fic title: neck deep

summary: neverland plotline. emma takes an accidental dive in the mermaid lagoon, has a catfight with a topless female sea-monster and hook worries himself sick.

It's not that she doesn't like Neverland. Neverland is pretty, full of wonder and breathtaking sights. It's more beautiful than the Enchanted Forest, at least after it was hit by Regina's curse; its magic is untamed and wild, fickle and capricious. The landscape is like a moving watercolour painting, the colours spreading out of the frame in hypnotic and meandering streams. It fucking figures that a world so gorgeous is actually a deathtrap.

Oh, who's she kidding, she freaking loathes Neverland.

She's only spent, what, two days in this land? In this time she's come to understand that the more beautiful something looks, the deadlier it probably is. Everything around her is a disaster waiting to happen, which makes the fact that Henry is all by himself all the more terrifying.

Hook has assured her time and time again that the world protects the children, so Henry should be safe from all of the 'did you see this pretty flowe- oh, OH, IT SPITS ACID, OH CRAP' situations David, Snow and her have encountered so far. Still, the anxiety gnaws away at her resolve and makes her stupid. Very stupid.

And, on top of that, she has to admit that Hook's help has been invaluable so far. The number of times her family could've been hurt by the environment if not for Hook's knowledge is actually staggering, and they're not exactly what you'd call a sheltered royal family. They're the kind of people that should be able to thrive in this kind of world; Snow lived a long time as an outlaw, her father is famous for dragon-slaying and she's not that far behind in terms of badassery. She's put plenty of criminals behind bars. And she's killed a dragon. And she's defeated a giant. No big deal. However, it's like the world is aware of the fact that they should not be there and is letting them know in no uncertain terms that they're not welcome. By having pretty flowers spit acid in their face.

Yeah, that had been fun.

Hook is, of course, another matter entirely. He breathes Neverland. Knows which flowers will try to bite your face off, knows the winds and the seas and and the animals and the trees and the motherfucking pixies (ugh, she hates those). He has everything under control.

He's also been a smug, irritating prick about it. Charming, from whom Emma has discovered she's gotten her anger-management issues, has developed more than one nervous tic from holding himself back, because even a hothead like him can tell that an unconscious Hook is a useless Hook and that they need the pirate at his best to find Henry.

Anyway. Neverland. Terrible place. Tell your friends.

Still, it has taken a dive into the mermaid lagoon that has nearly killed her for Emma to finally get into her head that this world is fucked and pretty unkind to outsiders and shit, she's so cold her teeth are clattering together.

Right. Mermaid lagoon.

She's soaked to the bone and with the sun coming down, that's not a good way to be. The cold waters have done a number on her: her hair is dirty and muddy, her jacket has been torn and she's slowly freezing to death.

And she doesn't mean to sound mysoginistic but those fucking bitches.

"Well, I did tell you not to stray close to the water, love. That's pretty much their territory you stepped in."

And now she's thinking out loud. Great.

Emma coughs a few more times, still shaking slightly, and glares at Hook, sitting near her on the damp grass, trying unsuccessfully to get all the sea water out of his boots. He's also soaked, and looks tired under the weight of his wet leather clothes.

And yep, he still looks insultingly pretty under all the mud. So unfair.

"I thought they only attacked men," she bites back, defensively.

He looks up, surprised for a moment, and then scoffs.

"Where did you hear that nonsense?"

Hook had warned her, before they went scouting while Snow and David kept an eye on the Jolly Roger. He had seemed reluctant to ask the mermaids about Henry but, after Emma insisted they could not let possible information slip past, he had agreed to accompany her. Only after assuring her, time and time again, that the mermaids were not to be trifled with. That they were selfish and unbalanced and incredibly aggressive, and she should be careful and not approach themunder any circumstance.

So it was her own damn fault that she had thrown caution to the wind when one of the mermaids, who looked like a prettier version of Ariel, a redhead with soft features and startlingly blue eyes, had told her she knew where Henry was, and couldn't you come a little closer because I don't want big bad Captain Hook to hear.

Damn it, but she was an idiot.

"I don't know. It's common knowledge. Mermaids," she says, spitting the word like poison, "beautiful creatures that lure sailors to their death but leave women the hell alone. The sisterhood and all that."

It had taken a very wet, very irritated Captain Hook, a screwdriver she didn't even know she had and Emma using a lifetime of experience in vicious hairpulling to get the damn mermaid to stop trying to drown her. The jerk even had the gall to look affronted by her resistance to be, well,killed.

Yes, Emma hates Neverland. With all of her fucking heart.

"They actually abhor women. Specially the leggy ones" he tells her, making a show of checking her out up and down. "Unfair competition, you see."


"Yeah, whatever. At least now you have an image to keep you warm during cold nights," she says grimly, still frustrated and angry with herself, cold and shaken, because he had said something to that effect the first time she'd shed the jacket under the unforgiving Neverland sun. "Me wrestling vicious, horrible, uncomfortably topless female sea-monsters."

Hook makes a non-committal noise and turns to look at her, completely silent, which is not exactly what she had expected when she thought about flinging a slightly sexual joke back at him. His eyes are weirdly intense, and for a moment Emma thinks it's because her wet shirt is now see-through or something, but before she can debate whether to cover herself or not, he speaks;

"Well, while the catfight might have been enjoyable under other circumstances," he begins, a teasing tilt in his voice that fades abruptly, "you should have paid heed to my advice and stayed away from the killer mermaids!"

His voice has turned into a growl. Not a sexy one. Well, that could be debated.

Anyway, Emma startles. Badly. Because oh, shit. Is he actually angry?

"Look, pal-" she starts because excuse her, Emma was the one getting drowned by a bare-chested, murderous fish-chick, not him.

Hook, however, is having none of it.

"Don't look pal me, lass! I gave you a clear instruction!" He points at her, angry as the day she left him on the top of the beanstalk. "Stick. to. the. shore. What part of that did you not understand?"

Emma knows he's right, and she's so angry with herself she finds it more comforting to be mad at him right back.

"I had it under control!"

"Are we talking before or after you tried to bite off the mermaid's arm?" he says as he sheds the long coat, which hits the ground with a damp thud. "Because let me tell you, love, that was the least alluring thing I've ever seen you do."

Yeah, that might have been a tad stupid. Okay, more like a lot. Her mouth still tastes like seafood and that's by far the grossest thing she's ever thought. Eugh.

"I told you that mermaids were liars and monsters and you decided to get cozy with the first one you laid eyes on-"


"And she wasn't even the most attractive or busty one!"

"What are you even-"

"You just ran into her arms like an ignorant, stupid landlubber. You can spot lies! How did you not-"

"Well, I'm sorry, I just thought her distrust of you was warranted!" she shouts back and she's freezing and exhausted and sleep-deprived and so, so terrified, that she adds "I also wouldn't trust you with a child!"

Even as she says it, she knows that she's crossed a line. Hook expression goes blank for a moment, then turns stormy and dark.

"Oh, you mean the child I'm risking my neck to save? The child that would have no hope of returning to his family had I not agreed to be your bloody guide?"

He's full on shouting now, voice filled with anger, looking down at her with a cold fury that looks a lot like hurt. Emma's feeling small, way too small, frustration and guilt and the fear that's been choking her since she saw Henry falling down the portal, so she stands, trying to be at eye level with him. That doesn't deter him in the least.

"Tell me, Emma, tell me how you don't trust me with him and I will leave you fools to - "

And Hooks sees her grimace of pain when she stands up, sees the claw marks on her naked ankle that not even Emma had noticed until now because adrenaline leaves her cold and numb and painless, and his rant stops abruptly. He's left breathing hard, his body tense, staring at her like he wants nothing to do with her anymore and she-

Sighing, he grabs his coat and pulls out a tattered handkerchief from one of its pockets.

"Sit back down."

Emma grits her teeth, wants to say it's nothing, but now that she's stood up the wound, although superficial, has started to bleed profusely.

She doesn't want to know what kind of Neverland creatures are drawn to the smell of blood, so this time she does what she's told.

Hook pulls out a small vial from his satchel and grabs her ankle with his hook, inspecting it. Then drops the vial's contents (not rum this time, because she had got rid of all the bottles the first night – which had prompted a very Jack Sparrow-esque whine fest) on her ankle.

It stings like a motherfucker. Emma stares at him, grimacing.

"That was uncalled for."

"It's to disinfect the wound."

Oh, he's going to make this difficult, isn't he.

"I meant my comment. Earlier."

Hook says nothing for a moment, still inspecting the wound with a pointed fascination. Then reaches for the cloth.

"Just don't chain me to anything and I won't demand satisfaction." he replies, voice neutral, but he doesn't meet her gaze while bandaging her ankle.

Emma feels like a damn jerk.

"I'm sorry," she says, and she hopes Hook understands how much that apology is costing her.

"Don't worry, love. Mermaids have good ideas from time to time. Trouble is, they celebrate by drowning people. That makes them very poor advisors" he replies, nonchalant. "I wouldn't trust myself with children either. Pirates make for bad caretakers."

Emma can spot lies and knows Hook has been nothing but honest here.

She feels like such a jerk.

"Henry would probably adore you."

Hook lifts his gaze, naked surprise plain in his face. He catches the sincerity, the absence of double meanings or hidden jabs and, after a brief hesitation, he grins. It's a small, slightly embarrassed, sheepish smile that takes Emma's breath away.

Oh, no. That was all the water she's swallowed. She coughs one more time, hiding the stutter in her breath, and he looks at her with a raised eyebrow.

"I bet he would. Just like his mother."

Emma rolls her eyes, but she's glad for the shift in his demeanor; this is safer ground.

"Come on, now you're just fishing for compliments."

Hook shrugs, smirk in place, still pressing the cloth to her ankle. The potion is strong, and the bleeding has almost stopped.

"I was serious though, love. Don't ignore my advice again." he says with gravity, looking at her in the eye with a focus that makes her feel uncomfortable.



Oh, fuck.

Emma finds that train of thought, puts dynamite in the tracks, blows them up and waits for the trainwreck only for the thought-train to grow wings and this metaphor has gotten away from her so she will stop.

"I don't react well to being shouted at," she confesses, because she thinks she should explain the reason she spoke to him that way after he dove into a mermaid infested lagoon to pull her out.

Hook glances at her, then turns to his task.

"I don't react well to mutiny," he says under his breath.

Emma scoffs.

"Don't be such a drama queen. Also, I can't mutiny against you. You're not my captain."

"Yes, I am. For the duration of this journey you're on my ship under my captaincy, and that makes you and your royal parents members of my crew, whether you like it or not."

"You didn't have to overreact!"

"I was worried about you!"

Emma stops at that, stares at him. Hook looks like he wants nothing more than to crawl into a hole and die.

Emma means to say she doesn't need him worrying about her, she doesn't need anybody; she's managed without family or friends for 28 years, what's one day more. Instead, what comes out of her mouth is

"You were?"

in that stupid little voice she's only ever used with Neal, or Graham, or Henry, or Snow or David.

Hook coughs to clear his throat, avoiding eye contact.

"Well, your charming father would have me beheaded should something happen to the little princess," he answers, voice filled with fake cheer.

Emma sighs, drops her gaze to the ground, lets him work. Hook's shoulders sag, in resignation or defeat.

"And I would probably let him."

They don't say anything else after that.

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