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Life Meant Nothing Until You Used My Toothbrush

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“Coffee.”

 

“No.”

 

“Please.”

 

“Absolutely not.”

 

“I need coffee.”

 

“You need to drink three bottles of water and eat about sixteen servings of fruit.”

 

Emma taps her coffee cup and holds it up in the air. “I need another serving of coffee.”

 

Killian narrows his eyes at her, the blue disappearing into black slits that are full of trepidation and suspicion as he looks between her face and her coffee mug. She knows that she’s already had two cups – two very large cups – but she spent all last night talking Ruby through her breakup with Victor and eating copious amounts of ice cream so that she desperately needs coffee before she walks across the street and has to sit in her office all day staring at a computer screen as she writes an article for the Storybrooke paper on the paving of the high school parking lot.

 

Riveting.

 

But actually boring, and she needs to be on a caffeine high right now so that she can at least make it for the next few hours before she inevitably crashes looking up the density and lifespan of whatever type of concrete they’re using.

 

It was debated at the town council meeting, but she can’t remember. She usually zones out of those too.

 

Top-notch reporting from her.

 

“Fine,” Killian grumbles in his usual cheery-morning tone of voice before he takes the cup out of her hand. For someone who owns a diner and is literally tasked with making charming small talk all day, he doesn’t really turn on the charms for her. Then again, why in the world would he turn on the charms for his best friend’s younger sister? That would just be weird. “But I’m giving you a takeout bag with a salad and some fruit, and I want you to check in with me to show me just how much water you’ve been drinking, aye?”

 

“You are ridiculous.”

 

He doesn’t respond to that, taking her mug away, and it’s then that she realizes that he’s taking her mug away instead of refilling it with coffee. The asshole is trying to get away without giving her another cup.

 

“Hey,” Emma calls out, getting up from her table and following him behind the counter, “what are you doing with my mug?”

 

“I’m getting you – oh bloody hell,” Killian mutters when he sees her behind the counter, and he immediately puts the mug down on the back counter and places his hands on her hips to walk her out back to the open side of the restaurant. “How many times do we have to talk about the fact that you are not allowed behind the counter?”

 

“I think around seventeen times, and then I’ll have it memorized.”

 

Killian rolls his eyes, but there’s a playful smile tugging on his lips that has Emma marking a mental checkmark in her win column of this little back and forth game that they play.

 

“I’m getting you a to-go cup because I know you have to be at work soon, and I wouldn’t want you to be late. It is such a far walk, you know?”

 

“It’s like I’m running a marathon every time.”

 

“Exactly.” Killian places his hand on the small of her back and moves her forward. “Go sit down, and I’m going to bring everything out to you before I have to take care of my actual paying customers.”

 

“That’s not fair. I’ve told you I would pay.”

 

“You don’t get to pay, love. It’s your own special discount.”

 

Emma shrugs her shoulders before pressing up on her toes and kissing Killian’s cheek. “Thanks, Jones. I want – ”

 

“Hazelnut creamer, I know.”

 

When Emma leaves the diner ten minutes later, to-go cup and brown paper bag full of healthy food in hand, she steps out the door and into the crisp fall air that has her taking a deep breath and taking it all in. Fall in Storybrooke is a magical time. Even thinking that, she knows that it’s cheesy, but she doesn’t care. There have been so many horrible things that have happened in her life, rough childhood and bad breakups that have left emotional scars that might as well be tattooed on her skin, and if she wants to be someone who simply loves when the leaves begin to change to hues of gold and red that fall to the ground so that there’s a constant crunching under her boots when she walks, she can.

 

And Storybrooke, well, Storybrooke is special.

 

It took her leaving for college and living in Boston for four years to realize that, but she did realize it.

 

Eventually.

 

This place is full of quirky characters, ones that she still can’t quite believe are real (some of them seem so much like fairytale characters that she has to blink a few times to make sure this is actually real life) and little ticks and oddities that probably exist in every small town in America but feel like they’re entirely unique to this town. Seriously, they have a festival for everything. Last week there was one because the nuns found their lost cat.

 

Weird but surprisingly fun.

 

In the middle of November, there’s a festival that celebrates the founding of the town, and there’s all kinds of booths full of games and a big firepit with a s’mores bar and all of the spiked hot chocolate in the world. Okay, so the spiked hot chocolate isn’t for everyone, but Granny makes hot chocolate and Killian brings his flask of rum and pours a heavy dosage into her mug.

 

Bless him for providing her with all of her liquid needs.

 

Wait. That sounds weird, but it’s true.

 

And that festival is just in the middle of the Halloween bash and then Thanksgiving, which always seems to be a town-wide event instead of something they do with all of their individual families. That’s a blessing in disguise because her family involves her brother, his wife Mary Margaret, Mary Margaret’s dad, and Mary Margaret’s evil stepmother.

 

Emma shudders at just the thought of that, but she pushes it down, takes a deep breath, and walks across the street to go to the newspaper’s office so that she can write the damn article on the concrete.

 

What a life.

 

-/-

 

“Em,” David asks from the kitchen in his loft, “do you want a beer?”

 

“Do you have any wine?”

 

“It’s the first day of October, which means we’re celebrating Oktoberfest, which means beer.”

 

“Technically,” Killian starts from his spot on the couch next to her, “they start Oktoberfest in September, so we’re about ten days late to the party.”

 

“Shut up, Quiz-master Jones. You don’t have to be a know-it-all.”

 

“Boys,” Mary Margaret scolds, “be nice.”

 

“Oh no,” Ruby sighs, very literally popping a piece of popcorn into her mouth, “let them keep going at it. I think it would be pretty hot to have them punch each other.”

 

Emma throws up in her mouth a little, poking a finger at her tongue to let everyone know it, before shifting her legs on the couch so that she can prop her feet up in Killian’s lap and let him massage her through her socks. She doesn’t even have to ask. She simply wiggles her toes and voila – he knows.

 

Like magic.

 

“First of all, that is my brother you’re talking about there.”

 

Adopted brother so no actual genetic relationship,” Ruby corrects.

 

“Still brother,” Emma whines with disgust as Killian’s magical fingers start working at the arches of her foot. “And Killian is basically a brother and – ow shit,” she groans, propping herself up to look at Killian where he absolutely just murdered her foot. “What the hell was that for?”

 

His jaw ticks for a moment before a shit-eating grin graces his face. “Sorry? It was an accident.”

 

“You are a liar.”

 

“I most certainly am not, Swan.”

 

“Yeah, yeah you are.”

 

“I am not,” he teases, waggling his brows across his forehead, “and I’ll have you know that I do look hot while throwing punches. Or at least that’s what the woman who hit on me at the gym last week said.”

 

Her stomach churns, probably in want of the Chinese food that is currently on the way to the loft, and she ignores it in favor of kicking her foot out at Killian only for him to hold her still.

 

“When did you get time to go to the gym? You are literally always in the diner.”

 

“I go in the mornings.”

 

“The mornings? You open at five.”

 

“I go to the gym at four.”

 

“Huh,” Emma sighs, glancing over at him. “So there are secretly really buff muscles under all of that plaid?”

 

“Wouldn’t you like to know?”

 

Her eyes slant at him, wondering what exactly would be the best way for her to answer his question, and there’s a witty retort on her tongue when Ruby speaks.

 

“Hell, you two need to get a room and bang all of this sexual tension out before we all implode.”

 

“Talk about gross,” David groans, bottles of beer clanking in his hands that he passes over to everyone. She kind of wants to press the cold glass to her cheeks to cool them down since they’re absolutely flaming right now at the thought of all of that. “Killian sleeping with my sister is a far grosser thought than you saying it would be attractive for me and Killian to punch each other.”

 

“And just what about that is gross, David?” Emma questions, tugging her feet out of Killian’s lap since he’s stopped massaging them. “I am almost twenty-eight years old. I have sex.”

 

“With who?”

 

“Okay, now that’s getting a little personal,” Killian says in between several loud coughs. “We are all sexual human beings who think sex is great, but we don’t have to know who is sleeping with who. Unless, of course, we’re talking about Dave and Mary Margaret since they are obviously sleeping with each other.”

 

David mock gasps, so dramatic that Emma has to laugh underneath her breath and tuck her cheek into the couch cushions at her brother’s actions.

 

“Who told you that? I thought it was a secret.”

 

“I think the wedding rings gave it away, mate.”

 

“Damn,” Mary Margaret curses as she twists off the top to her beer and takes a sip, “we’ve been foiled. I knew we couldn’t keep the secret for that long.”

 

“You guys are disgustingly cute, and I hate it,” Ruby groans, sinking further into the recliner and pulling the gray knitted blanket up further over her legs. “Love is dumb, and you guys are dumb for finding it and being all happy.”

 

“Still upset about Victor then, love?” Killian question as he reaches over and takes Emma’s beer out of her hands and opens it for her since the damn twist top didn’t seem to be working. “He’s a certified asshole, and you deserve better.”

 

“Oh, believe me, I know that,” Ruby says with all of the confidence in the world, something the girl is never lacking. “It was just really, really  good sex.”

 

“But not a love connection?”

 

“No,” she sighs, “not a love connection. It’s…I mean, it’s dumb, you know? I have never been someone who needed a relationship. I still don’t. But there’s something nice about the idea of having someone around who I can talk to about things, honestly talk about things, but then also give me mind-blowing orgasms. Is that too much to ask?”

 

Emma tilts her beer back so that the cool liquid hits her lips. “Depends. Have you met men in general? They’re kind of lacking in those departments.”

 

“Okay,” David sighs, clapping his hands together, “let’s move on. What game do you guys want to play tonight?”

 

“Shit happens,” Emma and Killian both say at once, each of them reaching forward to high five the other. “You picked last time, and it is my birthday month so it’s my turn.”

 

“You don’t even like your birthday.”

 

“I do when I can use it to my advantage like this.”

 

“Fine,” David sighs, walking over to the television stand and opening up the cabinet where they keep the games. “We’ll play Shit Happens.”

 

-/-

 

October passes in a quick breath of chilled Maine air that has Emma layering up on sweaters and her far too many jackets and a couple of flannel shirts that she’s pretty sure she borrowed from Killian and never gave back.

 

(They’re super comfortable and soft and smell like cinnamon, so she’s definitely not giving them back now.)

 

Work is busy, as always, and Emma continues to spend her days sitting at a desk writing up silly articles about what’s going on in town and very occasionally something of substance like the economic ramifications of a new gas station on the outskirts of the town line. One day maybe she’ll find something different to write, one of those articles that ends up in the New Yorker or the Wall Street Journal and everyone becomes angry with it and sends her hate mail over it, but for now, she’s good with this. It’s relaxing to be able to slam her fingers against a keyboard and create something from nothing when she was very much used to having nothing growing up in foster homes throughout the state of Maine.

 

Well, it was only three, but it always felt like more.

 

And then there was sweet Ruth Nolan who adopted her at seventeen, right before Emma’s eighteenth birthday, because she wanted Emma to know that she was never too old to find a family and to be able to keep that family forever. The forever part always felt like a cruel joke when Ruth unexpectedly passed two years later, but Emma will always have David. She’s never been surer of anything than that.

 

But she’s also sure of the fact that on days when the articles simply aren’t writing themselves from her office, she can walk across the street and around the town square to go into Killian’s diner and bug him while he’s in the middle of the late lunch rush. She used to do this with Granny at her diner, but then Granny very legitimately kicked her out for causing too many distractions with Ruby because they’d talk too much, and she’s only allowed to come back during non-busy times.

 

(Emma always goes whenever.)

 

Right now, though, she can’t focus on this preview article for this year’s town-wide haunted house for Halloween, so she closes down her laptop and picks it up before telling Sydney that she’s going out to do research. He knows that it’s a lie. He can always very clearly see her across the street sitting at a barstool, but he never says anything unless she misses her deadline.

 

She never misses her deadline.

 

The bell over the door rings when she walks in, and Killian doesn’t even acknowledge her presence. She knows it’s because he most likely saw her walking across the street, and when she settles down at her usual barstool – it might as well have her name monogrammed on it – he quickly slides her a mug of coffee and a bear claw.

 

“Hi, love,” Killian greets, leaning over the counter to brush his lips over the top of her head. “The internet is a bit slow right now, or so I’ve been very rudely told by the group of teenagers who should be in school, so you might have a bit of trouble working.”

 

“It’s fine. I was having trouble working and was coming over her to tease you about your never-ending collection of flannel shirts and baseball hats anyways.”

 

Killian rolls his eyes before taking off the Yankees cap that he has on, his inky black hair a mess underneath, and reaching over to plop it down on top of her head and over her ponytail. “Give me fifteen minutes, and I’ll come chat with you to distract you. I’ve got to cook a few more hamburgers.”

 

“Ooh, make me one.”

 

“As you wish.”

 

In her fifteen minutes of waiting for Killian to finish working, not that he ever finishes working, she picks up her bear claw and takes a bite before swiveling around on her barstool and looking out the windows to see what’s going on out on Main Street. It’s nothing much, just the usual foot traffic, but then she notices that each and every storefront has already started construction on their Haunted House contributions, even if some of them are more cutesy than anything else.

 

Every storefront except this one.

 

And that’s when she realizes that Killian is trying to get out of participating again like the big spoil sport that he is.

 

“Jones,” she calls out, walking behind the counter and past the double doors that lead to his kitchen.

 

“Swan, you cannot be back here. We’ve discussed this.”

 

She has no idea when he’s ever going to learn that she doesn’t follow the rules. “Why haven’t you started decorating for the Haunted House thing? Halloween is in three days. It’s going to take time.”

 

There’s a sizzle as he flips over a burger, his back turned to her so that she can’t see his face, but she knows him well enough to know that his brows are likely pinched together in that annoyed way that has to cause him migraines.

 

“You know I’m not participating. It’s a waste of time and money, and I have no idea how I’d even decorate.”

 

One of those figurative lightbulbs goes off in Emma’s head, and suddenly she has an idea that’s going to waste all of her time and completely and totally distract her from the work that she’s supposed to be doing.

 

“Meet me at the craft store when you close.”

 

“The craft store will be closed and no.”

 

“I have ways to keep it open,” Emma sighs, walking forward so that she can see Killian’s face and the pinched brows that are, indeed, there. “C’mon, Jones. Please. Don’t be a dud. Participate in Halloween. Do it for me. You gave me an IOU for my birthday present on Saturday. This is my IOU. I’m cashing it in.”

 

“No,” Killian repeats, grabbing onto her hips and walking her backward out of the kitchen. “I will not meet you at the craft store after hours.”

 

-/-

 

“I cannot believe I’m meeting you here,” Killian scowls.

 

He hasn’t even made it to her yet. He’s still walking down the sidewalk adjusting the sleeves on his black leather jacket, and he’s already in a mood. Not that she blames him. She’s not exactly known as being happy-go-lucky herself, but when it comes to Halloween, everything changes.

 

It’s only the best holiday of the year.

 

(Though, she does love Christmas. The decorations and the snow and everything – magical.)

 

“KJ, we all know that you listen to what I say every single time.”

 

“Only because you bug me until I do listen.”

 

“True,” Emma sighs as Killian steps up to her and wraps his arm around her shoulder and tugs her close while a gust of cold wind blows through. “Did you bring your credit card?”

 

“Unfortunately. How are we even going to get in there?”

 

Emma digs into her jacket pocket and pulls out a set of keys. “I got the key from Anna, and she told me to ring everything we buy up at the register.”

 

“Of course. What else could I possibly expect from you? You can convince anyone to do anything.”

 

She drags Killian inside the store, her mental list already ticking off when she sees ribbons and felt paper and every imaginable size of those bags of creepy googly eyes, and even though she can tell Killian is dragging his feet, he follows along, grabbing the things off of the shelves that she can’t reach and putting them into one of the two shopping carts that they have. It’s a bit excessive, sure, and Killian doesn’t even know about all of the stuff she already bought from the pop-up Halloween store that’s currently residing in the one usually empty storefront on Main Street.

 

He would probably have an aneurism if he knew about all of the stuff that is currently being placed outside of his diner while they’re in here.

 

It’s a good thing that they’re such close friends.

 

There’s a box of giant paper pumpkins that would be perfect to hang from the ceiling (Killian insisted that the place stay family-friendly since he still needs to keep business), but it’s on the shelf that she just can’t reach. She could probably get it if she jumped, but then everything would knock over and she’d have to pay Anna back for all of the stuff she broke.

 

Writers for a small-town newspaper do not make that much money.

 

“Hold on, love,” Killian grunts, and before she knows it he’s pressing into her back so that the heat of his body and the overwhelming smell of the food he’s been cooking all day consumes her while he reaches up to grab the box, his fingers reaching those few needed inches above her so that he can pull down the pumpkins. “There you go.”

 

“T-thanks,” Emma stutters out all the while she tries to catch her breath and figure out why her body is on edge, goosebumps rising along her flesh and the slightest flickering of heat pooling between her thighs.

 

What the hell?

 

“So, what exactly are we doing, Swan?” Killian questions, snapping her out of the spiral she was just about to go down. “I’m not exactly understanding all of the things that I’m currently spending my life savings on.”

 

Emma smiles, the goosebumps staying for excitement now. “You’ll see.”

 

Killian continues to ask her questions while she rings up all of their items, swiping his credit card through the machine, and he keeps on drilling her on what her plan is as they walk back to his diner. The groan that passes through his lips when he sees the boxes outside makes Emma throw her head back and laugh, and she prepares herself for the night of complaining that she’s about to be in for.

 

Totally worth it. The only decorations she has at her apartment are two poorly carved pumpkins sitting outside of her front door, so she’s very much compensating by making Killian’s diner look like Halloween threw up in here.

 

“Isn’t it going to terrify my customers to have skeletons eating among them?”

 

“It wouldn’t terrify me.”

 

Emma shrugs her shoulders and starts buttoning up another one of Killian’s shirts over a skeleton. She promised not to use any of his favorite ones, and he’s sent her back upstairs to his apartment above the diner seven times because the shirt she has picked out is apparently a favorite. They all look the same to her, but then again, he says that about all of her jeans and boots even if they are most definitely different.

 

No two pair of jeans are the same unfortunately.

 

“It will probably terrify Roland.”

 

“He’ll get over it.”

 

“You’re so kind,” Killian huffs from his spot up on the ladder as he hangs all sorts of paper pumpkins and bats and witches’ hats from the ceiling. “Did you finish your work assignment?”

 

“I did indeed. Did you finish filling the stomachs of half of the people in Storybrooke?”

 

“I did. I even had some of Granny’s regular customers tonight.”

 

“No,” Emma gasps, moving from one skeleton to the next so that she can dress up the little guy that’s going to be sitting at the table by the door. “The traitors.”

 

“I know. I almost thought I was going to get shot serving them. Wasn’t sure if the price of the turkey melts would cover my funeral.”

 

“It’s still a possibility. There could be a sniper waiting outside for me to move away from you so that he can strike.” Killian hums in response, obviously not ready or willing to play along with this hypothetical situation where he’s going to get murdered, so she figures she might as well ask a question she’s been wondering for awhile now. “Hey, Killian?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“How’d you even come to own this diner? Like, I have known you for ten years, and you’ve always just kind of…been here. But you don’t really seem like the type to own a small-town restaurant.”

 

“Well,” Killian sighs, clicking his tongue and climbing down his ladder to move it a few feet to the right, “that’s a bit of a long story.”

 

Emma motions to the half-decorated space around them. “I’ve got the time.”

 

“My mum,” he starts, his accent thicker than usual which is really saying something, “died when I was a teenager, you know, and my dad was so MIA that the courts couldn’t even find him. So, Liam and I were sent to live here with our aunt, who was in the country because her husband was American, and they owned this place. They live in Portland now to be closer to my cousins and their children, and when I decided not to enlist in the Navy like Liam, they gave me the business.”

 

“They gave an eighteen-year-old a business?”

 

“A bunch of dumbasses, right?”

 

Emma barks out a laugh and walks toward Killian to hand him the thread of fishing line that he forgot to take up the ladder with him. “I mean, I wasn’t going to say anything because it was your family but…”

 

“Yeah, I know, Swan. Bloody insane. Of course, Owen trained me for about a year before they left for good, so I wasn’t entirely unprepared.”

 

“You said this is what you wanted to do since you didn’t enlist in the Navy?” Emma questions, handing him a witch’s hat to hang. His ceiling is about to look like the weirdest Halloween store in history. “Why only the two options?”

 

“Lack of funds. I wanted to go to school to do pre-law, which seems batshit crazy to me now.” He holds up a bat at this, a cheeky grin on his face. “But I screwed around too much in school after Mum’s death and couldn’t get a scholarship anywhere. I didn’t want to take out a loan either because swimming in debt seemed so awful.”

 

“Huh,” Emma breathes out, ducking underneath the ladder because she’s fearless and doesn’t believe in superstitions before she walks behind the counter to open the glass covering where Killian keeps his donuts. “How did I not know this about you? I feel like I know everything about you.”

 

“I’m a very complex man, love. It takes more than annoying the hell out of me every day while I’m working to get to fully know me.”

 

“You love it,” she teases as she takes a giant bite out of a chocolate frosted donut.

 

Killian stares down at her for a few long seconds, his gaze intense, but then he’s turning around so that all she can see is the defined, stubbled line of his jaw that is so sharp it could cut the ice that’s in his freezer.

 

“Perhaps I do.”

 

Six hours and ten beers between the two of them later, Emma and Killian have finished decorating his diner so that skeletons are spread throughout the room eating fake food made to look like eyeballs and brain and every other gross thing that they could think of. Killian was stubborn as hell about it, especially when she insisted that he let her cover the front door with brown paper painted to look like a mouth so that it’s like customers are entering the belly of a monster, but she wore him down.

 

Or maybe the beers did.

 

Probably a combination of both.

 

And instead of walking the very long walk of five minutes back to her apartment, Emma falls asleep curled up on Killian’s bed after insisting that they’re both adults and can share a bed. It’s small, tight quarters that he’s obviously not used to sharing with other people, but when she wakes up in the morning, there’s a solid line of space between the two of them as Killian sleeps on his back next to her, his chest rising and falling with each breath.

 

He’s peaceful when he sleeps, which is a bit of an odd thing to think but something she’s thinking nonetheless, and his hair is an absolute mess, which is kind of endearing. That thought has her heart beating a little bit more quickly than usual, and she ignores it in favor of groggily walking downstairs to the diner to fix herself a cup of coffee (Killian doesn’t keep any in his apartment) only to come face to face with a diner full of people eating their breakfast.

 

Holy shit.

 

Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit.

 

“Killian,” she yells as she runs back up the stairs, slamming the door shut behind her so hard that the frame shakes.

 

“Bloody hell, darling,” he groans before rolling over in bed. “We were up until three in the morning and had far too much to drink. Why are you yelling?”

 

“Because I just went downstairs.”

 

Killian quirks a brow, propping himself up on his elbows. “Why’d you do that?”

 

“Because that’s where you keep your coffee.”

 

“But you’re wearing naught by one of my t-shirts since you insisted that you couldn’t sleep in your jeans.”

 

“I couldn’t,” she huffs, adrenaline running through her. “They’re really tight. Why are there people downstairs?”

 

Killian runs his hand over his face, brushing the hair out of his face and running his hands over his darkened scruff. “Because I own a diner where people like to eat breakfast.”

 

“But you’re not down there.” Emma’s whine sounds like one of a petulant child, but she can’t help herself. “How can it be open when you’re not down there?”

 

“I had Will open it when I knew we’d be up late. You really went down there wearing that?”

 

“Yes,” she yells, slapping her hands against her thighs. “Do you not see the problem with this?”

 

He shrugs. “Not really. You’ve got a hell of a set of legs, Swan. I don’t think there’s a shame in anyone seeing it.”

 

“Killian,” Emma starts, beginning to pace in the room, “this entire town thinks that we’re sleeping together. It’s something that I ignore because of…reasons, but it’s true. Not that we’re sleeping together, obviously, but that people think that. Do you know what’s going to happen now that forty people have seen me stumbling down your stairs at eight in the morning on a Saturday wearing your t-shirt?”

 

It takes ten seconds for the lightbulb to switch on in Killian’s head, and he falls back onto the mattress when it does, covering his face with his hands. “Fuck. Your brother is going to kill me.”

 

“Why would David kill you?”

 

“Because he has described about a million different ways that he’s going to murder me if I ever started dating you.”

 

“You have got to be kidding me. I’m a grown ass woman. He can’t control who I date.”

 

“He was protecting you.”

 

“From who? You? You’re Killian. You’re harmless.”

 

“I have a pretty fucked up dating history. I’m not exactly harmless.”

 

“Yeah, well, we all have one of those. We can’t all be like David in our happy-go-lucky marriages. I can’t believe he told you that you had to stay away from me. I mean…wait – ”

 

She stops her rant and pauses her pacing, staring down at Killian. “Why did David feel the need to tell you to stay away from me?”

 

Killian scratches behind his ear, his tongue clicking. “I may have…when you came home from college, I may have fancied you. But that was six years ago. It was simply a fascination, and I’d just had my heart broken by Milah.”

 

Did her heart just drop to her stomach?

 

Did it?

 

Why would it?

 

It doesn’t matter. None of that matters. All she knows is that she is about to have to defuse the town rumor mill, kill her brother, and then relentlessly tease Killian about having a crush on her.

 

Yeah, that’s what she’s going to do. She’s definitely not focusing on the fact that Killian had feelings for her at one point in time. A crush sounds much less serious.

 

What has even happened to her life in these past twenty-four hours?

 

-/-

 

Killian makes her a donut shaped like a jack-o-lantern on Halloween.

 

And he wears a fireman’s helmet instead of his usual baseball cap as some kind of attempt to participate in the holiday.

 

Her stomach flutters at the sight of him smiling at her with that crooked smile of his.

 

She chalks it up to all of the candy she’s eaten.

 

(It’s not that.)

 

Eighteen different people congratulate her on her relationship with Killian.

 

She gives up trying to explain it after the seventh person.

 

-/-

 

It goes on like that for the next two weeks.

 

She wakes up, goes to work, gets teased by people on the street talking about how they always knew that she and Killian would get together, and then she complains about it to Killian as he supplies her with coffee and cinnamon rolls that are probably going to have her giving up her jeans for leggings if she doesn’t get back into the gym sometime soon.

 

The cinnamon rolls are worth it. Killian makes them like no other.

 

Killian is also particularly cocky about the whole town thinking that they’re sleeping together. After his initial (dumb) fears of David being mad (he was, which is still ridiculous) and then the resulting explanation, Killian has taken this whole thing in stride. He openly flirts with her when she’s eating, getting into her space and winking and making innuendos that could make even Ruby blush.

 

That’s saying something.

 

They also make her blush, but that’s beside the fact.

 

It’s not real. The flirting isn’t real.

 

Once, when she’s helping Killian out by scraping gum off of the bottom of his tables, he tells her that he usually enjoys doing more enjoyable activities with a woman on her back, and her entire body breaks out in goosebumps over the deep tone of his voice and the inclination of what it would be like to have Killian pressing into her, fucking her into the mattress with his forearms braced over her and his lips running across her jaw and…

 

Those are not thoughts someone who is scrapping gum off of the bottom of the table should have.

 

But they keep coming whenever Killian’s hands start fumbling with her fingers when they’re lounging in his apartment watching TV. He hates all of her shows, is always complaining about how the plot is too contrived and there’s no need for so much drama, and yet, he’s always waiting for her to watch the next episode. She looks forward to it as well, and it’s definitely so that she can see what happens after the cliffhanger and not because of how it feels to be tucked into Killian’s side as his fingers play with the tips of her hair, his breath warm on her skin when he speaks so that he can mimic the characters.

 

And they honestly, truly keep coming when she can’t sleep one night, decides she should probably go to the gym to work off all of the food that she’s stress eating, and sees Killian running on the treadmill with no shirt on.

 

She was right when she joked about him secretly having muscles underneath all of that plaid and black leather.

 

When the hell did Emma decide that she’s attracted to Killian?

 

Obviously, she’s noticed his looks before. He’s got that typical attractive guy look with the unruly dark hair that’s always perfectly ruffled and blue eyes that even the ocean can’t replicate. Seriously. His eyes are insane. And then there’s the sharp jawline under the stubble and the white smile that comes with it. Plus the…nope.

 

No.

 

She cannot go there.

 

She’s gone there.

 

Emma is attracted to Killian, and she’d like to partake in enjoyable activities with him on his back.

 

More plainly, she’d like to fuck him.

 

But it’s also…it’s more than that. So much more. But sex is easier for her to think about, easier for her to understand, especially when she can push away the underlying emotions that come with wanting to have sex with her best friend.

 

She’s not sure that she really wants to push those emotions away, though, even if she’s terrified.

 

“Swan,” Killian calls, knocking his knuckles against her head so that she has to look up at him and the obnoxious grin stretched across his lips, “are you listening to me?”

 

“Absolutely I am,” she lies.

 

He sighs, sitting down next to her in the empty chair at her table and kicking at her foot. “Tell me what I just asked you.”

 

“Um,” Emma stutters, “if you’re as devilishly handsome today as you were yesterday?”

 

Killian winks. “As much as I like where your head is, because I am devilishly handsome every day, I was asking if you wanted to go to the festival with me? It’s dead in here, so I think I can close down early so we can head out.”

 

“But you hate the Founder’s Day Festival. You call it a waste of time.”

 

“I call every festival a waste of time unless it involves sailing.”

 

“Well, this does not at all involve sailing, so why do you want to go?”

 

“Because,” Killian starts as he drums his fingers on the table, “you like it, and I want to go with you.”

 

That familiar heat flickers across her cheeks, the staccato beating of her heart picking up, and she bites the inside of her cheek so hard that the taste of iron fills her mouth.

 

“Only if you buy me a box of fried oreos.”

 

“Those are entirely unhealthy, love.”

 

“Says the man who serves me unhealthy food every day.”

 

Killian clicks his tongue. “Ah, ah, ah. That helps my business. This is different.”

 

“You’re buying me oreos. Grab your coat, KJ. I have money to waste on the weird trinkets that Mary Margaret’s students have made and are selling to fund some kind of new project for the school that inevitably involves a garden that we’ll be forced to eat vegetables from later.”

 

“My vegetable supplier will be so upset.”

 

The two of them put their coats on. Emma tugs her beanie on over her ears to keep the mid-November chill from nipping at her ears, and Killian does the same, exchanging his baseball cap for a knit one. His doesn’t have a giant poof ball at the top like hers does, but he’d probably look ridiculous wearing one anyways.

 

Or not. He could pull off a lot of things.

 

(She wants to pull a lot of things off of him.)

 

Killian holds his arm out for her to take, and she does, looping her forearm through and walking by his side as they step out onto Main Street. Gone is the open road for cars to drive by and for people to walk across to get from business to business. Instead, it’s lined with booths, each of them identical except for the items that are being sold inside, and white bulb lights hang from storefront to storefront to add a mythical element of light to the place besides the lampposts that stand ten feet apart. She shouldn’t be so impressed by some simple strings of lights, but she is.

 

She’s long ago learned that the little things in life are the important things, and that’s exactly how she feels about string lights.

 

And the fried oreos that Killian buys her despite the fact that he complains about them the entire time.

 

Seriously. The entire time. It’s almost like this wasn’t his idea to come out here or something.

 

Once they get some of Granny’s hot chocolate, though, Killian stops complaining so much. It helps that he spikes them with his rum, something she’s thankful for, and even with his penchant for healthy eating, Killian does always cave for the s’mores bar.

 

Chocolate and marshmallows and graham crackers oh my!

 

“Is your brother staring daggers at us or is that just me?”

 

“Hmm?”

 

Killian nods his head over to where David and Mary Margaret are sitting at a picnic table with Graham and Ruby, who seem to be getting along pretty well. They’ve been on a few dates this month. Good. Ruby deserves that kind of happiness. Graham is much less of an asshole than Whale.

 

And David is definitely staring Killian down from across the fire pit, and that’s a more terrifying than she thought it would be. Something about the shadows of the light from the fire making David look evil.

 

Emma knocks her knee into Killian’s. “What’s that about? Did you drink the last beer or something when you guys hung out last night?”

 

“God, no. I don’t have a death wish.”

 

“Is he still irrationally mad over the entire town thinking that I was getting some good, good loving from you?”

 

Killian tilts his head back as he barks out a laugh and lifts his arm to pull her into his side so that he can rest his cheek against the top of her head. “Just to be clear, it would actually be good loving, but no,” he sighs, “we talked that out, as you know. It was bloody annoying, but David finally realized that you and I are adults who can make our own decisions. In fact, I’m pretty sure he gave me permission to sleep with you.”

 

“Shut up.”

 

“No, no, I’m serious. He is on board with me making it so that you can barely walk the next day.”

 

“Stop,” Emma groans, burying her face in Killian’s jacket, breathing in the leather. “I don’t want to talk about me having sex in a context where David is somehow also thinking about it. That’d be like me telling you Liam has – ”

 

“Okay,” Killian quips, cutting her off. His hand squeezes her shoulder before rubbing up and down and bringing her more warmth than the fire pit. “We have to talk about something else. I don’t like that you’ve brought my brother into it.”

 

“Exactly.”

 

They sit in silence for a few minutes, and Killian’s hand never stops rubbing up and down her arm. People keep passing by, laughter on their lips and warm drinks in their hands, and all Emma can think about is how this night is one of those nights where everything just seems perfect.

 

Perfect doesn’t exist, but this comes close.

 

Her ass is starting to hurt from sitting on this wooden bench.

 

And she’s feeling a little fearless.

 

“Hey, KJ?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Do you ever think about it?”

 

Scruff scratches across her forehead. “Think about what?”

 

“Us,” Emma whispers, terrified of the words that she’s saying but unable to stop herself. “I mean, every single person in the town thinks that we’re good enough together that they think we actually are together. Have you ever thought about it?”

 

His hand stills, but it’s only for a second. “When I said that I was attracted to you when you moved back to town, that wasn’t a lie. It’s still not. But the timing never seemed right. You’d just broken up with Neal, and I wanted to give you some space. Then, you started dating Walsh, and as much as I hated that asshole, you seemed happy.”

 

“He was an asshole. You should have said something.”

 

“I didn’t want to be the one to break your heart.”

 

“You wouldn’t have.”

 

“I would have.” Killian’s thumb caresses her chin, a gentle touch that has shivers running down her spine, before he’s tilting her head up so that she can see the blue of his eyes under dark lashes. “The timing was always off. I stand by that. I also stand by the fact that I am incredibly attracted to you, always, and that you are quite possibly my best friend in the world.”

 

“Even over David?”

 

“Aye,” he laughs, his eyes crinkling in the way she loves. “Even over David.”

 

The way she leans up at the same time that Killian leans down seems like the most natural movement in the world, and their lips press tentatively together as emotion builds in the back of her throat. This isn’t something that she has imagined too much, not really, but there have definitely been times, especially lately, when she did let her mind wander to questions of what kissing Killian would be like. Would it be weird? Would his lips feel soft? Would all of the innuendos and swaggering confidence live up to their reputation?

 

Would it make her happy?

 

That last one is the most important one, Emma thinks, and it’s what has her smiling into the kiss in a way that doesn’t really allow them to get any traction. But Killian is smiling too, something she can taste and feel as viscerally as the feeling of his thumb still on her chin and his hand tangling into her hair under her beanie. The only part of him that her hands can find are his sides, but that’s fine because then she’s opening up to him and letting his lips truly capture hers in all of their softness.

 

He tastes like a combination of hot chocolate and rum, possibly the smallest bit of s’mores, and it’s the most delicious kiss of her life.

 

Is this even real life?

 

Emma gets her answer when Killian’s tongue caresses hers, warm and wet and achingly wonderful as her skin breaks out in goosebumps, and he captures her sigh while she captures his moan.

 

Unfortunately, though, neither of them can capture the sound of David’s voice booming over them.

 

“If you’re going to do that, you might as well get a room so I don’t have to watch.”

 

Her laugh bursts out of her, and Emma pulls back from Killian only to bury her forehead in his shoulder while his hand rubs up and down her back. She can feel his chest vibrating with his own laughter.

 

“See, Swan, I told you he was on board.”

 

That only makes her laugh harder, the butterflies fluttering in her stomach getting jostled around so much that she physically aches from all of the emotions that she’s feeling right now.

 

(She kissed Killian.)

 

“It’s still weird.”

 

“Aye,” Killian chuckles, and when she finally pulls back to look at him, there’s a serious glint to the blue of his eyes.

 

“What?”

 

His smile is soft, his eyes crinkled, and all she really wants to do is kiss him again.

 

“Do you want to get a room? I happen to have one nearby.”

 

“I think I’d like to be properly courted first, thank you very much.” Killian’s smile falls for the briefest of moments, but she picks up on it and presses forward to peck his lips, one, two, three times to bring it back. “I’m kidding. If you don’t take me back to your apartment and have your way with me right now, I’m going to make you decorate the diner for every single holiday. Even the weird ones.”

 

“Well, if you put it like that...”

 

They get up from the bench then, and Emma didn’t realize just how much her legs were trembling until she stands up. Her step falters, but Killian steadies her, much like always, and the two of them grab their things before hurrying back in the direction of the diner to the sound of a wolf whistle that she knows is from Ruby.

 

The whole town knows that she’s about to have sex, but screw them. She’s the one getting screwed.

 

Killian, ever the gentleman even though she knows that he’s not one half of the time, places his hand on the small of her back, electricity sparking through his fingers and over onto her skin, and leads her up the back staircase that leads to his apartment.

 

She’s been in here a million times and knows every inch of this place from the dark wood cabinets in the kitchen to the plush brown couch that has two blue and gray striped pillows on it as well as a white throw blankets that Killian only owns because she insisted. He’s not much for decorating, preferring to keep life simple, but there are small trinkets and books scattered throughout the place that make it so undeniably him that her heart aches.

 

And maybe it beats a little faster when she sees the plaid comforter covering his bed, the one that’s barely big enough for two people.

 

A million times, and yet none of them have ever felt quite like this.

 

“Nice place you got here,” Emma jokes, a bit of her nervousness coming through with the shakiness of her voice. She tries to cover it by turning around and looping her arms around the back of Killian’s neck so that their bodies are pressed together again, arousal humming through her, but the quirk of his brow tells her that he can tell that she’s a bit on edge.

 

“We don’t have to do anything, love.” He says this with his hands on her hips, placed right above the waistband of her jeans but under her sweater so that his fingers are touching skin, and his touch is warmer than the fire outside. “Nothing has to change if you don’t want it to.”

 

There’s a gentle nodding of her head. “I want it too.”

 

Without any hesitation, Killian swipes his tongue into her mouth, a much headier kiss than the one outside, and all she can really think about is the fact that Killian Jones is a damn good kisser. There have been so many thoughts running rampant, so many questions and worries, but she doesn’t feel any of them as he tugs her closer and runs his hands up her sides so that his fingers are messing with the soft material of her bra and his lips can’t stop moving over hers.

 

She can feel him over every inch of her, this firm, warm body that has the arousal continuing to grow and is causing her nipples to firm, to ache, and for someone who wasn’t even sure that she actually wanted Killian until about two weeks ago, Emma is desperately aching for him now.

 

Funny how things like that work.

 

Killian seems to feel the same way as he carefully backs her across the apartment, familiar creaks of the floorboard happening with each step, and she can feel him through the material of his jeans in a way that has her thighs beginning to quiver.

 

Her calves hit the end of his bed, and Killian’s lips move from her mouth to her neck while his hands start tugging at her clothes, urging her jacket to come off as she pushes the beanie off of his head so that his hair comes out as a wild, dark mess. It’s only now that she realizes that her hat was lost somewhere along the way.

 

She doesn’t care.

 

Emma doesn’t care about anything but the way that Killian is making her feel, and he is making her feel absolutely everything. Clothes are shed, mostly easily, but there is a moment when Killian is trying to get her boots off where he can’t and murmurs something along the lines of bloody buggering fuck  that as her laughing so hard that tears start coming out of her eyes. The laughter quickly stops when Killian lips run over her breast, the soft mouth and scratchy scruff causing sensations that have the hair on her arms standing on edge.

 

Though, none of that compares to when he aligns himself with her and begins to stroke her with his fingers while the hair on his chest rubs against hers and his teeth bite at her earlobe. She can do nothing but hold on, her nails leaving half-moon tattoos in the skin of his back as her thighs tremble with want and the coil in her belly continues to tighten.

 

“Do you like that, Swan?”

 

“Yes,” she moans, biting into his shoulder when his thumb brushes over her clit. It’s gentle, not too rough, and later she’s most definitely going to commend him on his ability to follow instructions. Emma didn’t know that he actually knew how to listen since he never seems to.

 

That’s a lie.

 

Killian is always listening to her, always giving her the upmost attention, and she has no idea how she managed to be this oblivious for this long.

 

None of that matters. They’re here now.

 

Killian’s voice is gritty as he whispers dirty things into her ear, things that he used to say to her in a joking tone but that he says very seriously now, but it’s difficult for her to respond with the way arousal is pulsing hotly between her legs and her heart is beating so quickly that it may very well overpower itself.

 

Killian pulls away from her when she thinks she’s about to fall apart, and as much as she wants to yell at him for that, she can’t when she feels his cock pressing up against her – heavy and warm and thick. It’s all too much for her, especially when he rolls his hips against hers as his mouth sloppily moves over hers to kiss her. But then he slides inside, the drag of him delicious, and there’s something about all of this that feels so undeniably right.

 

It’s the two of them.

 

They’re right.

 

Her imagination never got quite this far. It had its moments, these quick little thoughts, but they can’t compare to how he fucks her down into the mattress in a way that’s a perfect combination of being gentle and harsh all the while his lips keep moving over hers so that the only sounds in the room are the wet slapping of skin together and the cacophony of groans and sighs that are escaping the two of them.

 

“Killian,” Emma whines as he rolls his hips into hers and she hooks her right leg around his back to pull him in deeper. “Just like that. Please.”

 

“Anything you want if you keep saying my name like that.”

 

If she were a betting woman, she’d bet that there’s a smirk gracing his lips, but she can’t see with the way that his face is buried in her shoulder, his labored breathing now the only sound coming out of him. But that may also be her.

 

That’s definitely her.

 

Her orgasm steals the little breath that she has left and spreads from her toes up her body, at least for a few seconds, and it has been a long damn time since she felt something like that. She wants to feel it again, to feel all of this again – the way that pleasure bursts and curls and explodes across the two of them – but then Killian is muttering quite possibly the filthiest thing she has ever heard in her ear and pulsing within her so that she knows that he’s fallen too.

 

This is going in the record books for the best Founder’s Day Festival of all time.

 

No contest.

 

After, her body feels warm all over and impossibly sated, but Killian still hands her one of his flannel shirts, one that he knows that she loves to steal, and she puts it on without bothering to button it up. There’s definitely going to be a round two sometime soon, but right now she just wants to bask in the glory of it all.

 

Having sex with someone you care about so damn much seems to have its perks.

 

Killian’s nose brushes her cheek when he gets back into bed and pulls her into his side before he pulls the covers over them, and Emma is soothed by the sound of his heartbeat in his chest. It’s quick, but solid, and it’s good to know that he was just as affected by all of this as she was.

 

“So, do you think I’ve effectively made some good, good loving to you that your brother would approve of?”

 

Emma groans into his chest, and her fingers trail through the thick patch of hair there. “If you ever say something like that again then all of this stops.”

 

“My lips are sealed then.”

 

“Good,” Emma sighs, looping her leg around Killian’s while his hand starts tracing words into her back through the flannel. “KJ?”

 

“Hmm?”

 

“How long exactly have you had feelings for me?”

 

His fingers stop their movement, but only for a moment, and then she feels the gentle press of lips to the crown of her head. “I think that’s a rather complex question, love.”

 

“Give it a go.”

 

“Aye,” he chuckles. “I think after Milah left me, I wasn’t too sure that I would ever been keen on love again. My romance with her felt like one of those that could never be replicated, you know? And then you came whirling back into town with such a fire in your eyes that I’d never seen before. Bloody brilliant, I tell you. And at first, you were nothing more than David’s little sister who I happened to be attracted to. But then you started bugging me every day at the diner, coming in and drinking too much coffee and eating too many sweets, and one day I just realized…huh, I actually like this woman. You’ve been my best friend for a long damn time, even if we still have a hell of a lot to learn about each other, but you’ve kind of made me believe in those romances again where I feel like, you know, my life meant nothing until you used my toothbrush.”

 

Well, damn. She thought she was the one here who was able to weave words like that. But only in her writing after approximately ten edits. Killian can just do it so naturally, and the smile that’s on her face is so large that it hurts.

 

“To be fair, the one time that I used your toothbrush was an accident. Ours were the same brand, and that trip to New York had been insane.” She tilts her head up at the sound of Killian’s laugh, and she can now see the blue under his half-lidded eyes. They’re so beautiful. He’s so beautiful. “But yeah, I know exactly what you mean even if I took a little bit more time to come around to it all.”

 

Killian smiles as he tucks her hair behind her ear. “I’ve been more than fine waiting.”

 

-/-

 

Killian lets Will open the diner again the next day, and this time Emma doesn’t wander downstairs for coffee. She stays holed up in bed with Killian, the two of them laughing and talking and making each other sigh out the other’s name with the way that their bodies move together.

 

It’s the first time Killian ever completely misses a day of work.

 

He starts decorating the diner for holidays after that. Not small ones like President’s Day or Flag Day or anything like that, but in December there’s a tree wrapped in lights and ornaments and in March everything is decked out in green to go along with the special on beer. Granted, a lot of it is her doing and Killian definitely still complains, but the both of them know that his grumpy act is really just an act.

 

He’s more than happy to do silly things to make her happy.

 

That includes proposing to her the next year on Halloween as Emma wrestles with a pair of sheets that she’s trying (and failing) to make look like a ghost.

 

She says yes but only if she’s guaranteed free burgers and fries for life. Plus, her own toothbrush. Oh, and coffee. Always coffee.

 

It’s a tough negotiation, but Killian agrees.