A/N: Mentions of KillianxNameless Wenches, loss of a hand. I'm brief with both things, so I hope those don't hinder the rest of the chapter for y'all.
During the months that follow Killian absconding the Jewel of the Realm, he starts to make a name for himself as a pirate. He recruits more men for his crew, finds easy targets of ships to loot, and finds ports across the lands that fear the sails of his ship coming into their sights.
He renames the ship the Jolly Roger, and for the first time in his life lets himself sink into the luxury of material riches. He commissions a tailor to make him a greatcoat made of all leather, with fine details at the lapels and the cuffs. He steals rings from the men that cross him, adorning his fingers so he has something to entertain his eyes as he's steering the ship. The most freeing day is the one where he throws a gold coin at one of his men to trim his hair, and he carelessly throws the tail he wore over the side rail. He keeps the ribbon, which was a gift from Emma, and tucks it into an interior pocket of his new coat.
There's always a message from Misthaven finding its way to his ship via courier pigeon. He reads every word, but never responds, finding himself weary of his brother's worthless pleas that he come home to them. He scoffs at David's demands that he return the ship that belongs to his fleet.
At a port in Arendelle, Killian recognizes the insignia of a Misthaven ship and informs the men of a change of plans. They won't be staying, after all. Instead, he takes two men onto the docks with him, finding a scrawny deckhand and beckoning him down the ship's gangplank.
"I need you to deliver this for me, lad. Send it to your king, courtesy of Killian Jones."
The two burly men behind him drop the trunk in front of the boy's feet and turn back for the ship. Killian takes an extra moment to search the boy's face for recognition, watching as the gears turn and the boy gasps, before hauling arse back up the plank to find his officers. Killian turns, then, his coat flaring out around him as he hastens back to his own vessel and orders the men to pull up the ramp and set sail at the same time.
By the time the captain of the Misthaven Marvel makes it to the chest he left for them, the Jolly Roger's sails are unfurling to catch the wind at the opening of the harbor and they're hot on their way. Killian commands his first mate to steer as he stands at the stern and watches the land shrink away to nothing.
When that chest arrives in Misthaven, it's taken straight to the king. David is the one to open it and find the note on top, with Killian's neat script informing him that there should be enough in the chest to pay his debt. Not only is the chest filled with gold, but his uniform from the navy is neatly folded on top, boots and all.
"Thousands in coins and ten years of his service," David reads, almost crumpling the note in agitation.
"I can go after him," Liam says from the doorway of their antechamber, having heard that a delivery was made from Killian. "We have fast ships. I've been a captain longer than he has. I can catch him and bring him home."
Snow looks between the two men, already fearing that this has gone on long enough. "No, Liam. That's not necessary. He's not harming anyone. Every report we have of the Jolly Roger includes only looting. They steal to gain riches, but they never touch the crew."
"He said he didn't care about money," Liam says, derision in his voice as he scowls.
"Go get him," David orders, and Snow's eyebrows furrow as she turns her attention to her husband.
"No, Snow, this has gone on long enough. He stole from us, he's a menace to the kingdom, and he needs to be brought home. If we have to treat him like a child to do so, we will. Get your ship together and cast off, Commodore. Bring him home under charges of piracy and defection."
"Aye, your majesty," Liam intones before exiting the room.
"You may sleep on the chaise tonight," Snow informs David as she gathers the skirts of her dress and glides toward the door. "This is foolish, David, and you know it. If either of those boys gets hurt, Emma will never forgive us."
He's not given the chance to respond, as Snow slams the door behind her. David tilts his head back in exasperation before looking again at the chest in the middle of the room, and wondering if the doors in his castle will ever stopped being slammed.
Killian, of course, finds out that his brother is after him before the man himself ever appears on the horizon. Still, it's a surprise to himself and his crew that he lets Liam catch up to them at a port off the usual maps, a known pirate haven that would take very unkindly to one of their own being hounded by the military of some far-off country they've never heard of. He figures if Liam is coming after him, he should find him on his own turf.
The bloody idiot docks at the port, standing at the bottom of where the gangplank would be lowered and demanding to speak to the captain of the ship. Killian comes up on deck only after his nervous first mate informs him that Commodore Jones has declared he will not be moved until he's met by the captain.
"This ship already has a captain, we don't need anyone else giving us orders," Killian finally yells down from his position. He props a foot on top of a nearby crate, leaning his elbows on that knee as he speaks to shake the urge to stand at attention.
"Killian, come down and speak with me, or let me aboard so we can talk like civilized men."
"There's the fault in your assumption, that we behave as civilized men on this vessel. There's nothing to speak of."
"Come down here right this instant!"
Killian, who had started to turn away from the rail, spins again with anger burning in his eyes. "Did you not hear me the last time we spoke? I am not your lieutenant to command. I am only your brother because blood says it is so. Now, the men in this port have been informed that you'll be leaving no sooner than one hour after I depart. They also will not lay harm upon you or your ship, but if you try anything foolish, Commodore Jones, you have no promises from me." He stands to his full height, looking all the taller from atop the ship that once belonged to the man standing on the decks below. "Do I make myself clear?"
Liam's face hardens further, and he narrows his eyes even as he gives one curt nod. He strides back to his ship with purpose, and Killian figures they have half of the hour he stated, maybe less depending on how high the older man's ire is after this confrontation.
When Killian's quartermaster appears at his shoulder, he doesn't even turn to give the command. "Ready the lads for cast off, immediately," he growls out, his own brows furrowed low over his eyes. Liam won't make it easy on him, but Killian can at least get a decent lead on him. He figures that they've already forgotten, after just six months, that he was their key strategist, and so they're far out of their league as far as he's concerned.
Two other ships deploy at the same time, according to Killian's request, both with similar colored paint on their hulls to bait the newly christened ship called The Jewel II. They weave as they head towards the opening of the cove that leads to the harbor, playing their own version of Find the Lady on their way out. All three ships go a different direction when they're far enough out.
He gets the courier pigeon much sooner than he expected to inform him that the The Jewel II set sail, just managing to dodge the half-hearted attacks that the other pirates would've launched in an attempt to slow him down. At least he's not surprised when Liam's ship appears on the horizon, gaining on them but not enough to overtake them.
"What if he fires at us, Captain?" This question comes from Smee, his flighty first mate. If the man weren't so expert at finding people otherwise difficult to locate, Killian's sure he would've made the man walk the plank for asking enough pointless questions to fill a bucket.
"He won't fire at us," Killian says, extending his spyglass to observe whatever is happening on the other ship. He lifts an eyebrow in surprise at what he sees, looking again just to be sure. "He might fire at us," Killian informs the shorter man, retracting his spyglass and stashing it back in his coat as he tries to judge the wind. "Ready the mainsails, men. Quickly, now!"
The deck of his ship becomes a flurry of movement, and Killian oversees their progress for a moment before turning back to watch the approaching ship. If they can get the sails down and catch the right direction, they'll pull away before Liam is ever officially in firing range. He hears the sharp command follow on the wind, and watches as three canons from The Jewel II all fire at once.
They're warning shots; they were never meant to come close. All the same, his own brother is attempting to take him down.
Behind him, the quartermaster yells out that the mainsails are ready, and he hears the satisfying sound of the wind filling them and the expected lurch of his ship. Just before the Jolly Roger can gain its lead, Liam fires again, and this time they're close enough that he watches two of them hit the water nearby. He looks back at his brother's ship and can see Liam at the bow, his spyglass extended to observe Killian's actions.
With one heaving sigh, Killian quirks his eyebrow up and gives his brother a mock salute. He can't help the sadness that seeps into him at the gesture, however, and he stands at the stern long after they've outrun the other ship, long after his crew has retired for the evening and the helmsman has taken the wheel. When he does finally sleep, it's with a renewed sense that he needs to find Emma and get her back, so this all may end.
Following the attempts from Liam, the communications from Misthaven finally stop. It just so happens that this cutting of ties coincides with his first actual break in trying to find the lost princess. It's from another defector of Misthaven that Killian hears again the tale of Snow White's stepmother, who once was the student of the Dark One himself.
Shortly before Snow's official coronation, her stepmother went missing, and Snow was almost ruined by the rumors that she was involved in the disappearance. It took longer than it should've for her name to be cleared, and that was only after a thorough search of the surrounding area, much like the one they launched for Emma, proved that she was nowhere to be found.
This happened long before Killian was even born, but it's still suspicious that this happened before and the kingdom didn't even find the connection.
"They forget, eventually," the defector slurred. He was four pints in at the run-down tavern, but Killian signaled for the man to receive another ale. He needed to keep this man's tongue wagging, but inebriate him to the point of memory loss in the morning. It would do no good to have others go missing because he's snooping around for clues.
It's definitely not just the former regent that's gone missing over the years, either. There are countless tales of disappearances that Killian unearths as he continues his searches. The vanishing of families, friends, royals, soldiers – they all have one common thread running through them and that's a tie to the Dark One.
Some of the missing people are said to have made deals with the Dark One. Others, like a woman and her granddaughter that seemed to have ceased existing one summer five years ago, are said to have contained a powerful cloak that the Dark One wanted for his collection of magical items. He hears stories from orphaned children, and stricken parents. He talks to a guard in Arendelle who claims their queen's aunt was sucked into a swirling light and never heard from again.
It's all suspicious, incredibly vague, but it's something.
A year after Emma goes missing, Killian finally catches a lead that's far more tangible than all the others he's found. He has to bribe his way through most of a kingdom east of Misthaven to follow the story. It turns out that the kingdom had been ravaged by ogres for nearly a decade before a nobleman made a deal with the Dark One to get rid of them. In return, the nobleman's daughter, a young woman named Belle, was contracted to work as a maid in the Dark One's castle in repayment for what they couldn't give him in riches.
He's told that the father of the maid was still later reported missing, but that Belle never heard of this development. The maid is only seen once every few months in a small village on the outskirts of the End of the World, a kingdom so far from home that Killian thought for the longest time that it was merely a mythical land used to scare them as children.
The worst part of embarking on this journey is having to pass Misthaven on their way. From their position on the seas, it would take just as long to sail west as it would to sail east and reach the same destination, but the supply ports available to them by going east are restricted and few. They head west, instead, following the setting sun.
Killian hopes they're far enough to the south to avoid any run-ins with his former navy, but he spots the sails and flags of a Misthaven ship not long after he sends up that particular prayer. He figures they'll engage, and even tells the men to be ready for an attack. To go around would cost them too much time, and he feels they've already wasted enough as it is.
When they pass however, the captain of the naval vessel stands at the bow and watches as he goes. They don't engage, but when Killian extends his spyglass to see the man on deck, he's glaring at the ship as it passes by.
Curious, he thinks, but then again, it's not. This is either Liam's way of apologizing for shooting canons at him, or this is the kingdom's way of saying they're giving him his room. Either way, he stashes his spyglass and tells the men to keep course. They have a lot of water to cover before their next stop.
The villages at the End of the World are sparse. Thankfully, the secluded nature of the island kingdom is perfect for a man or woman who wishes to start their lives over, so Killian has the perfect story to find his way into the village closest to the Dark One's reach. It's said that this woman, Belle, goes to the village every few weeks for cleaning supplies and fresh foods, so Killian has to hope that she's not just visited them and he has hope of catching her without waiting too long.
With that in mind, the Jolly Roger makes port for but a few hours to restock its own supplies, before Killian sends them on their way to avoid suspicion. He makes sure to disembark as if he were a passenger that paid his way, and he heads to the nearest tavern and inn to secure a room.
The bartender, a portly gentleman that looks as if he's stared at the woodgrain on the walls far too long, is more than willing to oblige in retrieving him a pint of ale and listening to Killian's woes. He calls himself Jones, plays his backstory as that of a man who just lost his wife. He throws an unborn babe in there to make it even more tragic, his face full of torment as he tells his tale.
"There was nothing left for me in Arendelle," Killian tells him. "So it seemed only right that I head for the End of the World."
"Aye, that'll be a tale to bring you here, lad," the older man says, nodding in sympathy as he polishes the already spotless bar top.
He's rented a room at half the price, and the innkeeper tells him it's the least he can do for a man that lost so much in his short life. At least he gets to keep more of his gold on this possibly fruitless adventure. As Killian sees it, that's the only positive side to it all.
To act poor and destitute after so long of sailing on riches is a task of pain for him. Killian hates wearing the same clothes out of the inn room day in and day out, but he was only able to bring the absolute essentials in a knapsack not nearly large enough for his desires. Measuring this against his time in the castle, Killian wonders when this shift in materialism took place. He told Liam that he didn't care about the difference in pay between lieutenant on shore and captain of a ship, yet here he is – the captain of a pirate ship, no less, and rolling in all the gold and gems he wishes. But this lifestyle is giving him the freedom to keep looking for Emma under his own terms, which is something he wasn't getting in the castle. Had Emma not disappeared, he would likely be wed to her already, and he would still happily be fulfilling his strategist duties in the navy.
It's after a week that Killian realizes he has to make his story believable about being a man starting over. He offers to do menial work for meager pay, claiming to need funds to save up for a home of his own, but it's the gossip he gleans from the other patrons and villagers which is more valuable than the money. Killian has enough stashed in various places in his room and knapsack that he could buy the whole bloody inn if he wanted to, but it's better to blend than waste away his days in the common room or wallowing in his bed.
He's in the middle of mending an old wooden cart when he hears chattering from two ladies, talking about how Belle was coming down the path and speculating on what she would be purchasing this time around. Thankfully, it only takes him a month to run into the lass, but he'll make it count. He'll have another two weeks before the Jolly Roger returns for him.
The woman who rounds the path in the village a short time later is older than Killian anticipated. She's not a child, but she looks to be more around Emma's age. She seems downright jovial to be lugging bags and packs to be used by an evil man. He shakes his head, struggling to bury his knowledge of the situation as he calls out.
"May I help you carry anything, miss? Anything for a copper coin, I'll help out."
"That's very kind of you," she says, "but I'm actually here to pick up my cart. It needed repairs to the wheels, and it'll make my journey back so much easier."
"You're in luck, lass. I'm nearly done with it. Would you mind keeping a lonesome widower company while he finishes his work?"
"You poor dear. Of course! You're new here, aren't you?"
"Been here about a month now, miss. My name is Jones. I've heard quite a bit about you, what with the gossip that flits about this place like sparrows."
"Don't believe a word of it. Rumplestiltskin does not turn children into snails and smoosh them beneath his boots. That's just something they came up with down here to make all their children behave. I gather you already know I'm Belle, then"
"I don't believe anything I don't see with my own eyes, Miss Belle." He drops the conversation for the time being, instead asking her about the weather on the island, and information about the villages. He takes care sanding the worn wood, ensuring no splinters will be left behind. As Belle continues to talk, he rips the fabric from an old wheat sack and wraps the handles for a better grip.
They make it back around to conversation about her employer, and Killian plays up the curious gentleman again, asking her questions in fascination about the fortress they live in and what goes on inside the walls.
"What is the strangest thing you've ever seen from that mysterious magic of his?" Killian doesn't expect her to respond in any way that can help him; he assumes she'll pick a spell that lifts items or brooms that sweep the floors on their own, but instead she surprises him.
"Well, he has a way of opening portals to different lands and transporting people through them. This I have seen with my own eyes. When a deal doesn't work out, or someone refuses to pay him, he'll open this doorway, and off they go to a new land." She makes the motion of a door shutting, and Killian tilts his head to one side.
"All due respect, miss, but I just find it unlikely. Why would he send them through a portal? Why not just do away with someone who wrongs him?" He draws his finger across his throat so she'll get his meaning, but quickly goes back to work tightening the last loose spoke on the wheel.
"See, he really isn't as cruel as most people assume he is," Belle says. By the tone of her voice, and much to Killian's revulsion, she's in love with the beast. "He doesn't enjoy killing people, or else his heart will fill with so much darkness that it could kill him."
"Does he do this often?"
"Not as much as he used to. I swear, there was a solid year where every day someone new was going through that portal. He maybe only sent two or three people to that land over the last year. It's hard for me to say because I don't see all of them, and he doesn't share all that information with me. It's just what I've picked up over the years."
"I hope he doesn't work you too hard, Miss Belle," Killian says, finally flipping over the cart and giving it a roll to test it out. "Seems to be good as new," he announces when it moves without issue.
"You're really too kind to do this, Jones." She beams at him as she places all her bags in the basket of the cart and turns to him. "Thank you again. And extra for the handle grips." With a gold coin – not a copper one, as he'd asked – pressed into his palm, she sets off on her way back through the village.
When she's out of sight, Killian lets his facial expression drop back to one of irritation. So, the Dark One hasn't killed Emma. He knew she couldn't be dead. This is cause for excitement, but there's the second half of what Belle told him. His beloved is in a different realm than this one. He cannot reach her by ship alone.
He heads back to his room at the tavern with plenty to mull over. If Emma isn't accessible to him here, how is he to figure which realm she's in? He's heard of the other lands before, of course. There's more to explore in the world than just the seas he sails, he knows this.
By the time his last two weeks are over, Killian has fixed more in the village and for passers-by than he originally intended, but the coin in his pocket is all earned. He tells the innkeeper that he's off to find his place in the world, to make his own sanctuary somewhere. He does make sure to thank the man and pay him, and leaves a nice little treasure of cash hidden in the room for the lucky sod to find after he's gone. It doesn't matter what the man thinks of him after he's left. Killian got everything he needed out of the village.
The day his feet land back on the deck of the Jolly Roger is a good day. It feels right to be back on the seas, and he didn't realize how much he'd missed the swaying of the ship under him until he'd been away from it for so long.
Once they're far enough away from the End of the World and all its surrounding islands, he and the men celebrate his return with plenty a drink. He knows they'll want to go to a real port soon and find themselves a lass or two, and they'll need to replenish their stocks, so Killian sends the helmsman to bed after an appropriate amount of time so he can think at the wheel as they steer through the night.
When they make port again, Killian sends his men away to enjoy a night in the nearest village. He checks his counts, now tallying another half of a year to the amount of time since Emma was taken from him, and nearly sweeps everything off the desk in his cabin in agitation. This is taking too long. He needs her now more than ever, needs her love and support, needs the way she would place her hand on his shoulder when he was deep in thought just to let him know she was there for him.
The men are noisy when they return, some having had too much to drink and stumbling off to their bunks to sleep it off, and others - like the group that calls him up to the deck - have far too much money on their hands, it would seem. There stands a lass, her corset propping up an ample bosom, her lips a sinful red, her eyes appraising the captain that they paid her for. Her eyes and hair are brown – a stark difference from the green and blonde he was just imagining, but when she steps forward and winds herself around him, his body comes to life.
To the cheers on the deck, Killian takes her to his cabin and locks all the entrances. His breathing is heavy, and his clothes feel more confining than they have in ages, so he takes his time to strip out of his greatcoat as she stands by the ladder they just descended.
"What can I do for you tonight, Captain? Your men seem to think you need the touch of a lady to ease your troubles."
"My men are fools, but they're not entirely wrong. You may not kiss me, nor can your mouth touch my cock. Do I make myself clear?" He had turned around to undo the buttons of his shirt, to release the suspenders holding up the leather trousers that have always felt like some sort of home, and when he turns toward her again she's just releasing the last loop on the corset and letting her dress fall to the floor. Nothing but skin greets his eyes.
"Yes, Captain," she says, a twinkle in her eyes as she moves forward to do as he's commanded.
He gets a message just a few days past his birthday from Snow wishing him another joyous year, and telling him they miss him, but the message ends there.
After discovering that Emma is no longer in this realm, Killian becomes more driven than ever to find where she might be. He thinks it might be easier to return to the castle and report what he's found out, have the resources of the king and queen's library at his disposal, but a stubborn streak of pride keeps him away on his own. Still, he stashes the message amongst his treasured possessions that he locks away before returning to his hardened persona.
While his men enjoy the alcohol and ladies at each port, Killian takes to researching ways to get to other realms. He finds tale upon tale of magic beans in the books he reads, telling great stories of journeying to Oz and Wonderland, but none of the books mention how to get his hands on these beans. At least the issue of figuring out which realm she's in is no longer a problem. Every instance of a magic bean being used says that one need only think of where they're to go, or who they're trying to reach, and the beans will do the rest of the work for him.
If he's having so many troubles finding out information about one bean, however, the issue is compounded by the fact that he'll also need a way home. Killian needs to locate two magic beans to save Emma.
Despite the fact that he'd rather not, he calls Smee to his quarters shortly before they begin their next quest out to sea.
"Smee, you claim you can find people who don't want to be found, but I wonder if you can do the same for objects that are troublesome to acquire." Smee removes his hat, wringing it in his hands as he listens to what his captain is saying.
"Aye, sir. It only takes the right questions to find just about anything you want."
"We leave in two hours. See if there's anything in this little, useless corner of the world that'll tell you where to find magic beans," Killian says, trying to sound bored as he requests it. The men know that he searches for a long-lost love, and they know that he will stop at nothing to get her back, but the men on deck have changed rotation enough that none of them know how bright the fire inside him burns.
Smee, while he seems loyal, also seems as if he'd turn tail at the scent of a higher bidder. He'd rather the man know as little as possible until he's sure Smee can be trusted. "This is your mission alone, Smee. Don't bugger this up and I won't slit your chest from neck to navel." Smee pales, and visibly swallows down his fears at the threat, but he nods afterwards, slipping his hat back on his head while a look of determination takes over his features.
"Aye, Captain. You can count on me."
Through two ports – then three, and four, and almost five – Smee keeps up his quiet search for information to report back to Killian, and it's on the last day in port at the fifth that Smee finally has something useful for him. The short man is all but bouncing on the balls of his feet as he waits for the wench to leave the captain's quarters, her discretion already smoothing the features of her face while the coin in her purse weighs more than when she arrived.
When Killian signals Smee in, he manages to keep himself contained until the door is closed and Killian has given a nod for him to speak.
"I've found the location of a magic beanstalk, Captain. It's just a day away by ship, or three days by land."
"You're still withholding information about this from me, Smee. I can practically smell it on you."
"Well, sir, it seems to be guarded by magic. We'll need to find a way to get past that barrier for there to even be a chance at those beans."
Killian throws himself into the chair at his desk and considers the options. There's a beanstalk, which is promising. They're dangerous enough, in the fact that there's normally a giant or two at the top of them, but that it's also magically sealed from him is another obstacle he didn't anticipate. He asks the location and starts plotting out whether land or sea will be the better route. Still, Smee has completed his original task, so Killian procures a pouch of gold coins as payment.
"If you can find the person that can get me past that spell around the beanstalk, you pay them as much as they ask and I'll double your salary for such a find. You're dismissed." He turns his attentions to the maps, pretending for all the world that the other man no longer exists.
"Aye, sir," Smee responds, easing open the small purse to eye his payment. His eyes widen and he ties it again before stashing it deep in his pockets. "Thank you, sir." He's gone without another word, and Killian leans his elbows on the desk as he rubs his hands over his face. It's always one step forward, and it's always the tiniest step as compared to the six leaps back they make.
He's almost relieved when it only takes Smee two days to return with a leather cuff that's supposed to allow him the opportunity to climb the beanstalk. With their original date to sail pushed back, the men have gotten antsy and it's taken much of Killian's strength to not toss some of them overboard. He can almost be certain that while he's off on his mission to find the beans that several of them will either abandon the lifestyle or find a different flag to sail under. He's fine with either, as long as his quartermaster and first mate are still on board when he returns. If he's successful, he'll need the Jolly Roger under the care of trusted men while he's off finding Emma.
Standing at the base of a beanstalk is not for the faint of heart. Killian is not faint of anything, however standing beneath something that towers over a thousand feet above his head does give him pause. With a bracing, deep breath, he steps forward, finding good hand and foot holds to start him out.
By the time he reaches the top, Killian is bored with his mission. He's also exhausted from having to climb a bloody beanstalk, and he's hungry from what now feels like days without a meal. But there's no time to complain, or try to remedy any of his current ailments. He needs to find where the giants would keep their magic beans and get back down.
Ugh, getting back down was going to take just as long. Perhaps if he had someone to talk to on the way it wouldn't be nearly as bad, but no, the only one he'd even want by his side is Emma, and if she were there to talk to him then he wouldn't be on this bloody adventure in the first place. Although, he suspects she would enjoy the leather.
The giants, he's not surprised to see, are not friendly. In fact, they're downright murderous once they realize that he has not one, but two of their precious beans in his hand and he's making a run for it. They give chase, and he thinks it would be easier for them to catch him, what with their size and gait, but there's one thing on his side: the cracks in the foundation. Rather than having to run all the way for the entrance, Killian is able to duck down a smaller space in the wall, cutting down on his exit time. While the giants are still trying to figure out where he went, Killian is already making his way down the vines that eased his passage up.
If possible, it takes Killian longer to get down than it took him to get up the stalk in the first place. There's the delicate matter of trying not to fall to his death, but there's the added bonus danger factor in that the giants at the top take to shaking the whole damn thing in an attempt to kill him.
Landing back on the ground, feeling it solid beneath his feet, is the best he's felt about land since the day he stole the Jolly Roger. He doesn't stop for long, though; he keeps running until he can hide himself away in case any of the giants do decide to pursue him down to land. He's heard that the giants stay away from the world down here because of their quarrels with humans. Killian himself has probably not helped the cause, but there are certain battles one must choose sometimes.
Liam always told him that a man unwilling to fight for what he wants deserves what he gets. Why his older brother was surprised when he refused to back down on his quest for Emma is still beyond his understanding.
By the time he makes it back to his ship, night has long since fallen. There are a few men wandering above deck as they stumble about from too many libations, but it's otherwise quiet. Smee is waiting for him when he returns, however, his look anxious and excited.
"Did you get what you were after, sir?"
"Aye, Smee. I did. Your cuff was well worth the price I paid both to have it made and to compensate your hard work." He grins, the life coming back to him besides the exhaustion weighing him down. He holds open his hand so Smee can see the beans, the moonlight hitting their translucent surfaces and making them glint. "After a hearty meal and a few hours rest, the ship will be left under your control as my new quartermaster, until the point in time that I may complete the next part of my journey."
Smee opens his mouth to respond, a smile overtaking the man's face, before his expression morphs into one of horror as his eyes catch something over Killian's shoulder.
"I think not, dearie!"
Every hair on Killian's head stands on edge at the sound of the voice behind him. Never having personally interacted with the Dark One, he's only heard tale of what he sounds like, but even without looking he knows who he's about to face. His breathing speeds up, the adrenaline crashing into his already tired system like water breaking from a dam, and he turns slowly to regard the man that has stolen so much from him.
"And what makes you think you can stop me?"
"You're going to hand those beans over to me, one way or another," he says, his voice manic and high-pitched. "It was a risky thing you did, dearie, talking my maid into giving you information about where I send my pets." With a giggle, and a steepling of his claw-like fingers, Rumplestiltskin begins circling him like he's some form of prey. Killian glances around, realizing that Smee is frozen – literally frozen in place – with his mouth still hanging open in warning. All other movement around them has ceased, where he can't even hear the sound of the waves lapping against the hull of his ship.
"How did you manage to do it, Captain Jones? Did you offer her gold? Did you offer her safe passage for an escape?"
"I offered her kindness and repaired that ramshackle cart for her."
The Dark One glowers at him, the expression slightly less sinister as the man glitters in the moonlight, but Killian knows better than to mock the man's appearance. "And did she tell you that your precious Emma Swan was transported to another realm?"
"Why do you think I'm looking for Emma Swan?"
"Oh, come now, dearie. I've got eyes and ears all around the world, eager for a favor, eager to make a deal. But all magic comes at a price, and your price for trickery will be to lose your chance to transport yourself anywhere at all."
Killian's temper flares hot, and his face hardens in anger as he clutches the beans tightly in his left hand, moving his right to draw his sword and pray to any god listening to help him not perish before he can get Emma.
"I can't have you mucking up all my hard work, Captain Jones," Rumplestiltskin crows. Just as Killian pulls his sword free, an agonizing pain goes through his left arm. In a detached sense of reality, Killian looks at where his hand should be, but even as the caustic burn at the immediate cauterization starts working across the now-empty space, he cannot reconcile the sight of his hand lying on the deck, still tightly clutching the beans in a fist.
"Good luck finding anyone who will lend you a hand, dearie!" With another giggle, a small puff of smoke transports his hand into the clutches of the devil-man, and with a bigger swirl of the dark purple smoke, the man himself is gone without a trace. With the beans. With his hope to find Emma. And his bloody fucking hand.
It's only when Smee reaches for him that Killian realizes he's kneeling on the deck, screaming in the agony that has now taken over his left wrist. Killian falls forward, cradling his arm to his chest. With his right hand, he grasps at the familiar feeling of the mast, his fingers tangling in a loosened rope from the rigging as he tries to pull himself upright. Instead he grabs onto one of the hooks, closing his fingers around the cool metal as tightly as he can and wishing to plunge the pointy tip right through the heart of Rumplestiltskin.
It takes a great deal of rum, but his men eventually get him to his bed that night. They wrap a cloth around the wound that's already scarring, thanks to bloody magic, but Killian refuses to let go of the hook he managed to latch onto earlier.
The healing process from his confrontation with the Dark One is initially quite terrible. There are fever dreams, and phantom pains, and real pains all warring for his body's attention at every moment. He hides away in his cabin while the worst of it passes, knowing he only need to call out for one of his men to attend to him.
The second state he enters fills him with rage and a burning need for revenge on the reptilian man who stole his hand. But when anger isn't filling his veins and he's not struggling to see past his own fantasies of gutting Rumplestiltskin, he battles against fear. He worries about what the loss of an appendage will mean to his family. He begins having nightmares soon after: Liam looking at him with disgust, Snow and David's thinly veiled repulsion, Emma recoiling from his touch…
The men again ply him with rum in an attempt to ease his sleep. While his body rests, his mind seldom does. Alone in his cabin, he devises and discards hundreds of ideas. He considers climbing the beanstalk again, but that would be far more difficult without the use of both hands. As he thinks about this, he twirls the hook from the rigging, watching the light glint off the metal. Digging through his desk, he finds a file and begins sharpening the tip as he lets his thoughts wander.
No, the beanstalk will have also likely been re-enchanted. And the cuff he had Smee purchase was lost during the altercation with the Dark One. The time and effort it would take to get a new one, not to mention the energy it would take for him to make it up one handed, means that option is no longer on the list. As Killian runs through other ideas, he stares at the hook that he's just turned into a weapon. Sifting around his desk, he finds a mostly-blank piece of parchment and a broken bit of charcoal and sketches out a brace that could easily fit over his wrist.
During their next stop in a port, Killian sends Smee out with a sack of gold, the hook, and the drawing he's now copied onto its own parchment. There are several other modifications he's designed, along with a new safe to keep his treasured items in that will use the base of the hook as the key.
They ransack a merchant ship from Misthaven shortly after Killian begins wearing the hook where his left hand used to be. As he locks it into place, he feels the last vestiges of who he used to be falling away, and with a flourish of his coat, Killian boards the smaller vessel to oversee the plundering of the wares onboard.
They keep the crew of the merchant ship huddled together on the deck, all of them silent and quivering as the pirates overturn every loose board to uncover the items that will get them the most coin. Even though this ship doesn't belong to the Royal Navy, it's likely that they've all been warned about crossing paths with the former lieutenant.
He looks to the youngest one, the one that stares at the deck beneath his feet as he tries to keep his composure. Thinking again of the hook at the end of his arm and the sensation of shedding his former life, he reaches out with the hook and lifts the young lad's chin with the curved edge of the metal.
"Do me a favor and deliver a message to your king. Let him know that Killian Jones is dead. The Jolly Roger is now sailed under the authority of Captain Hook." He leers when he finishes the sentence, his gut churning regardless at the thought of Liam's face when he gets that piece of news. He quickly buries those thoughts and raises his eyebrow at the young man before he turns and stalks back to his own ship.
He leaves his crew to pull back the plank and get them on their way, while he heads straight for his cabin to mourn the loss of a man so young, a man in love, a man with hopes and dreams. He toasts his former self with a shot of rum, following it with one after the other until the bottle is empty and he's passed out on his bunk.
The search for a way to Emma starts fresh after Killian declares himself dead, taking on and wearing the moniker of Hook with pride as he strikes fear into those he meets with the gleaming metal. He has nothing but hatred for the man that took his hand, but his revenge will have to wait until he returns the princess to her family.
He takes the helm to clear his mind; it's the only time he admits in daylight that he still loves Emma, but is also fully aware that too much has changed. There is no way that she will love him after all that he's done.
The one man he can't seem to intimidate goes by the name Blackbeard, and while Hook has heard of him, he's never met the other captain after almost three years on the same seas. When they do finally meet, it's at a tavern at a port, where the cocky git is claiming to have a magic bean. Even having one in his possession would be better than nothing. But the only thing Blackbeard is willing to do is gamble for the bean.
"That's not bloody likely, mate," Hook drawls, taking another mouthful of ale.
"Bet your ship, or no bean. Easy as that, Hook." The other man spreads his hands wide. "Unless you think you'll lose." Blackbeard gestures to the cards in front of him, but Hook knows that three other men have walked away from this table tonight, all of them with the same expression as he's about to leave with.
He wants to kill the other pirate. Plain and simple. He does still have a code, however, so he walks away instead.
It takes three more months and about five additional frown lines being etched into his face, until just before Emma's twenty-eighth birthday, to find another lead for how to get to where she is. This time it comes from stumbling upon a mermaid in need. Hook has taken to skulking about the docks while his men enjoy each port, and it's only because he hears a commotion that he wanders further away from the weathered planks and onto the sand of the beach.
What he finds is a mermaid desperately reaching for an object around three feet away from her outstretched hand, and no matter how hard she thrashes, she stays stuck where she is. Hook knows from experience that if she does not get back to the water before daylight, she will likely suffocate when the tide goes out. He wonders why a mermaid would willingly put herself in such a position until he gets a little closer and sees what the item is that she's trying to retrieve. It looks similar to the one he commissioned for the beanstalk, so there's no mistaking it's a magical cuff.
The mermaid herself looks young, but definitely too old to trap herself on the beach. What magic could potentially be worth her life? He takes his time approaching; it's not that he's been outright mean to any of the merfolk in the world, but there have been times he and his crew have been known to taunt the ones they cross from the deck of the ship. There also may have been an incident regarding a mermaid's brassiere-like top, but neither he nor the mermaid were mad about the outcome of that moment, so he doesn't count it.
When he reaches the cuff on the sand, he stops and stands over it, looking down at the redhead still valiantly reaching for the item with little regard for the fact that her tail is barely even touching the water anymore. The moment his boots stop on either side of the cuff, she looks up at him, a mixture of apprehension and determination crossing her face as she momentarily stops her movements.
"If I hand this to you, and get you back to the safety of the water, what will you do in return for me?"
She stares at him for a second, taking in the leering expression as he lifts his eyebrows, and her gaze falls to his hook.
"Not the same thing Pearl did, if that's what you're thinking. Which, by the way, is gross."
"Come now, lass, you just clearly haven't spent your time above the water doing anything fun."
"Go away, Hook. I don't need your help."
"And what do you plan to do when the tide goes all the way out and you're stuck on the sand?"
"I'm sure I'll," she stretches even more, looking forlorn as she realizes her tail is completely out of the water now, "figure something out."
Hook sighs, raising his eyes to the heavens before crouching down in the sand. He picks up the cuff, just holding onto it for a moment as he waits for her to make eye contact. "Lass, what's your name?"
She deflates a little, clearly looking defeated as she relaxes and props her chin on her hand, elbow in the sand, a petulant tilt to her lips. "I'm Ariel," she finally says.
"Ariel, what is the reason for you almost beaching yourself for a magic cuff?"
"How do you know it's magic?"
"I've seen a thing or two, love. Now, what could be so important about this magical nonsense that you're in danger of killing yourself?"
She doesn't speak, instead flapping her tail against the sand a couple times, wiggling to test how land-stuck she really is. Totally stuck, is the answer. Ariel mumbles something, more to the sand than to Hook, but it's just a single word that he thinks he heard correctly.
"Care to try that one again?"
"Love, okay? I'm trying to reach that cuff because I'm in love, and I can't be with the prince if I look like this." She gestures to her tail, the appendage in question slapping harshly against the wet sand. She folds her arms and drops her chin to them, her chin trembling in an effort not to cry. "Now why don't you take the stupid cuff and leave me to rot or whatever it is you plan to do."
"I know what it's like to be willing to give your life for love," Hook says, a hint of softening in his voice as he does.
"Yeah, right. How many fish do you catch on that hook of yours with that bait?"
"Aye, 'twas true," he continues, ignoring her sarcastic tone. "My love was kidnapped, and so I became a pirate to try to find a quicker way to get her back when the king and queen's methods weren't going fast enough."
"King and queen? You mean King David and Queen Snow?" Ariel tilts her head to the side as she considers him. "I heard that the young man that deserted their navy was killed. By you." She points her finger accusingly in his direction.
"We're one in the same, love. But let's keep that a secret between us, yeah?" He even lowers his voice for effect, even though they're the only two around.
Ariel narrows her eyes at him, and Hook does his best to let his guard drop a little, to ease the scowl that resides on his face most often so she can see the last vestiges of a scared lieutenant hiding behind his eyes.
"I can't imagine Captain Hook in love, or as a friend of Snow White."
"She took me in when I was just a lad, and kept me safe in the castle while my brother was off becoming a captain in the navy. She used to scold me for stealing sweets from the kitchens, and then secretly smile at me when the king looked away."
"You were in love with their daughter," Ariel states. Apparently, whatever he was hoping to show her in his expression has gotten through, and his face falls further as he nods to confirm, even though it wasn't a question. He swallows hard, deciding the subject needs changed immediately before he makes a fool of himself.
"Again," he says, holding the cuff at level with her, "if I give this to you – if I help you back to the water so you don't die of exposure up here – what will you do for me in exchange?"
"It depends on what you're looking for, Captain."
"Passage to another realm," he answers quickly. Merfolk are rumored to be able to travel to any realm they choose. He'd have to find out which one leads to Emma –
"I can't," Ariel says, and by the way her shoulders droop and her face falls, it seems like it's not of her own choosing that she can't help. "Transporting humans across the portal realms underwater takes much more strength and magic than I can access." She stops and thinks for a minute, mulling something over in her head until she speaks again. "But if it's for love, and it is true love, then you need to go to Neptune's bar in Atlantis and speak to Ursa."
"Who is Ursa?"
"The only one that can help you get to the princess."
He considers her words, and while he fears getting sent on a wild Swan chase, as it were, he is also out of options. With a shift forward, he reaches out and hands Ariel the cuff. "Now how do you suppose we get you back in the water?"
Ariel smiles brightly, slipping the cuff on her wrist and immediately being engulfed in a magical light. Hook shields his eyes from it, only dropping his hand when the light fades away. Ariel is pushing herself up, and he's shocked to see her standing.
"I'll walk on my own, thanks." Ariel flashes him another smile, leaning down to brush some of the sand from her skirt and feet. "Now, I have a date with a prince. Good luck, Captain."
"Killian," he says, almost without thought. "But again, that'll be our secret."
"Thank you, Killian. Good luck getting her back. She'll be lucky to have you rescuing her."
Hook thinks about correcting her, telling her that he's no longer worthy of the affections Emma has for him, and that he's only interested in returning her to her rightful home. But she looks so hopeful and happy as she wanders off to find her own love that he can't bring himself to dash her dreams.
They leave for Atlantis after Hook gives the men a couple days to get the necessary supplies ready. They'll have time for women and ale in the next port, so he's not concerned with the grumbling he hears as they slowly file back on board throughout the morning. With every gust of wind, Hook feels closer to the goal he's been reaching for, even if it took nearly three years. He's not sure if this Ursa can help him, but at this point, he's almost desperate to return Emma to her rightful place.
He's heard no news from Misthaven, and he can't even be sure what they've found about her whereabouts, but he's sure he would've heard anything if they had news…
With a pit in his stomach, Hook realizes he wouldn't have heard anything after running into that merchant ship. As far as Misthaven knows, he's dead.
They arrive in Atlantis at the time when the taverns are just opening their doors and the men are starting to pile in. Hook sets his men loose, ensuring a few stay behind for security purposes before setting off for Neptune's bar.
The lighting inside is lower than the average establishment, and Hook finds the men that are stooped over their tankards are solemn and silent. The woman that weaves her way between them is singing as she drops off refills and picks up empty glasses. He signals the bartender for a drink of his own as he places himself at the bar, and he listens.
It's the most unusual scenario he's ever seen in a tavern; the patrons are quiet and subdued, the other waitstaff move calmly, and the woman weaving between the tables just keeps singing. It takes until three sips of his own beverage before his shoulder droop. The tension that always keeps in his neck and shoulders melts away with each note the woman sings, and he feels his eyelids get heavy until he's in the same stupor that all the other inhabitants seem to be under.
When the woman ends her song, Hook shakes his head a little bit, shaking loose the images of what his life could've been at this point if Emma had never been kidnapped. It almost physically pains him to break up the dream of dandling a babe on his knee, her wispy blonde hair tickling his chin as he pulls her close, Emma's hand affectionately rubbing along his shoulder before she settles next to them. And when he opens his eyes and sees his surroundings, it breaks his heart a little more than Hook would've thought possible. He thought those dreams were long dead and buried.
The woman stops by the end of the bar where he's seated, taking in his total appearance – including the hook – and leans closer to him.
"I never thought I'd see a man like Captain Hook sitting in a bar for lost souls," she comments. She doesn't move on, though, clearly waiting for him to speak.
"I'm looking for someone named Ursa." He ignores the obvious pry for information to jump straight to the point.
"Ursa isn't here right now. What is your business with her?"
"I was told by a young mermaid named Ariel that she might be able to help me with a delicate issue."
"Ariel, hm? Well, Ursa can meet you in room five in an hour. I'll inform her that you're waiting," she says, her head cocked to the side to consider him. He didn't get to be a feared pirate captain by being unobservant, so he knows that the woman he needs to speak to is right in front of him, but there's clearly a reason she stays hidden. He nods, downing the rest of his drink and signaling for another.
"I need a key to room five," he tells the man behind the bar. The man looks at the serving woman and waits until she nods before handing over the key. They both go back to what they were doing prior; the man heads to the other side of the bar to help another patron, and the woman takes up a new song as Hook stands up. He pauses a second, the music drawing him in quicker this time, but the woman turns him towards the hallway and pushes him forward with one hand squarely between his shoulders.
The wait in the room is tedious. He has nothing to occupy him, so he spends his time composing letters in his mind to those he wishes he could send them to, but won't. First is a letter for Emma, detailing how hard he's trying to fight for her, to get her back, even if he doesn't believe he can fight for them any longer. He writes one to Liam, apologizing for his behavior as a lieutenant and a brother, in which he repeats his brother's favorite saying. A man unwilling to fight for what he wants, after all, is a man who deserves what he gets.
He details a long letter to the king and queen, apologizing for not protecting Emma hard enough, for leaving her unaccompanied in the first place and allowing the Dark One to get through their defenses. He's still not sure how the monster did it, but he's sure it's his own fault. He thanks them for always caring for him, and accepting him into their home. As royals, they had no obligation to do any of what they did for him and Liam, but they did, and they made sure he was always cared for, even when he was old enough to know better.
Hook thinks of the last letter Snow sent to him – to Killian – wishing him another happy birthday and telling him he can always come home. He had stashed that one with all the other correspondences he's received since leaving, locking them away with the ribbon that used to tie his hair back, and the few personal items he ran away with.
It's almost time for Ursa to meet with him when Hook realizes that it wasn't the music at all, but the ale that brought this all on. He's not sure what magic the liquid is infused with, but he frowns as he stares into the bottom of his tankard. The woman downstairs had called him a lost soul – is that what he really is?
He's so lost in his own thoughts that he almost misses his suspicions being confirmed. The woman from down in the tavern enters as quietly as she can, checking over her shoulder to make sure no one is watching her.
"Normally, I would send you on your way without asking what way I can help you. But if Ariel sent you, then you've obviously found favor with one of my kind."
For the second time in so many weeks, Hook shields his eyes from the bright glow of magic, looking on curiously once the spell settles and the woman in front of him transforms from the waist down into a creature half-octopus. In her hand is a cuff much like the one he helped Ariel retrieve, except with different colors on the band and a few extra embellishments to pass it off as jewelry.
"I thought 'Ursa' translated to bear," Hook remarks, trying to appear bored as he settles himself on the lumpy mattress.
"I figured it was close enough to Ursula, but more fitting to my personality. What do you want, Hook?"
Oh, Ursula. Well, it's no wonder she's not excited to see him. Ariel is the only one of the merfolk he's ever done a favor for. Now to meet one of the most powerful sea witches out there, he's sure his luck has run out and the woman will feed him to the fishes tonight. But Ursula just secures her cuff back on her wrist, moving to sit next him once her voluminous skirts are back in place and her feet peek out at the bottom.
"I need passage to a different realm," he tells her plainly.
"You want to get to Emma," she interprets. He's not sure how or why she knows this, but the fact that she finds his true meaning immediately is a little disconcerting. "The sea folk are my friends. You may not speak to humans about your true intentions, but you tell the fish plenty."
She definitely has a point; at least he knows that her spies can't talk to the Dark One.
"You may not be a close friend to the merfolk, but we have an enemy in common," she says. "The Dark One has captured my father, thanks to a bad deal. No matter how hard I try, he refuses to barter to give him back. The only thing he would take in return was my singing voice, and as you can see, that's something I find necessary in my work on land."
"So, you want me to kidnap your father to bring him home?"
"I'm fairly certain that when you find what you're looking for, you'll find what I'm looking for, as well. Besides, I am highly amused that this man in front of me that calls himself a fearsome pirate captain is all bent out of shape because he's trying to bring a woman back to where she belongs. I never figured Captain Hook to be a lovesick fool."
Hook growls, but doesn't bother responding. Not when she's right, after all. He stands to pace the length of the room, as Ursula explains that she plans to help him.
"For as awful as the Dark One is, he doesn't like to kill people. Instead, he just removes them from this land and transports them to this new land. They're out of his way, they can have a peaceful existence without meddling in any of his business. It works out perfectly for him but ruins families across the lands."
"If you know where this other land is, then that is where I wish to go."
"I'm not a genie, Hook. You can't just wish it and it'll be true. There are stipulations you have to consider."
"It's extremely difficult to transport a whole human across the waterways. To transport myself, it takes a lot of energy. To take both of us would take even more of my magic than I can handle."
"Does it have to be the waterways? Can't you find another way around to transport me?"
"I don't know what magic you think I possess, but that's not something I have the ability to do. Besides, the waterways are too large for the Dark One to keep track of, or to tamper with. It's your safest bet."
They sit in silence for a moment, and Hook starts to worry that this is another lost cause.
"Perhaps if there was a spell I could use to transform you. There are a lot more complications involved in this than you're considering, Hook. The Dark One has eyes everywhere. If you waltzed right into this realm, he would surely know."
"What kind of spell are you thinking?"
"I need you to be small enough to transport, and inconspicuous enough to get around. You still need to get Emma back, so you'll need the ability to be human at times, as well."
"I'm not fond of magic," Hook comments, holding up his hook for clarification, "but if it'll get Emma back home, that's more important to me."
"Good. That's what matters right now. Go get your affairs in order, Captain. Come back to me after the full moon has set and we will get you to the realm where you'll find Emma. Just to be safe, I want you to understand that there's a chance you won't come back from this place. Are you ready for that? Would you be prepared to let go of everything in this land?"
A brief pang of regret flashes through him, and Liam's face is forefront in his mind. Perhaps he should find a way to contact his brother – just to let him know he's alive and well. It's something he'll consider as he readies the rest of his affairs for this journey.
"Aye, I'll be prepared for that in the worst-case scenario. How long will your magic spell last?"
"I normally give any magic a lifespan of six months. Longer than that and things can go wrong. Shorter than that and you're not guaranteed to succeed in your mission."
With a brief nod of his head, he exits the room, making sure to place a few extra coins on the bar when he passes by and nodding to the bartender, as well. He hopes the extra money will pay for silence, just in case the Dark One is aware of where Hook is.
Smee is on board when Hook returns, and he immediately calls him to his quarters to discuss what's happened. Of course, the news that he will be acting as captain is a bit of a shock.
"I chose you as first mate. You are now to act in my stead until I can return. If, after seven months, I have not returned, you may captain this ship as you choose, or pass on the responsibility to the quartermaster instead. Do we have an agreement?"
"Aye, sir," Smee responds, his back straight as he salutes and goes to gather the crew to tell them all.
Hook, meanwhile, sits down to do just what Ursula told him to do. He stows away his most prized possessions in his chest, locks it up with his hook, and covers it up in the back of his closet. He sits at the desk for hours, trying to will the right words to come to him so he might write to his brother. What he ends up writing doesn't begin to cover his feelings, but it's the best he can do. He signs it "Killian" and leaves instructions that it be delivered in a year if he does not return.
Within three days, Hook has squared away everything that he can, and he watches the last of the full moon's cycle end. He heads back to Neptune's bar to find Ursula, but the bartender hands him a note instead. She's left him directions to a spot by the water, hidden from prying eyes.
"I'm glad to see you didn't change your mind," Ursula says in greeting. "I'll need you down to just your drawers, Captain."
He stops in shock, somehow not realizing that to be transported into something else, he would lose his clothes and personal effects.
"Don't worry, Hook. I have a chest here that we will magically seal together. Your items will be safe until you return. If you do not return, I will send them to a place of your choosing."
The greatcoat goes into the chest first. He checks to lightly stroke his fingers along the ribbon he tucked in there. He taps the flask and bows his head momentarily, before folding the heavy leather the best he can and placing it in the trunk. The hook goes next, and then the brace, and his arm feels lighter and awkward without the appendage he's grown so used to at this point. He stashes his boots and stockings next, and begins fully undressing after that.
"I'd follow your orders, lass, but I'm a pirate. There are no drawers under these trousers and I'm certainly not wasting the leather."
She purses her lips, but otherwise makes no comment, until the last item of his is in the trunk and the lid has been shut and locked.
"Place your hand on the lid right here," she says, indicating a circle with an anchor in it. She places her own hand on another with an engraving of a kraken (fitting, if you ask him) before his hand warms from the magic she pushes through the wood. "Who will open this chest if you fail to return?"
He swallows, feeling much more like a bare lieutenant than a captain. "Liam Jones of Misthaven," he responds.
"You'll lose consciousness while I transform you. I'll do the rest of the work getting you to the shores of this other land, and then you'll be on your own. When you get to Emma, you'll have to convince her to return with you, and then you'll contact me. I'll leave the appropriate shell hidden on the beach that you'll be able to find with this." She presses her thumb against the skin on his inner forearm, but the mark that's left behind when her magic fades is nothing but a faint spiral. To show him how it works, she brings the shell in question closer to him, and Hook watches the spiral darken the closer it gets. The shell emits a faint light, as well, to help distinguish it from all the others.
He nods in understanding, his nerves on end as he realizes he's about to be reunited with Emma, finally after all these years.
"Are you ready, Captain?"
Ursula blinks once, but a smile breaks her otherwise stoic demeanor. "Okay, Killian. Are you ready?"
"I hope to see you in six months, Killian."
He tenses as her magic engulfs him, and then his world goes dark.
A/N: Next week, the full moon rises in Storybrooke. And I am so very excited to share the chapter!