a/n: I wrote this originally thinking it was going to be a oneshot (something that seems to happen far too often to me), but then I completely latched onto the idea and decided that it needed and deserved more. It's all I've been able to write lately, and I just today passed 35k words on it, so I've decided to start posting it.

Please be understanding about my other mcs not being updated! It's hard enough struggling to write one while being harassed about two others!

I hope you enjoy this story, because so far it's been such a fun ride for me!


one

There are days that he regrets this.

The decks of the Jolly Roger are covered in salt water, blood, and gunpowder. His men are weary, quiet, and in need of solace on land- hopefully including a good bath for each and every one.

Captain Hook is what he insists upon being called. It helps keep curious sailors away from the flag of the Jolly and it's as gruesome a name as it is a story. But in truth, he's just a man seeking justice and when he gets it, he'll find rest once more.

Killian Jones is who he really is at his heart. Killian Jones- a lost boy. A broken man.

"Mister Smee," Killian says lowly, turning to his first mate who stands at the helm.

"Aye, Captain?"

"We're due for port," Killian reminds Smee. "Should be there in the morning." Killian gives him a small smile and a hand to his shoulder. "If you're alright, I need to return below deck. I've a lady who needs me."

Mister Smee smiles brighter than he has all week. "Aye, Cap. I'll hold her steady."

Killian opens the hatch to his quarters. He reeks and he needs a drink, but that can wait. All he really needs right now is what lies in his bed.

He climbs the ladder with ease, the creaks and groans reminding him of just how long he's been at this.

Killian smiles when he sees her- resting peacefully in his bed. Her chest rises and falls with gentle ease and she cradles his pillow as a lifeline.

Killian goes to the side of the bed and kneels. He reaches up to brush her hair back behind her ear and it makes her face scrunch up in sleep. Her fist hits his arm and she opens her eyes in a tough squint.

"Papa?" she grumbles.

Killian smiles at the little girl. "Hi, sweetheart."

She smiles at him and pushes her hand against his cheek. In an instant, she scrunches up her nose. "Papa, you're smelly."

Killian laughs warmly. He takes her hand to his lips so he can kiss it. "I know, little one. I'll wash up in a moment. I just wanted to tell you that we're going to port in the morning."

The news makes her smile peacefully. "Oh, good, Papa. I like that."

He often asks himself why he's doing this. Why he'd sail the seas in search of vengeance when at the end of it all, this little girl could care less about what happens? He thinks often of that day, when his whole world was shaken and shattered before him.

His heart aches heavily in his chest as he admires the peace on his daughter's face. Maybe he's getting too old for this. Maybe his priorities need to change for the sake of her future.

He knows she loves the sea with everything in her, but she spends each and every day amongst men who smell like rum and filth and spew language that he's afraid she'll start using if he isn't there in time to put his arms around her head to block her ears.

He's had many men leave his crew because of their tongues and ill-fitted behavior around his little girl, and he's had to swear them all to silence because the dreaded Captain hook having a four-year-old daughter isn't the best way to keep his enemies terrified.

Now that she's four, he's found it harder and harder to justify this way of life.

Killian leans in to kiss his daughter's forehead. "Would you like it if we stayed there, love? On dry land, with the flowers and the animals?"

She sighs heavily and he knows he's in for some deep philosophical statement that she can't have meant to be that way. "I just want to hug you, Papa."

Tears gather in his eyes and he laughs gently. "Alright. I think that I can do that."

Killian cleans up for bed, taking care of the grime and mess from battle. He stares at the ring hanging from the necklace he's placed around his neck- Liam.

It's a reminder to him every time he stares at it that his brother is gone, that the government he'd sworn loyalty to had turned its back on him.

He closes his eyes and thinks of his brother in detail, remembering the words they'd said at the end of his life. Killian's heart crawls into his throat and he shakes his head when the tears burn behind his eyes.

With ease, he removes his hook and settles it beside the basin of dirty water after cleaning it. He slips a clean nightshirt over his head and steps out of his boots. His toes ache and his head has started to, too.

Killian peels back the sheets of his cot and his daughter scoots away so he has the space to lie down. Immediately, she clings to him, her arms around his neck while her leg goes over his hip.

"Papa," she smiles happily.

It's almost as if he's her prize, her treasure. Killian certainly feels that way about her. He has ever since the day she was born, the writhing and red little girl she was, pressed against her mother's breast.

Now, she stares back at him with her mother's eyes and reminds him of the pain of loss even in the middle of the joy he has with her.

Killian pokes her nose and smiles softly. "My darling,"

Her laughter is quiet and sleepy.

He strokes back her dark hair and kisses her forehead. He smiles at her and watches as she drifts off again. "Dream good dreams, Lizzie."

"Dream good dreams, Papa." she whispers, her breath warm against his cheek.

Killian hasn't had good dreams in such a long time. He doubts it's possible for him to even have the recollection of a good dream.

With his daughter holding him close, however, Killian finds it easier to breathe.

He closes his eyes and thinks of a fantasy, where Liam and Milah are still alive, where he's living a peaceful life with them in a cottage by the shore. Perhaps he and Liam still go sailing, but only on occasion. He's a fisherman and Milah stays at home with Elizabeth, allowing their daughter the affection and space she needs to grow into a kind, caring woman.

On a sigh, Killian opens his eyes to his reality. Still chasing the Crocodile. Still missing Liam and Milah with every fiber of his being. Still longing for freedom.

Perhaps he'll find it someday. Perhaps he'll be able to face his daughter and tell her everything will be alright without it burning against his ribcage as a blatant and uncertain lie.

Perhaps one day, she won't have to hide in a trunk while the ship tosses and canons are fired as war breaks out on the very decks she loves to dance and sing on.


He dresses Elizabeth up in a bright yellow dress so he'll be able to spot her if she goes running off and he sits her down on his knee so he can brush the knots out of her hair.

She plays with her favorite doll and chats with him animatedly the whole time. It's probably his favorite part of being her father- getting to hear what she has to say on just about everything. She has the most unique view on the world and it helps ground him. Keeps him from turning to darkness.

"What did you dream about last night, Lizzie?" he asks as he attacks one vicious knot at the end of her hair.

Elizabeth hums. "We were dancing, Papa."

"Dancing," Killian smiles. "That sounds like a good dream indeed!"

His daughter nods her head and turns toward him, causing him to stop what he's doing and instead to face her.

"Papa, it was so nice," she sighs. "There were flowers and bunnies and little tiny turtles!"

Killian laughs warmly. "That sounds like a lovely dream."

"We were on port," she says matter-of-factly. He smiles to himself when she turns back around. He threads the brush through her hair one more time. "And Mummy was there."

His heart stops for a moment, as do his movements, just for a moment. "Mummy?"

Elizabeth nods. "Well… like the one in the painting."

She gestures to the small portrait he'd hidden away- it's now leaning against his desk as if she'd been staring at it for a while. He remembers the day vividly that they'd had it done.

"How do you know that's Mummy?" Killian asks, feeling choked up.

"Because she looks like me," Elizabeth shrugs. She tilts her head sadly as she stares at the painting. "Where did she go? Why is she gone?"

Killian's eyes water and he closes them as he swallows the lump in his throat. "Um… she's with Uncle Liam in heaven, love."

Elizabeth seems to understand his sadness. She turns to him and frowns. She wraps her arms around his neck and sighs softly.

"Papa, don't be sad," she murmurs. "We'll see them someday."

Killian smiles against her head and kisses her there. "I know, sweetheart. I know we will."

He takes his hand through her hair and she leans away. Her smile spreads brightly.

"Can we go to port now?"

Killian chuckles and nods. "Of course we can."

She insists upon climbing the rungs of the ladder herself, and he only helps a little when she gets to the top one and has trouble popping the hatch door. She grins when the rays of sunlight caress her skin and her little boots attack the deck of the ship with sizable thumps.

"Hello!" she sings.

The crew reply, adoringly, "Hello Miss Elizabeth!"

Killian can't help but grin as he joins her on the deck of his ship. She runs to Mister Smee, who laughs the instant he sets eyes on her.

"Good morning!" he says brightly.

Elizabeth holds her arms out. "Dance!"

Mister Smee lifts her into his arms and twirls around, holding one of her small hands in his. "You look mighty pretty today, Lizzie."

Lizzie blushes and stares down at her dress. "Thank you."

Mister Smee settles the little girl back onto the deck and meets Killian's eyes. He makes his way to the pair of them with a stride in his step.

The day is new, the sun is shining, and he cannot wait to set foot on land.

When he reaches his daughter, she immediately wants to hold his hand. It makes his heart swell with delight.

Turning to his first mate, he says, "Mister Smee, won't you make sure everything gets settled before the men go enjoy themselves?"

His first mate smiles and nods. "Of course, Cap. I take it our stay will be a few days?"

"Aye," Killian confirms. "We're due for that I'd say."

Elizabeth tugs on his hand just a little. His attention falls to her and she gives him the most anxious look he's ever seen. It makes him chuckle.

"Alright, my darling, shall we be off?"

Elizabeth beams at him and nods excitedly. "Yes, please!"

Killian looks away from his daughter to the rest of his crew, finding them as eager as Elizabeth to get off the ship for some rest. He nods at them.

"I'm leaving you to Mister Smee now, mates."

"Aye, Captain."

He smiles slightly and guides his daughter toward the gangplank.

"Papa," she says. She's still holding his hand, the dainty little thing, and he grins as he stares at her. "Can we get sweets?"

Killian shrugs. "I don't see why not."

"Yay!" she giggles.

She begins to run and he's helpless but to follow after her, the fearsome Captain Hook chasing after the one person who has him wrapped around all of her fingers.

He doesn't imagine anyone in this port will recognize him for his crimes, because they're usually friendly around here. Many in this town have taken interest in his daughter and always are excited when she shines her teeth at them.

He follows her through the crowded port until they find a shop they've visited before. It's going to cost him, these sweets, but he'll pay any number if it means her happiness.

The shop owner, a balding man with a round belly, recognizes him and smiles. "Well, if it isn't Miss Elizabeth and her papa."

Elizabeth giggles and clasps her hands together over her heart. "We're getting sweets!"

"Are you now?" the shop owner plays along. "Well, I have just the thing for you, love. Hold on a moment."

The owner turns around to find something on one of the shelves behind him and Killian watches as his daughter bounces impatiently on her heels for this surprise.

The man behind the counter grins as he turns around and steps around the counter so he can hand Elizabeth a small bag of chocolate candies himself.

His daughter's eyes widen and she gasps. "For me?"

"All for you," the shopkeeper smiles warmly. "I was wondering when I'd get to see you again so I could give them to you."

His daughter turns to him after accepting the gift. "Papa!"

"What do you say?"

"Thank you! Thank you!" Elizabeth gasps.

She begins to babble on and Killian watches the shop owner engage his toddler for a few moments. She certainly has a wild mouth on her, always excited to make new friends.

He's sure it's because she only knows so many people, only so many good people, that it only makes sense for her curiosity to be piqued when she arrives in new and interesting ports.

The bell of the door tinkles and the owner looks over, eyes widening. He quickly bows and blushes as he says, "Oh, Your Highness, what an honor."

Killian turns, his heart suddenly beating quickly.

He finds himself staring at none other than the Princess of Misthaven.

He's heard stories, as all have, of her lineage and the magic that courses through her veins. She's even more angelic in person- dressed in a pretty white dress with her hair in a braid flowing down her shoulder.

Her name is Emma, the daughter of the beloved Queen Snow and King David. Her place in the kingdom is highly revered. He's heard many, many men and women talk about her in taverns far away from here.

She smiles brightly at the shop owner and she's about to say something when a little boy jumps out from behind her and starts running for Killian and Elizabeth.

"Henry!" the princess laughs. "What are you doing?"

The young royal now stands between Killian and Elizabeth. His daughter glares at the boy angrily when he reaches for her hand that grips her new chocolates.

"No!" she shouts. "Papa, he's trying to steal!"

Killian opens his mouth and finds that he can't discipline a child of royal lineage as the notorious and hunted Captain Hook. It just isn't proper.

"Henry, get back over here," the princess says sternly.

Relief fills him ever so slightly, but he can't manage to meet her eyes.

Henry looks over at his mother. "I just wanted to say hello." He holds up one of the coins in his hand. "And give one of my coins to her."

"That's not how you say hello." the princess sighs, as if they've been talking about this and he's not understanding.

Elizabeth's eyes brighten up at the sight of a gold coin- a true pirate at heart. She immediately grabs for it and Henry seems completely mystified.

"We can be friends," Elizabeth says. "Here. One of my sweets."

Henry happily takes a piece and pops it into his mouth. "I'm Henry. What's your name?"

"Elizabeth. Papa calls me Lizzie. You can call me that too if you want."

The two little ones start to talk animatedly about sweets and the shop in general, walking away from Killian entirely.

It's something he hadn't realized he needed to see, his daughter engaging with another child her age, but as he gazes upon the scene he feels something pulling at him. This is natural and normal. Elizabeth deserves this.

Killian looks up at the shop owner, then looks to the Princess of Misthaven.

He's dumbfounded that she'd be allowing such behavior from a girl who hasn't been vetted or at least patted down by a guard, but as Killian looks at the princess, he finds that she's come into the store alone. There aren't any guards with her.

It would be so easy for him to take her hostage and hold them for ransom. He could pay for dresses and chocolates and everything his daughter and crew could ever hope for.

But, instead, he stares at the princess with a small smile on his dumbfounded face and shakes his head.

"I suppose they're friends now."

She laughs. It's the sweetest sound he's ever heard in his life, and that's saying something because he's lived with Elizabeth Jones for four years.

"I don't think I'll ever understand kids," she says, staring at the children.

It's a curious statement. He's heard stories of how the Princess of Misthaven once spent a whole week living with villagers in a war-torn part of the forest, trying to heal the wounded and sick, playing with their children.

He knows stories aren't all that they're made up to be. He's living proof of that, or at least he tries to be.

The princess seems to size him up, staring at his hook before she meets his eyes. Suddenly, Killian feels anxious, as if he'll be imprisoned for piracy standing in the middle of a shop full of sweets.

The princess' smile fades into a thin line and she clears her throat. "Are you from here?"

"No." Killian shakes his head. He sighs. "I'm considering it, though. We need to settle down."

"You're a fisherman?" she suggests thoughtfully.

The question catches him off guard. It's almost as if she knows exactly who he is, but doesn't care and doesn't want to question him about it. It's a kind gesture, if in fact the case.

"Ah… aye, yeah." He manages to smile. He looks toward his daughter, who now has Henry in a hug. "Bloody hell, now they're seconds away from telling us they've eloped."

The princess scoffs. "I should hope not. Henry would be a terrible husband."

Killian laughs when Princess Emma does. She's much different than the stories he's heard. She's more beautiful, more graceful, but also much quieter.

He reaches up to scratch behind his ear as he studies the princess. She blushes slightly when she catches him staring and smiles, tilting her head toward her shoulder.

"I'm Emma," she says.

He thinks the breath might be gone from his lungs. He smiles back at the Princess of Misthaven- Emma- dumbly.

"Killian. Killian Jones."

Emma laughs quietly. "It's nice to meet you, Killian." She looks over at the children. "Henry? Do you and your friend want something?"

"It's Elizabeth," his daughter says as the two little ones come back to join them.

"Elizabeth," Emma says. She lowers herself to be at her eye-level with his daughter. "It's very nice to meet you. I'm Emma."

Elizabeth giggles sweetly and Emma chuckles. "Papa calls me Lizzie. You can too if we're friends."

Emma smiles brightly. "Okay. Lizzie." For a moment, she admires Elizabeth, then she looks up at the shop keeper. "Whatever my friend Lizzie wants, I'll buy. The same for my son."

The owner nods. "Of course, Your Highness."

"You don't have to do that," Killian says, feeling more ashamed than anything.

He's a pirate, who probably on more than one occasion has done something awful to the people she, the Princess of Misthaven, rules over and protects. She shouldn't be paying for his daughter's chocolate sweets.

Emma stands up again and shakes her head. "I want to." She stares thoughtfully at the children as they decide what they want from behind the glass counter. "How old is she? Henry's four. Almost five. He won't stop reminding me."

Killian laughs at that. He knows exactly how that feels. "She's just turned four, actually. I bought her that dress for her birthday."

The princess hums softly, a look of admiration on her face. "Well, she's really cute. I'm sure she has you wrapped around her fingers, doesn't she?"

"You have no idea."


He doesn't know how he ends up sitting on a fallen tree on a beach with the bloody Princess of Misthaven, watching as Elizabeth and Henry play tag, giggling and shrieking the whole way. But here he is.

After leaving the chocolate shop, they'd discovered that their children were unable to stop their friendly back-and-forth, and were quietly guided by the pair of four-year-olds to the shore where they currently sit.

Emma smiles softly as she contemplates the day.

His stomach flips and flops and he can't help but keep looking around to make sure none of his crew spot them here. If they do, they'd certainly question him for this and he doesn't have the energy to tell his crew off about leaving a mother and her child alone while the crew is on shore leave.

"If you want to live here, I suggest staying clear of the forest itself," Emma says. "It's nice, but the villages often becomes victim to all kinds of things. Evil Queens and Dark Ones..."

Emma's words cause his heart to skip a beat. The mere mention of the Dark One has him curling a fist at his side, but he can't think about revenge right now.

Killian laughs breathlessly. "Aye. I'll keep that in mind, thank you."

Emma stares out at the sea again as if it's a lifeline. He wonders if she comes here often, but he won't ask for fear of ruining the moment of bonding she's allowing his daughter with her son.

In the distance, Elizabeth and Henry giggle and build a castle in the sand. Elizabeth keeps going too close to the water and the edge of her dress is beginning to get soiled, but he doesn't mind. She's spent the past four years of her little life on a pirate ship, being raised by rowdy men who drink and curse and do everything little girls don't. It's a miracle she's not a complete tomboy.

"I come here a lot," Emma tells him. "It's calming. The castle is anything but."

Killian hums. "I imagine."

Emma looks over at their children. She sits up straighter. "I know who you are. I've seen your face on posters."

Emma looks at him again, after her words slip from her lips.

His heart sinks and his stomach jerks violently, expecting her next words to be something along the lines of his death sentence. But she doesn't seem angry, instead, she seems curious and thoughtful.

"I didn't know you had a daughter."

Killian shakes his head. He thinks back vividly of that awful day, on the deck of his ship when the Crocodile came. It still haunts him, especially in his sleep.

Sometimes he'll wake up drenched in sweat, breathing deep, fast, and hard. And then he'll stare into the soft face of Elizabeth and he'll stroke her cheek. Somehow she's become his tether to feeling alright again.

"Her mum… she passed away shortly after having Elizabeth."

Emma smiles sadly and reaches out to touch his hand. Her touch is gentle and warm. He looks up to meet her eyes as his breathing quickens slightly. He hasn't had the affectionate touch of a woman in quite a long time.

"I'm sorry."

There's a moment of quiet where they stare at one another, as if searching through to the depths of each other. For just an instant, he thinks he can see her. Her hurts, her joys… everything.

But Emma removes her hand and looks away. She seems frightened, but not for the reason of his name and legacy.

"Why aren't you afraid of me?" he asks. "Surely you know what I've done."

Emma shrugs. "You have a daughter. If she means as much to you as Henry means to me, then you'd do anything to make sure she has the best chance at life."

It hits him heavily. He has no response to give her- she's absolutely right. Everything he's done since she was born was to give her a good life.

He's been better at being less of a pirate, but pressure to find the Crocodile always bites at the back of his mind. After all, the monster did kill the mother of his daughter in cold blood on the deck of his beloved ship.

Emma's head turns to face the children. "I've never seen Henry become best friends with someone so quickly."

Killian laughs through his nose. "Aye. Elizabeth hasn't met many children, so… this is good for her."

Emma presses her lips together in a thoughtful line. "My... father needs a new valet. In exchange, we could give you a place to stay. Elizabeth could be taught by a tutor."

Killian's heart skips a beat. He holds open his mouth as he considers this offer. "A tutor? Are you certain?"

Emma nods. "Yeah. With Henry, of course. He loves to learn."

Killian considers the proposal thoughtfully. He'd never imagined Elizabeth getting to have education. He'd wondered about it, of course. He'd thought about bringing a tutor aboard his ship to start lessons. Perhaps if that wasn't the best course of action, he could've learned by reading and then passed knowledge along to her himself.

"I… I don't know what to say."

Emma seems nervous. She looks away from him, at the horizon. "You don't have to say yes. It just seems like that might make her happy."

"No, no," Killian shakes his head. "I'm grateful for the opportunity. I truly am. I just… I've got a crew and a ship that would need tending to. And you're right- it would make her happy. She seems to love your son."

Emma takes a breath. She stands up and turns to face him. "Well, if you sort that all out and decide you want the job… I'll be at the castle."

Killian's head is swarming with thoughts. Positives and negatives, all bouncing around while he tries to think of the best course of action. Liam would know what to do. Liam always knew what to do.

Emma turns to the children and cups her hands around her mouth as she calls, "Henry! It's time to go home!"

"But, Mommy! We're still having fun!"

Emma shakes her head. "Come here, Henry."

Henry sighs, but obeys his mother's request. He comes running to her and as soon as he's in front of the princess, she kneels down to adjust his hair and suspenders that have fallen down.

"Say bye to Lizzie, Henry."

Henry turns to Elizabeth and waves at her. "Bye, Lizzie. I'll miss you."

Elizabeth dramatically throws herself on Henry, wrapping her arms around his neck. "Bye, Henry."

In an instant, the Princess of Misthaven smiles at them, takes Henry's hand, and walks away. Killian's heart still races and his mind is in a complete fog, so when Elizabeth pulls on his hand he's hardly in a place to react properly.

"Papa," she says quietly. "Are you okay?"

Killian clears his throat and manages a slight smile. "Aye, sweetheart. I'm fine."

He kneels down and brushes back her hair, admiring the red in her freckled cheeks and the dark circles beneath her eyes that she really shouldn't wear.

"Was that fun just now? Did you have fun with Henry?" Killian asks.

Elizabeth nods her head. "Yes."

Her somberness bothers him, but he knows it comes from a place of sadness and it isn't because he's done anything wrong.

Killian's hand falls to her shoulder and he rubs her arm. His tongue wets his lips and he glances over his shoulder at the log he'd been sitting on.

"Where to next, darling?"

Elizabeth sighs. Her shoulders fall and she shakes her drooping head. "I don't want to go anywhere else."

"Alright," Killian nods. "Then let's go find ourselves a bed and a bath, hm?"

Elizabeth simply bobs her head and wraps her arms around his neck so he'll lift her up into his arms when he stands again.

If only things were simpler, then maybe he could earn her laughter again.