It's late afternoon, the day before they're about to confront Pan and get Henry back; the ever-present, oppressive humidity hangs low between the outlandish trees, making it hard to breathe. Emma is pacing back and forth in and around the camp nervously, like a caged tigress. After observing her for several minutes, Hook steps in her way.
"Swan, a word." He speaks quietly, not keen on anyone else to overhear what he has to say. He throws a glance over her shoulder and sees that her mother is still busy sharpening the points of her arrows with a small edged stone. The prince is on patrol with the Queen, and Bae – Neal, they call him – is asleep. Good.
Without a real reason, she glares at him. "I'm not in the mood," she tries to brush him off. Really, she doesn't need any of his meaningful talks and frightening confessions right now to confuse her and throw her off track.
"I'm afraid this can't wait," he insists, firmly staying in her way.
"Fine," she huffs and crosses her arms. "What?"
He takes a step closer and lowers his voice a little, and she wonders what this is about. "Tomorrow, when we go to get back your boy..." he pauses briefly and scratches behind his ear, "you may have to use your sword."
Emma frowns in confusion. "Yeah, well, I wasn't expecting Pan to hand him over just like that, but thanks for the warning." She tries to walk past him, but he raises his hand and stops her.
"Underestimating Pan and his brigade would be a mistake," he tells her with urge in his voice, and she starts to get annoyed with him. What the fuck is he aiming at? Of course she's aware that this is not a picnic. "They may look young," he goes on, "but they are no children."
"I'm aware of that," she replies impatiently and demands to know, "What is this even about?"
He motions vaguely to her sword. "Let me teach you a few moves to see you fit for the fight," he finally says bluntly.
She rolls her eyes. "Thanks, but I can do pretty well on my own."
Hook tilts his head doubtfully which stuns her, because she has yet to see him doubt her. "Hmmm, you're not bad with the sword, I'll give you that," he replies and lowers his voice even more, "but I highly doubt the Lost Boys would be inclined to let you win." He hooks his thumb in his belt. "Pan surely wouldn't."
What the hell is he talking about? She narrows her eyes and glares at him. "What are you saying, Hook?" she wants to know, a threat lurking behind her words. Let her win? She can think of only one real sword fight of hers he could have witnessed, and that was when she bested him, after all. So, he really shouldn't... wait, what? Her eyes widen and fixate his face when it dawns on her what he means.
He steps forward, right into her personal space, toe to toe with her now, so that she has to tilt her head up a little to hold his gaze (and she'll be damned if she looks away or gives in as much as one single inch). "You know exactly what I'm saying, Swan," he challenges.
She snorts in disbelief and shakes her head. "God, you're so full of yourself," she hisses. "This jungle isn't good for your testosterone level."
He's unimpressed. "Lesson number one," he replies without hesitation, "a miscall is only likely to throw your adversary off track if you use a vocabulary he'll understand." He doesn't seem uncomfortable in the slightest about his lack of knowledge; no, that bastard owns it.
"I don't need your lessons," Emma snaps angrily. "The last time we crossed blades – "
"The last time we crossed blades," he interrupts unwaveringly, "I had you on your back, and my sword had you trapped." He tilts his head in that infuriatingly mocking way of his. "Do you really think you could have escaped me if I hadn't permitted you to?" His eyes bore into hers and he runs his tongue through his mouth, pink tip peeking out between his teeth just so, and it's unnerving how that affects her on more levels than she needs right now.
"You honestly expect me to believe you?" she presses through clenched teeth, fury in her eyes.
Now, surprisingly enough, he takes a step back. "I never expect anyone to believe me," he tells her in a flat voice, and she's surprised to detect a hint of bitterness in it. "But you would know if I was lying," he adds, and again it strikes her how immediately and without questions he has accepted her ability to detect lies as part of her. Unlike others, whispers a voice in her brain.
She's shocked when she realizes he's telling her the truth. It takes a few moments before the meaning of his words really sinks in. All that time she truly believed she'd beaten him with her fierceness and her skills, when in reality he'd made it easy for her. Emma shakes her head in disbelief. "Why?" she manages.
And now Hook is the one to avert his eyes, that muscle in his jaw twitching, before he looks back at her again. "My reasons are my own."
"Don't give me that!" she snaps in exasperation.
Some wall has gone up, she can clearly see it in the way his unblinking stare rests upon her. "Right now," he tells her firmly, narrowing his eyes, "that's everything I'll give you. I only revealed it to make you realize you need training."
Her thoughts are whirling, still trying to wrap around what she just learned, not sure what to feel about it. "But – "
"Lesson number two," he interrupts firmly, "focus on the task. Everything else can be delayed."
Emma is furious now; Hook's voice is detached somehow and his expression unreadable which infuriates her even more, because he's always so full of emotions, especially lately, and he never bothered to hide them before. She feels humiliated that he let her win on that day at Lake Nostos, in a land far away, and frustrated that he doesn't want to tell her why. On the other hand, she's scared as hell that he does tell her why, and that confuses and angers her even more. So, she lashes out instinctively and tells him sharply, voice dripping sarcasm, "You just want to get me on my back again."
Only the twitch of that muscle in his jaw betrays that her words have gotten to him. When he speaks, his upper lip bares his teeth in an angry grimace. "If you're so opposed to my advice, I'm sure your father can perfectly well teach you how to wield a sword." And with that, he tilts his head and sways out his hand slightly in the mocking imitation of a bow and turns around to walk away.
"No, wait!" she calls out quickly, without thinking, "I'm sorry." He stops immediately and stands rooted to the spot, obviously listening, but keeps his back on her. "Show me," she adds.
He turns around slowly, seemingly calm, but a blue storm is raging in his eyes when he asks, "Are you sure you're willing to take lessons from a pirate?" he pops the 't' sarcastically and pokes his tongue into his cheek – not in a lewd, but in an angry kind of way. Emma scrutinizes him closely, trying to assess him. He stands there in his most arrogant pose, legs slightly spread, hips pushed a little forward, hand resting at his belt – like he's daring her to write him off as a cocky bastard. And a week ago, she maybe would have. But since then, a lot has happened that has made her see him with different eyes now, much to her own surprise. She looks at him seemingly dripping swagger from every pore, but she sees right through him, senses it's his way of putting up an armor... the pirate. The hint of angry bitterness in his eyes betray that he's not coquetting with his reputation, but rather hurt by it, and this is obviously the vulnerable side of him that she's caught glimpses of through the cracks in his façade already a few times.
"Yes, I am," she finally answers his question. "Because I trust you."
His eyebrows shoot up, and his head drops to the side. "Oh." He pours quite an amount of suspicious sarcasm into that one short syllable. "And now suddenly you can risk that you're wrong about me?"
She averts her eyes for a moment guiltily, surprised that Hook's still upset about that, but not willing to apologize for it; she just can't. She knows she was wrong about him and his intentions in that moment, back then on the beanstalk, but how could she have known he wouldn't betray them later if it suited his purposes? She didn't know him then. Actually, she doesn't know him now, does she? But somehow, she has the feeling that she does, at least a little. Enough, however, to listen to her instincts, and they are doing weird things to her lately when it comes to him. She draws a deep breath.
"Maybe I'm trying something new," Emma then tells him with only a little anxiousness in her voice, firmly fixing her eyes on his face again. It's called trust. Absentmindedly she touches her necklace and remembers that other necklace with the swan pendant she's been wearing for a long time – made from the cheap, stolen key chain Neal had given her. She told Neal it was a reminder for her never to trust anybody again, yet here she is, telling a formerly villainous, still slightly shady pirate of all people that she trusts him – and she really means it.
And now he's the one to look away, preventing her from being able to read the expression on his face – it's guarded, from what she sees, and who could blame him, she thinks with remorse. But she suspects he's also touched by her admission, remembering when he told her outright, in another realm, that she was afraid to trust him and she replied that he must be used to that, because – pirate. Just like she told him, just a few days ago, that his decision to reveal that Neal was still alive did indeed surprise her, because – pirate. Now, it dawns on her that he's probably been labeled as a pirate unworthy of trust for most of his life which, like most labeling, was unfair just as probably. And for the first time she asks herself who he really is and what made him become a pirate in the first place centuries ago.
When Hook still doesn't speak or look at her, she throws her hands in the air in frustration and asks almost defiantly, "You want me to say please?" She's aware that she's opened the door wide for him to throw an innuendo her way, but there is none.
Finally, he turns his eyes back to her and tilts his head, eyes softer now and calmer after the storm has subsided. "You just did," he replies, quietly acknowledging the effort and courage it cost her to actually trust him – and even more so to admit it to him, because of course he knows. Open book, flies through her mind. "We shouldn't waste any time," he adds.
She nods, feeling a hard ball of tension dissolve in her belly. "I'll go talk to my mother and make up an excuse," she says, "they don't need to know that I have to... practice."
"I'll be waiting," he simply replies and hooks his thumb in his belt again, staying where he is, at the curve of that narrow path meandering from the camp in the direction of the shore. Emma turns around and crosses the clearing to walk over to Mary Margaret who is tending to her bow and checking the strength of the string.
Her mother looks up and smiles, and not for the first time it strikes Emma how much the woman's fierce green eyes remind her of her own. She clears her throat. "We're heading down to the shore," she announces and adds hastily, "To check on the passage to the ship and see it's secure." She's aware she starts rambling, feeling like the guilty teenager trying to fool her mother. And gesticulates a little aimlessly. "You know, no traps and ambushes."
Mary Margaret frowns suspiciously and looks at Hook who returns her glance with a nonchalant head tilt from afar, then back at her daughter again. "You shouldn't go alone," she finally says.
Emma raises her eyebrows. "We're two," she retorts pointedly, daring her mother to say outright what she really means. Of course, with Mary Margaret she can count on exactly that.
"What do I tell Neal if he asks where you are?" she comes straight to the point.
Emma's answer is firm and undeterred. "You can tell him exactly what I told you, Mary Margaret. It's not like he's entitled to – "
"Emma," her mother interrupts and throws another sideways glance at the pirate, lowering her voice a bit to tell her bluntly, "I don't think it's wise to... rush things with Hook."
"I'm not rushing anything," Emma replies hotly, "and there are no... things with Hook."
Mary Margaret cocks her head. "And that kiss was just a kiss, right?" she asks.
Emma doesn't really feel like arguing about this with her mother; she has tucked it away in a quiet corner of her mind along with Hook's confession from the Echo Cave and his stupid, old-fashioned, confusing, and absolutely frightening promise to win her heart. Once she'll feel fit, she'll deal with all of that, but right now, she doesn't even have an answer for herself, let alone for the woman that hasn't been her mother until very recently. "We'll be back in a few hours," she announces firmly, her tone indicating that she's not planning on discussing this any further. Before she can turn around, Mary Margaret puts a hand on her arm to hold her back.
"Emma," she says softly, "you surely have valid reasons to be angry at Neal, and I know he wronged you, but – "
"No," Emma cuts her off almost angrily, "you know nothing." When she sees shadows of hurt and guilt creep over her mothers face, she adds in a gentler tone, "One day, I will tell you about it, Mom. But now's not the time."
For a moment, they just look at each other, neither of them saying a word. Then, Mary Margaret slowly nods, accepting her daughter's decision. Because she's right: she knows nothing about her past with Neal – what she does know, though, is that Emma is a kind and forgiving person. And if she can't find it in herself to care for Neal any further than because he's Henry's father, she must have valid reasons for it. And whatever it is that's going on between Emma and Hook, as long as it's good for her daughter, it's not Mary Margaret's place to interfere with it. Emma presses her lips into a little smile and turns around to follow the pirate into the depth of the jungle.
He nods when he sees her approach and takes the lead along the wound path without another word; she follows just as silently, but the silence isn't uncomfortable, despite their earlier exchange. When the path broadens into a small clearing that finds his approval, Hook stops in the middle of it and turns around to face her, his hook resting against his belt while he sways his hand in an inviting move.
"Show me how you draw and wield it," he orders, motioning towards her sword.
Emma huffs and glares at him, but when he cocks his head and raises his eyebrows in a challenge, she does what he demands. She draws her sword – the one Hook gave her, that once belonged to Neal – with one hand and then grasps the hilt with both hands and swings it through the air with concentration.
But Hook raises his hand immediately and shakes his head. "No. No no no no no, not like that, Swan," he interrupts her. "This is a cutlass, not a broadsword."
"Yeah, sorry, I was never exactly taught weaponry," she snaps, sarcasm in her voice. "So it's a cutlass. What's the deal?"
"You don't wield a cutlass with both hands," he explains in a serious voice, not making fun of her in the slightest. "And no, I'm not saying that because I have only one hand." She rolls her eyes, and he continues, "It takes away precision, aim and momentum."
She presses her lips together in frustration because what he says seems to make sense. "Okay, so how do I do it?" she asks almost defiantly, reluctance in her voice. If there's one thing she hates, it's giving up control. And having to admit someone has the upper hand in something and ask them to teach you... well, that's quite a bit of giving up control.
He looks directly into her eyes, in that unnerving, intense way of his that makes her feel like they're the only two people in the world, and seems to be pondering over something. Emma raises her chin and waits for the move that will inevitably come: surely he'll take advantage of the situation, use it as an excuse to get close to her. He'll tell her to take the hilt of her sword – cutlass – and then step behind her, press himself into her back and reach around her with his arm to put his hand over hers. He'll guide her hand to pull the sword and execute the move together with her while his hook will be pressing into her left hip, holding her in place... and why the fuck is that thought making the little hairs at the back of her neck bristle? A wave of annoyance at herself and embarrassment washes over her at her inability to stop that vivid image – and at her stupid heart for beating faster at the mere thought of it.
She licks her lips a little nervously, undecided what to do, but Hook surprises her once more when he does nothing of the sort. On the contrary, he even takes two steps back from her, and she's taken aback so much that she raises both eyebrows in confusion. He spreads his legs a little, rooting himself on the ground and gets into battle stance, she can see it from the way his body tenses, and looks at her in a completely serious, no-nonsense way. His firm blue stare is bare of any teasing or flirting and demanding her full attention.
He reaches for the hilt of his own sword, and her eyes follow the move of his hand. "You draw it with one hand and strike right out of the movement..." he draws his own sword, and in one smooth move has it buzzing through the air. For one moment, Emma is confused, because the blade seems to disappear, until she feels the cool, sharp tip at the side of her throat, "...like this."
She swallows and turns her eyes down at the steel blade for a second, and the thought flickers through her mind how easily he could slit her throat if he wanted to, and of course she hears his voice in her head, low, suggestive and full of devilish glee: When I jab you with my sword, you'll feel it. Annoyed with herself, she presses her lips together and hikes her eyes back up to his again, half expecting him to throw her a slippery pun, because there's no way he can not be remembering the very same occasion, but she doesn't even find so much as a glint in his eyes. He just tilts his head, slowly sliding his sword back into its sheath again, before he tells her, "Try again."
Emma nods, still confused by his unexpected total lack of taking advantage of the situation and her own reaction of being almost disappointed about that. She needs a moment to snap out of it, and again, the memory of his voice floats through her head: ...it will not be because of any trickery.
He raises a questioning eyebrow. "Emma?"
Oh, great. He used her first name. It will be because you want me. She draws a deep breath and lets it out again in a huff. Focus on the task at hand.
She swallows and shakes her head lightly, just once, to clear it before she takes battle stance, draws her own blade and swings it through the air, trying to imitate the elegant circle he just painted. She manages quite decently, even if her aim isn't that refined yet; the tip of her sword ends up pointing at his shoulder.
He turns his eyes down at the pointy end without moving his head, and then back at her. "Again," he commands.
She puts the sword back into the sheath and has to fumble a bit which earns her a little smirk from him, but he doesn't deliver any inappropriate comment whatsoever, and again, she's surprised. Then she repeats the move, and then once more, while he is quietly watching. And again. With every time her blade buzzes through the humid air, she feels a little more confident and has the impression that her moves are becoming more aimed and on point. He doesn't say anything, just nods his head from time to time, letting her bring the blade to his throat time after time, not once flinching. Not even when it scrapes over his scruff with a surprisingly loud noise. It's like he has complete faith in her, and that helps. After the fifteenth time or so, however, her arm starts to feel heavier, and five swings later her triceps is burning. She rubs it lightly with her left hand and ignores Hook's quirked eyebrow.
"Anything wrong, love?" he inquires.
"I'm fine," she replies grumpily and makes a move to grab her sword again, but he holds up his hand and stops her.
"What is it?" he asks again, and she has the feeling he knows exactly what's bothering her. So, she just throws him an annoyed glare for taunting her and presses her lips together stubbornly. He cocks his head to the side and motions to her shoulder. "Your arm is getting tired, right?"
"A bit," she admits reluctantly. "But it's really no big – "
"That's because you use only your arm to strike," he interrupts and taps his ringed index finger lightly to her throbbing arm, and for a second her skin tingles from his touch. "You're wasting all your strength if you don't use all of your body," he explains. "Look how I do it."
She doesn't have to be told twice. He puts his hand to the sword and bends his knees ever-so-slightly, and the little creaking sound his leather pants make distract her for a moment. He turns his body the tiniest bit to the left; when he draws the sword with a powerful move, his whole body tenses and the barely half-twist brings his arm and hand holding the sword forward with might. Emma hasn't taken notice of that finesse of his technique before as she's been paying more attention to his way of wielding the sword with one hand and cutting elegant but deadly lines into the air. But she sees now what he was talking about earlier, and it makes sense, because if she knows one thing it's how to throw a punch – and she knows that you never just use your hand or arm to get the full impact, but you always punch from the shoulder, using your whole upper body to push it forward.
She nods. "Okay. Point taken."
He sways out his hand in an inviting gesture and tilts his head, signalizing that now it's her turn. She takes battle stance like he did before and draws and swings her sword with far more force and impact than before, at the same time finding it far easier that way. He smirks and tilts his head when he does an exaggerated little jump to get out of her way and asks teasingly, "Isn't that much better?"
Emma doesn't reply and just rolls her eyes at him, thinking the cocky bastard could have shown her the right way to do it before her triceps felt bloated like a balloon; but she grumpily admits to herself that having her find it out all by herself was probably the more effective method. She concentrates and repeats the move again and again, this time with much less tiring effort than before.
After a while of her getting the routine, he stops her again raising a hand. "Enough with the foreplay now," he tells her, and when she raises her eyebrows in indignation, adds with a smirk, "on to the close combat." And with that, he draws his own sword slowly, holding it up. "Strike me, Swan."
She frowns. "Isn't that a bit risky?"
"Don't worry," he replies, "you won't hurt me."
"Are you serious?"
"I'm the preceptor," he states, not able to keep a subtle mocking undertone out of his voice. "Do as I say." Then he tilts his head in a definite challenge and runs his tongue along the inside of his teeth. "What is it, love, afraid you'll fail?"
"Surely not," she presses through gritted teeth. Then she draws her sword and performs her move, aiming at him as he said. He blocks her strike with his own blade quickly coming up, and the force of the impact makes her weapon vibrate so strongly that she can feel a tingle run through her hand and up her arm.
"Decent enough," he comments, and with twirl of his hand so fast that it's barely visible his blade seems to grip hers – at least that's the impression she gets – and causes her wrist to bend so that she has to let go of her sword. She gasps in surprise, mouth hanging open, and he tilts his head with a satisfied smirk. "Now you learn how to truly parry."
She throws him a grumpy glance before picking up her sword, but then that's what they're here for – to find out where her fighting skills are not refined enough and the train them. Good form. Not good enough. Emma sighs. This will be a long afternoon.
The lesson goes on, and Hook shows her how to pace herself, how to fight without wasting strength and energy. She learns tricks how to read her adversary, and soon when they strike and parry back and forth, she manages to sometimes anticipate his moves. She can feel her confidence grow, even though he doesn't overly praise her. But when she manages a particularly tricky move and he tells her that it was well done, her ego is boosted, because she knows it's sincere. Never once does he get too close to her, not even when she tries his special full body spin for the first time and stumbles against him. He just catches her elbow and steadies her, "I got you," no innuendos, all seriousness. At first she protests at that particular move, but he insists that's the hardest way to strike: "But it looks ridiculous!" – "Your opponent won't laugh when you have him disarmed on his back." She has nothing to say to that, and eventually she's getting the hang of it.
Finally, she sends his sword flying out of his hand with a loud clang; he stands rooted to the spot and smirks at her while the point of her sword has landed at a point on his chest maybe two hands' breath beneath the nook of his throat. "Look at you!" he drawls appreciatively.
Emma, still breathing heavily, throws him a triumphant smile, sparks flying from her eyes, but then she raises a suspicious eyebrow at him and slowly lets her blade sink. "Did you just drop your sword?" she inquires, a menace in her voice.
His initially teasing smirk turns into a genuine smile that makes the fine skin around his eyes crinkle, and he seems almost a little proud when he shakes his head slowly once. "You sent it flying, Swan," he replies. "You bested me."
Her glare is probing. "Are you serious?"
He spreads his arms. "Now's your chance to kill me, Swan."
She rolls her eyes but smiles and shakes her head, sheathing her sword again. By now, she does it blindly without having to fumble. When her gaze sweeps over him again, she suddenly notices a bright red spot on his chest, right in the middle of his sternum and realizes that she must have hurt him at some point; she's startled whereas Hook doesn't even seem to have noticed until he sees her widened eyes.
"Oh God, I'm sorry," she blurts out, "I cut you!" She takes a step nearer to examine the bruise and, without thinking, puts her fingertips to his chest next to the small cut. The moment her skin touches his, she freezes, suddenly aware of the nearness. His chest hair is coarse but also soft against the pads of her fingers, and she feels goosebumps spread between her shoulder blades whereas a dangerous warmth runs up her arms. She can feel his pulse thrum underneath her fingertips, and it doesn't seem very calm to her; it's matching her own erratic heartbeat. The heat radiating from him brings his scent to her nostrils, an enticing, heady mix of leather, sweat, and something familiar and spicy, and the skin at the base of her spine prickles. She knows she should pry her fingers away from him, but right now she can't find the energy in her – it's like she's touched a live wire and is inevitably glued to it now. She can't let go for the life of her, and more so – she feels the urge to press her lips against his sternum. She swallows, her mouth suddenly incredibly dry.
At first, Hook thinks she's truly shocked by the fact that she actually scratched him with the point of her blade, which surprises him, because she's surely seen worse. His gaze darts down to where hers is fixed.
"Oh, that's nothing, Swan," he says lightly, "don't worry."
But it's like she doesn't even hear him. She stands rooted to the spot, like paralyzed, her eyes glued to the small bruise that has already stopped bleeding. They are glittering with something he can't quite define, but it does heat up his blood. His skin is burning where her fingertips are still touching his chest, and now she curls them a little, dragging them through his chest hair in what could almost be interpreted as a caress. He's holding his breath, and when he sees her swallow, he involuntarily mirrors the gesture; for a moment, time seems to stand still. It feels almost like those few seconds before she kissed him the other day... these endless moments between his challenge and her gripping his lapels and yanking him towards her into a heated kiss that – there's no use in pretending otherwise – has changed his life for ever.
He notices that Emma's lips are slightly parted now, just like that other day, and her pupils blown wide, and he knows that she feels it, too – the sexual tension between them that's so thick she could slice it with her cutlass. Her eyes are still fixed on his chest, and the pink tip on her tongue darts out to moisten her lower lip now, and even if he will probably slap himself on the back of his head for it later, he knows he has to do something before this escalates. It's not that he wouldn't want it to escalate, on the contrary... but he knows this is not the place nor time – she needs to focus on the task at hand, and she'll never forgive him if he allows her to get distracted. So, Hook decides to resolve the situation with something that will surely make her snap out of it; something she's surely been expecting from him already all afternoon – an innuendo.
"What is it, love," he drawls in a deliberately low voice and runs his tongue across his bottom lip, "would you like to kiss it and make it better?"
Her eyes hike up to his face again, and her hand drops from his chest immediately, like she has touched something hot – and the spell is broken. She takes a step back and raises both eyebrows at him in that you're-incorrigible glare of hers. "You wish," she replies, but he knows her well enough to recognize that tiny quiver in her voice and the tinge of pink in her cheeks indicating that probably the thought has crossed her mind, and now she doesn't know how to deal with that. Quickly, she turns away and brushes him off, "You're not gonna die. It's not like I ran you through."
"That would be most inconvenient indeed." Nonchalantly, he dips to the side to pick up the sword she knocked out of his hand and slides it back into its sheath with ease, nothing suggestive about it. She looks at him a bit hesitantly, and he adds, "Come on, it's getting late. Time for a light meal and a bit of rest."
Emma frowns. "You think I'm fit now?"
He huffs a little laugh. "Oh, you were even before."
She narrows her eyes suspiciously. "You said I needed training."
"Well," he says, tilting his head, "I told you you're not bad with the sword. But you're better now, and improving never hurts." When she just presses her lips together and nods curtly in response, eyes flickering to her sword, the tension and her worries are obvious. "Swan." he addresses her in a calm voice, and she looks back at him warily. He holds up three fingers. "Lesson number three: never forget what you're fighting for." He points his ringed index finger at her. "Your biggest advantage."
She blinks in confusion. "What do you mean?" she wants to know.
"Pan is selfish and greedy for power," Hook tells her matter-of-factly and snorts. "Must run in the family. Anyway, your motivation is love." He nods his head once, his gaze never leaving hers. "You're protecting the people you love."
Her eyes sink into his, allowing their calming, intense blue to soothe and encourage her while she tries to wrap her mind around what he just said and where she heard something like that before. Then it hits her like a ton of bricks while her gaze drifts away: his words sounded ridiculously like something Gold told her once: Conjuring magic is not an intellectual endeavor, it's emotion. You must ask yourself: why am I doing this? Who am I protecting? Feel it. Nothing else has Hook just told her: Your motivation is love. And she herself has said it once: Love is strength. She focuses on his eyes again and blurts out spontaneously, "And what are you fighting for?" Just who are you, Hook?
He doesn't blink, but his expression is suddenly guarded, and the clenching of his jaw betrays he's holding something back, something she can't yet – doesn't dare to – put her finger on. "I'm always fighting for myself," he finally brushes her off smoothly. "Pirate, remember?" He throws her a challenging glance, as if he's daring her to see something else in him. Wouldn't you like to know?
She swallows. "Liar," she tells him quietly. "You are risking your life for us." She has never said it aloud, but the moment she does, she realizes it's true, and it must mean something if he returns to one of the places that have haunted him the most during his long life, when there's nothing to gain for him.
Hook is the one to avert his eyes now, before he slightly turns his head to scratch behind his ear. When he looks back at her again, his gaze is neither guarded nor challenging; it's honest and open, and she can see the softness in his eyes. "Well, who says these things are mutually exclusive?" he replies vaguely.
Emma scrutinizes him in silence for a moment. "Why did you let me get away with the compass?" she then inquires, like she did earlier today, and adds in a softer, almost pleading tone, "I need to know."
This time, he hesitates to brush her off, and when he reads in her determined expression that she won't be dismissed this time, he decides to give her an answer. "We didn't need it," he tells her frankly. "I knew Cora had other means to get us to Storybrooke, and..." he pauses to look away for a moment and scratches behind his ear before he admits, "I wasn't opposed to seeing you again there." He falls silent, but Emma senses there's more he has to say and patiently waits until he continues, "I was already responsible for Bae having to grow up without his mother." She blinks a few times in surprise, and he finally adds, "To have that happen to another lad... that was never an option." His last confession is spoken in a low voice, his eyes fixed on the floor between them. Now he bores them into hers again in an almost defiant way, as if he's expecting her not to believe him anyway, because – well, he's a pirate, after all. She has only recently reminded him of that.
But Emma doesn't doubt his words for one second; and her super power has nothing to do with that. She's completely disarmed by his admission, although she admits to herself that she has indeed suspected something like that. And when exactly did that happen, Emma Swan not expecting the worst from everyone, and especially from him, of all people? She presses her lips into a small smile and snorts. "No soft side, huh?" she teases, the irony in her voice gentle, not bitter and sharp. "Just interested in a fair fight."
He tilts his head with a lopsided smile. "For the sake of both our reputations... maybe we should keep that little detail of our shared history to ourselves, aye?"
A savior who can't wield a sword properly and Captain Hook worrying about the well-being of a child he never met? Yes, probably it's not the appropriate time to reveal what really went down at Lake Nostos. She nods. "Maybe we should. For now."
Then her gaze drifts away, and a shadow flies over her face, the worry clearly showing. Hook notices immediately what's happening: the adrenaline that has been fueling her during the sword lessons slowly ebbs away, making room again for the fears and doubts.
"Swan," he addresses her calmly, his voice low and firm, and she focuses on him again. "Stop worrying," he tells her when he has her attention again. "Tomorrow you will get back your son, and I will bring us all back to Storybrooke."
She draws a deep breath and nods, then she realizes he hasn't said home. Of course not. Storybrooke isn't his home; hell, she isn't even sure if it could ever be hers. Suddenly, she realizes that once this mission is over, there will be no point in him sticking around. "And then what?" she blurts out without thinking. "You're not gonna go back to pursuing your revenge again, are you?"
He's taken aback by her bluntness, by her allowing him a glimpse of her vulnerability. He knows that too many people in her life have let her down, have left her, even if sometimes they meant well, like her parents. It's really not a surprise she's come to expect the worse of everyone. What is a surprise though is that she verbally expresses that fear – because her words about his revenge mean nothing more and nothing less than the barely veiled question if he is planning to leave her, too.
Hook steps into her personal space and tilts his head, a roguish little smile curving his mouth and crinkling the fine skin around his eyes. "I think I found something better to pursue," he says quietly.
Emma registers his words and what they mean; however, she's mesmerized by his eyes. Those glitter with mischief, but also with warmth and a sincerity that should probably scare her, and yet it doesn't. It makes her heart beat faster, but absurdly enough, it also calms her down, and she exhales a long breath. For a moment, she lets herself fall into the eye contact and simply holds his gaze. What she finds there is a quiet, imperturbable promise.
She presses her lips together in a smile and sways softly back and forth on the balls of her feet. "Thank you," she says and gesticulates a little aimlessly between them, "for the lessons... and the encouragement."
The déjà-vû is strong, and inevitably she's thrown back to the last time she thanked him. She can't help but swallow and stare at his lips in anticipation, waiting for his innuendo or cocky gesture... or will he give up his caution and make a move this time? Put his hand to the back of her head, like he did when she kissed him before, and press his mouth to hers? Catch her belt loop with his hook and slowly pull her closer until their lips would touch?
Yet again, he surprises her when he does nothing of the sort; instead, he averts his eyes and scratches behind his ear, but this time he doesn't run his fingers along his jaw to tap it to his own lips in a challenge, claiming her gratitude. Instead, he looks back at her with the same calm and sincere expression as before and slightly tilts his head as he replies in his low voice, "Any time, Swan."
She's a little baffled – and maybe a little disappointed – that he missed out on that opportunity... because yes, she was in a soft and emotional mood and yes, she would have kissed him – but him not taking advantage of that makes her feel even calmer. Obviously he meant what he said about no trickery.
Smiling to herself, she heads into the direction of the camp when she notices that he isn't following and turns around to look over her shoulder. He's still standing there like he hasn't moved, just his eyes have been following her.
"Aren't you coming?" she asks and frowns in question.
He raises his eyebrows. "Aren't I supposed to go get some firewood or something?" She can see the teasing twinkle in his eyes and the smile that creases the fine skin around them and tugs at the corners of his mouth. It's sincere and reassuring, testing her and soothing and telling her that it's okay if she doesn't want them to come back to the camp together; it's up to her.
Emma rolls her eyes and huffs a little laugh before she motions her head towards the crooked path. "Come on, move. I need you to open a coconut for me." Without another word, she turns around again and starts to walk along the path leaving the little clearing, and she could swear she feels his smile in her back, gently nudging her forward.
This time, he follows.