“I can’t believe they went deeper into the curse for me,” Killian rasped, looking down at the couple lying peacefully on the bed.
Emma tightened her grip on Killian’s hand as she watched her parents. Their support, their love for her still overwhelmed her sometimes. She hoped she had the strength to always put others first, as well. But…how would they cure them? They’d exhausted so many options, and with the Black Fairy threatening the town and everyone in it, Emma didn’t know how she could ignore the impending actions of Gold’s mother in favor of saving her family.
Neal whimpered from his cradle, and Regina rose to pick him up. As she lifted the child into her arms, she remarked, “It doesn’t surprise me. I can’t believe they didn’t leave Storybrooke all those years ago.” She shook her head as she swayed Neal back and forth.
Henry moved to take his grandfather’s hand.
Emma noticed the sad and defeated lines of her son’s face and curled her free hand around Killian’s bicep, her heart aching. “What do we do now?”
“I’m not sure,” Regina said with a sigh. “I wish I knew were Blue has gone to. The fairies can’t find her.”
Alarmed, Emma shared a look with Killian.
“What do you mean?” Henry asked, concerned.
Once Neal quieted, Regina returned him to his bed. “I’m not sure there’s cause for worry. She does this from time to time. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s searching for something that will break this curse.”
Emma let out a slow breath, relieved to hear there might be a simple explanation. “Should we wait for her?”
“I don’t think we can afford to.” Regina perched on the edge of the bed.
“What about your sister?” Killian suggested. “Would she have an idea of what might break this foul torture?”
Regina shook her head. “The two of us spent all day working on the cure that only ended up weakening Snow and David’s hearts. We’re all out of ideas.”
Silence met Regina’s statement. As despair descended on the occupants, Emma racked her brain for something that might work. She was not a connoisseur of magic, but she’d paid attention over the years. A thought surfaced. “What about another sapling? One that holds the magic of true love? If it can imprison great evil, maybe it can also set it free.”
Regina frowned. “Maybe, but a sapling is very rare. The first time I’d ever heard of this type of magic was when Blue mentioned it.” She lifted her brow and cocked her head to the side. “But…”
Emma watched Regina’s mind work. Had they landed on something that might bring a solution? Hope filtered through the despondency inside Emma. She couldn’t let her parents sleep within the darkness anymore. She had to save them.
After running her hands over her arms, Regina shrugged. “We could try what you’ve suggested, but the beacon Blue sent up only located one sapling in Storybrooke.”
“In another land then,” Emma urged, warming to the idea. Her heart thumped hard as hope grew even more.
“Yes, but which realm and whose?” Regina questioned. “We don’t have the time to spare in search of something so rare and elusive. We can’t—”
“Mom,” Henry interrupted, gazing intently at Emma. “You might have one. You and Killian.”
She shared a look with her fiancé before replying. “Do you think so?”
Excited, Henry’s eyes danced with excitement. “You passed the ultimate true love test. Why wouldn’t you have one?”
“But, Henry,” Regina broke in, “even if you’re right, it’s not here. And—”
“It could be anywhere,” Killian added.
Emma tipped her head to the side. “Well, not anywhere.”
Killian turned her to face him. “We’ve been to Neverland, the Enchanted Forest, New York, Camelot—”
“I know, but it’s made by the very first spark, right?” Emma glanced at Regina for confirmation.
“That’s what Blue said.” Regina gestured toward them. “When did your feelings for each other begin?”
As she gave Killian her attention once more, Emma answered, “For me, it was at the top of a beanstalk.”
Taken aback, Killian didn’t immediately respond. “How…I mean…” He shook his head. “You left me there. How could that be when you felt the first stirrings for me?”
With a little grin, she shrugged. “I told you I couldn’t take the chance that I was wrong about you. I felt an attachment to you then. But, even though I was drawn to you, I was too afraid to trust it. Besides, why would I get involved with a man who had no ties to my family or Storybrooke? Whatever it was you caused to happen inside me didn’t matter. I didn’t think you would stay. However, I couldn’t keep my heart from flipping every time you looked my way.”
He stared at her, stunned. “I never expected…” He blinked then let out a noise of disbelief. “I would have to agree with you, love, that if our sapling exists, it’s at the top of a beanstalk.”
“Can we afford for you to be wrong, though?” Regina questioned. She rose and paced the length of the bed. “Perhaps there’s a way to be sure. I can make a true love mixture from strands of your hair, then use it to locate any sort of true love object you left behind using the globe in Gold’s shop.” As she thought, she narrowed her eyes. “Yes, I think I can do that.” She shook a finger. “The Talisman Spell Book. It should have something about that.”
“Let’s take what you need from Mom and Killian then go to your vault,” Henry suggested. He was already heading for the door.
Regina looked at Snow and David, and Emma’s heart twisted at the uncertain expression on the woman’s face. “This will work,” Emma promised Regina and silently promised them.
“I hope so,” Regina whispered then she took a hair from Emma and Killian and followed Henry out.
Relatively alone, Emma let out a weary sigh and rested her temple on Killian’s shoulder. He kissed the crown of her head. The quiet descended, but was soon disrupted by the light crying of Neal.
Emma slipped from Killian’s hold and went to care for her brother. She checked the time and noticed he needed to be fed. While she cradled him in one arm, she prepared a bottle.
Boots scuffed on the wood planks as Killian drew near. “I’m sorry I let Gideon trap me on the Nautilus.”
“I’m sorry I thought you had truly left.” Emma leaned against the counter as she fed Neal.
“What happened while I was gone?” he asked.
She looked up at him and shrugged. “You know, spiders coming through portals, arguments with Gold, hunts for pixie flowers, and a drunk mother. The usual.”
His brow drew down. “A drunk mother?”
After letting out a soft chuckle, Emma explained. “Girls night out ended up with Snow challenging a bunch of Vikings to a hatchet toss. Loser paid the bill.”
“And?” Killian’s gaze gleamed with merriment.
“Didn’t have to pay for a single drink.” Emma caught the note of pride in her tone.
He laughed. “I’m not surprised she won, but remind me to trust your mother’s aim even after one too many.”
She gave him a soft smile then silence settled once more. They looked at each other, and Emma’s heart flooded with gratefulness. “I’m so glad you’re home.”
“When the bean didn’t work, and I ended up in Neverland, I must admit I was worried.” He rubbed the back of his neck, then leaned against the counter. “But I never would’ve stopped trying to get back to you.”
Emma gently withdrew the bottle to lift Neal to her shoulder. As she gazed at the man who was now her fiancé, his statement reminded her of the conviction she had doubted. “After everything that’s happened, all the battles we’ve fought with success, sometimes I still get scared we won’t win.” She flicked her gaze to the area where her parents slept. Neal cooed while he slumbered on her shoulder, and she touched her cheek to his soft hair.
“That’s what a villain does, love. Makes you feel like all hope is gone, but…” He straightened and came around the counter to where she was. He raised his hand to stroke her hair. “As you can see, it’s not. We’re together again. We have a possible way to save your parents. It’ll be all right.”
His support, even before they were a couple, had been something she’d not only appreciated, but depended on. Her thoughts went back to the moment she’d seen his ship on the horizon. That image would always be clear in her mind, reminding her when the first rays of hope had clutched her heart.
He lowered his arm, and his soft and adoring look drew her in. She leaned forward and gave him a light kiss. Neal never made a sound. “I think he’s done eating. He’s such a chunk.”
Killian chuckled lightly as she walked over to the cradle and gently laid her brother inside. Would her idea work? If she and Killian did have a sapling, would they be able to get to it? She let out a breath and tilted her head back.
Killian came up behind her and placed his hand on her shoulder. “It’s a sound idea. We’ll find our baby tree, and the light inside it will diminish the darkness in your parents’ hearts.”
She turned and slid into his arms. “You’re right. I know it. I can feel it deep inside me.”
“All that hope talk your mother gives you is finally paying off.” He stroked her back.
She made a noise of rueful agreement. “It worked on you, too.”
“Well, it also helped that you broke through my villainous ways like a cannon blast.” He pulled away enough to look down at her. “I knew you’d been abandoned same as me, but there you were, fighting so damned hard for love. Whether you knew it or not. And you battled for everyone. Even Regina. That sincerity, coupled with your challenge that I try to be someone better…” He shook his head in amazement. “I’ll never forget any of those early moments with you, Emma. You made me want to shed the mantle of vengeance. I’ll forever be grateful.”
“And I’ll always remember how I felt when I saw your ship on the horizon, coming back to the docks.” She smiled softly at him. “That was the first time I was glad to see someone come to my rescue.”
“The first time, eh? So there was a second?” He grinned at her.
She rolled her eyes. “Just because there was a first doesn’t mean a second time occurred.” She went back to the kitchen to make some coffee.
“I recall you informing me that the only who saves you is you.” He leaned against the counter again.
She scooped ground beans into the filter. “True words. Very true.” She glanced at him, feeling good and glad she bantered with him once more. “Of course, I’m pretty certain I would’ve fallen into the darkness and crushed Merida’s heart if you hadn’t shown up when you did.” She shook her head as she pushed the funnel into the coffee maker. “Always in the nick of time.”
A rueful chuckle came from him. “It’s just our way, love. Have to keep the heart pumping with suspense, hmm?”
After clicking on the machine, she linked her thumbs in her back pockets and drifted to his side. He watched her come, his gaze heating with each step that brought her closer to him. And the glittering desire in his blue depths made hunger curl inside her. “There are other things that make my heart go pitter-patter.”
With a lift of an eyebrow, he replied, “And what’re those?”
In answer, she raised her lips to his and kissed him, softly, slowly. She savored what his touch could do to her, how the feel of him sent her pulse racing. But it was the promise of his love, of his steady support that made her want to drown in him. That conviction she’d detected at the top of a beanstalk had turned her head and made her keep looking his way.
She let out a breath of need and pressed against him, wanting more, needing everything that was him. But now was not the time. She pulled back, breaking their kiss.
He touched his forehead to hers and stroked her jaw. “Later, my darling?”
The door opened and she and Killian broke apart.
“We got it to work,” Henry announced as he entered carrying the translucent globe. “Y’all have a sapling, but we can’t tell where it is.”
Emma reared back. “It’s not in Tiny’s castle?”
The click of Regina’s heels sounded on the wood floor as she followed in behind Henry. She shut the door. “The area doesn’t look at all like a crumbling down fortress.” She gestured toward the globe. “You’ll see.”
Confused, Emma stepped toward where Henry had placed the magical object on the table. Killian and Regina moved in behind her.
Henry’s gaze was lit with interest and curiosity. “The place is not Camelot or Neverland. It doesn’t even look like the Enchanted Forest to me.”
Her mind tumbling with questions, Emma shook her head. “But a sapling is made by the first spark. And ours was at the top of a beanstalk.”
“Maybe the first time you met, wasn’t the first time you met,” Henry said, one corner of his mouth quirked in excitement.
“Come again, lad? You think Emma and I met before we…met?” Killian curled his hands around the back of a chair.
Emma let out a breath. “It doesn’t sound any clearer put that way.”
“But it makes perfect sense,” her son argued. “It’s the only explanation. Watch.” He opened a vial of potion made from the strands of Emma and Killian’s hair and let one drop fall on the needle at the top of the globe.
Wisps of white smoke swirled and danced inside until a scene appeared, clear and beautiful. The landscape made Emma catch her breath, and she took a step back.
“I don’t recognize the place at all,” Killian remarked. “It’s my kind of view, though. That lake is like crystal.”
Emma blinked, unable to comprehend what was before her. She swallowed. Her attention was drawn to the tiny tree, green and healthy, curling not ten yards from a log cabin. “Is that the sapling?”
“Yes,” Regina answered. “But, surely you can see that it lives in an area we aren’t familiar with.”
“How can our baby tree be in a land we know nothing of? Do the sparks travel before they bury themselves in the ground?” Killian leaned forward, assessing the scene with a careful eye.
“I highly doubt that,” Regina offered. “It’s not as if they have a plane to catch.”
An exasperated exhale came from Killian, but before he could speak, Emma whispered, “I know where this is.”
“You do?” Regina replied, surging forward.
“Where is it?” Henry asked, his eager tone revealing his continual love of the surprises of magic.
Killian put his hand on her forearm, turning her toward him. “You recognize this place, love?”
Emma nodded slowly. She knew it well. The cabin. The lake. The overgrown path that led down to a rocky shore. But…Killian had never been there. At least, not that she could remember. “It’s…It’s in Minnesota.”
Chapter Two will be posted, Sunday, November 25th.