Author's Note: So this is an AU fic, featuring Princess Emma and pirate Captain Killian Jones. I know it's been done, but I wanted to do my spin on this idea.
In this story, the Dark Curse was never cast and Emma was never sent away. She's grown up in the Enchanted Forest with her parents as their only child and princess of their kingdom and is currently nineteen years old. Killian's backstory is the same, Navy lieutenant, lost his brother Liam and turned pirate after his death, but he has never encountered Milah and/or Rumple, and he still has both hands. He is twenty-seven, and has been captaining the Jolly Roger as a pirate for about seven years.
There will be some violence and mature content in this fic, but it's not Dark!Hook (much as I love a good Dark!Hook fic, I'm going in a different direction). Hope you enjoy, and reviews are always welcome!
Blood in the Water
"We have found nothing of value, Captain."
The speaker scrambled back across the deck, fear in his eyes as he delivered the news to the tall man dressed all in black.
A thick eyebrow rose, and the man in black, the captain, turned to the figure kneeling on the deck before him. His voice was quiet, but the menace in his tone was unmistakable and it sent a chill right down her spine.
"This is not a passenger vessel as you continue to claim. This is a royal ship, you have attempted to disguise it, but not very well, I'm afraid. And a royal ship would not be travelling without something valuable."
Emma tensed, resisting the urge to bend her knees and try to conceal herself even further in the midst of the people who surrounded her. She could feel them press against her, hiding her from view and protecting her as best they could.
A loud crack rent the air and everyone flinched. The captain drew back his hand as if to strike again, staring down at the man he had just backhanded across the face with a cruel smirk on his handsome features.
"Now I will ask you one more time, where is it hidden?"
She bit her lip so hard she was surprised she didn't taste blood, unable to take her eyes off the scene unfolding before her. Captain Edmund Stewart, bruised and battered but staring defiantly up at the man who had ordered him to his knees, the man who had led the assault on their ship and stepped on it with an assured stride as if he owned it, the man dressed head to toe in black leather who had announced his name proudly to the assembled captives on the deck.
Captain Killian Jones, of the Jolly Roger.
They had been overtaken by pirates.
Captain Stewart didn't answer, and Captain Jones heaved a heavy, disappointed sigh. His eyes fell on the captives, and Emma ducked her head, willing herself invisible. She could feel the fear and apprehension radiating off everyone, hanging in the air, and she wanted to scream in frustration. They had been close, so close to safety, until this menace and his ship had shown up, seemingly out of nowhere, and cut them off. She had utterly failed in her mission and she would never forgive herself.
"How many?" Captain Jones asked, directing his question to the crewman in the red cap standing beside him while he nodded towards the captives.
"No more than thirty," the crewman replied.
"Thirty people" Emma thought, "My people." Her responsibility. Her duty.
"We could feed 'em to the sharks," the crewman continued with an eager smile.
"And take the ship, aye," Captain Jones said, one hand stroking his jaw as if he was thinking it over, "Or travel to the slave markets in the east. Thirty, looks like there's some strong, able-bodied men, they always fetch a good price."
Emma shuddered in disgust at his words. Slavery was outlawed in her kingdom, as it was anywhere with a fair and just ruler, but there were places where such practices continued, where people were bought and sold to toil for cruel masters. Her people, shackled, put up for sale as if they were livestock, branded and separated forever, she couldn't let it happen. But what could she do against a crew of armed men?
"Care to jump in, Captain?" the pirate asked, smirking at Captain Stewart, "Got anything of value you could trade? If it's worth enough, I might be persuaded to spare your lives."
It hit her immediately, the makings of a rough plan that just might save them all. Emma slowly drew back the hood of her plain grey cloak and took a breath to steady herself.
"I will trade myself for their lives, Captain Jones."
She stepped forward, her voice ringing loud and clear across the deck as she dropped the cloak to the deck and revealed herself. All heads swivelled to her, including Captain Jones, who looked her up and down with obvious interest.
"And who might you be?" he asked.
Emma lifted her chin, praying that her voice wouldn't shake with the fear that had her stomach in knots and sweat beading between her breasts, "I am Princess Emma, daughter of Queen Snow White and King David, and you were right, Captain, this is a royal ship. Let the ship and my people go, and I offer myself as your hostage. My parents will pay quite handsomely for my safe return."
The very air around them changed in a heartbeat. The pirates were all staring openly at her now, practically licking their lips and eyes glittering with greed. Captain Stewart looked utterly horrified, "Your Highness, no!" he yelled, attempting to stand. The red capped crewman knocked him down with a heavy blow.
Captain Jones's gaze had gone sharp and narrow, focused entirely on her. Emma saw him take in the richness of her silk gown, embroidered with golden threads, the heavy gems at her neck and ears, everything she had hidden under the rough cloak when the pirates first boarded. She knew she looked every inch what she was, and a brilliant smile bloomed over his face as he obviously realized exactly what had just dropped right into his lap.
He took a step towards her, and the two men flanking her pulled knives from under their sleeves, closing in front of her. Sir Andrew and Sir Richard, her two loyal bodyguards since babyhood, who would lay down their lives for her. As would everyone else, Emma could feel them all shuffle closer to her, facing down the pirates as they tried to put themselves back in between her and the threat.
Captain Jones halted in his tracks, eyeing the way everyone was closing ranks around her.
"Perhaps you would like to come over here, Princess, so that we may negotiate further?" he asked, with an air of forced nonchalance and feigned innocence on his face. Emma wasn't fooled by it for a second.
"There is nothing to negotiate. You wanted something of value, I am that. Withdraw, leave my people unharmed, and I will go to your ship."
His face hardened again, "You are right, Princess, there is nothing to negotiate. Your men are outmatched and outgunned by mine. The only question now is how many will be cut down before I reach you."
"The answer to that, Captain, is none," Emma shot back.
She whirled around and pressed through the crowd, darting to the rail. She leapt up on a crate that had been pushed against it with her skirts bunched in one hand and backed up so that her calves were pressed against the edge. With a single step, she could go over the side of the ship and tumble down to the dark waters below.
Emma could see the shock on all faces below her, but none more then Captain Jones.
"Withdraw your men or I will throw myself in and you will lose your prize."
The voice nearly broke her heart. Her godmother, calling out to her, the crimson hood falling back from her dark hair as she pushed past the dwarves. Their eyes met for a moment before Emma was forced to look away, feeling her nerves start to falter at the stricken look on the face she had loved all her life.
Captain Jones had lowered his head, eyes narrowed to slits as he obviously considered her threat, "Come now, don't be rash. Yes, you are quite the prize, but if you do jump, I still have your ship, and all these lovely slaves to sell. And your death would all be for nought."
"It would take weeks to sail to the nearest slave market, do you have enough provisions for thirty more people? Ask your men who searched us, we are almost out of food and water as it is. Won't make anything if they all die along the way. And while the ship is worth money, it is not nearly as valuable nor as portable as I am. My kingdom is wealthy and I am the sole heir. My parents will pay whatever you desire. Do we have a deal?"
A few mingled shouts of protests came from her people, Emma recognized each voice but she refused to look. She had eyes only for Captain Jones, the man who had their lives in his hands, and was looking at her as if she had completely lost her mind. Which she supposed she had, but she would not let anything happen to her people. Not after what they had lost already.
"Are you truly prepared to give your life, Princess?" he asked after a long moment, a dark challenge in his tone.
"For my people? They would die for me, and I would give my life for them a thousand times over if I could," she answered honestly.
Something flickered briefly over the pirate's face but it was gone before she could figure out what it was. He drew himself up to his full height with his hand on the hilt of his sword and nodded at her.
"Well then, Highness, we have a deal. Come with me, and I give my word that your ship and people may leave freely."
He wasn't lying, Emma knew, knew it for a fact, but something made her hesitate. She had to be certain that she wasn't wrong, and just because he wasn't lying now didn't mean he couldn't change his mind the second she got within arm's reach of him. She had backed herself into a corner and she needed to figure a way out. Captain Jones was still looking at her, a slight smile on his face as if he knew what she was thinking.
"The deal won't be on the table forever, Princess," he called out, and Emma bit back a very unladylike curse that would make the more delicate of her attendants faint in shock. But from the corner of her eye she spied a small launch tied to the side of the ship that was used to ferry people back and forth to shore when it was too difficult or dangerous to bring the ship into port and got another idea.
"To ensure that you keep your word, Captain, I will be lowered down in the launch. My ship will depart without me, and you may retrieve me then. But if you break our deal and harm a single person aboard I will give myself to the waves."
There was silence for a long moment. Captain Jones's eyes bored into hers, staring her down, but Emma was resolute, and she met his glare with her own. She was Snow White's daughter, and while she had not inherited her mother's famous raven hair she felt the stirrings of steel straightening her spine, the will and courage that had sustained an exiled princess through her darkest times against the cruelest of enemies and had passed down into the royal blood that flowed through Emma's own veins.
"Very well," the Captain said at last, and flicked his wrist with a dismissive, "Get on with it then, I don't have all day."
He withdrew a few paces and waved his crewmen back. Emma stepped down off the crate as Red flung herself forward, throwing her arms around her in a fierce hug.
"Emma, you can't do this," she whispered fiercely in her ear, "There's got to be another way. I'll transform and rip his throat out myself."
"And the rest of his crew will shoot you in the back!" Emma hissed, "Even you can't take on all of them, Red, and you heard what he said, they'll kill you all or sell you into slavery or worse, if he finds out the real reward he could get. You have to go, all of you, I won't have your blood on my hands. Too many have died already."
She moved towards the launch as she spoke, her head bent and her hand on Red's arm. Her bodyguards moved in front of them while the dwarves jeered at the pirates and Grumpy even threw an orange towards them, distracting them and blocking their view while Emma fumbled in the pocket hidden deep in the folds of her skirt and withdrew a small pouch. She passed it surreptitiously to Red while standing on tiptoe and pressing her lips to her forehead in a kiss of farewell.
"Go!" she said, "You have to lead them now and keep them safe!"
The launch rocked when she climbed into it and Emma felt her stomach lurch with the movement. Tears were running down Red's face and welling behind her own eyes, but she refused to give into them and show weakness, not while the pirates could still see her.
"Lower me down and depart as soon as the Captain and his men have returned to their ship. That's an order," she added, pointedly, seeing the faces turned to her, ready to argue.
"I will see you again," Red called out, and Emma forced a smile.
"Of course you will."
She waved her people back so that Captain Jones had a clear view of her alone in the launch, and then she sat down and braced her hands under the broad wood plank of her seat.
The launch jerked as several members of the crew loosened the ropes that bound it to the ship. Emma held on as she was slowly lowered down to the ocean, Red watching over the side of the ship. Captain Stewart's battered face appeared next to her.
"May the Gods protect you, Your Highness."
"Safe journey, Captain." Emma said, and locking eyes with her godmother one final time, mouthed, "I love you."
The small boat hit the water with surprising force, and she was jolted out of her seat. She pulled herself back up and reached for the oars, using them to turn the launch and clumsily steering herself away from her ship so she wouldn't be slammed back into it when it began to move.
When she had reached what felt like a safe distance, Emma looked back up and saw they were all at the rail, watching her. Her people. She kissed the tips of her fingers and raised them in salute, and they mirrored her. With her heart in her throat she could only watch as the sails were raised and the ship slowly began to glide away on the water. The launch rocked again in the white swells but held steady and she gripped the oars tightly in her hands, hard enough to feel the wood bit into her palms. They would be safe. The crimson hood of Red's cloak grew smaller and smaller, until it was nothing but the tiniest speck and finally disappeared from her view.
Only the pirate ship remained, riding tall and proud in the water with the telltale flag snapping in the wind from the top of the mast. She could see members of the crew on the deck, watching her, including the dark head of the captain.
Emma had heard tales of pirates, ruthless creatures who roamed the seas in search of treasure, they were said to be hard and pitiless men who would as soon stick a knife in your belly as look at you. As with all tales there had to be an element of exaggeration, but based on a grain of truth.
And now she was in their hands.
Her ship had safely sailed away and it was time to uphold her end of the bargain and hope that Captain Jones would uphold his. She pulled on the oars with all her might, fighting the waves and inching closer and closer to the Jolly Roger. As she did her best to line up next to the hull, a platform on a rope began descending from the deck above. When it dropped low enough it revealed the passenger riding it down. Captain Jones stood with one hand holding the rope and extended the other to her.
"A deal's a deal, Princess," he said with a hint of sarcasm, "As you can see, I am a man of my word."
Emma nodded and stood up. She took the proffered hand and carefully stepped onto the platform, letting the small boat drift away empty and taking away any hope of escape. They were now face to face and close up, she saw that the captain had clear blue eyes under the thick kohl that ringed them. He stared back at her with triumph, a corner of his lips lifting in a pleased smile.
"That was quite the little plan you came up with. I suppose you are more than just a pretty face."
"I suppose I am," Emma responded, swiftly dropping his hand and taking hold to the rope instead. The captain shouted an order, and the platform began to rise. They were pulled up the side of the ship and swung over the rail like cargo, Captain Jones jumped down to the deck with ease and she followed once the platform had been lowered enough for her to step down without falling. As soon as she straightened up again she could feel the eyes on her and she darted a glance around, instantly wary. The ship itself looked surprisingly well-kept, the deck was clear and tidy and the wood was polished while the brass fittings gleamed in the sunlight, but the crew was another story. She had never seen such disreputable looking men and they all seemed to be armed to the teeth, knives and pistols were shoved through belts, cutlasses strapped to shoulders and backs and hanging at waists. If it had come to a fight, her people wouldn't have stood a chance.
Emma stood, feeling supremely out of place in her silk gown and jewels with fear making her throat tight and burning like a hot coal in her stomach. They could do anything to her now.
"Whatever they do, it doesn't matter", she thought, fiercely, "As long as I'm alive, that's all that counts".
Her heart hammered madly against her ribs, not quite soothed by her mental vow.
The captain moved on silent feet and stood in front of her with his arms crossed over his chest. Emma met his eye and he spoke a single word.
She remembered Captain Stewart, forced to his knees in surrender and slapped in the face on the deck of her ship, and she wondered if Captain Jones planned to do that to her as well. Her knees shook under the gown even as her pride roared to attention, as princess she only ever kneeled down to two people, her mother and father, and she did so out of love and respect. Everyone else in the kingdom kneeled to her. But now was not the time to follow court etiquette and after a breathless moment she sank down to the deck in front of him, skirt folded under her legs and sitting back on her heels.
"Would you look at that boys, a princess on her knees to me," the captain said, and there was mocking laughter in response from the crew. Emma felt the colour flare high in her cheeks, but she kept her face under control.
"Where's that defiance you showed on your ship now, Highness?"
She folded her hands in her lap demurely, "I see no point in antagonizing you, Captain. As you said, a deal's a deal. I am in your custody, and I do not wish my stay aboard your ship to be any more...difficult, than it needs to be."
He sounded amused, "A pragmatist, then? Well, in that case you will have no issues in handing over your lovely jewellery to me now."
The hand was extended again, palm open and waiting. Emma pulled the sapphire drops from her ears and placed them in his grasp, then reached behind her neck and unfastened the matching necklace. He dropped them into a pouch he produced from the depths of his coat and she was glad that she had managed to get the real treasure to Red before it was too late. Captain Jones flicked his eyes to the top of her head with an expectant look, and after a moment's hesitation she pulled out her hair comb. She didn't care about the necklace and earrings, but the gold comb, adorned with two swans with delicately etched feathers and jewelled eyes, did both her. It had been a birthday gift from her father when she turned sixteen and began wearing her hair up to balls, and she was loathe to part with it. But she could hardly beg the pirate to let her keep it, not when it was obviously so valuable, and besides, it was just a thing. The importance was in her father's love for her, not the item itself.
Still, she swallowed with some difficulty when the comb disappeared in the pouch with her other gems.
"That's all?" Captain Jones asked, "No bracelets?"
Emma held up her hands, pushing up her sleeves to show her bare wrists. He grasped her hands lightly and turned them over, looking down at her fingers.
"No rings? So you are unmarried then, Princess?"
He sounded far too interested in her marital state. She pulled her hands back and dropped them into her lap again.
"I asked you a question and I strongly suggest you answer it."
His voice was soft, but there was no mistaking the threatening undertone. Emma flicked her eyes back up to him.
"I am not married," she said, her reply hardly rising above a whisper.
Captain Jones took a step back, "Mr. Smee!" he called.
"Escort our lovely prisoner to the brig."
A rather stout crewman suddenly appeared at Emma's side, and she saw it was the man in the red cap. She stood up, and he pointed her to a hatch that undoubtedly led below decks.
"Oh, and Princess?"
She turned back at the captain's voice.
"You will dine with me tonight in my cabin."
She didn't like the sound of that at all, but his tone was firm and his face was set and she knew deep down she didn't have a choice.
"As the captain commands," she replied, and followed the man named Smee down into the ship.
The brig was a long narrow room, divided into two cells. Both were empty, but not for long. Smee opened one of the cells and gestured for her to enter. Emma stepped in, her head held high. The door was closed behind her and the key turned in the lock with a harsh scraping sound that echoed loudly in the room and made her heart lurch. Her hands were clenched into fists with her nails digging into her palms when she turned around and saw the crewman staring at her through the bars. She felt her eyebrows raise and she barked out, "What?"
He jumped, clearly startled by it and mumbled, "Nothing, ma'am," lifting his cap to her like a subject. He seemed to realize what he was doing halfway through the action and it was hastily pulled back down almost to his eyes. Smee scurried out of the brig as quickly as a frightened rat, closing the outer door with a clang as he went. Emma leaned forward, grasping the bars of her cell and resting her forehead against the cool metal with her eyes closed.
"Breathe," she reminded herself. "Breathe, Emma!"
She forced herself to take several deep lungfuls of air, letting her mind go blank. The adrenaline she'd been running on since the pirate flag had first been spotted in the sky was fading, leaving her feeling exhausted and sick to her stomach. She turned, leaning back on the bars and surveying the cell. It was tiny, with no furniture save for a narrow cot bolted to the wall. She took a shaky step and sat down on it with her skirts billowing out around her. It was time to take stock.
She was still alive, and so far, unharmed. Captain Jones had bruised her pride by forcing her to kneel to him, but that was nothing, she could deal with bruised pride. Her jewellery was gone, but the loose gems sewn into the lining of her corset were still there. They had not bothered to search her and she reached down, pulling up her skirt and fingering the hilt of the dagger hidden in her tall boot. It wasn't a sword and it would hardly be enough against an entire ship full of pirates, but it was reassuring to know she had a weapon at the ready. Then, of course, there was her ability, her secret gift to know when anyone lied to her.
Her fingers crept to her pocket, dipping in and retrieving her most precious possession. A somewhat battered-looking compact mirror, it was made of pewter instead of gold or silver and was innocuous enough that if it was found, it would most likely get overlooked. It didn't appear valuable to the naked eye, the metal was chipped and worn, and the mirror slightly cloudy, as if permanently fogged.
Emma raised it with shaking hands and whispered, "Are they alive?"
The cloud cleared and an image formed in the mirror. Her parents appeared and stared out at her, smiling softly, before they faded away and the fog returned. She clasped it shut again and held it to her heart, feeling a flash of relief. It wasn't a window into what they were doing right at the moment and they couldn't see her, but as long as their image appeared, it meant that they were alive. It meant that the true enemy hadn't won.
The Evil Queen.
Emma slipped the mirror back in her pocket. She had lived under Regina's shadow her entire life, a threat forever lurking in the darkness. Her mother's stepmother, who had tried for years to destroy them, without success.
The rumours had reached the royal court six months prior. The former queen was gaining power again and the enchantment that had held her at bay for so long was starting to weaken. Unlike her previous attempts, this was quieter, there were no marching black knights or showy displays of magic, but their allies reported skirmishes at the borders, entire villages disappearing in the night. She had become invisible, there was no sightings, no actual confirmation that it was even her, until the day Emma woke from a strange nightmare and discovered a basket of apples on her bedside table.
Her parents made a decision. Emma, along with their closest friends, the ones most likely to face the Evil Queen's wrath, would be sent away to safety in another realm. She hadn't wanted to go, had begged and pleaded to stay, but her mother had grasped her hands and looked deep into her eyes.
"Emma you must. If she succeeds, she won't stop at my death, she'll kill you simply for being my daughter and because I love you. That's what she really wants, to take away everyone I love before she destroys me. You must go, and lead our people to safety. They will follow you, and we will send for you when she's really and truly gone for good. Please, sweetheart, I couldn't bear it if anything happened to you."
She'd looked from her mother to her father, standing behind Snow White with his hands resting on her shoulders. Her parents were almost always touching, their legendary love undiminished by the passage of time.
"Papa," she'd whispered.
"We both love you so much, but you have to do this. Please, Emma."
There had been no magic beans for years but a tiny crop had just borne fruit after careful nuturing and she had taken them and set off, sailing out of the kingdom in secret so that no hint of what they were planning could reach the Evil Queen's ears through her spies. They had nearly reached the barren stretch of sea where they would finally open a portal and cross to another realm, beyond the Evil Queen's reach, when the pirate ship had appeared and caught them.
The beans had been in the pouch she'd passed to Red. Emma closed her eyes. By now, they should have passed through to an unknown world, the land where Regina was powerless. She was supposed to be with them, leading them, but a tiny, selfish part of her was glad that she wasn't, that she was still home, even if her kingdom was far away and she had no means to get back. The Evil Queen would hardly come looking for her on a pirate ship, ironically, she was probably safer in the midst of a group of lawless degenerates then she was in her own castle. The pirates would keep her alive, she was certain about that. A dead hostage was a worthless hostage, and she had seen the appraisal on the captain's face when he looked at her. The gems she had given him were merely a fraction of her parents' fortune, if he was a true pirate, he would be greedy for all he could get.
A ribbon of fear wound it's way through her stomach as she wondered about what else Captain Jones might be tempted to take.
"Whatever they do to me, as long as I'm alive, it doesn't matter," she thought. She would survive, she would go back home, her parents would finally defeat Regina once and for all, and she wouldn't have to think about pirates ever again. They would send for Red and all the others, and they would finally live in peace.
She just had to make it through the next few days. Her mother had lived in exile for months in the forest, with all its dangers, clinging to survival by her wits alone. Snow White had made it and found her happy ending with her Prince Charming, and Emma swore that she would do the same.
She would make her mother proud.