A/N: This story is based off of Will finding a book in the library with a pop up of the Jolly Roger. A number of us believe that this is Killian's own storybook. I wanted to write a little Captain Book about how the book finally ends up in Killian's hands and what he finds there. Thanks for reading!
"Belle?! Belle, where are you?!" Killian called out as he and Emma burst through the front door of the library.
They looked about the lobby, wild eyed, Emma's hands starting to spark with magic as the chime above the door jangled its alert in the silent room. Their abrupt and loud entrance caused at least one patron to abandon his stack of books and rush past them and out the door. Killian could hardly blame the bloke; a harried looking Savior never boded well for the citizenry.
Killian's text from Belle read only "Come to the library as soon as you can. You won't believe what's here." Given the quiet calm before him, Killian considered that maybe they had overreacted to her message. Probably would not be the last time, given Storybrooke's history of attracting any number of malcontents to its magical confines.
Belle popped up from where she'd been sitting behind the circulation desk. When she saw Killian and Emma, a wide grin brightened her face. She got up quickly, waving her hands in front of her to get them to slow down.
"I'm fine. Everything is fine!" she assured them.
"Then why the urgency, lass?" Killian asked, concern for his friend lingering in spite of her words. He couldn't help but scan her and the room for signs of danger she may have missed or might still be lurking about.
"Yeah, not like you aren't sitting on top of the dragon's lair over here. We thought something happened to you," Emma explained, slightly out of breath.
Belle laughed. "No, no. I'm sorry! I just wanted to show you something," she said and passed a book to Killian from behind the counter. "I… well, Will found it. I don't know how I could have missed it," she explained, a blush creeping across her cheeks at the mention of the thief. "You won't believe what's in there."
Emma raised her eyebrows at Belle's assessment of the book and shook her head. "I dunno, I believe all kinds of things these days. If I can wrap my head around a magic vacuuming hat, I'm pretty sure whatever is in this book can't be weirder than that."
Distracted, Killian turned the book over in his hands, not yet opening it. He knew there were several blank copies of the book safely stored in the Sorcerer's grand house, and then Henry's own book which was currently in Regina's possession. This was neither of those.
The leather was worn in spots, the gilding worn away here and there. It had definitely been handled and well read from the state of it. This was no new book, of that he was certain. An uneasy tightening of his chest and flutter in his belly warned him that this volume was more than it seemed. He hesitated to go further than inspecting its cover.
Emma elbowed him and he looked up at her as if remembering he was not alone.
"What's the matter?" she asked. He could tell by the tilt of her head and the narrowing of her eyes, she was trying to read him.
"Dunno, love," he answered, shaking his head slightly, a frown flickering across his lips. "I have an odd feeling is all."
Belle placed her hand on his forearm and gave it a squeeze.
"Go ahead," she said, smiling up at him.
Killian placed the book atop the circulation desk so Belle and Emma could stand on either side of him as he opened it. Emma wrapped her arm around his waist, while Belle rocked up on the balls of her feet for a closer view. Her excited anticipation was almost contagious.
From their days spent researching the solution to the magical hat problem, he'd figured out quite quickly how new books and new information were almost an addiction for her. He suspected she'd already gone through this volume cover-to-cover before she even called him. If what was in it were truly bad, he doubted Belle would have been so insistent he peruse it. Small comfort, but it was enough.
With a deep breath, Killian opened the book to a random page and was stunned to see a drawing of himself at the helm of the Jolly Roger. His heart pounded in his chest, and his breath quickened when he recognized the specific drawing.
"Wow!" Emma said, the awe apparent in her voice. "It's you… looking… dashing!"
Killian's fingers traced over the lines of the illustration, unable to smile at Emma's compliment. The simple sketch managed to capture him in his element—commanding the ship on the open sea, with nothing but adventure and riches awaiting him and his crew. He remembered that day clearly: endless blue skies, a merchant ship ripe for the picking on the horizon, an able-bodied crew, and a woman on deck, sheaf of drawing papers in hand, looking at him with love and admiration in her eyes. At that moment in his life, as far afield as he'd traveled from where he started with Liam, he'd been unexpectedly happy. That much was as plain as the picture in front of him.
Belle interrupted his reverie. "That's not the only one! Keep going!" she encouraged, starting to flip to the next page.
Both women on either side of him commented enthusiastically as they pored over all the drawings in this section of the book, but Killian could only stare and swallow thickly with the turn of each page and new illustration. There they were: the half of the crew lost in the Echo Caves of Neverland, others he'd lost to rival pirates or in battle...the Jolly Roger herself. Killian looked away and took a half a step back as Belle turned to the next chapter.
"This is where the artwork changes," she said.
"Aye," Killian knew why. The artist was dead by then.
Emma turned and looked at him closely again. He knew he wasn't able to disguise the pain in his eyes from her and didn't bother trying. This time in his life, his early piracy, was not something he was trying to keep from her—not that he could now, what with a book of his life in her hands—rather it was something he thought he had moved on from. In a way he had, but to see those drawings again...
Realization dawned on Emma and she looked at him inquisitively. "Milah?" she asked.
Killian could only nod as he tried to find an explanation for why they were there, but he couldn't.
Emma looked impressed. "She really was quite the artist. But how did those end up here?" she asked, pointing to the pages of the book.
Belle was still trying to catch up on the conversation, puzzlement etched around her eyes and mouth as she began putting the pieces together. "Wait. You mean the pictures in this book were drawn by Milah… Rumple's first wife? The same woman who left him for you?"
"Aye, she had talent with paper and charcoal," he said. "Bae took after her in that respect."
"That still doesn't answer how her drawings got into this… your book. Do you think she knew the author?" Emma asked. He could tell she had her bail bondsperson thinking engaged, looking for leads, but he was dubious of any connection between Milah and the author.
"Unless he was disguised as a crewmember, doubtful," he sighed. "I've no idea how these ended up in here. I burned the lot of them after I… uh… turned Baelfire over to Pan. Couldn't bear to look at them any longer."
Belle looked deep in thought as Killian admitted to his capricious destruction of the drawings. She looked at him thoughtfully and asked, "You burned these while you were in Neverland?"
Killian nodded. "Aye, love. That's where I retreated to after she was murdered."
"Neverland is a place of powerful magic. Maybe burning them there was enough for them to wind up on these pages," Belle offered.
"Likely an answer as any, I suppose," Killian said. On the one hand, given Milah's effort and love of drawing, he was happy they weren't gone forever. On the other hand, he was tired of his past coming back to haunt him with such regularity. But with a lifespan as long and as eventful as his, he was starting to see the inevitability of such a thing happening. The thought was hardly reassuring.
Emma closed the book gently and took his hand. "Shall we check this out and you can read it to me later?" she asked.
Killian gave her a tremulous smile as Belle cut off any answer Killian may have given.
"Oh, I took it out of circulation. You can keep it. I wasn't sure how you'd feel about it being available to the general population," she said.
Releasing Emma's hand, Killian slid the book from the counter and tucked it under his hooked arm. He smiled at Belle and thanked her.
Emma filed out of the library ahead of Killian, but before he could leave the library himself, Belle called out to him.
"Killian, it's a great story you know. A hero's journey," she said, a sincere look in her eyes. "One of the best ones I've ever read."
Letting out the breath he'd been harboring since she handed him the book, Killian bowed. "Thanks, love."