Dog With Two Bones
Killian and Gale were not far from Robin's cabin on the outskirts of town for the monthly "Council Meeting" when he called Emma about the favor he mentioned in his note. He was a little nervous talking to her after telling her flat out he thought she was beautiful because he couldn't gauge what her reaction might be, but it was true and she deserved to hear it...well read it. He'd get around to telling her in person soon enough he hoped.
When Emma answered his call, he could hear her smile when she said his name, and he almost had to pull over because he couldn't concentrate on anything but how happy she sounded talking to him. Gale, however, hearing Emma's voice coming from the vicinity of her Dad's head, tilted her own, perked her ears to hear better, and peered at him intently from the passenger seat where she was buckled in. Killian rolled his eyes at her and pointed to the phone he had wedged between his ear and shoulder as if she had any clue what a phone was. Gale continued to look suspicious but thumped her tail nonetheless.
After greeting Emma with probably the widest grin he'd sported since at least Wednesday night, Killian broached the topic of that favor he wished he didn't need. "Say, Swan, I know I should have scheduled this sooner, but would any of your 'pet saviors' be available to take care of Gale for me while I'm away for a couple of days? I leave the 19th and come back the 21st. I'll pay extra for the lack of notice."
"As it turns out, I am free. And spending quality time with Gale would be a treat. You don't need to pay extra though. Where you off to?" she asked. Killian could sense a rejoinder not far behind and waited a beat. "Got a parley with the other pirate captains?" she teased. There it was.
Joke or not, Killian was unsure how to respond. This was clearly not the time to mention he was going to the execution of the man who murdered his fiancé several years ago. Sharing his story of Liam's loss as soon as he did was painful enough, but this was another animal entirely, and fraught with more violence than the slasher movies he and Liam would sneak into see in their underaged, parentless youth. Talking about it, never mind burdening Emma with it so early in their...friendship...relationship?...was nothing he was prepared to tackle over the phone before a poker game.
"Heh, not quite," he drawled trying to disguise his nervous laughter. "It's a...uh...work trip I've been dreading to the point of avoidance," he said with a heavy sigh. Dread wasn't a strong enough word for what he was feeling — whatever dread, anxiousness, nausea, and fear made up was closer to reality — but knowing Emma would be there with Gale alleviated some of his trepidation about going, but only by a thin margin. "Since I'll be gone overnight, love, you are more than welcome to stay at the house with Galene. I've got a guest room and it's yours for the taking."
"Thanks. Works for me. Always happy to get out of my apartment....Will I see you before you leave?"
"I bloody well hope so. I'll need something worthwhile to distract me while I'm away," he admitted. Hearing Emma snort at him on the other end, he continued, "Let's see what the weekend brings weather wise. Maybe we can sneak in a boat ride."
"That would be great. I'll need a break from all my backlogged accounting. Talk about dreading to the point of avoidance..." she commiserated.
"Well then, lass, we'll talk again soon?"
"Um hmm. Give Gale a kiss for me?" she added quickly.
"Consider it done, darling," he chuckled as he pulled into Robin's driveway behind David's rusting pick up truck. "Now you must excuse me while I go take the rest of David's money."
"Good luck with that. Leave him enough for a tow in case that heap of his falls apart on the way home," she suggested as if she knew exactly what he was looking at.
Killian laughed at the coincidence and said archly, "A walk would do the man good. Sweet dreams, love."
Departure day arrived with haste, in spite of him willing it to disappear completely each day prior, and Killian was just zipping up his bag when he heard Gale barking happily from the kitchen.
"That you, Swan?" he shouted from his room.
"Yup. Expecting someone else? Maybe your fairy godmother?" She yelled back even as she walked down the hall toward his voice.
Killian stuck his head out of his doorway and said sardonically, "I should be so lucky. Maybe then I bloody well wouldn't have to fly. But I think you'll do in a pinch." He winked at Emma who was carrying her own duffle bag, hugging it to her chest.
She still managed to raise her hands in apology as she sing-songed "Sorry, just a savior."
Holding his arm out in the direction of the room opposite his, Killian said, "Right this way, Savior. I've got your accommodations all ready."
The guest room wasn't huge, but the large window along one pale, sage green wall, and ceiling with exposed beams made it seem spacious. Natural wood trim matched the beams overhead, and the simple, squared-off, mission-style bed, nightstand, and bureau pulled the room together in quiet order. The full-sized bed was covered in an eggplant colored duvet with fluffy, cream-colored pillows resting against the headboard, with a woodblock-style triptych of a stand of birch and pine trees above it.
Emma's eyes widened and she whistled. "Classy. Who's your decorator?" she asked with a sideways glance at Killian who leaned against the door jam, watching her reaction with amusement.
Crossing his arms over his chest with a smug look, he said, "Google," making Emma chuckle and roll her eyes.
"Well, it's certainly better than any room in my apartment," she confessed as Gale pushed between them and hopped up on the bed, laying like an Egyptian statue, but tongue hanging out, as she wagged her tail, obviously satisfied with her new location.
"Bad form, Gale. Get off the bed. You have to be invited, you know that," Killian chided Gale, pointing to the floor. She gave him her best "but Dad" look while she lazily climbed down as if it were her own idea to leave.
Emma gave Gale a sympathetic smile and leaned over to kiss her head and whisper, "Don't worry, we'll snuggle as soon as he's out the door." Gale gave her a lick and snuck by again into the hall. Straightening up, Emma cocked her head at Killian and remarked, "I'll be sure to remember that rule."
"Do," he returned, eyes locking on to hers. His eyebrow arched ever-so-slightly as his jaw twitched trying to contain the leer threatening to make an appearance. Her answering smirk made him wonder which one of them might get around to inviting the other first. Damn this bloody trip.
From the kitchen, Gale barked, breaking their mutual, and increasingly heated gaze. With a small huff, he shook his head at his dog's timing. "Swan, would you see what's troubling the Queen while I grab my bag and book? I've got to leave soon if I'm going to make my flight."
"Absolutely," she said, turning and making her way down the hall. Killian watched her go with an overwhelming sensation that she belonged there as much as he or Gale did. They'd already been sharing dog parenting duties for a while now and between them, and Gale turned out pretty amazing. Emma thought he and Gale made "quite the team," but he felt that way about her and Gale too. Maybe the three of them together would make an even better team.
He walked back into his room, collected up his bag, and retrieved his dog-eared copy of Patrick O'Brien's Master and Commander from his nightstand and shoved it in the side pocket with his plane ticket and "invitation" for the execution. He preferred sailing over flying, but there were no ports where he was going and The Jolly Roger was not an airborne vessel no matter how much he might have wished for it to be.
Killian's feet felt like they were encased in lead as he left his room and headed to the kitchen. The breezeway door was open, and on his way to dump his bag in his Jeep, he saw Emma and Gale out back playing fetch. For the second time since he met Emma Swan, the thought occurred to him that maybe dodging out on his obligations would be the better choice.
Stepping out onto the deck where he dropped his bag, he jumped down into the yard to stand by Emma as she flung the ball off the back fence for Gale to leap up and catch it mid-air as it ricocheted. Both Emma and Killian clapped at her trick.
"Ever think about getting her into fly-ball? She's a natural," Emma suggested.
Killian shrugged since it hadn't really crossed his mind. "Maybe we can talk about it when I get back?"
"Sure," she shrugged. Picking up the ball that Gale had deposited at her feet and throwing it again, she turned and faced Killian, looking at him thoughtfully. "One more thing before you go...I still haven't thanked you for the picture of me and Gale...or what you said in the note," she said, the look in her beautiful pale green eyes sincere. "Thank you."
Waving off her thanks, he smiled, a bit embarrassed, "No need, darling. I was happy to give it to you. And I meant what I said."
Emma took a step closer into his space and looked at him mischievously. "Well, I think some proper gratitude is in order," she announced, her hips swaying as she moved.
"Aye, isn't that what the thank you was for, love?" Killian asked, amused at the merriment in her eyes and the way she leaned toward him, closing the distance between them just a little more. His tongue peeked out, wetting his bottom lip, then he dragged his teeth across it watching her closely as her eyes flickered to his mouth then back to meet his gaze. He may have shuffled a half step closer, his hand itching to undo the shining, flaxen braid she'd been wearing.
She tilted her head and gave him a sweet, private smile that made him want to run his thumbs over the rounded apples of her cheeks. Her voice was just above a whisper as she said, "But what you did...it meant more to me than words can say."
"Oh. Is this where you click and treat me?" he asked, his grin uncontrollable.
"I left my clicker in the car."
"Pity. Does that mean no treat?" Killian pouted as he swayed even closer to Emma as if on a leash she was reeling in.
She didn't say a word but focused on his lips as she placed one palm flat on his chest, the heat of it radiating right through him like she'd brought the sun down from the sky and replaced his heart with it. Snaking her other hand around his neck and up into his hair to card through it, she drew him the rest of the distance to her own warm, pliant lips in a kiss that he was sure — he wished — stopped time. He wanted to stay there forever, feeling her touch everywhere — where she raked her fingers across his scalp...where her teeth tugged at his bottom lip followed by the soothing stroke of her tongue...where her hand clutched his bicep and her hip and thigh brushed against his own. He wanted to capture the small gasp she made when his tongue met hers and her hum as she ran her knuckles across his scruff.
He wanted his hands to memorize the feel of her cheek and silky hair while it was busy cradling her head as she tilted it to deepen their embrace. And he wanted his other, scarred hand, to catalog the smooth, heated skin of her lower back between its ridges and planes. Most of all, he wanted to keep her close to anchor him to that spot so he never had to leave. But Emma broke off the kiss to catch her breath, her arms now wrapped around his neck, her body arched to press against his chest. Killian, also breathless, hovered over her lips and shut his eyes, feeling a weightlessness like a tethered balloon.
"I could just stay...here...with you," he offered, voice husky, forehead resting against hers, their noses just barely touching.
Grinning against his mouth and giving him another peck on the lips before drawing back again, she murmured, "Go. I'll be here when you get back."
That was all he could hope for, all he wanted.
All Gale wanted, however, was for someone to throw the ball again. Giving the tennis ball a squeak, she tossed it between Killian and Emma's feet, completely non-plussed by the two of them tangled in each other. She looked at each of them in turn, and when neither of them made a move to reach for the ball, she whacked Killian in the leg with her paw then stood back again, every muscle in her body tensed to run.
Emma chuckled as she released Killian from her grasp to tend to Gale's demands. He reached down to pick up the slobbery ball, but before he threw it again, demanded a good-bye kiss from her, which she gave swiftly, her light brown eyes still fixated on the ball in his hand. He held it to her nose, giving it a little shake. "You be good for our Swan, got it? No funny business or it's off to David's house for penance."
Killian tossed the ball and Emma pushed him toward the stairs with one more lingering kiss to last him the next 48 hours.
The flight was uneventful, but Killian still found it difficult to read his book even though he knew each word on every page. Liam began reading the series to him when he was a boy, and it was Liam's old copy he had with him now. He kept it more to read his brother's notes scribbled in the margins like messages in a bottle whenever he was missing his brother's guidance. This time he couldn’t tear his eyes from the picture of Emma and Gale — the same one he gave to Emma the other day — which now the wallpaper on his phone. He'd only been gone a few hours but he already missed his girls.
Even after he checked into the hotel near the prison, he felt torn about going to the actual execution. Gold had long since robbed him of the potential of a life and family with Milah, and her memory was becoming more faded with each day, like an old, grainy film from decades past, the color a mere wash of what it was, and the sound distorted. Of course, he'd forgotten what she sounded like first, and sometimes the color of a crisp autumn day reminded him of the blue of her eyes, but he always second-guessed himself and would have to look at a picture of her to be sure. She'd been lost to him for longer than he wanted to admit. The vile way Gold ripped her away from Killian overshadowed her life in ways that infuriated him and he was not sorry to see Gold to pay for all that with his life.
Killian thought he knew how he would feel knowing that monster was no longer in this world, but now he wasn’t sure if Gold’s life or death meant anything to him anymore. There were plenty of days Killian thought he'd finally moved beyond the anger, helplessness and grief left after Milah was gone, but then the scars on his arm would twinge or his weaker left hand would give out, and he would be right back in that hole he had been so desperately trying to climb out of and fill back over. He was going to the execution in the hopes that watching that demon die would offer him the closure he convinced himself he needed to set himself free of the guilt that had plagued him since his path crossed Gold's. He thought without that chain shackling him to her killer, he would be able to move forward...maybe with Emma Swan. She was the first to make him think a life of happiness was possible again. He wanted that more than anything.
The day of the execution, he was getting lunch at the hotel bar when a few other familiar faces made their way in. Many of the families of Gold's other victims were also present for his overdue demise, and Killian waved to the few he'd gotten to know over the course of the trial and after the conviction. Some still looked haunted as ever, a few almost light on their feet with the knowledge that Gold would be dead in a few short hours, and Killian found that he didn't fit in either category. When the trial was over, and Gold heading to Death Row, some thanked Killian for stopping Gold from continuing his gruesome killing spree, and others just looked at him with resentment behind their eyes as if Milah should have been the one to die first so he could have caught Gold before he harmed their daughters, sisters, wives, or girlfriends. Some days he didn't blame them because that feeling of not keeping a loved one safe he wouldn't wish on anyone else.
He looked up to see Moe French rounding a table, hand out in greeting. Killian stood and shook hands with the older, perpetually tired-looking man, offering him a seat at his table. Moe was one of the only other victim family members he still kept in contact with on a regular basis, mostly through emails and the occasional Christmas card. They were an informal support group of two, which was just about the right size for both of them. Moe lost his daughter to Gold, and while finding some small degree of acceptance of her death, he struggled much like Killian had.
"How've you been, Moe?"
"Good enough. How about you?” he asked, getting only a shrug and a nod from Killian in return.
“Have to say, Killian, I'm surprised to see you here," Moe declared.
Killian looked miffed. "Why's that?"
"Because of all of us, you are the only one who's been able to move on with any success."
"Is that what you think?" he said, surprised at Moe's assessment.
"Don't you? Look at how much you've accomplished since then. You've got your hand working again. You have work you enjoy, friends...a life. Tell me, has that mutt of yours let any women in the house yet?" he laughed.
Killian smiled, his excitement knowing Emma would be home when he returned overpowered the morass of adverse emotions this execution had been conjuring. "Aye. She has."
"Then what the hell are you doing here, son? You've already beaten that bastard. You didn't die along with Milah. You may not have saved her, but you still did a great thing by stopping him, Killian. You deserve a good life. Go live it and stop sacrificing it for the likes of him. You're better than that and I'm sure Milah would want you to be happy again."
As soon as he finished eating, Killian called a cab and left for the airport and Emma.
He didn’t get back until after midnight, and the still warm summer air was filled with the noise of crickets chirping and frogs croaking as Killian rolled his Jeep, headlights off, into the driveway of his house. He didn't want to set Gale to barking and potentially wake Emma, so he didn't bother shaking the house with the opening of the garage door. Instead he parked, grabbed his bag, and went in as quietly as he could. There was one lamp still on in the living room and he could see Emma's hair cascading down the back of the couch as if she’d fallen asleep sitting up.
Making his way around as quietly as he could to see her, she was, in fact, sound asleep, but with a troubled expression on her face. Gale was curled up next to her, and as soon as she sensed him, she began wagging her tail and stretching. He was just about to tuck a loose lock of Emma's hair behind her ear when she opened her eyes, her eyelids fluttering against the light.
When she finally focused on Killian, her expression went flat. "Oh. It's you."
Killian smiled cautiously noting that something was definitely not right. "Aye, love, I came back early."
"You have a message," Emma said with disdain. She picked up a piece of paper from the coffee table as she stood, her jerky motions Gale's cue to jump off the couch and find another place to be.
Killian frowned, bewildered at her tone. Who the hell could have set her off like this? He didn't have any ex-flames who would be reappearing...ever. He didn't give his number freely to anyone who didn't need it. But whoever it was calling him, he was going to make sure they never called again if they were going to piss Emma off like this.
She pushed the piece of paper into his chest, causing him to stumble back a bit in surprise as he took it from her. He was still confused, and more than a little concerned, at the fury rolling off her as she bit out, "While you were gone, a Dr. Hopper from some prison called. Said he couldn't reach you on your cell. He wanted to know if you needed to schedule a counseling session."
Bloody fucking hell. "Emma...I—"
Crossing her arms over her chest and glaring at him, Emma barked out, "Since when do harbormasters need to go to prisons? Is that why you were dreading going? The thought of being around inmates make you uncomfortable?"
Killian blanched, but took a step closer, his hand reaching out to stop her from moving away from him, which she shrugged off. "No, love, that couldn't be farther from the truth. Just let me explain—" he pleaded.
Emma turned from him with a bitter laugh and stomped off to her room. "Truth?! Ha!" she exclaimed over her shoulder. "Why should I let you explain? So you can lie to me again? No thanks." She began shoving what little she had out back into her duffle. Killian followed close behind, trying to get her to hear him.
"Please, love —" he began before she interrupted him again.
She spun around and pointed at him, her cheeks flush with anger. "Don't fucking call me that!" She snatched the duffle off the bed and skirted by him, as if he were toxic to her touch, into the hallway muttering, "I can't believe I let you lie to me! You lied and left! What the hell was I thinking trusting you?!"
"I didn’t want to go! If you'd just hear me out—" he continued to implore.
Now standing by the front door, Emma turned to him, the coldness in her eyes piercing his heart, dimming the light she had placed there the day before. "I don’t want to. I'm leaving, Killian." She flung open the door and stepped into the night without looking back.
A stunned Killian came to and raced after her, leaving the door wide open — the light from the living room scattering across the front lawn — only his shadow reaching Emma. She was already in her car and he could see her scrub the tears from her face as she turned the ignition. "Don't go, Emma!" he yelled as she sped off.
Lights started flicking on from the houses of his neighbors, but he didn't care. He stood on the lawn, watching her drive away, powerless to move in his shame and distress over hurting her. He wanted to go after her, to make it right, but he also didn't want to anger her more. She obviously needed her space and he needed time to figure out how to explain it all to her.
Running his hand through his hair and scrubbing at his face, he tread heavily back up the stairs onto his front porch where Gale stood in the doorway, her tail down and ears pulled back on her head. Before he could touch her, reassure her everything was ok, she turned and walked back into the living room, and stood there as if not knowing where to go next. He would have joined Gale in that state of inertia, but there was something he needed do.
Killian opened the corner cabinet beneath the bookcase and groped around in the darkness until his hand felt a familiar cardboard box hidden in the back. He scrabbled to pull it forward, and finally had enough of a grip to yank it out from between the other crap he kept hidden there. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, he opened the box for the first time in years, the smell of dusty, crisp newsprint and old ink wafting up from it. Balancing it on his lap, Killian reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet, digging around through all the various cards and receipts until he found what he was looking for. Unfolding the well-worn piece of news paper, some of the words having faded away over time and handling, he laid it in the box with the rest of that part of his history and closed the lid.
He rose, box securely under his arm, and placed it on the coffee table then rummaged around in his suitcase until he pulled a newspaper from it, ripped off the front page and added it to the box. He hoped it would all be enough for Emma to understand and the last time he ever had to open it. He'd give her some time to cool down and offer it to her next week. He was counting on her connection to Gale to at least get his foot back in the door. Even if she never wanted to be with him, he wanted her to know why he kept where he was going from her.
Exhaustion finally dragged at him and all he wanted to do was pass out. On his way to the hallway leading to his room, he saw Gale curled up in front of the back door. He called her to bed, but she ignored all his entreaties.
Sighing, Killian mumbled, "Not you too...." He gave up and trudged to his room, collapsing on the bed without getting out of his clothes.
Monday came, and Killian considered staying home, hoping to catch Emma and give her the box himself, but he had a meeting with the Office of Homeland Security that the Mayor insisted he attend, and there was no getting out if it. Instead, he left the box in a shopping bag and a note to please take it.
When he returned home, the bag was still there but there was a new note in the notebook.
Hi Mr. Jones!
My name is Tee and I'll be walking Gale. I've heard so much about her and I'm really excited to get to know her. She was a great companion today, if a little tired. I'll be back tomorrow!
P.S. I left the bag since it was for Ms. Swan and not me. Sorry!