Happy St. Patrick's Day everybody! Enjoy the chapter and the new episode of Once!
I don't own anything you recognize.
Hook ducked sideways, taking momentary shelter behind a wall. "If you wanted to kill me so badly love, you should have done so when we both had swords!"
Emma didn't reply, couldn't. There was magic inside her that she had never known about, and it was making its presence thoroughly known now, bubbling and hissing and spitting like the volcano Mary Margaret's class had made, trying to escape.
It was succeeding.
Desperately, she tried to plug it up, push it back down to wherever it had been hiding before now, casting a frantic glance at the shapes loping rapidly toward them across the horizon. Another cry, something between a screech and a howl, echoed toward them as the magic fought through what small effort she had made, blowing a crater in the ground in an explosion of light.
Fingers latched onto her wrist while the dust was still settling and Hook yanked her after him into the remains of what must have once been a town. She didn't miss the way he flinched and cursed when he took hold of her skin and guessed the magic was making things less than comfortable for him as well.
She pulled her wrist out of his hold in time for another explosion of the magic to force its way out of her, leaving her doubled over trying to catch her breath and Hook coughing violently.
"Bloody hell lass," he choked, "are you trying to kill us?"
She was going get him killed.
Bad things happened to everyone who got close to her, if they stuck around long enough for that. Even when they weren't trying to get close, just being in her company seemed enough.
She straightened up and turned her back on him. Two steps later, steel looped around her wrist and she was whirled around. "Where do you think you're going?"
"I thought I was going to kill you?" she shot back, fighting the urge to double over again as the magic licked up her insides and boiled out, causing another explosion like a firecracker, "Why don't you save yourself the trouble and just let me go?"
"Not bloody likely," Hook snarled, "right now, whether I like it or not, you are my best chance at getting to Storybrooke and my revenge."
The calls were coming closer, becoming distinct and splitting off. Soon they would be surrounded, and she was only sending up flares. Emma tried again to wad the magic up and shove it back down into whatever little hidey-hole it had been in before. Hook yanked them sideways into an alley that provided some modicum of cover as the magic unfurled from her containment attempt in a hiss and shower of sparks.
"They're going to find us if you keep that up, love," he murmured in her ear, and Emma couldn't fight back the shiver that went through her.
"I can't," she whispered back, "I can't make it stop."
It was true. The magic was a bubbling mess inside her, and whenever she tried to shut it down, batten down the hatches, cover it up, whatever, it slipped through her fingers and poured out faster, twenty-eight years worth of suppressed magic leaking out all at once.
The cool metal of the hook made her startle as the pirate slid it under her chin. "You can't out-think it, darling," he admonished, "It's an instinctive thing. Stop thinking."
"And how do I do that?" Emma demanded, wishing desperately she could see whether the creatures were getting close.
Without further preamble, Hook kissed her.
A different sort of magic flooded her, drowning out the stuff trying to claw its way out. If the previous magic had been a volcano, this was a hurricane, an unrestrained storm that ignored all her walls and set off showers of sparks everywhere he touched her. For a moment, she floundered, trying to keep track of both, but then he tugged her tighter to him and wound his fingers in her hair and Emma gave in, looped her arms around his neck, and kissed him back.
"See?" Killian asked when they broke apart, and she was gratified to hear his breathing was as uneven as hers. "You just have to stop thinking."
The magic flared contently when he tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, leaving a trail of tingling sparks in the wake of his touch. She would never admit it aloud, but he was right. When she stopped fighting it, trying to make it fit into her view of the world and simply accepted it, the magic was content to stop its storming. It felt like the ocean, as ironic as that was considering who she was with, settled into gentle waves.
Movement at the end of the alley caught her eye and Emma dragged herself out of the urge to fist a hand in his hair and tug him back to see what it was.
One of the creatures had found them, and was stalking closer.
It was bald, leathery skin stretched over four stout, awkward limbs and a low-lying body with four heads, all slithering around each other, necks rising to be taller than she was. It was something between dog and lizard and feline and all unnatural, lips parting back to reveal deathly sharp teeth beneath as it hissed.
She flung out a hand in a protective impulse, throwing desperation and anger at the closest face. The quick fireball blew up in its eyes and it skittered back, throwing up a hissing howl as it swiped a claw blindly into the alley. She grabbed at Killian and shoved him ahead of her, sprinting for the other side of the alley and praying it wasn't a dead end.
It terminated in a blank wall, narrow passages branching in both directions. Killian yanked her down one of them, dragging her along while the creature screed out a call behind them.
"Where are we going?" Emma panted as they emerged into a street again and the pirate took off.
He pointed to large round building that she had been too distracted by the magic to notice before. It rose up a good three stories above the street, dominating its neighbors, still intact as far as she could make out, though with all the arches in the architecture it was difficult to say.
Hot panting to the side gave her just enough warning to screech to a halt, pulling Killian with her and a creature barreled past. They weren't extremely agile, and it skittered after them in a loping sort of run, one head rearing back in an ugly screech. It was answered by more cries on either side, and Emma ran a bit faster.
She had a knife still tucked into her boot and Killian had his hook, but neither weapon would be much good against more than one of these things.
"We've got company," she warned, darting into an alcove for an instant to let another of the creatures go lumbering by. She took advantage of the short break to fish the knife out of her boot before straightening up.
"I'm aware of that darling," Killian yelled back. They fell into step again, getting closer to the big round building in a winding route that left the less mobile creatures just barely missing each time.
Abruptly, she looked up and they were there. Great double doors were hanging barely open. Emma burst on another burst of speed, forcing tired legs to go just a little bit farther. Killian slipped through behind her and tugged her down a hallway. His hook flashed out just before they burst into sunlight again and a metal gate slammed down after them with a resounding clang.
Emma bent over, resting her hands on her knees as she caught her breath. They were in standing in a round sand pit with sheer walls rising around, broken at intervals by more tunnels like the one they just came out of. A ways up, the walls fell back into wide stairs.
"That should buy us some time," the pirate said, straightening up.
"Time for what?" Emma asked.
"I've got a..." his hand went up to the chains around his neck and the pirate paused mid-sentence, "The sodding witch stole it!" he burst out.
"Stole what?" she asked, rounding the arena for the next tunnel. She was hoping one of them would lead to weapons or something else she could use to defend them.
"The magic bean," Hook snarled, "the one I compared you to."
Emma flashed him a look over her shoulder, moving onto the next tunnel. "Very romantic, that."
"Well, Cora was standing right there love," he pointed out, mimicking her actions of checking tunnels, "I could hardly reveal my back-up plan."
She whirled to face him. "That was a back-up plan?" They were on opposite ends of the arena now, and his reply echoed against the stone walls.
"I felt it necessary to have something, in case you lovelies succeeded or Cora betrayed me," Hook answered, "restoring a piece of magic is a fair sight easier than creating one."
They met again at the far side of the circle, and Emma peered into one last tunnel. "So what was your brilliant plan to restore it?"
"I hadn't quite worked that bit out yet," the pirate confessed.
A flicker of something too small to be one of the creatures caught her eye at the top of the wall and she took a few steps back to see better. "Hey!"
There were shimmers, like distinct heat hazes, at the edge of the stairs between the section that was partitioned off. "Hey!" Emma called up.
Hey? the voice, not seeming to have a distinct source, was groggy, like someone who'd just been woken What in the name of the River Styx is that supposed to mean?
Calm Father, the second voice was female, and sharper, more alert, the girl intends it as a greeting.
Apologies little mortals she said, addressing them now, we were not aware there were any left here.
Why should we apologize? demanded a third voice, male again, Look Thena, you and I can have adventures again. We take the mortals and give the beasts a challenge such as they have never faced before!
Emma took a step closer to Hook, weighing their chances against the things she'd woken versus the things outside and whether she could make a break for it. The pirate glanced at her and stepped closer. "Emma, what did you do?" he hissed.
She woke us the voice was commanding, and female, but not the other female, who had fallen quiet.
"Who are you?" Hook demanded.
Without warning, one of the hazes broke away, moving down the wall to stop in front of the pirate. I am Ares, god of war, and you, puny mortal, will serve me well as a host.
The magic flared inside her, and Emma threw it out without thought. It passed straight through the place where the shimmer had been as Hook went rigid.
Something hot brushed against her and Emma turned, already swinging. The haze went down as though the thing it contained had ducked, and the heat rested against both her upper arms. Listen to me! it was the female they had heard, speaking evenly and clearly, They still fear us, but even now the creatures are creeping in.
As though to underscore the words, there was a hissing coming from the tunnels that got only louder as the seconds passed.
You will not stand a chance against them alone it was a fact, not a threat, and I can do nothing without a body. Will you let me help you?
"Do I have another choice?" Emma asked.
Not a desirable one the voice said you could try and open a portal before they get here, but with your lack of experience, you would fail.
"Fine," the blonde agreed, "but I want my body back when all this is done."
The shimmer disappeared from her sight and Emma shivered. For all the heat that the hazy figure had produced, it was a chill in her mind, a careful meld.
Athena brushed the sand off her hands and straightened up. Ares was being his usual unthinking male self and attempting to force his way into the mortal's body. She could see what the war-god could not, that the pirate was far older than he appeared, enough to keep her sometime-lover at bay.
"Lover?" Emma chimed in in the back of her mind, "I remember you being siblings or something like that."
A wry smile twisted Athena's lips. "Do you believe everything you read?" she asked aloud.
Hook looked quickly over at her, and she could see Ares battling for dominance behind those blue eyes as the first of the hydras broke free of their fear and charged at them.
Athena snatched the male's wrist and dragged his aside, raising a hand as she did so. It had taken her a long time to be able to use magic, her rational mind rebelling against it, but she had decades of practice and the fireball formed in her palm almost instantly.
She took in the color, filed it away for later contemplation, and cast a ring around them. It would hold the hydras for only as long as they were awed by the sudden display, so she quickly turned to her companion.
"Hook," she fished through Emma's memories for his name and corrected herself, "Killian." Shock crossed his face at the word, but there would be time for that later. "Stop fighting Ares. I need you to hold back the hydras long enough for me to create a portal. He knows best how to fight them."
She saw the exact moment Emma's pirate gave in ("He's not my pirate" Emma protested in the back of her head, but the goddess ignored the girl's denials) and her violent war-god surfaced. His lips twisted in a smile she recognized, one that meant there was about to be bloodshed.
"Always a pleasure to fight with you Thena," Ares greeted. He lifted the hook, examining the sharp edge with a nod of approval.
She summoned the sword waiting up with the others ("So that's where it was" Emma huffed) and pressed it into his hands. "You as well."
He charged through the ring of white flames at the same moment she dispelled them and engaged the first hydra, dancing sideways with a laugh and slicing his sword through the first neck that got too close. A well-placed fireball prevented two more heads from forming from the stump and she bent to her work.
She had to keep stopping to blast fire as Ares sliced through the almost-dragons, needing to stop completely as a hydra stepped on the designs she had been melting into the sandy floor. Athena melted a spearful of sand into glass and stabbed it in the heart, then flitted across the arena to stand back to back with Ares.
He flashed her a grin as he fended off sharp teeth. "I told you we make quite the team."
"Hook said that to Emma," Athena corrected, slipping one of the beasts into another with a well-placed spell. (She answered Emma's shocked "how?" with "he has access to Hook's memories, as I have access to yours, and yes, I know what you were dreaming while Snow was cavorting in the netherworld.")
"Isn't that close enough?" he asked.
The hydras were starting to back off as their numbers thinned, remembering their fear of the beings who made this place their base. Athena exploded a fire wall in front of them to encourage further retreat and turned to the task of creating a portal, not answering Ares' question.
After a few moments uninterrupted work, the glass designs had been traced over and run through with enough magic to make it work. She couldn't send them back to Storybrooke, as she explained to Emma, but she could send them to someone who might be able to help them.
All too soon, if you listened to Ares, Athena straightened up and sent the final jolt of magic through the runes. While she was waiting for that to take effect and Ares was dealing with the last couple of hydras brave enough to show their faces, Athena turned inward.
"I've a gift for you," she told the girl.
"What sort of gift?" Emma asked.
For answer, Athena reached forward into the space above the portal where the fabric between worlds was already thin, feeling Emma's disbelief as the mortal watched her own hand disappear into thin air. She pulled it back with something slender and wooden tucked between her fingers. "It was given to your mother and left in the Enchanted Forest with the curse," the goddess explained, "blow it if you need help."
Then Athena wrenched herself away, leaving Emma standing by an open portal with what looked to be a whistle clutched in her hand. She tucked it away into a pocket and turned. "Hook!" she called.
The pirate turned and, with Athena's presence still fading, she saw when Ares too yanked himself away. Hook raced across the sand, casting a glance over his shoulder at the creatures who were beginning to gather themselves for another charge.
"Onward into the unknown, darling?" he asked, offering his hand.
Emma took it, but only so they wouldn't get separated and lost in the space between worlds, and nodded.
They jumped, and the darkness welcomed them like old friends.
Henry, eager to escape his math homework, leapt up at the knock on the door and ran to get it. Snow and James were supposed to have been back from the grocery store fifteen minutes ago, but since the curse had broken there was always somebody who wanted to talk to one or both of the pair. They had become the unofficial leaders of the town and as such had to deal with all the problems.
"Snow, what's three-fifths times two-sev..." Henry trailed off. The woman on the side had red hair so dark as to be almost brown, pulled up in an elegant bun atop regal features. Her dress, covered in blue sparkles, would have fit in perfectly with a page out of his book, but stood out like a sore thumb here.
"You must be Henry," said the woman on the other side of the door. When he tried to slam it shut, she extended a hand, and he ran into an invisible force. "My daughter will be so glad to see you."
Henry pulled in a breath to scream, but the world dissolved in purple smoke before he could make a sound.
Nobody figured it out, but the hint in the last chapter was a quote from Percy Jackson and The Sea of Monsters. Hermes(talking about the Olympians): "Families are messy. Immortal families are eternally messy. Sometimes the best we can do is remind each other that we're related for better or for worse... and try and keep the maiming and killing to a minimum." Hey, if Adam and Eddy can play with fairytales, I can play with Greek mythology.
Your hint for where Athena sent them is: "It's all grand! And it's all green!" Anybody who figures out the location and the quote may prompt me something they'd like to see happen.
Um, about Henry. It was supposed to be Jefferson on the other side of the door, but Cora decided she wanted to show up instead. The review box doubles as a location for death threats! *runs and hides*