Every Dog Has Its Day
Emma sat slouched at her desk tucked in the back corner of her "training facility" which was really just a large open room in the surprisingly well-lit basement level floor of an independent pet supply shop in town. She'd slept like shit the last couple of nights, dreaming either of Killian or her time in prison — the first leaving her feverish with want, the second leaving her cold with isolation. The combination, however, left her horny, hollow, and ridiculously tired. Quite the trifecta. She yawned deeply, her head propped in one hand, the picture of her and Gale that Killian gave her in the other.
It had only been a few days since she walked out on Killian...and Gale, and she missed Gale horribly. She constantly felt like something was missing and she couldn't bring herself to go to their spot for lunch by herself. She loved their routine and she adored every black hair on that dog's head, but not seeing her daily was harder than she thought it would be for a dog that did not belong to her technically. Asking Tee to take over Gale's walks for her took every ounce of professionalism she could scrounge together just so she wouldn't cry while she did it. She also missed Killian and the way he called her "love" like they lived in some period piece drama, but she would never admit it to anyone. She could barely admit it to herself. She needed some time to think about what had happened and put some distance between her and Killian. She hated that Gale was stuck in the middle and knew she needed to do something about it, but every option involved talking to Killian and she just wasn't prepared for that yet.
Sighing, she put the picture back down on the corner of her desk, running her finger along the curve of Gale's head, "petting" her one last time before bringing her attention back to the accounting she still needed to catch up on. One thing was for sure: numbers didn't lie.
Losing track of time, Emma was surprised when Tee returned from her morning walks. The petite blonde, who had a thing for wearing green and a floppy bun atop her head, was carrying a large shopping bag. Emma was hoping it was lunch, but knowing where Tee had come from, she doubted that was the case.
"Hey, boss," she called out as she entered the room.
"Tee," Emma greeted her with a short nod. Pointing to the bag she asked, "What's that?"
Tee held it out to Emma. "Mr. Jones left it and asked that I give it to you."
"Oh. Ok...." Emma frowned. She didn't want to deal with any of Killian's overtures here at the office and wasn't terribly pleased he'd involved Tee. She huffed and glanced around the room quickly. Pointing to a filing cabinet against the wall, she requested, "Just put it down over there, would you?"
As Tee brought the bag over where she wanted it, Emma asked, "How was Gale today?"
"I dunno," Tee sighed, shaking her head as she scrunched her nose up in thought. "Is she always so...lethargic? I've never seen a Lab so...lazy. It's not right," she concluded.
Emma bit her lip in concern. "No, that's not like her. Did you let Mr. Jones know?"
"Yeah, I mentioned it in the note today. Told him he might want to get her checked out at the vet if she was still like this for much longer."
"Great, thanks, Tee. Again, I appreciate you taking over for me. I didn't realize how far behind I was on all the paperwork around here. Guess my dog walking days are over," Emma said with a rather melodramatic air.
Tee looked at Emma askance from where she was filling out her time sheet at the little table near Emma's desk. "Riiight. Somehow I doubt that," she mumbled. Straightening up and handing Emma her sheet, she gave Emma a quick smile and said, "Welp, I've gotta run. I'll see you tomorrow afternoon."
Emma waved, "Bye, Tee."
Gale not acting like herself did not sit well with Emma at all. She picked up her phone and was about to call Killian, but hesitated over the "send" button for several seconds before canceling it. Disgusted with herself, she tossed her phone in a drawer so she wouldn't be tempted again. She couldn't. Not yet. For as much as she missed...them...a part of her was still too angry to talk to Killian. She looked over at the bag and wondered if she should go see what was in it, but thought better of it. She wasn't about to be bribed with gifts to forgive him. Screw that. As it was, with all the work she still had left to finish, she was barely going to have enough time to prep for class and print everything out she needed to give her students. His gesture, whatever it was, was going to have to wait.
The stupid folding chair would not open all the way, and Emma was absolutely done wrestling with it. She tossed it to the floor with a frustrated grunt and blew her hair back out of her face.
"Here. Stop beating up my chairs, would you? We're a non-profit, for Pete's sake, and I can't replace them every week if that's how you're going to treat 'em." David teased, handing her a new, open, chair while giving her a probing look.
"Thanks," Emma said, ignoring his joke and his curiosity as she bent over to grab the problem chair to give back to David.
He surveyed the room as if something were missing. "Where's Killian and Gale?" he asked. "I thought they were helping you out with the class."
Emma shook her head and answered, "Not this week. Maybe not anymore."
Crossing his arms over his chest and smirking, he ribbed Emma. "What, did Gale try to lick one of your students to death?"
"No. Nothing like that. It's not Gale," she said wistfully.
David arched his brows with a knowing look, pressing his lips together briefly. "Oh. So it's Killian. I see."
"See what?" Emma asked, irritation seeping into her question.
"You two obviously had some sort of falling out. It explains why he was...so out of sorts on Sunday when I stopped by to check on him."
Emma looked confused. "Why did you need to check on him?...Wait, did you know he was going to a prison?" she pressed.
Shifting on his feet, looking slightly uncomfortable with the direction of the conversation, David hedged. "Well, I knew there was a possibility he was going, yeah. Didn't know if he'd decided to actually go or not. It wasn't something we talked about regularly."
"But why was he going? And why couldn't he just tell me?"
"Oh, Emma. I don't know why he didn't tell you. I'm sure he had reasons he thought were...valid. But I can't tell you why he was going in the first place. That's for him to do, not me."
"Not even a hint?" she wheedled.
David put his hand on her shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. "All I can say is that I've seen the look on his face when you walk in the room or he talks about you, and I can guarantee hurting you was the farthest thing from his mind. If anything, it was the opposite. I've known Killian for a while now and he's been through a lot and come a long way. Just like you have. Maybe you should hear him out?...Give him a chance?"
On her way home after a rather lackluster class full of peeing puppies and owners who could not hold on to their leashes, Emma stopped by her office and picked up the bag Killian sent with Tee for her. When she got to her apartment, she set it down in the middle of her kitchen table and considered opening it, but again she walked away, too tired and still mulling over her conversation with David. She trusted David, but she wasn't ready to trust herself yet. She hadn't had real feelings for anyone since Neal, and while her heart was telling her Killian was not Neal, and her gut was agreeing with David, her brain insisted on putting up the same fight it always did by disagreeing with everyone else. Today she was just too damn tired to referee. So the bag sat on her table, and Emma Swan went straight to bed.
The next night after work, she grabbed the bag and pulled out the plain, square box. There was no bow, no wrapping, no card, nothing. Just a box with very little heft. Sitting cross-legged on her couch, she lifted the lid off it, finding a note on top of a pile of what looked like newspaper clippings.
Please forgive me for hurting you. I know you don't want to see me right now, and anything I say will sound like an excuse when, really, there is no excuse for lying to you. I'm sorry.
You should know that what I was doing at a prison had nothing to do with your past, nor does your having been in prison bother me in the slightest. The offer of counseling Dr. Hopper called about was for those of us who were there to witness the execution of Robert Gold. If you want to know of my connection to him, it's all here in this box. You can do whatever you'd like with the contents. Read it, burn it, use it to pick up poop on your dog walks. It matters not to me anymore because that is my past and I am no longer willing to live in it or let it rule me. What you do need to know, though, is, until I met you, I didn't think I would be capable of moving beyond it. I think I knew it when we kissed and I should have never left. I realized being there at that monster’s end could never be more important than having a fresh start with you. That’s why I returned early.
If you choose not to see me again I will understand. I should not have breached your trust. I do wish you would continue to see Gale, however, and I promise I will stay away so we don't have to see each other again if that's what you wish. I don't want to keep her from you ever. I imagine you must miss her terribly by now. I know I would.
I wish you nothing but the best, Emma Swan. You deserve it and more.
Emma reread the note one more time and thought about what David said, and she concluded that she'd been a bit hasty walking away from him. Kissing him before he left and telling him she would be there when he got back were promises she stopped making after Neal left her. When she found out Killian had lied and the word "prison" was part of it, every nerve in her body screamed at her to run and run fast. Not being able to escape because of her obligation to watch Gale just fueled her fear and anger until she couldn't think straight and every shitty thing she ever felt by being abandoned turned her into that insecure child buried inside her waiting to lash out. By the time Killian returned, her listening skills were no better than a three-year old throwing a tantrum when she couldn't have what she wanted.
Apparently what she wanted was Killian Jones.
Putting his note down on the coffee table, Emma picked up a handful of the newspaper articles from the huge stack of clippings in the box. Folded on top was a front page article dated the day Killian returned, and the headline announced the execution of Robert Gold happening that night. Rifling through the rest of the clippings, she saw they all had something to do with the "Rumplestiltskin" murders. She vaguely remembered hearing about them years ago. Some creepy fuck named Robert Gold was stabbing women, cutting out their hearts and stuffing the hole with gold thread. Really freaky shit — the kind of thing best left to horror movies she'd never watch — because the reality that people like that were out there was too much to comprehend. Back then, when he was caught and the news machine started chugging away full time to bring every gory detail, it grossed her out enough to stop paying attention to it. But there, neatly contained in an unremarkable box, was every tragic and nightmarish aspect of the case. From the last murder, through Gold's trial, and finally his conviction.
She sifted through all the articles, not really reading more than snippets here and there because it still made her uneasy to contemplate that kind of violence, but one headline in particular on a worn and water-stained piece of newsprint caught her eye.
"Former British Special Forces Officer, unable to save fiancé, catches killer" it read. Emma gasped, horrified. Dreading what was to follow, she read on reluctantly.
Killian Jones, 25, stumbled upon the murder scene before the alleged killer, Robert Gold was finished with his grisly task. Still holding the heart of his last victim, and Jones' fiancé, Milah Read, Gold attacked the young man causing severe damage to Jones' left arm and hand as he fought Gold off. The injured former British soldier was still able to knock out Gold and keep him subdued until police could arrive.
Holy shit. Emma sat, stunned. She felt like her own heart had been cut out when the implications of what she read sank in. At least (all) his scars made sense now. She ached for him from the depths of her soul, but her brain could not begin to fathom everything Killian had been through since the brutal deaths of his brother and then his fiancé. How do you come back from that? How do you stop seeing that every single day? she thought as her stomach clenched and her chest tightened, her imagination running wild. She gave Killian credit for being upright and not curled into a ball in the corner of some institution, but most of all, she was impressed he could love again at all. From the first time she saw him really interact with Gale, she could see how deeply he loved that dog and she wondered what it would feel like to be loved like that — without limits. And now he saw the future because of her. That was just...staggering. She looked down at the article again, her own tears beginning to fall, soaking into the paper, marring the words, and she sobbed knowing one thing: exactly how alone he must have felt this whole time. And she'd left him alone again.
Early Friday morning Emma woke, startled and disoriented, to the sound of someone knocking urgently on her door. She was surrounded by Killian's newspaper clippings, the one about him still clutched in her hand. Her mind raced, and her heart pounded in time to the beating at her door.
"Swan! Swan, it's me! Please open up, love."
Still trying to jumpstart her brain without the aid of industrial strength coffee, Emma couldn't tell if that really was Killian coming for her or if it was just another dream. Real or not, she needed the banging to stop before her neighbors threw a hissy.
"Coming, coming," she mumbled. Obviously not hearing her, Killian continued knocking at the door.
"Emma, please, Gale's run away. I need your help."
Gale. Run away? What the hell? Hauling herself off the couch, still stiff from the awkward position she was in all night after exhausting herself crying, she ambled as fast as she could to the door, sliding the deadbolt, and turing the lock before flinging it open. Killian stood before her, out of breath, eyes wild with dark circles beneath them, his clothes damp and wrinkled, and hair standing up on end in spots. Even when she'd met him the first time, when he'd been throwing up all afternoon, he didn't look nearly this undone.
Without thinking — mostly because her brain was still warming up to the idea of working — she threw her arms around Killian's neck and hugged him fiercely. He was cold and she could feel him trembling. It took him a beat or two before his own arms went around her, his hands splayed across her back, fingers digging into her skin, and his head buried in her hair. His body shook with uneven breaths as he tried to steady himself.
"Emma," he choked out as she held him in place, stroking his hair and rubbing his back to soothe him. They stood like that for a least a minute before she let go and looked at him, worrisome frown on her face.
"What do you mean she ran away?" Emma asked as she moved aside to let Killian in before closing the door behind her.
He moved with the look of a beaten man into her apartment. "I took her to the vet yesterday afternoon because she just wasn't acting herself, and before I could get her back in the car, she just took off. Her leash slipped through my accursed hand," he said, holding up the hand with the scars criss-crossing it before continuing, "and she was out of sight before I knew it. I've been looking for her all bloody night, but nothing. She's disappeared. I'm terrified something's happened to her."
"Where did you look?" Emma asked, doing her best to sound calmer than she felt.
"The marina, my neighborhood, the shelter, animal control...three times," Killian ticked off on his fingers before continuing. "I'm sure Graham's going to sick his dog on me if I show up there one more time. I stopped at all the houses of my mates on the Council. No one’s bloody well seen her. I even went to the pizza place we took her to. I've been everywhere she and I go and nothing. She's gone."
Killian's shoulders sagged in defeat as he finally collapsed into her kitchen chair. He ran his fingers through his hair, doing nothing to help its already disheveled state, then down his face, wiping his eyes along the way. Emma was still trying to pull herself out of the groggy morass that was her usual morning challenge, but something Killian said struck her.
"Oh!" Emma exclaimed, the connection made. She grabbed a startled Killian by the arm and hauled him out of the chair. "You haven't been everywhere she's been though."
Killian's confusion was apparent as Emma took his hand and began to lead him to the door. "Give me your keys," she commanded. Without protest, Killian pulled them from his front pocket and pressed them into her hand. They left her building at a jog and hopped into the Jeep.
As they drove through the quiet streets, the sun beginning to peek through the trees, making everything glitter as its rays touched down on dewy grass and leaves, Emma looked over at Killian who looked beyond exhausted.
He met her gaze briefly and looked down into his lap. "I'm sorry, love. For dragging you out. And for not telling you everything before."
Emma reached over and took Killian's hand, running her thumb gently over the scars that divided his palm like a piece of abstract art. "I'm sorry, too. For not letting you explain. For lumping you in with every crappy person who's ever hurt me. It wasn't fair of me."
"Does this mean you forgive me?" he asked, the first sign of a smile tugging at his lips.
"Do you promise to never lie to me again?" she countered.
"Aye, lass. Pirate's honor."
"Good," she said giving his hand a squeeze.
Within another couple minutes, Emma pulled into the small parking area of the lakeside trails where she and Gale spent their afternoons. Killian dug around in the back seat and found some treats he had stashed in a container and shoved a handful in his pocket before they got out of the Jeep and took off down the trail.
"It's about a third of a mile up ahead," Emma informed Killian as they moved quickly through the woods. The adrenalin from the possibility of finding Gale was working better than Starbucks — not that they weren't going to stop there as soon as they could — and Emma led Killian off the main trail along the narrow path to her little beach.
Finally reaching the clearing, they saw Gale, curled up on Emma's favorite rock, her leash still attached.
"Galene!" Killian yelled as Emma watched him sprint ahead just as Gale jumped off the rock at the sound of his voice. The pair raced toward each other like a scene out of a movie or toilet paper commercial, which made Emma grin and wipe a tear — whether from happiness or laughter she wasn't sure. When Killian and Gale reached each other, he dropped to his knees and grabbed her collar with both hands.
"Oh you bloody dreadful girl! Need I remind you running off is bad form?" he laughed as he hugged her. Gale licked his face and wagged her whole body.
Emma caught up and kissed the top of Gale's head as she lowered down and joined them on the sand. "You are going to ruin my reputation as a dog trainer, you know," she warned, rubbing her nose against Gale's and getting a kiss in return.
Killian leaned back and reached into his pocket to pull out some of the treats he'd grabbed earlier. Sitting back on his heels, he showed her what was in his hand and said, "Sit."
As soon as her backside hit the ground, he tossed her a biscuit. "Stay, lass," he commanded then scooted closer to Emma and put his arm around her shoulders.
The grin on his face was contagious as he tipped her chin up with his finger to look into her eyes. Emma thought she would never tire of the way he looked at her and hoped she'd have lots of time with him to find out. Killian moved his hand to tangle in her hair as he whispered, "Thank you, Swan." Then he kissed her, first gently, but with increasing desire, and it wasn't long before Emma lost track of time in the feel of his clever lips and tongue, the stroke of his hands over her cheek, jaw, and hip, and sounds of their combined want and contentment.
Gale, however, tired of waiting in her "stay," flopped down at their feet, sending sand flying everywhere, then heaved a huge sigh.
Breaking off their kiss, amused at the clearly irritated and somewhat bored dog, Killian and Emma said in unison, "There's my good girl."