He stares at his brimming glass, wondering how much he will have to drink in order to forget that Emma has left him alone while she attends to another man, a man she's allowed to love her for the last eight months. A man whom, in her own words, she cares too much about.
Only one way to find out, he decides.
The rum burns as it should, but it doesn't take away the taste of guilt that stains his thoughts. He suspects nothing ever will, because apparently remembering who she really was – and who he really was – had been like waking up from a really good dream. She had been happy, and he has taken that from her. He cannot excuse himself on the premise that he only did so because her parents were in danger, not when he has made her his personal quest for last year. Not when he had already gone to the ends of the earth to find a way to reach her side. The message he'd received had simply been a sign that he was on the right path, or so he'd thought at the time.
He knows now that he would have taken anything – anything – as a sign.
She had hardly spoken to their journey from the constabulary to her apartment, and he had respected that. Let her be alone with her thoughts (all of them, lies and truth mingled together) despite his eagerness to talk to the real Emma Swan once more. Once they were in her apartment, she had poured them both a drink without speaking, just as he had done below deck at the start of their journey to Neverland, and the same wariness had ebbed and flowed around them like a leaden tide. There is much he hasn't told her, and much she hasn't bothered asking, and picking up the thread of the thoughts and words that had last lain between them is proving more difficult than he ever imagined.
Glad to see you haven't changed.
There wasn't anything for me in the Enchanted Forest. Why would I stay?
Only one shared moment - open and honest and raw enough to give him hope - before they were once again interrupted, and now she is with another man (one for whom she cares too much) and Hook wants very much to believe that he is an honourable man and won't indulge in the sin of envy, but he knows he is feeling far from honourable at this moment.
The scraping noise above his head has him on his feet, a knee-jerk reaction that rips him from his chair. He stares down the hallway, feeling his muscles twitch as if poised for flight, knowing she won't thank him for needlessly interfering, knowing she can take care of herself.
But knowing is one thing; believing she's not in danger is quite a different matter.
The sound comes again, followed by raised voices and an unholy screech that makes his blood run cold, and his feet are moving before he can catch a steadying breath. Taking the two flights of stairs to the roof in four long strides, he's never cursed his lack of hook or cutlass more in his life.
His shoulder slamming into the door, the cold night air is a shock to his heated skin as he finds her standing alone on the roof. She's alone, and that makes no sense. "Swan! What in blazes was that?"
Her breath coming in heavy gasps, she stares at him. "A reminder." Her voice is flat, devoid of emotion, but cold fury radiates off her in waves. "That I was never safe." Her eyes are blazing, her grip white-knuckled on the length of metal in her hand. "That what I wanted, what I thought I could have was not in the cards for the saviour."
She steps away and around him, her gaze sliding away from his. "We leave in the morning." She vanishes through the door to the stairs, but not before tossing aside her makeshift sword with a harsh clatter.
He stares after her. It's the outcome he wanted, but something is quite wrong. "Swan?" He's chasing after her yet again, bloody woman. "What the hell happened? Where the devil is your man?"
She doesn't pause in her flight down the stairs. "Turns out he wasn't my man." An unsteady laugh tumbles from her lips, but there is no humour in the sound, rather it's filled with a bitterness that makes his chest tighten. "God."
She leads the way back down to her apartment as though the devil is at her heels, and by the time he shuts and locks the door behind them, she's already refilling her glass and throwing back a measure of rum. "I should have known it was too good to be true." She slams her empty glass onto the table top, so hard the base of the tumbler cracks. Stepping to her side, he puts his hand over hers on top of the glass, and feels the tremors that shake her.
She doesn't look at him. "He wasn't who I thought he was."
He curls his fingers around hers, willing her to look at him. "Hate to tell you this, love, but that's a common complaint amongst the fairer sex."
Pulling her hand away with a determination that stings him, she finally meets his gaze with hers. "He wasn't what I thought he was, either."
Her eyes are still glittering with the light of battle, but her face is pale. Too pale, he thinks. "How do you mean?"
"He changed," she says in a flat, almost mocking tone. "Wings, teeth, claws, the whole shebang." She looks away again, as though she doesn't want to see his reaction. "A demon, a flying monkey, who the fuck knows what he really was?"
Stunned into silence, he can only watched as she picks up her cracked glass, walks into the kitchen and flings it into the wet sink. The sound of shattering glass briefly fills the quiet apartment, then there is nothing but the ticking of her wall clock and the sound of their breathing. "Eight months." She leans back against the sink, arms wrapped around herself as though trying to ward off her own thoughts, her gaze fixed on the floor at her feet. "Eight months of lies on top of the fake life Regina had already shoved in my head."
He stares at her, shocked at how close he had come to losing her, losing her forever while he sat swilling rum in her apartment. Even here, she hadn't been safe. She never had been. If he was still looking for a sign that he was right to come for her, he has found it. "Emma-"
"You know, I get it now. I do." Her voice is louder now, and there's a hysteria twisted through the words that has him clenching his fist at his side to stop himself from reaching for her. "I don't get a happy ending, and that's it."
"You'll be in good company then, love." He finally yields to the lure of her, picking up his own empty glass before moving to stand before her, so close he can smell the fresh scent of her perfume and the more familiar scent of her skin, her warmth. "I'm a pirate, remember. I'm a villain, so apparently I don't get one, either."
She lifts her head, her eyes meeting his at last. "You're not a villain."
The conviction in her voice sends tiny tendrils of warmth though his chest. "Aren't I, though?" He smiles at her, desperately wanting to see the shell-shocked look vanish from her eyes. "You're the one who had me tossed in the brig today, after all."
"I'm also the one who bailed you out." The corner of her mouth twitches. It's not an actual smile, but it's a start, he thinks. "Sorry about that, by the way."
"Not at all," he tells her, inwardly shuddering at the culinary memory of his incarceration. "If anything, it was reassuring to know your self-preservation instincts were still intact, despite Regina's meddling in your head."
And just like that, the shutters come back down. "Apparently, not as intact as they could have been." She takes a deep breath, then looks over his shoulder, studying the apartment behind him. "I'll have to drive back to Storybrooke, I can't leave the car here." She pushes herself away from the sink, but that only brings her closer, close enough to make his heart stutter in his chest. She hesitates, dark eyelashes fluttering as she blinks, and he sees the pink flush that stains her pale cheeks. "Uh, where did you stash your ship this time?"
He knows he should take a step back, give her some space, but he can't quite bring himself to do it. "I didn't sail here, love."
She frowns. "Then how did you get here?"
"That's a bit of a long story, Swan, and one best kept for another night." He's always been quite the master of understatement, and it appears nothing has changed. "You should rest." He places his own glass very carefully beside the wet sink. "I'll return in the morning to rendezvous with you and your boy." And with that, he knows he must go, before he befuddles her thoughts and her heart even more by telling her the truth of his. Without touching her, he bows his head quickly, then turns to walk down her hallway.
He closes his eyes. Please, Swan. Just let me leave while I still can. He turns back to face her. "Yes?"
"If the Jolly Roger isn't here, then where have you been sleeping?" He says nothing – he has his pride, after all – and her eyes soften. "Have you even been sleeping?"
He shrugs, wondering if his exhaustion is as obvious as it feels, as though it's sinking down into his very bones. The park benches and bus shelters in this area are far from comfortable. That detail is moot at this point, but he is not about to tell her that he plans to spend the rest of the night keeping watch outside her apartment door.
"Seriously?" She's become all too adept at reading him, it seems. "Okay, you take the couch." She looks at the clock on the wall. "As long as you're gone by the time Henry gets home at seven, it should be fine."
"Spending the night alone with a pirate?" He flings the teasing words at her, praying they mask the hope he fears is blazing in his face. "What would your parents say?"
"Hook, it's been a long day and now I remember that I know how to use a gun." She shrugs off her red coat and tosses it carelessly over the back of the nearest wooden chair. "You've already done enough today, okay? Just give it a rest."
Stung by the unspoken dismissal (which settles in nicely next to the guilt wedged in the pit of his stomach), he doesn't bother sugar-coating his retort. "Remember what they say - don't shoot the messenger, love."
They stare at each other for a long, loaded moment, and he can feel the air practically bristling around them. Too much left unspoken, too much time between them. "Is that what you are?" She finally takes a step towards him. There's an underlying challenge in her words, matching the subtle lift of her chin. "Just the messenger, sent to bring me back for the greater good?"
"I already told you." He stands his ground, because he always did like a challenge, even if every word feels like it's cracking a fissure through his heart, just like her bloody glass. "I came back to save you."
"And you did. Thank you." Her eyes glitter with the tears he knows she's desperately trying not to shed in front of him. "But right now I'm angry and I'm tired and I'm so over nothing and no one ever being what they seem."
"Does that include me, lass?" He steps slowly towards her, his hands (both flesh and leather) raised in supplication. "You said yourself I hadn't changed."
"No." Her bottom lip trembles faintly, and he sees her pale throat work as she swallows hard. "I know exactly who you are."
Exhaling a heavy, thick sigh (because the time has long passed for leaving with his heart intact, it seems) he lifts his right hand to touch her face, the smooth skin of her cheek warm and silken against his palm. He waits the space of one, two, three heartbeats, then he kisses her.
It's a chaste tasting of her lips, nothing more, but his blood is already thundering in his ears. Her hands come up to clutch at the front of his shirt, pulling him closer, then her mouth softens and opens beneath his, sharing her heat and the taste of spice and rum, her tongue tangling languidly with his. The rush of desire that slams through him almost sends him staggering backwards, but her hands tighten in the fabric of his shirt, holding him steady.
Despite the raw hunger that is clawing at every inch of him, the kiss stays slow and soft, almost lazy. Time seems to slow and accelerate at once, stretching and warping around them, his world narrowing down to the feel of her mouth on his, the gentle rhythm of her breathing, the scent of her teasing his senses, making his head swim.
When it's over, he can scarcely breathe. His arms are tight around her, although he has no memory of moving, and her body is pressed against him from shoulder to knee and there is nowhere for him to hide from the fact that he is beyond in love with this woman.
Time to take a step back, at least for tonight. "Get some rest, Swan," he murmurs, his lips a mere breath away from hers, praying she will again have the strength of will she displayed on that wretched island and walk away from him while he can still let her go. "It's a long drive back to Storybrooke tomorrow."
Confusion flashes in her eyes, then she nods, a jerking bow of her head. "Good idea." Swallowing loudly, she untangles her hands from the front of his shirt, takes a step backwards herself, then hastily takes him up on the escape he is offering her. "You can let yourself out in the morning. Come back at eight o'clock." With that, she's gone. A few seconds later, he hears a door slam at the other end of the apartment, and he can only assume she has found refuge in her bedroom.
He takes the couch.
He barely sleeps.
He doesn't care.
The next morning, he is up and moving before the sun appears on the horizon, a lifetime of rising with the tides built into his very bones. He resists the urge to wake her, knowing that to linger would be courting danger of a very complicated kind. The thought of visiting her bedchamber in the soft morning light while she sleeps fills him with thoughts more carnal than he cares to admit. There will be a time and a place for such things, and sadly, it is not the here and now.
The city is still filled with both strange and wondrous sights, but he barely sees them. All he sees is Emma. He can still taste her on his tongue, still feel the soft curves of her burned into his palms. He lingers in the early morning sunshine, waiting restlessly until the hour reaches eight o'clock, then he returns. This time, he does not have to manoeuvre his way past the wired gates and glowing red locks and charm elderly women by offering to carry their paper bags of supplies. He had taken the liberty of arming himself with the white pass key he'd found on Emma's kitchen counter, and he cannot help but marvel at this realm in which he has found himself. It has a magic all its own, it seems.
He knocks, as custom dictates he must, and the door is opened with gratifying haste. It's an odd replaying of their first meeting in this new setting, and the difference between then and now - her tentative smile warms him through - makes him feel as though he could slay dragons with his bare hand.
"You ready, Swan?"
Out of the corner of his eye, he sees her blush.
Pirate, he thinks, and smiles.