Notes: Since I sincerely doubt we'll be shown how Hook gets back from New York I thought I'd write my version. It's nothing particularly exciting, and if you're looking for Hook/Emma interaction you won't get it here. This is just a little peek inside Hook's head as he deals with the aftermath of his confrontation with Gold and the uncertainty of his future at this point.
(If you're wearing your Official Captain Swan Shipping Goggles™, there's plenty here to enjoy, though.)
Beta'd by Peaceheather (and Wolfie)
Insert standard disclaimer here: not my property. Just writing for fun and amusement.
Time and Tide
Killian comes to consciousness like a man swimming up from the depths of some black lagoon.
If he's going to be honest—which tends to be far more often than most realize—he doesn't really want to be conscious. He's faintly certain that the Indian tribe that is pounding war drums in his skull has nothing to do with rum. Rum is a friend. Centuries of imbibing the stuff has given him a nearly inhuman tolerance for drinking alcohol of any sort and it's been decades since he last drank himself into a complete stupor.
It isn't until he attempts to feel for new lumps on his skull and finds his arm—once again—shackled to something, that memory comes roaring back.
He'd slammed through the door of the building, shoved whoever was in his path out of the way, and paused for just a moment to savor the look of pure, unadulterated fear on Rumpelstiltskin's oh-so-vulnerably human face. He'd been inches away from skinning the bastard and making himself a new pair of boots. There had been blood on his hook.
Then there was a great big gaping chasm full of pain, although the brief glimpse he'd caught of golden hair and the fact that he is tied to something, leads him to only one conclusion: Emma Bloody Swan has derailed his plans once more.
Hook is suddenly blindingly furious. He staggers to his feet and tugs at whatever is trapping his wrist. For once it's not an actual metal shackle; she's tied him off to some metal contraption with a length of thin, white rope. It would be easy enough to shred with his hook—except that she's taken that, too. This realization sends him completely over the edge, and a few seconds later he's free—if a bit more battered and bleeding than before—and suddenly reminded that his ribs haven't fully healed yet.
He has no idea where he is; there's little light—only a single bare bulb with fire caught inside such as he's seen everywhere since arriving in this land. The metal contraption he'd been tied to is broken now and gives him no clues as to what its purpose might have been. His erstwhile prison smells of damp and rust, which is as familiar as home.
His gaze lands on something on the floor: a white sheet of paper with his name written on it in a hasty scrawl. He snatches it up and realizes that it's an envelope, actually. It looks as though it's been appropriated from someone else; there's another name and what seems to be an address printed on it, but it's been crossed out, and the top is torn open already. It strikes him as unintentionally considerate, since he'd have had trouble opening it using only his teeth. Inside there is a wad of green paper that smells like money—filthy and fondled by many hands even if it doesn't have the distinctive perfume of gold. There's also a note.
Sorry about your head. And your ship. Not so sorry about your hook. - Swan
Once more he loses his temper, swearing and lashing out at anything that looks likely to break. Robbed. He's been robbed in more ways than one. Robbed of the killing blow, robbed of his vengeance and now robbed of his hook and his ship? It's nearly too much to bear. To have fought for so long, to have come so far, only to be brought up short at the end? That the poison his hook was coated in would be enough to kill the Crocodile was little consolation. He'd wanted to watch him suffer, wanted to watch the fear on his face as death came for the slimy imp at last. Wanted to know that he'd killed the Dark One without becoming him, and that Milah would finally, finally be avenged.
But now, now he knows nothing except that Emma Swan is the savior of their land and if anyone could possibly find a way to cure the incurable it would be her. They'd taken his ship back, he knows that much, too. It's the fastest way back to Storybrooke and with the poison eating its way toward the Crocodile's heart it would be their best bet. He has no idea how much time has passed. Has the Crocodile succumbed? Been saved?
There's no way to know, stuck here in this foreign world, alone, without even the familiarity of his ship to get him where he needs to go.
He kicks aside the debris his fury left behind and locates the envelope again and the thick wad of money. She'd left him with something, at least. With this he could, perhaps, make it back.
But not in time. For once, Captain Hook is completely out of time.
There are stairs in the corner and a door at the top that opens into the entry hall of the building. She hadn't moved him far, it seems. He pauses at the iron grate and notes that there are droplets of blood there, leading past him and up the stairs. Curious, Hook follows them up three flights, only to lose them at the landing where they fell onto a shabby carpet. Still, Hook hasn't been hunting a Crocodile for this long without picking up a few tricks: there are only a few doors along the hallway, and of those doors, only one has a smudge of blood near the handle. It's locked, of course, but Killian is prepared for this. He fishes a metal pick out of one of his many pockets, and jimmies the lock one-handed in three seconds flat. The deadbolt only takes a couple of seconds more, and then he's in.
The scent of blood lingers in the little room, layered on top of smoke and sweat and the stench of the Crocodile's slimy cologne. Hook takes in everything, his eyes noting the details of the room and discarding much of it as unimportant—right up until his gaze lands on a framed portrait sitting atop a dresser. The image is small, but the details are realistically perfect. He ignores the woman and studies instead the features of the man: there's something familiar here and Hook knows that he's seen this man before, somewhere else. The look in his eyes: this is a Lost Boy, perhaps the most lost of them all, all grown up now.
Hook turns back to the room and studies it again, this time with a sharper gaze. The Crocodile had been looking for his son. His son was a lost boy. Fate has a fickle sense of humor—he'd had Croc bait under his nose for ages and hadn't even known it.
Still, the room tells him little that he wants to know. Right now all he wants to know is if Rumpelstiltskin is dead, and the only way to know that is to get back to Storybrooke.
Killian catches a glimpse of himself in a mirror. He's bruised and bloody, and his leathers are beginning to look a little worse for wear. He knows he stands out a bit, in the crowd—his trek from the docks to this place had taught him that much, but before he'd been so intent on the end of his quest that he hadn't bothered to care. Now, however, he is stuck here and will be forced to deal with people to find his way back. It would be better, perhaps, to blend in.
He finds the bedroom and a wardrobe, ransacks the drawers. The garments within are awful, but he manages to locate a pair of denim trousers that fit well enough, and a soft shirt and black sweater that he can navigate into one-handed. He leaves his boots on, but lets the trouser legs hang over them like he'd seen others do. Further searching turns up a coat that he doesn't loathe on sight and it takes him a few minutes to transfer the myriad small items that he always carries on his person to his pilfered clothes. In the closet he discovers a satchel of sorts, and he dumps out the contents on the bed and lovingly folds his own garments inside it as best he can without the aid of his hook.
The money he tucks away securely, hidden from pickpockets and cut-purses. He's not sure of the amount she's given him, though he'd seen the numbers printed in the corners of each bill. It seems a decent amount, except that he has no idea of what anything actually costs.
Not that that would be a problem. If there's anything Killian Jones is truly good at, aside from hunting Crocodiles, it's the acquisition of money. One lesson he'd learned early in life: it was easy enough to get more, if you weren't too picky about how you got it.
Though tempted, he takes nothing else. He's wasted too much bloody time unconscious already.
He leaves the way he came in, sauntering back out onto the street with his left arm tucked into his coat pocket. Then he walks back toward the docks, even though he knows that his ship is long gone. It had been quite a job finding this place to begin with, like locating a single fish in the midst of a vast ocean. The docks are miles away, his head is still throbbing and his ribs hurt. It will be a long, long walk.
Killian has not survived as long as he has by being a stupid man, however. There are things he knows about traveling in unfamiliar lands, no matter what world you might find yourself in: keep your eyes and ears open, pay attention to the way people move, how they convey themselves from place to place.
In Storybrooke, whilst Cora had been popping off in puffs of smoke to make mischief, Killian had occupied himself by studying the town from the relative safety of the rooftops. He'd watched and he'd listened, studying more than just the quaint looking little shop where the Crocodile had made himself a nest. Unlike Cora, who had been as like to chalk up the wonders of machinery to magic, Killian understood about cars and the basic mechanics of how they worked—though he had yet to attempt driving one.
(He also understood that it hurt a great deal when one hit you. That, he admitted privately to himself, had not been one of his smarter moments.)
However, this city is ten times larger than Storybrooke, possibly even a hundred times larger, and it's crawling with the blasted things. As he strolls down the sidewalk he notes that there are an overabundance of yellow cars, packed arse to nose up and down the street. Every so often one pulls up and disgorges its passengers, who then pass paper money or a card of some sort to the driver. Sometimes someone gets in the moment someone else gets out—hired conveyances then.
Killian considers the money he has tucked away. He listens to the people talking around him, the multitude of languages and dialects. Some of them talk to each other, others talk into little boxes they hold close to their ears. He absorbs bits and pieces of it all, and finally, after some inner debate, when a yellow car labeled "Taxi" pulls up and a man gets out, Killian grabs the door before he can shut it and slides in.
"Where to?" the driver asks.
Killian leans forward and smiles his least threatening smile, "How much to get to Maine?"
The driver snorts and eyes him in the mirror mounted to the front window. The car smells of stale sweat, alcohol, fried food, smoke and a peculiar stench that he associates with his crew after six months at sea. There are signs up everywhere, covered in warnings and rules. "More than I bet you've got, buddy. You want the bus station or the airport?"
"How about the docks?"
"Can do," says the driver, and then they lurch into traffic and Killian tries his best to look unconcerned at the way they seem to careen into spaces that are surely too small for the car to fit, fighting for dominance on the road as if they are sharks tearing into prey. Instead he studies the car: particularly all the signs, the cage between himself and the driver, the little black box with a display that says "fare" and a number ticking steadily up. Surreptitiously Killian fishes the money out from where he's hidden it: tucked between his skin and the cupped mount for his hook. After eyeing the black box again he counts out some of it, then stashes the rest in its hiding place.
The car turns down a road that he recalls leads to the crowded harbor where he'd left his ship. "Anywhere here is fine," Killian says. The driver pulls over immediately.
Killian hands over the money, hoping he's guessed right. But the driver only counts it, grunts, then asks, "You need change?"
"Keep it, mate," Killian says, and makes mental notes for the future.
After the car leaves, tearing back off in the direction from whence they came, he turns his attention to the docks. He has to check, has to be certain that his ship is gone. He has no doubt that Emma is resourceful enough to have found it—he's uncertain why Cora's invisibility spell continued to work even after he'd left Storybrooke, but he'd been grateful enough not to question it at the time. And if the Crocodile's son is who he thinks he is, then they could have easily sailed it. It's enough to make him want to grind his teeth.
Sure enough, the berth where he'd left her is empty—actually empty, not invisible ship empty— and Killian stands there and swears at the water and the single seagull perched on a nearby pile, eyeing him as if it thinks he might be insane.
He is insane. He's just saner about it than most.
He is also a pirate: it takes him less than an hour to commandeer a new vessel.
Really, he reasons, if people didn't want their ships stolen, then they ought to leave someone aboard to watch them. Then he smirks at the irony.
Besides, one look around the sleek cutter is enough to tell him that this is some rich bloke's toy, taken out only for holidays and when he needs to impress a woman. It's fully stocked with enough provisions to get Killian where he wants to go, and it's in good enough condition that he's not worried about it springing a leak once he gets it out onto the open sea.
With a certain amount of grim determination, Killian gets to work. Time has waited for him long enough, the tide never has.
As a boy, the sea had always fascinated Killian.
As a man, he calls it home. He walks better with the deck rolling beneath his legs, breathes better with salt in his lungs, sees clearer with nothing between him and the horizon but countless waves. Since he lost Milah, it has been an empty home, but he thinks sometimes that she is the ocean now—wife, mother, lover. She can be temperamental and terrifying, but she welcomes him back every time with open arms.
He will never hold Milah again.
It is not the first time he has had this thought, nor will it be the last. His phantom left hand still remembers the shape of her, and without his hook he can feel the loss more keenly. It is all the more painful because he can no longer recall, exactly, the shade of her eyes or the sound of her voice. For decades she haunted him, her ghost lingering aboard his ship, invisible to all eyes but his own. Then, slowly, Neverland stripped even that away, leaving him with nothing but a gaping wound in his heart and the thirst for vengeance to fill it. It is a wound that few people have ever seen.
Just one woman, with hair the color of purest gold, the instincts of a pirate, and a matching wound in her own heart. One infuriatingly resourceful woman who has bested him not once now, but four times.
Killian scowls and turns his thoughts to a safer topic. He lets the wind ruffle his hair and the smell of the sea remind him of his true purpose. Milah. The Crocodile.
He has waited and plotted and schemed lifetimes for this moment, and it is killing him to not know if it has all been worth it—if he has succeeded. The hole in his heart is empty, empty, empty.
Others think they understand his desire for vengeance, and they think more often than not that it can be used to control him. They are wrong. He has been around much longer than they. He has been setting up game pieces, moving things into place since before most of them were born. Even now, there is a part of his mind that is turning things over and over, searching for the way to ensure Rumpelstiltskin's death. It is all for this. It has always been for this. He can barely remember a time before there was this. Every move he makes, every bargain, every word he speaks is to help him achieve his ends.
Except, recently, for a brief shining moment, when he had felt less like Hook and more like a Killian he barely remembers. He had smiled and meant it, laughed and felt free. He had saved a woman's heart because it was the right thing to do. That moment had been a distraction, a diversion. His backup plan was already in play and he knew he had the time to enjoy the challenge of a beautiful woman with more bravery and brains than ten men. But playtime is over, and now he wishes he hadn't let her look at him with those eyes that saw him far too clearly. He isn't sure he likes what he saw reflected in their depths.
Once more he shakes himself free of such thoughts. Instead he studies the maps he found aboard, charts a course that will take him to Storybrooke as fast as this little ship can manage with the winds at her back. There are machines in the wheelhouse, gauges that he thinks he understands by comparing them to his own innate sense of the sea. The Roger made this journey in less than two hours. It will take eight, at least, before he's close enough to abandon the boat along the coast. He guesses it will take twice that long for the owner to discover that the boat is missing and he'll be back in Storybrooke before the hue and cry is raised.
One of the sails flaps and Killian swings himself out on deck, wraps his left arm into the rope and yanks, using his right hand to tie off the slack. He wants his hook back.
He wonders if she's carrying it in her pocket. He hopes she wiped the poison off before touching it with her skin.
She's a resourceful lass, of course she did.
He ought to be worrying about other things. Cora and her scheming bitch of a daughter have likely discovered his betrayal by now. Queen Snow and her charmingly hard-headed husband are also likely out for his blood—though really he'd barely tapped the bloke; it had practically been a kiss.
He realizes he's sailing back into a swamp full of reptiles, and if by some miracle, the Crocodile has survived, he will be the most vicious of them all.
Perhaps the Crocodile will kill him, finally. It would be a fitting end.
The tide is with him, and he beaches the cutter five miles down the coast from Storybrooke. He considers scuttling it, then decides that's a waste of time. It'll either wash back out to sea or someone will find it and tow it home. He no longer cares. His own ship awaits him ahead. The town itself sits in a little niche of the coast, the lights hidden by jutting headland covered in towering pines. He doubts anyone will come there looking for a pirate. He doubts most people know of the town's existence at all.
He shoulders his satchel, which he's now stuffed with some of the food he found in the cutter's tiny galley, and sets out on foot. The coast here is not sandy—the harbor he'd left the cutter in was barely more than a dimple, the shoreline rocky and shallow. He has to climb, his left arm pressed against his sore ribs while he uses his right hand to grab hold of branches and tree roots to help haul him along.
He really wants his hook back.
The light is dimming, night draping slowly over the forest like a lover. He can sense the ocean off to his right; all he has to do is follow the shoreline. He doesn't really fancy tripping over tree roots in the dark, but he also doesn't want to delay much longer. Who knows what has happened in Storybrooke since they returned?
He considers the possibilities as he hikes.
The poison he used he'd devised himself. He alone knows the antidote. Still, once the Crocodile was back in Storybrooke, he would've been able to use his magic once more. It was possible he had managed to heal himself.
If that is the case, then Hook has to consider that the dagger may be in play. He knows that his ruse wouldn't have been able to hold Cora and Regina off forever, however he hadn't had the time or inclination to go back into the Library to move the dagger to a new location before he'd left. He really rather hates the Library, come to think of it. Still, he has to concede that the imp's hiding place was clever. Tick tock indeed.
If Cora controls the dagger, then she controls the Dark One. He will have two choices: grovel and beg to be let back into her good graces. Or, he will have to find a way to get the dagger away from Cora. Regina, compared to her mother, is far easier to manipulate. All she wants is her boy—Emma's boy. The most expedient method would be to kidnap the child and bring him to Regina as a gesture of goodwill. Get her on his side and he can use her to get to the dagger.
Still, kidnapping the boy strikes him as bad form. It would ensure Emma's enmity, if he hasn't earned it already, and that thought doesn't sit well with him.
He stows that plan and searches for another.
He could seduce Regina. She is love starved, and Hook can be seductive and charming enough to convince, if necessary. That thought, however, is utterly repulsive—Regina is beautiful, but dangerous as a snake. She can be manipulated, but he's really rather tired of working for women who would as soon rip his heart out as look at him.
You know which way the wind is blowing, Snow had said to him.
Perhaps it is time for a change of course. The heroic royals do seem to have a disturbing tendency to win, and they would be as invested as he in getting the dagger away from Cora.
He plots and he schemes as he stumbles through the moonlit forest. His schemes turn back in on themselves. He switches sides seventeen times, examines ways of ingratiating himself to both sides. It would be easier to do with Cora and Regina, but far more dangerous. He has no way to prove his intentions to Emma and her family. If they accept him into their fold it will be warily, and he doesn't have time for warily. Warily, with Emma Swan, involves leaving him shackled to something.
Then he remembers a promise he'd made at the base of the beanstalk. I will swear allegiance to whoever gets me there first, he had said. The truth was, it had been the bean that got him to Storybrooke. A bean he wouldn't have acquired at all if Emma had not chained him in the giant's lair. Her betrayal had been his way into Storybrooke; he almost laughs at the irony.
It is a stretch, but it might just be convincing enough to get him back into their good graces. With luck, and a great deal of charm on his part, she might even give him his hook back so that he won't have to go about bashing princes on the head to find it.
Plans begin to settle into place; backup plans begin to settle around them, further contingencies curling around the edges like loose threads that he can pull at a moment's notice to tighten the weave. He considers what he must do, whom he must convince. He doesn't even realize that he's grinning with anticipation of the challenge ahead.
It is not until he can see the lights from town glimmering through the trees that he considers the possibility that he may have already succeeded.
That thought is enough to bring him to a halt. For a long time he stands in the dark forest, staring at the lights ahead.
What if the poison worked too fast for it to be cured? What if it proved beyond the Dark One's ability to heal? What if his Crocodile has already expired whilst he lay tied up in a dank basement?
What if Hook has won?
Then there is nothing ahead of him. His vengeance will have happened without his knowledge and little participation. There will be no gloating as the Crocodile lays dying. He will never get to whisper Milah's name in the imp's ear so he knows what action brought about his death. He will never get to gut him with his hook.
And what will he do, then? What will be left for him, with the Crocodile gone and his entire reason for existing as long as he has wiped out with less than a whimper for him to enjoy? What will become of what is left of Killian Jones?
He tries to let the feel of his possible victory settle in his damaged heart, but no relief rushes to fill the empty hole. There is no sense of completion. He ascribes this to his lack of knowledge, to the probability that he has failed—but the excuse rings hollow.
For the first time in lifetimes, Killian Jones is at sea, adrift. He is a lost boy, and he fears that he can never, ever be found. He does not know who he is without his vengeance. His body is still young, but his soul is old, old, old, and he fears it is rotten to the core. Nothing can save him. Not anymore.
Ahead of him, between the trees, he sees a light blink on in the upper story of an apartment building. He knows that light, knows that window. He watched it often enough over the last week or so through his spyglass.
It is Emma Swan's window.
The bloody savior.
Hook smiles without quite realizing it. Something small flickers in the darkness of his heart. It isn't much: just a tiny candle gleaming weakly in a vast gaping chasm. It has no business being there, but there it is, all the same. If he could see it, he might label it hope.
The Crocodile is dead, or he isn't. There is only one way to know for sure, only one way to know what paths lay before him. He knows, however, that all of his paths lead to her.
Killian Jones takes a deep breath and steps out of the woods.
Second star to the right. Straight on till morning.
End Notes: Just a couple of things:
1.) I have my own opinions on whether or not Hook or Neal is Peter Pan. I left it ambiguous here since I would prefer not to be canon-balled on this one.
2.) No matter what may happen, I think that this is one internal conflict that Killian can't avoid in the future: without his vengeance, who is he? This seemed an appropriate place for him to at last confront that thought head on, if only for a moment.
3.) With all the Snow White and Hook parallels, it amuses me to think that their hearts may be mirror opposites: hers with a spot of darkness and his with that tiny gleaming bit of light. It remains to be seen, however, which is stronger: the darkness or the light?
4.) While I have no intentions of continuing this at the moment, my head canon says that later Hook and Neal run into each other and Neal is like "Those are my clothes!" and Hook, of course is, "Yes, well they look better on me."