrender. "I was just going to see if… maybe you could do it again, but… on purpose this time."
"No promises," he smirked, hoping he looked and sounded more confident than he felt. The thought that he might not be able to get the same results a second time had his stomach tying up in knots. Up until a few hours ago, he'd just assumed fire kisses were a myth. He'd never experienced it, never witnessed it. All his knowledge came from stories that had been passed around for centuries. None of them carried any instructions, nor indication of what caused them in the first place. Now that he knew they were real, he thought that maybe, they were more common before the curse. But that didn't help him now. What if she found him to be boring without his fire?
"Hey," she interrupted his thoughts, "I don't really care about the fire... I just want you to kiss me."
Now that he could do.
He felt it the moment their lips touched. The feeling of his magic sparking just underneath his skin. Emma's once cool skin felt warm to the touch as he pulled her closer.
Killian dared to open his eyes when she moved to settle on his lap. The flames flickered wildly around them, yet he didn't draw attention to it, not wanting to scare Emma. He shut his eyes and wrapped his arms around her waist. She made a little noise when his hand brushed against the bit of skin that was peeking out from under her shirt-
A bit of movement startled them both, and quickly doused the flames. They turned to see his mother starting to sit up. She had a devilish grin on her face, and laughed. "Well don't stop on my account. I can see myself back to the house if you wanted to-"
Emma hid her face in the crook of his neck. He could feel her shaking with silent laughter and was grateful she was amused rather than mortified.
"Will you be staying?" she asked as she stood.
The quick change of subject caught him off guard. All he could do was shrug.
"You know where to find me," she said softly. She started towards the house, leaving him and Emma alone on the shore.
They sat in silence for a bit, Emma's soft breaths tickling his skin. The lack of snoring assured him that she was still awake, but the calm, steady rhythm of her breathing told him she wouldn't be much longer. "Come on, sweetheart," he gave her a gentle nudge, "let's get back to the house. I can draw you a bath if you'd like."
"So we're staying?" she asked.
"I'm not sure, love," he sighed. He knew he should stay. Hear what his mother had to say. But that didn't make processing everything any easier. She'd let him believe she was dead for centuries, only to show up and act as if nothing had changed.
"You should talk to her," Emma said. "Calmly. Actually listen to each other. It seems like a lot of this is just… I don't know… miscommunication?"
"She let me believe she was dead," he reminded her. "I saved her life. Isn't that enough?"
"Can't you at least try?" she asked. "Just give her a chance to explain. If you don't want to stay after that, then we'll leave. She's your mother. The least you can do is hear her out."
He had to face her anyway. It was getting late, Emma was tired, and he would be a fool to take her on such a trip after all she'd been through that day. "We'll stay for now, and work on your magic tomorrow."
"I'll talk to her," he promised.
"Thank you." Seemingly appeased, she stood, and held out her hand. "Does the old man need any assistance?"
Killian rolled his eyes as he stood. "You're not as funny as you think you are," he informed her as she laughed. Before she could pull her hand away, he took it and laced his fingers with hers. "Just to make sure you don't injure yourself again," he teased when she blushed. "Watch where you're walking?"
Emma sat with Killian's mother, Marella, she said her name was, while he drew a bath. She couldn't make any true judgements, after all, she didn't really know the woman. But she felt at ease around her.
Marella avoided the subject of what happened between her and her sons, and Emma didn't ask. It wasn't her place. Instead, she shared stories of Killian's childhood, making Emma laugh at all his misadventures.
"What's so funny?" Killian asked as he entered the room.
"Your mom was just telling me about the time you ran into the woods naked," Emma giggled.
"Bloody hell." He turned a bright shade of red and didn't seem amused.
"He fell into the poison plant," Marella added. "Remember that, Sea Star?"
"Mother!" His ears were just as red as his cheeks. "I'm certain Emma doesn't want to hear any of these tall tales." He looked at Emma, flushed and grumpy, and nodded towards the washroom. "Everything's ready if you're done humiliating me."
Emma stood, and followed him into the washroom. "Killian-"
"You've got a little fire going to keep you warm," he interrupted, "and there's a soap dish on the table, towels on the hanger, and a robe for when you're finished."
"Please don't be mad," she begged.
"I'm not," he sighed. "Slightly annoyed? Embarrassed? Yes. But… I'm sure she's just happy to have someone who will listen to her go on and on about what a little hellion I was."
"So you're not going to yell at her?"
"Of course not," he smiled and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. "Feel free to join us when you're finished, or… if you'd rather, you could turn in for the night."
"Okay," she nodded. Before he could leave, she called back to him, "Killian?"
"I won't lose my temper," he assured her.
She was a little rattled by the fact that he'd pretty much read her mind, but was too relieved to comment on it. "Thank you."
After the door shut, Emma undressed and slipped into the water, sighing in something akin to bliss as she did so. There were definite perks to having a dragon around. A nice, warm bath was one of them. At home, the water always seemed too cool off way too quickly. Part of that was her mother's objection to fire outside of the fireplaces, but maybe things would change when she brought Killian home.
Wait a minute…
Emma shook the thought from her mind, reminding herself that Killian had his own home, and likely had no interest in her past their deal.
But that kiss…
She couldn't help dwelling just a little bit on the kisses they'd shared. Surely they meant something? Would he have really reacted the way he did when she emerged from the wreckage if he didn't feel anything other than a physical attraction?
Why was she allowing herself to even entertain the thought?
Looking for a distraction, she tried to listen in on the conversation as she cleaned up, disappointed when all she could hear was muffled voices. It calmed her a bit, knowing that although it sounded a little tense, their voices were low and tempers weren't flaring.
She'd seen his temper before, but never quite like today. Seeing him so angry that he lost control was frightening. Within seconds he'd brought down an entire cave, nearly killing them all.
She wondered if her own magic would be that destructive. If it was something she should be afraid of. After all, Killian had had centuries to learn how to handle his magic and he still lost control. How would she be able to put her magic to good use after only a few days?
Shoving the thoughts aside, she ducked under the water and let the warmth wash over her. Right now, she needed to be strong, she reminded herself. This wasn't easy for Killian. He needed her, whether he wanted to admit it or not.
Emma surfaced, and rinsed the remaining soap away. Reluctantly, she stepped out of the tub, dried off, and wrapped herself in the robe Killian had left for her.
When she walked into the room, she let out a sigh of relief. Killian and his mother seemed relaxed, both with cautious smiles on their faces. It was a start.
"I'm just… going to get changed…" Emma said, not wanting to interrupt, she added, "and maybe go to sleep."
"I'll be there shortly," Killian told her.
With a nod, Emma left the room. She changed and snuggled under the covers, waiting for Killian to show up. She only meant to rest her eyes as she waited, but discovered she'd actually fallen asleep when Killian gently shook her awake.
"Emma…" he whispered.
She opened her eyes and even in the dim light, she could tell something was wrong. "KIllian?" she asked as she started to sit.
"It's all right," he said softly, trying to ease her alarm. "I just… I didn't want you to wake up and worry."
"What do you mean?"
"I can't sleep here," he sighed, "not right now. It's too… I don't know."
Emma patted the space next to her, and Killian sat down. "You can talk to me. I'm not going to run to your mom or anything like that." The little laugh he let out was a mix of amusement and sadness, but at least it was a step in the right direction. "I thought things were better? You two didn't seem to be upset with each other."
"Aye"-he nodded-"we'll be fine. But right now…" he looked around the room, then back to her and shook his head. "It's just too soon, love. I can't pretend that everything is fine just because we managed to smooth things over. I can't sleep in this house, knowing she's just down the hall. That tomorrow morning, she'll be up bright and early, likely making breakfast like the past few centuries never happened. We still have things to discuss, and I… I'm not ready for that familiarity."
"So what are you going to do?" He'd chosen to stay, but he still wasn't ready to face some things. She could understand that need to distance himself. But there wasn't much space on a small island.
"I suppose sleeping under the stars isn't so bad," he said. "I'll be close by-"
"I'm going with you," Emma decided. Before he could protest, she'd already grabbed her pillow and was waiting for him to move so she could take the blanket he was sitting on.
"You don't have to do this," he said. "Stay inside where it's nice and warm. Get an actual good night's sleep."
She rolled her eyes and practically pushed him off the bed. "We both know you're going to do the dragon thing, so I'll be plenty warm and comfortable." When he raised his eyebrow in question, she giggled. "Come on, dragon. Let's go."
They were stopped on their way out by his mother, who was still up, busying herself around the house. "You're leaving?" she asked, her eyes filled with a sadness that broke Emma's heart.
"No, Mother," Killian said, thinking quicker than Emma could. "I just promised Emma a bit of stargazing. We'll be back in the morning."
The answer seemed to satisfy her. She quickly bid them goodnight, and went back to her busywork.
"You lied to her," Emma whispered once they were outside.
"There's no need to hurt her, love," Killian said. "And it's not a complete lie. I do intend to do a bit of stargazing before nodding off."
They walked down to the shore and settled a safe distance from the tide. Emma laid out her blanket while Killian transformed. It was a nice, warm night with a cool breeze coming off the water.
"Barring any tsunamis, we should be able to stay dry here," he teased.
"Ha. Ha," she sassed as she leaned against him.
"Are you warm enough?" he asked.
"I'm fine," she said, "show me the stars. I'm sure living out here, you probably spent a lot of time looking at them?"
"Aye," he said quietly before falling into silence.
She wasn't sure if he didn't feel like talking, or if he'd just fallen asleep. Not wanting to disturb him, she looked at the sky. The sound of the waves crashing onto the shore lulled her into a light doze.
"I named some of them," he said shyly, startling her back to wakefulness. "When I was little…"
"Will you show them to me?"
Killian pulled his lips back in what Emma automatically interpreted as a grin - if a little bit menacing of one with all the sharp, gleaming teeth sparkling at her. He lifted his tail, and used it to point out the various stars he'd named. They both giggled at the sillier ones, and then he showed her how he connected them together to make pictures in the sky.
"That one's my favorite," he stated, drawing out the picture with his tail. "It looks like a swan."
Emma tilted her head until she could see it.
"Graceful creatures," he commented, "unlike a certain princess I know."
"Very funny," she rolled her eyes.
"I think that's what I'll call you then," he said wryly, giving her a little nudge with his nose. "What do you think, Swan?"
Well, she didn't hate it. In a way, it was kind of sweet, despite the teasing. "Do I get a star too?"
"You can have a star over there," he pointed to another set of stars. "The big one, at the tip of that hook shaped thing."
"Then maybe, I'll just start calling you 'Hook,' and you can have a star right there." she pointed back to the swan and smiled, "that one… on the tail." She turned and gave him a little kiss on his nose, then snuggled closer.
His long neck wrapped around her, his nose resting just to her side. She wasn't sure what possessed her to do so, but she slipped her hand behind what she assumed was his ear and started lightly scratching the spot.
Killian didn't seem to mind, and even tilted his head to give her a little better access.
Emma couldn't help herself. "Who's a good dragon?" she giggled.
Killian snorted. "Bloody hell, Swan, I'm not a dog ."
"Sorry," she pulled her hand away, "I was just messing around. I didn't mean anything by it."
They sat for a moment, neither saying a word. Had she insulted him? The once soothing sound of the waves now echoed around in her head. She wanted to apologize again, but Killian didn't seem to want to talk any more.
Just as she was about to pray for the ocean to swallow her up, she felt Killian's nose gently nudging her leg. "You don't have to stop," he said, "not if you don't want to."
Emma turned her head to look at him out of the corner of her eye. "I don't have to…"
Killian looked away shyly. "It feels nice," he whispered.
"Come here," she said, trying not to giggle. He was already sheepish enough, she didn't want him to close off completely.
Cautiously, he settled his head on her lap, but relaxed when she started scratching behind his ears again. A soft rumbling sound startled her a bit, until she realized it was coming from him, not really a purr, but a content sound.
As he began to fall asleep, his head became heavier in her lap, effectively keeping her from moving too much. Not wanting to wake him, she shifted a little so she could curl up and rest her head on his. "Goodnight, Hook," she whispered before falling asleep.
Killian woke when the sun began reflecting off the water, the light forcing him to open up his eyes. Just as he realized Emma was using him as a pillow, she sat up and stretched. The sound of her soft yawn was music to his ears.
"Morning," she said sleepily, giving him a little scratch under his chin as he lifted his head.
He had to admit, he liked chin scratches almost as much as ear scratches.
"We've got a long day ahead of us," he said, "and I smell breakfast. Why don't you go eat, and I'll be here when you get back?"
"You need to eat too," she reminded him.
He shook his head, "I can't-"
"She'll be upset," Emma warned. "I know it's hard, but you'll hurt her if you don't show."
He didn't want to hurt his mother, but he wasn't ready to walk in like nothing had ever happened. "Can you just… assure her that everything will be all right?" He hated asking Emma to cover for him even more than he hated his own cowardice at the moment.
"I can do that," she said softly.
Killian thanked her as she got up to leave, remembering quickly to remind her to fill up before she took off towards the house.
Magic lessons always exhausted a lot of energy.
Against his own advice, he ignored his grumbling stomach. He couldn't concentrate on anything with all the confusing thoughts of Emma echoing around in his head.
What happened? One minute, he was doing fine keeping his distance and squashing any ridiculous notions that she might be interested in him. Now, he was in way over his head, imagining a life that could never happen.
Emma seemed to have fallen into the same dilemma, though he wasn't sure if she realized it or not.
"Dragons mate for life," he remembered Liam telling him. Losing a mate was a death sentence for a dragon. He'd willingly give up his immortality to spend whatever time he had left with Emma, but would she want that? Would he be able to handle watching the woman he loved grow old and die?
Bloody hell. He loved her.
"I brought you some breakfast," he heard Emma say.
He transformed and turned to thank her, hoping that he wasn't giving her any reason to think something was wrong.
Was it wrong?
"She's okay," Emma continued, handing him a plate of pancakes. "I told her that maybe we could all talk after magic lessons."
"Thank you, love," he said.
"She braided my hair." Emma gave a quick spin and smiled. "She said it might be easier if it didn't get in my way while I was practicing my magic. I borrowed your clothes again…"
Even in the oversized clothes, Emma was a vision. "You look lovely," was all he could think to say.
She let out a most unladylike snort. "I think you need to eat something. Clearly starvation has clouded your good judgement." She plopped herself down on the blanket that was still spread out on the sand and patted the space next to her.
"So you think I have good judgment," he teased as he sat next to her, "I'll remember that next time you doubt me."
"Idiot," she muttered with a little giggle. "Now, are you going to eat those pancakes, or am I getting a second breakfast?"
He made a show of hoarding the pancakes, laughing when she gave him a disappointed pout. "That act might work with your father, but I'm immune to your charms."
No, he wasn't.
Emma didn't seem to notice that he was barely resisting the urge to kiss her senseless. She continued to tease him as he finished his food. He growled a little in warning, but there was no heat behind it, and it only seemed to egg her on more.
She smelled like heaven, all soap and sea salt. Her breath smelled like pancakes, sticky, sweet, and… bloody hell he needed to focus on anything other than abandoning his breakfast in favor of her .
Why was he resisting?
"Are you okay?" Emma asked. "You seem a little… I don't know… tense. I was just kidding, you know. You don't have to share your breakfast with me."
"You can be so clueless sometimes," he mumbled as he shoved the last of his pancakes in his mouth.
"Did I do something wrong?" Her demeanor quickly changed. Suddenly his playful princess was gone, and Emma was backing away. He could practically see her walls building right back up as she curled into herself.
Bloody hell , he was an idiot.
"No!" He exclaimed. He set down his plate, and tried to coax her out of her little personal fortress. "Emma, you've done nothing wrong. I just…"
He just what? He couldn't tell her the truth, she'd only retreat further.
"I'm just… tired," he lied, cringing at how ridiculous it sounded. Emma didn't seem to believe him. "I didn't mean to upset you," he tried again. "I'm… not a morning person." That sounded dumber than his first attempt.
"Dragon," she said, a little smile forming as she corrected him. "You're not a morning dragon. "
He let out a sigh of relief as she relaxed. The walls didn't come completely down though, and he supposed he'd just have to break through them again.
Though he wasn't exactly sure why he wanted to break through them. Wasn't he trying to prevent heartache?
"Why don't we get started?" he suggested.
Going over the basics was easy. Killian had no problem when it came to talking about magic. He wasn't sure what Merlin had in mind when it actually came to showing Emma how to use her magic.
How was he supposed to do that? Up until now, her magic had only been triggered accidentally, and by instinct. Controlling her emotions so she didn't accidentally level the island was one thing, teaching her to use her magic on purpose was another.
Mother and Liam had been his teachers. Killian had never taught anybody.
Emma's growing frustration was proof that he was probably the worst teacher in all the realms.
"I'm sorry, love," he sighed as he sat down. "I don't understand why Merlin thought this was a good idea. I haven't got a bloody clue how to teach you something that's a complete internal process."
"Maybe I'm just a terrible student," she said, sitting next to him.
Only… she wasn't. Emma was brilliant, and possessed powerful magic. She just needed someone who knew what they were doing to guide her. "You're not a terrible student," he assured her. It didn't make him feel any better, but it seemed to work for her, and that was all that mattered.
"We'll figure it out," Emma shrugged.
"Perhaps it's just time for a break," he sighed. He knew exactly what he needed to do. Ready or not, he needed to go back to the house and deal with his mother. "It's still a bit early for lunch, but a snack doesn't sound so bad, does it?"
"Do you want me to go ask your mom for food?" she offered.
Killian shook his head. "I need to talk to her," he said, "and I can't avoid her forever." Before he could change his mind, he got up and helped Emma to her feet.
She didn't let go of his hand as they walked up the beach and towards the house. Every now and then, she'd give it a little squeeze. A silent reminder that she was there for him.
He was grateful for that, because he wasn't prepared for what he saw when he opened the door to the house.
His mother was working over the stove, preparing what was probably going to be lunch. It was like he'd never left. He could practically see a younger version of himself playing with his toys while his mother cooked. She was humming something familiar, yet he couldn't quite place it.
His heart ached as the memories rushed back to him. Everything else seemed to fade away as Killian choked out a mangled cry.
Emma said something, but he couldn't catch it. He did feel her wrap her arms around him and he felt his own body going numb. As he crumpled to the ground, he panicked. Emma refused to let him fall on his own, holding him tightly to her side.
He was going to crush her, and there was nothing he could do to stop it.