A/N: Much thanks and love to intiala, who beta-ed the crap out of this. And just-be-magnificent, who made some lovely art for it over on Tumblr.
"I should've suspected trouble when the coffee failed to arrive."
― Frank Herbert, Dune
Emma Nolan was beginning to suspect her dad had some kind of sixth sense where she was concerned. A Dad Sense, even. A Dad Sense that somehow just always knew when his daughter was about to get laid. Why else would he be calling her now?
It was Sunday morning, still early. She was kid-free. She had the entire weekend off after coming off a rough two weeks of double shifts. There was absolutely no reason for her dad to be calling her, but especially not right then, not right when the stubbly kisses grazing her thigh were finally, finally nearing their intended destination.
"Leave it," came the thick voice from under the covers, reading her thoughts as she reached across to grab the phone vibrating across her nightstand.
"It's my dad," she hissed. "It might be important. It might be work."
After what felt like a curse mumbled against her skin, Killian's head emerged from beneath the covers, dark hair adorably askew, even as his eyes flashed his annoyance. "Dave has two other deputies. Leave it."
As if he'd said the magic words, the phone skittered to a stop and grew silent. He grinned and raised a salacious brow, as if to say, Now, where were we? That is, until he leaned in to kiss her and his own phone started vibrating somewhere nearby. Killian's lips froze millimeters from her own, scowling.
Pushing him away with one hand on his chest, Emma rolled her eyes and threw off the covers. "Yeah, looks like he's calling one."
With something approaching a growl, Killian rolled over to his side of the bed, searching for the source of the noise.
It stopped before he could get to it, a loud beep indicating an incoming voicemail.
Her sweater still halfway over her head, Emma had a terrifying thought.
She tugged it down, still trying to figure out how to broach the subject when she caught Killian's eye. She hesitated. "You don't think he, like, knows about us, do you?"
It was a fleeting thought, but the very idea of it had the snakes writhing inside her belly. She must have furrowed her brow because Killian leaned forward and pressed a kiss there.
"I very much doubt that, love, or else he would've skipped the courtesy calls and moved straight to standing out on the porch with his shotgun."
Emma gave a disbelieving laugh. "As if he'd do that."
"Remind me, darling, how did he react when Cassidy knocked you up again?"
Yeah, okay. There may have been kind of a scene. And there may have been a shotgun somewhere in the mix. But that was twelve years ago. And she'd been practically a child, for god's sake.
"...Okay, fair point. But I'm not seventeen anymore. And no one is using 'trust me, babe' as a birth control method this time around."
Killian snorted. "Please tell me Cassidy didn't actually say that?"
Emma rolled her eyes again, and tossed a T-shirt in his direction. "Yeah, we are so not talking about him. C'mon, the sooner we go see what he wants, the sooner we can come back and finish what we started…?"
"Oh, darling," he said, leaning across to press a kiss to her lips. "You do know how to motivate a man."
It wasn't that she didn't want her dad to know she was seeing Killian Jones. Not exactly. It was… complicated.
This thing with Killian was so new, and they worked together, and her dad was her boss, and there was Henry to think about, and what Neal would say, and it was… a lot. It was a lot.
So no, she hadn't told her parents yet. Or her son. That didn't make her a villain. She was… being cautious. Being smart.
Part of that meant arriving at the sheriff's station fifteen minutes after Killian, dressed in her jogging sweats and still carrying a half empty water bottle. If her stalled career as a teenage delinquent had taught her anything, it was that props mattered.
She rapped on her dad's office door, and waited for the muffled response. Her dad rose to her feet as she entered, and indicated for her to take a seat. She took the one closest to the window, the one not occupied by a slouching Brit, still scowling into his mug of coffee.
"Nice of you to join us, at last," Killian drawled, leaning back in his chair with an exaggerated yawn. "Had somewhere better to be, I take it?"
He had this part down. No one played the cocky asshole better than Killian Jones, with his own brand of snarky one-upmanship and casual sneers. It was a role he knew well, one he'd practically perfected over the years they'd worked together.
Emma might have fallen for it, once or twice, but she knew better now. Knew him better. And she didn't miss the crooked grin he hid with his next sip. Nor the way the tips of his ears were burning a deep pink.
"Sorry," she said, pointedly ignoring him to focus squarely on her dad, now sat behind his desk. "I went for a run out by the quarry, and left my phone in my car. I only got your message like ten minutes ago." She looked down at her carefully chosen costume. "Should I change?"
He shook his head, and for the first time, Emma registered her father's expression.
Emma still remembered the look on his face when she'd sat her parents down in the living room and told them she was pregnant. Hell, it was practically burned into her memory for all of time. The shock, fast giving way to anger. But most of all the disappointment. Not disappointment in her exactly, and her stupid, stupid mistakes, but disappointment in himself, for not protecting her from it.
This wasn't that. He didn't look angry now. He didn't look… let down. But there was definitely something that sent her internal sensors a-blaring. Something not good. He looked like he'd spent the night tossing and turning, the circles under his eyes all puffed up and purple. Almost… nervous?
So it probably wasn't about her and Killian's off-duty escapades.
"Dad?" Emma prompted.
He cleared his throat, and Emma saw the indifferent facade slide right off Killian's face as he came to the same realization she had. Whatever this was, it wasn't trivial.
"I'm sorry to bring you both in on your day off," he began. "But I uh… I have some news, and it's best you hear it from me first."
A few nightmare scenarios entered Emma's head. Cancer? Divorce? Dismissal? It wasn't until she was halfway to reaching over to clutch onto Killian's arm that she realized what she was doing. She snatched her hand back into her lap, hoping neither of them had noticed.
"Mate?" Killian this time, his forehead a patchwork of worry lines.
"I'm stepping down. As sheriff."
Her Dad had been sheriff… as long as she could remember. And in their suffocatingly tight-knit community, that's how she'd always been defined. Emma? Oh, you must be the sheriff's daughter. Emma, the sheriff's daughter. That was her. She'd come to terms with it. It was marginally better than her teenage moniker, The Girl Who Got Herself In Trouble. But her Dad not being sheriff?
"But, what? Why?"
Okay, so not the most tactful way she could've framed the question. But for once, there was no reproach at her tone. Just a weary sigh, and a shake of his head.
"It's time to give up the ghost. I've been doing this for thirty years now… I've broken up more fights outside the Rabbit Hole than I can count. Rescued thousands of out-of-towners who got lost off the interstate. Busted up dog fighting rings, and knitting circles and who knows what else, all the while fighting so Regina won't completely gut our budget. And honestly? I'm not sure I feel that same zeal for the job that I did. I'm not sure Storybrooke needs me these days."
Emma opened her mouth to argue the point, but her dad beat her to it.
"I know what you're gonna say, but it's the right time. I'll be getting a nice pension from the county," her dad continued. "Enough to keep the wolves from the door until I figure out what's next. And you know I've always been meaning to fix up the old family farm. This might be my chance."
"Does that mean you're stepping down at the end of your term, or…?" Killian asked, his brain turning to specifics a lot faster than Emma's was.
"I'm up for re-election next month. I figure that's enough time to wrap things up, give everyone time to get used to the idea. Now obviously my replacement can only be appointed by public vote, but I plan on naming my chosen nominee at a press conference on Friday. I've already spoken to Regina's office, and she's on board. That's when I'll announce my retirement. Hopefully, it should be a pretty smooth transition."
"Transition to…what exactly?" Emma asked.
"Now, that's the real reason I called you guys in. You two are my longest serving deputies, and I know you've not always seen eye-to eye…" At this, Emma shifted guiltily in her chair. "But you're also damn good at your jobs. Now, I know the fact I'm Emma's dad complicates matters. So, I thought to make it more fair on you both, I'd let you decide between yourselves. Discuss it. Weigh up the pros and cons, and give me an answer by Friday morning."
"Hang on, mate. You're telling me we get to choose?" Killian motioned between them, his expression still painted with the same shock he'd worn since the first bombshell. "And why not leave it for the polls to decide?"
"Well, it is ultimately up to the townspeople. But I'll be damned if I let two deputies run against each other. The last thing anyone needs is you two at each other's throats. And the last thing the team needs is for people to be taking sides."
And by team he meant... Graham. It wasn't exactly a large team.
"Look, I know you two have had your differences, but when you're focused and actually on task, there's nothing you can't accomplish. I have complete faith you'll come to the right decision." He looked between them. "Together."
Neither one of them said anything, not until they were safely ensconced in the break room, out of earshot of anyone who might be lurking nearby. But one thing Emma knew for certain; there was no way they were heading back to hers to continue where they'd left off.
"You knew about this?" Killian asked, taking Emma by surprise.
"Not… really. I mean, yeah, he's mentioned doing something with the old farm . But he's been saying that my whole life. I thought it was just… talk. Like a mid-life crisis thing. Instead of a flashy car and an extra-marital affair, he wanted to grow pumpkins or whatever. "
Killian nodded thoughtfully. "So you're considering it? The promotion," he clarified.
Was he kidding?
"Of course I'm considering it! I mean, sheriff?! Extra money, more respect, better hours. What's to think about? Not to mention I have Henry to put through college. And you've seen him at Little League. There's no way that kid is getting an athletic scholarship."
"He is on the honor roll, you know, Nolan. People win scholarships for less."
Emma considered him carefully. Killian was right about the scholarships, but college was still expensive and she knew better than to count on Neal to pay his fair share. Being an artist in New York City sure sounded cool, but Emma knew for a fact her Baby Daddy was still leaning on his Dad for rent money between sales. A fact Killian knew. A fact he now seemed to be blithely ignoring, and it was making Emma suspicious. "So you're saying you want the job?"
"Well, it would certainly give some meaning to the past decade I've spent hosing down the holding cell after Leroy's weekend visits. And it might be nice to move out of my brother's apartment. Maybe then my girlfriend would actually stay over sometimes?"
Sure, make her the asshole.
"First of all," Emma hissed, double-checking the break room door was securely shut, "Ixnay on the irlfriendgay, unless you want someone to overhear and get the wrong idea."
His eyes darkened and not in the usual way they did whenever they were within ten feet of each other. "And here I was hoping someone would get the right idea," he muttered.
She opened her mouth to retort but- nope. Not the moment. She took a breath and forced herself to remain calm, breezing past the girlfriend issue as if he hadn't spoken. "And anyway, the walls in that apartment are paper thin. If I have to make eye contact with your brother over breakfast, I'd rather it wasn't after he'd gotten front row seats to the opera, if you get my gist."
If she expected him to puff up with pride about her opera comment, she was sorely disappointed; instead, he just continued to glower. "All the more reason to start apartment hunting, I'd say. Except, wait, of course, my meager paycheck doesn't cover rent for so much as a studio apartment, not when I'm pouring all of my savings into helping Liam out with the bar."
That damn bar. He might've had a point, but Henry's future was more important to her than keeping Liam's business afloat. "Well, I'm not giving up," Emma said huffily, crossing her arms over her chest.
"And neither am I," he replied, copying her stance.
"So… how do we decide?" Emma asked. "We're not flipping a fucking coin."
"A contest of wills?" Killian suggested. "We've until, what? Friday morning to inform your father of our decision?"
"So there's four workable days where either one of us might change their mind. Or…" He did something lascivious with his tongue, moving further into her space. "Be convinced."
Emma scolded the squirming in her belly as his voice dropped lower. Just a reflex. There was no way she was going to let her libido screw this up for her. She placed a steadying hand on his chest, keeping him short of kissing distance.
"Four days?" she replied, her tone simperingly sweet. "Bring it, Jones. I'll have you eating out of my hand by Wednesday."
An eyebrow arched and Emma felt as though someone had definitely messed with the thermostat. It was far too warm in there.
"Four days," Killian agreed, holding out a hand.
Emma stared at it, pausing before she reciprocated. All the opportunity Killian needed, of course, to bridge the space between them and press his lips to hers.
The bastard played dirty.
He was smirking as he stepped away, and she swallowed down the urge to punch him. "The deal is struck," he said, backing out towards the door. "See you Friday morning with that congratulatory bouquet."
Emma scoffed. "As if."
"Remember, darling: I like gardenias!" he called back with a wink, before wheeling around the door frame and disappearing from view.
Four days. She had four days to convince Killian she deserved the job more. Four days to get him on side. Four days to break him.
"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe."
― Abraham Lincoln
Emma needed a strategy. Something dangerous, something dastardly, something not entirely on the up and up. She needed-
"The Art of War?" Belle asked with a frown, picking up the first book in Emma's stack. "The Prince? Thirty-six Stratagems? Planning on starting a land war in China, Emma?"
This was exactly why people never used public libraries anymore.
"Henry has a project for school," Emma said, turning the rest of the stack over so Belle couldn't read out any more titles. "I'm… helping."
Okay, so it wasn't a perfect cover story. Not least because Henry was currently on vacation.
"Uh huh," Belle agreed dubiously, reaching over to scan them into the system. "You know, if they were for you, I'd tell you we have a pretty good pop psychology section in the corner over there. And…" she hesitated, "if you needed anyone to talk to, I'm here?"
Damn perceptive librarians.
Emma smiled sweetly, if only to hide the growing urge to bolt. "I appreciate the offer, but I promise, I'm fine."
The librarian shrugged, an unspoken Well, it's your life written all over her face before she turned back to her computer, humming a song under her breath.
Pop Psychology. Emma resisted the urge to snort. She didn't need a pep-talk, or breathing exercises, or 10 Ways To Re-Write Her Lizard Brain. What she needed was some nice underwear, a decent drop of rum, and twenty uninterrupted minutes in the backseat of Killian's car. What she needed was-
"Hey, Belle, you don't have any books on hypnosis, do you?"
Okay, so she wasn't going to tie the guy up and hold a pocket watch up to his face until he came around to her way of thinking. And not just because the Storybrooke Public Library's selections on the subject were slim.
They were adults. They could have an adult conversation. He would see reason. Or he would, once her goddamn job didn't have her stuck traipsing through the woods like she was some kind of mountain varmint, on the trail of a lost dog.
It was a task that didn't improve any with Graham a few paces in front, doing his best Davy Crockett impersonation, hunched low to pick up a trail. As if he'd grown up tracking wild things in rural Tennessee, and not just done a wilderness survival course one time.
"Anything?" Emma grumbled, stopping to pull her canteen out of her backpack and take a restorative swig.
"Not sure," he murmured, crouching down to examine a bent twig. "Could be." He straightened and cupped his hands over his mouth, shouting for the dog again.
They waited with baited breath, but the only sound in return was the chittering of swallows from the canopy overhead. No dog.
"Oh, c'mon," Emma groaned. "I'm sure he'll come home once he gets hungry. Haven't you ever seen Homeward Bound?"
"Must've missed that one," he said, holding out a hand for the canteen. Wiping the rim with her sleeve, as if that somehow sanitised it, she handed it over. "Why so impatient? Need to go home and work on your acceptance speech maybe?"
Emma nearly stumbled into a tree.
"Dad told you," she realized, her tone accusing.
"First thing this morning," he confirmed, a hand coming up to scratch at his beard. "That must be awkward. With Killian and everything."
Yeah, Graham knew about that. About their… thing.
It was kind of hard for him not to know, after that time he'd caught them messing around in Killian's car down by the docks. Someone had called in a tip, apparently, and Emma still wasn't sure if there would ever be enough tequila to burn the shame of the encounter from her brain. She hadn't given up hope though.
"You have no idea," Emma sighed, snatching the canteen back and taking a long draught, wishing it was something stronger.
"But you have to know you're the favorite, right?"
Yeah, Emma knew that. She knew that deep down, if push came to shove, if the townspeople pitted her against Killian one-on-one, she'd crush him in a landslide.
Sure, he was smart. Good looking. Well-read. Charming, when he wanted to be. The man could wear a leather jacket like no one else Emma had ever met. But something he didn't have? Pedigree.
You could say what you liked about nepotism, but her Dad had been sheriff for thirty blessedly uneventful years, and it wasn't a bad legacy to inherit. Hell, both sides of her family could be traced back to the first band of idiots who'd found themselves marooned on a rocky, desolate beach, and called it home ever since.
Killian hadn't even lived in the country until his junior year of high school.
And sure, there would always be that black mark next to her name after the whole Teen Mom debacle, but on the whole, she thought it had all worked out okay. If anyone made single parenthood look good, it was Henry.
"I don't know," Emma reasoned. "Storybrooke's never had a woman as sheriff before. Some of the old-timers are bound to kick up a fuss."
Graham snorted. "Trust me, anyone who's seen you take down Leroy after a scuffle outside the Rabbit Hole knows you can handle yourself."
"So you're saying you wouldn't hate it if I was your boss?"
He opened his mouth to respond when the radio attached to his belt crackled to life.
"Come in, Humbert, you read me?"
"Speak of the devil," Graham said with a smirk, bringing the radio up to his mouth. "Roger, that, Jones. Find anything?"
"Negative. Got a call from the Weatherley's, out by the Reservoir. Thought they might have seen something sniffing around. I said I'd send someone to check it out, over."
Emma leaned forward, grabbing the receiver out of Graham's hands. "We're on our way."
"Negative," came the crackled reply. "We still need someone to search your quadrant, over."
"We only have one radio, genius," Emma shot back, aware of Graham's warning hand on her shoulder. "And I am not hanging out in the woods, alone, without one. Over."
Unlike the boys, she'd never gotten the hang of all the proper radio speak. It made her feel stupid, like a bad extra in some old war movie. Even Henry, with his walkie talkies, had more of a knack for it. But there was no denying the satisfaction of ending an argument with "Over." If only every conversation could end that way.
"Left a Sat Phone in your backpack. You'll be fine, love. Over."
She wanted to argue a little more, but Graham wrestled the radio out of her grasp before she could get a word in. At least he had the decency to give her that What can you do? shrug.
"You'll be fine," he repeated, securing the radio back onto his belt. "There's nothing out here, remember?" Emma rolled her eyes. "Just don't forget to call in to the station when you need a ride home."
As if she'd forget.
The woods weren't all that much fun with Graham, but without him, they seemed to give off far too much casual menace for her liking. There were creatures everywhere, rustling, chirping, hooting, whistling. And not one of them was that damn dog.
She tried not to think about bears. Or mountain lions. Or whatever else the woods might cook up. She tried to remember if wolves were still endemic to Maine. She hoped not.
The animals were bad enough, but when the sky darkened, she realized soon she'd have more to contend with than wildlife. The heavens were about to open, and if the deafening thunder rolling overhead was anything to go by, they were pissed.
She called the station from the clearing where Graham had parked the cruiser earlier, her leather jacket doing little to shelter her from the beginning of the deluge.
Emma might've kissed that sleek-ass Chevelle when she finally saw it approach through the trees, whatever her feelings on its owner. That is, until she went to grasp the door handle, and the car lurched forward a few feet, engine revving.
"Seriously?" she yelled, pushing wet strands of hair out of her face, chasing after it. The passenger window slid down, revealing a smug looking Killian Jones.
"I could give you a ride, love. But it'll cost you…" She reached for the door handle, but it was locked. Son of a bitch. "Nice cosy car ride, excellent company. I'll even let you choose the presets…" Killian drawled, before giving the engine a few experimental revs. "All you have to do is say the magic words."
"Magic words?" That was a spanner in the works.
"You know what I want to hear, darling." His tone was straight out of the bedroom, but Emma had no doubt he was thinking business.
She pretended to consider his offer. "You mean something like 'Sure, babe. The job's all yours?'" She wasn't sure why her hypothetical voice sound so breathy. Dramatic license, probably.
Killian's grin was wicked. "Aye, something like that. What say you, darling? Shall we sail away?"
He was still grinning when the handful of mud splattered across that pretty face of his.
"That magic enough for you?" Emma asked, somehow managing to feel victorious even as her boots began filling with water.
It was a low blow. She of all people knew how meticulous he was about his upholstery. But holding her ride home to ransom? He had it coming.
"And that's your final decision, Swan?"
She didn't give him more than a glare, but she was still surprised when he rolled up his window and accelerated, speeding away back down the trail.
"You're just going to leave me out here?!"
The windows were closed, naturally he didn't hear her, but she thought he might be watching for her reaction in the rearview. She stamped her feet and waved for emphasis, but to no avail. He really was leaving her out there.
Son of a bitch. Why did she always go for the assholes?
Then again, mud in the Chevelle. He was probably asking himself the same question.
Running after him wasn't an option, not with how slippery the terrain was getting. She settled for raising a single middle finger high in the air as the Chevelle rounded the bend, the muffler fading away in the rain.
"Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt."
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
It took Emma more than an hour to drag her squelching, sorry ass back to town, and at no point did the rain let up for even a minute, soaking her completely to the skin.
Sure, she still had the Sat Phone, but the last thing she felt like doing was calling her dad and have him come pick her up. That required far too much explaining, and if she did that, this time next week they'd all be working for Graham.
Likewise, her mom. She would drop everything if Emma asked, but one thing her mom didn't do well? Secrets. She'd always had a terrible poker face, and there was no way it wouldn't get back to her dad. So with the sheriff's station the only number programmed into the phone, and Emma's recall for phone numbers beyond her childhood landline sketchy, there wasn't much choice.
So she walked. She fumed, and she raged, and she walked. By the time she came around to the third mile marker, she started to think if Killian drove up again, she might've made different choices. By the time she hit the fourth mile marker, she was plotting.
She was going to murder Killian Jones. She was going to torture him, then she was going to kill him, and then she was going to hang his mangled corpse from the top of the Clock Tower to serve as a warning to all that fucking with Emma Swan was a Very Bad Idea.
But first, she was going to have a shower. A long, hot shower.
Vengeance could wait at least that long.
It wasn't like Killian was going anywhere. And lucky for her, Storybrooke was a small town. Too small for him to stay off the radar for long. And just because everyone assumed she'd gotten her job because of her Dad didn't mean she wasn't halfway good at it. One off-duty Brit did not present much of a challenge.
The Admiral's Arm's was by the docks, tucked between the old cannery and a bunch of shuttered storefronts, closed for the season. During the summer it played up its nautical theme to appeal to the tourists. During the off season, it became a welcome antithesis to the cutesy soda shoppe vibe of Granny's.
Right now it was giving off a derelict kind of air, helped along no doubt by the blue tarp on the roof flapping menacingly in the wind. God, that was still there? The last Nor'Easter must've been weeks ago.
Pushing open the door, Emma sighed in relief at the warmth from the honest-to-god log fire burning in the grate. It sure made a nice counterpoint to the frosty greeting of the bartender.
"Deputy Nolan," he said, with a small tip of an imaginary cap. A mocking gesture, not a respectful one. Some people might not have been able to tell the difference, but Emma could.
He might've been older, stockier and grumpier, but when it came to wearing his emotions on his sleeve, Liam Jones was just as easy to read as his little brother. And he didn't exactly approve of Emma.
"What brings you to the wrong side of town? I trust we're up to code?" he asked, leaning forward on his elbows.
"Depends. You gonna get that roof fixed?"
He visibly grimaced. "Working on it."
"Is he here?"
Liam didn't know about her and Killian, exactly, but he thought he knew. And that was plenty enough for him to shelve the dumb questions and reluctantly point her in the direction of the stockroom.
"He's doing some repairs for me. I feel I should warn you though, he's not his usual happy go-lucky self today." He rose a meaningful brow. "Something you said?"
More like a guilty conscience.
The stockroom was accessible via a hallway lined with what Killian had generously once described as "marine salvage". From every hook some implement hung, whether a rusted anchor, or retired lobster pot, or a clumsy maritime watercolor rescued from a jumble sale.
The tourists ate that shit up.
In the summer they crowded the corridor, taking pictures and blocking the way to the bathrooms. It was technically still Easter Break, but the tourist hordes hadn't shown up yet, what with everyone migrating South following the sun, so Emma traveled the creepy exhibit alone until she reached the door marked CREW ONLY and pulled it open.
There was no earthly reason why Killian Jones in grease stained overalls should be in any way attractive. It wasn't exactly a flattering get-up. And yet, the sight of him holding that wrench, prepared to duke it out with the condensing unit of the walk-in refrigerator was definitely doing things for her.
At the sound of Emma's approaching footsteps, he put down the wrench."I'm sorry, Liam. This is beyond help. You're going to have to-" He stopped short, his spine stiffening. "Not Liam."
"Nope," Emma replied, deadpan. "But with observational skills like that, the sheriff's department sure is lucky to have you."
She watched his hand creep up to nervously fondle his right ear. "Emma, look, I-"
He couldn't manage to get the words out before she had her hands on his chest, shoving him backwards into the ice machine. "You're an asshole! Do you know what it's like to walk five miles in wet socks!?"
"I'll wager… uncomfortable?" he offered, before realizing it was a hypothetical question.
She shoved him again, this time her hands not leaving the front of his overalls. "Is this what good form looks like, Jones?" she asked, badly imitating his accent. "If I die of hypothermia, I'm coming back to haunt your ass."
She was going for Hell Hath No Fury, but Killian didn't exactly look intimidated. And by the time he leaned forward slightly, regarding her behind hooded lids, he started looking kind of… wolfish.
"Is that why you came here, Nolan?" he asked, his eyes flashing dangerously. "Did you need me to warm you up?" The words tripped off his tongue like honey, and not for the first time, Emma thought if he ever made the career switch to sex-line operator, he stood to make killing.
"Don't think you can just flash those baby blues and all is forgiven," Emma mumbled, even as she swayed closer. "You're still an asshole."
"Well, I never said I would go easy on you," he murmured, one eyebrow arching. "Do you want me to go easy on you, love?"
Unable to take it anymore, Emma grabbed him by the back of the neck and dragged him back down to her level, closing those last few inches between them. It was not a particularly kind kiss. There was a little too much teeth, a little too much hair pulling. But it was easy to get lost in, and get lost they did.
For all of Killian's jokes about warming her up, there was no pretending she wasn't on fire for him, not even as they found themselves backing up into the broken walk-in, out of sight of prying eyes. Every touch, every sweep of his tongue was just more tinder to the flame. Only, it wasn't just desire coursing through her veins, but something that had been simmering for hours, looking for a chance to boil over.
Killian was wrecked when she pulled away, looking thoroughly debauched and not a little punchdrunk. It was one of her favorite looks on him, maybe her absolute favorite. But this was not a time for sentiment.
The push caught him unawares, and had him tripping over a crate of orange juice. By the time he realized what she'd done, Emma already had the door slid shut, the latch secured from the outside.
"Emma!" came his muffled shouts, his palms slapping frantically against the door. "Open the door, love! This isn't funny! Emma?"
No, not funny at all. But satisfying? Absolutely.
"All you have to do is say the magic words, Jones," she called through the door, taunting him with his earlier words.
She was sure she heard swearing, and just when things were getting particularly colorful, a pause.
Had she done it? Had she finally broken his resolve?
It wasn't like he was going to die in there. The fridge wasn't working, and the hole they'd ripped in the side when they'd removed the motor would provide plenty of air until Liam found him. Sure, it might get uncomfortable without a bathroom, but so was walking five miles home in wet socks.
Unless, he didn't have a problem with confined spaces... did he? Emma's mind briefly flashed to their more amorous encounters in the backseat of his Chevelle, and somehow she doubted it.
Before she could think on that too long, the banging starting up again. Only this time, he wasn't calling for her. He was calling for Liam.
"I hope you don't need the bathroom, Jones!" She called, giving the door one last pat as she left.
Nothing like planting the seed, after all.
She knew the second Liam rescued him from the walk-in, because her phone started to blow up with texts.
You're a cruel minx.
You're lucky the bar ran out of cranberry juice somewhere on hour two, Nolan, or I might've perished in that refrigerator. And then who would be haunting whom?
I don't think Liam believes it was an accident, either. And I quote; "Even you aren't stupid enough to lock yourself in a fridge from the outside."
You do know this means war, don't you, love?
"Oh god, what did I do?"
Emma glanced up from that last text to see her eleven year old son standing in the doorway, backpack still slung over his shoulder.
"What?" she blinked, getting up to give him a hug.
Emma cast her eyes to the hallway, but no one else emerged… It figured Neal would just drop him and run.
"Hey kid. How was your weekend with your Dad? And you didn't do anything... Did you?"
"No," he said, a little too quickly, dropping his backpack onto the carpet where it would no doubt stay for the next week. "It was fine. New Yorkish. We went to see the Rangers. So... why do you have that same look on your face as the time I put a baseball through Mr. Clark's window?"
Probably because she'd been considering murder on both occasions. Shaking that thought away, she leaned down to look him in the eye, her arms slung across his shoulders. "Can you keep a secret?"
Well that was comforting.
"Okay, so this isn't official yet so you can't tell anyone, okay? Not Avery. Not Violet. No one, got it?"
"Mom, I got it." He rolled his eyes, and for a moment Emma saw a flicker of the teenager who would bodysnatch her sweet boy away in a couple of years.
"Okay, here it is: Grandpa is planning to retire. There's gonna be a new sheriff in town."
"You?" he asked, apparently recovering from his shock a lot faster than Emma had.
"It's between me or Killian. Uh… Deputy Jones. We get to decide between ourselves who wants it more."
"But it's totally going to be you, right?"
His certainty was reassuring, if a little on the biased side. But he didn't know exactly how much of a stubborn pain in the ass Killian Jones could be.
"Well, that depends. Jones wants the job too."
His face screwed up into a frown. "So how're you gonna decide who gets to be sheriff?"
"Uh…" Emma paused. "Well, so far, I think the plan is to sort of annoy each other until one of us relents? God, I'm sorry. This is so not what I should be teaching you. You know adults aren't supposed to act like this, right?"
"Sure. So like pranks and stuff?"
Emma thought back to that steamy clinch in the walk-in and felt herself getting warm. "Yeah, I guess."
"Mom!" he said, tugging on the sleeve of her sweater. "I have a great idea for one you can do!"
"Oh, no, Henry," she said, shaking her head. "I don't think that's a good idea. Like I said, we're being stupid, and you should absolutely not be taking your cues from us."
But her son leaned into her, looking up at her, big eyes all lit up with mischief. "Are you sure? It's pretty good."
Unfortunately, Emma's curiosity had always gotten the best of her. "Pretty good? You mean like Home Alone good? Because I want to annoy him, not cover him in feathers and light him on fire."
Emma wasn't sure she liked the sound of that. And yet...
"Fine, kid. Lay it on me."
"Oh, what a tangled web we weave...when first we practice to deceive."
― Walter Scott, Marmion
When Killian finally made an appearance at the station on Tuesday afternoon, there was a certain odor, a certain… miasma. It clung to him as he stormed in, as he shed his jacket and as he crashed down into his wheelie chair which squealed in protest.
He caught Graham's raised brow, and shook his head. "Don't, mate. Don't even start."
Graham, always a deft hand at taking social cues, merely held up his hands in surrender, leaving to make a coffee, far away from the source of the smell. Killian waited for him to duck out of sight before he swiveled his chair around to face Emma, one finger already raised in accusation. "I know this was you. I don't know how, or when, but this has your grimy fingerprints all over it!"
"Me?" Emma asked, her hand on her chest. She resisted the urge to flutter her eyelashes. There was no need to overdo it. "I have no idea what you're going on about. I've been here all day filling in paperwork. Ask anyone."
"Oh, so I suppose you're not the one who put Violet Morgan up to concocting some cock and bull story about losing her grandmother's ring down some blasted storm drain? I spent all morning up to my knees in greywater and god knows what else, half convinced I was about to be swallowed up by Pennywise, the Dancing Fucking Clown. We watched that movie together, Nolan. You know how I feel about storm drains. And clowns."
Yeah, she did.
It had been the week of Henry's Washington trip, when Killian had landed on her doorstep with an overnight bag, a grin, and two tickets to the movie theater the next town over. She remembered how he'd balked when she'd moved to turn off the lamp after. How she'd gotten up to make him some cocoa and they'd sprawled out on her kitchen floor together, swapping stupid ghost stories until they were both too terrified to move. How they'd stayed there, entwined with one another until the sun was high enough to chase away the worst of the shadows.
Dude really hated clowns.
Killian must have sensed where Emma's mind went, because his expression softened a fraction. That is, until he caught a fresh whiff of himself, and his face settled back into a familiar scowl.
"Never mind. I see there's no point in appealing to your better nature. Suffice to say: I am not going to just hand over that promotion. I may not have a small dependent running about, but I do have my own reasons for wanting the job. Besides some recognition for my ten years of loyal service and exemplary record-keeping, of course." He looked pointedly at the haphazard mess of manila folders wedged between Emma's computer and her filing cabinet.
Granted, Emma's filing system was a little more... chaotic than most. But it wasn't like she couldn't dig out the right file when she needed it. Most of the time. Sure, she'd had to redo the Archer B&E case file after an unfortunate marinara sauce incident. But that was a one time thing. A freak accident. And not at all a reflection on the quality of her work.
Dammit, she was letting him get to her.
"Big talk from a guy who smells to high heaven. And why haven't you changed yet?"
"Oh, you don't know?" Killian asked, his chair drawing close enough that their knees knocked together. "It's a funny thing. You see I went into the locker room to grab a towel and a fresh change of clothes, and it seems my locker combination has changed."
"Or maybe you forgot it?" Emma suggested.
He tapped his chin, as if considering that possibility. "6-6-0-2. The day my mother died. No, I'm pretty sure I remember it."
"Killian, I-" she began, but he cut her off with a look.
"Don't worry about it, love," he said, rising from his chair with another audible squeal. "My shower at home is better anyway."
Okay, so she was the asshole.
He'd barely cleared the front door before Graham returned, holding a mug and his nose. "Do you think we should fumigate?" he asked warily.
"Do whatever you want," Emma muttered, making a grab for her jacket. "I've got patrol anyway."
When she came outside to find the patrol car with a nail embedded in the front tire, she almost felt like she deserved it. But when she popped the trunk and found the spare tire conspicuously absent, she had a sudden flashback to one drunken conversation, the Christmas previous.
Killian had always hated Christmas. The lights. The cheer. Even the prospect of a little action under the mistletoe wasn't enough to excite him. It had taken Emma two thirds of a bottle of Captain Morgan and nearly eleven years to pry the truth out of him.
His mother had died the day before Christmas.
Son of a bitch.
"Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed."
― Alexander Pope
There were few true constants in life. Few things one could truly rely on. Like Leroy drying out in the cells over the weekend, or Neal being a Grade A prick. Wednesday morning pastries were one such constant. A shining light in Emma's otherwise hellish week. The one thing that made getting out of bed on Hump Day worthwhile.
Emma should have known he would find a way to ruin it.
It was Killian's turn to make the Granny's run. Which meant it was he who was left to dole them out, cardboard box in hand. Which meant it was glaringly empty by the time he arrived at Emma's desk, his expression not even a little bit sorry. "And none for Gretchen Weiner."
"Did you really just ruin Pastry Day by quoting my favorite movie? You're a monster!"
Emma hadn't had enough coffee to deal with this level of devastation.
"Well, there was an extra bear claw…" he began, and Emma perked up a little. "But I knew you wouldn't accept the terms of its surrender, so I ate it. And it was fantastic. Nay, scrumptious."
"I hate you," Emma huffed, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Can I interest you in a nice healthy apple instead?" he asked, holding the offending item in front of her face. She batted it away, and he lost his grip on it.
The two of them could only watch in horror as it sailed through the air, nearly hitting David as he stepped out of his office, his expression somber. He ducked to avoid the collision, and then set his sights on them.
He looked from them, to the apple, and back. "Yeah, I don't want to know. We got a call. Missing teenager. Do either of you know Ashley Boyd?"
"From Granny's?" Emma asked. "Sure. Isn't she pregnant?"
"Very. She was due to give up the baby for adoption, but apparently she's had a last-minute change of heart. She's on the lam."
"And we're bringing her in because? I mean, sure, she might need help, but what she's doing isn't illegal, is it?"
"No," her dad admitted, "but stealing a car from outside of Granny's to make her escape sure is."
"Shit." Killian, that time, and Emma couldn't help but agree.
"Yep. Last anyone saw, she was heading out of town, heading west. You two ready for a drive?"
Even if they broke the speed limit, there was no guarantee they would catch up with her. A determined teenager with a forty minute head start was not good odds.
They were near the old Toll Bridge when Emma saw it, the white sedan in the ditch, hazard lights blinking.
Emma let the cruiser crawl to a stop. "Well, that can't be good."
The two of them bailed out of the car, Killian wrenching the driver's side door open.
There sat Ashley Boyd, holding the steering wheel in a white-knuckled grip, her shirt soaked through with perspiration. "The baby," she said, through clenched teeth. "The baby is coming."
Of all the ways Emma pictured Pastry Day going, helping to deliver a baby on the side of the road was not one of them. And yet...
It was a good thing they kept a small mountain of supplies in the back of the cruiser. Blankets. Water. A first aid kit.
It wasn't exactly Cedar-Senai, but at least she wasn't in the dirt.
"You remember Emma, right?" Killian said to Ashley in that soothing tone, and she linked her hand with Ashley's, freeing Killian to dig through the med kit. "She's done this before."
Only there had been doctors and drugs when Emma had done it. People who knew what the fuck they were actually doing. Still, she got the girl going on some breathing exercises. Held her hand as another contraction ripped through her.
"How many minutes?" Emma asked, looking up at Killian.
Still good. Still plenty of time to get to the hospital.
"Okay, how about you and I get up and walk a bit, okay?" Emma suggested. "It should help with the pain until the ambulance arrives, okay?"
True, calling an ambulance was a little much, but Ashley hadn't taken the idea of climbing into the backseat of the cruiser too well. Like they might just haul her off to prison for stealing the car, baby be damned. It was the lack of door handles. It really freaked people out.
"I don't wanna lose this baby," Ashley whispered low, her fingers digging into Emma's forearm as they made their first turn.
"Hey, you're okay," Emma crooned. "You're doing great. The baby is going to be fine."
"But what if they take her?"
Emma swallowed, trying and failing to block out the memories coming in waves now. It was like being seventeen all over again. Heartbroken. Clueless. Scared to death.
"No one will take her," she assured her. "Not if you don't want them to. It's your choice."
"He said you've done this before?" Ashley asked in a small voice, gesturing to where Killian was on the radio with dispatch.
"When I was a little younger than you. Henry. He's eleven now."
"You weren't scared?"
"Petrified," Emma confessed. "I thought I was going to screw up. I thought everything was going to change. And you know what? I did, and it did. And it was still the best thing I've ever done. But it's hard, Ashley. It's harder than anything you'll ever do. You won't be able to take off when things get difficult. Not like this. You'll have to grow up, and dig deep. That kid deserves a mother who is prepared to give them their best chance. So you have to be sure, okay? You have to be sure you really want this."
"I really want this." Ashley nodded vehemently, hands falling to her belly. "I want my baby."
"Well, then," Emma said, the ambulance pulling up beside them. "Let's get you to that hospital."
The waiting room at Storybrooke General was no different from any other waiting room anywhere. The antiseptic smell. The celebrity gossip magazines dating back to the Clinton administration. The subpar vending machine options.
Emma was pretty sure Henry hadn't made her wait this long for his birth, keeping everyone in a state of exhausted suspended animation. Still, neither she nor Killian made a move to leave. For better or worse, they were part of this now.
"Deputies," a nurse appeared, her scrubs a distracting sunshine yellow. "It's a girl. 6 pounds. Both mother and baby are doing fine."
She didn't realize she was leaning into him until his arms were already wrapped tight around her. Relief flooded her body, making her sag against him; she hadn't realized until now just how tense she'd been, worrying over them. Killian buried his nose into her hair and she felt the ghost of a kiss against her temple. "You did this, Emma. You're a bloody hero."
She shook her head. "So are you." All she'd done was let Ashley know she wasn't the first teen mom from Storybrooke to be scared out of her wits. He'd been the one to calm her down originally. To phone the ambulance. To let cooler heads prevail.
A cough came from nearby, and Emma broke out of their clasp like something had stung her. It was Dr Whale, looking between the two of them with something that could have been interpreted as a knowing look.
"Deputy Nolan, Deputy Jones," he said by way of greeting. "I didn't realize the the two of you were…"
"We're nothing," Emma said quickly, stepping out of Killian's orbit. "We're just, we're… I'm sorry, you wanted something?"
"Just to thank you for bringing Miss Boyd in. For keeping her calm. A young girl like that, out on her own in her condition? It could have been a lot worse."
"Uh, sure. No problem, doc."
He lingered for a moment and Emma wondered if he had anything further to say. But after glancing at Killian, he tapped his pen against his clipboard and made his excuses.
Emma whirled around. "What the hell was that?"
"You mean Whale ogling you like you're a piece of prime steak?"
"What? No, he wasn't."
"No? Then why was he waiting for me to step away so he could make a move on you?"
"Is that what that was?"
"Amongst other things. Unless you want me to bring him back, of course. After all, we're nothing, isn't that right?"
Had she really said that?
"Oh, no, Killian, that was-"
"Let me guess, nothing?" It was amazing the way he could rearrange those eyebrows of his. Somehow managing to convey disapproval, challenge and hurt, all at once. She was reminded briefly of Sunday, after he'd let the g-word slip out. After she'd reacted… poorly.
Oh, god. Was this the moment? Was this when they were going whip out titles and talking about feelings? Right here, in the middle of the waiting room, in broad daylight, right next to the guy who'd gotten his hand trapped in a Pringles container?
"Killian, maybe now isn't the best time. It's been a weird day, for both of us, and you're tired. You're overreacting, thinking Dr. Whale might have been hitting on me-"
"No, I'm not, because he was hitting on you, or planning on making a good stab at it anyway, and bloody hell, Emma, I can't do this right now."
But if Emma thought illumination was on the horizon, she was sorely mistaken. "You're right, I am tired. Sick and tired. Tell Dave I went home with a migraine, alright? I'll see you tomorrow."
And without another word, he left her there, standing in the middle of the hospital waiting room, still wondering how it had all gone so wrong, so fast.
"Appearance blinds, whereas words reveal."
― Oscar Wilde
Emma had a few strengths. For one thing, she made a surprisingly wicked omelette. And her knack for finding people, lost dogs excepted? Damn near preternatural.
But letting things go? Not one of her strong suits.
Which was why she found herself back down at the docks, paused before the employee entrance to the Admiral's Arms, debating whether or not to grasp the handle.
On the one hand, Killian clearly wasn't in the mood to be around her. On the other hand, Emma wasn't sure she'd be able to sleep until she knew what was going on, one way or the other. And hell, she'd already gotten her mother to watch Henry for this. Like it or not, she was committed now.
After a deep breath she pulled open the door, and slipped inside, finding herself right back in that same Hallway of Maritime Regalia from before. And in the vicinity of a shouting match, apparently, radiating out from the direction of Liam's office.
But when she heard Killian's voice enter the mix she tiptoed forward despite herself, craning low to get her ear as close to the keyhole as possible.
"What the bloody hell do you mean, you're not sure? Why wouldn't you get it!?"
Killian's response was lower, harder to make out.
"Killian, we talked about this. We need that money. How else are we going to fix this place up? You think roof tiles and a new walk-in are just going to fall in our laps?"
"Well, maybe if you'd kept up with the insurance premiums…" Emma caught that one, Killian's voice having grown louder, his accent more pronounced like it got when he was really ticked off.
"Well, maybe I'd be able to afford to pay them if my brother didn't insist on playing cops and robbers all week, instead of working to preserve his inheritance!"
Again, the response wasn't entirely audible to Emma's ears, but she could hear enough to detect the whisper of menace, and the sound of movement behind the door. Would they just haul off and start punching each other? Emma didn't have a sibling, she didn't know how these things usually went.
The sound of a hand slamming against the desk made her jump, Liam's drained of the last of his cool. "Killian, they're going to take this place out from under us, do you understand that?!"
Emma leaned against the wall, taking a few deep breaths to calm her racing heart. Shit.
Sure, they might not exactly be best buddies or anything, but she knew how much Liam loved that bar, how much blood, sweat and tears he put into it. Thinking about Liam without his bar was about as inconceivable to her as imagining Henry without a book in his hand, or Killian without his swagger. Or coming into to work and her dad not being around.
And who were they, anyway, that wanted to take the bar off them? The bank? Developers?
Emma didn't have much time to speculate, because she could hear all sorts of commotion and had just enough time to dive for the safety of the ladies room before she heard the office door swing open and their argument filtered out into the hall.
"You don't have a damn clue what you're on about." Killian. Still pissed as hell.
Liam didn't sound much better. "Don't I? Then why don't you explain it to me?"
There was another slam, and by the sounds of it, some part of the their maritime display had gotten inadvertently caught up in the argument too. There would be a few more repair bills coming if they kept this up.
"Dammit, Liam, is it so hard to believe the past decade I've spent at the sheriff's office isn't some delayed teenage rebellion designed to piss you off? That I might actually like it? That I might actually be good at it? No, 'course not. Why do that when you can just do what you've always done: ignore me whilst pushing me towards an inheritance I didn't ask for, and a legacy I don't want."
There wasn't any shouting now. No slamming. Just a long, caustic silence.
"You don't mean that."
While both brothers tended towards the loud and melodramatic when they were irritated, the true Jones temper was a quiet, deadly thing. If that low, severe voice had Emma squirming from a room away, she knew Killian wasn't faring much better staring it head on.
Emma held her breath, waiting in a stall until the sounds of their footsteps died away, presumably to continue their fight in the main bar to the amusement of their more die-hard clientele.
Yeah, this wasn't a good time for a one-on-one.
It was past eleven when Killian finally emerged, fumbling for his car keys. His gait was a little unsteady, his cheeks flushed, and though he was chuckling to himself as he searched his pockets, she could hear no real mirth in it.
"I sure hope you're not thinking of driving, Jones," Emma said, peeling away from the shadows and giving him a good jolt in the process.
His eyes narrowed, even as he pocketed his keys. "'Course not, love. Whatever brings you to Storybrooke's least regarded watering hole on this frosty night?"
Technically, if you wanted to compare arrests, the Rabbit Hole was still Storybrooke's least regarded watering hole by a considerable margin. If only by virtue of the fact it was the only bar in town that still let Leroy on the premises.
"I thought we could talk. You want a ride home?" Emma asked, rapping her knuckles against the hood of her ancient Volkswagen Bug. It might not have been the most inconspicuous of vehicles, but it was hers.
He gave it a wary once over, even as he swayed where he stood. "You're not going to drop me into the ocean to clear your way to the podium, are you, darling?"
A scheme that Emma had honestly not considered in all of her planning. Not until now.
"Get in," she said, not waiting for his response before she climbed in. He did follow though, at his own pace. He'd definitely been hitting it hard, his breath in the confined space reeking of booze.
Waiting until he'd strapped in, she turned the engine over, easing them out of the parking lot.
"How cogent are you?" Emma asked, wondering if it might be better to shelve this conversation for later. "I mean, how much did you drink?"
"Enough to ease my headache. Not enough to make me forget I have a self-righteous arse for a brother."
"About today-" Emma began, at the same time Killian did.
They both cut off, everything feeling jumbled and out-of-sync.
Of course he'd let her go first. Good form, and all that. Still, that was what she wanted. She took a steadying breath, as she made a left onto Main.
"About the thing in the hospital earlier. With Whale. What was that? Why did you storm off?"
"Well, I'm afraid I'm at a bit of a disadvantage here, love. Seeing as there's been drink taken. But since you asked, I left so I wouldn't haul the bloody prat off and punch him."
"Why would you do that?!"
"Because he provoked me. Because it was clear we were having a moment, and he decided to see how far he could test me. And because I was bloody furious that it wasn't my place to punch him, seeing as we are, what again? Oh aye, nothing." He spat the last word.
"Killian," Emma said, chancing a glance in his direction. "Look, that was a bad choice of words, okay? Clearly, this isn't nothing."
"But it's not something either, is it?"
"It's…" Emma fumbled for the right words. "Look, I told you I wasn't any good at this stuff. I told you I'd need some time. You agreed, remember? I thought you kinda got off on the whole cloak and dagger thing?"
"Aye, perhaps at first. But, Emma, it's been six bloody months already. I'm a patient man, but there's a difference between waiting for you to be ready, and resigning myself to being Emma Nolan's dirty little secret."
"That's not, I'm not-"
"Face it, love, you've had plenty of chances to tell your parents. To tell Henry. Hell, Graham already knows. Liam knows. I'm fairly certain Doctor Fucking Whale knows. And I think if you wanted to tell them, you would have. Which means you don't."
Emma could feel her bottom lip begin to tremble. She'd meant to clear the air when she'd offered this ride. But this? Emma wasn't sure she'd been anticipating this.
She seemed to take her silence as confirmation, and nodded his head sadly.
"The honest truth is I care for you, Emma. And underneath all of that sarcasm and petty rivalry, I suspect, or at least I hope, you've come to care for me as well."
Emma bit her lip.
"And I like what we have, Emma. I do. But if this-" He indicated between them with one hand. "These stolen moments, lying to our families, to Henry, is all you can ever see for us, I'm sorry, but I'm not sure we're quite on the same page."
"Is this a break-up?" Emma asked, her voice wobbling in a way she hated.
"We'd have to first be together to break up, wouldn't we, love? After all, you've been quite insistent we're nothing and you freeze at the very mention of the word girlfriend."
Shit, was she going to cry?
"Okay," Emma said, wiping at her eyes with her sleeve. "Say we do this thing. Say I tell my parents. Henry. Come clean about everything. Then we've still got to decide which one of us is going to replace my Dad. Best case scenario, one of us is going to be resentful. Worst case, we kill each other before we make a decision."
"And if the job wasn't a consideration?"
She didn't know. She wasn't ready for this to end, but she didn't know if she was ready to deal with her family yet, either. Deal with Henry or, god, she hated that she felt like she had to take fucking Neal's consideration into this. Okay, fuck Neal, but her parents? Her dad liked Killian. Would like him a little less when he found out exactly how much sex they'd been having, but he'd come around. Her mom… well, she would change her tune if she found out how happy Killian made her-
He made her happy, right?
Killian must have taken her silence to mean a different kind of answer, because as she pulled to a stop in front of his apartment building and killed the engine, he looked over at her. "And here I thought perhaps you were just gun-shy. But it's worse than that. You can't picture a future with me at all, can you?"
He looked a little like she'd punched him in the stomach. Which was, funnily enough, exactly how she felt looking at him. "Killian-"
He unbuckled his seatbelt and she moved to get out too, but he held up a hand. "I'm not angry, love. I just… Cheers for the ride."
He got out before she could respond, slamming the door behind him, leaving her to sit alone in the darkened cab, wondering why she couldn't or wouldn't say the words she knew in her heart to be true.
"Honest people don't hide their deeds."
― Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
Killian wasn't at work the next morning.
Killian, who hadn't taken a sick day in five years, had called in sick. She tried to tell herself it was the rum. He was sleeping it off. But she knew it was more than that.
She was a goddamn idiot.
She tried to hide her agitation, but when her dad caught her making her fifth visit to the snack drawer, she knew she was caught. He wasn't sheriff for nothing.
He met her guilty look with a steady one, his arms crossed loosely over his chest. And even though he wasn't on patrol duty today, she noticed he was still wearing that shoulder holster Mom had bought him when he'd first been appointed sheriff. The one she said made him look like Steve McQueen. The same one he'd worn every day on the job for the last thirty years, for luck.
And maybe she was letting everything with Killian get to her, but the sight of it peeking out of his jacket had Emma's heart feeling like it was two sizes too big for her chest.
That's what a happy ending looked like.
She put down the chocolate bar, the question popping out before she could stop it. "What am I supposed to do?"
He didn't ask her what she was talking about. He didn't ask anything at all. He just took a seat on the edge of her desk, and let his hand rest on her shoulder, a comfortable, steady weight. "You could start with an apology?"
David Nolan. Not sheriff for nothing.
"Mom, you're lurking."
Busted. And yeah, she was kinda lurking. Pacing back and forth on the landing outside her son's door, trying to summon up the courage to knock. That is, until he got fed up with her and pushed the door open to find out why her pacing was interrupting him in the middle of his ogre quest.
Emma blew out a breath, and stepped inside. "Hey, kid."
Henry's room was yet another reminder that the times, they were a-changin'. Gone was the wallpaper with the little blue bears she'd picked out with such care, now plastered over with superhero posters and the newest video game promos. His picture books were gone, replaced with the weightier likes of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. She still wasn't sure when exactly he'd convinced her to put the old TV in here so he could slay monsters and rescue fair maidens in peace.
His gaze was wary as she sat down on the bed, and patted the place beside her.
"Is someone dead?" he asked, apprehension setting in.
"No. God no. Nothing like that."
"Mom, you're being weird."
Guilty. But they didn't exactly cover this stuff back when she was taking Mommy and Me classes at the Y. She was flying blind here.
"Yeah, I know. I'm sorry. Look kid, here's the thing. I've been kind of lying to you. For a while now. And I feel bad about it, but I need you to know I was trying to protect you. Or I thought so, at first. Or maybe I was trying to protect me. I don't know. It's all gotten so out of hand and…"
"Mom? You're rambling." It was enough to get him to sit down, though.
Henry turned. "What are you lying about?"
"Well for one thing, I don't have a spin class three times a week. I don't even really know what a spin class is, but I knew there was no way I could convince you I'd taken up yoga."
"I've been seeing Killian. Err… Deputy Jones. Dating, that is. We've been dating."
Okay, so not the word Emma might've originally used to characterize her relationship with Killian Jones, but it was close enough. And if you counted the time they went and watched that movie together, it wasn't too far from the truth.
"Mom? I know who Killian is. I see him literally every day when I stop by the station after school. He's been to every birthday party I ever had. I think he was even at Christmas one year."
"Right, yeah, of course, kid. So... you're not mad at me?"
"You know you're the mom, right?" The incredulous look he gave her made her feel otherwise, but the kid had a point. "You don't have to ask my permission for this stuff. You're the grown up. I'm the kid. Yeah, maybe next time you shouldn't lie right to my face. But I get it. You think Dad was upfront about Tamara in the beginning?"
He gave a surprisingly vengeful snort. "He was like, oh yeah, this is my friend. Hey, do you mind if my friend has lunch with us? Oh yeah, my friend and I are having a sleepover." Henry rolled his eyes. "So are you, like, in love with him or something?"
"No. I don't know. Maybe. We haven't really… talked about it."
"And now you're both trying to be the new sheriff?"
"Yep," Emma lamented, placing her head in her hands. "And we got into a huge fight about it and now he probably hates me."
"Well, that sucks."
Emma snorted a laugh at the truth of it. "I am sorry I lied to you, kid."
"New PS4 sorry?" he asked, with a hopeful glint in his eye.
Her son, the opportunist.
"Nice try. I was thinking more dinner at Granny's sorry?"
He pretended to consider her offer, his little face screwed up in thought. "Throw in a chocolate sundae, and then we'll talk."
THURSDAY NIGHT, LATE
"When you love you wish to do things for. You wish to sacrifice for. You wish to serve."
― Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
It was still late… or early when Emma woke up, her head still dizzy with half-remembered dreams. She reached across for her phone, the numbers on the dim display confirming her suspicions. Still hours until her alarm, and no earthly reason for her to be conscious.
She wondered if Henry was awake, setting her internal Mom Sense a-tingling. But then she heard it.
At first she thought it might be rain, maybe hail. The definite sound of foreign objects pinging against ….
When she walked over and glanced down, she was almost convinced she was still dreaming. Killian Jones was throwing rocks at her window.
Okay, fine, pebbles. He was trying to wake her, not get her a date with a glazier. They clinked harmlessly off the glass, until he must have spotted her, arm freezing mid-throw.
She pinched herself to be sure. Nope. Definitely not dreaming. Killian Jones was still there, armed with an arsenal of pebbles, staring up at her bedroom window like something straight out of a John Hughes movie.
He waved, a little awkwardly, and because she wasn't awake yet, she waved back. She cursed inwardly as she put on a robe and shoved her feet into her slippers, padding downstairs. Killian had a key to the house. For "emergencies". Usually sexy emergencies, in actuality. But he was still standing in the garden when she found him, looking a little dishevelled but surprisingly sober considering the impromptu nature of his visit.
Emma glanced down at the pebbles now scattered at his feet. "You know, you could have just texted. Or called. I would've picked up."
He shot her a doubtful glance.
"And deprive myself of an opportunity to make a dashing overture?" He snorted, as if to say, not likely.
"And why would you need one of those?" Emma asked, but he didn't answer, just continued to lead her up to her porch steps, inviting her to sit. She hadn't even noticed taking his hand.
He was quiet, staring out at the garden, and Emma stared with him. By the glow of the streetlight across the street, the bit where Henry had trimmed the hedge back at a funny angle was hardly noticeable. When he finally spoke, his voice was soft. "I called your father and told him I'm not interested in the job."
"What? Why? You want it just as much as-"
He tutted playfully, holding up a hand. "I'm getting to that. You see, I had a chat with Liam yesterday. Or I suppose you could call it a disagreement, if you wanted to get technical about it. And he might be a complete arse, but he did come out with this nice little gem: A man unwilling to fight for what he wants, deserves what he gets. I think he meant it as a rebuke, if I'm honest. Something about family, or legacy, or my not doing what he thinks I should be doing with my life."
"I'm in love with you," he said, and whatever words Emma was poised to say evaporated along with most of her higher brain function. She didn't realize her hand had gone slack until he gently traced his fingers over her palm, giving her a small smile. "I probably have been for years. You're awfully hard not to love, despite what you think. And I'm in this for the long haul. So if you aren't ready to go public, fine. I'm prepared to wait. I don't care. What I'm not prepared to do is not fight for what I want... which is you."
"But-" Emma was still finding the power of speech difficult to grasp. But if there was any time to push through, this was it. "But why? I mean, Killian, this is... " Stupid romantic. Both the stupidest and most romantic thing she'd ever heard. Trust him to deliver on that double whammy. But it wasn't just that. If he did this he'd be..."You'd be giving everything up. For me."
"Aye, because I love you," he repeated. "And even if you don't want a future with me, I still care about what you want. About what you deserve. You want to be sheriff. You want Henry to have a shot at a better life. And I may play the arsehole sometimes, Emma, but I'm not going to stand in the way of you having what you want. You deserve to be happy."
She could feel herself reaching for him, but this time, it was Killian who put on the brakes, clasping both of her hands tight in his instead. "No," he murmured, smiling at her little huff of frustration. "I don't want you to do or say anything just now. Take some time. I'm not telling you all this so you'll feel obligated to be with me. I'm telling you so you understand. Do you?"
Did she? It wasn't like the concept of love as sacrifice was new to her. She had a kid, after all. She understood the impulse. But knowing how much he wanted the job, about how much he needed the money… She felt unworthy. Undeserving.
Here he was, putting it all on the line, giving her everything she wanted. Everything. And she'd never even told him- No. He didn't want to hear it now. Wouldn't believe she wasn't just speaking out of misplaced gratitude. And in a way, she was almost relieved about that. She didn't trust herself right now to get the words out in one piece, the whole encounter having left her mute and overwhelmed.
So instead she gave him what she could, what he'd asked for. She nodded, and he squeezed her hands in his. She did understand. She understood perfectly.
"But what about you?" Emma asked at last, unable to help herself. "What about all those other things you want?" But instead of answering her, he raised their joined hands to his lips, turning them over to press a kiss into her palm. It lingered, like a promise. She felt the shockwaves of it radiating up her arm long after he'd pulled away.
"Good night, Emma," he said, his gaze soft as he stood to his full height. "I'll see you at the press conference." Then before Emma could do or say anything else, he took his leave, melting back into the darkness.
He still hadn't answered her question.
"In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity"
Sun Tzu, The Art of War
"Hell of a turn out," Graham murmured low beside her, still tugging at his tie.
Her dad didn't usually force a dress code on his deputies. Once upon a time there'd been a uniform, but the whole thing had fallen by the wayside about an hour into Emma's first shift, when she'd taken one look at the tan monstrosity left on her desk, and lit it on fire using a road flare.
One emergency fire drill later, David Nolan had grudgingly accepted that beige did none of them any favors and agreed to plainclothes from thereon out.
Today was different, though. Today was special.
Hence Emma glancing down every few seconds to make sure the buttons of her hideous blouse weren't gaping across her chest, and Graham slowly choking to death at the hands of a Windsor knot.
Hence the small group of gathered press and looky-loos, all jockeying for the best seats near the front.
Across the other side of the makeshift podium, even Killian was managing to make the beige look halfway respectable, though he'd foregone the tie. Of course. Emma suspected it would be a cold day in hell before that ever happened. On his other side stood her father with his freshly polished sheriff's badge gleaming from pride of place on his chest, doing his best to look attentive during Regina's introductory remarks.
Just the sight of that star already had Emma swallowing back tears. No. She wasn't going to get emotional today. No matter what.
But when Regina's speech ended, and her father approached the microphone, she couldn't help the lump from rising in the back of her throat.
"Thank you, Mayor Mills, for that introduction," he began, with a small nod in her direction.
"Now I'm sure a few of you may be wondering why I called you all here today. Well, to put the speculation to rest, I'd like to announce my retirement. It's been an honor and a privilege to serve as your sheriff these last thirty years, but after much time and consideration I have decided I won't be contesting the next election. Questions?"
The hall exploded into a cacophony of questions, exclamations and fervent whisperings, until Regina stepped forward to officiate.
"Alright, settle down," she said, staring down every last hold out until there was a eerie calm. "Great. How about one of our own, Sidney?"
Sidney Glass, editor-in-chief of the Storybrooke Mirror was Storybrooke's premier reporter. Also, coincidentally, Storybrooke's only reporter. He rose from his chair, and cleared his throat. "Sheriff Nolan, any reason you've chosen this particular moment to step down?"
That was Sidney, always looking for dirt where there was none. "I thought I'd go out on a high note," David responded with a genial smile. "As you might be aware, our stats are excellent. Crime is at a ten year low. And I have a lot of faith in our team to continue with our outstanding work. Next question?"
Regina pointed to a woman in a grey pantsuit with her arm raised in the second row. "Angela Kelly, Misthaven News. Have you given any thought as to who you'll be endorsing in the upcoming election?"
There was the million dollar question.
"I have actually…" her Dad began, turning around to meet Emma's eye. Showtime.
Her steps felt wobbly as she approached the podium. "May I?" she asked, gesturing to the microphone. With an encouraging wink, he placed a hand on her back, giving her that final push towards the microphone.
Wow. There were more people here than she'd thought. And from her place at the podium she could see them all. Belle, from the library. Miss Withers, her old piano teacher. Dr Whale, from the hospital. So many faces.
"Uh, hi. For those of you who don't know me, I'm Emma. Deputy Nolan, in some circles. My father has served this community as sheriff longer than I've been alive. I grew up watching him work. I rode along when he took patrols. I played with dolls under his desk as he did paperwork. I saw him stand up for what was right, and keep this town safe, and when I grew up, I wanted to be just like him. I guess, in many ways, I succeeded. For the last ten years, I've worked under him at the sheriff's station, and it was a genuine privilege to have him as my mentor and my colleague."
Emma paused, willing away the flood of tears threatening to arrive early and spoil the whole damn thing.
"I know I speak for the whole team when I say we're going to miss him around the station. Guiding us. Chiding us. Always starting his briefings off with the finest pastries."
A ripple of laughter filtered through the crowd.
"His are big shoes to fill. The biggest. And though we at the station all admit to a little trepidation about the challenges that lie ahead without him to guide our ship, we have, amongst ourselves, decided who we want to be our captain from here on out."
She could see Killian in her peripheral vision, mouthing something that looked a lot like What Are You Doing? Or maybe it was Are You Out of Your Mind? Emma's lipreading skills were admittedly not great.
"Which is why I would like you to vote for Killian Jones as your next sheriff," she declared, inviting the crowd to clap along with her.
When the applause had died down a little, she continued. "Now Jones is, without a doubt, the most dedicated Deputy we've ever had. He hoses down cells. He dives into storm drains after missing jewelry. He's prepared to deliver babies on the side of highways... Never one to shy away from a challenge, Killian Jones will always put others before himself, and never gives up without a fight. He loves this town, and he's made it his home. He's truly embraced Storybrooke, and I think it's time Storybrooke embraced him back. Ladies and gentlemen, your next sheriff, Killian Jones."
There may have been tears at the end there. Just a few. Nothing too serious. She had them in check by the time Killian had stepped forward, looking, in a word: gobsmacked.
"What- What was that? Emma, we agreed you-" but she cut him off, covering the microphone with her hand.
"Be cool, Jones," she advised, her voice low. "We took a vote this morning, Graham and I. It was unanimous. So take a breath, paste on one of those gorgeous smiles of yours, and knock 'em dead. 'Kay?"
He took the prescribed breath, his face relaxing slightly. "You know what you're doing, Emma?" he whispered.
"Yeah," she smiled, reaching over to squeeze his hand. "I know what I'm doing. Now the smile?"
Glancing down at where her hand still covered his, she saw the grin slowly stretch across his face.
"Better," she said, uncovering the microphone, and pushing him in front of it. "Now bring the house down."
Emma waited backstage, listening to the rousing applause from somewhere near a rack of community theater costumes. Not bad for an off-the-cuff stump speech, but then, the guy could always think on his feet.
"You took a vote?"
She whirled around, her hand coming to her chest. "Jesus Christ. Has anyone ever told you not to sneak up on people?"
He shrugged, and drew closer, his cheeks still flushed from the attentions of the crowd.
"Shouldn't you be out there?" she asked, gesturing between the gap in the curtain. "Cuddling up to your potential constituents?"
"Later," he said, with a dismissive wave of his hand. "At the moment, I'd rather get a straight answer out of you. This isn't what we agreed, Emma. We agreed you would be nominated. I bloody well told David that's what I wanted."
"Yeah, well, we never decided that. You decided, because you figured you'd do the honorable thing. But here's the thing: I meant what I said up there. You do deserve this. And Graham and I did take a vote, and I lost in a landslide."
"I love you," Emma said, cutting him right off. "That's what I didn't tell you last night. I love you too. And you're right, sometimes love is about putting the people you love before yourself. Thinking about what they want. About what they deserve."
He still looked dumbfounded, blinking slowly. "But the lad-"
"He's eleven. And you're right, he's a smart kid. Scholarship material, for sure. But the next election is in three years, right? I'd say that's plenty of time for Liam to get free and clear, don't you think?"
Something a lot like dawning comprehension crossed his face. "Ah, so you know about that?"
"Yeah, I have an eavesdropping problem. It's a character flaw. But in my defense, Liam's angry voice doesn't really have a volume control."
Killian snorted. "Aye, that it doesn't."
"So yeah, you have these three years, sheriff. And then who knows? Maybe there'll be some young upstart waiting in the wings to take your ass down? I mean, who can say?"
"A tenacious blonde upstart, perhaps?" Killian asked, eyes twinkling.
"You never know. So," Emma said, nudging him with her elbow. "You want to go to Granny's?"
To her surprise, the grin on his face seemed to falter slightly at the invitation. "You mean do I want to sit at separate tables and after twenty minutes or so slip into the hallway and make out for a few minutes until your side of onion rings is up? Because-"
"Actually I was kinda hoping it would be a date." She took a deep breath and willed away all the insecurities and the fears and reminded herself that this was the man who'd been ready to throw away everything for her. "With my boyfriend."
Killian might as well have been catching flies.
"Boyfriend?" he repeated, his voice a few octaves higher than normal. He cleared his throat, and tried again. "Boyfriend, Nolan?"
She started to grin, his bewilderment both endearing and amusing."Yeah. You've met him. Cute, kinda scruffy. Got this shiny new badge and all this responsibility and it's already gone straight to his head…"
His eyes had gone so soft, Emma was liable to drown in them. She was about to, when she remembered the bag at her feet.
"Oh, I almost forgot." She crouched down and unzipped the backpack, pulling out the bouquet with a dramatic flourish. "Tada! Gardenias right? I mean, I know they're a little crushed, but they were the only ones Moe had and I-"
It was pretty hard to keep talking when Killian's lips were on hers, the bouquet ripped from her grasp as they found themselves backed up against the nearest wall.
"You." Killian laughed, between kisses. "Are. Bloody. Brilliant."
"I try," Emma said, grinning into the curve of his neck as he picked her off the ground, twirling them in a tight circles.
She was dizzy when he put her down. Dizzy with happiness. Dizzy with love. Dizzy with an imbalance of the inner ear. "C'mon," she said, grabbing his hand. "I'm hungry, and I don't trust Henry not to eat the surprise cake we made for you if we don't hurry."
"You baked me a cake?" There were those eyes again, soft as buttermilk. He knew what it meant. What Henry's involvement meant.
"Yep. And it's the lumpiest, driest piece of sponge cake you or I will ever eat in our lives. But Henry did the frosting and piped the letters, so you're gonna act surprised, got it?"
He tugged her towards him, placing her hand over his heart and covered it with his. "Darling, I already know I'm going to love it."
"Cheeseball. And you won't. It's legitimately terrible. But it's the thought that counts."
"Aye," Killian agreed, dropping her hand to pick up his celebratory gardenias from where he'd tossed them. He clutched them to his chest, like a prize teddy bear at the fair. "I suppose it is. Shall we?" he said, motioning between the gap in the curtain.
"We shall," Emma said, pulling the curtain aside so he could walk step through. Just before he did, she dropped her hand onto his shoulder, fixing him in place.
"Just to clarify, are you saying you didn't want to make out in the hallway at Granny's?"