Once, when Emma was six or perhaps seven, she had been thrown from her pony when he had been spooked by a rabbit darting out in front of him. The pony hadn't been overlarge but Emma had been tossed off his back from a higher point than she'd ever fallen from before. She vividly remembered the surprise of flying through the air and the shock of all the air being forced from her lungs when she had landed flat on her back on the unforgiving ground. Worst of all were the few terrible seconds where she hadn't been able to move a single muscle and she had truly believed she had died.
Every heart stopping sensation returned to her as Killian stared at her without a single spark of recognition in his eyes.
Emma realized she was still in his arms, clinging to him desperately. She quickly stepped back but all rational thought had left her. Killian looked the same, sounded the same, his arms had felt the same wrapped around her but somehow it wasn't him at all. He was watching her with a bemused smile and seemed about to ask her a more pressing question when she felt a warm hand on her elbow, pulling her further away from him.
"Apologies. We've had a bit o' drink tonight and me cousin though yous was someone else."
Roland squeezed her arm gently, she supposed to comfort her and to indicate she should go along with whatever ruse he had planned. He was swaying almost imperceptibly on his feet and Emma caught a whiff of rum coming off him. The harsh smell of the alcohol broke through her stupor and she began to tremble. Roland's grip tightened as he stepped slightly in front of her.
"No harm, no foul, mate," Killian grinned up at Roland. There was a sharpness to it Emma had never seen before as his gaze slid back to her, "Whoever he is he's quite the fool for letting such a beautiful woman go. I can assure you if your, er, cousin was mine the only reason she'd have to drink would be to rehydrate herself for another round."
Grace gasped from behind them and Roland's hand flexed painfully around her arm. The lewd comment coming from Killian, who hadn't always had a proper tongue but never one so vulgar, was as shocking as getting doused in a bucket of ice cold seawater and just as effective at getting Emma's thoughts moving again.
"As though I'd stoop so low as to sleep with a man who skulks around a harbor in the dead of night and tries to seduce a woman who'd mistaken him for another," she retorted, stepping back in front of Roland and settling her hands on her hips.
"Oh, you have fire, lass," Killian whistled, rocking back on his heels, his eyes glittering. He gave her a short bow, "Names Kieran."
"I didn't ask for it," Emma said steadily, despite her heart beating furiously in her chest.
"And yet you have it anyway. I suppose it's too much to hope you'll give me yours in return? I have a feeling it just rolls off the tongue-" Killian's own tongue darted out from between his lips to touch the corner of his mouth before he bit his lip and winked at her.
"That'll be enough of that, mate."
Roland stepped up beside her again, hostility radiating off him, all pretenses dropped. Emma had never seen him upset, let alone angry, and she had to fight against the urge to put herself in between the two men with Killian safely at her back. Killian was the unknown element on the dock and she was quickly becoming aware of exactly what she was up against. Zelena's dark curse seemed to not have only stolen Killian away from her, it had stolen away the essence of who he was and replaced it with something else. Something Emma wasn't sure she had the strength to fight against.
"No need to get your panties in a twist I'm just having a bit of fun."
Killian held his hands up in surrender and the sight made Emma gasp involuntarily. Much like in her dreams, the ones she'd had to convince herself for hours afterward weren't real, his left hand had been replaced by a shiny hook. Although, it was unlike any hook she'd seen before, almost pincer-like in its appearance. At the sound of her surprise a dark look shadowed Killian's face and he dropped his arms with a scowl.
"Appears the fun's been cancelled for the evening," Grace's steely voice floated across the dock causing all three of them to focus on her. "We'll be on our way and you can be on yours."
"Ah, but I find myself intrigued as to why the three of you were down here at all," Killian's taunting voice had Emma looking back at him. He tilted his head towards them, eyes slowly taking them all in, "It's far too late for a pleasure cruise and despite the whiff of rum I'd bet none of you lot have let a drop pass your lips at all this night. Not to mention you're all wearing clothes far more suited for a voyage with Jack Sparrow than a dockside rendezvous in rural Maine."
"I could wonder the same about you," Emma said, tilting her own head to the side measuring him up. She didn't know how much of her Killian had been changed, how much of him was left inside the man standing before her, but she was willing to push a few buttons to find out, "The smell of alcohol on you is pervasive, like you dip yourself in a cask of it before going anywhere but over that I smell mischief. You aren't down here for a casual stroll yourself and judging by the look of the ships bobbing in their slips behind us and the set of tools not so hidden in your coat pocket I'd guess you're the one who was thinking about taking a pleasure cruise. What you were looking for was a distraction from whatever it is you need distracting from and instead of stealing a ship you've decided we're far more interesting. Am I right?"
He gaped at her in wonder before shaking his head. A smile slowly unfurled as he stepped closer to her, leaning into her space, "Well, you've got fire and a brain to boot. You seem to have gained quite the measure of me in our short acquaintance and yet somehow still remain shrouded in mystery yourself. A name lass and I'll see fit to forget to mention our strange meeting to the sheriff of the lovely town you find yourself in."
"If that was a legitimate threat I might consider it," she smirked and hoped it didn't tremble. "You can't tell your sheriff about us without telling them why you were down here in the first place. We'll be going now."
It took all of her remaining strength to force her feet to move forward and push past Killian. She refused to look back, even as she heard him chuckling behind her and the strange lanterns along the docks seemed to flicker in her wake. He couldn't be allowed to see how much talking to him had broken her and she was grateful that Roland was right behind her, effectively shielding her from Killian's view.
"I look forward to our next tet-a-tet, lass!" Killian's voice called out after her, amplified as it echoed across the water. "I hope it will be as pleasurable as this one has been!"
Roland's hand settled on her shoulder and continued to guide her forward. She was grateful for it because the tears in her eyes made it nearly impossible for her to see where she was going. Focusing on the sound of their footsteps and the warmth of Roland's hand she walked, keeping the sea to her right. For a good while they traveled along the unforgiving pathway leading away from the town but once it diverted back inland Emma led them into the woods lining the shore. The crunching of twigs and soft loam beneath her boots grounded her as her tears dried on her cheeks.
"Do you think it was the curse?"
Grace's gentle question came at the point when the orange glow of lights from the town became indiscernible through the trees. Emma slowed to a stop at a fallen log and sat down heavily upon it. Roland and Grace sat on either side of her, patiently waiting for her answer.
"I'm sure of it," she croaked out. Clearing her throat she dug one heel into the dirt at her feet, "Killian would have never talked to me that way. Even when he was pretending to be someone else when I first met him he was flirtatious but not like that. The curse changed him, made him forget who he is. It made him forget me."
Roland's arm draped over her shoulder and pulled her into his side. She had no more tears to cry. All that she felt was left of her was an exhausted husk that was too close to admitting defeat.
"But it's still a curse. It can be broken," Grace said emphatically, grabbing onto Emma's hand almost desperately.
"With True Love's kiss!" Roland jumped up and began pacing excitedly, "We can't go back now, he's probably already gone. We'll have to scout the town and wait for him to be alone again. Maybe if we go-"
"It won't work," Emma said dully, slipping her hand out of Grace's grasp.
"What?" Roland stumbled to a halt and gaped at her, "Of course it will! True Love's kiss breaks any curse."
"Not if one can't remember the other," she said desolately. Despite feeling as though she had cried all the moisture out of her body the tears gathered in her eyes once more, "How can you share True Love with someone if you can't remember ever knowing them?"
"Then we make him remember," Roland said vehemently. "Or- or we find your father or mine and break it that way."
"We don't even know if Killian is the only one who lost his memory or what else this fucking curse has done to them," Emma fired back, through with trying to come up with yet another plan for the ones that had gone awry. "I don't have my magic, we're in a realm we know nothing about, we don't know if we'll have anyone on our side or if it's just the four of us against Zelena. Who, by the way, has every advantage over us. I don't- I can't handle another blow."
The fight drained out of Roland and he slumped back down onto the log with an air of defeat. Emma felt a moment of guilt for snapping at him and effectively stomping on his hopes but they all had to face the reality of their situation. They had been terribly naive in their preparations and were facing the consequences of believing they had been equipped to handle the unknown.
"Okay, it's okay," Grace said in a soothing voice. She began to gently rub Emma's back in a way that reminded her of Snow, "We've all been awake since dawn at least and with the fight with those pirates and the search for the bean we've pushed ourselves to our limits. We just need a few hours of sleep and I bet we'll find things won't look so bleak come morning."
"We'll make camp here tonight," Grace continued, talking over her, "Tomorrow we'll scout out the town as best we can without drawing attention to ourselves. Killian most likely won't be telling anyone of authority he saw us, you might be right about that Emma. That should at least keep Zelena from immediately discovering we're here. Then we'll return to the Jewel at dusk and discuss with Turner and Marty how to proceed."
Emma nodded tiredly. Grace gently patted her shoulder and stood from the log, dragging Roland with her. She watched as they began to gather wood and clear a spot for a fire. In what seemed like the span of a single blink a small fire was burning cheerily in front of her and Grace was gently coaxing her to lay down in the circle of its warmth. Even with the unforgiving ground and dark thoughts swirling in her head she was asleep within moments of closing her eyes.
The next morning was grey and gloomy. She woke to the low murmurs of Grace and Roland and the smell of roasting meat. The fire was burning as high as it had been when she had fallen asleep with the added sight of a rabbit roasting on a spit over it. Sitting up she listened to Roland as she rubbed the sleep out of her eyes.
"-never saw me and if Killian truly doesn't talk then no one will be suspicious. She'll still have no idea we're here until it's too late."
"Zelena knows who you are," Emma said gruffly, her throat slightly raw from the crying she had done the night before and unhelped by sleeping outdoors. She took a quick drink from the flask Roland handed her, "Even if she didn't use a mirror to spy on me after we met Thompson would have been made to tell her about the Merry Men camp and everyone in it. Taking your father but not you was probably her way of punishing you for being so eager to help us right off. Grace and Marty are the only ones Zelena doesn't know about."
"Then maybe we should be the ones to scout out the town," Grace said with a frown.
"No-" she shook her head as she shuffled as close to the fire as she could without getting singed, "Marty is young and inexperienced, no matter how much he'd argue otherwise. I'm not going to send you out there without someone to back you up and I'm also not going to stay away just because Zelena might recognize me. We'll play it safe at first to get an idea of what we're dealing with but I'm not going to hide in the shadows forever."
Grace and Roland beamed at her. She felt steadier and more resolute than she had the night before. The light of day and a night's rest had greatly improved her outlook, even if she shied away from thinking about her interaction with Killian completely.
They stayed at their makeshift camp only until the fire burned down to embers and they could snuff it out easily. The clouds above were a steely grey and Emma could smell a storm edging its way towards them as they buried the bones from their meal and removed any signs that they had been there. Roland was the one to lead them back towards the town due to him being the most familiar with travelling through a forest and having actually paid attention to where Emma had blindly taken them the night before in her distress.
Once they were within sight of the solid, dark roadways they stayed within the shadows of the trees as Emma pulled out her spyglass to observe the town spread out below them. From what she could see it was moderate in size with a good amount of people milling about, either walking from place to place or in strange carriages that moved without the assistance of horses. She also saw no signs of distress or displacement from the inhabitants which gave her more reason to believe that not only Killian's memories had been tampered with.
As they moved on Emma took the lead. They maintained their distance from the road but kept it in sight as they moved along the perimeter of the town. All too soon it veered off in two separate directions one leading deeper into the woods and the other back towards the heart of the town. Loathe as she was to leave the safety of the trees she knew she couldn't hide in them forever, not if she wanted to find the answers she needed.
"We need to stash our weapons here," Emma murmured grimly, scanning the forest for a suitable hiding place.
"I don't think that's a good idea-" Roland scowled, resting his hand on the hilt of his sword. "What if we need to defend ourselves?"
"Then we're not doing a very good job of laying low," she huffed. "Look, there's never been a time that I walked into a room where I wasn't immediately suspicious of a sword or bow on a person. I'm almost certain we're going to stick out in people's minds because we're strangers that have come to this small town but we'll draw even more attention if we're armed. You can keep the knife in your boot but the cutlass has to go."
Roland looked at her in shock as his right foot kicked out reflexively. She grinned, a small but genuine smile, and began removing her own sword as she walked towards a somewhat hollowed out tree that could serve their purpose. Grace's short sword and Roland's cutlass joined hers in quick order and using strips of bark and fallen branches from other trees they were able to hide them relatively well.
Despite feeling on edge and exposed Emma couldn't help feeling fascinated by the new realm they had found themselves in. The dark substance on the roadways seemed to be a type of pitch that was curiously untacky under her boot and as hard as the cobblestones back in the courtyard of her parent's castle. The raised pathway that ran alongside it was seemingly made of stone slabs the like of which she'd never seen before but it was clearly meant as a footpath only as the strange carriages were too wide to travel easily upon it. They spent a little time inspecting the carriages, which were forged of metal and glass, but continued on when they couldn't figure out what made them move.
What surprised her most wasn't the fantastical oddities around her but the general air of desolation that pervaded throughout the town. The roadway was pocked with divots and cracks, many of the carriages had their wheels missing and were placed upon stone blocks, and more than once they passed a stranger that took just as much interest in them as they did in their appearance, which was to say none at all. The cottages they passed seemed almost uniform in build with only slight alterations in their facade and yet there was something more that united them aside from their repetitious build.
It was the warped wood of the walls, the rusting metal fixtures and decorations, the unkempt and weed choked gardens enclosed more often than not by sagging or incomplete fencing that spoke to Emma of the conditions the people lived in under the curse. In her travels it had never escaped her notice that even the poorest villager would take pains to make their humble dwellings feel as though it was a home to be proud of. Unless, of course, they were in a kingdom that neglected or even terrorized their subjects. She hadn't seen much of Misthaven under Zelena's rule before the curse but she had heard enough from others to know that it could have been a mirror for the town she found herself in.
The closer they traveled to what appeared to be the main thoroughfare of the town the more well maintained the buildings and gardens became. Emma didn't have much of a chance to observe her surroundings with much scrutiny due to the increase of people walking about. They stealthily ducked into an alleyway once they came across one that seemed to head into the heart of the town. Once they reached the opposite end she quietly told Grace and Roland to remain in the shadows so they could watch the goings on before them.
Emma watched silently as the movement past the mouth of the alley steadily increased. The wonder at watching the horseless carriages speed by wore off quickly as the odor of the mechanism that enabled them to travel permeated the air. In contrast her fascination with the clothing of the realm increased the more of it she saw as people strolled by. She had never seen such riotous colors outside of tropical isles or exotic lands and never had she seen the number of women in trousers far outnumber the ones in skirts or dresses, especially ones that had been tailored to such scandalously short lengths that the only purpose seemed to be to show off the hose they wore underneath. Even with the cool autumn morning the varieties in clothing that both the men and women wore astounded her.
"We're going to have to find new togs if we want to blend in," Roland commented as a man walked by wearing a dark grey knit cap that slouched off the crown of his head, a deep maroon woolen overcoat, and dark blue trousers that were so tight they appeared to be a second skin. "No wonder Killian made that comment about our appearance last night."
"We don't even know if the shops in this realm take our gold coins let alone if the tailor has anything already made that will fit each of us," Emma murmured as she watched a chattering trio of women in quilted coats and brightly colored, patterned trousers speed past. "I think I prefer my own clothing, even if I somehow still stand out because of them."
"Maybe we can at least find some of those coats to at least conceal our own clothes," Grace said thoughtfully, plucking at the hem of her waistcoat. "We don't know how long we'll be in this realm or how harsh their winter will be."
Grace's casual observation jolted her back to why they were skulking in the alley in the first place. She had almost forgotten in her wonder at the strangeness around her that they had no idea how to proceed with their original plan. Before she could even gather herself enough to make a response a flash of bright blue caught her eye and she turned just in time to see an achingly familiar profile disappear from the view of the alley.
Emma bolted out of the alleyway but the man who had caught her eye was already down the roadway, climbing into a larger carriage with an open back that looked similar to a hay wagon. She stood frozen on the walkway as she waited with a pounding heart for him to glance back so she could confirm that it actually was her father. Her wish was granted after his carriage roared dully and he peeked over his shoulder for the shortest of moments. The last time she had seen David it had been through a mirror and after more than eleven years of separation but there was no mistaking the man in the carriage for anyone else.
The excitement that had flared briefly in her chest at seeing her father was snuffed out when she realized the carriage was quickly moving away from her. She looked frantically back at the mouth of the alley where Grace and Roland were both shaking their heads at her with twin looks of panic before quickly looking back to where her father's carriage was turning down another roadway and out of her sight. Without a second thought she gave chase, ignoring the strangled shout of Roland behind her and the shocked looks of the people on the walkway in front of her. As she darted across the road she caused several of the carriages to halt to a stop with loud blaring noises seemingly coming from within their depths but she paid them no mind as she made the turn down the roadway she'd seen her father take.
To Emma's dismay the carriages moved much faster than she anticipated. David was already a fair distance ahead of her. There were less people walking along the road she'd found herself on but that only made her mad dash all the more conspicuous as they merely stood in her way, gaping at her. She dodged around them as efficiently as she could, cursing as she watched the carriage David was in turn once more with a brief flaring of red at its back.
By the time she turned down the road she believed David had turned down there was no sign of him or the carriage. She bit down a curse and the urge to sob as she slowed her pace to a light jog and looked through the windows of shops and down the other roadways that branched off in a dismaying number of possibilities. After passing by several such roadways she finally turned down one based merely on the discovery that no one else was on it and she wanted a moment or two to collect herself before Grace and Roland found her. She was far from ready to face them and their lectures on her impulsiveness. It was bad enough she was already chastising herself about it as she walked aimlessly.
The roadway she found herself on was unlike any of the others she'd seen that morning. On the side she was walking on the buildings were much like the shops she'd passed while she'd chased David, though a bit larger and without any wares on display in the windows. Directly across from her was a large, white building set back from the road with an expanse of lush green, short cut grasses and hedges before it. Her steps slowed to a stop as she contemplated what purpose the building served as the sign out front declaring it as 'City Hall' made only a small amount of sense to her.
The vague ideas and musings over the uses were interrupted when a small, dark green carriage sped down the road at an incredible speed before jolting to a screeching halt near the front doors of the hall. Emma's thoughts stopped altogether when a woman emerged from the interior of the carriage. Her skin was no longer green and the elaborate gown Emma had last seen her in was replaced by something sleeker and somehow more form fitting but there was no mistaking the fiery red hair or screeching voice for anyone but Zelena.
"I don't give a bloody fuck how it's done. I want that rat trap of a cabin demolished by the end of the week. Is that understood?"
Emma knelt down slowly so as not to draw attention to herself as she went for the blade in her boot. She would have preferred her sword or even her magic but she knew her short dagger could be just as effective a weapon. Straightening back up she concealed the dagger between her body and her arm as she watched Zelena rant at some unseen person. With a deep breath she stepped forward, whether to force the witch to answer questions or to kill her Emma wasn't sure, when a rough hand clamped over her mouth and an arm wrapped around her torso, pinning down her arms, and pulled her backwards.
Her paralysis only lasted a few seconds before she began to struggle. The person who grabbed her grunted in pain as her bootheels connected with their shins but it only caused their grip to tighten as they drug her further down what she vaguely noted was another alley. She continued to kick out and back at her attacker, trying to set them off balance and simultaneously cause them enough pain that they'd inevitably release her.
"Bloody hell, lass, I'm trying to keep you from doing something you'll regret."
Emma stiffened in shock at the winded and pained voice panting in her ear. Her eyes darted down and she could just make out the odd hook at the end of the arm that was keeping hers pinned down. Killian squeezed her middle sharply, causing the air in her lungs to huff out through her nose. In retaliation she nipped none too gently at his hand and was pleased by his quiet yelp. When he did nothing more to strike back at her or give any sign he would release her she hesitantly relaxed in his arms but remained cautious. She still had no real idea of how much the curse had changed him.
"If I let you go are you going to stab me with that wicked looking knife of yours?" He growled, still breathing harshly.
She shook her head as best she could under his hand.
"Excellent. I don't fancy having to spend any more time in hospital than I already have-" Killian dropped his hand from her mouth and tapped her arm gently with his hook before stepping back from her.
Needing a moment to steel herself to confront him again so soon after the disaster of the night before she focused on the building across the road. To her dismay, and slight relief, Zelena was nowhere to be seen and had apparently taken no notice of their struggling. She felt Killian step up beside her but she wasn't ready to look at him, let alone talk to him, and she was scared she never would be.
"Our illustrious mayor is probably already safely ensconced in her office," Killian said conversationally, as though he hadn't prevented her from attacking Zelena only moments before. "Her security in there is a bunch of brainless oafs but they're surprisingly good at their jobs."
Emma fought to keep an impassive look on her face as memories of Killian joking with her in the same way assaulted her. He was going in and out of her peripheral vision, as though he was rocking back and forth on his heels, trying to force her to pay attention to him. Instead she spun away from him and began pacing the length of the alley to try and get her thoughts in order, keeping her eyes firmly on her boots. She hadn't anticipated seeing Killian, her father, and Zelena in such a quick succession, let alone try to decide which one would be her best chance at breaking the curse.
"Are you some sort of reenactor?"
His absurd question caused her to pause and finally look at him directly. He was sitting atop a stack of empty crates, his blue eyes watching her carefully. The seemingly single pieced uniform made of a dark blue heavy material he was wearing was just as odd as the other clothing she'd seen in the realm, yet despite its way of giving no shape to his form it somehow fitted him perfectly. On his chest was a small patch that read 'Jones' and with a pang she remembered the first time he'd used that name with her back at Granny's tavern in Senlikli.
"You're clearly not a hit woman," he said with a tilt of his head as he regarded her. "You've the stealth of a freight train and are oblivious of your surroundings if I was able to sneak up on you without actually trying. You're far too beautiful to be one of those nutters that gets off on dressing up and going to one of those nerd convention things. I'm going to stick with reenactor, seeing as Founder's Day is in a few weeks and Ruby does enjoy torturing her ex and his boss in interesting ways."
Emma didn't even try to make sense out of what Killian had said. She vaguely wondered if the Ruby he mentioned was Red but couldn't muster the courage to talk to him in any capacity. Instead she went to move past him back out on the roadway without saying a word. His eyes flashed and he stood quickly to block her way.
"Now, now. You can't possibly believe I'd let you escape without some sort of explanation, lass. You and your friends show up in the dead of night in a mere rowboat where you throw yourself at me, crying, before clamming up faster than a shot and disappearing into the darkness. Then, when I have the great fortune of seeing you again after wondering about you all night you're tearing through the streets and preparing to attack the mayor in some manner," Killian said it without menace or suspicion but with something akin to wonder. He leaned close to her, his eyes darting between her own, "Just who are you?"
"Wouldn't you like to know?" She quipped back in spite of herself.
"Perhaps I would," Killian said softly, swaying towards her. Then he seemed to catch himself, shoving his hand and hook into the pockets of his clothes, adjusting his stance so he was leading with his hips, "I'd be more than willing to learn all sorts of things about you, preferably in the bedroom. Just say the word, lass."
She was spared from having to come up with a response when she heard the pounding of feet and Roland's relieved call from behind her.
"Emma is it?" Killian's eyes glittered. "Lovely name for a gorgeous lass. It's a pity I couldn't get it to fall from your own luscious lips."
"If I had it my way you'd still be waiting," she grit out even as it pained her to be so callous towards him.
"Of that I'm well aware-" he licked his lips and winked, "Emma."
With a roll of her eyes she turned her back on him. Roland was standing at the other end of the alley, silhouetted by the midmorning sun. Emma saw the moment he realized exactly who it was that was with her, he straightened to his full height as his hand went for the cutlass that was no longer at his hip. She decided to ease the tension as quickly as possible and walked towards Roland without looking back. The look on his face was thunderous, leaving her wondering if it wasn't only Killian's presence that had him upset.
"I look forward to our next run-in, lass! Each one has been-" Killian paused and she could picture him slowly licking his bottom lip, "-illuminating."
"Let's go," Emma murmured as she drew close to Roland, tucking her dagger back in her boot. He was glaring over her head and only looked at her when she tugged at his elbow as she straightened, "Where's Grace?"
"Back where we came into town-" his eyes darted back down the alley and from his deepening frown she knew Killian was still there. "Did he do anything to you?"
"No, nothing happened," she reassured him quickly.
Unable to help herself Emma looked back to see that Killian hadn't moved. He was watching them with a scowl that not even the shadows of the alleyway could mask. She wondered at his change in demeanor from flirtatious to annoyed when it hit her that she had seen him look that way before. It had been back when they had been barely civil with one another and she'd catch him looking at her with a similar scowl when she was with Pinocchio. It wasn't until Red laughingly teased her about it that she realized he was jealous. Seeing the same expression on his face even with no memory of her sparked a small glimmer of hope in her chest. She turned back to Roland before Killian could catch the grin threatening to break out across her face.
"Emma?" Roland asked, seemingly taken aback by her fight against the smile.
"Not now," she whispered with a joyous tremor to her voice.
Tugging on his arm again she prodded him into walking away from the alley. She was only slightly disappointed when Killian didn't call out after her again.
"Was it him? Your father?" Roland asked tersely once they were well away from the alley.
"It was," Emma answered quietly, her elation fading as she remembered the reasons she had found herself with Killian in the first place. "I also saw Zelena."
"What?!" He yelped as he stopped dead in the middle of the walkway, grabbing her arm to turn her to face him. "Is seeing her all that you did?"
"Keep walking," she hissed, glad there were only one or two people that could possibly hear them but others were starting to take notice. She blew out a frustrated breath when he stood his ground, "Killian stopped me from doing anything more than that. Keep walking."
Roland started forward again but didn't say a word. As they moved along the roads he constantly checked over his shoulders and looked up and down the crossroads twice before continuing on. The tension radiating off him caused Emma to start paying more attention to the goings on around her even though she was sure it was her revelation about Zelena that had him both more alert and determined to ignore her. She knew better than to try to explain herself until they were in the cover the woods where the risk of any yelling that would occur from being overheard was minimal.
There were far less people walking around the roads than there had been before. Emma wondered if it had to do with the later hour of if there was some decree that required the townsfolk to be indoors by midmorning. Back in even the smallest villages of their realm there had been constant movement down the roads or between various shops and taverns. The lack of people made it easier to spot someone following them but it also meant the two of them stuck out even more than they had before. Emma quickened her pace and Roland easily matched her strides as they wend their way back to the forest.
Grace was waiting for them at the treeline. When she caught sight of them she gave them a tight smile but remained in the shadows of the trees. She let Roland pass without comment when they reached her but pulled Emma into a brief, squeezing hug. It reminded her of how Roland had been when he had found her with Killian, upset and concerned for something more than just her disappearance. Whatever had happened to them after she had run off had clearly affected them both.
As they rearmed themselves with their weapons Emma addressed Grace, hoping she'd be more forthcoming and less hostile than Roland.
"What happened after I left?"
"After you abandoned us you mean?" Roland snapped angrily, his hands clenching and unclenching at his sides. "You were the one going on about not drawing attention, getting a lay of the land. Then you go and dash through countless people after a man who doesn't even remember you, risked being seen by the one person who would gladly kill you if they do remember, and ended up alone with the one that can't decide whether to fuck with you or just fuck you. Not exactly the way to go about breaking a curse is it, Savior?"
Emma saw red, her pulse pounding in her head, blood coursing hotly through her veins. She had her sword half out of her scabbard before Grace was grabbing onto her wrist to stop her and stepping between them.
"Enough! Roland that was out of line!" Grace scolded him before turning to Emma with no less fire in her eyes. "He was out of line but he was also right. You risked too much running after your father and if I understand right seeing Zelena and then Killian as well? I know this is entire situation is unprecedented but what were you thinking Emma? We cannot afford to make any mistakes!"
Slamming her sword back in place she shook off Grace's hand, "Was I supposed to just let my father go without even trying to find out if he remembers me?"
"I had to!" Roland roared, "Looked him straight in the eye and kept going. I have no problem remembering what's at stake here."
She stood dumbfounded as Roland stalked off into the woods, seemingly back the way they had come. Grace sighed deeply and giving her a troubled look turned to follow. Emma went along quietly, unable to form any words that would seem sufficient.
"You ran past him when you went after your father," Grace murmured quietly, her voice almost lost in the sound of twigs snapping under their boots. "Luckily for us Robin was busy with a man Roland called Little John and paid little attention to you or us as I made excuses for your behavior. He's a constable of some kind, Robin is. I think that was the bigger shock for Roland."
"I- I'm sorry."
Emma wasn't sure if she was apologizing for running off or for forcing Roland to meet his father in such a way. It didn't much matter with Roland nearly out of sight ahead of them forging a new path with his heavy tread. Grace seemed dissatisfied with her apology, frowning as she looked towards what they could see of Roland's wide back.
"After we lost sight of you we split up. Roland being the better tracker went after you and I kept a lookout as I made my way back to the weapons. We both knew that if he didn't find you you'd make your way back there. Either that or you were taken by someone and we had an even bigger problem on our hands," Grace said pointedly, her eyes unforgiving as they focused back on Emma.
"If it had been your kids would you have done nothing at all?" Emma retorted, nettled into defensiveness.
"No, I wouldn't have," Grace answered unabashedly, pivoting to a stop in front of her. "I would have followed them as far as I could have but kept my head about me as I did. I would have made a plan with the other people I'm stuck in this confusing realm with. I would have continued to believe that even if they couldn't recognize me that they would in time. We need to rely on each other in this fight and we can't do that if we're divided. You are the Savior, Emma, you will break this curse but only if you accept your destiny. It's that or we've come here for nothing."
Grace began to walk after Roland again and Emma was left fighting against the slight tremor in her hands.
It took several minutes for Emma to gather herself enough to continue down the path Roland had created. By the time she caught up to them she wasn't entirely sure if they were closer to the town or to where Turner and Marty might have hidden the Jewel. In trying to determine where they were she didn't notice until she had almost walked straight into them that Roland and Grace had come to a dead stop in front of her. She was about to ask why when she noticed they were both gripping the hilt of their weapons tightly.
Taking similar precaution Emma unsheathed her own sword before stepping around Roland. She was shocked to see a woman standing there and when she realized who it was her grip faltered.
The former Evil Queen was a far cry from the regal and haughty portrait Emma had found once in one of the many rooms they had only used for storage when she was little. Regina also looked only marginally better than she had when Emma had first seen her as a prisoner in a tower of her own palace. Standing in front of her was a woman who had been defeated in every way and her appearance showed it. Her hair was unkempt and matted, her clothes a mismatch of ill-fitting and dirty rags, and although she looked as though she was eating better than when she was a prisoner her cheeks were still hollow and her skin sallow.
She was standing with her hands on her hips, glaring at Roland and Grace. When she noticed Emma her dark eyes widened marginally in surprise before a wide smile unfurled. Emma knew better than to believe it was from happiness at seeing her before realizing with a shock that somehow Regina recognized her.
"It's about damn time you got here," Regina sneered.
"You know me," Emma said as more of a statement than a question, ignoring the uneasy shuffling of her companions.
"Of course I do," Regina spat back with an exaggerated roll of her eyes. "Precious Princess Emma finally come to do what she was fated to do. Tell me, was your twenty-eighth birthday one worth remembering?"
"What do you know about this curse?" Emma asked ignoring Regina's dig. "How do we break it?"
"Oh, no no no. You've kept me waiting long enough. You owe me a heart, Savior, and I intend to collect."
Regina moved quicker than Emma thought her capable as she pulled a small blade from the depths of her sleeve. She barely heard Roland and Grace's yells as the knife left Regina's hand with a flick of her wrist, spinning towards her with frightening accuracy.
A.N.: First off I'd like to point out that I am definitely one of those nutters that dresses up for those nerd conventions but cursed Killian just isn't the type. Second I'm working on this fic constantly so even if there are weeks and weeks between updates they're still a comin', if a bit slowly. Third Killian's cursed name was always going to be Kieran Jones, which is why I had him use it way back in A Crown and A Captain (it's a mirror of how Snow got her cursed name btw). There ain't no Rogers here.
Next: An interrogation, some integration, and plenty of interactions.