Title: below the thunders of the upper deep
Rating: Eh, low T for some cursing and violence
Characters/Pairings: Emma, Hook, cameo from Mary Margaret. UST!Captain Swan
Summary: There are monsters in Neverland that Emma is quite sure should not be in Neverland, particularly ones that attack the Jolly Roger without provocation.
A/N: The poem (and, thus, the title) is so much more epic than the fic. Written (belatedly) for the CS Saturday prompt Neverland adventures!
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.
—Alfred Lord Tennyson
It wasn't really intentional, the way she had taken to hanging out at the helm with Hook (she refused to, on the basis of "I have absolutely definitely no interest in the man except what is necessary to get my son back," use his given name). It was just that… well, life on the high seas was kind of boring sometimes and the skeleton crew he'd produced out of nowhere (or at least nowhere good) got on her nerves and the only other people she could really talk to were him or her parents and she needed to get away from David and Mary Margaret sometimes and Hook was entertaining company now that he was a world away from Rumplestiltskin and back in his element.
Perfectly logical reasons, all of them.
The easy smile he only ever seemed to direct at her had nothing to do with it, and neither did the (somewhat) more summer-appropriate clothes he wore, or the fact that messy, windswept hair looked unreasonably right on him, or the way he looked at her and devoted all of his attention to her the moment she came around, or — anything. At all.
(If she would admit that there was anything more to it at all — which there wasn't — the only thing she'd say would be that she just liked feeling wanted… but no one had asked, so she was the only person she was rationalizing it to.)
(And not doing a great job of it, either.)
"You know," he drawled, leaning against the helm and raising an eyebrow, "if you keep this up, I'll be forced to conclude that you harbor some sort of affection for me."
Emma scoffed, taking a seat on the railing behind him. "I've built up a tolerance to you since we've been here," she replied flippantly, and he smirked, "sheer exposure, you know? And you're one of the only three people I know on this ship, so congrats, you win my attention."
It didn't sound convincing, even to her, and it didn't do anything but make him smirk more. "You do know you have several tells, don't you, my dear?" he said, and she shot him a sour look because no she did not. "Admit it, you've a soft spot for me and have for quite some time now."
"I have to work with you to get my son back, that's all."
"Still lying, you are," he countered cheekily. "So I'll take that as a yes."
"I don't have to put up with this," she groused, crossing her arms. "There are better things I could be doing."
"Such as?" he asked, glancing around idly as though searching for what she'd referred to. "More to the point," he went on, and she was secretly relieved because she had no idea what else she could be doing, "if you truly are so disgruntled, there's nothing stopping you from simply leaving my odious presence."
"Fine," she grumbled, looking away sullenly. "You grew on me." (All the way back in Anton's castle, but he didn't have to know that.) At his smug grin, she narrowed her eyes and continued. "Like a fungus," she added, but he didn't take offense. Probably because it was just about as believable as his blacksmith costume had been.
"Knew you'd come around eventually," he said lightly, leaning in a little closer. "Or, more accurately," he teased, "I knew you'd admit you'd already come around a rather long time ago."
"You have a real exaggerated view of yourself, don't you?" she muttered, but he only laughed under his breath.
"No, not excessively," he replied, stepping a little closer with the same expression he'd worn going up the beanstalk — I love a challenge — "You're an open book, remember?"
"Funny how you're the only one who seems to think that," she said, crossing her arms again. This conversation had taken a turn for the embarrassing, but he sobered at her words.
"Perhaps that's because I'm the only one who reads your language," he answered seriously, and she was suddenly overwhelmed with the need to run and hide from him, because he was right and she really didn't want him to be. Captain Hook wasn't supposed to be able to see straight through her, and he sure as hell wasn't supposed to like what he saw.
She was spared — relatively — from coming up with a response by the ship suddenly rocking sharply like the ocean underneath had been disturbed. For a panicked second, her balance rocked with the ship and almost threw her over, but she regained control and pushed off the railing to safer ground, to see Hook halfway to catch her and stop her from falling.
"What was that?" she breathed.
"Could be any number of things," he replied slowly, gesturing for her to follow him down onto the deck, where the foreboding calm he'd taken on lay over the crew. "None of them good."
The ship rocked again, this time clearly from an impact on the starboard side, and although Hook had reached out to steady her like he had up on the beanstalk, he was distracted, face paling. Emma wracked her (extensive) knowledge of Neverland as told by James Barrie for any large sea monsters that called this place their home, but came up short.
"D'you have a sword?" he asked in a low voice, and when she shook her head, he nodded once, eyes never leaving the water. "In my quarters," he whispered, gesturing to the door underneath the helm, "in the wardrobe. You want to move quietly."
She didn't hesitate, drawing on years of thievery to slip in near-silence into the captain's quarters and making for the wardrobe on the opposite side of the room. Two swords were neatly resting on the inside right wall, and she picked up the closest one, unsheathing it to make sure it wasn't rusty or otherwise defective — but Hook apparently took good care of his weapons (and, she realized with a glance around the room, everything else he owned, too).
Just as she was closing the wardrobe, another jolt rocked the ship and she stumbled against the bed, but before she could regain her footing, the ship jolted again and someone outside yelled — kraken!
Kraken? Emma did not remember anything about kraken living in Neverland. In fact, her only brush with the monster was from watching Pirates of the Caribbean, a movie series which, she had learned quickly, played very fast and loose with the truth of actual piracy and sea creatures.
"Oh, good," she muttered breathlessly, giving up on subtlety entirely and running for the deck, where chaos had broken out with the appearance of several unbelievably huge gray tentacles. The emotion that washed over her was horribly familiar — just like the last time she'd faced a giant bloodthirsty monster with nothing but her wits and a sword she didn't know how to use, she was gripped with the firm belief that this was only a nightmare.
One that she didn't appear to be waking up from anytime soon.
She cast about for someone familiar — particularly her parents — but the air was water-logged with spray and everyone and everything was in motion, so it was hard to focus on any one person. So, with a deep breath, she ran for the nearest tentacle and began attacking it alongside what she was pretty sure was the cook.
Just as they severed the end of the tentacle they were working on, though, three slightly smaller ones rose up and skittered over the deck, catching the cook by the ankle and dragging him down. Emma yelled and reached out for him, grasping his arm and awkwardly trying to hack through the tentacle before he slipped out of her grip.
She barely managed to do it — his hand slid out of hers seconds after she cut off the end of the tentacle, and he scrambled to his feet, sliding on the wet wood. "You," he gasped, grabbing her by the shoulders, eyes wild, "my life. I owe," he said fervently, and then seemed to rethink the words with slightly less panic. "I mean, I owe you my life."
Emma laughed a little, more out of relief than humor, and patted him on the shoulder. "Let's work on surviving this one first," she yelled over the chaos, running to help someone else with another tentacle.
It was like a damn hydra — for every one they cut off, another three or seven sprouted.
She was caught up in stabbing at a pair of particularly ornery tentacles between her and the nearest person, so she didn't see the one snaking around behind her until it wrapped around her middle and dragged her forcefully backward like it had the cook, and she let out a shriek as she was pulled straight through the guardrail and down.
And, between the vice around her torso and the shock of the attack, she barely got the chance to take in a tiny gasp before she hit the water like a brick, struggling in vain and watching in horror as her field of vision was suddenly taken up with a gaping mouth and rows and rows (and rows) of teeth. Dimly, she remembered that she wasn't supposed to panic, but the roiling saltwater stung her eyes and kept forcing her to close them, which only made every sensation so much more intense.
She was fighting a losing battle against her body, trying to force herself not to breathe, and her vision — already blurred with the seawater — was starting to go black.
So quickly. It all happened so fast. It couldn't have been thirty seconds ago that she was on deck, and no more than ten minutes since she was joking with Hook at the helm.
Emma made one last, weak kick at it, and just before she lost consciousness, she saw a gill bar open on the side of the monster, right by its mouth — her last muddled thought was how unfair it was that it could breathe — as something seized her around the shoulders.
When she came to, it was sudden, complete, and painful — hot, grainy water rushing out of her mouth, shivering madly and sore all over, lungs burning, back pressed against someone's chest. Someone who didn't give her time to recover before they were pulling her roughly to her feet.
"Come on, Emma, move," Hook's urgent, angry voice said from right behind her ear, as he shoved her forward. But she was horribly disoriented, stumbling and still coughing up seawater, drawing in ragged, knife-edged breaths and struggling to keep her eyes open; it was less a walk than a series of interrupted falls, and she collapsed against the wall underneath the quarter deck the moment they reached it.
Distantly, she saw that he had dragged her to the middle of the ship on the far side from the monster, the only sort-of-calm place left. She blinked heavily as he came into focus, drenched like she was and clutching her arm as tightly as the kraken's tentacle had her middle, searching her face in something approaching fear.
"Talk to me," he snapped, catching her face and bringing her head back up as it started to fall toward her chest. "Emma, talk to me," he repeated desperately, and she coughed again, aware enough of her surroundings now to be confused.
"Why?" she asked hoarsely. "Don't you have — better things to do? The ship is — the ship's falling apart." She could barely speak; her voice seemed to cut her throat into shreds and she couldn't stop coughing. He relaxed, face clearing, and he stood up without giving her an explanation, waiting by her just long enough for her mother to reach them in an outright panic.
"Emma!" Mary Margaret cried, skidding awkwardly onto her knees in front of her and grabbing her face. "Emma — what happened — how did — are you okay?"
"Give me — a minute," she choked, and Mary Margaret pulled her into a tight hug, glancing around as if to speak to Hook, but he was already gone, sword in hand and trying, with some success, to re-establish order. The saltwater haze was clearing, although she could still hardly breathe and her head was starting to ache, and she watched the fight in a daze for a moment, something tickling at the back of her mind, on the edge of memory.
Attacking the tentacles was useless: the thing had what seemed to be millions of them, all equally strong, and didn't seem to feel much pain, if any, in them. But they were snaking over the deck and splintering parts of the ship, and if they didn't get it to let them go, they'd be dragged down to it like she had almost been.
What was it her brain was trying to call up? Some old lesson, advice, memory — something important, useful, if she could just…
Emma staggered to her feet, startling Mary Margaret, who kept her hands on her shoulders, eyes wide.
"Emma? What is it?" she asked sharply.
She hacked again, bringing up the faint, hollow taste of blood drawn from a throat scraped raw. "Hang — on, I have to — cover me," she gasped, already shoving and slipping through the mess of the spray and the splinters and the shouting men to get to the captain. When he didn't hear her (admittedly weak) voice, she lunged forward and grabbed him by the arm, jerking him to her.
He didn't look pleased; in fact, he looked pissed. "Why are — " he started, but she cut him off.
"It's like a shark," she choked, and he gave her a blank stare, so she went on haltingly, trying not to cough anymore (and failing badly). "The gills. You have to — that's how you survive a shark attack, you hit it in the — snout or the gills, it's where they're — sensitive, if you hit them, they'll leave you alone. They're right past — the mouth, I saw them, you can hit it there easy."
"With what?" he replied sharply, glancing around, again grasping her tightly and pulling her almost uncomfortably close, like he thought she'd be grabbed by another tentacle. "A crew member?" he suggested, with cold, harried sarcasm; Hook, it appeared, was one of those people who reacted to fear with anger.
"The anchor," she said immediately, without stopping to consider it or any other possibility. A thoughtful expression came over his face. "If that — doesn't stop it, nothing will."
"Don't jinx us, love," he muttered, starting to pass her and opening his mouth to speak, but then he paused and glanced back at her, still wheezing against the mast even as she looked around for a dropped sword. She could hardly hear over the pandemonium, but the narrowing of his eyes and the tensing of his jaw suggested that he was growling, and he grabbed her by the arm again, pulling her after him and supporting her unsteady gait (which probably would have been steadier without him dragging her) back toward the wall, passing her off to Mary Margaret halfway.
"Stay. Here," he hissed. "You're in no condition to be involved in this."
She shot him an incredulous glare, but he disappeared before she could berate him, shouting orders for the men to weigh anchor. Emma glanced at her mother, who seemed to have a bit more faith in her in spite of being much more worried. "I'm fine. I can fight," she snapped in a sandpaper voice, but her breathing had come back down to normal, if still painful, and picked up a fallen sword before it slid over the edge and got lost like the one she'd borrowed from Hook.
"I'm on your back," Mary Margaret replied, arrow notched (and quiver nearly empty), but all the activity was beginning to shift to the starboard anchor. They glanced at each other and ran to it, lashing out at stray tentacles before they could rear up on the men at the anchor.
Everything stilled for a split second as the heavy thing was heaved over the side, and she winced with the rest of them when an unearthly shriek broke the air and the tentacles all collectively withdrew, curling in on themselves in pain. She couldn't hear what Hook was yelling — and she doubted anyone else could either — but his gestures were clear enough, and the logical next step anyway: draw the anchor back in.
It stuck for one heart-stopping moment, and Emma saw splinters where the chain was digging into the wood, but then it abruptly broke free of the kraken with a sound she never wanted to hear again.
And just like that, they were shooting away with a bedraggled cheer — except for Hook, shoving through the rabble to get to the quarter deck. She followed him.
"Is it coming after us?" she whispered. It took him a long moment to answer, eyes locked on the boiling maelstrom they had just been caught in.
"It doesn't appear to be," he replied in a low voice. "We'll have to put into port for repairs anyhow, best we make for a shallow harbor and lay low a while. The kraken," he explained, turning to her finally, expression slowly shifting into a scowl, "are rather well-known for their long memory."
"So I've heard," she muttered.
"Also, I seem to recall telling you to stay out of the fray," he said sharply, drawing up a spike of self-righteous anger in her even though she knew why it had pissed him off that she hadn't, and it had nothing to do with his opinion on her skills.
"That's funny," she snapped, crossing her arms and wincing internally at the state of her clothes, "because I don't remember you having the authority to tell me what to do."
"It was for your own good," he growled, stepping closer. "I was trying to protect you."
"I don't need your protection."
He glared at her in mounting frustration for one tense moment, and then scoffed harshly and pushed past her. "Very well then," he spat. "Next time I'll let you drown."
Emma gaped at his retreating form, irritation frothing over into fury. "You're welcome," she called after him. "You know, for saving the day."
He turned around, arms on either railing at the bottom of the steps. "I don't need your help," he replied nastily, like they wouldn't all be dead right now if not for her. He stalked off before she could retort, and she seethed as the full meaning of what he'd said sank in.
He knew damn well they would have died if she hadn't come up with the anchor idea, he just thought his comment was exactly as much a lie as hers about not needing his protection.