No Honor Among Thieves
Emma's eyes worriedly scanned the sides of the street again as she made her third patrol around town. Many a familiar face strolled down the sidewalks, visiting locals businesses, or loitering among the alleyways, but none of them belonged to her son, Henry. She's going to kill me, her thoughts sounded for the hundredth time.
The kid had gone missing on his way to school that morning after convincing Emma that he was wholly capable of traversing the two blocks to the bus stop on his own. "'I'm eleven,' he said. 'It's only two blocks.' Two blocks!" she muttered under her breath, mentally replaying the conversation they had hours before. But it was two blocks in Storybrooke, she chided herself. She never should have trusted him to go alone. Anything could have happened, and if Snow or Mary Margaret or whoever she was on the job as his school teacher hadn't immediately called to let her to know that Henry was missing from class, Emma still might not have known about the disappearance. Aside of her own fears for the boy and far from being the first time that day, thoughts of how Regina would unleash all manner of unholy hell on the town if she found out ran rampant.
"She won't just kill me. She'll kill us all for this." A growl of frustration escaped her. What if he had been kidnapped or fallen down a magic well somewhere? What if Cora had gotten her hands on him? How could she have been so foolish as to let the kid go missing like that on her watch? How could she have failed to protect him?
Archie hadn't heard from Henry. Granny hadn't seen him either. Dr. Frankenstein had calmly reassured her that the kid hadn't been brought to the hospital for any reason, though a subtle amount of irritation had leaked into his tone when Emma insisted that he go bed to bed checking himself. Snow was stuck fretting at the school until classes were out but Charming was pounding the pavement, asking everyone they knew if anyone had seen hide or hair of the child. Ruby and Pongo were out as well, putting their noses to good use. By that point half of Storybrooke was on the lookout and the other half was being accosted for information. Not even a trip to Mr. Gold's antique pawn shop had turned up much more than an agitated Rumpel, still fuming over what Hook had done to Belle… and then Emma had to roll her eyes. There was still one person she hadn't interrogated yet, or one place that she hadn't searched rather. Emma flipped her right blinker on with a sigh and turned towards the docks.
The sails were down for the moment but she could see the mast of the Jolly Roger from where she parked. Emma drummed her fingers on the yellow bug's steering wheel for a long moment before she finally mustered the fortitude to march up to the pirate's ship, absolutely dreading the prospect of having to face Hook, but it was about Henry and for him, she would do anything necessary.
"Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me," her son's voice half-laughed, half-sang. A quick climb of the ladder revealed Henry at the helm, swaying side to side, pretending to steer the boat across the waters with an oversized black pirate hat having fallen down low over his eyes. The captain wasn't far away. Hook reclined against the railing, clad in black leather and silver fastenings from his boots to the uplifted collar of his coat that draped about his calves and the sheath of his sword. The silver chain slung loosely around his neck shone brightly in the afternoon sunlight, its glint landing directly in her eyes and drawing an inappropriate amount of attention to the wedge of bare hairy pirate chest left exposed by the undone buttons on his blood-red shirt. He was chuckling heartily in time with her son's merriment, his deep blue eyes twinkling with genuine amusement.
"Shiver me timbers!" Henry cried out, having lifted the brim of the weathered captain's hat from where it landed on the bridge of his nose and spotted his mother, waiting with her arms crossed tightly over her chest and an impatient foot tapping away at the deck.
"That's it, lad," Hook laughed. "I'll have ya turned into a right scallywag yet." Slowly it seemed to dawn on him that Henry had stopped giggling. His eyes followed those of the boy in search of what peril had come along, and as surely as Emma had ruined her son's good time, Hook's smile drooped, dropped, and completely deflated when he spied the problem.
"Morning, beautiful," he tried in earnest, flashing a flirtatious grin full of pearly white teeth.
"Don't even start with me." Emma shut him down in a heartbeat. "You," her withering eyes landed on Henry, "you are so grounded right now."
"No 'but, mom's', kid. I trusted you to get to school on your own because you asked me to; not to run off with some two-bit pirate that you don't even know."
"Hey now." Hook moved to interrupt but another scathing glare from Emma had him zipping his lips.
"Do you have any idea how worried we were about you? Everyone is out there looking for you right now. What do you think Regina would say if she found out about this?"
"Please don't tell her," Henry pleaded.
Emma's fury subsided somewhat. The kid had his father's eyes, all chocolate brown and puppy sweet, and equally impossible to say no to. "Go to the car. We're going to have a long talk about this on the way home, but right now, I need to have a word with Hook."
Henry flickered a glance back and forth between them knowing full well what the gradual darkening of her tone meant for his day's partner in crime, but all the same he ducked his head and shuffled off for the ladder, handing Hook's hat back along the way. "Keep it," the pirate said with an assuring smile. "It looks better on you anyway."
As they both watched the boy descend and slink away from the ship, Hook produced his trusty bottle of rum from an inner coat pocket like a faithful sidekick. The tip of his silver hook sank into the cork stopper and tugged it free with an audible pop. "Don't be too hard on the lad. This wasn't his fault." He tipped the bottle to his lips and took a healthy swig under Emma's grudging gaze, offering her a drink afterwards.
"I never thought it was." She took the bottle from his hand, hesitating to take the initial sip having been exposed to Hook's idea of fine liquor once before, and prompting another half-smile from the captain.
"I was just snagging a bite to eat at the diner this morning and admiring Miss Ruby. She would make a fine wench." The corners of his smiling mouth twitched a touch higher, his expression becoming pleasantly blank for a moment as he recalled whatever scant clothing she had been wearing at the time.
"Oh yeah, Ruby's great," Emma agreed, "twenty-eight days of the month. Just watch the teeth. She likes to nibble. Things could get rough." Hook raised an eyebrow in response to the Mona Lisa smile of mystery she wore as he wasn't quite in on the lycanthropic themed joke.
"Are you feeling jealous, love? Because you know, there's always enough Captain Hook to go around."
"Just get on with the story about how you were abducting my son."
"Abducting?" he laughed. "Hardly. The little lad happened to be passing by as I was on my way out. He took one look at me and started asking if I was a pirate, and what was it like, and could he see my sword. Poor chap seemed a bit down, troubled. He said he was having a row with his mother so I took pity and showed him the ship to cheer him up."
"That wasn't your decision to make, Hook. Henry is supposed to be in school where it's safe and people know where he is. He's supposed to be learning something so that he can get good grades, and go to a good college, and so he can be better."
"Better than what? Better than me? Or better than you?" Emma rolled her eyes and knocked back a shot of the potent rum that was a lot more like turpentine as it burned a course down her throat and settled as a fireball in the pit of her stomach. She hated the way he was looking at her, as if he could read her thoughts and knew her every fear. As if she were an open book that he could read as he pleased.
"Have you ever considered that maybe the boy could use a stronger hand in his life? A sort of father figure?"
The derisive snort his thought provoked brought a secondary burn from the aged alcohol scorching through her nostrils so that Emma had to blink back an involuntary tear. "Henry already has Charming for that."
"I'm sure," Hook nodded intuitively. "He's certainly been teaching him a thing or two about swashbuckling. He has very good form." There was a fleeting smirk for something that had occurred between them before her arrival and then his gaze wandered somewhere over her shoulder into the distance. "I have to wonder though, can he really talk to Charming about anything? Can he be himself without being afraid of judgment?"
"Of course he can."
"Does Henry know that?"
"What are you getting at, Hook?"
He took his rum back from her, plunging the cork into the bottle's neck with the end of his silver hook. He was as adept with the polished instrument as he likely would have been with his own hand. But Emma was left considering that flesh and blood fingers in the place of his infamous replacement would have left the man significantly less dangerous. There were plenty of myths about fairy tale characters; she doubted that his purported ability to use the hook as an effective dagger in hand-to-hand combat was one of them.
"He's not just a boy anymore, Swan. He's a young man. Henry is too old to be treated like a child but he's not old enough to do anything about it, so he's left in a hurry to grow up. And all these dealings with curses and evil sorceresses isn't helping much, especially knowing what his mother's done in the past. He wants to help. He wants to be a hero but he doesn't know how because he's confused and feels alone. What the boy really needs is a friend."
Exactly what all did they talk about today? "And how do you know how he feels?"
"Because I was there once, love." Hook's gaze fell back on her own, unwavering. She kept waiting for that little nudge her gut would give her when she was being lied to but it never came and his intense sincerity was becoming unnerving. "Granted, it's been a while," he mumbled, scratching at his chin which was covered in a customary week's worth of stubble growth. Like a few centuries… "But I still remember the feeling.
"We have more in common than you know. I never knew my father either, or my real mother for that matter. But I was raised by nobility in a so-called polite society and stuffed into one those 'good' schools that you want for Henry so desperately, without a soul that I could be myself around or that could understand what I really was."
A deviant? "And we all know how that turned out."
A less enthusiastic smirk appeared briefly. "I've seen the same thing in the lost boys. I see it in you, and I see the start of it in Henry."
"I'm not listening to this anymore. This conversation is over." Emma fished out a pair of handcuffs and proceeded to bind Hook's wrists together behind his back. "You're under arrest."
"On what charges?" he laughed.
"How about contributing to the delinquency of a minor?" She turned and kicked a bucket of spare rope over the side of the deck so that it splashed into the harbor waters below. "And littering. And whatever else I can make up by the time we get back to the station."
"You really have a fetish for bondage, don't you, love?"
"Only when it comes to you." Emma stopped dead in her tracks knowing that she had said the most wrong thing she could have in their situation when Hook began to laugh. She really hadn't meant it the way it sounded aloud. The words had held an entirely different meaning in her head.
"I would much prefer if it was you being tied up but if this is what you fancy…"
"That came out wrong. I didn't mean it like that."
"I'm not judging," Hook chuckled. "I don't mind playing rough, love." He shot her with a disgusting wink that made her already scalding stomach lurch and laughed even harder at the sight of the rosy flush of frustration coloring her pale cheeks.
"You are such a pig," Emma groaned. "And stop calling me 'love'. You don't love me and I definitely do not love you."
"Is it really so hard for you to believe that someone might care about you?" His expression had regained a serious composure, those stormy blues settling on her to analyze every minute detail, and reading into her with an uncomfortable accuracy. "I see now. You were abandoned and you had to do questionable things to survive so no one could ever possibly love you. You don't think you deserve it."
"Don't look at me like that."
"And now you're afraid to get too close to anyone because they might see that and leave you all over again." Hook took a step closer so that Emma was forced to give her ground to maintain the space between them. "And you're afraid of that for Henry too." He took another step towards her and she retreated once more. "You're afraid that he's going to be left behind because you left him, because you were left."
Her back hit the railing of the Jolly Roger's upper deck. Even with his hands cuffed, Hook struck an imposing figure as he bored down on her. His irises were like cold flames as they clashed with hers for dominance. A bead of sweat rolled down the slope of his neck to glisten among the dark strands of hair decorating his heaving chest.
"Don't act like you know anything about me or my son," Emma sneered.
"Don't I though?" Like I said, an open book. "Tell me I'm wrong." He really had no right to be standing as close to her as he was in that moment. Hook loomed before her, practically chest to chest, as much of a larger than life character as he had always been in the books she had read as a child. The heat from his body radiated outward to meet hers, their noses a hair's breadth from touching; and his command that came across as much more of a personal challenge rumbled down her spine sinfully.
"What was his name?" His question caught her off-guard for a second while she was distracted by their dangerous proximity or mesmerized perhaps by the hypnotic quality of being in such an intimate position with her adversary.
"The man that hurt you so much. The one that will never let you trust another again."
"I don't know what you're talking about. Not that it would be any of your business if there was someone like that."
"Now who's the liar?" he smirked, the deep vibrations of his voice pressing her heart to beat faster by the minute.
"Neal. His name was Neal." Why did I tell him that? Why in the hell are we even having this conversation?
"Henry's father I presume." Emma gave him a mute nod in affirmation of his suspicion. "Well in case you've forgotten, my name is Killian, and I am not him."
She swallowed hard, couldn't help it really. Not when his eyes were drifting from hers to the plump curves of her lips. Surely it was the rum pulsing a steady course through her veins that was causing her head to swim as it did.
"But you betrayed me just as badly."
"You're still on about that." Hook pulled away with a sigh that sounded more like a grunt and turned his back to her, those captivating eyes that had held hers prisoner only a breath before wandering out to the open sea they resembled so that she couldn't witness what they were hiding. "Need I remind you that you betrayed me first?"
"I couldn't trust you."
"Yes, you could have. My interest was in harming Rumpelstiltskin, not you."
"I couldn't have known that."
"I told you as much." Hook turned on his heel to face her, their eyes instantly meeting and locking in place as before. "You pride yourself on being able to spot falsehoods when they're offered to you. Have I told you a lie?"
Emma tore her gaze from his, landing near her feet when she couldn't force herself to answer. "You're a pirate, Hook. You're not exactly known for being an honorable man."
Hook's eyes narrowed with a hint of wrath but waxed open again, some sudden epiphany being formed from something in her words. Emma had told him, as she was leaving him behind with the beanstalk giant, that she couldn't take the chance on being wrong about him—-words that were more reflective than they had been intended to be. "I remind you of him, don't I?"
It was Emma's turn to face the horizon away from him. How was it that she could be so transparent to someone like Hook when those closest to her didn't see anything beyond the walls that shielded her? Conmen, both of them, pirates with silver tongues and smiles like that of a pied piper, their pride in what they could plunder. The only difference really, was that Neal captained a little yellow, stolen VW bug instead of a flamboyant ship. Otherwise they both had a talent for seeing right through her and threatening to sneak away with her weak heart as thieves in the night the way no one else could.
"You're always keen on calling me a pirate, well, if there's one thing that pirates know when they see, it's treasure. We never forget about our treasures, and we certainly don't abandon them or leave them behind. We keep them close to our hearts, and we protect them with our lives if we have to."
It wasn't entirely lost on Emma when his remaining hand, suddenly free from her handcuffs, took a modest possession of her shoulder. Strong fingers kneaded the tense muscles around her back and neck almost absentmindedly as he spoke, his lips ghosting over the shell of her ear with every syllable.
"I loved Milah for eight years. I loved her faithfully with all of my black little heart right up until she died in my arms, and if the crocodile hadn't crushed hers in front of my eyes, I would have happily loved her for the rest of my life. And I've spent over three hundred years waiting for the chance to avenge her death because that kind of love never dies." A swooping set of digits raked a rogue lock of hair back behind her ear where it belonged. "I'm not the kind of man to give up on my treasures."
Hook's right hand appeared in front of her face against the backdrop of a late afternoon sky. Streaks of brilliant oranges and reds fanned out across the edges of the world where the sun was descending towards its night's resting place in the cradle of the universe. The fork of his thumb and forefinger lined up with the first encroaching stars to appear among those that made up the creamy band of the Milky Way.
"Second star to the right and straight on 'til morning," he whispered to her in a voice so low that had there been another body listening, only she would have heard. "I could take you there, and we could bring Henry with us. To a land where we never have to get sick or grow old, where the adventure never has to end if you don't want it to.
"I can show you the clearest, most beautiful blue lagoons and flying pink flamingos. I can take you to enchanted waterfalls that come alive with thousands of fairies that twinkle in the night like stars you can reach out and touch."
Emma's eyelids wilted, fluttered, and closed all of their own accord. The gentle rocking of the ship beneath her feet lulled them from side to side just as entrancing as a mother's rhythmic lullaby. A spell was cast with Hook's warmth enveloping her, his rough fingertips blazing a trail up and down the sensitive inside of her arm, his touch softer than she had ever expected it could be, the brine of the sea in her nose and his rich vocals humming down her neck and into the hollow of her ribs. She was transported to another world in her imagination where the colors were always bursting, the characters vibrant, and the possibilities endless.
"There are double rainbows that stretch farther than the eye can see or a ship can sail. There are moons and suns that never sleep, and trees that we can climb far above the clouds. There are jungles to discover and beaches of white sands purer than diamonds where the waves crest over the spines of the most brilliant coral reefs you'll ever know. I can take you to swim with the mermaids in the depths of the oceans, or we can visit the Indian chief and dance to the beat of the native drums until the fire's embers burn out. You'll have to excuse me though if I avoid the princess. We had a bit of a falling out some years ago." She could feel his smile in the chafe of a stubbly cheek that brushed against her own and hear the humor in his tone.
"Or we could watch Henry cross swords with the lost boys. You could become the pirate queen, and your son, our prince."
Wasn't that what she had always wanted? A handsome, charming, albeit enigmatic man to come rescue her from the tragedy that was her life and whisk them off to some paradise far, far away? Wasn't that basically what Neal had promised her all those years ago? It was something out of a fairytale.
On the fringes of her awareness, Emma heard the high-pitched trilling of her cellphone but it sounded so far away, beyond the tangled web of her muddled thoughts. Deftly, Hook plucked the device from her pocket and flung it over his shoulder to land in the water with a small plop. Before a heart's beat of a pause, his hand was back where it had been, tiptoeing and the blunt edges of his nails lightly skimming over the skin of her neck until he could capture her jaw. The scrape of coarse whiskers against her cheek heralded something like a nuzzling sensation just a moment before Emma ultimately snapped out of her reverie.
"Fairytale endings," she mumbled to herself. "With Captain Hook." Lord of the pirates, scourge of the Neverland seas, efficiently ruthless and a brutal cutthroat. Her sudden explosion of hysterical laughter effectively blew the metaphorical wind right out of his sails, carving a deep frown where his impish grin had previously been and visibly souring the mood.
"I gave Henry up to give him his best chance in this life; not so he could be raised by pirates."
"We're back to the pirate thing? Really, love?"
"And stop calling me 'love'! It's creepy." Her exasperated voice was on the verge of cracking, somewhere between giggling like a schoolgirl and sobbing for just how ridiculous the scenario was.
"Whatever you wish, darling," Hook smoldered. "If you're so intent on keeping the boy away from pirates, then why did you decide to stay?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"You know the sound of a lie because you, my dear, are a liar. You're always watching to see what I'm going to steal because you're a thief. And you always expect betrayal because you know there's no such thing as honor among thieves." He crossed his arms, a smug, if not vindictive smirk lifting the corner of his mouth. "Maybe I can't lie to you, but you can't fool me either. It takes a pirate to know a pirate."
"I changed," Emma snapped back at him. "I'm not that person anymore."
"Could have fooled me, darling."
"You're a bad influence."
"Happy to be so." Hook's grin took on a more devious nature, reminiscent of what she imagined a shark would look like in the moment before its jaws opened wide to swallow floundering prey. "We both know that you can't lie to yourself either, Swan. And I might very well be the only person that you can truly be yourself around without having to fear judgment or repercussion."
A growl of frustration escaped her pursed lips. He had to be the most maddening man she had ever met and his incessant narcissistic smirking left her in a peculiar dilemma as to whether forcibly kissing him senseless or slapping him across the face with all her might was a more attractive option.
"Why me?" she groaned. "There are plenty of other… fairytale women that you could be tormenting right now." Like Ruby. I hope she bites you in the ass. "I got over my bad boy issues a long time ago, buddy, and I am never doing that again."
"Well, it's a good thing that I'm a gentleman then." Slapping him was sounding better all the time. Maybe with another compass. Those things had a good amount of weight to them.
"As for why I chose you, what man wouldn't? You're beautiful, especially when you're angry with me. You're brave, you know how to use a sword, you never stop fighting for the people you love, and you've got fire inside of you. I've gone lifetimes without seeing another person so alive." Hook brought the tip of a finger to the center of her chest, lightly pointing to the space above her pulse. "And you've got a heart that's too strong to be taken. Why wouldn't I want that?"
Oh my God… As surely as Hook reminded her of Neal, turnabout was fair play, and Emma found herself being cast as his imagined replacement for Milah. Another iron maiden that he could woo with his unrivaled tenacity and stand by his side as they ventured the high seas together. But that time around, he had found a treasure more valuable than long buried chests of gold doubloons or secret stashes of sapphires and rubies. He had found a woman that could not be broken, and he wasn't about to make the mistake of leaving her son behind a second time.
"I suppose trust begets trust," he drawled on, though much more sadly. "So I'll let you in on a little secret of mine."
Emma shook her head, trying to push him away. She didn't want to hear whatever was coming. She didn't want to know him or his secrets or anymore demons that he could have been hiding. She didn't want to get close enough to the man to risk letting him get any closer to her than he already was. Those roads only ever lead to pain and grief. But Hook was nothing if not persistent.
"Milah was carrying my child at the time of her death. A son, I liked to think." Only the internal screaming whistle of blood pressure in her ears could interrupt the thundering drumming of her heartbeat, all the rest of the world was blotted out by her counterpart's melancholy. "I could have been a good father, Swan. You're not the only one that can find redemption."
Like the constant push and pull relationship of the moon and the fickle tide, Emma had nudged Hook backward enough with her resistance that it became his back up against the helm's wheel. Had he not seized her arms in the struggle she would have already darted away as her most prominent thoughts demanded whenever the tenuous balance between them shifted. Run. Protect yourself. A survival instinct perhaps, developed after past emotional misgivings had left her heart permanently scarred. Hook might have been ready to reveal his vulnerabilities but she wasn't. Not with him. There was always that voice in the back of her mind that questioned what ulterior motives he could have.
Really, he only the one hand to clutch her with. The other arm was merely experiencing the ghost of a memory, her imagination conjuring a hand where there should have been but wasn't. Instead, the cool metal of his hook pressed against the smooth leather of her jacket and Emma found herself fleetingly wondering what he felt when he touched with it. If she put up a fight he would have no choice but to let her go. However, besting Hook wasn't about their physical tug of war.
"I think I need a drink."
He didn't smile but a hint of the old twinkle in his eyes pierced through the veil of loneliness he was looking at her with. "Finally, something we can both agree on."
Hook released her to reach for the friendly bottle of rum he kept close by only to come up empty handed. A quiet metallic clicking sounded and his pained blues flashed upwards to meet hers again knowing exactly what she had done. The handcuffs that had continued to dangle from the wrist of his hook hand found themselves reattached to the helm of his ship, effectively making him a prisoner on his own vessel. It hadn't taken him long to figure out how to pick the lock with the tip of his hook earlier, but doing it without his most valuable tool at his disposal was going to be a great deal more difficult.
"I guess you're right. Maybe I am a pirate after all." Emma took a step back with his pickpocketed rum in hand.
"Like I said, an open book." She was going to earn his ire for doing it but Emma had to walk away. "Swan, wait." She paused at the top of the ship's ladder to listen. "I would appreciate it if we could keep this between us, what I told you. I don't want to give the crocodile the satisfaction of knowing he took more from me than he already thinks he has."
"Your secret's safe with me," she promised.
"Swan," he called to her one more time before Emma disappeared down the ladder. "Maybe you shouldn't mention this meeting to Snow either. I don't much fancy the idea of getting an arrow in my favorite nether parts."
"I think I can do that much."
"You know I'm going to get you back for this." Hook continued to shout after her as Emma left him, shackled, again.
"Call it even because you owe me a new phone. Goodnight, Killian," she laughed from somewhere beyond his view.
"Goodnight, Emma, love." Hook gave his tethered wrist a futile tug. "Bloody hell," he sighed, at least grateful that she hadn't entirely left him for dead that time around.
"She'll be back." He tugged again on the solid wood of the helm, fishing in another pocket for something helpful. A bronze star with the title of sheriff engraved in the center was twirled about in his fingers for a moment until the spring cache of the fastening on its back popped open. Hook examined the tiny pin in the fading light of the sun and then went about the task of picking the handcuff's lock, his grin growing wider with every passing minute. "She will most certainly be back."