A/N: This was written for the gutterflower secret santa on Tumblr, as a gift to swankkat. This first part will be rated T, and part 2 will be rated M. Cheers!
The moments driving away from Storybrooke are painful because there in her rear-view mirror, she has to say goodbye. She memorizes the details quickly before she forgets them forever: her parents crying, Regina sullen and heartbroken, Neal wistful and sad over what could've been, and Hook… She swallows down the sob that threatens to break free.
Her family, her past, her future, all huddled together at the town line as the curse comes to take them away. She turns it into a joke as she puts the Bug in gear and drives forward. My parents, my ex, and a pirate walk into a bar… and the absurdity pushes a smile onto her face. She's wearing that smile when they cross the town line and…
She doesn't know why she's smiling, other than her son is in the passenger seat taking in the scenery like he's never seen it before. Which is ridiculous, of course, because he saw it on the drive up. This was just what they needed. A small escape from reality before starting fresh. She's not excited about finding a new place to live, or buying new clothes, or finding a new school for Henry, but she knows it is all stuff that has to be done when they get to New York.
Three weeks after they find the perfect apartment, Emma realizes the cord tied around her wrist is a lace of a shoe or a boot or something, but she doesn't remember who it belonged to or why she wears it. She also can't find her swan pendant, but figures it must've been lost in the fire in Boston. It makes her a little sad, to not have that talisman of what was lost, but with Henry at her side, who needs a necklace?
A couple weeks later she starts having strange dreams. One is of Neal, which is odd because she hasn't seen him since he left her to take the fall for the watches, and she hasn't even thought about him since Henry asked about his father when he was ten. Or was he younger? Or was he older? She tries to remember that talk but it's like reaching into her purse for a stick of gum. She knows it's in there, but she just can't find it.
She dreams about pirates and wolves, and wakes up tugging on that shoelace on her wrist and the urge to drink rum until everything feels normal again. She scrunches up her nose at the thought, because rum over her cornflakes doesn't sound like the worst idea she's ever had and that in itself is not normal at all.
"Henry, do you ever dream about pirates?" she asks over breakfast.
"Like Jack Sparrow?" he counters, eyebrow raised in question, and the gesture snaps at a chord in her memories but it's that stick of gum all over again. She laughs it off and tells him they need to stop watching movies before bed so she stops having weird dreams. Of course, even after they put a gap between movies and bedtime, she still has the dreams, even if she can't fully remember them.
Somehow, they feel like something private she should cherish and hold on to, as long as she can.
Nights in the Enchanted Forest are quiet, more so than Killian wants to think about. There's no occasional rumble of an automobile, or the other sounds he didn't realize he'd gotten used to in the land without magic. So he drinks. He drinks and gambles and loots and says the appropriate pirate things at the proper times.
When they get through a particularly fruitful raid, the crew pools together some money and buys the time of a pretty lass with curly brown hair. That his crew has chosen his old preferences instead of long, golden hair speaks volumes with how much he's shared with them lately. It matters not, as he hands her another sack of coins and sends her on her way, preceding a debacle with a mermaid that he'd rather not have dealt with at all.
He keeps his word and thinks of Emma no less than once per day.
When he gets the Jolly Roger back, it's the first he's felt right since coming back to this land. The wood is steady beneath his feet even when the sea is rocky with storms, and he sleeps through the night for the first time in ages to the gentle sway of the ship when it calms back down.
He dreams of Emma when it's least convenient, when he's gone to bed cold and lonely with too many libations in his system. He mostly dreams of that one damn kiss he got from her before it all went to hell. She's there in his dreams with that sad smile and one single word in response to his confession before their departure, not a single second of hesitation between the two, and the hope that shot straight through his heart in that instant. He dreams of the glowing red lights as they went over the town line, how he could see them until the smoke of Pan's curse got too thick, and how he'd never seen any two beams look more sinister.
In the daytime, it's back to his normal demeanor and internal sighs. When they make port, he sees a flash of blonde and almost goes after it before resigning himself to the fact that it was not Emma, and he had to give his foolish heart a rest for falling in love with a woman he will never see again.
It's not until he gets a message sending him back to the land without magic that the hope he covets in his dreams starts to materialize itself again in his chest.
It's not until he's standing outside an apartment building in New York City that the hope threatens to overrun his emotions, as he sees a flash of blonde hair and knows it belongs to the one he wants it to belong to.
But it's far too late at night and she's just arriving home from some sort of employment, so he returns to Baelfire's old apartment and restlessly tosses around on the couch until he can return to Emma's building in the morning.
There's this really beautiful moment, right after Emma takes the memory potion, that she'll cherish forever. It's this perfect second where her mind is in order, her thoughts and memories compartmentalized with everything she thinks she's been through. And after that singular moment, it's like uninvited guests barge in and throw their baggage everywhere, covering every surface from floor to ceiling.
Looking at the man standing across from her and acknowledging that she knows him takes a great deal of effort, especially as she wades through thoughts of him and Neverland, his lips hungrily moving against hers, which is almost a complete contrast to the way he kissed her when she opened the door for him the other morning. She says his name, more a reflex than anything, and his face transforms from the uncertain and worried look he was previously giving her, to one of cocky reassurance. When he asks if she missed him, she swallows hard.
With everything swimming together in her head, she's unable to think straight, so does the only thing she can do and invites him back to her place for a drink and an explanation. He's open and honest with her, admitting that he left the group, left her parents because there was nothing left for him. His quiet admissions that he came back to save her gives her goosebumps, and she's glad she's wearing long sleeves and can hide her reaction behind a sip of her rum and asking more questions.
When Walsh shows up, her stomach drops through the floor. Explaining to Hook that he's her boyfriend sucks, and telling him that they've had a happy relationship for eight months sucks worse, because he looks like some combination of angry, sad, and jealous and she has no idea what to do with that, so she tells him to stay put while she takes Walsh to the rooftop patio to talk to him.
"Emma, it's okay to make a bold, romantic gesture without passing it off as a housekeeping malfunction," Walsh says, that smirk she loves on his face and that twinkle in his eyes.
Oh god, he thinks she's going to accept his proposal, and this is just as bad as the pirate brooding in her apartment right now.
"Walsh," she starts, and his heavy sigh indicates that he knows what she's going to say. "I can't marry you."
In their eight months together, they never fought. They had minor disagreements over who paid the bill and who chose the movie they were going to watch, but they never fought, and this is the closest they've gotten to it. He acts affronted by her sudden refusal, and the fact that she has history. She's not totally lying when she says she blocked it out.
"If you love this life, then keep it," he urges. "Stay. Just stay." And it sounds so simple when he says it like that. She's about to respond that she can't, but he pleads his case. "You won't find a storybook romance, Emma. You won't find a fairy tale out there."
And it should be romantic, but something about the tone of his voice and the way he says it makes her lie-detector fire up and she controls her face and breathing.
"Okay," she tells him, swaying into his space and smiling up at him.
"Okay?" he echoes, his eyebrows raised and his look disbelieving.
"Yeah." She leans up and kisses him, soft and simple, and even that feels like a lie now so she doesn't let it progress. "But I wasn't lying about my apartment. I want to get it cleaned up and have all the laundry done before Henry gets home tomorrow morning. Can we plan dinner for later this week?"
"Of course," he says, his smile calm and his whole demeanor relaxed.
He says goodnight at her door, kissing her on the cheek before he walks back towards the elevator. When she walks back into her apartment, Hook is still where she left him, nursing another glass of rum, sullenly staring at the table.
"Did you end things then?" he asks, glancing up at her briefly before looking again at the liquid in his glass.
"Not exactly." She props up against the kitchen counter, too keyed up to sit but not wanting to let Hook know just how unsettled she really is.
His head swivels in her direction, staring hard at her, before he sees her expression. "What is it?"
"I don't know yet. But there's something off about this whole thing."
The comments about storybooks and fairy tales would've gone straight over her head had she not taken that potion; it would've just been something to either make or break the conversation. And Emma before the potion would've just accepted it and decided to stay, so that's what she did.
Emma after the potion knows that there is a storybook out there, and that fairy tales do exist. Proof is sitting at her kitchen table fiddling with his fake hand where she's used to seeing a hook.
"What are you going to do about it?" he asks after giving her a few minutes to process.
"I don't know that yet, either. Listen, I'm gonna get some sleep. Meet me back here in the morning and we'll regroup. Figure out what to do."
"Aye, that sounds like a solid plan." He drains his glass, bringing it and Emma's abandoned glass back to and placing them in the sink when she gestures toward it. "Sleep well, Swan."
She lets him out after muttering her own goodnight and leaning heavily against the door when she's alone. What she said to Hook earlier had been true. When she woke up that morning, she had been nothing more than a mother, but now the stole of Savior is heavy around her shoulders again, and she's not entirely sure she wants it back.
Her parents are the strongest people she knows. If there's another curse, surely they can handle it on their own. Who knows if they're even back in Storybrooke. The entire place is supposed to be gone, according to what Regina said. It shouldn't exist. And she doesn't even know how Hook got back here, so how is she supposed to figure out how to get back to the Enchanted freaking Forest?
Because she can't do anything to solve that tonight, she dips into the other half of the problem. Settled back in her pajamas, Emma sits down at the table with her computer. The search engines she uses for work are all fired up and running, looking to find any piece of information about Walsh that doesn't add up to what he told her.
By the time Hook shows back up in the morning, she's barely slept, she's packed suitcases for Henry and herself, and all she has left to do is ask one of the neighbors to keep an eye on the place while they're out of town. And tell Walsh, but she has no idea what she's going to say to him yet, so she's holding off on that. Hook takes one look at the bags sitting by the wall and raises an eyebrow at her.
"Planning an excursion, Swan?"
"Yup. We have to get back to Storybrooke." The last of the dishes are still waiting in the sink for her, so she busies herself with those while trying to figure out how to explain all of this to Hook.
"Not that I'm not pleased with the change of tone from yesterday, but what's happened to make you change your mind about this? I was sure I would need at least another week of sleeping in that bloody park before I convinced you to at least go see your family."
She just manages to catch the glass that slips from her fingers as what he's said sinks in. "Sleeping in the – Hook, have you been sleeping in Central Park?"
"There were plenty of other gentlemen occupying the benches. Drink enough rum and you don't even notice the chill. And my neighbors were happy for the libations. I fail to see the problem here, Swan." He's wandering by the windows, looking out on the city around them and admiring the plants that she and Henry have been cultivating in their little living space. He may have hundreds of years of experience as far as life lessons go, but he's little more than a foreigner in this land.
"Those men are homeless, and it's not safe to just sleep out in the open like that. You're lucky you haven't been robbed. Or stabbed. You went back to Neal's apartment for the camera, so why haven't you just been staying there?"
"Someone saw me going into Baelfire's apartment after our first encounter and didn't seem to like the look of me. I locked the place up and haven't returned."
"Great. That's something else we'll have to figure out."
"Something else? There's more to figure out then?" She gives him a look at that, lifting an eyebrow because it should be no surprise at this point that.
"Well, it turns out there's more than just a message telling you to find me. Because I can't have nice things, it turns out there's something strange about Walsh, but I can't prove it yet." Her hand is halfway to her face to rub tiredly at her forehead, but Hook catches her forearm gently in his hand. He glances down and she sees the suds still covering her fingers, and while Hook lets go and moves back a few steps, Emma still feels claustrophobic and annoyed at herself.
"What do you mean by 'strange'?"
"He said something to me last night about fairy tales, and I can't – I can't explain it, but it made my super power go off."
"I believe you, then."
She would question his unwavering faith in her gut instinct, but this is the same man who once told her he'd yet to see her fail. Something tells her she couldn't sway him from believing in her if she tried, which is probably the weirdest part of all of this.
"I can't break up with him yet. He can't know I'm back to being myself – the Savior – so we have to come up with a story. I'm gonna tell him I'm going to visit friends for the weekend or something and then find a way to blow him off. Then I'll just have my stuff shipped again like I did when I moved there."
"And what do you need me to do?" He looks restless, the plan taking root in his bones like it's already taken to hers.
"Clear out for a little bit. I'll give you some money and you can grab us coffee or breakfast or something. Just give me a bit of time to explain to Henry what's going on."
"As you wish," he says, that little half smile tilting up one corner of his mouth, and it takes all of her self-control to not roll her eyes or smile at his antics. He lets himself out and she takes one more moment to breathe through the lists in her head one more time before she notices her hands are itching from the water drying on them.
With finality, Emma turns back to the sink and finishes the dishes. Henry is going to be home soon, and she hasn't figured out what to tell him yet, either, but thankfully he's eleven and will believe most things she tells him.
As if thinking about Henry summons him, the door swings open and he comes barreling into the apartment, already babbling about whatever horror movie he and Avery watched when they were supposed to be going to bed. Seeing as Halloween is next week, she's not really surprised.
She listens to him talking as she finishes rinsing the last plate and leaves it to dry, making sure to give all the appropriate responses and give him her attention as she wipes out the sink and turns back to him.
Before he can question her, she gives him one instead. "Do you believe in magic?"
He answers immediately with a simple "of course" that has her raising her eyebrows, but he continues on about the Tooth Fairy and Santa and the Easter Bunny, stating that as long as it gets him a present, he'll believe it. She scoffs as he continues, turning to wipe down the counters this time as well.
The knock on the door comes about the same time that Henry notices the suitcases packed by the wall, and she watches his eyebrows furrow. "Are you expecting someone?"
With one shaky inhale and exhale, she answers affirmative as she sets the rag down and walks to the door. Hook's leaning against the opposite wall, cocky smirk in place, with a plastic bag hanging from his fake hand and a drink carrier in his real one. He bustles past her and heads straight for the island where Henry is still sitting, and Emma follows on his heels, just barely managing to get back around him before he can say anything.
"Henry this is… Killian. He's – I'm, um, I'm helping him with his case."
"Did you skip bail?" Henry asks, rising from his chair and coming to check out the man dressed in what has to be an extensive amount of cows in her son's eyes.
"Ah, he's still a little spitfire."
She could punch Hook right now. Right in the mouth. Because Henry is looking at her like she's lying and she wishes Hook could've waited at least five more minutes so she could've come up with a better story.
"He's not a perp, he's a client." That'll help, right?
"Why are you dressed like that?"
She wants to go back to bed immediately, especially when the childish answer comes from her right.
"Why're you dressed like that?" Hook counters, a perturbed look on his face and a rigidity to his posture that she can only describe as "bristling like angry cat."
"All right, just focus on breakfast first. I have a call to make. I'll be right back."
She's not so sure about leaving the two of them alone together, mostly because she doesn't know what embarrassing things Henry will say and what embarrassing things Hook will respond. But there's a huge part of her that's grateful to be walking out to the roof again so she can call Walsh and fudge another story instead of dealing with the two of them.
The silence that descends on the apartment after Emma leaves is almost stifling. Henry hasn't looked away from him, thankfully focusing on his face rather than the unnatural stiffness of the hand he doesn't yet know is fake. The ogling is unnerving, to say the least.
"So Killian," Henry starts, backing up and perching on his seat once more. "How do you know my mom?"
"We're old acquaintances," he tells the lad, because it's the first thing that comes to mind. He sets down the breakfast bounty that he found, handing over one of the hot chocolates for Henry and pulling various baked goods from the other bag.
After taking a tentative sip from the hot chocolate, Henry's wary demeanor seems to soften a little bit. The bagels that he's purchased also seem to appease the boy, so he leans against the sink in quiet contemplation before Henry speaks again.
"I've never heard anything about you before. And my mom tells me everything."
"We lost contact for a long time, against my wishes." He decides immediately that he also doesn't want to directly lie to Henry. When his memories are returned, perhaps he'll appreciate the gesture.
They fall back into silence, which is minimally less uncomfortable than it was before, and wait for Swan to return. She's gone for longer than Killian expected her to be, however, so the minimal amount of camaraderie that he might have gained with Henry seems to be dissipating with every passing minute.
When she finally does return, she looks angry and upset, and it takes a great deal of his control to not rush to her side.
"What is it, Swan? What's the matter?"
"Henry, I think I forgot to pack your DS. Why don't you go collect that and see if there's anything else I didn't pack for you? You can pack an extra bag if you need to."
"What's going on, mom?"
"Well, it's over with Walsh." He and Henry both exclaim their surprise, but she shoos Henry off to his room. "We'll talk about it later," she tells Henry, until he finally nods his head and turns for his room. Once his door is shut, Emma sits down in his abandoned seat and rests her head on her folded arms.
"What happened, love?" He doesn't mean to reach out and touch her, but he can't seem to help the gentle brush of his fingers over her bicep. She jerks upright as he pulls away, and he's shocked to find the tears in her eyes, threatening to spill over.
"He got angry with me when I told him I was going on a trip. He asked if I was going alone, or if Henry was going with me, and I told him I was going to be helping someone with a case." She closes her eyes for a second, swiping at them quickly to get rid of the moisture there, before opening them and hardening her expression. "He never had a problem with my work before, so I fought back, and when he insinuated that I was sleeping with you less than a day after you showed back up in my life, I ended it."
She pauses for another minute after that, clearing the emotions from her voice and shaking herself back to solid. "Something still doesn't feel right," she suggests again, and Killian can feel it. He doesn't know what her life has been like in this city, or what her relationship has been. As much as he wants to be objective about it, though, it still feels like there's something they're both missing from the grand picture.
He waits in the passenger seat of the car while Emma explains the breakup to Henry. Emma tries to keep her face neutral, and watches as Henry does his best to mirror her, but they both crack a little at seeing the other upset. By the time they climb into the vehicle – Henry to the backseat with his pillow and a blanket, and all the technology a young boy could need in this land, and Swan to the driver's seat – they're both back to hard expressions, both unreadable, and both closed off. He internally sighs once, and waits for them to both let go of their emotions enough to have conversations with again. Until then, he's content to settle into the passenger seat until they reach Storybrooke.
So he's surprised when they pull up outside of what Swan calls an "outlet mall" and she turns to shake Henry awake.
"You have your emergency phone, right?"
Henry nods enthusiastically when she asks, and he digs it out of his backpack and powers it on, showing her that it has a full battery.
"Okay, I have to help Killian find new clothes. His all got left behind and he only has this costume. I am giving you a hundred dollars, and you are free to spend it on anything you want. But remember to be smart and careful and don't talk to strangers, okay? Call me if you need me, and meet us at the food court in an hour.
"Got it, mom!"
As soon as Emma has exited the vehicle, Henry is out of the backseat and already rounding a corner.
She leans back in far enough to address him. "Come on, pirate. We have some shopping to do."
Surprised, he tries to scramble from the vehicle as she's locking and closing her door, but he forgets to undo his safety harness first, so she's already on the sidewalk outside the shops before he's followed suit, locking his own door and shutting it carefully before hastening after her. Once she sees he's following, she starts walking again with purpose.
"What are we shopping for, Swan?"
"Something that will make you stand out less. I can't be traveling to Maine with you looking like Captain Hook."
"But I am Captain Hook."
"Yeah, but the rest of the world doesn't need to know that," she hisses, all the while scanning the shop windows until she finds one suitable. The inside of the store smells like strong cologne, and Killian tries to school his face to something that doesn't look like disgust as they walk through. "Okay, pick stuff you like. And we'll go from there. When we get the pirate doubloon currency exchange back in Storybrooke, you can pay me back."
The store suddenly feels massive, and he feels utterly lost. The colors all seem so much brighter, the prints harsher, the textures grating, and he wants to swish his coat and walk right back out and back to the car. Emma must sense his hesitation, because she reaches a hand towards him, leaving it just far enough away that she's not making contact but the meaning is still there.
"Listen, we can stick to all black, if you obviously prefer. But you just need a couple outfits in case we need to travel back to New York again, and you'll blend in better in clothes from this world." Her voice is much gentler when she speaks, so he lets his shoulders drop and prepares himself again.
"What do you suggest, Swan?"
They both look around for a minute, their heads swiveling to and fro, until Emma apparently finds something worth their time and she sets off in its direction.
The waistcoat is all black, leather on the front pieces, and the back is satin. It's like his own, but probably easier to move around in, even if the buttons look downright daunting to a man with only one hand. But if he's managed this long, he's sure he can tackle this as well. With that as their starting point, they set out to find shirts that will match it, and trousers. She picks up what she calls "jeans" in a black instead of what he recognizes as her usual blue, and shoves him in the direction of the fitting rooms with a hasty selection of undergarments.
"If you need any help," she starts, but he's charmed by the way she coughs and looks anywhere but at him for a second.
"I do believe I'll manage, love."
Over the time allotted until they reunite with Henry, he tries on several different sizes of items, occasionally exiting the dressing room to ask if she approves of a combination. She stares at his bare feet for the entirety of one of those moments, until she snatches one of his boots from the room and wanders away for a few minutes.
When he comes back out in a different shirt, and a pair of the jeans that actually fit comfortably, she's holding a box with a modern pair of shoes in them.
"Try those on, too. Give me anything you're comfortable with after you've changed out of those and I'll go pay. Once they're paid for, I'll bring back an outfit for you to wear out of here."
The minutes he stands nude in the dressing room waiting for Emma are almost painfully boring. And he spends far too long looking at his reflection in the mirror, cataloguing his own scars, rubbing a hand along his wrist and anxious to put the brace back on. He cocks his head to the side as he considers his assets in the harsh lighting, and wonders if this is what all men do in dressing rooms, or if they even care at all.
A pair of the undergarments he selected comes back over the doorway, followed by a pair of socks.
"Ready for the rest?" Emma asks from the other side of the door, but before he can even answer, she's swinging an outfit over the door, now without the hangers and price tags. The box with the boots is the last thing to come through, and he's grateful she pushes that under the small gap beneath the door.
With the help of the zippers on the shoes and his incredible dexterity, getting dressed is much less of a hassle than he expected, and he exits the dressing room with his clothes draped over his left arm. She takes everything from him and shoves it unceremoniously into one of the shopping bags, and he scoffs when she tries to take the coat.
"I can wear my own bloody coat, Swan."
"You can wear it a week from now in Storybrooke in honor of Halloween. We'll find a jacket or something for you to wear. Besides, you're probably already warmer with all those buttons done up."
He glances down at his chest when she finishes, looking at the smaller expanse of hair on display and frowning at it. "The garments in this realm are cut so much higher."
She chuckles as they leave the store, heading to wherever the food court is located to find Henry again. "You look fine."
"I look plain and ordinary."
"You could wear a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt and you still wouldn't look ordinary," she states, but either she didn't mean to say it at all or didn't mean to say it in such a salacious tone, because she blushes once the words are out of her mouth.
There are so many options to choose from when they get to the small hub of restaurants. He follows Emma and lets her lead, picking something close to what she does and quietly picking at it while she scans the room for Henry. She waves him over once she sees him, eyeballing the bag he's carrying once he's close enough.
"Just some new games. I didn't even spend all the money you gave me!" They both look so proud of this fact, that Killian feels proud by default, although he's not sure why spending less money than he's allowed would be such a momentous thing.
"I'll go grab you some food. You want pizza?" Emma asks, standing and edging in that direction before Henry even gives the affirmative.
Once his mother is out of earshot, Henry looks at Killian in a way that screams of weighing and measuring. Perhaps with the new clothes, he finds something he approves of, though.
"That outfit is much better than your pirate costume. Although, I guess if you had a hook it would be a pretty cool getup."
He bites his tongue, keeping that secret for now. "What kind of games did you purchase for yourself, lad?"
Henry looks at the bag he's propped on the seat next to him, but he changes the subject again. "Are you trying to date my mom?"
"Because I think if she just got out of a relationship with Walsh that you should at least wait. You don't want to rush her or anything or else she might freak out and just leave you behind or something."
"I'll make note of that, lad. But while I care for your mother deeply, I am not ah, attempting to court her, at least at this present moment."
The boy considers him again, this time looking almost sympathetic.
"Good luck with that, buddy."
Emma's back before he can respond, so he does his best to bring his jaw back up from the floor. He spends most of his meal listening to the easy conversation between Emma and Henry. She's obviously retained the effortless communication she had with him while her memories were gone, and if he wanted to, he could pretend that they're just three average people, out for shopping at this outlet mall and enjoying their day.
As he fiddles with the cuff of the sleeve that's holding his brace and fake hand in place, he knows otherwise, but he can pretend just like Emma, so he does.
Henry asks plenty of questions about how they met, and where Killian is from. Emma is much better at coming up with veiled details on the spot, so he answers less than she does, but Henry gives him his full attention whenever he does speak. He tries to act like mobile talking phones and handheld entertainment devices are things that he's used to, listening attentively as Henry finally divulges what games he purchased and the plotline of one of the games, about a boy named Link sailing the seas with pirates.
Before they leave the shopping complex, Emma spots something in one of the stores and tells them to wait outside while she runs in, and when she returns, she takes the bags back from Killian and hands over the new one. Inside is a black leather jacket, with a zipper at the bottom of each sleeve that will more than accommodate his brace. It looks like it was made to match his new modern look, and she urges him to slip it on.
It fits perfectly, which shouldn't be a surprise to him. Everything weighs so much less than his former clothing, and feels different, but is largely just going to be an adjustment and much less harsh than he originally presumed.
Henry falls asleep almost as soon as they're back on the road, with the miles and hours stretching before them. He and Emma make small conversation, mostly coded so if Henry is faking sleep that he won't know what they're really talking about.
Several miles outside the entrance to Storybrooke, an animal of some kind (though neither he or Emma could say for certain that it was just a deer, or one of the many rodents she's familiarized him with) darts in front of the vehicle and the car almost swerves into a tree. Henry is shaken awake with the sudden stop, but thankfully his young reflexes catch him before he can slam into the back of the seats.
"What was that?!" he exclaims, eyes wide and breathing heavily, no doubt trying to gain his bearings after the sudden wake up.
"Just a possum, or badger or something. I don't know, just some kind of animal. You okay, kid? Killian?"
"I'm good," Henry says, collapsing back against the seat. Killian just nods and visually assesses her to make sure she's also all right.
When they get to where the town line should be, there's nothing. Nothing at all. No sign to indicate they're where they should be. No line painted on the road to indicate the spot where it ends. No clues to show that anything is there at all. They drive all the way through where the main street should be but there's nothing but woods surrounding them.
"So… what are we looking for out here?" Henry asks when they turn around and drive back.
Killian and Emma are too distracted by what isn't there to be able to answer his question right away.
"Sorry kid, it looks like we came all the way up here on a wild goose chase."
As they slow to a stop in the middle of the street, Killian can almost visualize the shops and sights that should be there. Instead, they're surrounded by nothing but pitch black, and the feeling that they are being watched.
"Swan," Killian says, hoping he instills enough warning in his voice to alert her but not Henry.
"Yeah, got it," she mutters, shifting the car into gear again. She doesn't drive fast. She almost senses that they need to do what she did with Walsh. They need to be inconspicuous: like there's nothing out of the ordinary besides finding a lost road.
The sensation of being watched doesn't fade after they've left what would've been the town limits. It seems like it follows them all the way back through Maine, and he and Emma struggle to keep up a conversation with Henry about when they drove out this way a year before. Thankfully, he falls asleep, and they lapse into silence as she all but rushes out of the state.
When they reach New Hampshire, Emma finds the first hotel she can and books rooms for them. As soon as she has the keys in hand, she shuffles a half-asleep Henry up to the room they'll be sharing, and directs Killian to his down the hall.
"How am I supposed to get into the room with this?" he asks, holding up the flimsy card like the ones Emma uses to pay for things.
"You just… You know what? Hang on. Come on Henry." She leaves him in the hallway with his bags of clothes as she quickly enters the room. If she'd only turned a little, he could've seen for himself how to work the bloody thing.
She's back before he has a chance to get too annoyed, or get more than two strange looks, and she's also wheeling the smaller suitcase beside her. She takes the bags from him and nods towards the direction of his room.
"Okay, it's really simple. Take one of the keys –"
"These are supposed to be keys?"
She sighs once. "Yes, Killian. That's the key to the room. Okay. There's an arrow on it. Or a triangle. You want to point that down and insert it into the slot – not yet, Killian – and then pull it out fast, okay?"
He stands there looking between the key and the door and Emma for a couple seconds before he gives a good sigh of his own. Why are things so complicated here? He could be in the room, already asleep, if he had a normal bloody key and lock.
It takes four tries, with Emma trying to keep a straight face the whole time, before it finally blinks green and she tells him to turn the handle.
"There you go, buddy. Come on."
With words alone, she ushers them into the room and drops the bags of clothes on the large bed. There's just the one, but everything looks pristine and welcoming, and it's only as he gazes at the large pile of pillows at the top of the bed that he realizes how tired he is. Perhaps his nights of sleeping out in the open were not as restful as he believed they were.
Instead of letting him strip down and sleep, though, Emma insists on helping him with his new wardrobe.
"Swan, I can manage on my own."
"Something tells me you're not used to fabric that wrinkles if you just throw it all in a pile. I'll help you fold these. Here," she says, handing him what he recognizes as pajama bottoms and a t-shirt. "Go get changed for bed and we can add those clothes to this, too."
He doesn't fight her, just takes the items and heads to the bathroom and begins the arduous process of unbuttoning all the buttons to the waistcoat and shirt underneath. He makes sure to remove the boots and socks, as well, holding them awkwardly with the rest of his clothes again draped over his arm as he returns to the main room.
Emma is halfway through folding the piles that she's dumped out of the bags, and he realizes that he hasn't seen half of the purchases. There are more shirts, a few more vests all in black, a couple more pairs of trousers, and more of the socks and boxers that she must've grabbed when he was trying on the clothing. There's a lot, but it still appears that it'll all fit in the suitcase she's provided him with.
"I'm really glad I went overboard instead of assuming you'd be able to buy more in Storybrooke when we got there. What do you want to wear tomorrow?"
He feels a little like a dress-up doll for a young lass, suddenly, especially with the way her eyes light up as she gestures to the organized piles on the bed. As he hands over the worn items, he just smiles at her and hopes it's not that soft, lovesick look he usually feels on his face when he's looking at her. "Surprise me, love."
He watches as she sets aside undergarments, along with a slightly different pair of the dark jeans and a different vest. She chooses a shirt with some dark pattern, only noticeable up close, then nods in approval at her own choices.
"There. The pjs can get thrown on top. Those will be fine until we get back to the city." She busies herself stacking each of the piles into the suitcase, zipping it closed and setting it on the chair in the corner before she moves his chosen outfit to rest on top of it. When she turns to leave, Killian still hasn't moved, so she almost runs directly into him. While it stops her up short, he feels his body gravitating to pull her close, just to hold her, just for a moment, but he leaves his arms firmly at his sides as she takes a half-step back.
"How are you, Swan?" he asks her, and means it. He's not had a chance to speak with her alone since this morning, and while she's outwardly pushing through, he wants to know how she is internally.
"I'm… okay. I'm tired, Hook. Something else isn't what I thought it was and I've had my heart broken once again."
The words are out of his mouth before he can stop them. "Good. Don't take this the wrong way but I'm glad to hear it."
"You're glad to hear I had my heart broken?"
"If it can be broken, it means it still works," he says softly. He sways into her space again when he says it, and to his utter surprise, she sways right into his. And he thinks he's looking at desire in her eyes, the return of his feelings for her, the return of her feelings for him that had spoken to him right before she left the bloody town a year ago, that one, solid word echoing through his memories as they stare at each other for the space of ten whole heartbeats.
Emma is the one to break eye contact, as she looks away first, then moves away from him.
"Goodnight, Killian," she all but whispers before she reaches the door. He doesn't turn to watch her go. Instead he collapses face first onto the bed, almost ripping his brace from his arm and dropping it to the floor. Thankfully, he's too exhausted to go over every minute detail of the interaction in his mind. He'll save that for the whole ride back to Storybrooke in the morning.
Emma decides somewhere between the door to Killian's room and the door to the one she's sharing with Henry that she needs to start an unhealthy tab of how many times she almost kisses Captain Hook. The first tally mark will be dark, to include the one time she did kiss Captain Hook – kissed the crap outta him, actually.
Henry is still fast asleep on one of the beds where she left him, so she tiptoes around to find her pajamas in the mess that is now their suitcase before she heads to the bathroom to get ready for bed.
When she looks at herself in the mirror, she sees the look in her eyes that she knows means trouble. She is attracted to him. She is attracted to him and she wants to kiss him again. Especially when he says things about how her heart must still work if it's broken. And it is, but she realizes that the whole day she was with him and Henry, she didn't think of Walsh or the life she was living before Hook showed up once.
She collapses face first onto her own bed, wiggling under the covers and falling straight to sleep. Her dreams are plagued with possibilities and desires, but also nightmares that include what's lurking around the corner from them. In her dreams, she can clearly see the animal that darted out in front of them. It's some man-sized monkey with wings: a nightmare straight out of The Wizard of Oz, which is just absurd.
By the time she wakes up, the clear picture of whatever it was is long gone, and she focuses instead on getting out of bed and getting ready for the day. They'll have to return to the city, and they'll have to figure out what to do with Hook – with Killian. He can't go back to Neal's apartment. She has money, but she can't really afford to keep him up in a hotel or pay his rent for him.
She needs a shower, coffee, breakfast, and a plan.
The first three are easy, but the plan is slow coming. It's not like they can talk about any of it in front of Henry, so instead she catches quick glimpses of the new outfit she selected for Killian last night and tries to keep up some semblance of conversation with them.
Mostly, Killian and Henry talk about the video games that Henry purchased the day before. It turns out that a "prince" that rides with pirates is something that Killian is very interested in, even if he's never heard of The Legend of Zelda before yesterday. At least they're bonding, which means she has more time to work out some details on her own.
"So we're headed back to the city?" Henry asks when they're finishing breakfast.
Emma nods, looking to her side to see what expression is on Killian's face, but he's a blank slate this morning. Whatever she says, he'll go with.
"Yeah, we are, kid. Maybe we looked at the wrong information before we left."
"Or the information is outdated," Killian offers.
"Yeah, but how do we update that information? It's not like we can just Google it and add it into Wikipedia and it'll appear."
"Nothing. We'll just go back to the city and… regroup. Or something. I don't know, I'm still working on a plan."
Henry's eyes are bouncing between her and Killian the entire time they're talking, his gaze scrutinizing and thoughtful, and she wonders what he's seeing when he looks across the table at them. They sat next to each other by accident, mostly because Emma is so used to sitting across from Henry everywhere they go, and Killian probably preferred to sit next to her. So they're next to each other, and Killian is one hundred percent focused on the words coming out of her mouth, because he's one hundred percent focused on her mouth. And they're speaking their own special adult language, and she's just remembered to look at Henry and he's giving them this look.
She looks back at Killian, and he just raises one of those over-expressive eyebrows at her. She looks to Henry again, and he mimics the action. He's spending too much time with Killian already, she's sure of it.
Maybe, she thinks, just maybe they can play off that they're dating. They've been super secretive about their past. Maybe it's not so hard to paint Killian as a previous lover, an old flame that couldn't be fulfilled at the time, and now is their chance.
Details can be figured out later. For now, she needs to get them back into a city.
There's a hotel nearby that's cheap enough, and once she drops Henry and his suitcase off at their apartment, she walks Killian there and gets him a room. He proudly uses the magnetic key card like he's been doing it his whole life, and she can't help but grin back at him as he smiles, dimples and all.
"I'm gonna order pizza once I get back to my place. You're welcome to come over and eat some of it? We can get groceries tomorrow if you want stuff to keep here. They even have a little fridge and everything."
"That sounds lovely, even though I've no bloody clue what pizza is."
"Something you'll be eating a lot of, depending on how long we're stuck in New York."
"Aye, I suppose you're right. I'll come by in a half hour or so once I've gotten everything settled here."
"Okay," Emma says, "and just call me if you need anything before then." She scribbles her number down on the pad of paper on the nightstand, and adds the possibility of getting him a phone to the list she has in her head about finding him a job, and making up documents for him.
She leaves him with a nervous little wave, and walks out of the hotel into a chilly October evening. For the first block of the walk, she's fine. It feels like any other night walking down the street she's gotten to know over the last year of living here. But the closer she gets to her apartment, the more the sensation comes back that something is watching her.
It's a little like her sensor for knowing when someone is lying to her, but more like an intense itch between her shoulder blades that she struggles to keep hidden. She pulls her jacket tighter around her shoulders and pushes forward, determined to just look like a cold individual, making the trek home.
The sensation gets worse the closer she gets to her apartment, and for the entire ride up the elevator, she's almost shaking with worry about her son, and it takes even more control to keep her pace even and unhurried as she makes her way down the hallway. She's relieved to find the door locked tight, like she always taught him to do after she left. She makes sure all the latches and locks are engaged again before turning and making her way into their living space.
Henry is waiting at the kitchen island with an expectant look on his face. "So, mom, how do you know Killian again?"
"We knew each other a while ago," she answers, going straight for the drawer where they stash their take-out menus. "I'm going to unpack some of our stuff. Why don't you order for all of us? Killian hasn't spent a whole lot of time here, so he needs the real New York experience." She hopes a task like this will distract Henry enough for him to drop the subject.
"I'm not going to drop this," Henry says, dashing all her dreams while taking the menu for their pizza place in hand. He wanders over to the couch to consider his options while Emma drags the suitcase around the corner and into her bedroom. She'll have to do laundry, she realizes, and she'll have to add Killian's clothes to theirs since he won't know how to work a washing machine.
It would be easier if he just lived here with them, she's sure.
And that's the lightbulb that finally goes off. That can be their dumb plan.
Henry already thinks there's something between them, and they're going to have to work closely together in order to figure out what to do. It'll certainly save her bank account if she doesn't have to foot the bill for a hotel room for him.
She eyeballs her bed, humming out loud at the prospect of two people sleeping in it. She can't even remember Walsh spending the night over here more than twice, and only when Henry was over at a friend's place for sleepovers and such.
It's not a very good plan, but it's more of one than when they woke up today.
"Hey mom, pizza is on the way! When will Killian be here?" He calls it all from the couch in typical-kid fashion, and Emma rolls her eyes as she heads back out to the living room to respond to him.
"He should be over soon. We'll have to go over some details of his case tonight, so he might be here pretty late. Is that okay with you?"
Henry thinks about it for a minute, narrowing his eyes at her as he considers it. "Can I have an extra half hour to play video games before going to bed tonight?"
It's a dirty negotiation tactic, but it's not a school night and he did just travel with them all the way to Middle-of-Nowhere, Maine without complaining once.
"Yes, but just for tonight. Tomorrow night is a school night."
One exasperated sigh is the only grief he gives her before a victory smile lights up his face. "Fine," he concedes, drawing the word out but grinning the whole time.
Emma makes sure to sit next to Killian at the dinner table, and both she and Henry enjoy watching Killian's face as he devours his first slice of pizza.
"Better than bologna?" she asks, her smirk uncontrollable, as is the laugh that follows when he scowls at her around a mouthful of crust.
"It didn't have to strive very hard to be more palatable than that blasted meat concoction. Although, nothing would. But it is delicious."
They wait until Henry is fully immersed in his games before they settle in at the table, a notepad in front of each of them, and Emma watches as the page Killian is using fill up with more of that loopy handwriting of his.
"I'll need to get you a new passport and stuff," she mumbles, jotting down all the things she's been repeating since they left the hotel that morning. "And maybe a phone so you can call or text me even if you're not with me."
"What happened to your old phone?" Henry asks from the couch. She knew it was better to not make bold statements while he was around, no matter how into his game he looks.
Killian looks to her, his eyes wide and questioning. He doesn't even really know what a phone is, let alone what to say about where his fictional one went. "Never had one," he says before Emma can concoct a lie.
Henry makes a noise of dismissal and goes quiet again, and she and Killian both slump a little in their chairs, relieved that they're past one hurdle.
They use as much code as they can handle, but even her brain is starting to scramble by the time Henry goes to bed, so they take a break until they're sure he's asleep. She wants to tell him about that feeling on her walk back earlier, and how she was inexplicably terrified that something would happen to her son before she could get back to the apartment. She wants to tell him to move in, move in tonight so she has the reassurance that even when she can't be here, Henry will still be safe.
Instead, she pours them each a small amount of rum and clinks her glass against his as they rehash everything on the lists they've already made. She has a contact in Boston that can get her the appropriate documents. She has people around town to find Killian a job. They'll need more than the week's worth of clothing that they purchased on their way to Maine. And they'll need to find a way to decide if Storybrooke is back at all, before finding a way back in.
By the time they finish their drinks, Emma is willing to speak a little more candidly, so she quietly explains that weird feeling of being watched on her way back.
"I experienced the same thing, Swan."
"So something out there is watching us. Watching what we do, and where we go. I don't like it."
"Neither do I, but we continue to act as if we're average people, aye?"
"Yeah, I guess." She decides to wait on asking him to move in, as much as it pains her to do so. He's just a couple blocks away, so she knows he could be here in the amount of time it would take him to run, if necessary. It'll be fine. So when their glasses are empty a second time, she walks him to the door and wishes him goodnight before closing it and locking it up tight.
Her normal habits follow – the ones that settled into her bones from their year living seemingly peaceful lives. She feels better once she draws the blinds down for the night, even more so when she checks on Henry to see him sleeping, his DS still on and glowing softly to illuminate her son's slack expression. She rolls her eyes with affection as she walks over to close it and place it on his night stand. She tucks his blankets around his shoulders and leaves the door cracked just an inch before retiring to her own bedroom.
The next couple days are much the same. Killian's documents come in via express mail at the end of the week, which means they can finally get started finding him a job somewhere. He stares at the picture on his passport for a long time, his fingers gliding over the laminate with something almost like reverence.
Most of their time is spent bent over their notebooks, trying to think of anything they can think of. They think about all the possible entrances over the town line, but they're pretty sure if they can't access one, they wouldn't be able to access any of the others.
"What about water?" she asks as they're wrapping up one night.
"What about it?"
"Why don't we get your ship, sail up there, and see if we can get in that way. You have a magical freaking boat. That has to count for something, right?"
He shifts uncomfortably in his seat, the first sign that something isn't right that she's seen in a while. "I didn't bring it with me," he says after a full minute of fidgeting.
It's a half-lie. He's not outright lying to her, but it's damn close. "What aren't you telling me?"
"Nothing, Swan." The expression on his face freezes, and she knows she won't get anything else from him on this matter, so she takes a deep breath and wracks her brain for more possibilities.
They both tense up at the same time, the eyes on them hovering just beyond the safety of her windows, and she can't tell if either of them are breathing. Her hand is clenching her pen so hard she's afraid she'll snap it in half. When Killian slides his hand across the table and his fingers brush across hers, she does her best to relax a little. She sets the pen down, accepting his fingers interlacing with hers. It's just a moment of comfort – that's all.
He nods, giving her the smallest smile he can muster up, and she thinks she returns it, and they stay like that for the length of time until, just as suddenly as it appeared, the sensation goes away.
"I'm going to check on Henry," Emma says quietly. Their grasp lingers until she's standing, and she clears her throat as she awkwardly clutches her hand to her chest after she walks away.
The door is cracked the same amount it always is, and Henry is asleep in his bed. For once, the video games and books are all off and away, but she still goes in to pull the covers up and give him a kiss on the forehead. The blinds are drawn and the curtains are closed, and she makes a mental note to check all the locks on all the windows tomorrow. Not that human locks will stop anything magical, but checking seems responsible, at the very least.
Killian is returning to the table with two glasses when she comes back in the room. The bottle of rum is already waiting.
"Seemed like it might be calming after that," he explains. It's only once he says it that she realizes she hasn't seen him drink since their first night back in the city. That's not to say he isn't when he goes back to his hotel room, but since he's spending a majority of his time with her, or watching Henry when she's out on a job, she's pretty sure he's using it for sleeping and showering only. Which brings her back to the idea of him living at her place.
She pauses, knowing now is the time to ask him about moving in, but still wanting to prolong the moment. "What, uh. What do you think about moving in here? Pretending we're a couple. I think Henry already thinks we're seeing each other and whatever. I don't think it would be much of a stretch to convince him that there's something going on and we're closer than we're letting on."
He takes a moment to pour himself a finger of rum and drink it down in one swallow before attempting to answer, but she can see it's still a struggle. "I don't know if that's wise, Swan." He pours another for himself and one for her, sliding her glass across the table to her waiting hand.
"Oh, come on. We are adults. I'm going to have to teach you how to function in New York, which will be easier if you're in the same room as me. And it'll save money if you're not living in a hotel."
"I'll pay for it. Just as soon as I have employment."
"Killian, it'll be a while before you can afford to keep yourself in that place."
With agitation guiding his moves, Killian stands from the table and paces the length of the breakfast bar.
"What will Henry think of a new man sharing your bed so soon after your previous relationship?"
"As long as I'm happy, I don't think he'll care."
"And how do you feel about lying to him about all this? We've been so careful to not lie to him in the duration since you got your memories back, Swan." He stops pacing and looks at her, and she feels the stab of guilt go through her at that. She hates lying to Henry about anything, but there's no way to bring back his own memories, and while he's pretty easy-going for an eleven-year-old, he might not buy all this. Plus, the less he knows right now, the better.
She stands and moves to him, making sure to maintain eye contact with him the whole time she speaks. "If and when Henry gets his memories back, he will understand that I – that we did everything in our power to protect him from whatever the hell is out there. Killian, something was just watching us through the windows of my third-floor apartment."
"And what about physical contact, Swan? We'll need to show each other affection from time to time so he believes we are courting. We'll need to," and here he shifts from foot to foot, swallowing hard before he says it, "share a bed."
"It's a big bed. I think we'll manage. And affection is fine, spaced out. Pretty sure he wouldn't appreciate us tongue kissing in front of him anyways." The second she says it, she vividly remembers Neverland all over again – the anxious push and pull dance they engaged in for way too short of a time. The way his body felt against hers. The way he kissed her back with as much fervor as she gave.
She blinks a few times, idly wondering if that's the reason for Killian's faraway look, or if he's just considering the offer.
"There's something else. When I was walking home from the hotel that first night back, I could feel whatever it was watching me. And while I left Henry alone for brief periods of time before, I have never felt so uneasy about it than I did that night. I can't really explain it," she says, her hand automatically hovering above her breastbone as if she could clutch at that feeling, find the proper words, calm her heart all over again. "I can't, but I flew down the hall preparing for a battle."
He looks progressively more worried as she talks, and she can see the gears shifting in his mind. Sheesh, she thought this would be just a little easier. "Just sleep on it, okay?"
"Aye, Swan, I will." He lingers after the words, looking like he has more to say, but inevitably just shaking his head and returning to the table.