burning in the fire of a thousand smiles :: iii
It was December sixth, and London had been even more vehemently opposed to the concept of decent weather than usual for the last six weeks, resulting in a miserable cavalcade of rain, more rain, freezing rain, fog, and the old favorite, the ice storm that shut down City transit and made Scotland laugh at them, all the while never with any snow to put anyone in a holiday mood. At least everything was beautifully decorated, including the annual Buckingham Palace Christmas tree, which stood eighteen feet tall and was velvet-roped off in its own nook for the admiration of the public. The royal family’s actual tree was in their private quarters, also roped off to discourage Prince Neal from leaving his superhero figures in its branches. Even the Duke of York did not get to improve the stately traditional ornaments with Iron Man doing wheelies.
As for Emma, she had been working so much that she barely noticed either of these adornments. She knew that she had earned her bona fides as an actual employee, and not just a prize public-relations piece, when the curator yelled at her for leaving a box of old books from the Heller estate in the light and air for too long, even if she had wanted to cry afterward. But Killian had comforted her and told her stories of horrible things he had done as a new employee and it was a miracle they hadn’t chucked him on the spot, and bought her a large hot chocolate with cinnamon (how had he known she liked it that way?) from the Library café until she felt better.
The sixth was a Friday, the last day Emma was supposed to be there until the new year, and she was having trouble with the idea that she wouldn’t see Killian until then – not even through Liam, as he too would be taking the holidays off. She hoped it would be good for him. He had gotten increasingly abstracted and not quite there over the autumn, unless to interrupt any potential moment between her and Killian with Swiss-train-like predictability. To speak of which, she was leaving for her Alps chalet on Sunday, and while she was not sure that Killian would not completely panic if she asked if he wanted to come with her, still she was extremely close to doing just that. It wasn’t as if he would be the only guest – Elsa’s younger sister Princess Anna and her boyfriend Kristoff were also coming, and if he was worried about missing Christmas at home, they would be back in London by the twenty-third, so Emma could go up to Norfolk with the rest of the royal family. And if he didn’t want to… well, he could always say no, and she would just have to deal with it.