Beacons

An OUAT Fanfiction.

A cold slab of water slapped Killian Jones across the cheek. He sucked in a choked breath of salt and night air. The grind and filth of the ocean was everywhere, through his dripping hair, down his boots. It even coated the wheel, leaving a lumpy, slick residue on the bars as Killian strained to right the Jolly Roger.

"Cap'in!" Percy, a young boy toting an oil lantern that had long since gone out yelped above the storm.

"Stay inside your quarters," Killian roared back. The fool wasn't strong enough to help, and would just get in the way. Percy reached out and grasped the stiff leather of Killian's jacketed elbow.

"But, Cap'in," He spat water from his mouth. "I see a light."

"We're in the void, Percy," Killian gritted his teeth as yet another tidal wave rocked the ship. "There are no—" Percy cut him off, yanking his chin down with a small hand.

"Look."

And there it was. Off in the distance, shining through the pelting storm. His compass spun faster as he yanked the wheel, steering the ship towards their only hope.

"We're nowhere near the door to the enchanted forest," he said. "Or Neverland." They'd been blown too far off track to be close to anything, really.

"If we die," Killian mumbled. "it'll be on your head." Percy's arm sagged a little, and the lantern creaked as it swung.

"Land Ho!" Killian roared, and the crew scrambled to his side as they peered at the light, growing closer and closer. The waves threw tantrums around them, but the ship glided smoothly, as if pulled in by some kind of invisible arm.

The air was warm as it enveloped them. They would be okay.

#

Emma Swan sat, letting the backs of her good, black shoes scuff the parking lot as she dragged her heels back. It made a pleasant scratching sound, and Emma didn't have much else to do. She'd done a decent job with scratching them up so far, but Ms. Mullberry wouldn't be pleased.

Then again, Ms. Mullberry was sure to be un-pleased already, for this wasn't the first time a couple had returned Emma.

When Emma was younger, she used to remember each one. But, she had stopped counting after fifteen. Partly because, back then, she wasn't very sure if she'd be able to count much higher, and partly because it made her chest feel heavy, and the tip of her nose hurt every time she thought about it.

Eight years old, and not a single person in the world to call her own.

She sighed, watching Mr. Hills and his wife scurry to their car, careful to not notice her. Usually the couples waited for Ms. Mullberry to pick her up. This one couldn't bear the wait and decided it would be best if they dropped her off.

The click of Ms. Mullberry's heels echoed up the sidewalk, stopping short of Emma.

"There you are," the woman said. Emma didn't look up.

"You couldn't convince them?" she asked. There was an oil spot the size of her fist on the pavement, and she nudged it with her newly rattied shoe.

"They weren't ready," Ms. Mullberry said. "Onwards and upwards."

Emma rolled her head back, giving the woman an unappreciative eyebrow lift.

"Wait here." Ms. Mullberry's heels click-clacked down the concrete as she returned to the building.

Emma looked to the side and nodded to the security guard, who slouched lazily against the front door. He didn't nod back. He was asleep.

"Onwards and upwards," Emma muttered, returning to the scratching process.

A high-pitched screech echoed through the lot, followed by a flash. Emma blinked away the fuzzy red spots in her vision, jumping a little as a large chunk of wood bumped her toes.

Floating above the ground, as if sailing on air, was the biggest, most ancient looking ship Emma had ever seen. Men in tattered, red clothes leapt and pulled at the ropes. Water dripped from the sides. A man in a dark leather coat, with a shiny hook for a hand, shouted to the others.

"Wait here!" he said, grabbing a rope and propelling down the side of the boat. His thin heels clanked on the pavement, and he jumped as he noticed Emma. Particularly when he noticed how close Emma was to the front edge of the ship.

"We almost ran you over!" he shouted, jogging over. The man shook his head, freeing yet more water from his short, yet jagged dark locks.

His eyes were kind, but his hook probably wouldn't be allowed inside the building.

"You can't park that here," Emma ventured.

"Didn't mean to frighten you." He plunked down beside her, scratching the back of his head with the curve of his hook.

"You'll get in trouble," Emma tried again. The man leaned in, eyes twinkling, but his breath smelled of something bitter.

"Good."

Emma didn't quite know what to say to that.

"Where might I find your king?" the man asked.

Emma stared blankly.

"Your…ruler?" he said, squinting and tilting his face to the side.

"Ms. Mullberry has rules. I mean. She's in charge of me." Emma said.

"And, you think she'll mind if we use this port?" the man asked. Emma glanced back at the security guard. He still slumbered on.

"I'm not supposed to talk to strangers." Emma said. The man poked her elbow with his hand.

"I'm Killian," he said. "I'm not going to hurt you, you don't need to cry."

"I'm not."

"Lass, there's an ocean in your eyes."

Emma reached up to touch her cheek, recoiling at the feel of tears. She wiped them on her sleeve. The grey fabric grew dark under the spot.

"It's not you," Emma said. Where was Ms. Mullberry?

"Then who is it, Love?" Killian said. Emma looked up at him, feeling the pinpricks in her chest turn to a steady ache. "Not just an ocean," Hook leaned toward her, gazing intently. "There's a whole storm in there."

Her throat tightened, and her voice was all wobbly as she said, "They didn't want me." Hook grinned and shook his head.

"They're the color of the mists and fog that settles over the water." Hook said, leaning back.

"They're just eyeballs." Emma replied.

"They're just people." Hook answered.

"They were supposed to be my new parents," Emma said. Hook grimaced.

"That's uncomfortable."

Emma hiccupped. "I don't like being given back."

Hook picked at a loose thread in the seem of his boot.

"I've yet to meet someone who does," he offered. "I took up sailing instead. Good for the body." Emma stared at his hook.

"There's no water to sail on around here."

The thud of the door to the building sounded, and the frantic clicking started.

"Kevin," Ms. Mullberry's voice twinged from the side of the lot. "You were supposed to be watching her." The woman's voice was clipped as she shouted, "Emma, come here."

"Sir?" Kevin was speaking now, and Killian jumped to his feet. "You can't park your bus here." Killian made a funny face. "I'm going to have to call the officials.

"That won't be necessary." Killian grinned and jumped for the rope, letting his comrades pull him up.

Ms. Mullberry pulled out her phone.

Chaos ensued as the men let the sails loose, twisting and pulling the ropes. A strong wind whistled through the lot, whipping at the newly unfurled flag at the top of the mast. A black square with a shoddy painted skull and crossbones.

"We've got a suspicious person—" Ms. Mullberry tried to shout above the gale. The ship creaked and groaned as it shifted backwards.

"He's driving off!" Kevin shouted.

"Emma!" Killian leaned over the rails of the boat as it floated higher, shimmering.

"What?" Emma shouted back.

"There is always an ocean to sail upon," he called. "If you know how to look!" With a flourish of his hands, the ship bobbed and swayed, then shimmered and faded from existence.

And Emma was left on the ground with nothing but her scuffed shoes and Ms. Mullberry's voice saying, "They just peeled out and took off, could've hit one of the children." Emma didn't bother to correct her, instead, she stared at the blank space where the ship had been. The stains the water had left on the lot. The place Killian had sat by her side. When he'd said her eyes had storms.

A hand landed on her shoulder.

"You," Ms. Mullberry said, "could've been in a heap of trouble."

Emma grinned.

"Good."