I saw him die.

And with his lingering gaze that I had come to know so intimately well, with his arm outstretched to me, as if pleading for forgiveness or redemption, his very last look set on me, he fell, slowly, much too slowly, pain etched in the creases of his wincing brows. Just before he reached the ground I saw his lids cover that infinite cerulean beauty of his irises, never to be seen again…

And with a thud, his body reached the floor, on his side, his ringed fingers curled and pale… dead at the hands of my own father.

In this last day, I had seen a side of Killian Jones that I somehow knew was there all along, visible between the ached and scornful sass of the wanderlust pirate who had seen loss and anger take over his life and who was slowly and painfully improving. I don't mean the cowering scaredy-cat deckhand who chose goat's milk as his signature bevvy; I mean a man who smiled warmly, a friend who was keen to learn, a human soul who instantly connected with mine… a man who in spite of his limited knowledge of swordsmanship (no thanks to Gold and the Author), decided to yield his own life for that of my son and my own, knowing deeply that he and I were more than just casual acquaintances, knowing in his heart that he and I were meant to be something timeless and epic.

I felt the love of Killian Jones, even when he didn't remember it, shine through and reach for me.

And now… My love lay dead on the floor… and it wasn't until that moment, that horrible, breathsucking instant when his name lingered on my trembling lips, that I finally had the courage to admit it to myself: He is… was my one true love. He always will be.

How I wanted to run to him, to hold him and cradle him in my arms, to beg him to forgive me for not telling him ever just what he meant to me, how important and beautiful and perfect he was, how proud I was of him for becoming the man he was for me… how much and how deeply I loved him. I wanted to cry over him, to kiss his eyelids and his lips one final time… To say farewell.

But there was no time. My mother, or her evil alter ego, had cast a flaming red ball of fire my way and I had my son to think about as we ran and abandoned Killian's body to the whims of his murderers.

The rest of that day I spent in hiding, seeking a friend, with my son a silent, mournful companion who wordlessly understood what had just happened, and simply held my hand as I wept my way through this cold, unyielding forest.

I loved him. And too late had I found the courage to say it. It took his brave, valiant death for me to realize how much of a coward I had been.

She is still the empowered soul I knew her to be, only here, she is afraid. She runs for her life and she hides in a hollowed tree trunk to avoid the wrath of my mother.

She too, has seen a loved one go… but in her case it was not into the arms of death, but into the arms of another lover, a far more flesh and bone one, and one that for sure will not make him a happy man. She's much too wicked.

It is amazing to me how despite this warped, horrible AU that this Isaac dude has created for us at the behest of Mr. Gold, where most people (except my son and I) have no vivid recollection of reality, the bonds of love seem unaffected. I know Regina and Robin are entwined, maybe just like Killian and I are.

Were.

God it hurts so much.

How can I let this woman, also marked by loss and regret, walk away and not fight for what is rightfully and fatefully hers? She is a friend now, I care for her happiness, I can't let her deliberately inflict that kind of pain upon her own soul… So I tell her… I openly tell her of how my love passed away, how deeply it hurt to lose him… and how much I regret not ever having told him of my feelings for him. I think she can see my pain and is now weary of living a life with the weight of a blunder of that magnitude on her shoulders.

Thankfully, she's listening… And I have never felt like a bigger coward.

Oh, god, Killian, I miss you. I miss you by my side like you always were. It's true what they say, you don't know what you've got till it's gone, and he's gone.

This alternate Universe better end… or I am damned to live in this fairy tale world where I will forever be cursed to run away from my parents, whom I had so hard fought to find, a world where my son will never be safe… and where I will always have the reminder of Killian's death to haunt me into old age… if I make it that far.

I can't let go off him now.

I want to feel his body mass under my fingers, tangible, real… alive, very much alive.

But I am still a coward. I can't…

Reaching the town after Henry broke the curse of the book, the first place I went to was the loft. My parents looked befuddled… and terrified. Everyone remembered what they had done, and my father had the blood of my boyfriend on his hands. So did my mother, who commanded him to kill him. And now they both stood, fear a clear imprint in their eyes.

And with good reason; Killian was not with them, where they had been when the curse of the book struck. Since everyone else had returned to the exact same spot where they had been in when it happened, it could only mean one thing.

My heart shrunk for a few seconds that felt like much longer than that. The thought that his death had been real hit me head on as I felt tears once again start to well…

Then his voice came from the top landing.

The three of us spun to find him, his usual, smug grin as he once again beamed with pride at having outsmarted death.

All I wanted was to verify he was real, that he was here with us, with me. I ran (fled) up the stairs and jumped on him, calling his name as my body crashed into his. He welcomed me with a laugh, a sound I suddenly knew I would no longer be able to live without, and the momentum had us both crashing down on the bed, I laughed too, hard and into the place where his neck meets his shoulder, and felt him embrace me as he amusedly enjoyed the intimacy of a happy reunion.

As I looked at him, I was relieved, happy, flooded with intent to tell him everything I had thought when he died before my eyes, a moment more perfect, more tailor made for the both of us could not have been…

But the words stayed on the tip of my tongue. I couldn't say them. Three… measly words. The perfection of him being alive and the fear of this perfect, beautiful moment being broken like glass with the weight of these words suddenly weighed me down.

I said to him that I was grateful for his death. Pathetic.

He did look a bit disappointed, which was a mild relief. I know he loves me back, I do. I just… I can't say it. I want to. I want him to KNOW it from my lips, and I know that he will give me all the time in the world for me to find the perfect moment.

But now… for now… I am happy just to be able to lean my head on his shoulder again, to be held by him. I have to say that hearing the Charmings apologize to him amused us both; my parents haven't always been the most agreeing of people when it came to my relationship with Killian. But I sense that the apology was not reduced to him getting stabbed, rather it was addressed at everything: the doubt, the lack of trust… I think it was plain to see that the man who in spite of his cowardice was willing to yield his life for his daughter made my dad admit that his little girl couldn't be in better hands. Or… Hand. Whatever.

It hurts, physically!

I can feel the pull, the energy and the fear and anger pulsating right beside me as I plunge into the abyss.

I am scared, more scared than I've ever been. I have not seen my Henry since we returned and I won't get a chance for a farewell. But my son, my little boy, is a bona-fide hero now, and I trust the power of love my family wields, because it is a force to be reckoned with… My mother and father, who will do anything for me, even the darkest deeds… I ask them now to save me, not with curses or misdoings, but with love and light. I jump into the blackness and I am stopped by the pull of Killian's hook on my arm.

"Emma, no, please, please don't do this!" He begs, with tears in his eyes, the wind blowing against his face and his lips contorted in anguish over once again losing the woman I know he loves more than everything and anything.

He has to know. I am about to give my own life for his, for my friend Regina's and everyone else's, like I have seen him do for me. He knows I would never have stopped fighting to save him… and I know the same thing about him. He is relentless. But I cannot part with him dwelling in doubt, I need him to be there for me, to help me and to help my family save me from this… I need him to love me in spite of the blackness I know will soon overcome my heart.

I reach out for his hand and place it on top of my chest, right over the place where that heart that he swore to win and protect, sits beating ten miles per minute. With my other hand, I caress his face, that beautiful face, always eager and full of love and promise… And looking into his teary eyes with mine, I finally find the pluck to say it.

"I love you…." Clear, concise… honest to god.

Because in those three words, sits every ounce of truth, passion, desire, history and life. I love him.

He leans into me, his forehead touching mine, as tears finally make their way down his face, and I push him away violently, because I know that he will say it back, he will tell me he loves me too, with all his heart… and if he does, I will never get this done, ever. I will curl back up into his arms and let the world around us collapse for the taste of a brief instant of pure bliss.

I know that the words that he kept to himself will drive him, impulse him to fight like he always does… and the last thing I see before darkness finally engulfs me is once again, his bluer than blue gaze fixed on mine… and in that perfect mauve stare lies the promise that he and my loved ones will fight to the ends of this and any world, so that we can all be together again.

I love you, Killian.