Author Note: Another OUAT fic. These are definitely new characters for me, new voices than I've ever written. SPN fans - I'm like 75% done with the next chapter of BoS,I swears.
The Long Way Home
There's a ringing in her ears, a flash of blinding white, then a brief pocket of dark, frigid nothing.
Emma wakes quickly, coughing from the cold and putting a palm to the side of her battered, bleating head as she makes it awkwardly to her feet. "Whoa. Ow."
Icy air howls and whines as it swirls overhead, and the squawk of the walkie spooks the strange woman, David's tinny voice sounding from the pocket of Emma's jacket. Hook's voice is next, with a static-y crack of emotion that gives her a momentary flush of warmth. They weren't hurt in the cave-in, and won't allow her to freeze to death here. Even so, she doesn't have a lot of time. None of them do.
The cold presses down on her, a malevolent presence weighting the thinning air in the icy cavern and freezing her from the inside out. Slowly, but not slowly enough. She's already losing the benefit of feeling in her extremities. Fingers, toes; it's all numb.
Elsa, dressed in sheer, delicate fabrics, is an obvious emotional wreck, but she's also obviously unaffected by the cold, and that's a special kind of concerning. A completely different type of chill drops down Emma's spine.
What a turn for this day to take. She and David were just talking about the metaphorical walls she puts up, to keep people she could really care about at a distance, and now there's a very literal WALL between Emma and her family.
She feels along the slick, icy wall, testing for a weak spot, but her increasingly trembling hands won't cooperate, keep slipping and fumbling uselessly until she finally tucks them under her armpits with a frustrated, whispered curse. She paces the claustrophobic cavern, and waits, because that's really all she can do. The Savior, waiting to be saved.
Emma keeps moving, wrapping her arms around herself in pitiful defense of her violent shivering. She huffs experimentally, and it hurts, an icy vice tightening around her lungs. Her thin puff of breath turns to frosty mist immediately.
She could really be in trouble here.
She has no idea how much time has passed, but it feels like hours. Like days.
No, not days; she wouldn't last even half a day in this deep freeze.
She's on the ground again, a quaking mass of increasingly numb limbs, but can't remember how she got there, and can't summon the strength to shove back to her feet. Her lashes are sticking together, hair crusting over with ice and fusing to the snow beneath her shivering body. And she's so tired.
Emma shifts her weight, and it hurts to move. It hurts even worse to breathe. She shudders and sniffs, drags a knuckle under her nose, but can't say for sure if it's actually running.
She's trapped, helpless and freezing to death, with an unstable ice witch and not a damn thing she can do to free herself. That would be much more infuriating – not to mention humiliating – if her mind wasn't so preoccupied with how damn COLD she is.
She draws her knees up to her chest, tries to conserve what warmth is left in her core. She's an incidental hostage, but at this rate she'll die before this Elsa chick gets what she wants. Her sister. Her family. A motivation Emma can definitely appreciate. She spent her entire adolescence chasing the idea of family, until she finally realized that wasn't anything she was meant to have, and nothing she could hope to provide.
The walkie's been quiet for some time, and she fights with the niggling doubt growing in her drowsy, sluggish mind, and lets the silence fill her with hope instead of dread.
Help is coming.
Elsa keeps talking – a steady, indecipherable string of soothing, guilt-laden entreaties. Even if she can't make out any of the words, Emma clings to the sound of the woman's voice, intermittently broken by the frighteningly audible chattering of her own teeth.
Her eyelids grow heavy, and she just can't fight it anymore. She lets her eyes slip closed against Elsa's muted pleas, and her last coherent thought is of Henry.
She's still cold, a bone-deep freeze that physically hurts as it holds her captive, but she's not shivering anymore. Emma's spent a lot of time in milder climates but she knows that's not good.
Her limbs aren't responding; she can't move, and she doesn't really lose consciousness completely, but she drifts, slips and slides between wakefulness and what lies on the other side, feeling heavy, and stiff, and COLD. A surprisingly warm hand grasps her own numb, nearly frozen one, and Elsa's terrified voice seems far-off.
Her vision darkens at the edges, an alarming, ominous shadow creeping up to swallow her whole.
But a vortex of warmer air swirls into the cavern, brushing her numb cheeks and blowing her eyes open wide with its promise of safety and comfort. Emma forces herself to her knees and leans into it, wants to be caught up and carried away.
She's tugged and manhandled toward the warmth, struggling to focus until she makes out a pair of familiar faces – David and Hook, their eyes bright and wide as they work to drag her from her frozen prison.
They pull desperately at her arms, fueled by the strength and resolve of two very different kinds of love.
It can't be more than sixty degrees, but the air outside the cavern hits her like a welcome furnace blast, starts her uncontrollable shivering all over again. Hook pulls her in for a desperate hug and Emma surprises herself, hugs him back. When she tries to wrench away and walk on her own, her legs won't do as they're told, and he sweeps her up into his arms.
The forest is a green-brown blur as they move quickly to the truck, where she's bundled in blankets and love and held tightly.
She knows they're indoors now, though she doesn't remember the trip here. It's warm but oddly dark, the dim room – the loft – lit sparsely by the flickering glow of candlelight. There are numerous warbled voices over her head and blurry, familiar faces dipping into her eyeline, but she's still not really with it. Emma can't say for sure who it is draping her in blankets or clutching her shoulders or stroking her hair, but Hook never releases her hand. She knows it's him at her side, recognizes the cool metal of his rings and that trademark scent, an appealing mix of leather, alcohol, and a new enthusiasm for spray deodorant.
She leans into him, soaking in the warmth and comfort of his closeness, and then the power comes back with a sudden whump Emma feels in her chest. Killian pulls away, but only long enough, only far enough to drag over the portable heater.
"Oh, that's good," Emma breathes, relaxing and melting as the heater goes to work warming her detached-feeling limbs. Henry puts a mug of cinnamon-topped cocoa in her hands, and it's the cherry on top. She takes a long sip, closes her eyes.
Mary Margaret comes bursting into the loft, beaming, brimming with pride, and gets a faceful of her wounded daughter swathed in blankets and attention.
"Why didn't you tell me?" she quietly shrieks at David, after settling Neal in his crib. "All night, I was worried about the power."
David's response is an underwater-sounding mishmash of syllables Emma can't really make out, and Killian's hand is warm in hers.
She presses closer and feels his heart beating, a tripping, too-fast rhythm. For me, she thinks dazedly. That's for me.
All of it is – her father's heroics, her mother's high-pitched fear and worry, and Hook at her side. As the lingering chill from the frozen cave fades away and Emma's body temperature normalizes, everything around her comes into focus, and she realizes that everything she's always wanted is here in this room.
And maybe she and Elsa have a lot more in common than she'd originally thought – they can both bring down the walls they've erected to protect themselves, if they really want to.