Author's note: This is just a little future fic. Meant to be a one shot. It probably makes no sense, lol. I hope you enjoy it!
Disclaimer: If I owned them, Colin would be wrapped in bubble wrap at all times. I can't take much more of this Hook-less show.
"Hey, could you guys do me a favor?"
"What's that, lad?"
"Don't do anything to embarrass me?"
"Now why would we do that, Henry? Right, love?" Killian chuckled. When he didn't get a response, he looked at Emma, concerned. "Emma, love? Are you listening?"
"Huh?" Emma said, distracted. They were crossing the town line again. She hoped that the more that happened (and it happened quite a lot in the seven years since she and Killian had gotten together) that it would get easier, but it never did. There was something about crossing the line and heading out into the real world that still freaked her out. Storybrooke was so far removed from everything that she'd known before coming there. Before Henry had found her, she lived a nomadic life, always moving, never staying anywhere long enough to form real attachments to anything or anyone. Now she had a family: her parents, Killian, and their children. Every time she crossed the line she couldn't help the tiny voice in her head that said this was all a dream and she'd wake up alone in her old Boston apartment. It was silly, but she couldn't shake it.
"Your son believes that we're going to embarrassing kinds of parents on this little excursion," Killian explained.
Emma took her eyes off the road for a second to glare. "Why is it when he says things like that he's my son?"
"I'm right here, you know," Henry grumbled.
"We're just going to look at colleges, Henry. How could that be embarrassing?"
Henry looked at his mother sternly in the rearview mirror. "I don't know, but you two always seem to find a way."
"Who us?" Killian laughed. "I think you must have us confused with someone else, lad."
"So that wasn't you Gramps caught in the garage during their anniversary party?"
Emma blushed and focused on the road. Henry was right. Seven years they'd been together and more often than not they were at each other like a couple of horny teenagers. Not even the birth of Alex and Jo but a damper on their need for each other. Emma often wondered if it was a True Love thing – were her parents like this? She may be an adult, but that thought still made her shudder. Early on, they'd managed to keep it out of sight of the rest of the town, but that went out the window ages ago. And Henry was now at the age where seeing his parents all with the PDA was embarrassing, rather than endearing. Emma had a feeling this was going to be a more difficult trip than she thought.
"That was a good night, wasn't it, love?" Killian said.
"See?" Henry exclaimed. "This is what I'm talking about. Just try to keep the PDA to a minimum, OK? Please?"
"Sure, kid," Emma replied. "We can do that. Can't we, Killian?" she said, pointedly.
"Of course, love."
Satisfied, Henry settled back in his seat, popping in his earbuds and cranking up whatever music he was into this week. Emma smiled when she saw him crack open his book, getting lost in the fairy tales once again. He might complain about she and Killian being overly demonstrative, but deep down he was still her Henry, the boy who believed in fairy tales and happy endings. Killian looked back as well, grinning. Then he reached across the gear box and squeezed her hand, his sleeve running up his forearm, exposing the scar from where she had reattached his left hand all those years ago. She squeezed back before refocusing her attention on the road, completely calm for the first time since reentering the real world.
After the initial car drama, the trip actually started out better than Emma had feared. There were only two schools in Maine that Henry was even considering: the University of Maine in Orono and Bowdoin College in Brunswick. Orono was a straight shot north from Storybrooke, only an hour or so drive really. The campus – to Killian's delight – was situated on an island, the only one like it in the country apparently. It was beautiful, especially since fall was upon them and the leaves were changing. And since it was the alma mater of Stephen King, it's English and writing departments were top notch. All through high school, Henry had toyed with the idea of writing, but Emma had a feeling his heart wasn't in it. All her son's free time was spent either with his grandfather learning to be a knight or with Killian, learning the ways of a pirate. Emma didn't really think either was a viable option for life in the real world, hence her insistence on this college trip. Henry was extraordinarily bright; he deserved to have the education her own upbringing had denied her. Henry seemed decidedly disinterested during the tour though, much to Emma's chagrin.
"The lad's just not made for a life of books and tedium, love," Killian murmured that night as they settled into their hotel room.
"It's just the first one, Killian," Emma argued. "We just have to find the right one."
"Emma, he's grown up in a town with magic and dragons and giants and fairies. Do you really think some stodgy old classroom with an even stodgier teacher is going to appeal to him?"
"You're not helping with that, you know."
"Me? Are you saying that I shouldn't teach our son to sail? What about Alex and Jo? Are they under a similar edict?"
"That's not what I meant."
"Then pray tell, love, what do you mean?"
Emma sat heavily on the bed, covering her face with her hands. She was saying this all wrong. Again. She took a deep breath and looked up. Killian was looking down at her, concern in his blue eyes. "I'm just worried about him, you know. I would never begrudge the time you and David spend with him. But those skills won't work in the real world, Killian. He's going to need a job ad an education to get that job. I want him to have the things I didn't."
Killian knelt down in front of her. "But he already has those things, darling. You grew up alone; Henry has a family that loves him. After all the time you missed, do you really want him to spend the next four years away at some school?"
"Even after all this time, you still have so much to lean about this world, Killian. Henry deserves a life away from Storybrooke, away from all the craziness. Besides, college is one of this world's rights of passage."
"That may be, but what if that's not the kind of life Henry wants?"
Emma shook her head. "No, we are not having this argument again."
"Is this world really so bad? Do you all hate is here so much?"
It was an old argument. And it wasn't limited to Emma and Killian. Mary Margaret and David had it too. Many of Storybrooke's residents did. The eternal debate of stay or go. Stay in Storybrooke or return to their respective worlds. Ever since the maturity of the beans made returning a real option, the debate raged. Seven years ago they'd managed to keep the outside world away from their little town, but every once in a while something would happen and the debate would rage once more. A few people actually had gone back, ogres not withstanding. Whale was one. Katherine and Frederick had too. Emma resisted; it wasn't that she hated the Enchanted Forest. It was more that it felt foreign to her; it didn't feel like home. Plus with Alex and Jo, she didn't want to barricade two small children in a castle while the ogres were dealt with. It was too dangerous, she always argued.
"Emma, I am content to dwell wherever you wish. But we don't belong here. Magic doesn't belong in this world. And like it or not, we are from a place filled with magic. You are magical. You might have been raised here, but you don't belong here anymore than I do."
Emma sighed. "I'll think about it, OK? For now, can we just enjoy the trip? You haven't had a chance to see some of the places we're going."
Henry returned not long after with pizza. As they ate and watched TV, Emma called Mary Margaret to check in on Alex and Jo. It was her first time away since Jo had been born a year and a half before.
"Emma, Alex and Johanna are fine," Mary Margaret assured her. "Our little Johanna has your father wrapped around her finger. It's adorable, honestly."
Emma couldn't miss the wistful tone in her mother's voice. Having Johanna and Alex there must be a reminder of all the time they had missed with Emma growing up. But there was nothing they could do about that now. As it was, David and Mary Margaret were the best grandparents ever. Sometimes Emma wondered why they never had more children. It wasn't as if they weren't young enough, still. She pushed the sad thought away. "Well, call if you need something. We'll come straight home if necessary."
"Nonsense, Emma. We'll be fine. You have fun and we'll see you when you get back."
When they got to Brunswick, Emma was struck by how much it reminded her of Storybrooke. Like their home, it sat next to the water. Bigger than Storybrooke, it still had the same charm of a typical seaside town. Plus it was only a half hour away. Henry seemed a bit more enthusiastic about Bowdoin College, but whether that was due to the actual merits of the school or Killian going on about being able to dock the Jolly Roger at the wharf was open to debate.
After leaving Maine, they got to the heart of their trip: Boston. There they could kill several birds with one stone. Harvard, Boston College and the University of Massachusetts, Boston were all on their itinerary. Harvard was a stretch, Emma knew. But she'd always wanted to visit the historic campus; she'd never gotten a chance when she actually lived there.
"Hey, can we visit your old apartment, Mom?" Henry asked.
"Why would you want to do that, kid?"
"I want to show Dad where it all began. Why? Is that weird?"
Emma smiled. "No, kid. That's not weird at all."
The couple that lived there surely thought the three of them were out of their minds, but acquiesced when Emma asked if they could have a minute to look around. It was so weird, being back. The last time she'd been there, a ten year old boy knocked on her door claiming to be her son. She remembered the panic she'd felt then. For a few minutes, she was that scared eighteen year old again. But she managed to pull herself together and get Henry back to Storybrooke. If she knew then what she knew now, would she have done it? Would she have been brave enough to face down a dragon, ogres, evil witches, an infamous pirate, and her long lost parents? Emma didn't know, but as she looked at Henry and Killian she was profoundly glad she had.
The following day they visited Boston College. Another beautiful campus, more disinterest from Henry. He perked up a bit when they visited Harvard. The admissions standards were ridiculously high, but it didn't hurt to look. The history of the place seemed to appeal to Henry, as Emma hoped it would. As they followed their group – led by a far too enthusiastic junior coed, Emma noticed – Emma could help but realize how much younger she and Killian were compared to the other parents. Most of them were in their late forties, maybe early fifties. Of course, age was relative when it came to Killian: he was simultaneously in his mid thirties and over three hundred years old. This was partly because Emma had Henry when she was so young, but it had never really hit her in quite this way before. Their situation in Storybrooke was so unique: Emma's own parents were practically the same age as she was. It was just another reminder of how much they didn't belong in this world. Emma tried to shake the thought off.
She was brought out of her reverie when something ran into her or she ran into it, Emma wasn't quite sure. Emma shrieked at the sudden contact; Killian caught her before she could hit the ground. Once he was certain she was steady, he released her and angrily eyed what had caused her to fall.
"Watch where you're going, mate," Killian growled.
Emma looked in the direction Killian was staring. A huge bear of a man – late forties by the hints of gray in his dark hair – glared right back at Killian. "What?" the man said, his Boston accent thick. "It's not my fault your girlfriend doesn't know where she's going."
"Wife," Killian shot back. "And you'll apologize to her. Now." His tone brooked no argument. Emma had only heard him use it a handful of times, mostly when either she or someone else they cared about was in mortal peril.
"Killian, please," Emma began, intent on defusing this before it got out of hand. "I'm fine, really."
"No, Emma. I'm not going to just stand here and let this wanker disrespect you," Killian replied. "Last chance, mate."
"Who the hell are you? The Polite Police?"
Killian was about to say something else when their coed tour guide stepped in. "Is there a problem here?"
Emma groaned. This was crazy. She stepped between the two men, facing Killian. "Come on, Killian. We should go."
"What kind of man are you?" their antagonist cried. "Your woman has to give you permission?"
Emma blinked. He so did not go there. She wheeled around; the man stood nearly a foot taller than her, but that didn't matter. One look at the man's smug face told her all she needed to know. Emma pushed the now frightened coed out of her way and promptly raised her knee with all the force she could muster. She made contact with her target and the asshole doubled over, crying out in agony.
"I just saved you from a very unpleasant confrontation with Captain Hook," she whispered. "You really should thank me."
"Fuck off," the man gritted out.
"Suit yourself," Emma shrugged, walking over to Killian and Henry. "Come on, let's get out of here."
As they walked away from the now buzzing crowd, Killian took Emma's hand. "That was brilliant, love. But remind me of that the next time you're angry with me." Killian mock shuddered.
"That was nothing. Sexist ass." She looked at Henry. "Sorry, kid. I might have just ruined your shot at getting into Harvard."
Henry grinned at her. "You were awesome, Mom."
The following day they made their last visit to the University of Massachusetts, Boston. But none of their hearts were in it. After the excitement the previous day at Harvard, touring the campus of yet another university seemed boring. About halfway through the tour Emma turned to Henry, "You wanna get out of here?"
He gave her a hopeful smile. "Seriously?"
"Sure. Where do you want to go?"
To no one's surprise, Henry wanted to go to the Navy Yard. Emma wasn't nearly as into ships and the sea as Henry and Killian were. Killian had taught what she needed to know; thanks to their special connection she could sail the Jolly Roger well enough. But intricate knots and rigging and such? She left that to her pirate. As they wandered the visitor center at the Navy Yard, Emma mostly stood back and watched father and son take it all in. Killian grumbled every once in a while about some supposedly horrible slander about pirates and Emma laughed.
Finally, they went out to visit the USS Constitution. She was almost as old as the Jolly Roger and very well preserved, Killian noted. Their tour guide was an older gentleman, clearly a former sailor himself. Henry had a million questions and Emma marveled at the old man's patience.
"Thank you," Emma whispered to the old man. "I know my son can be worse than Curious George sometimes."
"Nonsense, ma'am," the old man replied. "Always happy to see enthusiasm for the old girl. Especially in one so young."
"Henry's got a real love of ships."
"Something he gets from his father, I take it?"
Emma chuckled. "Yeah, I supposed he does. My husband is a...ship captain." She was going to say pirate, but realized at the last second that would not be the best thing to say.
"Really? I'd like to meet him."
Emma looked around for Killian. He was leaning over the railing counting gun ports. "Killian," Emma called. He righted himself and sauntered over to them. Every since they'd stepped on board, Killian demeanor had changed ever so slightly, only someone who knew him well would be able to tell. He was every inch the captain now.
"She's a marvelous ship," Killian said, extending his hand to the old man. They shook.
"Your wife tells me you have your own ship."
Killian bowed; Emma had to bite her lip to keep from laughing. "Captain Killian Jones, the Jolly Roger."
"The Jolly Roger? You mean like Peter Pan?"
Killian opened his mouth to speak – no doubt to rail once again about the horrible inaccuracies of this realm's version of his life – when Emma cut him off. "It was Killian's favorite story as a kid, wasn't it, dear?"
Killian eyed her warily, but nodded. "Aye. But the Roger's not quite as large as this old girl."
"I should think not; Old Ironsides is a warship. Flagship of the fleet in her day."
The conversation quickly devolved into a debate on naval tactics, which Emma found exceedingly boring. As soon as she was sure Killian could be left alone – as in not start blabbing about hooks and magic and Neverland – she went off in search of Henry. She found him on the port side railing staring out at the sea.
She rested her arms on the rail, mirroring Henry's stance. "Better than touring another stuffy campus?"
"Henry, I'm going to ask you a very important question and I want you to be honest with me, OK?"
He tilted his head and looked her in the eye. "Shoot."
"Do you want to go back to the Enchanted Forest?"
"Well, I can't go back to somewhere I've never been."
Emma sighed. "You know why that is, though, right?"
"Yeah, the ogres. But Mom, what if we could defeat the ogres? Don't you want to go home?"
Emma sighed. "Henry, it's not that simple. Isn't this home? You and I, we grew up here. This is the only home we've ever known. Same for Alex and Jo. I can't just uproot all of you on a whim."
"But Mom, you're thinking like we're normal. We're not. Your parents are Snow White and Prince Charming. You're married to Captain Hook. Jo's godmother is Red Riding Hood. My whole life I've felt out of place, like I didn't belong. That's why I came looking for you. Besides your destiny, I thought that having you in my life would help me understand. And it did. I understand that this world isn't where I'm meant to be. I want adventures like Gram and Gramps, you and Dad. I want to be the hero of my own story."
He spoke with such certainty – such passion – that Emma was stunned. She had no idea he felt this way. She covered his hand with hers, teenage sensibilities forgotten. "Are you sure, Henry? You're only eighteen. I know I sure as hell didn't know what I wanted at eighteen."
"Henry's always been headstrong and stubborn, my love," Killian interjected, his arm wrapping around her. "And the lad has something neither of us had at that age, parents who love him."
"Why do I suddenly feel like this is an ambush?"
"No ambush, Emma, I promise," Killian swore. "But I know Henry's been thinking about this for a long time. I just happen to agree with him. The decision though is yours."
Emma felt like she did when August told her she was Storybrooke's only hope. It was a fate – a decision – she didn't want. But Killian was right, it was her decision to make. Alex and Jo were young enough that they wouldn't even remember this world if they left now. And if they were careful with the magic beans, there was every chance they could return. Deep down, Emma knew her parents weren't happy here. She had a feeling they stayed because she'd shown such reluctance to return to the Enchanted Forest. Emma remembered seeing her nursery all those years ago. The life she should have had. The life her own children could have if they returned. She pictured Killian on the Jolly Roger, her parent's castle in the background. It would take some getting used to, but she could do it. And there was a level of curiosity there that intrigued her. Once she'd learned the basics, her previous trip to the Enchanted Forest was pretty exciting, minus the missing Henry part. And she had met Killian there. Whether she liked it or not, her life was tied to that place. It was where she came from and like Henry, she wanted to know it better.
Henry blinked. "Really? You mean it?"
Emma smiled. "First, you try to enlist your grandfather in the ogre problem. He ended the Orge War once; he should be able to do it again. Second, I reserve the right to change my mind. If it's too much, we use the beans and come back here. Deal?"
"Yes!" Henry exclaimed.
"You have made him very happy, love," Killian whispered in her ear.
"And what about the captain? Is he happy?"
"I told you, Emma. I'm happy wherever you are. As long as I have you, our children and my ship, I am content. But yes, I am very happy." He leaned in to kiss her. Emma curled in his arms, wrapping her arms around his neck, deepening the kiss.
"Aw, man!" Henry whined. "We were so close!"
Emma laughed as they broke apart. They were a dozen eyes on them – a few knowing smiles, but she didn't care. She grabbed Killian's hand and turned to Henry. "Come on. Let's go home."