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Seven.

The number itself comes with a lot of significance.

The seven deadly sins, the Seven Wonders of the World, the seven seas, Seven Nation Army (couldn’t hold me back, she hums in her head), Voldemort’s seven horcruxes, the seven days of creation, and the list goes on and on and on.

But the number has a special meaning to her. Besides the fact that she chooses not to work out seven days a week, and decides that seven in the morning is never a good time be up, or that she still finds it extremely weird (and unsafe) that Snow White lived with seven strange dwarf men, it holds another meaning for her.

For her, seven is the amount of times someone tells her that she’s dating her neighbour-come-bestfriend-and-apparently-boyfriend until she finally realises that she is.

-/-

one.

It’s become tradition. Every morning, without fail, they’d have breakfast together. Whether they go down to the nearby bakery, or he whips up some pancakes, or she lets him eat her cereal – they always have breakfast together.

So when she wakes up one morning to a text from him saying he has to skip out on breakfast and make an early run to work, she frowns.

She’s not really a breakfast person. Before him, she’d grab whatever there was in her fridge and toss it into her bag for her to snack on later.

So, it’s only since getting close to him that she’s bothered with breakfast. Without him, it seems redundant.

And when she’s all set and ready for work, she grabs a poptart that she tosses into her bag before heading out. Opening her door, she sighs at the sight of his closed, that he isn’t there waiting for her with his ridiculously fluffy pancakes and his impossibly bright (for 8 AM) grin.

But as she turns to lock her door, her eye catches on a purple sticky note stuck just below her 6B, withKillian’s impressively cursive handwriting on it.

Sorry I’m ditching you for breakfast today, love – I hope this’ll make up for it.

P.S.: just because I’m not here to force you to eat in the morning doesn’t mean you can skip out on the most important meal of the day.

- Killian

Then she spots a brown paper bag sitting at the side of her door, ‘make sure you eat this!’ scrawled messily on it in black marker. Inside is a (still warm) bear claw from the downstairs bakery, next to it a to-go cup of (most likely) hot chocolate.

She can’t help the grin on her face as she slips out her phone and types out a ‘thanks for the breakfast, mom’ before sending it to him.

-/-

He does it every time he can’t make it, leaving her a sticky note with some stupid message on it and a different pastry each time.

So, one morning, when he has to rush off to catch a conference in Seattle, he leaves her another message.

Don’t be stubborn, please have your breakfast, I’ll see you tonight

Killian

His handwriting is messier than usual, not bothering much for the usual finesse the curls in his Ss have, and it makes her smile all the more, that even as rushed as he was, he’d still grab her some food. (She’s becoming far too dependant on him, she knows – but what can she say? A girl likes to be spoilt.)

The smile that creeps up on her lips come without her knowing as she peeks in the bag, two pieces of cinnamon sugar donuts sitting at the bottom of the paper bag.

“You’re a lucky woman, you are.”

She jumps at the voice, the paper of the takeaway bag crumpling instinctually in her hand. “Oh!” she lets out, relieved when she sees it’s only 6E behind her. “How’re you this morning, Mrs. Lahey?”

The old woman grins, a smile that Emma imagines grandmothers would give their grandkids when they ate all their veggies (or something like that – she wouldn’t know). Ignoring her question, (not purposely, Emma suspects), “I just love seeing those little notes that Jones fellow leaves for you.”

Mrs. Lahey just looks so excited – in a way only an old lady could – that Emma ducks her head to try and hide her blush.

“He’s such a sweetheart, isn’t he?” she says and Emma nods in agreement, already jotting it down in the back of her mind to tell Killian he has a fan in the building, “Just the other day he helped me carry my groceries up all those stairs when the elevator wasn’t working.”

Yeah,” Emma smiles shyly, “Killian’s that type of guy.”

“Lucky, lucky woman,” she repeats, her eyes squinting as she smiles, “Mr. Lahey was that type of man – a gentleman. Married to him for fifty years,” she says proudly. “Hold onto him – the two of you make a lovely couple.”

Emma opens her mouth to correct her, tell her that they’re not together, but at the happiness on her neighbour’s face, she doesn’t think she has the heart to ruin the moment.

So, instead, all she says is, “I’ll make sure I keep him around for awhile,” winking and earning a chuckle from Mrs. Lahey. “You heading down?”

-/-

“Hello?”

“I think the only person that likes those little notes more than me is Mrs. Lahey.”

“6E, Mrs. Lahey?” Killian asks, a single eyebrow probably raised as he says it.

She hums to confirm, “Mhm – she couldn’t stop complimenting you.”

“And you couldn’t just come over to tell me this?”

Emma groans, “But I’m already in bed,” she pulls the last word petulantly, and he gives out a long sigh on his end of the line.

“You’re extremely lazy, you know?” he scolds, huffing with annoyance, but still, she hears the all-too familiar sound of his door opening and closing, followed by the jingle of keys before her door unlocks.

“I know – but you encourage me.”

“Aye,” he says, twin voices echo through, one from her phone and another through the walls of her place. The line cuts off with a beep, her door opens, and his head peeks in. “Well someone’s got to spoil you,” he continues with a smirk before he invites himself into her room and plops himself next to her on her bed.

“Aren’t I lucky?”

“The luckiest,” he grins, stealing the remote from her hand and switching channels, earning a scoff but nothing more from her. “Tell me more about what the lovely Mrs. Lahey said about me.”

She rolls her eyes at the man’s vanity, but leans into him when he lifts his arm to pull her in, nonetheless. “Said you’re a keeper.”

His hum echoes in his chest, the sound amplified with her ear pressed to his body, “Did she? And what’s the verdict?”

Emma shrugs, tilting her head up for their eyes to meet, his brow arched in question when she says, “I guess I could keep you around for a bit longer.”

-/-

two.

She’s only here because she owes him one since she’d practically dragged him around for a whole day and then some on her search for Mary Margaret’s engagement party presents and decorations, with only minimal complaints, so really, this is the least she can do.

It’s also partly her fault, since she was the one that mentioned the opening of the maritime exhibit anyway, fully knowing how he’d jump at taking time out of his schedule just to go. He’s a nerd. At least he’s fun to be around.

“This one’s from the 1800s! Lookit!” he points and never did she think she’d be a mother to someone that’s her age. “Did you know –“ he carries on, “In Oslo – they have this museum with an actual ship that you can go into? You can go into it, Emma! And then of course, you have the Viking Ship Museum – and that’s just a whole other level of amazing!”

She just smiles and nods, and right now, all she can do is commend him for being able to be so patient with her when the tables were turned. (The tables weren’t exactly 180° turned – given that she was nowhere close to this excited over love related gifts and banners and balloons.) But then he makes that face he gets when he’s got an incredibly ridiculous idea and –

“Oh no,” she says at about the same time that he says:

We should go to Norway!”

Killian—“

“Why not! You’re coming back with me to London for Christmas and New Year’s – and then we both have a week off before work starts up again,” he reasons, “And tickets to Norway from London are extremely cheap – why not just go for a couple days?”

Emma groans, not because she disagrees with him, but because she can’t think of a single ‘why not’.

He puts a hand each on her arms, flashes those goddamn puppy dog eyes at her and pouts. “Please?”

-/-

And that’s how they end up in Nor-fucking-way the day after New Year’s.

They’re staying in some shady airbnb place, living with some guy named Wilehm, and they’d really only chosen him because he had a dog in his picture, but to her dismay, there wasn’t a sign of any dog in the house. How disappointing.

But that’s about the only disappointing part of the trip, because as much as she’d hate to admit it, this spontaneous trip on their trip is far more enjoyable than she’d expected.

Everything besides the ass-biting cold, of course.

Who thought it’d be a good idea to go to Norway in January, anyway?

-/-

“Liam mentioned something to me the other day,” he says when they’re buried in blankets at his place (hers being too messy since hurricane Ruby came and went) binge watching House of Cards on a Friday night.

“Mhm?”

“He said we’re dating.”

“What’s new?” she laughs, “But why’d he say that?”

He shrugs, “Said I’ve never brought a girlfriend home before you, and I told him that’s exactly why I brought you – ‘cause you’re not my girlfriend.”

Emma simply hums, turning her attentions back to the screen, she mentions, “Graham asked me out the other day, by the way.”

Well?” he presses and she turns back to him, “You said yes, didn’t you? Because you’ve been talking about the bloke’s curls for months so if you said I’ll think about it-“ he poorly mimics her, “- I’ll throw you out of my place right now.”

She bites at her lip and gives him that one look and he groans, “Why, Swan, why?

“I wanted to know your opinion first!”

“Well, I say go for it!”

“Okay, then I’ll text him!”

“Go on,” he gestures his hand for her to do it.

“Later – House of Cards first.”

He grins as he passes her the popcorn.

-/-

three.

It doesn’t really work out between her and Graham.

He’s caring and kind and extremely nice to look at with his pretty eyes and his messy curls, but he’s just that. His jokes are cute but they don’t really get her laughing like they should, and while she does try it out, they only manage three dates before admitting it really isn’t clicking.

They go back to work normally.

And it’s only after Graham that she notices the pattern – how she can’t seem to click with anyone for longer than a few months. Pre-Graham, there was Walsh, only lasting for less than a month before she found his furniture talk too boring, then there was August – he who refused to go out unless on his bike, which pissed her off because the bastard was smooth and handsome, but she just hated bikes. Even her longest relationship is considered short to most people, five months dating Ruby until things just fell apart and they realised they really were better as friends.

And meanwhile, everyone else is getting settled, with Mary Margaret and David getting hitched, Anna and Kris being engaged, and even Regina moving in with Robin.  

“What do you think it is about me?” she asks Graham when they’re out on their lunch break getting coffee.

He shrugs, “Maybe you just haven’t found your person,” he says. Emma nods, that’s gotta to be it – there’s nothing wrong with her.

So she’s settled with that, the fact that she’s still searching for her person – not that she believes in the whole idea of having a person – smiling to herself at the thought, that it isn’t her fault, per se, just that the Universe still hasn’t decided that it’s her time yet.

Then, of course, Graham has to add to it.

“That and the fact you prioritise Jones over everything else.”

Her smile falls.

-/-

“Graham said I prioritise you above everything,” she says as a greeting when she steps into his place.

He turns his head from his sink, an eyebrow raised, when he says,

“Good – because I really am the best thing to happen in your life.”

His grin tells her he’s saying it lightly, but his words are heavy with the truth. He probably is the best thing to happen to her in a very long time, if not her life. (Probably not her life – Ingrid adopting her was the best thing to happen in her life, and no best friend like Killian could ever trump that.)

“But it’s a mutual thing,” he adds a little later, after he’s dried off his hands to join her on the couch. “You’re probably the best thing in my life, too.”

-/-

four.

“You ready, love?”

She’s still struggling with the zipper of her dress when she hears her door open and him call out. Technically, she’s ready - her makeup’s all done, hair’s all curled, and emotions completely in check, it’s just this damn dress that won’t zip up.

“I need your help!”

She hears him murmur something about how she also needs to wash her dishes, before her bedroom door cracks open and he says, “Well don’t you look gorgeous?”

Emma eyes meet his through her mirror, nods and replies, “You don’t look so bad yourself.”

Killian grins (that crooked smile of his) as he shrugs, his hands that were shoved in his pockets move as he steps towards her, one hand pulling at the bottom end of the zipper while the other pulls up, his hand ghosting on her back as he does.

“My turn,” he says, pouting as her stares down at his chest where a messy bowtie lies, flicking his eyes up to her with his best impersonation of a puppy dog he can muster.

She rolls her eyes but turns nonetheless, pulling and tugging and adjusting until it looks presentable enough. “There.”

She turns back and faces the mirror, the both of them tilting their heads as they stare at the full body reflection of the two of them standing side by side.

“I must say – we look extremely good.”

Emma grins. They do. He wears a dark suit – not black exactly, a shade lighter, but still dark – the now-proper black bowtie sitting on his collar, his hair parted neatly with his (not overpowering, but still) strong cologne wafting in the air around him. Of course he’s also got that winning smile of his, and that’s pretty much enough really to make him look great. She’s wears a floor-length black dress, one that hugs her body tight with its V going deeper than deemed appropriate (but hey, she has people to impress), her blonde curls cascading down one side, so unlike her usual go-to braids, and she figured that too much makeup would be an overkill, so she settles with an au naturale look, trusting her dress and her (Ruby’s) Louboutins will do enough to impress.

Stupid Neal and his stupid cousin, Milah won’t see what’s coming.

“Let’s show ‘em.”

-/-

“So, when are you going to finally admit to the world that the two of you are dating?” she hears Tink ask him when the two of them dance.

They’ve swapped partners, Tink cutting in early with a ‘Can I steal him away for a dance?’ before Emma laughs and nods, moving over to Tink’s date instead who stands with a kind smile and his hand held out for her.

The woman thinks she’s whispering, and apparently so does Killian, but she hears them just fine.

“We’re not,” Killian replies. His tone isn’t defensive, nor is it anything, really – it just is.

“The two of you come here together looking like this,” Emma watches her head nod up and down at his frame, to which he lets out a not-too-humble, ‘Why, thank you,’ before she continues, “arm in arm, and you’re telling me there’s nothing more than platonic to the two of you?”

Killian just shrugs and they’re slowly rotating for him to face towards her, but she doesn’t bother pretending she’s not listening in, grinning at him for him to do the same when their eyes catch. His voice drops, nonetheless, and now she can’t quite hear him, but for all the talk of how well they know each other, he seems to have missed out on the part where she can read lips.

“Milah was supposed to be here – and there’s honestly no one else in the world that would make her more jealous than Emma, because come on-“ (she can tell he presses this, because he does that little head tilt when he emphasises a point) “- did you see her? She’s bloody gorgeous.”

She flushes at that, not that it’s the first time he’s ever called her gorgeous – it’s not even the first time tonight – but this is to someone else, not to her, and it makes it all the more sincere.

“Plus—“ she sees his lips move again, and she’s focusing hard on reading his lips, “we always—“

But of course Tink’s stupid date (she doesn’t really mean it – he seems like a nice guy) starts moving and they’re turning away from him and she’s cut from the conversation.

Later, when they’re standing in the hallway between their respective doors, she asks what that was about, but he only smiles, swearing he was only speaking good things about her, and while extremely vague, it probably is the truth.

“Thanks for agreeing to make Milah jealous for me – even though she didn’t show up.”

“Thanks for actually making Neal jealous for me.”

He kisses her on the forehead as his reply like he’s done so many times before, tucking her hair behind her ear before using his copy of her apartment key to open her door and usher her in.

“Have I told you that you look magnificent tonight?” he says as his goodnight, his hands shoved in his pockets as he smiles at her.

“Multiple times,” she says as hers.

His grin grows brighter if even possible, winking once before turning around and closing the door behind him.

She only realises she’s holding her breath when she finally lets it out once she hears his door close with a click moments later.

-/-

five.

She brings him home for Thanksgiving. It’s Ingrid’s idea really, pleading that she comes back this year (as opposed to last year when she couldn’t make it due to crazy work schedules), and also for her to bring ‘that Killian boy of yours’ along with her.

“His family got the two of you for Christmas last year – it’s only fair,” Ingrid had said. “Since the two of you seem to come in a pack, I assume it’s either no you at all, or the both of you together.”

So that’s how she ends up asking him if he’s doing anything on the next Thursday.

“Probably something with you,” he answers. “Why?”

“You’re following me to Maine for Thanksgiving,” she says.

Killian squints at her, as if daring to argue, but then the face melts away and he just replies with an, “Okay! Remind me on Tuesday to pack.”

She nods, grabbing an apple from his fridge before making a double take, “You need two days to pack?”

He shoots her an offended look, face scrunched when he defends, “I like to make sure I’m ready, okay?”

-/-

It’s his first time in her home – first time in her hometown really. He’s never done much exploring of the different states, usually using up his leave days to go back to London or wherever she wants to go – which is never Maine.

So, much like he was when they were in London, she’s his designated tour guide – dragging him to all teen-Emma’s ‘spots’, also known as: places she used to make out at.

This-“ she says once she’s pulled the gear into park, “is where I had my first girl-kiss.” Emma nods her head out, the whole little town sitting below them from this spot on the cliff. It was a long and winding drive through the forest, but still, more than a decade later, it’s as beautiful as she remembered. “Her name was Daniela, but we called her Dany and I remembered us just making out on the hood of her car for god knows how long until the cold finally got to us.”

“Were you two ever together?”

Emma shakes her head, “Nah – I had to leave for college two weeks later. I think it was more curiosity between us than anything else.”

Her phone vibrates and it’s Ingrid, texting her that she needs some extra potatoes for the mash.

“Duty calls,” Emma waves the screen at Killian before reversing out and heading back towards the city.

-/-

Their house isn’t large, a comfortable space designed just for the two of them – so with the extra houseguest, Killian stays in her room.

And for some reason, it’s a whole other level for her.

It isn’t the first time they’ve slept (in the most innocent sense of the word) together, so it really isn’t that. Not to mention her childhood bed is far smaller than any of the beds they’ve slept in, so they’re really going to squeeze in tight. But that isn’t it.

There’s just this anxiety in her as he surveys her room, looking at the books she’d read, unrolling her old posters, grinning at the little box of her memories. She trusts him immensely, but this is a totally different type of intimate.

“This is bloody adorable,” he mentions, his eyes and smile bright as he points at the picture of Emma and Ingrid that sits on her desk. “Aw,” Killian’s practically bouncing on his feet when he reads the little reminder post-it notes she’s stuck to the wall. “’Don’t forget to thank God every night’? What hells did you walk through to turn from this-“ he nods at the note, “- to this,” he looks at her now.

“Shut up,” she says, throwing a pillow at him that he catches easily enough. “I’m still a good Christian girl.”

“Far from it,” he scoffs, before throwing her a smirk and moving to sit next to her on her bed. “’Tis a tight squeeze.”

“Well, teen Emma didn’t have many boys sleeping in her bed.”

“For some reason, I highly doubt that,” he jests.

Though before she can defend her younger self, Ingrid voice echoes through the house, ‘Honey! The guests are here!’ making her feel like her younger self once more.

She pushes herself up and pulls his hand with her, dragging him as she moves, but stops when she’s at her door. “Ready to meet my family?”

“Ready as ever, love.”

-/-

He does extremely well with her family, mingling and making small talk with all her aunts and uncles, whenever there’s a sudden burst of laughter somewhere in the room, she can expect to find him standing in the middle of it with that proud grin of his.

“He’s doing well,” she hears from behind her, expecting her mom or one of her aunts, but when she turns, she doesn’t quite expect Elsa there.

“When did you get here?” Emma exclaims, moving in to pull her into a tight hug. “Why didn’t you tell me you were coming down? We could’ve come together!”

Well,” Elsa starts, “If someone would stop muting the family group, maybe we would’ve. But I am stealing a ride back, thank you very much.”

“Of course,” Emma grins, “Anna’s not here?”

She shakes her head, “No, she and Kris went back to his this year. And you and Killian came back to ours this year, huh?”

Emma nudges her cousin in the arm, Elsa mocking hurt as she rubs at the spot, “Mom invited him over.”

“That’s because Ingrid knows how inseparable the two of you are.”

“What d’ya know? The impossible has occurred! We’ve been separated by a sea of my family!”

But Elsa just rolls her eyes at Emma’s sarcasm. “Deny all you want – just be prepared for my mom to attack you with a load of questions about him – she’s already been probing me.”

You speak of the devil, and the devil appears.

“Elsa, darling! Would you give me five minutes to catch up with Emma here?” she asks and Elsa nods, kissing Emma on the cheek, a whispered ‘good luck’ breathed in her ear before she excuses herself.

So, Killian, huh?”

Emma huffs out a laugh, her eyes catch Killian’s from across the room and he sends her a rueful smile before he continues talking to Elsa’s dad. “Aunt Gerda,” she sighs, “There’s nothing going on with me and him – he’s just my best friend.”

“Oh, I know that,” she replies, and Emma’s head jerks back in surprise at her response, “I’m saying – you should make something between the two of you.” Her aunt sends her a soft smile, turning her head towards where he stands and Emma’s eyes follow. He just fits right into her life, right into her family, as if he belongs there. “I really don’t think it gets any better than this.”

He’s laughing with her uncle, the older man’s arm over his shoulder as the both of them chuckle at God knows what. Killian’s eyes are bright, his smile genuine and her uncle seems to really like him – which is unusual given the hard time he gave all the boys in the three girls’ lives – even Kris with his impossible sincerity (and horribly lame jokes) took months of sucking up until he finally gave in.

He’s always been the father figure to Emma – always the first (and definitely never the last) to interrogate whomever she brings home, executing the ‘If you hurt her, I’ll kill you’ speech to perfection.

“It’s not like that,” Emma finally says, but when she turns, her aunt is gone. Apparently, she’s been standing and staring for far longer than she thought.

-/-

“’s cold,” he murmurs, pulling her in to cuddle.

She hums as she wiggles deeper in his embrace, pulling the covers tighter over them.

“I think I won this time,” he says after a moment.

“No way – I’m pretty sure I win.”

“Yeah?” he asks and she nods. “Shall we count?”

“Okay,” Emma agrees. “I had Elsa, her mom, that second cousin that I still can’t remember his name and the old lady from next door. Four,” she counts, “Beat that.”

“Let’s see.” His finger taps on her arm as he thinks, “There was Elsa’s dad – lovely fellow, by the way – your Aunt Helga, the woman with the short hair and red glasses?”

“Ah, Karen.”

“Aye, her. Jeremy and –“

“Who?

“Jeremy,” he repeats, and she twists her head around to show she has no clue who he’s talking about, “The boy – five or six years old, freckles?” She shakes her head and he huffs out a laugh, “and finally – your dearest mother. Count it, darling – that’s five.”

“God damn it – why did you have to go talk to everyone,” she groans. “Guess breakfast is on me for the next week, huh?”

Killian grins, his arms hugging her tighter, “You bet.”

A moment passes and he whispers, “Your mother really is scary – threatened to lock me in the freezer in her store if I ended up hurting you. Here I thought your uncle would be the one to give me the death threats,” he adds.

“Oh God, I’m so sorry.”

She can feel his grin, “Don’t worry about it, Swan.”

(Just as she’s about to sleep though, her eyes heavy when she’s all warmed up and comfortable in his embrace, he murmurs, “It’s a good thing I’ll never hurt you, then.”

She pretends like she’s asleep.)

-/-

six.

“You sure you’re feeling alright?”

“Yeah.”

“’Cause I can cancel if you’re not feeling well.”

“No, please don’t do that.”

“D’you want me to get you something while I’m out?”

“No, no – I’m alright,” she presses on a smile.

“You sure?”

“Yeap – go,” she presses, pushing him towards the door.

He pulls it open where Chanelle (Chantelle? She finds that she doesn’t quite care to get it right really) stands waiting with her hands twined together, looking very much like a proper lady, save for the fact her neckline plunges far too deeply and her skirt ends far too quickly. (She swears she’s usually more of a ‘Let women wear what they want without being slut shamed!’ type of gal, but something in this Chanelle brings out the worst in her.)

“You swear it, love?” he asks one last time, finally accepting her nods before he turns to smile at his date. But then he twists his head again and adds, “If anything, call me, and I’ll come straight home.”

She nods and smiles, trying not to put on a too smug smile when she sees Chanelle/Chantelle squint at what he says.

“Go have fun,” she says, shooing him out with a wave of her hand and with one last brief smile, he closes the door behind him.

She sighs. She doesn’t know what’s got her in such a mood. Must be a period cramp on its way, she reasons.

-/-

Her door opens less than three hours later, Killian, with his dishevelled hair, shucking off his suit jacket as if it’s offended him sulks into her apartment, pulling at his tie as though it’s choking him before he lands with a thump on the couch next to her.

“Cramps?” he asks, looking at the hot water bag she has just below her stomach and she nods.

“She broke up with you?” she asks, he nods.

“Same reasoning as Alice, too.”

“Which was?”

“You know – the whole ‘I’m already in a relationship with you, and she doesn’t want to be a side piece’ reason.”

They both roll their eyes simultaneously.

Ah, the classic. I think August used the ‘You’re in love with your best friend, but you don’t know it yet’ card on me.”

Twin sighs are breathed out by them both.

“I just wish they’d find better ways to break up with us than that.”

Pathetic,” she and Killian scoff together.

“What’re you watching?” he nods at the screen, and she guesses that concludes the whole Killian/Chanelle chapter.

My Cat From Hell,” she says, “Want me to rewind? There’s this one furry guy that you have to see.”

He kicks off his shoes, scoots closer to her with a, “God, yes please,” falling excitedly from his mouth. “You know how I love a good tale of demon feline turned angel kitten,” he grins up at her.

“Don’t I know it.”

-/-

seven.

After a long tiring day of work, all Emma looks forward to is a warm bath, a good book, and a Rocky Road, all at the same time.

So, when she unlocks her door, ready to undress and unwind right there, she isn’t quite expecting three of her closest friends sitting in her living room, rueful smiles on their faces and a banner that reads ‘Killian-tervention’ written in bold red marker to hang above her TV. 

And in that moment, she has never regretted anything more than telling them that she hides her spare key under Killian’s doormat.

“Emma, take a seat,” Elsa (she thinks, she’s far too tired to really look up) says, hands pointing at the place directly opposite them.

And in all honesty, she’s far too fatigued to fight them. Instead, she simply shrugs off her coat, makes a detour to her fridge and grabs a pint of ice cream before sitting before the three of them.

Intervention or not, she’s still getting her damn Ben & Jerry’s, if it’s the last thing she does.

So, willingly (or as willing as she can be in this situation), she sits on the couch, her legs crossed, the lid of the tub open and a spoon scooping at the ice cream.

“As you can tell, this is an intervention,” Mary Margaret starts, her voice soft as though Emma needs coaxing to listen.

She’s too far beyond needing that. Right now, she’s actually partially interested in what these women have come up with.

“One question before we start,” Emma pipes up, and the three nod simultaneously, “Who came up with that,” she jerks her head towards the banner. She has a sneaking suspicion it’s Ruby, vividly remembering how when they went on their How I Met Your Mother marathons, she’d mentioned how she was going to replicate it if it ever came to that. So when Ruby smiles proudly with her finger poking at her own chest, Emma can’t say she expected anything else. “I like it.”

“I told you she would,” Ruby mutters, nudging Elsa at the side and earning a glare from her.

Anyway,” Mary Margaret presses on. “We need to talk about something very serious,” she says, and this is why she’s the teacher of the group, and also probably the mom of the group, with her stern voice and her strict stare.

“About Killian,” Emma nods as she scoops a spoonful of her Rocky Road, getting three nods in return. “About how we should be dating and what not, I assume?”

But then Ruby shakes her head, “About how you are dating.”

Emma rolls her eyes – she’s heard this one too many times and now she’s really lost interest in this Killian-tervention. “I think I would know if we were dating.”

“But you don’t! That’s the point!” Elsa chimes in and Emma has to physically force herself not to groan.

“And so we have collected every bit of evidence over the last couple years to prove that you’re dating.”

Then Elsa turns and turns the TV on, a mirrored image of whatever’s on Ruby’s laptop projected onto the bigger screen. But just as Emma thinks this is bad, Mary Margaret utters the words that makes Emma feel like she’s just walked into the arms of hell.

“Go ahead and open the PowerPoint slides.”

“You’re kidding.”

They’re not.

-/-

And so starts the 31-page slideshow (excluding the title page that reads: ‘The Swan/Jones Dating Dilemma’) of why they’re essentially dating, each point backed up with sufficient proof and pictures and basically any bit of evidence that could possibly prove them right.

-/-

“Point number four:” Ruby begins, clicking at her keyboard for the next slide to appear, and only four slides in and Emma already has to lay down to survive this. It’s an image of the two of them in his London home, a candid taken from a far probably by Liam (to her unknowing) with Killian pulling the Santa hat down on her head, his hands on the sides of her face as he puts it on for her. She remembers the moment, Christmas Eve and recalls that smile and glint in his eye as he tugs it down her head. A smile comes to her lips at the thought, but disappears almost immediately when she remembers the three pair of eyes staring down at her. “You celebrated Christmas with him – you went to London, Eng-fucking-land to spend it with him.”

She presses the key once more and another picture shows up. The one he’d posted on his Instagram of the two of them captioned as ‘Christmas with my two favourite people’ with little Ayden in one arm as his other loops around her waist while she takes the picture. The three of them have matching smiles, bright and happy and something that screams: ‘More than friends’.

“And you come out looking like a happy, little family.”

She stares at the image projected before her, two pairs of blue, blue eyes shining at her and a mirror of hers looking right back at her, happier than she’s ever seen herself.

“And then the two of you go for a getaway to Norway – which is not what ‘just friends’ do. Which brings me to point number five: Norway.”

Emma rolls her eyes, ‘It was a last minute plan, and I didn’t see why not,’ ready on her tongue, but Ruby cuts in with, “Plus, you two went to Vancouver and Mexico together the year before. And God knows where in between. I’m pretty sure if you put together the amount of times me and Belle and David and MM go on couple getaways together – you’d still trump us.”

And that’s when Emma gets up and starts walking away.

Emma!” Mary Margaret scolds in that maternal voice of hers. “We’re not done!”

“Yeah, yeah, I know – keep going,” she calls, barely tilting her head as she makes her way to the kitchen to deposit the half eaten tub of ice cream. “I just realised how much alcohol I’ll need to survive this talk.”

-/-

Once the rum starts making its way through her system, the presentation goes by a lot easier and a lot faster.

-/-

“Nine: we can never make arrangements with you last minute unless he’s tagging along.”

“That’s not true, we went shopping just last Tuesday,” Emma defends.

“That’s because I planned it two weeks in advance.”

-/-

Numbers ten to thirteen were all different variations of how she does everything with Killian.

Fourteen is a screenshot of his Instagram posts – how every other picture is a picture with or of her.

Fifteen to seventeen had more to do with how they’ve met each others families, and are loved by said families, Elsa testifying to how much her parents adore Killian, with quotes that Emma’s almost entirely sure are exaggerated from her family members.

-/-

Twenty –“ Mary Margaret starts, a slide with a single word reading ‘Keys’ popping up and Emma already knows what this is about. “The two of you have each other’s keys on your key chains – do you see how that looks?”

“Remember that guy I dated for like three years until last year?” Elsa asks and Emma nods, “I didn’t give him a key to my place until halfway through the second year.”

“Twenty one—“

“Okay, okay – I get it, we’re dating, blah blah blah, can we just stop this, it’s getting ridiculous,” Emma groans, telling them what they needed to hear to get out of this.

Nope,” Ruby says, “We worked hard on these points. Good that you noticed, but let us finish.

-/-

#21: They hide their other spare keys under each other’s doormats.

#22: He gave her one of his rings to wear as a necklace for her birthday.

#23: She’s never taken it off since then.

#24: Apparently, her hand moves up to touch it whenever she’s nervous or scared. (Something she herself did not notice, so credits to the girls for catching that.)

#25: They’re always having movie ‘dates’. (“Which makes it extremely hard for girls’ nights when you’ve seen every single movie out there with him already,” Elsa adds.)

#26: She only gets grumpy and sad and angry when Killian starts dating someone. (“We call it your seasonal PMS, a PMS that only comes when a girl asks him out and he says yes.”)

#27: All her relationships end terribly because she’s already in one.

#28: All his relationships fail because he’s already in one.

#29: He made her a mixtape when she was in a really tough place last year. (“All he needs to do is hold a stereo over his head and he’d be your very own John Cusack.”)

#30: They practically already live together.

-/-

“Thirty-one:” they say finally, “He loves you.”

Emma shakes her head. “That’s ridiculous.”

“Really? After all that-“ Mary Margaret nods at the screen, “that’s ridiculous?”

But it is ridiculous. Killian is- he’s well, Killian. He’s been there for her through everything, as she’s been for him. Everything they’ve said is the truth (or some stretched out exaggeration of the truth) but he doesn’t love her – not like that. Nor does she love him like that.

Yeah she’d do anything for him – would probably sell her liver to the black market for him if he needed the money, just as she’s sure he’d do the same. And yeah, she loves how well he mixes with her family, how he just integrates himself amongst her people, that she could easily see him as a permanent fixture during family gatherings. And she guessesthat what she feels for him is more than ‘just friends’ but she wouldn’t call it love.

Love is what David and Mary Margaret have, what Anna and Kris have, what Ruby and Belle have; it’s not what she and Killian have.

What they have is a strong friendship – a friendship that’ll outlast any love Emma thinks she could maybe someday find, something that’ll stay permanent in her life, and adding love to that equation, could only mess things up.

What she feels for Killian, well that’s, that’s—

Do you think she’s realising it in her inner monologue, right now?” Ruby’s whisper pulls her out of her thoughts, shaking her head as if to get the ridiculous notion that she could love Killian in a more than platonic sense out of her mind.

“Not anymore,” Elsa hisses angrily and when Emma finally looks back up, the two of them are glaring at each other.

But her eyes meet Mary Margaret’s and with that look in her friend’s eyes, she just knows how screwed she is.

So she does what she does best.

She pushes.

“I need you all to go.”

Elsa opens her mouth to argue, but Ruby tugs at her wrist, the look she gives telling her to let go.

Emma squeezes her eyes shut, lets them collect their things and leave, only opening her eyes once she hears the door click.

Then she does another thing she’s good at.

She hides.

-/-

He lets himself in again. This time though, after he clears out the lunch she’d finished from earlier and replaced that with her dinner, he stays.

He doesn’t say anything, laying quietly on the other end of her bed as she curls away from him, his patience with her annoying her to no end – how he can just sit there and wait for her to break first.

It’s Sunday – two days since the whole Swan/Jones Dating Dilemma presentation, and she hasn’t left her place since. She guesses the girls had updated him, because since then, he’d let himself into her place, quietly placing meals for her on her nightstand, pressing a kiss to her temple before leaving.

He knows her well enough to give her space (and also to give her food).

She thinks it’s ten, maybe fifteen minutes, maybe longer, until she finally turns, shifting her body to face him. He lies on his back, his eyes were closed, up to the ceiling until he hears the sheets rustling, his eyes open as he rolls himself onto his side to mirror her.

She stares into him for God knows how long – it could be a minute, it could be an hour – and the intensity in his eyes scares her, but what really terrifies her is the comfort she finds in them, how there isn’t a shuffle of awkwardness, how she’s inviting him into her very soul with open arms and cookies and tea waiting inside for him.

“Killian?” she murmurs after a dozen beats pass.

If he’s surprised at her sudden willingness to talk, he doesn’t show it, “Love?”

“Are we dating?”

Her voice comes out softer and more timid than she’d expected. For someone who prides herself on her strength, she sounds awfully vulnerable right now, feeling even worse than she seems, probably.

“I’m sorry to tell you, but I believe we are.” His words are so gentle and so calm that she finally feels like it’s okay to breathe again.

“For us to be dating,” she starts, her brows furrowing as she speaks but his hand moves up to sooth the wrinkles on her forehead and she relaxes, her voice mimicking his as she continues, “you have to at least like like me.”

Killian’s chuckle is soft though his smile is wide, eyes glinting when he says, “I’m almost a hundred percent sure I more than like like you.”

Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“How long have you like liked me for?”

She knows how she sounds – all insecure and childish, with talk of liking and crushes, but she believes they’re on the same page with this.

“For awhile now, Swan – I just don’t think I realised it until recently.”

“Me too.”

Her confession is just loud enough for him to hear, just loud enough for his cheeks to blush and his ears to redden, just enough for his eyes to drop down with a bashful smile that he tries to bite away.

“The girls gave me a Killian-tervention,” she mentions. “Thirty-one slides long.”

His smile turns into a laugh as he takes her hand in his and presses kisses to her knuckles, his breath skimming across her fingers. “I like it – Ruby thought of it?” he asks and she nods, “The guys were the ones who made me realise too – though those bastards are nowhere as hardworking.”

“How’d they do it?”

“Sat me down and told me that you’re the best thing I’ve ever had in my life and I’d be a fool not to see that I was in love with you.”

He says it so frankly, his voice not wavering the slightest as he speaks and just for that, she commends him. She also pretends that her heart doesn’t lurch in her chest when he says that he’s in love with her.

“Yeah?” she asks again.

“Mhm,” he hums, “What did the girls tell you?”

Emma shrugs, “A little bit of this, a little bit of that,” she tells slyly, “I’m sure if you ask nicely, Elsa will forward you the file and you can see for yourself.”

He nods with a grin, his eyebrow arching when he asks, “And was their case convincing?”

“Surprisingly, they were extremely observant over the smallest detai– did you know that I apparently reach for your ring when I’m nervous?” she asks suddenly and his smile only grows. “You knew?”

“It’s your tell, love – I couldn’t have told you that,” he grins, pressing his lips back to her knuckles again.

“You’re an ass,” she scolds, though the words hold a lack of heat.

She can’t help the curve of her lips when she looks at his face, how happy he looks, and she doesn’t think that in the years she’s known him, he’s ever come to look as happy as he does in this moment. His glee could probably challenge the lightness she feels in her heart. (Probably.)

Emma,” he begins tentatively, his eyes clear and genuine and looking very deep into hers, “I’m going to kiss you now,” he says slowly.

She’s moving by the time he begins to ask for permission, his eyes widening as his gaze darts to her mouth, the kiss she touches to his lips killing off his “Is that alri—“

Her eyes flutter shut when their lips meet, the outside sounds drowns out; all she sees, all she feels is him and her alone and together.

His kiss is gentle, lips softly pressed against hers and if she were only allowed a single word to describe it, it’d be sweet. She doesn’t mean it in a bad way, of course – sweet is good, sweet is great, but with almost four years of foreplay, she’s not looking for sweet.

So, she pushes – in a good way this time. Her body jolts towards him, her hands running up the rough stubble of his jaw to the soft strands of hair that thread through her fingers at the nape of his neck, pressing her tongue against his lips and pushing a moan into his mouth. Her nose presses against his, their foreheads bumping as she breathes him in, their breaths mingled as he touches his lips harder to hers.

His hand settles at the curve of her ass, puling her in closer and her body’s suddenly flushed against his – not that she has a problem with that at all. Her legs hug at his calves, limbs a tangled mess as she presses even closer to him, his chest hard against her breasts and she doesn’t think she’s ever felt a moment this perfect in a long time, if not ever.

They draw away mutually, twin smiles on their faces as they push their foreheads against the other’s.

“About time,” Emma breathes out.

When she finally opens her eyes, he’s got the dopiest grin on his face, her thumb caressing at the dimples in his cheeks, which only make his eyes brighter.

“What can I say?” He tilts his head up to graze his lips to her forehead. “I like to woo my women.”

-/-

(“Women? Plural?”

“I am a desirable man, love.”

She arches her brow and sends him an unamused glare and that’s enough for him to change his answer.

Woman – my woman,” he says instead, a teasing smile playing on his lips that she kisses away. “Better?” he breathes out.

“Much.”)

-/-

(emma s. : i owe you guys an apology                                               11:21 PM

emma s. : … and a thank you                                                             11:21 PM

elsa a. : You’re kidding!!!                                                                       11:23 PM

mary margaret n. : I’m so happy for the two of you!! <3                        11:24 PM

emma s. : i really mean it though – I needed that                               11:24 PM

emma s. : you guys are the best                                                       11:24 PM

mary margaret n. : I can’t wait to tell David!                                          11:26 PM

elsa a. : You know I’ll have to tell my mom and yours right                   11:28 PM

elsa a. : So, be prepared for a dozen phone calls                                   11:28 PM

emma s. : just try keep the damage to a minimum please                 11:34 PM

elsa a. : No promises                                                                             11:35 PM

mary margaret n. : David’s still processing it                                         11:41 PM

mary margaret n. : But I’m very sure he’s happy for you                        11:41 PM

emma s. : tell him he can’t do the ‘don’t hurt her’ speech again        11:42 PM

emma s. : but where’s ruby? she’s awfully quiet                               11:44 PM

elsa a. : Sleeping over at Belle’s                                                            11:45 PM

emma s. : oh god, that’s all I need to know                                       11:49 PM

emma s. : but really, thank you. love you all                                     12:01 AM)

-/-

(ruby l. : wait WHAT                                                                                2:12 AM

ruby l. : I CAN’T BELIEVE I MISSED THE BIG ANNOUNCEMENT                   2:12 AM

ruby l. : YOU GUYS FINALLY FUCKED?                                                      2:12 AM

ruby l. : OH LORD JESUS HAS ANSWERED MY PRAYERS                             2:12 AM

ruby l. : tell me EVERYTHING                                                                  2:13 AM

ruby l. : EMMA SWAN                                                                              2:17 AM

ruby l. : WAKE UP                                                                                   2:17 AM

ruby l. : no                                                                                            2:21 AM

ruby l. : you know what                                                                        2:21 AM

ruby l. : ask killian to put on some pants                                             2:21 AM

ruby l. : I’m coming over right now                                                      2:22 AM

ruby l. : I NEED DETAILS                                                                       2:22 AM

ruby l. : okay so belle convinced me not to                                          2:41 AM

ruby l. : said I was being ‘intrusive’                                                     2:41 AM

ruby l. : whatever that means                                                              2:41 AM

ruby l. : anyway                                                                                   2:45 AM

ruby l. : I expect a call from you first thing in the morning                  2:45 AM

ruby l. : telling me EVERY SINGLE DETAIL                                            2:45 AM

ruby l. : don’t you dare miss out a single thing                                    2:46 AM

ruby l. : I didn’t waste hours on those stupid slides for nothing          2:48 AM

ruby l. : ok belle’s getting annoyed                                                     2:48 AM

ruby l. : you’re welcome                                                                      2:48 AM

ruby l. : congrats                                                                                 2:48 AM

ruby l. : night, love you all                                                                   2:48 AM)

-/-

(She wakes up the next morning with to close to 40 messages, 26 of those coming from Ruby and the rest from the early risers of the (extended) family group, ‘About time!’s and ‘I told you so’s thrown about in the chat.

She also wakes up to Killian’s arm slung over her waist as he presses warm good morning kisses to the back of her neck, his breath skimming over that one sensitive spot behind her ear.

“Morning,” he murmurs when she turns in his arms. “How many’d you get?”

“Morning,” she smiles up at him, and this, this raw morning look of his with his messy hair and squinting eyes, this is something she could get used to. “Just about forty. Twenty six from Ruby herself.”

“Ruby’s spamming thwarts me again,” he shakes his head dramatically. “Twenty five between the lads and Liam.”

He pouts petulantly and she presses a kiss to shoo it away, “Don’t be a sore loser now.”

“Aye, but with you in my arms, I don’t really think I’m losing here.”)