It felt strange to be back in the Enchanted Forest, standing in front of Jefferson's home, with Jefferson standing on one side of the hat, Emma and Killian opposite him. Weeks had passed but, other than Baelfire's presence, it appeared as though nothing had changed since they had left.
Except everything had.
Baelfire's entire body was tense, having clearly waited anxiously for Emma and Killian to return from Oz, his stare locked firmly on the heart still held gently in Emma's hand. "Did you have it the whole time? Did you know the whole time?" He stepped towards Emma, eyes narrowed. "Did you use it? Before now?"
Emma glanced at Killian quickly, a wide-eyed, nervous look that made him tighten his hold on her hand. "Never. I would never have used it. I only used it because I had to, because of how you were trapped in Oz."
"How can I know that?" Baelfire's voice was quiet, furious, his approach towards them halted when Jefferson stepped in front in order to retrieve his hat. "Move. You're not part of this."
Jefferson seemed eager to escape the drama, tucking the top hat under his arm and then hurrying inside his cottage. Baelfire watched him leave, his eyebrows furrowing when Jefferson sent him a sarcastic wave goodbye as the the door closed behind him, and then turned his full attention back to Killian and Emma. "Bae?"
Baelfire's eyes flickered over to meet Killian's the instant the pirate spoke, and he barked a harsh laugh. "Let me guess? Are you going to tell me it was your plan? To keep a hold of my heart? Because either way, both of you were part of it. And how can you expect me to believe anything you say when you've lied about everything?"
"Because you know me?" Emma answered, and she sounded uncertain. "Whatever we had may have been a long time ago, and only brief, but you should know me enough to know I wouldn't do that."
"And I know him enough to know he would. You needed me and he loves you, so I can imagine he would do anything to get me to come with you." Baelfire spat. "Including controlling me. Now put it back. You've got me here. Apparently I have a son I have to save, so surely having a heart again might give me even more reason to help. Unless you'd prefer to keep controlling me like you've been doing all this time?"
"We didn't control you. But you're right. I would have controlled you. I was the one who suggested it. So don't blame Emma." Killian explained. "But I can't find it in myself to regret it. Zelena's orders still controlled you. If we'd put it back, you'd still be there and Emma would have lost all hope. So keep still and let us give it back."
Baelfire's mouth twitched, lip curling, and then he nodded and opened his arms wide. "Have you ever done this before? Or should I worry that you'll accidentally kill me."
"I'm rather certain putting the heart back is the easiest part of this whole debacle." Killian muttered, observing carefully as Emma stepped closer to Baelfire. "Granted that you know where a heart is meant to reside. Which Emma does, I assure you."
Emma smiled softly at him, and then turned back to Baelfire, her expression reassuring. "I've done it before. I put Killian's heart back when Zelena took it from him. I can do it for you."
"Are you sure?" Baelfire still seemed dubious, despite their matching confidence, and his skepticism caused Emma to step away slightly, biting her lip and turning to Killian. "I just don't want anyone trying to stick my heart back in my chest and messing it up."
"She's not going to mess it up." Killian stated surely, nodding at Emma. She returned the nod, holding out Baelfire's heart so it rested against his chest. "Don't doubt her."
"I can do this." Emma repeated, a thankful smile sent towards Killian before she pressed her hand and the heart into Baelfire's chest, a white, glowing ripple appearing as the heart sank into him. He gasped, a pained sound that caused Emma to pull her hand away and step back towards Killian, watching in horror as Baelfire shuddered and fell to his knees.
"It's so heavy." he croaked, clawing at his chest as if he needed the heart back out. Emma was glancing down at her hands, flexing her fingers as she tried to make sure she wasn't the person who had caused such pain. She hadn't done anything wrong, but a decade without a heart was bound to lead to an overload of emotions once the heart was back in place, and Baelfire seemed to be feeling everything all at once. "I haven't… it's too much."
"It's not you. His heart. He's feeling things he hasn't felt in years." Killian explained, watching the man try to pull himself together, his body trembling. "This isn't because of you." He stepped closer to the fallen man, hand outstretched. "Bae? How are you?"
Baelfire exhaled another shaky breath and then pushed Killian's hand away, struggling back to his feet. "A son?" He stammered, a wide, red-rimmed gaze locked on the woman standing behind Killian. "We have a son? I have a son?"
Killian turned around to look at Emma, noticing how she was still worrying her hands together, biting her lip, yet maintained eye contact with the angered man. "Yes. You would have known. If you hadn't left me."
"Or if you had told me?" Baelfire spat, but there was an ashamed flicker in his eyes following her words. "But you kept quiet about a lot of things. Both of you did. But a son? You were with me for a week. More than a week. And you said nothing. You only came to find me so that you could get your son back and yet all you did was keep the truth from me. I would have helped!"
Emma laughed, a choked, furious sound that Killian had never heard before. "Why would I tell you? The last time I saw you, well, you know what happened. And I'm sure you know what I woke up to." She closed her eyes briefly as she breathed in, trying to calm herself down, and then she stepped forward, wrapping an arm around Killian's waist and leaning against his side. He knew the move was provoking, causing Baelfire to roll his eyes and glower at them, but if Emma wanted to seek comfort with him, he wasn't going to reject her to keep Baelfire happy. "I know why you left too, now. I didn't for a very long time, and for years, I thought it was because of me. Killian helped me to realise that it wasn't. So why would I ever tell you that I needed you to come back with me because your father had taken my son?"
"My father?" Baelfire repeated, his sudden shout surprising both Emma and Killian. "He has our son? And what, I go to him and you get your son back?"
Emma nodded. "Do what you want. You're in this realm now. If you refuse to help me, your father can still find you. And he will. Or you could come with me, and finally make up for what you did."
"Do you know what?" Baelfire asked, his expression still fierce. "It's insulting how you hid everything from me. Everything! And you didn't even try. This thing that you two have, whatever it is, you should have either told me the truth or at least kept up your lie, instead of using stupid excuses and pretending you weren't always all over each other. And now this? A son? Taking me back to my father? Controlling me? Did you think that without a heart I wouldn't care? Because it's true. I didn't. I tried to care. I tried to do the right thing and come back with you even though I didn't really care. Because I knew I should. But if you had my heart and you were going to return it, did you never think how much all of that would hurt when I could feel again?"
"No. And maybe we should have. But I've had a bit too much on my mind to really think about you. Henry is all I need to think about."
"And another lie." Baelfire chuckled cruelly. "Defend it all you want, but don't say that. Our son may be all you need to think about, but I'm rather certain you've thought plenty about that pirate you've wrapped yourself around."
"He's not our son." Emma snapped, stepping away from Killian and running a hand down her face in exasperation. "You left. He's my son. Now, I'm going to make sure Jefferson's alright. You're not the only one who has been through stuff these last few days. In fact, you've been through the least."
Killian couldn't stop his mouth quirking slightly when Emma stomped towards the cottage. Despite his worry, her angered, child-like walk was adorable, and it was only when Baelfire moved to follow her that Killian looked away.
"She's said enough." He said quietly, his words catching Baelfire's attention. "Now you can help us, or I'll knock you out and bring you to your father. You don't have a choice in this matter. You took away enough of Emma's happiness and I refuse to let you take away anymore."
Baelfire stared at him for a moment and then laughed again, a disbelieving sound that made Killian frown at him in confusion. "Me? Take away happiness? Isn't that all you've ever done?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"My mother. You took her away. You never considered that you might be taking away my happiness or my papa's." Killian tried to protest or explain, but Baelfire didn't give him the opportunity. "Now you have Emma. And she was my happiness too. And maybe I left because I was scared of my papa finding me, but it doesn't change what I felt for her. But now, when we're finally reunited, you're here and you're with her and you make her happier than I ever did and that's so hard. Because she deserves better. She's brilliant. She always was. You're nothing but darkness. We all saw you kill Zelena and yet you think that you should be with her?"
"I don't. I agree, she deserves better than a man like me." His acknowledgement seemed to surprise Baelfire, his rage appearing to dissipate from him. "But it's Emma's choice." His voice faded and it was with a quiet disbelief that he continued. "And she chose me. I don't understand why. But she has. And that's up to her."
"No one ever chooses me." Killian had thought the conversation had finished, Baelfire's despondent expression having signified as much, but this time it was Baelfire who spoke when Killian began to move away. "My papa chose power. My mother, she chose you. No. You were right before. She chose freedom. It was just something that she happened to find with you. What is it about me that makes people choose a life without me?"
"And I understand why Emma picked you. Because I did the same thing to her." Baelfire admitted, his voice catching as he spoke. "I chose fear. And now I know that I lost everything."
"I know you don't believe me." Killian stated, crossing the space between them so he could meet Baelfire's gaze. "But I wanted to choose you. I wanted you to be like a son to me. I did the wrong thing when I gave you to the lost boys. I'm sorry. You have the chance now to do the right thing, what I didn't do, and choose your son over your fear."
"I've never met him, Hook. I didn't know about him until now. I don't know him." Baelfire implored. "I've spent lifetimes running from my father and now you want me to go back to him, to choose my son over that? That's what Emma wants?"
"That's what Emma needs." Killian insisted, a feeling of relief surging through him when Baelfire nodded. "You may not know Henry, but you're choosing the chance to get to know him. We both know how it feels to be abandoned. Don't you want him to know something different?"
Baelfire stared at him, a searching look that made Killian fidget uncomfortably, and then he nodded. "I was wrong." He exhaled heavily, looking up at the sky and shaking his head, almost as if he was embarrassed by his words. "At the fire, a couple of nights ago? I don't think you've changed. Not yet. Not enough. But you can."
Baelfire had retreated into the cottage to tell Emma that he agreed to help, Killian following behind him, and the words seemed to calm Emma down slightly. She had let Baelfire lead her outside, the man asking her questions about Henry, and Killian found himself in the cottage with only Jefferson for company.
"That's the last favour I'm doing for you." Jefferson told him with a laugh, the hatbox sealed and hidden under his bed. "Honestly, Hook. What I did for you is something you can never repay. We're even now, so don't try asking me for anything else. You may be my only friend, but I'm not doing something like that again."
Killian chuckled, glancing through the small window to check on Emma and Baelfire, who both seemed to be feeling rather awkward, but at least they were talking. "Actually, mate, about that repayment? I do want to try."
"What?" Jefferson asked, reclining on his bed with a happy sigh, yellowing bruises still marring his face. "Even now that your happy ending is literally a days walk away?"
"I need to be a better man before I can have a happy ending." Killian explained, ignoring Jefferson's scoff. "I need to at least try. I need to prove, to myself, that I can be a better man. Without Emma."
"Why? It's not like you'll ever be without her again." Jefferson sounded sincere, if a bit dubious, and Killian couldn't stop the grin that spread across his face at the thought of being with Emma for the rest of his life. "I don't see why you can't let yourself just be happy. She is."
"Because I've never been happy like this and not had it ripped from me." He answered honestly. Jefferson understood, Killian knew that much, and if he wanted to talk to anyone about the thoughts he had had on their trek back through Oz, Jefferson was the one to speak to. "I have to know that if I lose Emma, I won't become the man I was before. Her presence can't be the only thing that keeps me from being… well, Captain Hook. Because she deserves better than that. She has enough to worry about without having to concern herself with my disposition."
"So what? You're choosing to help me instead of her?"
"For a bit. Of course, I'm going to make sure she gets her son back first. And then I'll join you, get you your daughter back, and then return to her side." Jefferson looked surprised at the mention of his daughter, and Killian realised that despite his promise to assist the hatter in Oz, Jefferson had never taken his oath seriously. "Well, I'll help for a while. I don't want to be apart from Emma for too long. She can't ever worry that I abandoned her the way Baelfire did."
"A while is better than no time at all." Jefferson grinned. "And it'll be just like old times. Back when we were in Neverland together, causing trouble."
"Except I'm trying to be better."
Jefferson nodded reluctantly, clearly doubting Killian's ability to actually do what he was saying, but trying to be supportive. "I am happy for your help, Killian. But if I'm going to get my Grace back, I need to be better too. And I wouldn't be better if I didn't try to reason with you. Leaving Emma, is it a risk you're willing to take? You leave her alone and you might lose her. And why be a better man when you have no one to be a better man for?"
"She loves me, Jefferson." Killian's voice broke slightly, his own certainty something he had never expected to have. "But it's not just her I want to be better for. It's for me. For Liam."
Jefferson looked away, and Killian wondered if Jefferson didn't know how to respond anymore, but then the cottage door opened behind them and Baelfire and Emma joined them in the room. Killian reached for Emma, her hand entwining with his and pulled her into his side, pressing a tender kiss to her temple, ignoring the confused look she shot him.
He had to leave her for a while, but not a day would go by where he wouldn't think of her.
Despite being tired of walking, their final days of trekking through Sherwood were spent in lively conversation. Baelfire seemed keen to hear everything he could about the son he was about to meet, and although he remained silent about it, Killian too was interested in hearing about Henry. Not only did he hope to one day be a large part of the childs life, but Emma lit up when she spoke about him, the love she felt for her son practically tangible.
Even though the Dark One's palace was home to only bad memories, Emma grew even more excited when the turrets finally came into view, her smile radiant when she turned from Baelfire to look at Killian.
She took his hand when they reached the gate, which swung open the instant they stood before it.
"I take it that Papa knows we're here." Baelfire muttered, gesturing for the two of them to go before him. "I will be there. I promise. Just give me a minute."
After staring at him for a moment, Emma nodded and then she and Killian stepped through the gate, following the route through the palace that was shown to them by the opening doors.
Rumplestiltskin was waiting for them, sitting expectantly at the end of a large table. When he saw the two of them, he sighed dramatically. "I have to say that I was hoping the pirate would have tragically died during your adventure." Emma gripped his hand tighter as Killian rolled his eyes. "Now, you remember what our deal was. I can't see my son."
"He's here." Emma promised, her voice shaking slightly. "And I do remember our deal. I can't see my son either."
"You'll see Henry when I see Baelfire." The Dark One clicked his fingers and a small bottle appeared in his hands. He shook it, finger tapping against the glass sides, and then smirked at the two of them. "And then you get to watch your son drink this, and see the curse I placed on him get broken."
They stood in an awkward silence for a few moments, Emma taking the bottle from Rumplestiltskin and then waiting for Baelfire to arrive in the room. Killian couldn't see the door, but he knew the instant Baelfire arrived because Rumplestiltskin's eyes widened and he trembled slightly, appearing more human than Killian could ever have expected.
"Bae?" The Crocodile stood up, hesitating before crossing the room to his son. Baelfire held an arm out, forcing his father to keep his distance.
"Emma gets to see Henry first." He stated firmly. "You're going to keep your deal."
The Dark One didn't even hesitate, flourishing his hands, and then Killian could hear the creak of a door opening and an overjoyed gasp from Emma and then Baelfire's family reunion didn't seem as interesting anymore.
He watched Emma instead, how she stumbled slightly during her dash over to her son's side and then wrapped him in a tight embrace, Henry's arms around her immediately. She was crying, but at the same time a radiant smile was lighting up her face, and he'd never seen her look so happy.
Killian felt very out of place, two reunions taking place either side of him, and both of them something he wasn't part of. Emma's meeting with her son seemed be going far more smoothly than Baelfire and Rumplestiltskin's, the two of them having already fallen into what appeared to be a one-sided argument, Baelfire refusing to let his father get a word out between his furious shouting.
He refused to listen. It wasn't something he should be involved in. He focussed on Emma, a fond smile crossing his face when she began to rain kisses down on her son's forehead. Henry was grumbling about it but was cuddling closer to her, only moving away when Emma nudged his head back so she could give him the potion. He coughed, was engulfed in a brief glow of red light and then he seemed fine, pulling his mother back towards him, his head pillowed on her stomach, arms locked around her.
"You're alright?" Emma was whispering, her voice urgent, and she relaxed only when Henry nodded. "You knew I'd come back, didn't you? That I'd do anything to be back with you?"
"I knew." It was just two words, but it was enough to make Emma fall to her knees, Henry almost sprawled across her as she held him even tighter, kissed him again.
Henry's eyes closed, and he appeared to just enjoy the hug. Emma nuzzled her nose into his hair and then looked up, glancing from Baelfire to Killian, and then to his surprise, she tilted her head in a gesture for him to join them.
Killian hesitated for a moment and then rushed to her side, hovering uncomfortably until she took one arm away from her son and grabbed his hand. She pulled him closer and then let go, her arm returning to its place around her son as Killian wrapped his around her shoulders.
"I tried not to think about it," Emma whispered, her words directed at Killian. "But I worried I'd never get this. With Henry. With you."
"I would have done anything to make sure you saw your son again." he replied, the words murmured into her ear so Henry wouldn't overhear. "I'd have given anything so you could have this."
"And you've done more than you ever needed to." she replied, and then she turned away and used one hand to gently take her son's chin and tilt his head back again so she could meet his eyes. "Henry? I know everything's already been very different for the last few months, but I don't want to ever keep anything from you. I know I've never said much about your father, but he's here and he wants to meet you."
Henry blinked, and then, to Killian's shock, he turned his gaze towards him. "Is it you?"
Killian panicked, stepping away from Emma and shaking his head a bit too quickly. He noticed, too well, Emma's slightly upset look, and he realised that she could have misread his response and thought that Henry considering him to be his father was something he wouldn't want, but he couldn't correct her. This was a moment he couldn't take from Baelfire.
"No, lad." He answered, looking to Emma for an explanation for his presence, but she was still frowning at him. "I'm not your father. I would like to get to know you though. Your mother and I are rather close."
"Then who are you?" Henry asked, glancing from his mother to Killian and looking very confused. "And who's my dad?"
"This is Killian." Emma stated, her frown having faded slightly after Killian's answer. "But your father is Baelfire. He's Rumplestiltskin's son."
"The man shouting at Grandpa?" Henry looked completely thrown by Emma's response, but Killian imagined it could be confusing to be told that the father you were about to meet wasn't the strange man with his arm wrapped around your mother's shoulders. "He's very loud."
Emma laughed, pulling her son in for another quick cuddle. "He's not always. And he wants to meet you. I know I should have told you about him before, Henry, but I didn't think I'd ever see him again. He really does want to get to know you though."
"I'd like to know my father." Henry admitted, his voice muffled by Emma's embrace. "But I want to know Killian too, because he has a hook for a hand and that's really exciting."
"Exciting?" Killian repeated, a grin spreading across his face when Emma threw her head back to laugh, one hand releasing her son so she could take a hold of his hook. "I guess there's a first for everything."
"I don't know." Emma muttered, leaning towards him so she could murmur in his ear. "I find the hook quite exciting too."
He raised his eyebrows at her, grin widening when she kissed just below his ear and then returned her attention to her son.
If things could be this easy, leaving was going to be so much harder.
"Well, I'm grateful for everything, but I'd like to get out of Wonderland sooner, rather than later." Killian stated, watching the hatter clap his hands together in an attempt to beat the dust from his fingers. "This entire trip has been an utter waste of my time. The only thing I've learnt is that I need to get out of my realm in case this curse hits, but I'd much rather be cursed than remain in this disaster of a land."
"You're not from Wonderland then?" Jefferson questioned, his eyes wide and imploring. "Did you get here by looking glass? Or another way? How did you get here?"
Killian scrutinized the madman for a few seconds, then decided to answer. His murder of the Queen of Hearts suggested he was a potential ally, albeit a unpredictably dangerous one, and someone with knowledge of the curious land would be welcome. "I was assisted by a Queen from another realm, Regina."
He hadn't expected the hatter to gape at him, his fists clenching and a furious glint entering his eyes. "You used my hat." Jefferson didn't even give Killian a moment to say anything in confirmation, stepping closer to him and grasping at the pirate's collar, standing uncomfortably close. "How many people? How many came through with you? Were you alone?"
Killian shoved the man back, watching as the man swallowed and then shook himself, as if he was trying to calm himself down. "Your hat? Is that why you've made so many here? So you can leave this place?"
"Yes. And the amount of people who go through the hat has to be same number of people that return through it. Please. How many came through with you?" Jefferson's eyes narrowed and then he smirked. "If it was more than one person, I think we could come to some sort of arrangement. I used to be a man who travelled much and if you take me back with you, I can get you what you need to escape this curse."
"I would need a portal in the sea, for my ship and my crew. Could you get me a magic bean?"
"Easily." Jefferson agreed. "I can get you some. I'm guessing you'll need more than one, if you ever want to make a return trip."
"You can truly get me one? Because if so, there is a space open for a return trip to the Enchanted Forest. You do seem more helpful than the corpse of our dearly departed Queen. If I can trust you, that is."
"One more thing." Jefferson began, sounding surprisingly nervous. "Should I choose not to remain in the Enchanted Forest, which could be a wise choice given these rumours of
a curse, or if there's nothing for me there, may I remain with you? I can be useful. My hat allows me to obtain anything from any realm with magic, should you need it, and if you let me accompany you and your crew, I will fetch things for you. Make sure we both get something out of this… partnership."
Killian thought about it, amused by the irritation on the hatter's face, something that became more and more apparent with each second Killian spent in thought. Eventually, he offered his hand for the hatter to shake, agreeing to the man's deal. "Alright." he stated. "But one amendment. If you do anything like what you did just then, to Cora? You're walking the plank. If you're on my ship, you're in my crew and I need people I trust on my crew. Is that you?"
"I suppose you'll have to find out."
Despite the fact that he had been introduced to Henry, Killian had spent longer simply standing by Emma and her son as she recited tales of their travels in this realm and in the other. Baelfire's voice had quietened, but he had yet to embrace his father the way Rumplestiltskin seemed to have expected.
When Baelfire abandoned his father in order to meet his son, Killian stepped aside, letting them have a moment together, as a family. He still kept his gaze on them, but couldn't hear their conversation, his new location by the window too far away.
They looked happy.
Perhaps now would be a good time to leave. Not without a goodbye or an explanation, of course, but Emma had spent months looking for her son, and surely she would welcome some time to spend purely with him.
Unfortunately, that meant he needed to tell her now.
He refused to pull her away from her family.
Yet after a few more minutes, Emma extricated herself from the small huddle and joined him. "What is it? Something's wrong."
"You don't need to worry about me right now, my love. You should be with your son." He replied quietly, watching her hand as it reached out to take his. "Rumplestiltskin kept him from you for long enough."
"He wants to speak to his father." Emma admitted, sounding slightly annoyed. As exciting as it might be for Henry to meet Baelfire, Killian could tell Emma had wished for more time without Baelfire there. "Alone." She paused, bit her lip and turned to look at him with wide eyes. "Baelfire apparently convinced the Dark One to magic us home whenever we're ready. Back to the palace, I mean. I could actually see my parents again. Today. Are you ready to meet them?"
He wasn't. If even he thought he was undeserving of Emma, surely her parents would agree. A centuries old pirate was not a good match for a crown princess, especially one as good and brilliant as Emma. "Emma, I-"
"You're not." she stated, eyebrows furrowing as she turned back to face her son and his father. "I understand. We've never really discussed that. It doesn't matter. We don't need to rely on Rumplestiltskin to get home. The Jolly Roger could take us back and I know Henry would absolutely love it."
Killian stared at her, too many thoughts running through his mind. The idea of months with Emma and Henry on the Jolly Roger, the way Emma had spoken about back before they ever reached Rumplestiltskin, was amazing. But he had made up his mind, and this was the only time he had to let her know. "I love you." The words caused Emma to smile, stepping closer to him and resting her hands on his arms. "And I didn't think I would ever have someone who loved me like you do, especially after everything I have done."
"Why are you talking like this?"
"Meeting you made me want to be a good man, Emma." he told her, unable to meet her eyes as he told her what he had been thinking of over the past few days. "I think when I lost Liam, I lost part of myself. And I only found it again when I found you. All of me loves you, Swan. Now I need to know that I'm worthy of you and that the part of me that is a good man isn't only back when I'm with you. I know you love me, despite everything, but you deserve a good man and I need to make sure that's me, because I'm in love with you. I need to know I can be good. Without you."
"Without me?" she repeated, her gaze wide and horrified and locked on him, her grip on his arms tightening. "Why? You are a good man. If this is about Zelena, things just got out of hand and there really was no other way to stop her. Please don't leave me. Not now."
"Now is the best time." Killian insisted, hating how upset Emma was. "Because you have Henry now. And I'm not leaving. I will be back for you. I could never abandon you. I need to try though, to be better."
Emma stared at him, lips trembling, obviously taken-aback by his sudden announcement. Then, with a sob, she pulled him towards her, letting him wrap his arms around her as she nuzzled into his neck. "You have to come back. Please. One month? I don't want to be without you for longer than that. I just lost Henry for so long and I can't face it again."
"But you understand why I'm doing this? That it's not you?"
"I do. If this is is really what you need to do to believe in yourself the way I believe in you, then okay." She sounded earnest, and once again Killian couldn't understand how he had been lucky enough to love someone like her, or to have her love him in return. "Just please come back to me."
He would have said more, but Henry was calling out for his mother. Emma went to him immediately, quickly making Killian promise not to leave yet, and then was dragged into conversation with Baelfire.
She had requested only one month apart, and he was eager to comply. Any longer without her, after months together, would be torture. He worried that it wasn't long enough, but if that was what Emma wanted, that was what he would do. He would be back at her side in a month, regardless of whether or not he believed himself to be better. He may want to be the man she deserved, but becoming that person was not worth abandoning her.
Killian was so lost in his thoughts that he didn't notice Henry's appearance beside him until the boy grabbed his hook and tugged at it. "Yes?"
"They're deciding when I can see my dad." Henry explained without any prompting, pointing over at Emma and Baelfire. "Because I'll still live in the palace with Mom but this place is really far away. But that doesn't matter because Grandpa can poof my dad to see me whenever he feels like it."
"I'm sure you'll see him, lad."
"Me too. But that's not why I am here." The boy was frowning at him, appearing very serious about whatever he was about to say, and Killian made sure to give the child his complete attention. "My mom's been crying and I know it's because of you. Why?"
Killian knelt down so he was a similar height to the boy, "Because I have to go away for awhile."
"You're leaving? But you've just got here. Why are you going?"
"Because I want to be better."
"But you look at her the way Grandpa, my other Grandpa, looks at Grandma. Don't you love her?" Henry looked so confused, and Killian doubted he could ever explain his motivations to the boy. Emma had told him enough stories of her parents for him to know how loving her family was, and it seemed very likely that, to Henry, love was all someone needed. As much as Killian wanted to agree, sometimes things were more complicated. "Isn't that enough?"
"I love her more than anything." Killian told Henry, which only seemed to confuse the boy even more. "So I want to be a good man. Which is what makes things complicated, Henry."
"You know my name?"
"Of course. Do you think your mother didn't tell me about you?" Henry shrugged in response and Killian chuckled. "She took every chance she could to rhapsodize about you. She really missed you."
"I don't know anything about you."
"Well, you will. One day." It felt strange to have Henry so interested in him, especially now that Killian could see his resemblance to Baelfire. "For now, I just want you to know that in one month, I'll be at the docks. Make sure your mother's there too."
"The docks?" Henry asked, the word lighting up his eyes and appearing to have piqued his interest. "Do you have a ship?"
"Then you have to come back! You have to take me sailing." Henry crowed, his enthusiasm surprising Killian. "I love ships. Although I've never actually been on one before. I collect wooden models of them though."
"I know. Your mother told me." He grinned, his voice lowering to a playful murmur. "And I promise you a real ship is better than a small wooden one. I even told your mother I'd teach you everything about sailing, if that's what you want."
"I do!" Henry stepped back and stared at him, gazing intently at Killian to the point where it began to make Killian feel uncomfortable, as if the child was sizing him up and judging him, making a final decision on what he thought about the pirate. "I think I like you. But I won't if you don't come back. If you make my mom unhappy."
"Good. That's giving me another incentive to return." He joked, growing serious when Henry raised an eyebrow at him. "Not that your mother wasn't incentive enough." Henry grinned at him, the smile the same as the one Baelfire had given him centuries before, when it had been him at the helm.
Baelfire could sail. Baelfire should be the one to teach his son how to read the stars and man the helm.
"Your father can sail." Killian stated awkwardly, Henry peering up at him. "Wouldn't you rather learn with him? I'm sure he'd like to teach you."
Henry shrugged. "I can do other things with him. If you come back, I want to spend time with you too. Because if you come back, you'll never leave again, right?" Killian swallowed, Henry's acceptance of him was something he had imagined would have been much harder to receive. "Because you love her?"
Killian simply nodded, reaching out to ruffle the boys hair and grinning when Henry chuckled and squirmed away.
It was at that moment he realised Emma was nearby, watching him and Henry with a small smile and watery eyes. Henry ran over and pulled her towards them, grinning widely as he looked between the two adults. When they merely stared at each other for a few minutes, Henry nudged Killian's side, as if there was something he was supposed to do.
He wasn't sure what.
"One month." He began, Henry nodded in approval, and he realised Henry, for whatever reason, wanted to hear the goodbye. "One month and then I'll be back at your side. I'll find you."
Henry's grin widened and he spun to face his mother, watching for her reaction. "You'll find me?" Emma repeated, quieter than a whisper.
"Haven't you noticed, Swan? We always find each other."
"Of course you do." Henry piped up, looking amused by his mother's wide-eyed expression. "It's true love. When it's true love, you always find each other. At least what Grandpa says."
There was silence for a few moments, Killian unable to look away from Emma, watching her face as she stepped closer to him and took his face gently in her hands, tilting his head down so their foreheads were touching. He swallowed, Henry's words stuck in his mind, and then he nudged closer, lips brushing against hers, aware that her son was standing beside them and watching their every move. "He's right. I'm pretty certain it's true love."
"You can't say that when you're about to go." she replied, and he heard the slight sob she tried to hide. "Say it again when you get back."
She looked down at her son, Killian doing the same, and then laughed brokenly when Henry raised his eyebrows expectantly and then pointedly looked away. The moment her son wasn't looking, Emma tugged Killian close, mouth pressing against his in a desperate, hurried kiss.
"Goodbye." she whispered.
"It's not goodbye." Killian promised. "We will see each other again. Never doubt that."
One more kiss to her lips and then she released him, taking her son in her arms and then nodding at Baelfire.
Rumplestiltskin clicked his fingers, there was a burst of red smoke and then she was gone.
And Killian was alone.
To be continued in "The False Queen"
It's the end! Don't worry though, there's more to come. The next story will be posted sometime in the next few weeks. I want to thank every single person who has read this fic - as well as everyone who added it to their story alerts or favourited it! I'm happy that so many people seem to have enjoyed it!
And I'd like to thank the-art-of-escape, mela16, LadaHathaway, Mary, jedi gone bounty hunter, Mrs-N-Uzumaki, fox24 and buffybabe42 for reviewing. I'd also like to say that I'm so so thankful for BlackDragon733, who betaed every single chapter and had to read all my random thoughts on facebook chat.