So yeah, this is my first publishing of a fic in long enough that I had to get a new pen name. Seriously, whole fandoms have risen and fallen since I last uploaded anything.
You can read this as a missing scene from the Great Beanstalk Ascent; it dances around the edge of violating canon but never quite jumps in the pool. I may do another chapter if I get a positive response, but it stands on its own regardless. Rated for cursing, 'cause hey, pirate (fine, Emma is to blame too), but nothing more egregious than I've heard plenty of times in PG-13 movies (standard MPAA guidelines allow for 'up to 3 non-sexual, strictly exclamatory uses' of the F-word in PG-13. Who knew?).
Naturally, I own neither Once Upon a Time (Kitsis/Horowitz and ABC) nor the song I mention, Cruel Mistress (Flogging Molly).
She was doing it again.
They'd been climbing steadily for a while now, falling into a rhythm of scuffing feet, creaking vines, and low huffs of exertion, punctuated by their occasional muttered curses and the hollow thwock of his hook sinking into woody shoots. Swan had effectively killed their last conversation with her flat, defiant, 'No, I have never been in love,' and they'd continued quietly since.
She held position slightly below him, no doubt so she could keep an eye on him trying to pull any tricks, and far enough to port that he couldn't cut any of the vines she was climbing, canny lass that she was. Twice he'd attempted to break the silence, even been sodding polite and gentlemanly:
"So…I am given to understand that you come from a world without magic?"
"And, ah…what's it like there?"
Then a second attempt:
"You know, this is quite like climbing the rigging of my own ship. Well—the breeze smells wrong, and I don't have a giant in my crow's nest—but still, it's almost relaxing."
"Mmm." She didn't even bother to look over at him that time, just continued methodically climbing.
Right then, bollocks to common courtesy and polite small talk, is it? Killian began brainstorming for a topic tempting—or failing that, offensive—enough to draw her out.
That's when he first heard it, the barest ghostly tune floating in the thin air. At first he dismissed it as a trick of the wind, but the more he focused, the more it sounded like— "Humming?" he murmured.
Swan froze for a moment and shot him a startled glance; the sound cut off abruptly. "What?" Her eyes showed such genuine bafflement that Killian wondered if she was even aware she'd been doing it.
Damn it, why did he want to keep looking at those eyes? They kept changing colors on him, that was why—deepwater green when she smiled at the short haired lass, Mary; shifting to the slate-green ripple of bay waves, when she gone aside with the warrior for a quiet word… but when he teased her, intriguing little bursts of gold flashed at the edges of her pupils, like sunlight on a wave's crest. And, well… pirate, gold. Really, he had a professional duty to covet those little glints.
Milah's eyes were green too, Killian recalled abruptly. Over three hundred bleeding years, and the shape of her face may have fuzzed a bit at the edges, the bell of her laugh—and she'd loved to laugh—faded to echoes, but his memory of her eyes stayed clear. Emeralds, they'd been, the color pure and bright, just like her hear—
Fuck. He set his teeth, wrestled the thought back down, and cast about for a distraction. Beanstalk, cloudy sky, slow burn in his shoulders from the constant strain… Ah.
She was doing it again.
This time, he bent an ear and minded the tune properly. Interesting. Seemed to be a rolling sort of thing, quick. Bit of a swagger to it. Rather…familiar and strange, together. He found himself trying to anticipate the pattern, guess which fragments might be the verses, which the refrain.
As he listened, he caught Swan's occasional breathy sub-vocalizations, presumably of lyrics, and that was even more maddening, those half-words teasing at the edge of comprehension. That, just then—he could swear she'd just mumbled something…about the ocean? Well, in that case…
Her humming immediately ceased. The look she leveled at him was neutral enough, if a bit wary, one eyebrow canted in cool inquiry. "Hook," she responded dryly, tone matching her face.
He paused for a bit, slung his arm against a convenient twist of vine and leaned into it for a moment's rest. Swan pulled herself along till her head was at an even height with his, then she relaxed too.
"You keep humming, lass. Feel like I'm climbing with a beehive, here."
Her eyes widened a bit; the tip of her nose and the shells of her ears went pink. Killian immediately filed that fascinating reaction away for future contemplation. "Sorry, Hook," she said with a faint wince. "I had no idea I was doing it out loud. I guess it's a habit from long ca—uh, long trips solo. I'll try my best not to."
With his hook secured in the vines he was free to dismiss that offer with a wave of his hand. "Didn't say I wanted you to stop, did I? Might ask you to share the tune properly, if you've a mind. The song's starting to tug at m'ears…Emma."
Well look at that. Here he'd been giving her smoldering looks and innuendo at every opportunity, and it turned out all he'd needed to do to see her blush all the way down into her oddly tailored blouse had been to ask her to sing and call her by name. Killian's gaze slid along that rather low collar. Would that delicate flush feel hot against his fingers, under his mouth? He hadn't lied—he had been hoping it would be her to make the trip with him. Of the four women, the spun-glass princess had been too soft, the warrior too cold. But Emma Swan and Mary—Snow, the princess had called her?—mmm, both deliciously fiery. Still, while fierce Mary's mention of a husband hadn't fazed him, the 'grandson' thing meant there was something…complicated, going on with her, and Killian tried to avoid unnecessary complications.
Well, that, and she hadn't so much as blinked when she'd stared him down, not even when he'd winked at her. Proud as a queen, that one.
Emma, on the other hand…Delectable body, honey cream skin, killer cheekbones, eyes like the sea…more than a bit of the rogue about her, too. He'd spotted a flower tattoo peeking out of her sleeve at her wrist, and he couldn't wait to find out where else she might be hiding ink. After all, I do love a challenge.
The smile he flashed her was far too sharp-edged and hungry to belong to anyone but a predator.
So stupid, this is so, so stupid, seriously you have lost your damn mind Emma Swan, you are in so much trouble right now!
Emma clenched her jaw, reached, pulled, stepped, reached… her brain might be running in frantic circles like a caffeinated gerbil, but she was damned if she'd let Hook get so much as a whiff of her panic. A bit above her and to the right, the—freaking pirate, are you completely shitting me, a real live hook-handed 'avast, me hearties' pirate—captain moved with totally unfair, sinuous grace, his face as serene as if he'd been strolling along a beach. Ugh. Emma considered herself to be in pretty good shape, but this was killing her arms and shoulders. It was all she could do to keep pace close enough to not make it obvious that she was struggling.
And seriously, a pirate? Because witches, curses, werewolves, fairies, dragons, her best friend turning out to be her mother and oh by the way Emma, you're a princess—that wasn't, y'know, enough? Did Fate just squint at her life and decide 'ooh, look, there's one last tiny bit of space open for something else completely deranged, let's find a pirate?'
Although…no vampires yet, so at least there was that. First sign of a sparkling anyone that wasn't an actual fairy, and she was breaking out the stakes.
And the worst part was that deep down Emma had a sneaking suspicion that this was all her own fault, somehow. All the little stories orphans told themselves at night under too-thin covers…somewhere out there her parents were desperately searching for her, she was a lost princess just like in that stupid damn book, Peter Pan was going to fly through her window one night and whisk her away to Neverland…
Had some perverse guardian spirit been paying attention to those sad little dreams? If so, I'd lay odds on him being a short flamboyant guy with an obsession with Deals. Emma bit her lip to stifle a slightly hysterical giggle of her own.
The sound of Hook delicately clearing his throat derailed her ridiculous train of thought.
"So," he began conversationally and hah, a bit awkwardly, "I am given to understand that you come from a world without magic?"
Sweet unicycling Jesus, was that a full sentence without a single sleazy insinuation? Unfortunately, Emma's brain appeared to be stuck in Sarcasm Mode, because all it could produce in response was 'And I'm given to understand that you come from a world where you have trouble handling your sword around young boys?' Instead she was forced to make do with a strangled, "Yep."
"And, ah…what's it like there?" Wow. Captain Killian Jones Hook—and hey, where'd the real world version's 'James' come from, then? Middle name?—sucked at not flirting.
Really, Emma was almost tempted to take pity on him. Y'know, almost. "Smaller beanstalks," she grunted, and concentrated very hard on not cackling like a hyena at his nonplussed expression when she caught it in her peripheral vision.
Hmm. Yeah, okay, scoring on the pirate captain? So therapeutic. Maybe the addition of a pirate to this cluster fuck of a fairy tale wasn't a total disaster after all. And she'd always had a bit of an appreciation for pirate culture, hadn't she? Hell, the Flogging Molly tape in her Bug was half worn out. How had Cruel Mistress gone, again? 'No her love never set me free/ So I set off for the ocean…' wait, no, that wasn't the beginning…
Emma set her brain to untangling the song in her memories, and when Hook tried again she was actually absorbed enough to miss the first half of his attempt. "—smells wrong, and I don't have a giant in my crow's nest—but still, it's almost relaxing."
"Mmm," she responded noncommittally. What the hell was he talking about? No, on second thought, whatever it was that relaxed him but 'smelled wrong' and involved 'a giant in his crow's nest'—some sort of disgusting euphemism, no doubt—she did not want to know.
She let a few seconds sneak by and stole a glance at him. Holy crap, he's actually sulking! He was, in fact, wasting what was probably an Olympic quality smoldering-and-brooding scowl on the poor beanstalk in front of him.
Emma's own mood climbed up a few more notches as she returned to the song. 'The sea is a cruel mistress…yeah the sea's a cruel mistress…'
Hook grumbled something then, a single word Emma didn't quite catch. "What?" she asked, startled. Had he said 'shunning,' as in, she was shunning him? Or had it been 'cunning,' meaning that he'd already figured out her plan to screw with him? But he went quiet again after giving her one lingering stare.
Now that she'd had a couple opportunities to see his eyes up close, she knew that he was wearing less guyliner than she'd first thought. In fact, he had incredibly, un-fucking-believably thick eyelashes, like Elizabeth Taylor thick, which framed eyes the exact same hypnotic blue as forget-me-nots. In Emma's opinion, that was some deeply unfair bullshit. Seriously, who the hell went around handing out heartbreakingly gorgeous eyes to irredeemable bastards like Hook?
And he was an irredeemable bastard, damn it; she was not falling for those little flashes of sympathetic insight he kept teasing her with… 'You don't want to abandon him the way you were abandoned…Love has been all too rare in your life…' For a moment she saw whiskey brown eyes dancing over a devil-may-care grin… Emma shoved the image of his face away with an internal snarl.
Back to the song. 'And I thought to myself/ How'd I wind up in this jail?'
She cleared the end of the song and started through it again, checking that it at least sounded more-or-less correct against her memory.
Great, what now? There was a dangerous little glint in his eyes; that couldn't be good. "Hook." If he's just thought of some new nasty bit of innuendo to throw at me…
Instead he stopped climbing entirely. Oh thank God, they were taking a break. She tried not to sigh too obviously when she settled into the crook of a branching vine and took her weight off her arms.
The glint in Hook's eyes sharpened with more overt amusement. "You keep humming, lass. Feel like I'm climbing with a beehive, here."
Well, crap. Nea—people had caught her doing that before, on long car rides, but then she'd been by herself for so long, and if she'd ever hummed in front of Henry he'd never mentioned it. And to be called out now by Hook! Talk about embarrassing.
"Sorry, Hook," she managed to force out the apology. "I had no idea I was doing it out loud. I guess it's a habit from long ca—"edit that, he wouldn't know 'car'—"uh, long trips solo. I'll try my best not to." Oh shit, I think I'm blushing.
He waved that away. "Didn't say I wanted you to stop, did I? Might ask you to share the tune properly, if you've a mind. The song's starting to tug at m'ears…Emma."
Oh, sure, she'd sing him the pirate song that had gotten stuck in her head—that wouldn't inflate his ego at all. Yep, she was definitely blushing, and judging by the fascinated way Hook's gaze dragged down her neck, it was a full-blown, all-the-way-down blush. Fantastic.
And holy shit, the way he smirked at her—once he managed to tear his eyes back up to meet hers—was not helping. That was not a 'naughty' grin—that was a 'multiple felony count' grin! Honestly, a girl needed a cigarette after being smiled at like that.
"What, really? I'm, uh, I'm not a very good singer." Lame, so lame. And not actually true; she certainly couldn't have sung professionally, but she was decent enough for an amateur. A couple of the other inmates at Perryville had taught her some blues and eventually pronounced her 'not half bad for a skinny white girl.'
"Oh, c'mon now, love—please? It's cruel to tease like that." Huh. For once his tone of voice was actually less suggestive than his words. Sincere, even?
I can't believe I'm even considering this… "You give me any crap about this and I'll stab you in the foot, and we'll see how well you climb with one hand and one leg."
"No mockery." Damn, that hopeful look on his face was really, really hard to deny.
"And if you tell anyone—anyone—I sang for you, I will…I will think of some incredibly humiliating fate involving woman's clothing and I will inflict it upon you and I will make sure there are witnesses."
"Hit a man right in the pride, eh? I swear, your secret will be safe with me." Emma narrowed her eyes at him. Yep, he's actually telling the truth. I'll be damned.
"Fine, then." At that, his whole countenance lit up, shoulders straightened, his eyes merry and a delighted smile curving the corner of his mouth. Emma blinked. Suddenly he looked almost…young, despite the stubble and the earring. How did he do that?
Right, well there was no way in hell she'd be able to get through the song if she was looking at him at the same time. Emma half-turned her head and focused on a wisp of cloud in the distance, then cleared her throat.
'Next time out to sea,
Bring enough soil to bury me,
For I don't want my final jig
In the belly of a squid.'
She snuck a quick glance at Hook. His eyebrows were raised in mild surprise, eyes intent. Well, okay then.
'Take my trousers, take my shirt,
Just give me that sweet dirt;
For the water's cold and grim,
And I never did learn to swim.
No, her love never set me free,
So I set off for the ocean,
Now in my dreams she comes to me,
Whispering of peace…'
Without its frenzied Irish punk rock accompaniment, the song changed, less black humor and more forlorn. She certainly couldn't belt out the refrain with its original hoarse snarl; instead, 'The sea is a cruel mistress' had the tone of a lament. And she didn't dare look at him again, especially during the second verse, with its 'Dry your eyes, my dear fisherman/ Your ass belongs to me!' taunt at the end.
'The earth will rest my bones,
Lord I know, Lord I know
But I'll see you when I get home
From the cold, yeah from the cold…'
Emma didn't bother with the repetitions of the first verse; there'd be no point without their accompanying musical variations. She just let the last 'from the cold' thread away on the wind.
She swallowed hard, cleared her throat again. She really didn't want to look at him. "So yeah, anyway, there you go. It, uh, sounds better with music. Much better. And it's properly sung by a guy, of course, so some of the notes—"
"Emma." Hesitantly, she turned back to face Hook…and froze. Eep.
At some point while she'd sung, he'd leaned in, whoa, way closer to her. His eyes were dark, dilated pupils narrowing his irises to thin indigo rims. And his mouth curved softly, parted to flash a hint of those improbably white teeth above his invitingly full lower—
Emma mentally smacked herself in the head, hard. "What?" she growled. Smug, pirate, bastard. Get it together, you are a grown-ass woman and it doesn't matter how long it's been since you've gotten laid…
Then Hook grinned wide and delighted like a boy and yep, there went her brains again. "That. Was. Brilliant!" he crowed. He slapped the beanstalk between them for emphasis—or hell, maybe that was the only way he could clap. "Do you have any idea…ah, darling, I can't tell you the last time I heard a new song!"
"Emma darling, I have lived for a very, very long time, and believe me when I say that gold? I can always get more gold! But new songs, new stories—those are true treasure to an old pirate like me!" The grin dropped suddenly; his eyes flared dangerously and hello, he pressed in even closer. "Sing another," he demanded, gaze fixed on her lips like he could will a song out of them.
For one mad moment Emma actually started thinking of songs. It wasn't her fault; Christ, if he'd said 'Take your clothes off' in that same utterly compelling tone, she'd be coming to thirty seconds later, wondering where her bra had gone. Dangerous… Instead, she somehow managed to snap her spine straight and shove him back. "Don't be ridiculous! We need to get moving again."
He sulked at her, and yep, that was an Olympic quality pout, all right. "Just one more, lass?"
"No! Also, my son does that better." Henry did a routine where he dropped his chin, looked up through his eyelashes, and gave her a quavering, uncertain little smile; it got her every time. She'd almost been tempted to ask Regina for tips on withstanding it, but she was pretty sure the other woman's answer would be something like 'be coldhearted and supernaturally evil,' so not much help there. Not waiting for a response, she turned, pushed up, and braced herself to continue climbing.
A puff of displaced air was her only warning before the hook flashed over her left shoulder, sinking into the stalk, and she spun back to find herself bracketed by the pirate captain's arms as he swung across to trap her in place, getting very thoroughly in her personal space without actually touching her at all.
"Emma?" His face was solemn, but those damnable eyes laughed down, locked with her own.
"Yeah?" And she'd meant to snap at him, she really had, but she could feel the heat radiating off him from her knees to her neck, she was drowning in the mingled aromas of rum, tar, and leather, and the only thing she could think was 'blue, blue, blue.' Somehow the word came out a bit…breathy. Furthermore, he had wedged his left boot somewhere near her right calf, and he was pretty much straddling her. That…so didn't improve her composure…
"I will have another song from you, yet," Hook murmured. His tone was confident, practically matter-of-fact, and her talent oh-so-helpfully informed her that hey, he was telling the truth.
She chickened out and broke eye contact first, switching her gaze to the sky past his left ear. "Hook, if you don't back off and get moving right the hell now, the only song you're gonna get from me is '99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.' And I will sing it off key, and so help me, I will deliberately miscount."
After a frozen moment, he chuckled into her ear, which, yep, there went the last shreds of her peace of mind. "If you insist." Two last words, then the beanstalk swayed a bit and Hook was gone, swung back to his original position; he immediately returned to climbing, without a single glance back at her.
Emma struggled to regain her balance, as his parting purr of 'For now' echoed in her head.
Shit, I am in so much trouble.
Shaking her head in resignation, she turned back and resumed the climb.
Good, bad, meh? Shall I bother with another? Take a second and tell me what you think, yeah?
P.S.: If you're interested in hearing the full song—and I highly recommend it, plus it's only 3 minutes long—a Youtube search for 'Flogging Molly Cruel Mistress' will bring up a couple different fan-posted videos. Seriously, any pirate fan who's never heard one of Flogging Molly's kickass Irish punk rock pirate anthems is missing out.