A/N: I'm super excited to get this multi-chapter underway! Expect at least weekly updates, more if I'm feeling extra ambitious! If I slack please invade my askbox on tumblr or PM here and kick my butt. I'll allow it. Also I'm trying really hard to put myself in Emma's shoes here. While yes we all want a romance between Hook and Emma I'm trying to put things in perspective a bit, I think a slow simmer is a bit necessary. Also,if she seems slightly harsh it's because I believe she's reeling from the loss of both Neal and Henry. That has to affect a person. Right? Right.
Okay on with the show...
Disclaimer: I don't own OUAT
A magical world she had pictured and dreamed of countless times throughout her childhood. It was unsurprising, really, how connected she had felt to the place as a young orphaned kid. The enchanted and wonderful land where lost and forgotten children went to never grow up, to never have to face the hardships that the adult world had thrust upon them—the stories of its beauty and magic intriguing her, beckoning her in a way no other fairytale ever had.
Because what had she been growing up if not a lost little girl?
But cruelly, almost unfairly, she had learned, with the loss of her son, that it wasn't the hopeful and healing place she had dreamed of as a young girl.
Over the past day or so, since they had been spit out on the other side of the portal, greeted with nothing but a vast blue ocean and an endlessly clear vibrantly shaded sky, Emma had overheard different conversations whispered around her in hushed and quiet tones. Regina, her mother, her father, Gold, even Hook, all of them speaking somewhat fearfully of the land which as a child she had always dreamed of someday visiting—visions of sword fighting with pirates and swimming with mermaids, keeping her awake and comforting her throughout the hard and painful nights during her time spent in the foster system.
Sighing at her internal musings, Emma shook her head slightly, the thoughts of her one-time love for the story of Peter Pan and the lost boys doing nothing to lighten her already dark mood. Stretching her sore muscles a bit, she made her way through the nearly black ship, the gentle swaying more than a little off-putting as she slowly and carefully walked, well aware that since boarding the large vessel she had yet to gain her sea-legs. And pushing on, she ignored the voice in her head that whispered maybe she should be resting rather than snooping around—the stubborn part of her pushing away the advice, intent on continuing on.
She knew she was being a bit careless. After a long and trying day of her parents arguing with Regina and Gold, Regina and Gold arguing with each other and everyone arguing with Hook—Mary Margaret and David had suggested everyone retire once the sun had set. Claiming a full night's rest would be needed—based off Hook's experiences and Gold's knowledge, Neverland would be both a tiring and harrowing journey.
But she couldn't sleep.
Not with thoughts of Henry, alone, terrified, and helpless constantly taunting her in a flurry of dark and cruel images.
Coming above deck, she crossed her arms over her chest, the warm sea air welcoming her as her boots softly padded across the Jolly Roger's wooden planks. Allowing her eyes to focus for a moment, she scanned the area before her; the dark night backdrop was breathtaking with seemingly millions of bright and glittering stars shining above her—a handful of moons glowing in faded yellows and muted blues, scattered across the cloudless sky.
Breathing in deeply, she continued to take in her surroundings, noting warily she wasn't the only one feeling restless. Both Regina and Gold stood at opposite ends of the ship, staring out into the glassy black water. With only a handful of lanterns, the light from the moons and the twinkling stars illuminating the deck, Emma could just barely make out their expressions—each of them conveying different variations of loss, concern, fear, and worry. And try as she might, she couldn't find it in herself to muster up an ounce of compassion for either of them, silently and unfairly blaming each of them for both of her respective losses.
Somehow, someway, they each had a hand in where she was today—the devastating position she was currently in, the fate of her son unclear as the fate of her….
Emma paused, considering Neal, memories of her desperate confession, of his sudden declaration ringing in her head. And what exactly had he been to her? Truly and honestly been to her. Had he been her first love, her great love? Both? Shaking her head she felt a sardonic smile twitch at her lips…she supposed it really didn't matter what she felt for him anymore…he was gone.
Most likely dead before the portal had dropped him in whatever cursed land fate had seen fit to throw him in.
Which brought her thoughts back to Regina and Gold, her mouth dipping down into a frown as her tired brain half-heartedly tried to sympathize with them. Regina had lost Henry only minutes after trying to save the town, and Gold had lost Neal after spending years, decades, centuries trying to find him. And even with the gentle reminder circling in her head, a larger more vindictive part of her scoffed at the thought. Because whether it was a curse enacted twenty-eight years ago or a cowardly decision made over three centuries ago, both currently held fault in her tired and unreasoning mind.
Because of them she had spent most of her life unwanted, unloved, and alone.
Henry and Neal, the first people who's love she'd ever felt, ever truly and really felt...were gone.
And she was alone.
Turning, she made her way towards the back of the ship, intent on putting as much distance between herself and Gold and Regina as possible. She was desperate for some time alone with her thoughts—she needed to figure out her next move, the urge to devise a plan and come up with some kind of strategy burning strong within her. She hated how helpless she felt—her knowledge of magic and fairytales limited, her experience with the different realms almost non-existent.
"Shouldn't you be sleeping lass?"
At the sound of Hook's voice Emma closed her eyes tight and sighed, not appreciating his untimely appearance while silently cursing her own poor luck. Turning slowly, knowing he wouldn't go away even if she asked nicely, she crossed her arms over her chest, watching as he leisurely made his way over to her, his movements smooth and effortlessly fluid, drawing her reluctant attention. Since they had set sail his demeanor towards her had been both surprisingly quiet and unnervingly perceptive—the combination more than a little off-putting when coming from the usually colorful and obnoxious pirate.
"Shouldn't you be steering the ship?"
At her somewhat biting tone, he smirked, the small grin failing to meet his bright and appraising eyes. "Aye…you needn't worry...the Jolly Roger is no concern of yours Swan." Casting his gaze out towards the dark waters, he considered the sea a moment, his expression grim, his body tense. And watching as a pained and faraway look crossed over his features, she nearly jumped when he spoke next, surprised by his soft and lilting voice. "You really do need your rest darling, Neverland is—"
"Not what I expect?" she cut him off quickly, feeling the hot beginnings of unwarranted anger simmering in her veins. "I get it okay? You guys have made your point. I understand. Neverland isn't what I grew up thinking it was. It's dangerous. It's terrifying, it's risky, unpredictable, horrifying, torturous, tiring…." pausing she sucked in a deep breath before leveling him with an even and unwavering glare. "Disturbingly and darkly magical…deadly…" letting the last word hang meaningfully between them, she raised a brow before continuing in a softly defiant tone. "Anything else I'm missing Captain?"
He stared at her a moment his expression unamused, his body entirely too close for comfort. It was more than a little disturbing how much his presence always threw her, the rush of confusing feelings that raged inside of her surprising—a small fact she refused to explore any further.
"Beautiful." he said finally, almost wistfully, his voice, both low and quiet, just barely reaching her ears. "You forgot beautiful."
She held his stare for a moment unable to shake the feeling of unease as she stood with him under the twinkling Neverland sky—the sounds of the sea surrounding them, the weight of the past day, the past twenty-nine fucking years heavy on her shoulders. Casting her eyes towards the water she heaved a quiet sigh, the need to be by herself left with only her thoughts and misery nearly overwhelming her.
"Listen, I need—can...can you just leave. I don't feel like talking, I'm tired and…I'd like to be alone." When he said nothing, silence hanging heavy between them, she turned her gaze back towards him, locking her eyes with his in a somewhat stubborn and challenging stare. "Please."
Something odd flashed across his dark features at her request, his bright blue eyes dimmed fractionally as his mouth tightened into a grim line. And as they stood in the silent night, staring at each other, Emma fought not to look away, unwilling to give him the upper hand, even as her heart raced uncomfortably and her mind swirled with tumultuous thoughts—a mixture of appreciation, gratitude, anger, and despair coursing through her for the man who had left her only to come back for her when she needed him most.
And quickly she pushed the thought from her head, unsure where it had come from.
He had come back for them…to help them…not just her.
"Enjoy the night Emma, we should be closing in on Neverland's shores by dusk tomorrow."
She snapped her drifting eyes to his at the casually said statement, the realization that they'd be that much closer to finding Henry weighing heavily upon her. "How—how are you even certain….how can you tell?"
He grinned at that, the smile still not reaching his eyes. "Pirate."
"Sleep soon…you'll need it."
And without another word he left her, leaving her to the quiet night—both anger and gratitude towards him still warring within her as she watched him walk away, the black night blanketing him until eventually he disappeared into the surrounding darkness.
"It's hotter than I had expected it to be here."
Leaning over the railing, Emma glanced over at Mary Margaret, her mother was fidgeting; wringing her hands together while shifting back and forth on her feet. Her delicate features were pinched tight and her gaze was far away on the glassy and brilliantly blue water. The wind ruffled through her short dark locks, tossing the black cap of hair carelessly about as she blankly stared out into the ocean—her teeth worrying her lower lip, her eyes shadowed with clear and obvious grief. Nodding absently, Emma continued to study her; her burning stare absorbing the smaller woman's odd and nervous movements as she continued to bounce and twitch in front of her.
Almost as if feeling her attention on her, Mary Margaret shifted her focus back to Emma, her gaze immediately softening from distant and anxious to gently concerned as her blue eyes roamed over her face, searching Emma's coolly impassive expression.
"I don't know what I expected, I never really gave much thought to Neverland," she continued, hurriedly rambling while gesturing somewhat wildly in front of her. "It's...it's just hot."
"Technically we're not in Neverland yet." Emma murmured finally as her mother continued to stare at her, searching her face with knowing eyes. Casting her gaze out in the direction Mary Margaret had been staring, she squinted against the bright and nearly blinding sun before sighing softly—she was getting restless. Hook had said they should reach land within the day, but even with his confident assurances she was still becoming impatient—dark images of Henry and the dangers of the land they sought continued to bombard her without rest, leaving her edgy and irritable. She had barely slept the night before, her sleep restless and interrupted as panic had consumed her, her anxiety rising and falling in odd and rapid patterns.
"We may not have reached its shores but we're in its seas."
At the high-pitched, slightly wavering voice, Emma glanced back at her mother, staring hard at the petite woman. Curious where the warrior like confidence from the Enchanted Forest had disappeared to, she sighed again—this tiny fidgeting person was bound to get on her nerves.
"What's wrong with you?"
"You're acting weird...funny...what's wrong with you?" Too tired to sugarcoat her words, not really caring about her feelings, Emma phrased the question bluntly, her eyes narrowing as Mary Margaret opened her mouth to most likely brush off the question. And apparently seeing Emma's harsh look, she looked down at the ground a shuddering breath escaping her lips as her face fell slightly.
"I'm just worried Emma. I'm just...I'm just tired."
"I just want my family back. We've been fighting for so long...for too long. And I'm tired. I just want everyone safe, happy, together, I just—"
Mary Margaret looked up quickly, her surprised gaze quickly finding Emma's hard and unyielding one. "Excuse me?"
"Just stop." And seeing the question in her mother's eyes Emma looked away. "My entire life I've fought. My entire life I've had to survive just to get by...just to stay alive, just to continue to exist. And for what? To save an entire kingdom? To become something I'm not...not prepared for? Something I'm not even sure I want? So yeah I'm tired too. But now's not the time to start feeling sorry for ourselves. My son is out there." she paused bringing her focus back to Mary Margaret, noticing the way her eyes had widened considerably. "Henry is out there. So no we're not going to feel sorry for ourselves, we're not going to think about the past, about how hard and fucked up our lives are. We're going to focus on Henry...on getting him back." Swallowing, feeling a lump form in her throat as anger and sadness clashed inside of her, she pushed away from the railing, needing space, needing to once again be alone. Because that's what she was...a loner. She'd always been one. And she'd most likely always be one. "We're going to focus on that right now because that's all I can give...because we can't afford to focus on anything else."
And walking away, she ignored Mary Margaret's soft attempts at calling her back, pushing away the voice in her head that quietly chastised her for being unnecessarily harsh to the woman who's pain nearly matched her own.
She didn't care.
She couldn't care.
He was all that mattered. He was her one and only concern.
Absently rubbing her hands up and down her bare arms—the sun too hot for the heavy layers she had boarded with she currently donned only a simple tank top and jeans—she scanned the nearly empty ship. Gold and Regina had last been seen pouring over some old and enchanted maps while David had, surprisingly enough, been at the helm with Hook not too long ago, the two of them speaking in hushed nearly conspiring tones. Continuing to walk around the deck, with no exact destination in mind, she suddenly felt unbearably caged and restless—the seemingly never-ending sea slowly deflating her hopes of reaching Henry soon. And blinking back the sudden threat of tears that pricked at her eyes as a quick wave of dread swept over her fast, taking her by surprise, she silently cursed herself for letting her emotions sneak up on her so swiftly. Gritting her teeth, she took in a deep breath, refusing to allow herself to crumble so easily.
"There you are darling."
Tensing at his voice, she swore softly, he was the last person she wanted to see, and yet, somehow, he kept showing up when she least wanted him to.
When she least expected it.
Turning around she raised a brow as he came towards her slowly. He had shed himself of his large coat, and were it not for the sword he held in his hand, the lack of the dark and oversized leather garment would have made him appear softer, more approachable. "Do you ever actually captain the ship? I'm starting to wonder if you have us just floating out here aimlessly. Maybe keeping us away from Neverland is part of some bigger plan of yours."
The smile he shot her was cool and calculating, his eyes appraising and neutral. "I told you last night Swan, don't you fret about my ship. Rest assured, she knows what she's doing."
At his words, she narrowed her gaze, staring at him hard. Magic. And rolling her eyes towards the cerulean sky she shook her head. "What do you want Hook?"
"We're approaching Neverland fast."
"So you keep saying."
Ignoring the blatant question in her tone, he stepped forward again, raising the sword he held and gaining her attention once more. "I've given you space over the past day or so because you needed it. And while I realize a mere day isn't long enough to properly grieve…" his voice faltered a bit, and pausing he breathed in deeply. "to properly grieve the loss of your…"
"Can we please not go there?" She cut him off fast, a hot and uncomfortable feeling rippling down her spine as he skirted around the subject of Neal. She wasn't entirely sure what Hook's relationship with him had been, but it was clearly an odd topic for the both of them. Throwing awkwardness to the ever-growing list of confusing emotions that swirled between them was something she wasn't willing to do anytime soon.
"Very well." he agreed tightly with a quick and stiff nod. "my purpose in seeking you out…" he trailed off again, slight regret flashing in his eyes. "Swan you need to prepare yourself for the perils of Neverland."
"You're kidding me right? This again?" she sighed, more than a little annoyed, and turning from, him began to walk away. "I've honestly had enough of you and everyone else talking about how dark and dangerous this place is…we went over this last night Hook…it's been made abundantly clear. And I'm tired of it…everyone needs to focus—"
"You're a lousy swordsman Swan."
As his voice bellowed after her she stopped, halting in her retreat, and taking a moment to process his words, turned around slowly leveling him with a glare as annoyance ran through her fast.
"Your footwork needs improvement, your grip is appalling, and—"
"And I beat you. I kicked your ass and knocked you out cold."
Apparently seeing he had her attention he smiled thinly at her, coming towards her again, his stride confident and full of purpose. "No darling I let you win."
His claim struck a chord with her, and whether it was because she sensed the truth in his words, or disliked the implication that anyone let her do anything, her irritation flared. Letting out a humorless laugh, she placed her hands on her hips, watching as he took a few more steps before stopping in front of her. And lifting the sword meaningfully, the sliver reflecting the sun and causing the sharp metal to glint threateningly, he kept quiet as he waited for her to speak once again.
"Is this some ego thing? You want to go again so that you can prove you didn't get beat by a girl Captain." She made a move to walk past him, narrowing her eyes when he stepped in front of her, blocking her exit. "I don't have time to stroke your ego pal."
The smile he shot her was cruel, the devastating pirate-like grin taking her by surprise. "You can stroke whatever you please darling, but rest assured, my ego is something that needs no tending."
The words hung between them, devoid of emotion and dripping with blatant innuendos.
Her mouth dropping open for a moment, she stared at him blankly, her cheeks flushing hot as his eyes held hers. And then, shaking herself, embarrassed by his behavior and her flustered reaction, she went to brush past him again, tightening her hands into fists, when he merely stepped in front of her without hesitation.
"Move!" She practically shouted the demand at him, her cheeks still flaming, her heart, for reasons unknown to her, pounding uncomfortably against her chest.
"From what I've gathered you don't know how to use your bloody magic properly and your skills with a blade need some vast improvement. If we're to go up against the lost ones and the beasts that roam Neverland freely you need to be better prepared. You will practice Swan. You won't put the rest of us at risk because you are a bloody stubborn and foolish woman. So help me I will—"
"Will what?" her answering laugh was nearly hysterical as she stepped closer to him, pleased when a wary look crossed his dark features. "I don't owe you a thing, I don't owe anyone on this ship a goddamned thing. Do you understand? Nothing!"
"You're angry." he said the words softly, almost acceptingly, his blue eyes seeking hers, the understanding she saw there taking her by surprise.
"I'm a lot of things right now Hook, angry is only one of them." Stepping back from him again, she reached behind her and pulling out the gun she had hidden beneath her shirt, she flashed him a flat smile. "I don't need a sword when I have—"
"That? Ahhhh darling, pray tell, how well did that precious weapon suit you in the Enchanted Forest?" Not waiting for her to answer his eyes drifted towards the gun, studying it with unmasked contempt, a slight sneer crossed his features. "Keep it my dear. We may need it in a particularly desperate situation, but by no means will that be your weapon of choice." Holding up his hooked hand, he waved away the livid protest that had bubbled up in her throat, threatening to spill over. "The moment you use that, it's blast will attract every native, beast, and enemy lurking in the shadows, like a beacon, calling them to us easily. The moment you use that you'll draw unwanted and unnecessary attention. The moment you use that my dear, you risk everyone's life...your son's included. Put it away."
She faltered at his words, his voice had taken on an authoritative and commanding tone, insisting he be heard, demanding she listen. And she hated him at that moment. Hated him with a violent passion for his smug and superior tone, hated him for the idiotic choices he had made, hated him for bringing Henry into the conversation
But most of all she hated him because he was right.
Staring down at the heavy weapon in her hand, Emma considered it hard, remembering how it had attracted the ogres in the Enchanted Forest, nearly killing them in the process. And tucking it back behind her once again, she shrugged her shoulders, her face flushing hot with both anger and humility as she met his stare once more.
"I'll go find David."
"Ahhhh yes the prince."
"He's just as good if not better with a sword."
At her words Hook's lips pursed before he took another step in her direction. And leaning forward, coming uncomfortably close to her, he spoke softly in a low and deep voice, "that may be so lass…but I don't have the time nor the patience to watch father and daughter bond over lessons. You need someone who will push you, who will have your defenses up and your senses aware. Do you trust him?
"With your life, do you trust him…your father?"
"Yes." Her reply came fast; she blurted the answer out unthinkingly.
"And me? Do you trust me?"
Emma hesitated, considering his softly spoken words. Did she trust him? When she took the time to pause for a moment, to really think about the question, to block out her anger, her crazy and turbulent emotions and carefully weigh her answer she found herself coming up torn. Part of her wanted to trust him, part of her longed to believe in him. But another part of her quietly cautioned her, reminding her where his loyalties had previously laid.
"I don't know." she whispered, her voice tinged with defeat.
"Good." he spoke the word softly, his tone just barely audible. And straightening slightly, a grim smile crossed his features as he picked up a lock of her hair with his hook, his eyes flashing with something unreadable when she pulled back quickly, slapping his arm away. "You need to be on your toes with me. I'll not go easy on you Emma, I'll not be soft and nurturing…I'll force you to use your wits and your cunning. When you fight me you'll fear for your life." Stepping even closer, she felt the warmth of his body consume her as the hot and unique scent of him enveloped her slowly. "With me you'll never know if my blade will stop just before it pierces that soft and delicate skin of yours or if I'll merely just run you through,…just as you will never know the outcome as you fight and struggle for your life when we finally set foot on Neverland's shores. You need me to teach you."
"A rash decision love."
She looked away from him, her eyes shooting to the sparkling water, her body still tense from both his nearness and dark words. Her skin hummed with a mixture of anticipation and terror as she considered what he had said. And she warred with herself internally, knowing that she was close to giving in.
A dull and telling silence lingered between them, and she closed her eyes, acceptance sinking in.
She needed his help. If she wanted to be prepared for whatever faced them, if she wanted to ensure Henry's safe return, she needed his help. She needed him. Her shoulders drooping fractionally, she bit her lip resigned.
"You're angry with me," he broke the silence, drawing her focus once again. "More so than before…and that's good. Use that emotion when we duel." And closing the rest of the small distance between them, he lifted her wrist with his hook, drawing her hand to the sword he held. "Grip it tight Swan." Leaning closer, so that his breath was hot in her ear, she could hear the smile in his voice. "Good girl…don't be gentle."
"You're a disgusting pig." she hissed at him, ripping the sword from him angrily, she stalked away fast, her breathing uneven as she put some much needed space between them.
"And you're easy to rile up." He shot back, unsheathing his sword from his belt, he smirked at her knowingly. "You think when a lost one comes at you swinging a dagger, you'll be the calm and cool sheriff from your pitiful little town? No my dear. You'll be seeing red, desperate to do anything and everything to get your son back. You're emotions will be raging and you'll be fighting your conscious...warring with your blasted feelings as a child comes at with the intent to kill!"
Shuddering involuntarily, she opened her mouth, his words bringing a sinking feeling to her gut and a tight frown to her lips, and just as she was about to answer, to shoot back a smart retort she noticed him move fast, raising his sword and coming at her quickly. Her eyes widening she brought her own sword up fast, blocking his blow as their blades clashed together, the sound ringing out and carrying heavily in the light wind that whipped around them, rustling her hair and billowing out his loose shirt.
"What the hell?"
"Be on your guard darling, your attackers are devious and cunning. You won't see them coming."
And with the advice he swung at her again, shouting at her to mind her feet and tighten her grip when her hands wavered and faltered with each hit she endured. Swallowing and bristling under the commands, she raised her weapon to block another blow, her eyes widening as the sharp steel of his sword suddenly grazed her neck, causing her to pause in her actions.
"Dead." He murmured darkly, his voice low and soft as their eyes held each other silently over the shining silver of his weapon.
And before she could comment, he kicked a leg out, catching her square in the stomach and pushing her backwards, causing her to stumble, tripping over her feet, she fell to the ground. Humiliation brought hot color to her cheeks as she whipped her head up, glaring at him, her throat tightened painfully—she hated herself for suddenly feeling like crying.
She hated him.
"Get up Swan. Your opponent won't wait for you to gather your bearings."
Blowing out a breath, Emma struggled to her feet, her stomach ached from the kick, and she cursed at him under her breath, knowing her skin would be bruised from the harsh blow. And just as she got to her feet, gaining her balance, ruthlessly he came at her again. Catching her by surprise she was unable to get her sword up in time; the sharp point of his blade just barely stopping before it pierced through her chest.
"Dead again." He said, his eyes drifting to where she held her sword tensely at her side, her knuckles going white with her tight and firm grip. "You should be raising your weapon, prepared to fight as you're getting back on your feet."
Emma narrowed her eyes, her gaze flitting down to where his sword still hovered near her heart—her annoyance at him spiking as he stared down at her smugly, tauntingly. Suddenly a rush of emotions hit her fast—suddenly she found herself unable to contain her anger any longer. He had left them. He had taken the goddamned bean and had left him. He had worked with Cora and Tamara and Greg. He was always getting in her way, he was always there…
He was always coming back.
She hated him.
God how she wanted to hate him.
Bringing her sword up she knocked his away and raising the blade she barely suppressed a wince as the loud clank of steel against steel screeched and echoed around them as he blocked her sudden and unforgiving blow. Quickly they resumed their battle. Eyes narrowed, chests heaving, curses flying, they fought each other fiercely. As the intensity of the fight picked up, quickly she realized she wasn't the only one suppressing her anger. His eyes flashed each time their blades crossed; his face had taken on a dark and shadowed look.
With each hit, with each block and blow he became more tense, his expression more impassioned, his brilliant blue eyes burning vibrantly with pulsing emotion.
He was livid.
He came at her strong, and as she just barely blocked the blow to her head, she felt fear lurch in her heart, unsure whether he had been aware of the near fatal strike he had almost thrust upon her—his eyes were so wild, his movements so calculated.
"You're letting your emotions run you!" he shouted, his tone frustrated as he stepped back from her. Shaking his head, disgust crossed his features as he leveled her with a condescending glare.
"You said you wanted me to use my emotions!" she yelled back, only slightly concerned about drawing the others attention, she watched Hook warily as they circled each other menacingly.
"You're letting your feelings override your reasoning…you're thinking too bloody much!"
"I'm letting my emotions…" she trailed off in a sardonic laugh, earning a narrowed glare from him as they both raised their weapons again. "Okay. You're one to talk."
"As are you pet."
"You're angry with me.
"And aren't you angry with me love?"
She didn't answer, instead she swung at him, reveling in the feel of the clash and bang, the way the collision of their swords caused her whole body to vibrate. The need to beat him burning in her veins, they resumed their fighting once again. She paid attention to her feet and her grip, ignoring her pride when he barked out a command or two—instead of yelling back, as she itched to do, she listened to him heeding his advice. Her movements became less stinted, easier, and more fluid, and she watched him carefully, dimly noting when something that closely resembled respect crossed his features slowly.
He was looking at her as an equal.
And just as she felt her feelings start to shift, as the reluctant beginnings of admiration and respect for him began to creep up on her unwillingly, a small voice in her head whispered to her harshly, reminding her of his partnership with Tamara.
Tamara had killed Neal.
Tamara had taken Henry.
And almost violently she snapped.
Swinging at him hard she took him by surprise, watching with some satisfaction as he stumbled backwards, nearly losing his balance. Raising an eyebrow, he recovered fast and began circling her again, his eyes never leaving hers as their swords kept each other at bay.
"Tell me why you're angry Emma."
"You're getting sloppy. Tell me what has suddenly gotten under your skin."
She shouted it at him, feeling the beginnings of a scream work its way up her throat as she thought about him helping them, helping Tamara and Greg, helping Cora—always out for himself, never putting anyone else first. Even now she was unsure about his agenda. And as her thoughts drifted she was brutally jarred back to reality when he nearly sliced off her nose, causing her to flinch out of the way fast.
Raising her sword she swung hard again, gritting her teeth as he easily blocked the blow. "You were working with them." And as she said the words something inside of her broke, her anger overflowing, her distress that he had been a part of Tamara and Greg's plan consuming her. "You were working with them! You helped them! You son of a bitch! You were helping them!"
She watched as something odd crossed his features, something almost pained and broken, before he collected himself quickly and spinning fast he began to fight her again. His footwork intricate, his movements more involved, his actions distracted her for a moment—she was just barely able block blow after blow as he continued to take her by surprise with his skill, showing her just how much he'd been holding back as he swung at her hard again and again. Quickly, almost effortlessly he drew her sword to his, and much like when they had fought in the Enchanted Forest he made a quick circular motion with his wrist, her sword flying from her grasp with the momentum and skidding across the wooden planks of the ship, leaving her defenseless. And before she could react, before she could even think, he had her pinned up against the railing, his body pressed against hers as his sword dug threateningly into the skin of her neck. Feeling a prick, she flinched when a thin line of blood trickled down her throat.
"Dead." He whispered softly, his eyes boring into hers.
"Let me go."
"I was working with them because you abandoned me darling…again."
"Go to hell Hook."
Smiling darkly down at her, he eased up on his sword, still keeping her trapped against the railing he continued to stare at her hard. "You're making a bloody habit of it Swan. Time and time again you've left me. First on the beanstalk after I had given you my word! After I had promised you my loyalties…"
"Get off of me."
He ignored her, instead pushing into her more, his breath hot on her face, his nose mere inches away from hers. "And then after I came to your world on my own…"
"You teamed up with Cora…"
"I was injured…"
"You got hit by a car after you shot Belle."
"And you left with him! You left with the crocodile, leaving me without my hook without my sodding pride…
"I left to save you, you stupid, stupid bastard!"
She screamed the words harshly at him, his body tensing with the statement as it resonated between them. Her heart was racing and her head felt slightly fuzzy—she couldn't think with his body pressed so tightly to hers. And she tried to tell herself it was disgust and anger that had her skin tingling as her breathing came out shallow and uneven. She tried, but a voice in her head couldn't help but point out that she was failing miserably.
"Let me go."
"What—what are you saying."
"It doesn't matter…let me go."
Instead of releasing her, he dug his sword further into her skin, his eyes unblinking as she flinched at the threatening contact. "Tell me." He murmured the words slowly, his eyes never leaving hers, she could see his own anger still simmering in the depths of his blue stare.
"He would have killed you if I hadn't gone with him. He needed my help to find…" she paused her throat tightening slightly. "He needed my help finding Neal…he threatened to kill you if I didn't help okay? Now get the hell off me."
Surprise registered briefly in his eyes, his face dropped slightly as his grip on his sword faltered heavily. And using it to her advantage she pushed at him hard, moving past him when he stumbled away from her without fight. Walking away fast she just barely heard his question, softly spoken at her back.
"Why would you do that?"
Stopping for a moment she closed her eyes, her breathing still heavy, her heart in her throat, she tried to calm herself—attempting to steady her racing thoughts and furiously beating pulse.
"Because it was the right thing to do." she said quietly, without turning around.
And unsure if he heard her, unwilling to stick around to see what else he had to say, she continued to walk away, ignoring the feeling that pulled tightly in her gut, while pushing away the voice in her head that softly told her in quiet and sympathetic tones, that doing the right thing hadn't been the only reason she had decided to save his life the day Gold had threatened it.
It was the same reason she had felt compelled to ensure his safety on the beanstalk, the same reason she had needed to hide him after the incident with Belle.
There was a connection between them.
He was just as lost and broken as she was.
And it was something, that even now, after the betrayals, the harsh words, and telling actions, she found herself wishing to fiercely deny. But in truth it was only something that, with each passing day, with each heated encounter and infuriating interaction, was becoming increasingly difficult to avoid.
And she wanted to hate him for it.
She wanted to hate him with every fiber of her being because hating him would make things simpler and less messy.
But, slowly, finally, she was beginning to accept that no matter how many times she thought it, no matter how many times she said it, there was something inside of her that refused to believe it.
She wanted to hate him.
But she couldn't.
Casting a look back, she saw that he was still staring after her. Their gazes met, and in that brief moment she felt something spark in the air, traveling between them and hitting her square in the chest. Startled, she jumped slightly, unsure whether she had actually felt the odd jolt or had imagined it, and shaking her head she broke away from his stare.
She had to focus on Henry.
Walking back in the direction she had left Mary Margaret, intent on apologizing to her for her previously harsh words, she shot her gaze out to the sea—her eyes widening slowly, as she saw, off in the distance, a foggy shape just over the horizon. And looking behind her quickly she watched as Hook made his way back to the helm, his movements fast and hurried, the atmosphere suddenly charged and formidable.
Bringing her attention back over to the water, she swallowed over the lump in her throat as the shape began to take form slowly. And bringing a hand to her chest, over her fast beating heart, she felt her entire body shake as hope and fear collided together inside of her.
"Neverland." she whispered softly.