Author's Note: Companion piece to Soft as Sunshine. While it's not entirely necessary to read it before delving into this piece, I do recommend it for full comprehension of conversational exchanges and character motivations. I picked and pulled at this chapter for too long, now I'm just going to let it be. Hopefully it entertains without any snags in the flow. Constructive Criticism is always welcomed.
Disclaimer: Have never and probably will never own rights to Once Upon a Time, its characters or plot. I simply borrow for mine and other's amusement.
Gentle as Falling Rain
Emma was bored.
Just as she'd been about to skip out the door she'd been informed that an important envoy had docked late the day before, and was expected to arrive that morning with an important document in hand. And yes, her presence was required.
So she was forced to wait for these messengers with an ever-increasing itch to do nothing more than dash out into the warm, inviting sunshine and simply breathe.
The rain of yesterday had ceased and cleared overnight leaving the world sparkling, fresh, new and alive. She wanted to be out in it, not staring out at it through glass windows as her parents scrutinized yet another dull and wordy contract.
As princess and heir she was all too keenly aware of her responsibilities, took pride in the fact that she was included and even participated in her parents' important meetings. Not only did they expect her to have a working brain but to use it. Her opinions mattered. And she took this duty very seriously.
But surely she could be excused just this once, right? She'd been present for all the previous meetings as they hammered out the details and compromises.
This was merely a formality. A handing over of the official document, complete with signatures, seals and family crests.
Emma sighed gustily. Maybe if she stuck around long enough to give it a quick glance her parents would relent and excuse her from the official ceremonial meeting once they saw that she had found no faults or unexpected changes in the text.
She paused in her footsteps as a burst of giggles accompanied excited whispers from hushed voices.
Emma peered stealthily around the corner to see a trio of maids as they flushed and shoved at each other playfully. She listened closely, curiosity getting the best of her.
"Did you see that smile?"
"Oh! And those eyes. You could absolutely drown in them."
There was a dramatic sigh. "I would have directed him anywhere if he'd asked."
"Right into your bed, you mean?"
Scandalized gasps mixed with flushed faces and gentle swats on the arm.
"I don't know," one piped up. "I rather liked the look of the older one instead."
"The Captain? But he was so…serious."
A light scoff. "I happen to prefer a more serious-minded man, thank you very much. Shows he's responsible and a careful thinker."
"Oh yes, and his tall, broad-shouldered physique had nothing to do with your decision at all."
Snorts and giggles burst from teasing mouths and dancing eyes.
"That's alright," the last voice agreed amicably. "Let her keep the older Jones brother, gives the rest of us more of a chance with the younger, right?"
Good-natured laughter sprang forth as the trio continued further down the hall, continuing their conversation with hushed voices and bright eyes.
Emma considered their discussion. The Jones brothers? The name sounded familiar. She thought she recalled her father mentioning it in passing that morning over breakfast. She scrunched her brows together in concentration as she thought back. Yes, the name Jones had been brought up. A Captain Liam Jones, if she remembered correctly, and something about his younger brother Killian being his lieutenant. It had snagged her hearing, giving her wonder as to how siblings might survive such cramped, close quarters out at sea for months on end with no reprieve and somehow not end up wanting to throttle the other.
Intrigued now by the colorful descriptions the maids had so unknowingly related, Emma decided to do a little observing and investigating of her own.
She stole down the hall in the opposite direction the maids had been heading, figuring she couldn't be too far behind the pair.
Emma passed through the halls like a fleeting shadow, her footsteps silent, just as her mother had taught her, ears and eyes alert for her intended targets.
Hearing a deep, lilting voice that she couldn't place a remembered face to, Emma's eyes gleamed, knowing she'd already found her mark.
She flitted behind a great rounded column, fingers threading through the hair her parents allowed her to keep long and unbound, so as to keep it out of her face as she peeked around the warm stone to observe her quarry.
Her lips twitched up slightly at the sight of yet another seemingly helpless young maid caught in the polite mannerisms of one of the men in uniform before her. The one who was speaking had hair as dark as midnight in contrast to his brother's golden crown. She wondered briefly which of their parents the siblings took after more.
Her eyes narrowed as she studied them, sizing them up against the maids' earlier excited twittering and smiled in smug satisfaction when her guesswork was affirmed mere moments later as the taller, golden haired man rolled his eyes at the other. Obviously, he was the older brother, Captain Liam Jones, and the one with the flirtation, harmless though it appeared, had to be the younger – Lieutenant Killian Jones.
She crept stealthily behind the next pillar, following the pair down the hall as they turned in the direction the stammering young maid had given them. It occurred to her that she could make herself known or, better yet, guide them to her parents herself, but…well, her mother had always insisted that she keep her skills and wit sharp, and hadn't her father always said it was best to get to know your allies as well as your foes? Besides, what was the harm in trailing them for just a few moments more?
Emma felt her lips quirk up in a definite smile at the light, easy banter between the brothers. Their affection for the other would be obvious even to the blind. And while she would understand both the joy and frustration of being a sibling herself before the year was out, what with her parents expecting once more, she knew it would never be the same as what the Jones' brother shared. She had grown up alone – never for want or lack of love or someone to play with, but she could only imagine what her childhood would have been like had she had a little brother or sister tagging along beside her every single day for as far back as her memories could stretch. She imagined it would have looked a little something like what she saw in Liam and Killian now.
She started suddenly, her heart slamming into her chest as she caught the eye of the older Jones brother, his piercing gaze locking onto hers, and realized she'd been caught observing the pair as she had daydreamed.
Emma watched in puzzlement as the eyes of the captain lit up in a burst of inspiration before turning towards his brother with a daring grin. Her body tensed when he challenged his brother to try his flirtations on her.
She stood rooted to the spot as her eyes flitted to the lieutenant to judge his reaction, noting that his wariness was more for the sneaking suspicion he sensed from his brother rather than any fleeting doubt in a lack of his own skill.
She bristled at the younger Jones' offhanded remarks, his complete and utter dismissal of her intelligence and fortitude.
Emma almost jumped out of her shoes when she felt a warm, gentle pressure on her shoulder.
With a move that nearly gave her whiplash she turned to see her mother standing behind her, a finger held to amused lip as she hastened her daughter away from the continuing debate between the captain and his lieutenant.
"Did you hear?" Emma asked once she was sure they were out of earshot, keeping even pace with her mother as they hurried along a back hall so as to appear before the brothers with their sauntering stroll further down the main hall.
The queen, Snow White, her long tresses dancing behind her as she pulled her daughter down a hidden passageway looked over her shoulder with a gleam in her eyes. "Yes." Her lips soared upwards. "And what are you going to do about it?"
Emma looked at her mother in confusion, perhaps a little too innocently. "Do?"
"I know you, Emma. You're not going to let the insult slide, even if it was a foolishly mistaken one."
Emma didn't bother to hide the almost feral grin that graced her lips. "Beat him at his own game, of course. I'll use my own brand of 'wit and charm' to knock that cocky, condescending –"
"– lieutenant," Emma amended what she was going to say at her mother's quiet warning, "right back to where he came from."
Snow smiled despite herself. She and her husband hadn't raised a meek or shy princess, that was for certain. "That's my girl." She couldn't stop the glow of pride, her fingers brushing against the slight bump of her belly unconsciously as she fervently hoped that their next child would grow up just as independent and fierce.
"What has she done now?" A warm, amused voice sounded from behind them, causing mother and daughter to turn as one toward the all-too familiar tone of exasperation mixed with admiration.
"Nothing," Emma chimed, her voice a little too high and a little too innocent.
King David's eyebrow rose as he studied the cheeky grin and bright eyes of his only daughter. "Ah," he mused confidently. "Nothing, yet."
His eyes flickered between his wife and daughter as they shared a conspiratorial glance and sighed. "Whatever you two have planned…I feel sorry for the poor soul stuck at the center of it."
Emma's arms folded across her chest, her stance defensive as a now-familiar lilting voice came from just around the corner. "It's richly deserved," she muttered mutinously.
David caught the telling flash in his daughter's eyes and turned to his wife as a pair of naval officers came into sight around the bend. "Do I want to know?"
"I'll explain later," she assured him in a hushed voice before turning towards their company once more, only to gasp in startled surprise as the object of her daughter's ire stumbled nearly to the floor at her feet.
Emma bit her lip when the smooth-talking lieutenant took his tumble, barely able to hold back a snort of laughter when she caught the fair-haired captain's mischievous wink he sent her way.
It took every ounce of her control to school her face into a polite mask before reaching out a hand to help the flushing young officer to his feet. Emma left her mother to ask her inquires, afraid that if she opened her mouth her façade would split and she would be on the ground next to him albeit rolling in mirth.
She felt a jolt like lightening pass through her when the timber of his voice came out in a slight rumble from his embarrassment as he politely declined her help. The earthly sound reminding her of the warning storm clouds gave preceding the rainfall. It sent a shiver racing through her veins that she barely managed to contain by reminding herself of his earlier words and retracting her offered hand with a raised brow instead.
Courtesies were exchanged before, at last, the very reason for their meeting that day was produced.
Emma joined her parents to give the document a perfunctory once over, biting back the smile that threatened her lips when she caught the glare Killian discreetly threw at his brother.
Satisfied that everything appeared to be in order, Emma stepped back from the contract as her parents sighed quietly in relief.
Taking this as her cue, Emma shared a glance with her mother, one of their silent exchanges that often left her father baffled and awed at how entire decisions could be made without a word. Though it was also with affection and more than a little pride that the two most important women in his life were as close as he could ever hope, sharing secrets and hushed laughter long into the night when the rest of the castle's inhabitants were sleeping. Their quiet voices often sent him into dreams with a contented smile.
With a gentle nod, something was decided between the two and David was too smart to inquire as to what in front of their guests. Especially with that look in their eyes. He sighed quietly inside, wondering which of the unfortunate sailors standing before him was subject to his daughter's plotting.
Emma waited, shifting almost impatiently on her feet as further pleasantries were exchanged, vying for the opportune moment.
Keeping her tone determinedly nonchalant and unassuming she broke into the perfect lull in the conversation, requesting the young lieutenant's presence at her side to accompany her out into the sunshine and gardens – away from the gathering inside.
And oh, she knew that smarted when she caught the flash of annoyance that passed through Killian's eyes at her politely-masked demand.
She met Captain Jones' smile with one of her own, their eyes dancing in barely disguised mischief as he full-heartedly agreed to her request – and then some.
Emma's smile grew. Before the day was out, between her and his brother, Lieutenant Killian Jones wouldn't know what had hit him. He'd rue the day he ever thought to lump her with the lot of "empty-headed princess and stuffed-shirt princes" he assumed were her only associations.
She couldn't wait to introduce him to the company she truly kept – a loving and sharp-witted werewolf for a godmother and seven overly-protective and crafty godfathers were just the beginning.
Emma paused at the last thought, wondering when the idea of spending more time beyond her light-hearted but oh-so-satisfyingly-justified revenge had decided to spring up, and where it was stemming from.
Her heart leapt in her chest when Killian turned swiftly towards her, masking his irritation with a mask that was nearly as flawless as her own.
His lips lifted into a heart-stopping smile as he offered her his arm with all the airs of gentlemanly decorum.
Two can play at this game, Emma thought as she let out the full bloom of her own smile, her hand sliding into the crook of his arm with an assured grace.
At the polite casual touch Emma felt something inside her both leap and sigh, startling her as thoroughly as a clap of thunder follows an unexpected bolt of lightning.
Wondering green eyes met captivated blue and Emma did her best to hide the rush of electricity that raced through her veins, shifting closer to him unconsciously, drawn like a moth to a flame.
She managed to tear her gaze away from his only long enough to give their proper departing curtsey and bow to her parents, noting the curious look on her mother's face and the suddenly protective one on her father's before suddenly they were blinking rapidly at the sunlight that shone upon their faces.
Emma took a moment to close her eyes and happily breathe in the clean, fragrant air around them, walking with an assurance that spoke of long familiarity amongst the twisting stone pathways.
The welcoming sight of blossoming dahlias, foxgloves, snapdragons, mimosas, phloxes, peonies, periwinkles and monkshood made her heart soar until she realized with bemusement that they stood as tall and straight as the young naval officer at her side, propriety taking over in the wake of an absent mind as he gazed about him as if in a dream.
She glanced his way to steal another amused peek at his faraway expression only to find, with a start, that his gaze was now fixated solely on her.
Emma's heart raced even as a smile she couldn't suppress lifted the corners of her lips into a dazzling smile. His answering flush had her grinning all the more as a tune like that of a songbird trilled through her heart.
"How are you finding our kingdom, Lieutenant?" She asked with a false innocence. "Is it to your liking?"
"Aye, Princess," he answered back, his usual lilting tone subdued and more than a little mesmerized.
"It must seem small in comparison to the world you've seen," she reiterated his earlier boast with a disarming side glance, making sure to interject a note of seeming apology to hold off any suspicions lest she tip her hand too soon.
"I've found that some of the most alluring discoveries can be found in the smallest and most unexpected places." His eyes met hers and held them.
His unexpected and bold declaration had her cheeks in flames, the intensity of his gaze had Emma dropping hers, needing a moment to remember how to breathe as her heart pounded and her blood sang in her veins.
She immediately sat upon the bench they were about to pass, afraid her trembling limbs would give out on her, needing a moment to gather her wits about her once more.
She refused to let him get the upper hand so easily. This was her game to win.
Emma felt him sit beside her, every fiber of her being all too aware of his every minute movement and she hurriedly called up the memories of Killian's conversation with his brother in the hallway to quietly center herself once more, to steel her spine and banish the quake in her knees.
She gave up trying to calm the furious beating of her heart.
"Your reputation precedes you, Lieutenant." The quiet gossip of the maids rang loud in her ears.
"Does it now?"
She felt a lock of unruly hair slide forward and fall across her vision, but before she could raise her hand, his was already there, playing with the golden strands for the briefest of moments until he slid them back into place, his fingertips dancing as soft as a faerie's wing across her cheek as he did so.
Emma swore she felt her heart stutter to a stop, her breath catching as cheeks darkened to a shade of scarlet never seen before on her face.
She cursed at her involuntary reactions, nothing but her inherited sheer stubborn will stopping her from making a fool of herself and falling right into his hands, fulfilling his over-confident earlier boasts.
She turned then, and with one look at his completely besotted face she felt all her inner lamenting vanishing in an instant.
She had him.
He looked at her as one would look at an approaching storm – a force of nature you could either hide from or meet head-on – a look filled with awe and slight trepidation.
A wild, daring idea struck her and she glanced around quickly, checking to make sure they were completely alone lest word traveled back to her parents before she could relay the story herself, and throw this young lieutenant onto a rocky path with her overprotective father, ensuring him a swift chase out of the kingdom.
Assured, she felt a giddy rush propel her forward as she startled him with a kiss as soft and fleeting as summer rain.
When she released his lips, drawing back only far enough from his warmth to meet his captivated gaze with the sparking one of her own, she didn't bother to hide the grin that filled her so completely, inside and out.
"A word of advice, Lieutenant," she whispered, her voice unwilling to break the almost magical bubble they were enveloped in, and just as equally unable to resist the teasing challenge in her tone as she reminded him of the foolish agreement he had made with his brother. "Do not take up a challenge you have no hope of winning."
Refusing to give him the chance to collect his wits but powerless to fight the urge to touch him once more, she left a last gentle kiss upon his cheek before dashing back through the maze of flowers, trees and shrubs as fast as her legs would carry her, afraid that if she lingered for a single moment longer she would be incapable of finding the wherewithal to do so without him by her side.
And that simply wouldn't do.
When she later finds her mother and relates every blessed detail with flushed cheeks and stammering words, Snow graces her daughter with a tight embrace and proud eyes.
Her godmother, Ruby, walks in not moments later, remarking over the curious sight of the delicious-looking man walking around the castle in half a daze, and Emma can't stop the victorious grin that stretches across her face.
Ruby, as quick as ever, gives her an audacious wink and delighted bout of laughter in return.
Snow carefully studies her daughter as she makes the suggestion to invite the captain and his lieutenant to share in their supper, noting the resultant blush that forms on her face, silent testimony to what Snow has suspected from the start.
Emma, however, misses the shrewd look in her mother's eyes, too lost in recalling fingertips as gentle as falling rain and eyes as clear a blue as the sky after it clears…
And hopes it's not as fleeting.