Summary: In a desperate attempt to put as many leagues between themselves and Hook, Emma and her companions find themselves stumbling into Rothbart's territory; a crazy magician with a less than healthy obsession with swans.
Pairings: Emma Swan/ Killian Jones (Captain Hook)
AN: This is a present for my little sister, as it's her birthday today. Therefore I apologize for any mistakes, as she'd usually my beta :P.. but this was a surprise... so I had to attempt the proof reading/editing myself... aha.. so um yeah, the mistakes are my own, and if you point them out, I'll get round to changing them :) ... also it was written at night, in a bit of a rush, so um, Sis... when you read this, I am sorry XD
"Come on, hurry." Emma urged, leading the group through the forest at an almost unreasonable speed.
Night was falling and Emma couldn't help but despair as she noted the ground they'd covered, it wouldn't be enough. There was barely enough light as it was, and she was more than aware of Aurora's increasingly frequent stumbles. The girl was exhausted, yet she hadn't complained- not once- since Emma set the ridiculous pace. Glancing back she winced, it wasn't just Aurora who was finding it difficult, both Mulan and Mary Margaret looked ready to drop and perhaps it was only the overwhelming fear of what would happen when Hook caught up with them that kept Emma from feeling it herself.
"Emma," Mary Margaret placed a hand on her shoulder, "We should stop for the night."
As much as Emma wanted to argue she knew Mary Margaret was right, to continue would be stupid and would most likely slow them down in the long run. However, it didn't stop a dead weight from settling in her stomach. She cast her gaze back at the skyline; she could still make out the faint shape of the beanstalk in the fading light. Would it be enough?
She wasn't even sure how long they'd been moving, everything here put her on edge and her sense of time was all over the place. Had the giant let Hook free yet? Had Hook made it down the beanstalk? He was one man, and a pirate to boot and she's seen the way he had eyed the compass. He was driven and she had no doubt he could cover ground far quicker than she and her companions could. Especially poor Aurora, from what they'd learned of her, the young woman hadn't had to exert herself for so much as a day in her life, and now they were dragging her all over the place, putting her in danger, for a cause she wasn't even personally tied too.
Emma felt a surge of affection for the strong willed princess and for Mulan as well- the two women had no need to accompany either herself or Mary Margaret, yet here they were, doing their best- helping…
"Okay, you're right…" She turned helplessly on the spot. The camping thing was still new to her, should they start a fire? Or would that draw some other dangerous creature to them?
Mulan, as if noticing her hesitation, instantly took control. "You should all get some rest, I'll find some firewood."
Emma shot her a grateful look and muttered her thanks as Mulan passed her. The warrior acknowledged the blondes words with an inclination of her head but otherwise brushed it off. Emma leant against the nearest tree allowed it to support her as she sunk to the floor.
"Oooh," She moaned quietly as she kicked off her shoes.
Aurora did the same against a nearby tree, while Mary Margaret cleared away a small patch of the forest floor and started to pile up some stones in preparation for the fire.
"So what do we do now?" Asked Aurora quietly, "We've got the compass, but don't we still need the dust Cora has? And how will we even get it to work?"
They were all valid questions- sensible questions- ones Emma didn't yet have the answer to.
Mary Margaret, thankfully, answered for her. "We find Cora and get the dust back, it doesn't matter that we don't yet know how to make it work- we can't risk Cora finding a way to the other world without the compass."
Emma did her best to ignore the tightening in her chest at the thought of Cora making it through to Storybrooke- to Henry. God, if anything happened to him-
"Mulan mentioned that the curse didn't destroy everyone- once we get the dust we'll just have to find someone who can get it to work. I refuse to believe the curse wiped out everyone… There must be at least one person powerful enough to help us." Mary Margaret continued.
"That's right; some parts of the land were left untouched." Mulan agreed as she caught the end of the conversation upon re-entered the clearing, her arms full of bits of wood and dry leaves. "And Hook-"
Emma flinched. Her fingers curling over the scarf still tied around her hand.
"-Wasn't with us in the safe haven, so if he survived I'm sure others did as well…"
They tossed idea's back and forth, until ultimately deciding that the next focus would be the dust, a seemingly impossible task; since Cora was unlikely to just let them take it. As for the rest, well, they'd cross that bridge when it came to it.
"Where do you think Cora is?" Mulan asked Emma as Mary Margaret and Aurora settled down to sleep, Aurora's head lay in Mary Margaret's lap and the older woman calmly smoothed a hand over her head.
Emma watched the scene with an awful sense of guilt rising in her gut. She couldn't help but keep Mary Margaret- Snow White- her mother… at arm's length. She'd spent her entire life maintaining walls around the subject of her parents, and now, even when she knew the truth it didn't mean the walls were just gone. No matter how she wanted to let the older woman in, it just wasn't that simple.
She was annoyed, however, that she'd opened up more to the damn pirate, than she had to her own mother. Christ, her mother didn't even know the truth about Henry's father- she didn't even think she'd admitted to her mother that she'd once loved Neal… even before she'd found out Mary Margaret was her mother back when they were simply friends.
She pulled the compass out of her pocket and held it in her uninjured hand. It gleamed magnificently even in the dim light of the dying fire. Idly she fiddled with the chain…
"What? Sorry, I spaced out a little there…"
Mulan's brows furrowed in confusion at the odd term but she got the gist of the statement. She opened her mouth as if to say something then paused…
"Go ahead. What's on your mind?" Emma asked as she noticed the gesture.
"You shouldn't feel guilty for not being a normal daughter for her." The Asian beauty said carefully.
The blonde's eyes narrowed as she realised Mulan's astute presumption.
"I know what it's like to have the weight of people's expectations, and to feel as if you should be something you're not. Bu I don't think Snow wants you to be anyone other than you. All this time, she's only been trying to get you to open up a little, so she can get to know you." Mulan glanced at the pair fast asleep on the far side of the clearing. "And maybe I'm overstepping a my boundaries but I don't think she wants you suddenly become a little girl, whose hair she can braid, or dress up in ball gowns, she mourns that she never had that chance and that there were so many things she's missed out on, but I think she's trying to put that in the past. Take it from me, real parent's will always love us, no matter who we are; or what we choose to do with our lives."
Emma averted her eyes at the humbling past she saw reflected in the warrior's eyes. If this woman's life was anything like the movies, then she was definitely one of the bravest people Emma had ever met. To be true to yourself, even when you risked your parent's disappointment... Emma couldn't imagine the courage it must have taken.
"But what if it's me, what if my past has hurt me too much?" Emma whispered quietly, confiding in this brilliant brave woman who spoke so confidently, and saw so much. "What if I can't let her in, how do you trust someone when you've spent your whole life believing they abandoned you."
Mulan shrugged helplessly. "Trust is a complicated thing. It can be earned- and from what I've seen Snow is trying desperately to earn back that trust. I suppose the real question is whether you can learn to trust someone who; granted inadvertently, has hurt you." She added another log to the fire. "It's harder, when you care for someone. For as much as you fear not being able to let her in, I'm almost certain she's already started to worm her way into your heart. She's your mother Emma, I'm not sure you can keep her out."
Emma's fist tightened on the compass as familiar words echoed in her head, try something new darling. It's called trust.
Mulan, as if sensing the conversation was over, leant back so she was laid out on the ground. "Are you sure you want first watch?" She questioned finally, her eyes fixed on the stars overhead and for some reason, her expression was sad.
"Hey, Mulan…" Emma murmured brushing the question aside, "Why are you helping us?"
"There's nowhere else left for me to go."
The following silence was almost as painful as the announcement. "You know, you can always come to Storybrook with us…"
"I- thank you for the offer…"
"I feel uncomfortable with the idea of leaving this land. Perhaps there remains a way for me to help save it."
Emma found herself smiling at the woman before her. "Maybe, while we search for a way for me and Mary Margaret to get across, we can also search for a way to fix what the curse did to this place?"
She was answered with a hopeful grin and a firm nod, "I'd like that."
The fire spluttered indignantly as Emma simply tossed a handful of dry leaves into its centre then sprung happily to life as its feisty flames tucked happily into the foliage. She added a few more of the thicker sticks to the fire then, when she was content that it wouldn't go out, turned her attention back to the compass.
She held her hand out before her, the compass flat against her palm. The pointer faced in her direction.
Mulan. She thought clearly, her eyes fixed on the compass face. The pointer quivered then spun until it pointed in Mulan's direction.
Aurora. The needle quivered again then shifted until it pointed directly as the sleeping princess.
Emma bit her lip, she was pretty sure she'd worked out how the compass worked, now did she dare- she sighed, and giving into temptation, thought Hook. The compass needle spun on itself several times before settling in the direction Emma knew the beanstalk lay and was ultimately unhelpful. She already knew he was in that direction, and was unsure why she thought the compass would give her any more information. Maybe it's because this was a magic compass… she thought it would tell her exactly where the pirate was, and more specifically how far away he was.
A brisk wind whipped through the clearing and the fire went out. Huffing in annoyance Emma crawled towards the smoking pile and grabbed the stone and stick she'd seen Mulan using to start the fire earlier. Furiously she rubbed the stick between her palms against the stone. Nothing, nada… zip. This looked so much easier on TV.
Several uttered curses later she finally got a spark. She fed it some dry leaves as she coaxed it from a small spark to a steady flame. She sat back smugly reaching for some twigs to add when another brisk wind whistled past and again the fire went out.
Had Emma been back home, she would have chalked it up to coincidence, but this was a land where there were giants and ogres and magic and she wasn't going to make the same mistake twice. She hurriedly woke her companions.
"Wha's goin' on?" Yawned Mary Margaret as Emma shook her shoulder. "Is it my watch?"
"No, something weird is happening… The fire's gone out twice now… and both times there was an unnatural wind. I think something's wrong."
Instantly the woman was on her feet, a dagger in her hand and Emma was once again stuck by how ass kicking she was compared to the timid Mary Margaret she'd first met in Storybrooke. After a quick surveillance of the clearing she realised Mulan also had her sword drawn and even Aurora looked uneasy.
"Well, what is it? Centaurs…? Trolls? Dragons…?" Emma shifted uncomfortably as she listed all the creatures she didn't particularly want to run into.
Mulan shook her head.
Another gust of wind whistled through the clearing, only this one was powerful enough to knock all the women to the floor.
"Emma!" Yelled Mary Margaret as Emma was thrown a little way away from the others.
"What was that?"
"I don't know. We have to get out of here!"
"Agreed," added Mulan unnecessarily.
Fearful that she'd lose the compass if she was thrown around again, Emma pulled it from her pocket and looped the chain around her neck, tucking it under her shirt.
"I don't think so my pretties," cackled a croaky voice.
All four women searched for the source of the voice. Emma had to stifle a gasp as an owl swooped into the clearing because seconds later the owl was gone and a man dropped to the floor before her. She scrambled backwards until she bumped into Mary Margret.
"Who are you?" Mary Margaret demanded; her tone authoritative and regal even though she lay sprawled on the floor with the rest of them.
The man chuckled and dipped into a mocking bow. As he bent his head forward into the moonlight Emma noticed his red hair and moustache, though he appeared to be balding on top. "Ah, so the white queen also survived the curse… although it seems your hair did not."
Mary Margaret's hand instantly rose to her shortened locks; she'd actually grown fond of her shorter hair.
"You have me at a disadvantage sir, for I know not your name."
His grin was downright frightening. "Rothbart," He bowed again, "At your service your highness."
A squeak escaped Aurora and out of the corner of her eye, Emma noticed Mulan's eyes widen. "The great animal," Aurora whispered finally, though she'd taken on a glazed look, and Emma doubted she'd even realised she'd spoken.
"No matter what," Mary Margaret hissed in her ear, "Do not tell him your last name is Swan, do you hear me."
Emma looked round at her in confusion, Why would-?
"Do not tell him." It was the look of pure fear in Mary Margaret's eyes that caused Emma to nod.
She got a niggling feeling in the back of her head, almost as if there was something she was forgetting… Rothbart… The great animal… Why did they seem so familiar?
"Now who have we here?" Rothbart began to move towards Mulan and Aurora… and she's not sure what made her do it- perhaps it was the same fear in Mary Margaret's eyes that was written all across their faces that made Emma draw his attention to her.
"Hey, I don't know who you are but what exactly do you want from us?" She ignored Mary Margaret's hushed "No!" as she rose to her feet.
"Ah, A backbone…" His eyes, dark and dangerous, glinted as he approached her and because she was watching his face she knew the exact moment he noticed her necklace.
No! She started to bring her hand up to grab the compass from around her neck when she found herself unable to move. Why- Why hadn't she just left it in her pocket?!
He stalked forwards, and from the sudden stillness behind her she presumed he'd also immobilised Mary Margaret. His hand stretched out and stroked the surface of her necklace. "A swan," he muttered in wonder.
That was when she realised it wasn't the golden chain of the compass that had drawn his attention, no, instead it was the small silver swan pendant she'd had since she was a child that drew his eye.
"It seems," he continued, his hand now moving to stroke her hair, "that I have my new princess."
And suddenly she knew. She knew why his name was familiar; she knew why the great animal had tickled her memories, and damn it all if the crazy gleam in his eyes didn't set her teeth on edge.
"My new Swan princess," He added reverently as Emma found her vision blurring, then she was falling, and darkness took her.
AN: Hook shall appear soon... ish... :)
Edit: *Facepalms* I spelt Mary Margaret's name wrong, so I've gone back and changed them all... *Hides in shame* Of all the mistakes to make... wth self, focus!