The island began to take shape on the edge of the horizon as a lump of misshapen rock shrouded in mist. She had been staring at it for hours, perched on the top step of the short staircase that led to the helm of the ship. Emma closed her eyes and reminded herself, for the hundredth time, to breathe. She felt more fragile than she ever had in her life. She had survived too much in the past few days. It was more than any one person should have to bear.
She forced one breath deep into her lungs, and pushed the air in a steady stream from between her two tightened lips. Another breath followed the first, and another after that. That was her only job for the moment, forcing herself to keep existing, if only for Henry.
Henry. She forced his name from her mind as a single tear slipped past tightly clenched eyes. Ironic, that the one thing that was keeping her going was the one thing she could not allow herself to think about, lest the whole world which she had shouldered suddenly proved to be too much.
She snapped her eyes open, her gaze flitting around the cluttered deck of the ship, searching for anything to occupy her thoughts. Her parents were huddled at the prow of the ship, arms wrapped around each other as they too watched the island grow closer and slowly begin to fill up the horizon. She stared at the way their two forms seemed to meld together into one, and another tear spilled onto her cheek as she wondered if she would ever find someone with whom she fit that well.
The creak of the ship's wheel brought her back to herself, and she shook her head gently to clear her mind. With the back of her hand she whisked away the stray tear, erasing any evidence of weakness. She heard a soft rustle of fabric behind her, closer than it should be, and turning found herself staring into two twin pools of icy blue.
Something in her own eyes must have given her away, for the moment their gazes locked the self assured grin slipped from his face, replaced with a look of pitying concern. She dropped her eyes to the weather beaten wood between his boots, afraid to let him see anything more within her eyes. No one could know how close she was to falling apart, least of all him.
A crooked finger ghosted across her cheek, hooking beneath her chin and gently coaxing her gaze upward again. Their eyes met once more and he offered her a small smile, the sincerity of it bright behind his eyes. He offered her his hand, and she accepted it without thinking, a sudden warmth spreading through her as he puller her to her feet.
"Come here lass," he said quietly, "there's something I want to show you."
He led her over to the large wheel, her hand still tucked safely within his own. He pulled her gently in front of him, transferring her hand over to his hook and reaching around behind her to grasp her other hand. He brought both hands up and placed them of the wooden handles of the wheel, wrapping the fingers of his good hand overtop of her own. Her feet stumbled a bit, still unused to the rise and fall of the sea, and he wrapped his hooked arm around her waist to hold her steady.
Her breath caught for a moment at how close the contact brought them, their bodies pressed flush against each other. There was no ulterior motive behind the action, of that she was so utterly sure. She knew him well enough to read his often salacious intentions, but for once, she didn't feel any of his usual cocky swagger. He had shown her a different side in the battle to save Storybrooke, and while she couldn't be sure what had caused the change in him, she could be sure of his intentions now more than ever. Though his nearness made her heart beat faster, she felt safe and comforted there in his arms.
"Now," he whispered, his breath caressing the curve of her ear, "sailing, from a steering point of view, is quite simple really, but few people have the exact touch needed to guide a ship. There's a subtlety to it, an art. Some day's she'll respond to the lightest touch, and others, you'll have to strong arm her to make her move where you want her to go."
"You talk like the ship's alive," smirked Emma.
"Oh but she is alive lass, this old girl more than most I'd wager." She could hear the love in his voice when he spoke of the ship, and an awed joy that she couldn't help but share. "She got magic running through her, down to the last grain in the wood," he continued, smoothing his palm tenderly over her hand which still gripped the wheel.
"You've got to learn to read the elements. The wind, the rain, the sea, and the sun all play their intricate part in how the ship will sail. If you listen to each in turn, they tell you exactly how it's to be done." He leaned into her further, and she marveled at how his body conformed to hers, leaving not a single gap between them. "Close your eyes Emma," he whispered, "tell me what you hear."
She allowed her eyes to slide shut, relishing the feeling of warmth that seeped through her at each point where they touched. She hadn't felt this calm or content in god knows how long, and wanted little more than for this moment to never end, for all else that awaited her would make any feeling of safety and happiness seem far away.
The brisk ocean breeze blew silently across her face, lifting strands of her hair which tickled her cheeks. The deck rocked below her feet, the gentle rise and fall a constant thing that she felt she could get used to, given time. The dull glow of the sun, veiled behind a thin layer of clouds still managed to warm her face, and cause specks of blue light to dance behind her shuttered eyelids.
"A gentle touch," she heard herself say with confidence, "that's all she needs today. Nothing more."
She felt him grin widely against her hair, "Yes," he replied, obviously pleased with her assessment, "Well done Swan. Well done."
She ducked her head down for a moment, allowing herself a small smile, before returning her gaze to the island that dominated the horizon.
"The current seems to had taken us a bit off course," noted Hook, "Care to correct our heading Captain Swan?"
She laughed at that, and felt him chuckle behind her in response. Gripping the handle underneath his steady hand, she turned the wheel faintly counterclockwise, and let out a small gasp of delight as her action made the ship swing slightly to the left, bringing the prow into alignment with the center of the island once more.
"I told you lass," murmured Killian, his voice once again in her ear, "You'd make one hell of a pirate."