A/N: Tag to 3x19. Wasn't going to write something for this episode, but then I heard this song and had feelings.
TW: Mentions of behaviour that might be considered a mild form of self-harm. Nothing too major, but I figure better safe than sorry.
The skin on Killian's left arm is callused and numb, a mess of scar tissue where the leather of his hook's brace has worn away at the flesh for over three centuries.
As he sits alone in Granny's diner, watching the sun sink below the horizon through the glass doors and night settle over Storybrooke like a blanket, he wraps the fingers of his hand around his arm and digs in with his nails. At first he feels nothing, but he squeezes harder and harder until the first pinpricks of sensation form. His hand begins to ache before he even starts to feel the beginnings of pain, but when it finally comes, he can't stop, fingers locked in, nails pressing hard through his sleeve as he lets the blunt stinging sensation ebb and throb in time with the pulses of anger that continue to surge through him.
He is so, so angry.
It has been a raging internal war since he left the boathouse, hating himself and the Charmings in turn. His mind flies from why would you be so stupid as to try and send the boy away, you as good as kidnapped him, stupid, stupid fool to how dare they accuse me of lying to them, I who risked my life for them in Neverland, I who brought their daughter back, I never lied, I never lied, faster than he can think.
Mostly the former. Because for every furious, sarcastic question he flings at them in his mind- have I not proved myself by now? Haven't I given you reason enough to trust me? - comes an answer he does not want to hear.
Maybe I haven't proved myself by now.
Maybe it wasn't enough, not enough reasons to trust me – because for David and the Echo Cave there was the Dark Hollow and Neal, Neal who he let walk out of that hospital (but he would have died anyway, wouldn't he? Maybe? Maybe if he hadn't gone to the forest they could have figured something out).
And, of course, there is Ariel, a dark shadow at the back of his mind, a lurking paranoia that maybe they know, maybe she found them after she came to find me, and even if they don't know it doesn't change anything. He still did it. Ariel trusted him and he betrayed her and if he is capable of that surely he is capable of betraying anyone.
He is still a pirate, after all.
The door tinkles and his head snaps up. To his surprise, it is Archie who enters, head ducked, shaking out his umbrella – the weather has been all over the place today. When he looks up and sees that Hook is the only other person in the diner he flinches back and Killian struggles to keep a straight face. Here it is, another remind of his past transgressions, things he thought had been forgiven but apparently weren't after all.
Archie dithers in a way that Killian might find amusing if he wasn't so drained. He looks like he wants to walk back out of the diner but by now it is too awkward to leave. When he finally crosses the room, heading for a booth as far from Killian as possible, he keeps his umbrella between them as though it will somehow protect him.
Killian can't help but snort at that, and clenches his fingers into his flesh one last time before letting go.
The pain fades away slowly, flooding warmth through his arm as it goes, and when he reaches for the flask at his belt he is surprised to find that his hand is shaking.
Maybe from his fingers being held in one tense position for so long.
Maybe because the adrenaline – from the boat house, from the anger – is fading away now, giving way to a desolated sort of upset that has him kicking himself, thinking, weak.
He takes a long, slow swig from the flask, but it only serves to distract him for so long, and when he looks back up Archie is watching him with something more like curiosity than fear.
Killian waves a hand tiredly. "I am not going to hurt you, cricket. You can let your guard down."
"How am I supposed to believe that?" Archie challenges – and Killian can't help but smile a bit. He had a vague impression of the man as a bit of a pushover, but it seems he was mistaken.
"Believe what you want," he replies. "Everyone else seems to."
Maybe it is the exhaustion in his voice, or the fact that at that point the day's events start catching up to him and he slumps back in the booth in a show of weakness that Captain Hook would never display. Either way, something flickers in Archie's face and he stands and crosses the room, sitting at the edge of the booth just across from Killian's. Killian glances over at him, confused, wondering what he wants.
"It's really good to see Regina helping Emma and the others," Archie begins, and Killian stares at him, wondering what concern Regina is possibly meant to be to him. "She looks so happy now. I used to talk to her – after the first curse was broken; I tried to help her, as much as I could. I didn't think I was getting through but now – seeing her on good terms with Snow and David, with her son – seeing her open up to Robin? It's fantastic."
"That is lovely," Killian says, and takes another swig of rum. There is an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of his stomach.
He is not stupid. He knows what Archie is getting at – trying to discern whether he's had a similar transformation, trying to be encouraging, in his own well-meaning, overly-forgiving sort of way.
Normally Killian would feel almost pleased, at being lumped in with Regina as one of the redeemed, as part of the Charming clan.
Not when he's just been as good as exiled, all his efforts for nothing.
The anger surges up again, his mind lashing out at Emma – only momentarily, even after today he can't quite bring himself to blame her – at Snow, at David, who he thought had been his friend, at himself most of all.
He grips his arm again, squeezing, needing to let it out somehow, but jumps when Archie is suddenly in front of him, one hand grabbing his wrist, tentative at first before getting a firmer hold and prying his fingers away. Killian is too stunned to push him off.
"Please don't," Archie says quietly.
Killian glances up but can't meet his gaze for very long because suddenly he is ashamed. He pointedly jerks his hand back, grabbing for his flask, but it is light and empty now and his fingers are trembling again.
"I don't know what happened today," Archie says slowly, "But it's not just Regina I've seen helping Snow and David protect the town lately."
Killian scoffs and opens his mouth and then realises he has nothing to say. Archie is staring at him intently and he has the uncomfortable feeling that the other man is psychoanalysing him. Seeing things that maybe even Killian himself can't begin to realise yet.
"What happened today," Killian says finally, bitterly, because he might as well admit it to someone and the cricket is as good as any, "Is that I learned that apparently nothing I do can make up for a past of lies."
"You're not lying right now," Archie replies.
"You can't know that for sure. Even now," he spits, "You are wondering whether you should be afraid of me. Maybe I'm going to turn against you. Maybe I'm actually working for Zelena."
"You aren't working for Zelena."
"I could be. You don't know."
"Now it just sounds like you're trying to convince me that you are," Archie says, and laughs. Killian does not think it is funny.
"I'm not afraid of you," Archie says then.
"You were when you came in."
"Yes, I was – see, that's the thing about truth. I'm not lying because I'm not afraid of you now. I was afraid five minutes ago, not currently. Truth isn't an absolute – it sounds strange, I know, but that's how it is. Honesty is not about telling everyone everything. It's about being genuine in what you do tell them. Even when you held me captive," Archie says, steadily, and looks at him without flinching, "Your anger, your desire for vengeance – that was genuine. It doesn't make it okay. But you're not a liar, Killian."
Killian jerks back. "How do you know my name?"
"Everyone calls you that now. Emma, Henry." Archie looks uncertain suddenly. "Did you not want...?"
Killian remains silent and Archie seems to take that as acceptance. He slides into the seat opposite.
"I lied," Killian says, "If only by omission."
"To keep them safe," and he barely knows why he's revealing all this. Perhaps from some childish, desperate desire for at least one person to believe him. "But I behaved like a fool, and they can't trust me. I wouldn't trust me, not after everything I've done."
He'd thought he'd earned it by now, but their doubt is swiftly becoming his doubt.
"I've known Snow and David a long time," Archie tells him. "They're good people. They mean very well. But they're not always the best judges of character."
"And you are?"
"Well, you haven't tried to kill me yet," Archie points out.
There is a moment of silence. Killian realises that the tension in his shoulders has vanished. The anger is still there, a dull ache in the pit of his stomach, but now he is tired more than anything else.
"You're too trusting, Doctor," he says finally. "Too forgiving. Someone's going to use that against you someday."
It's all he has to offer – a gruff warning, some acknowledgement of the other's innate goodness – not so much disapproval as grudging admiration – and Archie seems to realise that. He smiles.
"Someone, maybe. But not you." He glances at the counter, where one of the wait staff has emerged from a back room, glancing over at them as she wordlessly questions whether they want to order. "And now, to make up for kidnapping me, you can buy me dinner."
Killian gives a scoffing laugh, but leans forward across the table and passes him a menu.
The doubt is still there, the anger, but he can bury it for now.
It's dark by the time Emma walks out of the hospital, pulling her jacket closer around her against the nighttime chill. She's exhausted, both physically and emotionally, from the fear of Zelena's attack today, the adrenaline of using her magic deliberately, offensively for the first time. The elation and emotion of her baby brother's birth.
Leo. The thought of him brings a smile to her face. Part of her had been worried – afraid what her own reaction would be. That she would feel like she was being replaced. But the moment she saw the baby she knew she could never resent him. Could never begrudge her parents this second chance.
Regina is still at the hospital and Emma trusts her ability to defend her parents enough to go home and grab some sleep, if only for a few hours.
She's tired enough that the drive to the diner happens almost in a daze. As soon as she walks in, however, she freezes, because the kitchen is locked up and only the lights on the stairs are on, the wait staff all gone home, and the only person standing inside Granny's is Killian.
He doesn't notice her presence; he's standing at the foot of the stairs rubbing his arm, seeming deep in thought, but he's blocking her path and she can't get past and suddenly everything is crashing back down on her again.
I can't trust you anymore.
She had meant it. In the heat of the moment, she had meant it, because he was trying to take Henry away – and Henry had explained, afterwards, in the car, his intention to go back to New York, but that doesn't make it okay. She has had such precious little control over everything in her life. Her ability to choose is important to her. And she did not choose for Henry to leave Storybrooke.
But Killian was not lying, not about the person who sent the message. She could see that in his eyes and she could also see the hurt when David and Snow jumped at his throat. But the pressing concern of Zelena, of ensuring that the monkeys and the witch had gone, had meant that she didn't have time to chase it up with him and they had parted on bad terms, her storming off to ensure the boathouse was empty and Killian gone by the time she came back.
She can't just stand here though.
She clears her throat, and Killian jumps, startled, and whirls around, and when he sees who it is she can literally see him tense up – shoulders hunching, expression shuttering down, arms reaching to fold almost defensively across his chest before dropping back down again.
"Swan," he says, and it comes out curtly, almost a bark.
"Hi," she replies. She's in that awkward stage where she doesn't quite know if she's angry with him or not – too tired to really feel anything – but his own mood is strange. Half of her thinks he's annoyed with her, the other half takes note that he just looks... distant. Almost defeated. "Uh. Mary Margaret just had her baby."
He blinks a few times, seeming shocked. "It... all went well?"
"Yes. Yes, they're both fine. A healthy boy. They called him Leo."
"The witch will be after him."
"I'm going back in a few hours. Regina's still there, it's fine."
He nods, and then turns to head up the stairs, and Emma thinks, is that it? She was expecting something more. Perhaps not an apology, but... something.
She doesn't know what he is thinking, she realises, and it disturbs her for some reason. She follows him up the stairs but he doesn't turn to look at her, making straight for his room, and suddenly she feels like she can't just leave things like this. Not tonight.
It hurts, she realises, things being in this limbo between them. She's become so used to him being the one constant in her life – the one thing that would never let her down. And now he has.
"Killian," she says, and he pauses, one hand already on his doorknob.
"I just..." she trails off, not sure what she wants to say but just knowing she wants to say something. "Why?"
He turns to face her, then, but it is dark in the hallway and she cannot make out his features. The only thing she can see clearly is the gleaming metal of his hook, reflecting the light coming from the end of the stairs.
"Why everything?" she explodes, "Why did you take Henry? Why didn't you tell me about the curse? Why would you betray me like that?"
"Betray you," he starts out, angrily, and then catches himself. Takes an audible breath.
There's a tense silence before he finally replies.
"Suffice to say," he says slowly, "I made foolish decisions. I was... afraid, and I let it guide me. It was stupid."
"That's not an answer," she points out.
"I'm not in the habit of giving excuses. It matters little. You no longer trust me."
Something in the way he says it sparks annoyance deep in her gut. She steps closer to him, hands clenching into fists by her side.
"There's no need to be pissy about it," she spits. "You know why! You know exactly why I said that." And it hurts, deep inside, that he was always the one who understood exactly why her walls were so high. How important trust is to her.
"I am not being 'pissy'," he replies. His voice is flat, almost emotionless. "You're right not to trust me. I'd do exactly the same in your position."
The anger drains away, replaced almost instantly by confusion.
"And I apologise," he continues, "Because you're right. I shouldn't have taken the boy. Emma, you are exactly right." And suddenly he won't look at her and he is speaking too quickly, as though he is forcing the words out and if he doesn't say them now, he never will. "You're right, Emma. You're right not to trust me because if I had the choice to do it over again, I would have to do the exact same thing."
"Why?" she asks, confused as hell now.
"Because I don't know what else I could have done! Okay? I just... she threatened your family if I told you, she threatened the boy if I didn't enact the curse – I legitimately thought that was my only option. And that is exactly why you can't trust me, because I can't see what else there was to do. Apparently you hero types have rubbed off on me far less than I imagined because I still think like a selfish pirate. Maybe David would have found a better way, or you, or even Regina. Not me."
A silent pause. He is breathing heavily.
"So you see," and his voice shaking slightly now, "I am not a hero and I apparently can't overcome that. I can bloody well try but for now you are best served keeping your trustworthy friends close and the rest of us..." An awkward pause as he struggles to find a word.
"Out," he settles on, finally, and Emma can only stare.
There is a horrible, horrible feeling welling in her stomach. Some paranoid part of her, a part damaged by Neal and Walsh and the deep seated betrayal of a half-dozen foster families had wondered if he had done it because he didn't care about her or about her choice. Or that he had reverted, in relation to whatever secret he had been hiding from her since he returned, at least in part to his old ways.
But now, with the truth staring her in the face, she doesn't know what to think. He was genuine, and desperate, and yes he was stupid but it was with the best of intentions. He was backed into a corner.
And it seems with a handful of misplaced words she has shattered his trust in himself, and while she had wanted to chastise him, not like this, never to this extent- this isn't what she wanted at all.
"Killian, no," she starts, but he's already turned and entered his room, too late to hear her. She raises a fist to bang on the door, but then pauses, overcome by a cold, horrible surge of fury.
Zelena is clever.
She hates the witch, but damn, she is clever. The flying monkeys are just the literal means by which she turns them into weapons against each other. Every move she makes is carefully designed to tear apart their trust in each other, whether it be forcing David to confront himself in a bid to not only take his courage but raise his self-doubts, or using the curse to form a rift between Killian and the others – no matter what they do, they can't help but be affected.
It pisses her off.
Not this time, witch, she thinks, and steps forward to pound on the door.
"Killian!" she yells. Inside it is silent but she knows he can hear her. "Come on, don't you dare do this. You said you would fight for me. You can't just do a face-heel-turn and start telling me not to trust you."
The door swings open so suddenly that she half-stumbles into the room, catching her against the wall.
When Killian speaks his voice is no longer empty but filled with so many pent-up emotions that it almost makes her ache.
"I have every intention of fighting for you," he says. "Don't ever believe that anything I do I don't do with the best of intentions for you and your family!"
"Then why tell me all that, just then?" Emma demands. "She's trying to make you doubt yourself-"
"I know. She doesn't have to try very damn hard, okay? I... Emma, everything I have done has been for you. What I was trying to tell you before was that you're right, I messed up today, and I am going to mess up again in the future. I'll try not to but it's going to bloody happen eventually. So I can't... much as I want to, I'm not going to turn into a hero overnight. I'm only human. Trust that I will at least try."
"You idiot," she snaps, "I never expected you to be perfect. I was... angry, and disappointed, and... that's why I said what I said. But I don't... I didn't mean permanently, I didn't mean to – to make you think I don't appreciate everything you've done so far."
He is quiet, that uncomfortable look on his face he got when David was raising a toast to him in Neverland. Still half-doubtful, still unsure.
"Like you said," she adds, softly. "I do trust you to try. That's all I want. Okay?"
"Okay," he replies, and suddenly she wants to cry, or collapse, because this has been a crap day and abruptly she misses him. Misses his jokes and flirtations and constant, reassuring presence at her side. It's stupid, because it's only been a few days since he started avoiding her, and the intensity of the feeling is at once terrifying and confusing.
Perhaps something of it shows in her face, because Killian looks upset suddenly. She sees, though, in the tense set of his shoulders, that he's not going to make the first move, so she is the one to step forward, to take his hand, to pull him into an embrace.
He hugs her back instantly, his arms wrapping around her tight and warm.
"I'm sorry," she murmurs, and feels him shake his head.
"Don't be sorry. I'm sorry. It's on me."
"It's on Zelena," she replies. And thinks of Leo, and her family, and how that now includes Regina and Killian, and for the first time she is sure, more sure than she has ever been, that she does not have to worry about them doing this together.
The thing about being the sort of hero that David is, is that you have to believe that good always wins. It's all about hope and love and light prevailing over dark. And right now he is finding it very hard to believe that good always wins, because it has happened again.
It has happened again.
Zelena has Leo and he is trying so, so hard not to panic. It is not going very well. He can tell, objectively, that he is breathing too fast and his hands should not feel so clammy and the way his heart is slamming in his chest is not normal. But it's like he's reliving his nightmare all over again – his child ripped away from him before he even gets the chance to be its father.
Christ, okay, get yourself together.
He closes his eyes and does what he always does to calm himself; pretends he is back on his farm in the Enchanted Forest. Some people count sheep to fall asleep; he counts them as a reassuring rhythm to soothe him back to some sense of normalcy. One, two, breathe in, breathe out. Three, four, breathe in, breathe out, feel his heart beat slow and settle.
He wonders, vaguely, if it is because Zelena took his courage that he is so afraid. But she didn't steal it, not really, just took the symbol of it – he can still be brave.
Emma, Regina and Robin are already out in the woods looking for the witch. It's not enough; they need more people just in case she has more monkeys there. He volunteered to fetch Killian more because he needed the chance to compose himself than anything else.
The diner is mostly empty. The thing about Storybrooke is that sometimes it is easy to forget that there are a good many people living there who are entirely uninvolved in this whole business. People who are just sick of being whisked from world to world in conflicts, politics, and personal vendettas that have nothing to do with them. Snow is queen but there is no monarchy here, Regina is mayor but there is no democracy. The Wicked Witch's plans have nothing to do with the clerk down at the general store or the woman who works at the gas station.
People have worked out by now that conflicts tend to go down in three places; the docks, the library and Granny's, and since Zelena's main-street showdown these places are almost entirely deserted as people avoid them – not even entirely out of fear, though that definitely plays a role in it – just because they want to get on with their lives for as long as they can before they are inevitably swept away by a portal or a curse again.
David knows that it can't go on much longer – that they need to take control of their kingdom again, decide which world to stay in once and for all – but there are more pressing matters to focus on now.
Killian is leaning against the wall. There's a book in his hand – one of Belle's, David thinks – and he looks up when the other enters.
"Zelena has our baby," David says, immediately. "We need your help – we're going out to the farmhouse to confront her."
Killian snaps his book shut and follows instantly. It's not until they're in the car, driving, that David's panic and adrenaline fade away enough for him to realise that something is wrong.
Killian is too quiet.
He is looking out the window, hook tapping absently against the glass. His silence practically radiates hostility, however, and David frowns.
When Emma asked him to go and get Killian he had made a brief question of the other's credibility. Emma had made mention of speaking to him last night and sorting things out, and he'd trusted her enough to go along with it.
"You're oddly silent," he says. It's stupid but he can't think of anything else to say. The quiet is making him uncomfortable; he needs the distraction.
Killian turns his head slowly to look at him. "Thought I'd better keep my mouth shut. Wouldn't want to start spewing more lies, would I?"
Wow. Okay. Talk about passive aggressive.
David's hands tighten on the steering wheel. "I can't believe you're going there," he says, coldly, "My infant son just got kidnapped."
"And here I am, along to help you get him back."
"Don't you dare start taking the moral high ground here, Hook, you're the one who lied to us."
He isn't sure if it's the use of his old moniker or the venom in his tone that makes Killian flinch, looking oddly hurt under his anger. Either way, the other man stiffens, biting down on his lower lip hard enough that it turns white.
"Lied to you," Killian says slowly. "Lied to you about receiving the message."
"Because I feel like my exact words, when asked who gave it to me, were 'I assumed you did'. Key word there being assumed. And I have this distinct recollection of you saying something along the lines of a messenger bird sounding a lot like your wife."
The truck bumps over a pothole in the road, distracting David for a moment, and when he tunes back in he takes a moment to comprehend Killian's words.
And then – oh. Oh. And then he remembers.
In the heat of the moment – in the terrible fear that had gripped him when Zelena grabbed Henry and he realised just how ruthless this woman was, just how much danger his unborn child was in – he had forgotten. Had gone along with Snow's misinformation because he assumed she had remembered correctly.
Shit, he thinks, and there's a very awkward silence in which he doesn't quite know what to say and Killian looks... upset, more than anything else, not even victorious at the fact that he knows that David knows that he's right.
"I..." he begins. "I forgot that."
"Evidently," Killian replies drily, and then sighs, runs a hand through his hair. "Suppose it doesn't matter now."
Except it does matter – it does – this has been a bad week for all of them but David more than most. Being forced to fight his insane double, having a crisis about his parenting abilities, his son kidnapped only hours after being born – damn if he doesn't need a friend right about now.
"I was stressed," he says. It sounds like an excuse. "Distracted, I... I assumed Snow had it right."
It's the dead tone in which he says it – simple acceptance, not forgiveness, still angry, still downcast – that gets to David. His grip tightens on the wheel again and after a moment's dithering he decides to pull over. They need to sort this out.
"Look, I'm sorry I went all Lord of the Flies on you, okay? I've had a shit week."
"Yes, let's talk about shit weeks. I was emotionally manipulated and cursed by the Wicked Witch of the West, put in a situation where every option either had all my friends killed, stripped of their magic or turned against me, was kidnapped by the Dark One and threatened, attacked by flying monkeys, and then, as you said, you and your wife 'went all Lord of the Flies' on me, whatever the hell that means." By this point they are both breathing heavily, glaring at one another, leaning in close. Killian turns away first, letting his head thud back against the carseat, eyes fixed on the overhead light.
"I can accept it from Emma, alright? She has her reasons. But not you. I thought you were over thinking the worst of me. I thought..." and then he trails off, a bit awkwardly, but David knows where he was going. I thought we were friends.
There's a horrible sort of guilt welling up in him. He was in the wrong here, he knows, and he wants to apologise but can't quite find the words. The anxiety is creeping up on him again – you messed up, you messed it all up. Lost your daughter, lost your son, and now you've lost practically your only friend too – and he ducks his head, taking a deep breath.
"David?" Killian sounds reluctantly concerned, and David lifts his head, forcing himself to meet the other's eyes.
"I was... scared," he admits. "Zelena is... she got so close. She was literally drugging my family while we trusted her. When I think about... I already lost Emma, the first time, and now this one. I was worried. I couldn't take any chances. I was scared and I took it out on you. I'm sorry."
Killian's eyes are wide, but he's still holding himself stiffly. It's the same thing David has seen a hundred times before in Emma. Like he's been burned too many times to be able to reach out again. Fool me once...
David's shoulders slump. He looks out the window. "Okay," he says. "I mean, you have a right to be angry. I just... I didn't know what I'd do. If I lost this one as well."
"David," Killian says again, after a moment and sighs, reaches forward to tentatively press his arm. "It's fine."
"You don't need to say that just to make me feel better."
"I'm not." And he means it, David can tell when he turns to look at him. "No one here has been their best self lately. Least of all me. I'm the last person who should be holding it against you for being an ass." And he grins, and looks more like his usual self. David grins back, relieved.
"Let's just agree," Killian says, "To blame Zelena for this whole thing."
"I'll drink to that," David agrees. "After we melt her."
He starts the car and they begin to drive again. The silence is now more companionable than tense – and the thing about the missing year was that for David, everything continued where they left off, whereas Killian had an entire year's memories of separation. It unbalanced whatever friendship they'd built since Neverland. But now David has his memories back and they are on equal ground and he remembers, now, that he missed the other man – that he sought his companionship in Robin Hood but it was never quite the same – now they can be fine.
"For the record," Killian says, as the forest thins out and they pull in towards the hill where the farmhouse is, "You haven't lost Emma. Despite how or why Zelena managed to take your courage – there's still time. Once we kill her. How many demonic magic-users with dubious family relations to members of our group can there possibly be out there?"
David scoffs out a laugh, and then suddenly starts laughing harder. It's really not that funny and probably on the wrong side of hysterical, but Killian is right, and he nods.
They get out of the car. Emma and the others are waiting for them nearby. She turns when she sees them, gives a determined half-smile and asks, "You ready?"
"Yes," David replies, drawing his sword, and thinks, that is his daughter and they are going to save his son.
A/N: Thank you so much for reading! Hope you enjoyed it. Also, I promise to update A Hundred Yachts soon. Was distracted by devastating emotional happenings in other fandoms *shot*