Warning: My hormones wrote this, not my muses. In fact, my muses have stomped off, insulted that I'm writing about something wholly not concerning them, as fickle muses are wont to do. If you read on, be wary of that fact.

Disclaimer: None of these characters belong to me, although I would like one of them to, and he's got to be in the public realm soon, if he's not already… But I digress. This was written for my own pleasure and if others gain enjoyment as well, all the better. Also, I am not spoiled – not in the knowing things ahead of time way – so if any of this actually comes to pass, well, then I guess OUaT should hire me as a writer. Ha ha ha. Yeah, right.

Apologies to those waiting for LotR/Silm updates. They're coming. I swear.

Anyhow… Read. Enjoy. Review.

There had been an argument, of course.

Emma had suspected the princess, Aurora, would disagree with her actions. The girl was sweet and trusting – qualities Emma saw as a liability, especially the latter. She had believed Hook's original story, implausible as it was even without Emma's ability to detect the tells of someone who was being deceitful. It hadn't sat well with Aurora either that they had bound his arms as they walked through the forest. After all, there were many dangers and she had argued that he wouldn't be able to defend himself. The poor girl had actually winced in pain at how much Emma had tightened the ropes, necessary though it was to prevent him from slipping his handless arm out.

Sleeping Beauty had defended Captain Hook. Emma's disbelief threatened to overcome her once again. Sleeping Beauty had defended Captain Hook. She shook her head at the absurdity as she followed the other three girls, weaving between the trees, stepping over roots, ducking under low branches.

But no, it hadn't been Aurora who protested this time. It hadn't been Mary Margaret either. Emma watched as Mary Margaret paused for a moment and cocked her head, listening, and then obviously decided it was nothing and continued to walk. So different she had become since the curse broke, so strong. Emma had been friends with her before but never really thought of her as someone who could take care of herself. Now, the woman who turned out not only to be her mother but also Snow White was surprising her at every turn. This woman took down an ogre on the first shot! But it was no surprise to Emma that she had agreed that leaving Hook behind was a good choice. Emma knew Mary – Snow – distrusted Hook and was glad to be rid of his company.

To Emma's surprise, it had been Mulan – one of the few people Emma had met that she could take seriously, not having known much of her prior to actually meeting her – that did not agree. Not at first; at first she had to contend with Snow for almost cutting down the beanstalk and stranding Emma at the top. But as soon as they started walking, Snow and Aurora in the front and Mulan and Emma behind, the warrior girl had hissed at Emma under her breath.

"You may have been our undoing, stranding that pirate up there."

Emma whispered back. "What should I have done? Let him steal the compass from me and then throw me off the beanstalk as we climbed down?"

Mulan stopped walking which drew the attention of the other two. "How do you suppose we find Cora, now that he is no longer with us?"

Emma chuckled. "I'm sure once he goes running back to her and tells her we have the compass that she'll find us."

Aurora came to join them. "But now… could we be ambushed by her? Again."

Snow followed Aurora over. "Emma did what she had to do." Her voice had a tone of authority and finality. Emma beamed at her mother, grateful once again to have someone on her side. "He would have betrayed us, eventually."

"Better to have him with us, then, where we can keep close watch on him." Mulan took a step towards Snow, jutting her chin out defiantly. "He is sure to be angry and vengeful now."

"He did say we were better company than Cora." Aurora pointed out.

Mary Margaret raised an eyebrow. "Safer, company. He said we were safer."

He had said a lot of things, most of which Emma was trying to forget. "Could we just not talk about it or him anymore?" She caught the quizzical look Snow shot her but continued anyway. "We'll find a way home. We don't need him."

Snow was frowning at her. Emma held her gaze for a few moments and Snow looked away, but Emma was sure there would be more to come later. Mulan and Aurora either missed their exchange or chose to ignore it.

"Very well," Mulan conceded, her manner still betraying her annoyance. "I just think he might have served us better had we kept up the façade that we believed and trusted him."

As the four of them walked in silence now, those words mocked Emma. …the façade that we believed and trusted him… She had been an idiot up there, up until the moment she had made a quick decision and chained and left him. But then who could blame her? She had been running around a giant's castle with Captain Hook. What was to come next? Was Peter Pan going to fly in and sprinkle them all with pixie dust so that they could fly home to Storybrooke?

But that man, regardless of who he was, had gotten under her skin. He had introduced himself as Hook and she thought she had known what to expect. But, like Mary Margaret, he had continually surprised her, challenged her, until in an inexplicable moment of weakness she had let her guard down.

It wasn't the innuendo or the over-the-top flirting. Emma was more than immune to men who thought they were charming and suave. She had run into her fair share of those in what she had recently started thinking of as her former life. Her profession brought her in contact with many less than savory characters, most of whom thought that by turning on the charm they could flirt their way out of being brought in.

It wasn't his good looks either. Emma could honestly say she hadn't noticed those, she had been so focused on his lies. No, she hadn't noticed those until he was tying on her bandage with his teeth while gazing up at her with smoldering eyes. Sure, the rational part of her mind told her that it was necessary, his having one hand and all, but tell that to the pit of her stomach.

No, it wasn't until she saw his reaction to her question about Milah. Captain Hook had been in love, truly in love, and had lost that love, and in that moment she had felt such a connection, such an understanding, that her strength and resolve crumbled around her. In that moment she saw through his wall, saw his vulnerability and responded to it. It was in that moment she knew she could not allow him to continue on with them, not if she didn't want to jeopardize their ever getting home and back to Henry and David.

the façade that we believed and trusted him… Unfortunately for Emma, it had begun not to be a façade. Despite her better judgment she had begun to trust him. Even worse, she was starting to agree with him; they did make a good team. She liked fighting beside him; he was fearless and cunning. Twice she thought he had been crushed and both times she felt honestly panicked. Perhaps it was because she thought she needed him to get the compass. Perhaps it was something else. And that uncertainty only added to her resolve to leave him behind.

Snow held up her hand, signaling them to stop. Mulan continued up to Snow and they talked in hushed voices. Aurora sat down on a fallen log and Emma debated whether to join her but decided against it. She didn't want to talk to anyone right now. After a few moments, Mulan trotted off into the woods to the left and Snow came over to Emma.

"Emma, we think we are being followed." Snow said in a quiet voice.

"Followed?" Emma whispered, her heart accelerating. "How? By whom?" Emma tried to wipe the face that had appeared out of her mind.

"We don't know. Could be thieves. Thankfully it's not ogres; they make much more noise." She glanced back at Aurora. "Stay here with her, ok? Mulan and I are going to double back and see if we can cut whoever it is off."

Emma cocked her head to one side. "Stay with her? Really? Haven't I proven myself here yet?"

Snow sighed. "Of course you have. Which is why I need you to stay with her."

Emma frowned but nodded. "Alright." Snow looked like she was going to say something but instead nodded once and ran off to the right. Emma sighed and walked over to sit next to Aurora. She hoped the other two would return soon.

It was less than an hour, by Emma's judgment, until Mulan and Snow returned. Emma stood as they approached.

"We found nothing." Mulan said, sounding disgusted.

"But that's good, right?" Aurora asked, ever hopeful.

Mulan regarded her with a look that seemed like a mixture of annoyance and pity and sulked off to sit on another fallen log a few feet away.

"It's not necessarily good," Snow said kindly. "But it isn't bad either," she added quickly when Aurora's eyes widened in alarm. "We're pretty sure there was someone, but they've gone another way."

"That's not to say they won't be back," Mulan added sullenly.

Again, the image of Hook appeared in Emma's head. It couldn't be him, she reasoned. It had only been five hours at the most since she climbed down the beanstalk.

"We should move," Snow said.

"Aye, you should, love," an all too familiar voice said from above them. Emma felt as if her heart stopped, remembering the fury in his voice as he screamed her name while she walked away from him. What was he here for? What would he to do her now?

Slowly she turned, in time to see him nimbly jump down from a low limb of one of the trees. Immediately Mulan's sword was drawn, pointed at his heart, and Snow held a dagger in her hand.

"Easy," He held his arms above his head. "I hold no ill will against you, any of you." He looked from Snow to Mulan but never met Emma's uneasy stare.

"But… how did you…" Emma stuttered, still shaken by his sudden appearance.

"Escape?" he finished and smirked, finally looking at her, if only briefly. "Well, luckily for me, giants aren't very good at telling time." Emma gritted her teeth against the look he had given her, almost a sneer. She supposed she deserved it but for some reason it still bothered her.

"Then why come after us?" Mulan asked, not lowering her sword. "If not for retribution."

In a turn of mood, his face broke out into an impish grin. "You're my ticket to Storybrooke. It would do me no good to harm my best chance…"

He paused and Snow finished for him.

"Of extracting vengeance on someone else?" she asked, sounding almost placating.

"Exactly!" He punctuated the word with a thrust of his hands at Snow, causing Mulan to step forward, extending her sword closer to him.

"How did you find us? Why did you follow us?" Mulan demanded, narrowing her eyes at him. "Are you alone?"

"Oh, I'm very much alone, darling," he answered, feigning despair. "I wouldn't dare return to Cora without the compass." He chuckled. "Besides, Captain Hook, bested by a girl?" His eyes narrowed and Emma could feel the animosity coming from him. "She'd never let me live that down. Actually," he mused to himself, "she'd probably not let me live, period." He grinned again at Snow and Mulan. "So you lovelies are my only hope of achieving my one end. And that is why I came after you."

"He's lying," Emma's choked out.

"Am I? Emma?" He spat her name distastefully, scowling at her.

She walked over to him, trying to hide how nervous she was. "Yes, but I don't know about which part," she whispered, staring at his face. "Did you really not return to Cora? Would she really kill you? Or are you planning on getting back at me for what I did?"

He leaned in to speak softly into her ear. His manner was seductive; his words were not.

"Much as you deserve it, love, I'm not here for you."