Beta/Edited by PeaceHeather
My sincerest apologies for the delay in this chapter. I had some real life deadlines suddenly jump in the way, and then a minor plot hole that became a stumbling point. It's sorted now, I think.
With the curse broken, Killian's strength returns quickly. While Emma was downstairs changing, he'd managed to get up on his own, and move without assistance. She half suspects that was because he didn't want David to be his crutch. Emma tries to convince Killian that he should go back to bed once he's in dry clothes again, but he just gives her a glare from beneath his heavy brows.
"I may be a gentleman," he says, lowering his voice for her ears alone, "but even I refuse to lay in that wet spot." Emma just stares at him until he grins and reaches out his hand to toy with her hair. "Come, lass, I've been abed long enough. And your stitches are holding admirably."
Which is actually an understatement. When they'd checked his sutures before Blue left, they'd discovered he was healing faster than should be possible.
"You were the one who tended his wound, Emma. Whether you were conscious of it or not, you wanted to heal him," Blue had explained. "It may have been your magic that held the curse at bay for so long; now it is speeding his recovery."
The idea that she might have healing powers in addition to everything else wasn't really something Emma wanted to discuss at the time. In addition, Blue had been hesitant to interfere with the healing of Killian's wound by trying to add her own magic to the mix. So they'd thanked her for her help, and David had taken her back to the convent. Emma and Killian had cleaned themselves up and Snow went into full-on motherly mode.
Now Emma's trying to convince Hook that he needs to rest. "If you won't rest here, there's a couch downstairs or … Okay, probably not Mary Margaret's bed but …"
"Swan, I'm fine. Halfway to mended, thanks to you," he says. He's half propped against the bedroom wall, wearing another loose pair of navy blue cotton pants and a black t-shirt borrowed from David. The modern clothes do absolutely nothing to make him look less like a pirate or a rock star. All they serve to do is soften him enough that Emma's tempted to snuggle up against him, just so she can press her ear to his heartbeat and reassure herself of his warmth.
Instead, she crosses her left arm over her chest and grips her right bicep, as if she can hold herself in place by sheer will alone. She'd cross both arms, but her shoulder is still sore, even with a couple of painkillers in her. "I just ... I don't want you to …"
Killian's fingers trail along her cheek, then tip her face up to his. "I know," he says softly, and she knows he's talking about more than just his stitches. "Believe me, Emma. I know." For several heartbeats she gets lost in the blue of his eyes. Then his mouth quirks up in a half-smile. "Damn."
"I've just realized that we're now up to four," he says. His fingers trace the shell of her ear, and Emma shivers a little.
He leans a little closer. "Four times you've bested me, Swan."
Emma frowns and thinks it over. "Actually, I think it's five."
He arches an eyebrow and smirks. "Four."
She holds up a hand and ticks them off on her fingers. "No. There was the blacksmith thing, when I chained you at the top of the beanstalk, when I beat you at the portal, then again in New York. That's four. Stealing your hook in the netherworld makes five."
"Ah," he says, and leans in an inch closer. Her whole body feels as if it's swaying toward him. Somehow the space between them has magically decreased, until only the thinnest bit of air separates him from her. "However, the portal doesn't count. I let you win that one, as you may recall. So, stealing my hook makes four."
"Are we seriously keeping score?"
He gives her a toothy smile, his eyes twinkling down at her. "I'm a pirate, darling," he says, his mouth hovering over hers. "I always keep score."
Both hands shift to press against his chest, but Emma doesn't push him away. "Hey! There is no way you saw that punch coming. You did not let me win."
"Oh, yes, I bloody well did," he says. His head dips, and then his mouth is on hers, and Emma forgets whatever she was going to say in favor of kissing him back. Together they twist until her back is up against the wall, and his body is flush against hers from chest to knee. Killian's hand cups her jaw line, and he angles her face so that he can taste her more fully. Emma's more than willing; she threads her fingers into his thick, dark hair, and holds him exactly where she wants him.
His hook is a cool weight against her waist, and his hips press against hers, increasingly insistent; Emma groans and presses back.
The door closing downstairs, however, causes the wall to vibrate. They break apart, panting a little. Emma glances through the open bedroom door and sees David downstairs, hanging up his jacket. The scent of something warm and delicious teases her nostrils.
"I should go down and help with dinner," she says.
Killian gives her a pained smile. "Aye. I'll join you in a moment."
It takes her a second to realize why, then Emma blushes to the roots of her hair. She slides out of his arms and has to suppress a grin the whole way down the stairs.
"Is Hook resting?" Mary Margaret asks, her smile a touch too innocent to be believed.
"Uh, no," Emma says, arching an eyebrow. "I think he's tired of being stuck in bed."
"We could knock him unconscious again," David offers. "I've got a crowbar in my truck with his name on it."
"I just woke him up from a curse. Be nice," Emma says, rolling her eyes. She opens a drawer and starts fishing out spoons.
"But I got it engraved and everything," David says, leaning on the countertop with a mock pout.
Emma's lips twitch, suppressing a smile. If only all conflicts could be solved this easily
Then the little worry that she hasn't voiced yet niggles at her brain. She hasn't been sure if it's a good idea to bring it up in front of Killian, but she can't put it off too much longer.
"What am I going to do about Gold?" she asks. Mary Margaret and David exchange looks, and Emma has a feeling she knows what they're thinking. She perches on a bar stool and plays with her spoon, twirling it absently on the counter. "They hate each other, and just because Hook is ... we're ... you know, I don't know if that means Gold's just going to drop this thing. I mean, what's to stop him from cursing him again?"
"Oh, next time he'll do something far worse," Killian's voice comes from the stairs. "He doesn't enjoy being beaten, especially at one of his own games."
He descends slowly, wincing only once or twice, and swings himself up onto the bar stool beside Emma.
"Food's ready. I thought you could use something warm." Mary Margaret finishes ladling soup into a pair of bowls, which she sets in front of Hook and Emma.
"How can I ever repay you for your kindness, m'lady?"
"You could start by not flirting with my mother," Emma grumbles, tucking into her soup so she doesn't have to look at him to see if he's winking or not. Killian chuckles.
"I wouldn't dream of it," he says. He glances at his own bowl, then frowns, puzzled. "Why are there … letters in my soup?"
"Henry likes alphabet soup," Mary Margaret says. "They're just noodles. You can eat them."
He pushes some of the letters around for a minute, then takes a cautious spoonful. He makes a face that Emma has begun to recognize as hisI'd-prefer-rum face.
"So," she says, looking at him pointedly. "What do we do about Gold?"
Killian's jaw tightens and he stirs his soup with his spoon, not quite looking at her.
"Look, we both know that you can't kill him," she says. "You know how that story ends. Besides, he's got magic. Like you said, he could do something worse next time. I'm not really sure what would be worse than cursing you to eternity in that place, but—"
"He could rip out your heart and crush it in front of me," Killian says quietly, still not meeting her eyes.
Emma reaches over to touch his hand. "No, he can't."
Killian snorts and looks up at her, old ghosts haunting his eyes. "Who do you think taught Cora everything she knew? And Regina. I assure you, if he wanted to hurt me, he wouldn't hesitate to attack you."
"No, I mean he can't. You probably don't remember, because you were a little unconscious back there at the portal—you know, after I beat you—"
"After I let you beat me."
"—but Cora tried to take my heart."
Killian's face actually pales, and it does something funny to Emma's stomach to realize that the thought of it alone is enough to get that much of a reaction from him.
"She couldn't do it," Emma says, her hand wrapping around his. "Gold said it's because of what I am. So, I'm pretty sure he can't take my heart, either."
"You can still be killed," he says. His mouth is set in a grim line.
"Believe me, I know." Emma rubs her shoulder unconsciously, and he immediately looks contrite.
"If he hurts Emma, he'll lose Henry," Snow says. "And maybe Neal, too. He won't risk that."
Killian's expression darkens, further. "Rumplestiltskin murdered his own wife, the mother of his child. I think I know better than most what the crocodile will and won't risk."
"He did attempt to murder you," Emma says. "Admitted it in front of witnesses, even. I could arrest him..."
"We had to enchant a cage to hold him," David reminds her. "I really don't think he's going to let you put him in a jail cell. And even if you did charge him, what could we do with him? Keep him there forever?"
Emma puts her head in her hands and rubs her eyes. "You know, things were so much easier before I broke Regina's curse. There is no good answer, is there?"
"I offer him a deal he cannot refuse."
Emma looks up. Killian rubs his face with his hand and then looks at her steadily. "It is, after all, his one weakness. He simply cannot resist a bargain."
"I think it's safe to say that I know what makes the Crocodile tick better than any of you; this is the only way."
"He's right," David says grudgingly. "We can't kill him, and we can't imprison him."
Emma searches Killian's eyes, looking for some hint of his plan. "What are you going to offer him?"
He smiles at her. "Nothing I can't afford to give. Trust me?"
And suddenly she feels as if they are back there in the giants' treasure room, and he's offering her his hand. She'd been stupid before. She knows better now.
Emma nods, once.
"Okay then," she says. "Let's make a deal."
They meet at the docks near sundown. It seems like neutral territory; Emma doesn't want Gold coming back to the apartment, and she has no idea what traps he might have laid in store for Hook if they were to go to his shop. Downtown is too visible, and too close to Granny's. The last thing she wants is Henry or Neal getting involved in this.
So the docks it is.
Killian leans against a street-post, once more clad in his black leather pants and boots, though he's exchanged his shirt for one of David's nicer black button-downs. He'd disappeared into his ship briefly, on their arrival, and returned wearing his black sea-coat. It swirls around his calves, the buttons gleaming dully in the streetlight, but otherwise he's as black and ominous as a shadow. While she can't help but admire the picture he makes, decked out head to toe in black and leather, Emma wonders whether a shopping trip might be in her future.
If she still has a future after tonight's meeting. Emma stands beside him, her hands tucked into the pockets of her long wool pea-coat for warmth. David and Mary Margaret wait a few yards away, leaning against David's truck. Emma has her gun, and David has his, but aside from his hook, Killian is unarmed.
His face is set, determined, and unreadable.
Emma tries not to worry.
At seven on the dot, Emma hears the distinctive tap of Mr. Gold's cane, and looks up to see him strolling toward them, alone. He takes his time, and with the sunset at his back she cannot make out his face. He stops some twenty feet away and leans on his cane.
"Congratulations, Miss Swan," he says. "I see you managed to save the unsavable, after all."
Emma just gives him a tight-lipped smile.
Killian stands and steps into the pool of light cast by the overhead lamp. "You and I have some unfinished business."
"Indeed." Mr. Gold lifts his head and smiles, coldly. "Let me guess: suddenly you've discovered something to live for, and you're here to make a deal that will let you keep your miserable life."
Emma watches nervously as a muscle in Killian's jaw tightens.
Gold grins, snidely. "No, it's more than that, isn't it? You want a truce. A cessation of hostilities, as it were. A little guarantee that I won't harm you, in exchange for you not trying to harm me. Something we both know you'd only fail at if you were to try again." His smirk is cruel, and his eyes cold. "What? Did you think you could come here, crawling on your knees and promising that you've learned your lesson? And for that I'd be willing to let bygones be bygones? I'm afraid peace is going to cost you more than that, dearie."
Killian's eyes stay fixed on his enemy, his expression flat. "As you said, any attempt I could make would only fail. And even prior to your curse, I felt myself loathe to try again. I'm well aware that you may not be so ready to set our … quarrel aside. I merely want your assurance that you won't harm anyone else in order to injure me."
"Ah, yes, because you wouldn't stoop to that yourself."
Killian's hand clenches into a fist. "You have my word; it won't happen again."
"A pirate's word might as well be written on water. Sorry, captain, you'd have been better off staying cursed. Since that didn't work, I'll just have to settle for killing you." His hand flexes on his cane, as if he's close to doing just that. Emma moves her hand closer to her gun.
"I'm willing to pay for peace," Hook says. "Gold, riches, jewels, rare artifacts that even you can't discover—"
"If that's the best you can do, then I'm afraid there's no deal. There's nothing you could offer me that could even begin to compensate for everything you've taken."
"You took Milah's life!" Killian's fist clenches.
"She took her own!" Gold sneers. "She chose you, and the consequences of that choice. No deal." He turns to leave. Killian breathes deeply, then he turns back to look at Emma as if to reassure himself of her presence. But then the corner of his mouth twitches ever so slightly, and he actually winks at her. When he turns back toward Rumpelstiltskin, though, his expression is hard and determined.
His low voice carries even over the sound of the wind and the waves. "And what if I offered to return something I took? Suppose I could give you a way to restore Belle's memories?"
Gold pauses, mid-step. "I'm listening."
"What do you know of Neverland?"
"It's a land of eternal youth, where no one ever ages. An annoying little world, that once had an annoying little king, who flew off and left it to its own rather nasty devices."
Killian takes a step forward. "Aye, it is that. But it has one other distinguishing characteristic: Neverland makes you forget. Stay there long enough, and you forget who you really are, where you're from, your loved ones, your pain … everything."
Gold turns fully to regard him—and for the first time, he looks interested.
Killian smiles. "Has it never occurred to you to wonder how I've managed to never forget?"
He shrugs out of his coat and tosses it over a nearby railing, then draws up his unbuttoned right sleeve with his hook. In the last light of day, with the streetlamp almost directly over it, the tattoo stands out starkly against his pale skin. He turns his arm, and Emma notices for the first time that the ink almost glimmers under the light, and it's as fresh and clean and perfect as if he'd only gotten it a few weeks before.
Gold narrows his eyes, and Emma cannot decide if he suspects a trick or maybe he sees something she doesn't.
"I made a bargain with a sea witch: squid ink and mermaid's tears in exchange for ... well, that's irrelevant," Killian says with a half-smile and a dismissive shrug. "The point is this—the enchantment is in the tattoo ink. Whilst I was in Neverland it protected my memories, that I might never forget Milah or my quest. Now, it must be done with her consent; but use it on Belle, tattoo her true name, and it will restore the memories she has lost."
Rumpelstiltskin takes three steps forward, his hand outstretched as if he could snatch the tattoo straight off Killian's skin. Killian draws his arm out of Gold's reach. "Ah, ah. This is personal magic; you know such things can only be given away willingly. Kill me and the enchantment dies with me."
"Am I?" His voice is quiet and self-assured, his habitual cockiness tempered in a way that Emma isn't used to seeing. He lifts his chin and stares Rumple down. "Will this buy us peace? Your promise never to harm another in order to destroy me?"
Gold laughs, his eyes shrewd. "And what's to stop you from harming Belle again the moment she has her memories back? Or my son?"
"I will admit that I wouldn't mind schooling your boy, for the damage he's done to Emma. But I will promise to leave it at that. Milah's blood will never be spilled by me. As for your lady—so long as Emma remains well and unharmed, Belle will have no cause to fear me."
Rumple studies Killian intently, as if he's looking for the catch. "You won't bargain for your own life?"
"As you said, mine is worthless. But I will bargain to protect that which I love."
Emma keeps her mouth shut. Much as she hates being a bargaining chip, Emma recognizes that this moment has been three centuries in the making. She cannot always save Killian, but she can try to be the light that guides him home.
"Deal," says Mr. Gold.
Killian extends his forearm. When he speaks, his voice is solemn and the words almost seem to have physical weight: "Then take it and use it well."
Gold produces a small bottle in a puff of reddish-purple smoke and extends a hand just above Killian's forearm. For a moment, nothing seems to happen. Then, much like the ink on the parchment that had freed them from Rumplestiltskin's cell, the tattoo lifts from Hook's skin like smoke. Gold waves his hand and the ink funnels into the bottle, filling it with a dark bluish-black liquid that shimmers as if it is flecked with diamond dust. He stoppers the bottle with a cork and tucks it away in his inside breast pocket.
"Well, I'd say it's been a pleasure doing business with you, but it really hasn't." Once more he turns to go.
"Gold," Emma says, striding forward.
He smirks. "Yes, Miss Swan? Something you'd like to add?"
She looks him in the eye. "He may have promised to back down, but I didn't." Gold's eyebrows arch and an amused little smile plays across his face. Emma thinks about punching him for it. "No more curses. Not on him, not on anyone in this town, or my original threat still stands. I don't have to kill anyone to hurt you. All I have to do is send Neal and Henry across the town line and out of your reach. They don't need magic."
Neal and his father's relationship is precarious, at best. If Emma asked Neal to run, and take Henry with him, she knows he'd be gone without a backward glance.
More importantly, Gold knows it, too.
Of course, it's not like Gold is the sort of person to let something like that stop him. But it would be difficult for him to find Neal again in the outside world, especially without her help. Emma is sick and tired of superpowered magical beings running around causing havoc just because they can. As if having power gives them the right to hurt people.
"You want to keep your son and your grandson?" Emma says. "You want Belle to stay with you, once she has her memories back? Then you need to start using all that power for good instead of evil. And not because of some deal or bargain or whatever. You need to do it because it's the right thing to do."
Gold's smile is enigmatic, unreadable. "Are we done here, Sheriff Swan?"
"For now," she says. It's impossible to tell if she got through to him or not, but she stands her ground anyway, claiming the upper hand. Once more he turns to go, but then he pauses and says over his shoulder.
"Funny thing about curses, dearie ... they're made to be broken."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Emma says.
"You're a clever woman, Miss Swan. I'm sure you'll figure it out," he says, and strolls off up the street, whistling a jaunty tune.
Emma waits until he's out of earshot, then gives a full body shudder. "That is one creepy, creepy little man."
"Crocodile," Killian says. He reaches out a hand and brushes her hair back over her shoulder, then leans in beside her ear. His voice drops to a deeper register, causing a shiver to dance down her spine. "Have I told you today that you're brilliant?"
She gives him a look. "Uh-huh."
"Such a brave, beautiful lass." He slides his left arm around her waist and inches closer. The smile on his face is bright enough to outshine the setting sun.
"What do you want?" Emma asks, willing to play along this time.
Killian unexpectedly sobers. He brushes his knuckles over her cheekbone. "You," he says, all the levity gone from his voice. "Just you."
There are logistics to figure out. How exactly do they go from being loners to ... whatever they are now? Emma never expected to find True Love, and she's not entirely sure what to do with it now that she has it. He's a three hundred and fifty-eight year old pirate that walked straight out of a storybook and into her life. And if she's right about his past, he's probably even older than that, not that he seems to have matured much beyond thirty. Killian doesn't have legal ID, or a social security number, just like she told Snow—and she's pretty sure anything he could put down on a resume would be considered grounds for immediate arrest. He's cocky, arrogant, and he flirts with anything that moves — and yet, if what he whispered in her ear earlier is true, he might as well have been a monk for the last few centuries.
She may not know how to handle all this yet, but Emma knows, deep down in her gut, that he's hers. She knew it the first time she laid eyes on him. How terrifying is that?
"What do we do now?" she asks.
He does something obscene with his eyebrows and his tongue that tells her exactly what he'd like to do now.
"I mean after that," she says, without thinking.
"After?" he says, with a widening grin.
"Shut up. You know what I meant."
He leans closer, till all she can see are his blue eyes and all she can smell is his clean, slightly spicy scent. "Feel free to elaborate. Details are appreciated."
He makes a noise, deep in his throat, that's almost a purr. Heat shoots through her, and she leans closer without quite meaning to. "Killian," he reminds her.
"Killian—" Her voice sounds breathless. Emma Swan doesn't do breathless.
"Much better," he murmurs approvingly, his lips moving against her cheek in an almost-but-not-quite kiss. His beard scrapes roughly against her skin, and her thoughts dissolve into a puddle of absolute need. Emma's hands slide up against his chest, and she turns her head to give him better access. His lips brush against her cheekbone, her jaw. His nose rubs slightly against hers. She can feel his breath ghosting across her lips.
"Busy just now, mate," Killian murmurs.
"Yeah, mauling my daughter in the middle of the street," says David. "And wearing my clothes while you do it. Please do me a favor and burn that shirt."
Emma steps back, feeling her face flush hotly. Right. Middle of the street. In front of her parents. Probably not the best place for a make-out session, even if they hadn't quite gotten to the making out. She feels like a horny teenager—and it's been a long damn time since Emma Swan has felt like a horny teenager. There are a million reasons why that ought to be a Very Bad Thing, and yet, for the life of her, right now she can't recall a single one.
Snow has a smile on her face that's just a little too bright, and she's clasping David's right hand as if she's physically holding him back. "Well," she says. "That went ... well."
"Yeah," Emma says, trying to put her brain back together.
"So, David and I are going to go ... home. You want to meet at Granny's for breakfast?"
"Breakfast?" David asks, frowning.
"Say, around ... ten?" Her grin is almost blinding.
Emma just blinks at her, slowly. She wants to be sure she's hearing her right.
"Breakfast?" David asks again.
"Emma?" Killian asks softly.
"Sure," she says, slowly. "Ten sounds ... good. I was going to meet Henry there then, anyway."
"Great!" Snow says. "We'll get the big booth."
"Yes, we will," she tells Charming, squeezing his hand. He winces. "And Hook?"
"Did you know I can hit an ogre's eye with a single arrow from fifty paces?"
Killian smiles. "You are a woman of many talents, m'lady."
"I think you two need to talk. True love is rare, and wonderful. But it still takes work and honesty and trust," she says. "I just … wanted to be clear on where we all stand."
"Exquisitely clear," he promises.
She smiles at him, a queenly sort of smile now, and heads for the truck, hauling David along behind her. The last thing they hear, as Snow opens David's door and practically shoves him in, is Charming: "But I wanted to threaten him—"
"You can do it next time, dear," Snow says, and climbs inside, cutting off any further attempts to overhear their conversation.
Emma and Hook stand on the docks and watch until the truck pulls out and heads back into town, leaving the two of them alone. The wind is cold, but not icy, and the stars twinkle above Storybrooke. Behind them, the waves lap peacefully against the docks, while seabirds call their goodnights and fly off to roost.
"Your mother is terrifying," Captain Hook tells Emma.
"Yeah." Emma smiles. "I know."
Notes: There will be an epilogue coming. A little more patience with me, while I clean it up?
Thank you for all the lovely reviews, and I hope you all enjoyed the finale as much as I did!