Author's Note: Well, this is the first part of a prompt fill that is taking on a life of it's own. I'm sure this all will be AU by the time the next few episodes air, but that's ok. That's what fanfiction is for, right?
Disclaimer: If they belonged to me, do you think I'd be writing this? ;)
Have I told you a lie?
Emma could still see his face. When she closed her eyes, she could see the anguished look on the insufferable pirate's face. She didn't understand why that look bothered her so much. Hook was a pirate, for pete's sake. In fact, he was the pirate. Pirates couldn't be trusted; she'd learned as much reading about Peter Pan as a child. And yet, when faced the with the real Captain Hook, she'd spilled her most closely guarded secret. Why had she done that? He was charming sure, but she'd been around plenty of charmers in her life. In fact, her father was Prince Charming! It was like she'd been predestined to run across more than her fair share of charming men. But never before had she confided in one. Not since Tallahassee, anyway.
And yet, when Hook told her about his lost love, she'd replied that she'd been in love once as well. She hadn't even thought twice about it. It just came out. And Emma was damned if she knew why.
In frustration, Emma kicked a stone in the path. She'd volunteered to bring up the rear when she, Mary Margaret, Mulan and Aurora left the beanstalk. Her mother had raised her eyebrow at that, but didn't push. It was almost as if Emma was expecting the pirate to catch up to them. But that was ridiculous of course. She'd betrayed him. Left him up there alone with a giant, chained to a wall for ten hours.
Have I told you a lie?
Emma sighed. Damn it, she shouldn't care this much. What was done, was done. She wouldn't have changed it even if she'd had the chance. She had to get back to Henry. She had to. Emma didn't have time to deal with charming, insanely handsome pirates intent on revenge. Henry had to come first. She just hoped they'd find Cora and get the wardrobe ashes before Hook found them.
Killian sat uncomfortably on the hard stone of the castle floor. He had no idea how much time had passed since Emma had left him there. After the initial shock had worn off, he'd tried to pick the handcuff with his hook, but it was no good. Whatever magic it had been enchanted with was impenetrable by the means at hand. Killian had even tried bellowing at the giant for a while, but gave that up too. It was clear that there was no way the giant would release him before the allotted ten hours had passed. So Killian sat and waited. And fumed.
He couldn't believe she had gotten the better of him twice. He, Killian Jones, had been beaten at his own game twice by a lass who was not only new to this world, but also managed to resist his charms. The most infuriating thing about it, however? Was that he enjoyed it. He loved matching wits with her. He loved that she gave as good as she got. The speed with which she saw through him was unnerving, but he supposed turnabout was fair play. She was as much of an open book to him, as he was to her. He'd met many beautiful women in his life, but one that could match him was rare. One had been taken from by his Crocodile. The second left him chained to the wall of a giant's lair. One thing was certain, there would be hell to pay when he found Emma Swan.
"We should rest here," Mulan said, as the little group entered a clearing. It was nearing dark.
"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Emma asked.
"Emma," Mary Margaret cut in, "Aurora hasn't slept more than hour or so for days. You climbed a beanstalk today. You must be tired."
That was true. Emma was exhausted mentally and physically. But the greater part of her just wanted to find Cora and get home. Then she looked into her mother's pleading face and knew she couldn't argue. They'd never survive a fight with Cora if they were exhausted.
Emma raised her hands in surrender. "Ok, fine," she replied.
"You and the princess should stay here, while Snow and I gather firewood and water," Mulan said.
Emma didn't really have the inclination to argue. At least this time, they didn't insult her by saying "guard the campsite." No, princess sitting was so much better.
Emma sat on a log, settling her borrowed sword across her lap. Aurora sat next to her a couple of feet away. The princess fidgeted and kept her eyes on the ground. Every once in a while Aurora would look at her and open her mouth like she wanted to say something. Then she'd close it and go back to staring at the ground. Emma was in no mood to talk, but she felt bad for the lonely princess. With that Philip guy gone, the younger woman appeared aimless and sad. Emma knew all too well what that felt like.
As gracefully as she could manage, Emma turned to the princess and said, "Is there something you want to ask me?"
Aurora looked at her and smiled sheepishly. "That obvious?"
"Somehow, I don't think subtlety is your strong suit, princess."
Aurora gave her a half smile. "Aurora, please. I've been asleep so long, my kingdom doesn't really exist anymore."
Emma tried not to wince at that. "Ok, then. Aurora. What do you want to know?"
"Snow. You said before that she was your mother? Forgive me, but how? I've been so curious, but didn't feel it was my place to ask since I tried to..." The "kill her" was left unsaid.
Emma sighed. "It's a long story. Very long actually. But the short version is," Emma paused trying to collect her thoughts. Explaining what happened was so much more difficult now that it was real. "OK, remember the curse? The one that froze you all in time for 28 years?"
Aurora nodded. "Well, that same curse sent my parents and bunch of other people to another world. They got frozen in time too, you see. My parents sent me through a portal just before the curse hit, so I was spared. Only I didn't know any of this until recently. I found them without knowing I'd found them, and broke the curse." It sounded so much crazier when she said it out loud.
But Aurora didn't even blink. "And that's how you and your mother are nearly the same age?"
"Yup, my father too. He's back in Storybrooke, hopefully taking care of my son." For the first time, Emma took comfort in the fact that David was still in Storybrooke. She saw how much her mother missed him, but if anyone could keep Henry safe it was Prince Charming, right?
"Snow is very kind," Aurora said. "Far kinder than I deserve."
"Don't beat yourself up, Aurora. We all do stupid things when we're angry. And if I didn't say it earlier, I'm sorry about what happened to Philip."
"Thank you, Emma."
Soon after, Mary Margaret and Mulan returned. Emma watched as her mother expertly built a fire, still amazed that this was the same woman she'd lived with for months. Snow White was almost the complete antithesis of Mary Margaret. Hell, just wrapping her head around her mother being Snow freaking White was difficult enough. After being alone for so long, she finally had a family that loved her. Emma could feel it every time the woman she'd known as Mary Margaret looked at her. Her mother loved her fiercely and would do anything to protect her. It was a revelation for Emma, one that she knew reflected how she felt about Henry.
Mary Margaret joined Emma on the log once the fire was going. Her mother had a look that Emma was coming to know well. Snow White had a plan.
Killian was unsurprised to find Cora at the bottom of the beanstalk. The witch looked at him expectantly. Killian avoided her eyes, instead concentrating on climbing the last few dozen feet.
"Well, Captain? Do you have the compass?"
Straight to the point then. Killian glared at Cora. "I don't have it," he snapped.
"Don't have it? How can that be?" Cora paused. "You let one of them get it?"
"I didn't let anything happen, Cora. I was a bit...detained, shall we say? We'll find them and get the bloody thing back. How formidable can four women be?"
Needless to say, Killian was not anxious to advertise what Emma had done. Nor did he inform Cora that he had switched allegiances. Because that part had been true. He had been entirely truthful when he said he'd swear allegiance to whomever got him to got him to Storybrooke first. But now it appeared that Cora was his best bet. Surely, it would be far easier to get the compass from Emma, than for Emma to get the ashes from Cora. And he promised himself that Emma no longer mattered. All that mattered was skinning his Crocodile. He looked down at his tattoo, the one that Emma had asked him about. The resolve to end Rumplestiltskin flooded his heart once more. He wouldn't let anything stand in his way, not anymore.
I can't chance that I'm wrong about you.
Killian closed his eyes, willing the image of Emma's face from his mind. He needed to focus. When he opened them, he said, "I know just how to find them."
Emma awoke to something sharp poking her in the back. When she opened her eyes, her vision was blurry, but one thing was certain. Emma was no longer on the ground. Somehow, she'd been raised up and pushed against a tree. Emma struggled, but there were already ropes lashing her to the tree. As she struggled, she heard a familiar chuckle in her ear. Hook.
"Cora wanted to tie you up with magic, but I wanted to return what I owe you," he said, in her ear. Emma shivered. His voice and proximity were doing things to her that under the circumstances should be illegal. The blasted pirate was tying her up for crying out loud. This was no time for her to lose her wits.
"Tying someone up with one hand, how does that work?" Emma asked, determined to find some leverage.
Hook stepped around to face her. "You'd be surprised, love. Maybe one day I'll give you a demonstration."
From across the clearing, Mary Margaret called out. "You get you hands off my daughter."
Hook winked at Emma before replying, "Hand, milady. I've only got the one, you see."
Mary Margaret rolled her eyes as she continued to struggle against her own bonds. Emma looked around the clearing and saw Aurora and Mulan tied up as well. Cora must have provided quite a wallop, if the warrior among them has been captured too.
Having her mother and Hook spar was going to get them nowhere. Emma turned her eyes back to the pirate. "Where is Cora, Hook? Seems she's got you back on her leash. I'm disappointed, actually. The fearsome Captain Hook is nothing more than some evil witch's bitch. Who knew?"
Hook's expression turned dark. He narrowed his eyes at her. Then he leaned in close and said, "You'll be sorry you betrayed me, princess. More's the pity really. We could have been brilliant together, you know."
Emma ignored the squirming in her gut at his words. Because there was a terrible very, very wrong part of her psyche that knew he was right. Instead, she drew herself up to her full height (which was difficult because of her surprisingly tight bonds), and said, "Not in this world, Hook. And I'm so not a princess."
"Oh, but that's where you're wrong, dear," a voice said, just loud enough to be heard. Emma immediately recognized it as Cora's voice. The shape changing witch materialized out of nowhere in the middle of their makeshift campsite. "Why, you're the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming. And I'm afraid that makes you very much a princess."
Out of the corner of her eye, Emma saw Hook's jaw drop. She got some kind of perverse satisfaction from seeing the pirate so obviously confused. When he turned his gaze to Emma, his eyes were wide with surprise and something Emma couldn't identify. It unnerved her. But Hook was the least of her problems.
Fortunately, she was saved by her mother. "What does that have to do with anything, Cora?"
"I'm surprised you haven't worked it out, my dear Snow," Cora said, smiling. "Emma's the key to returning to your world."
Emma looked at her mother, and saw the same confusion she felt reflected in Mary Margaret's face. "What are you talking about? Because I'm pretty sure I left all my keys in Storybrooke."
Cora's smiled wider and somehow more evil. "I can see why the Captain likes you, Emma. In a way, you remind me of Regina. She was willful and stubborn as well. The ashes alone are not enough to open the portal. Since you so inconveniently destroyed the wardrobe, the ashes require a catalyst to open it. A powerful catalyst. You, my dear, possess the most powerful catalyst there is."
Emma was seriously confused. Quickly, she ran through everything she'd learned about magic in the last few days. Then she remembered the dragon. Gold had said she was the only one who could retrieve the potion because she was the product of true love. She looked at Cora in horror.
"My blood. You need my blood to open the portal."
Cora simply nodded. Mary Margaret screamed in anger and frustration. "I won't let you do this, Cora," she said, tearing running down her cheeks.
"I'm afraid you don't have much choice, dear," Cora said. "Now if you'll be so kind as to tell me where the compass is, the Captain and I will be on our way."
At the mention of Hook, Emma glanced around for him, but he was nowhere to be seen. She didn't have time to wonder where he'd gone, but she was filled with relief at her mother's forethought.
"I don't have it," Emma replied.
Cora laughed. "Nonsense, dear, the Captain saw you put it in your pocket. Now where is it?"
"Check my pockets; it's not there."
Cora threw a hand out in front of her, waving it emphatically. Emma felt her pockets – all her pockets – turn inside out. But there was nothing in them to be found. They'd hidden the compass earlier to keep it from Cora until they could get the ashes. Only she and Mary Margaret knew where it was.
In frustration, Cora ran up to Emma and started physically checking her pockets. When that confirmed what her magic had already told her, Cora held her hand in front of Emma's throat. Slowly she began to curl her fingers into a fist. Emma felt her airway begin to constrict painfully. She began to gasp.
"I don't need you alive to take the blood I need, Emma. Give me the compass!"
A vision of Henry swam across her eyes. Emma gasped and screamed, "Never!"
Suddenly the pressure on her airway lessened slightly. Dimly, she saw Cora's head turn as she swatted Mulan away from behind her, sword and all. Snow then took a run at the witch, screaming in fury. Her mother only got a few paces before she too went flying across the clearing. But it was just enough of a distraction. To Emma's complete surprise, Aurora fired an arrow from the far side of the clearing. Cora never saw it coming; her attention was being hammered from all sides in a matter of seconds.
Aurora's arrow lodged itself in Cora's lower back, causing the witch to crumple to the ground. The grip on Emma's throat vanished and she gasped for breath. She had no idea how her friends had gotten free of their bonds. Emma saw Cora writhe in pain on the ground, her dress beginning to soak with blood. The witch reached in vain to try and dislodge the arrow, but it was no use.
Emma struggled against her bonds, until she suddenly felt them come free. As she held up her hands, she felt something poke her in the side.
"You're welcome, love."
Emma looked in the direction of the voice in shock. Hook. "What...why?" she asked, dumbly.
He just smiled. "Sort that out later, darling. Right now, we should go." He held up the compass. "Shall we?"
Emma was about to ask how Hook had gotten the compass, when Mary Margaret ran up. "Emma, it's OK, I sent him."
"Go now, talk...later," Mary Margaret said. She held up the vial that contained the wardrobe ash. Emma's eyes widened. They were going home.
He didn't know what made him do it. But he saw the look in Cora's eyes when she said that she needed Emma's blood to open the portal. That look said that Emma would not survive the extraction, regardless how how much blood Cora actually needed. But the idea of the fire going out of Emma's blue eyes disgusted him. It was something he should have seen coming. The ashes and compass were never going to be enough. And Emma's life was one price Killian Jones suddenly found himself unwilling to pay. So he'd crept into the shadows, untying Emma's companions one by one. To each he whispered a plan to incapacitate Cora and retrieve the ashes. Snow looked at him with both relief and respect, which surprised him. Quietly, Snow explained how they had hid the compass and that she needed him to get it back. He was strangely honored that she would entrust him with the task.
The pain in Emma's voice as he raced to find the compass reached his ears and he prayed he wouldn't be too late this time. Once Emma was free, he tried to downplay the relief he felt. He was certain that Emma suspected nothing. How he had gone from cursing her name to saving her life?
Whatever it was, Killian was certain it led to nowhere good. But he was damned if he could stop it.