It was a lovely day for a picnic, her mom had said, and Emma couldn't help but agree. The sun was shining, the breeze was warm, and none of her friends or family were in danger.
Well, except for the pitched battle taking place a few feet away from where they're sitting.
"Fruit?" her mom says, passing her a mint green Tupperware bowl, the baby balanced on one thigh.
Emma takes the bowl and picks out a few green grapes, then hands it on to Killian. He smiles his thanks, setting it down beside him on the old comforter they'd spread over the grass and plucking out a cherry, before turning his attention back to the swordfight going on in front of them.
Henry had been reluctant at first--video games were one thing, he'd said, but he was getting a little old to play with wooden swords. His grandfather had kept at him until he gave in, but now, Emma's wondering if the whole thing had been a set-up, if Henry managed to pull a Brer Rabbit on David. There's serious focus on Henry's face, and David's having to put in a little bit of work to keep from getting whacked.
"That's the way, lad," Killian murmurs over the wooden clacking, and Emma turns to look down at him.
Of course he can't sit like a normal person--he's leaning back on his left elbow, legs crossed at the ankles. He returns the look, raising his eyebrows innocently as he bites into the cherry (less innocently), and she narrows her eyes at him. "Why do I get the feeling you had something to do with this?"
"You do have somewhat of a suspicious nature, love," he says, and before she can answer that, he straightens a little, his eyes back on the fight.
Emma glances up in time to see Henry pull off a flashy spin that looks awfully familiar, with a move at the end that seems like it's meant to disarm David. But either Henry's still got some practicing to do, or David spoiled his shot, because it ends instead with Henry thwacking David on the back of the hand. The noise makes both Emma and Mary Margaret flinch, and Henry's instantly apologetic. "Sorry, Grandpa!"
"It's all right," David says, with a pained smile, and claps Henry on the back with his free hand. Henry jogs over to the comforter to grab a water bottle, and David takes the blade of his wooden sword in his left hand, while shaking out his right, the one that took the hit. "Hook, you're a bad influence on my grandson."
Emma looks down again, to see Killian smirking back at her father. "On the contrary, mate. I'm rounding out his education." Killian sits up, propping up a knee to rest his arm on as he makes a fluid, circling gesture. "Not everyone the lad meets will be as upstanding as our local constabulary, after all, and I'd be remiss if I didn't share the benefits of my experience."
There's a particular curl to the corner of his mouth that Emma files away for later. Instead, she says, "Sailing's not the only thing you do on those trips, huh?"
"Your boy has many questions about the life of a pirate," he says softly. "I thought swordplay would draw the fewest objections." There's a wicked gleam in his eyes at that last--she files that away for later, too, but doesn't let it distract her from studying the rest of his face.
"I want to see that move again," Mary Margaret says, breaking her concentration. Henry grins widely enough to threaten the integrity of his cheeks, while David gives Mary Margaret a look that's mostly amused and a tiny bit incredulous. "Slower," she says, with a smile and a shrug. David sketches a salute to her, then follows Henry back to their improvised tournament field.
Emma looks down at Killian again, but he's absorbed in the mock fight, and she learns nothing more.
She still hasn't forgiven herself, is the thing.
Sure, there was a lot going on, with Ingrid, with Elsa, with her magic going haywire. And Gold working against them the whole time, though they hadn't figured that out yet.
Killian had, though. Just like he always knew when Emma was hiding something, like he knew the right things to say, like he knew just how to push her to accept her home when they were trapped in the past.
Maybe she's gotten too used to having him do the heavy lifting--starting the hard conversations, wearing his heart on his sleeve. But that's no excuse for the fact that Emma didn't figure out that something was wrong, really wrong with him until it was almost too late, until his heart was missing and he was Gold's puppet.
And she's still not okay with that.
So she watches him a little closer now, and she's starting to notice the cracks.
She thinks maybe he doesn't want her to see them, to see that he's not always okay. It's a survivor's trick, one she knows inside and out--never show weakness that can be exploited, never let them see how they've gotten to you. Maybe Killian doesn't want her to think of him as a burden, or a liability.
But he doesn't need that trick, not around her, and he shouldn't feel that he does.
Ever since she held his heart in her hands--god, his heart, his flawed, perfect heart--she's known that she wants to keep it as safe as he keeps hers. And the idea of him hurting causes an answering ache deep in her own chest.
They're still cleaning up the sheriff's station after the fracas during the shattered sight spell--just Emma and Killian, because while her parents seem more embarrassed than, like, traumatized, Emma doesn't want to reopen any wounds that are better left scabbed over. With some convincing (and an assist from Mary Margaret), she gets David to take the day off.
Killian returns from picking up lunch while Emma's fishing around underneath one of the desks for a tipped-over file box. "Marvellous work, Swan. I've never seen the place look so enticing," he says brightly, in a tone that can only mean he's staring at her ass. She wiggles said ass just to up the ante--and because one of them should be having fun, at least--and he laughs, before the sound of his steps moves toward her office.
She's smiling a little, too, but it fades when she realizes it's Regina's creepy file box of Emma-Swan-stalking that she's retrieved. The contents of a spilled folder catch her eye.
She finds him arranging their lunch on her desk with a precision bordering on obsession that's both sweet and faintly hilarious. She drops the folder in the middle of his place setting, earning a disapproving frown that vanishes as soon as he takes a second look. "What's this?" he asks, resting his fingertips on top of the folder without opening it.
"A little light reading," she says brusquely, and he cants his head, giving her that feeling of being weighed and measured. She drops into her seat, and he takes his own more slowly, his eyes never leaving her. Finally, she shrugs. "You wanted to know more about me," she says quietly. "This is who I was before I turned it all around."
He gives her a nod, and then opens the folder as Emma pops open the Styrofoam and unwraps her sandwich.
She tries not to watch him too obviously while he's reading, poking at a few games of Candy Crush on her phone (and losing badly through inattention). He wipes his fingers on his napkin before turning each page, a gesture she finds oddly touching.
The folder's not actually that thick, and doesn't take long for him to get through, even with the sealed juvenile records that Regina had someone dig up, foster care, prison time. He closes it, then taps his fingers on the cover before looking up at her. "I appreciate you sharing this with me, love," he says, and the empathy in his eyes makes it hard to look at him. She does, though, because it's real, and just like with her old souvenirs, the hurt doesn't seem as bad when he's sharing it with her. He shakes his head. "I can't help but feel, though, that you've an ulterior motive."
She reaches over, threading her fingers through his. "You're not a bad influence on Henry." He looks like he's going to say something, and she presses on. "The people who raised him? His teacher-slash-maternal grandmother was a bandit, one of his moms was the Evil Queen, and the other is a former thief who stole the car she currently drives. And yet he still says please and thank you and gets good grades. Well, most of the time." She shakes their linked hands, makes sure he's looking at her. "The kid's going to be fine."
"Of course he is," Killian says, with the promptness of complete faith. "I've no qualms in that regard."
"Then what is it?" she asks. It comes out less understanding and more mulish, and she blinks--she hadn't realized just how agitated she is.
He pauses long enough that she thinks this might be one of those rare occasions when he refuses to answer--she sees the muscle tic in his cheek, the wariness in his eyes. Then he glances down at the folder under their hands, a pained smile flickering over his face. "I don't mean to make light of your youthful indiscretions, love. But this hardly compares to the things I've done, and you know it."
She presses her lips together, feeling that ache under her breastbone. "Here's what I don't know," she says. Her voice is a little rough, her throat tight, and she's got his full attention again. "I don't know where I might've ended up, if things had gone down another way."
She thinks about it sometimes--if she'd stayed on the wrong side of the law, if she hadn't figured out that she could straddle that line, could channel her temper into kicking the crap out of assholes who deserved it. If she'd lashed out at someone and didn't pull back--what would have happened then?
His hand tightens on hers, bringing her back, and she smiles gratefully up at him. She wouldn't have any of this, that's for sure. She takes a deep breath, and says, "Anyway, I just think it's more important to focus on where we're going," she says, scooting a little closer. "Together."
He doesn't seem entirely convinced, but that's okay. Emma may not have been on a revenge quest for hundreds of years, but stubbornness has always been her fallback, and she'll repeat herself as often as she needs to in order to get the point across.
Even if she has to cheat, she thinks, leaning in to kiss him, warm and soft and slow, until some of the tension leaves him, his fingers curling carefully into her hair.
She smooths her hand over his jaw as she pulls away, and a smile dances over his lips. "What?" she asks, helpless to avoid smiling back.
He raises his eyebrows. "You purloined your little yellow vessel?"
She can feel her cheeks heat up. "That's… not actually common knowledge, by the way."
"Your piracy will remain between us, love," he says, his eyes sparkling with something like pride. She breathes out a laugh, thinking about straddling the line--and other things--and proceeds to steal his fries to cover up her blush.