Storybrooke, Three Days Later

Killian leans on the rail of his ship, glaring at the full moon. He knows that there is a choice to be made, but neither one of his options truly appeals to him. After everyone had returned to the Jolly Roger, including an injured and subdued Rumplestiltskin, Poseidon had navigated far out into the oceans of Neverland, eventually opening a portal that returned them to Maine. When the ship docked, an excited crowd awaited them; the homecoming quickly turned into something less than a joyous celebration. Much had passed while he and the royals had been absent searching for Henry. He hadn't made an effort to find out what precisely happened, but it was hard even for him to miss the fact that half of the town had been burnt to the ground.

It didn't take long for people to resume pushing for a return home, to where they all really belonged. Snow White and David had immediately consulted with the group who had managed affairs in their absence and called all the citizens together. It was the only occasion upon which Killian had been persuaded to leave Emma's side; her parents had granted his unspoken request that she be allowed to remain where she was, sleeping in his bed, and his attendance was the only thing they had asked of him since the battle. At the council meeting where everyone voted unanimously to leave this world behind, he stood in the shadows watching. He had never been a part of Storybrooke, so he really had no say in whether the townspeople returned to the Enchanted Forest or not. With the die cast, there is little that he can do besides choose. Her mother had followed him out of the hall and into the night…

"Captain." Killian halted at both the command and the request in Snow's voice. "You didn't say in there what you plan on doing; if you are joining us."

"That's because I've not yet examined all facets, milady. There are some who, despite my best efforts to the contrary, would rather see me dead than living in the same realm as a free man."

"And there are just as many who know what you've done for my family and would honor you for it. David and I can make it official, with a royal pardon, if you'd accept it." She made her words tentative and soft, as if she knew he would need a more gentle form of persuasion. She approached him cautiously, carefully, making sure to make as much noise as possible. Her time as a bandit taught her that thieves, like all hunted animals, startle easily. She placed her hand gently on his left shoulder, and for a moment, he let himself close his eyes and pretend that it was Emma's touch.

"She wouldn't want you to be alone, for however long it takes her to come back to us. She would want-"

Killian shrugged her hand off and pulled away abruptly. "Well it bloody well doesn't matter what she wants now, does it? She left us! She made the choice to abandon us for this ridiculous!..." He hung his head, defeated, unable to continue the thought or to pretend that he's not talking about himself. Hastily, he turned toward Snow and bowed.

"A thousand apologies, Majesty. But I have a ship to repair after our lengthy voyage. Never know when I must be prepared to sail again." With that, he spun on his heels and stalked back to the Jolly Roger. Where he proceeded to drink his way through several bottles of rum and brandy…

The burn did nothing to alleviate or distract from the constant stabbing pain in his chest and even the numbing of his senses doesn't erase his knowledge of her absence. His very bones ache to the core, telling him that his princess is gone from this place. Her body may rest below deck in his quarters, but that vital spark, the bright light of her soul no longer remains. The sounds of the waves against the hull are usually soothing, but tonight nothing can quiet the rage and despair and helplessness he feels. This is why he held on to his revenge for centuries—to avoid this agony. This is why he was drawn to and yet feared Emma Swan—because he knew instinctively from the moment she held a blade to his throat that she alone had the power to destroy him.

"Is that what you really think, Killian? Is that how you really feel?" His heart stutters and all the air leaves his lungs at once. He refuses to look to either side because he knows that it simply can't be her and that he must be dreaming and tormenting himself. Her hand comes into his field of vision and firmly closes over the top of his. It feels so real, as real as he desperately wishes it to be—he can even feel the calluses on her fingers left behind by her sword and firearm. He shuts his eyes against the sight, against the pain and madness bubbling up inside him. It's the soft caress of the back of her fingers against his cheek that breaks him. He doesn't care if this is phantom or illusion or death itself, so long as it wears his Emma's form.

He pulls her into his arms, resting his forehead against hers, still unwilling to open his eyes. "I've always known the gods were cruel and that I deserve to rot in the deepest hell, but I had no idea they could be so creatively vindictive."

"Tell your sailor to have a bit more respect, girl. You have your five minutes with him. Use them wisely." Killian finally opens his eyes to find the owner of the voice, but the second he does, all his focus is on Emma. She has a sad smile on her face and tears are gently falling down her cheek. He knows it's a vision because she's wearing the ball gown from their dream, the vivid blue that matches his irises and makes hers a brighter shade of green. But she looks and feels solid in his arms, a fact which causes his throat to constrict tighter.

"There isn't much time, and there's so much I'm not allowed to tell you." She bites her lower lips, as if even that wasn't meant to be said. "I want you to know that I didn't have a much of a choice, Killian, and please believe me when I say that my decision wasn't easy. But if I hadn't trapped Pan, then everyone I love would have been in danger. You most of all. The hardest part was knowing that you'd think I was leaving you behind. Again. I promised you that I wouldn't run away, that I would never abandon you, and I haven't Killian Jones. I'm not leaving you."

"But you already have, darling. You made your deal with the goddesses, and now I may never see you again."

The tears fall faster, and, just as with their first kiss, Emma is the one who takes control. There has been passion and gentleness, raging heat and aching tenderness, but never has there been such raw, desperate intimacy before. It's as if she's trying to steal a piece of his soul with his breath; but all he is belongs to her already. He holds nothing back, pouring into this melding of lips every emotion, every feeling, every argument he would have used to persuade her to stay with him. She pulls back a mere inch, staring directly into his eyes. When she speaks it is in a longing whisper. "Please, Killian. Please don't give up. Come find me and bring me home with you."

He takes a deep, startled breath, as if he's been under water for too long. Once again, Emma is gone, and he's leaning over the railing of the Jolly Roger, looking at the reflection of the full moon on the waves. "Insufferable girl! Thinks that none of the rules apply to her!"

Killian turns toward the voice from before, one that sounds cracked with stress, use, or age. She's attractive for an older woman, but he can feel power radiating off of her and knows that she's not ordinary. Her silver white hair falls in waves about her shoulders, and her eyes are a glowing blue-green. "I don't care who you are or what you want; you get the bloody hell off of my ship now!"

"That's no way to talk to a sea witch, sailor boy! Certainly not one who's been roped into helping your sorry ass against her better judgment." She stalks toward him, cold calculation in her gaze chilling him worse than the night breeze coming in off the ocean. She sniffs the air, then curls her lips in distaste. "Drunk AND feeling sorry for himself! My, my… Honestly, it's hard to tell just what that child sees in you. Ah, ah, ah!"

A flick of her wrist brings a column of water over the side of the ship. Before he can move two feet toward the self-proclaimed witch, the water has shaped itself like chains and manacles him where he stands on the deck. To add insult to injury, a band of it wraps itself all the way up his torso, neck, and lower face. "That's much better. A pretty face and no way to speak except through body language. Now, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, I am here to help you. Your precious princess made a deal with some goddesses to imprison Pan. Nod your head if you follow me, lover boy."

She can't stop him from glaring daggers at her, but he manages as curt an affirmative as he can. "Excellent. Believe it or not, Hecate has no intention of keeping Emma Swan trapped forever; in fact, her sister told you all that at the right moment, True Love's kiss would wake her and finish the binding on Pan's new prison. So, the question is this, Killian Jones: are you willing to make your own bargain with us to help set her free? Or will you be a coward and run away licking your wounds?"

He shakes his head and motions downward with it, toward the water shackles. The witch waves two of her fingers and the gag slides away from his mouth. "First things first. Who are you? Why would you help me? And what kind of deal?"

She grins, a look that can only be described as lascivious, then reaches up to grasp his chin in her hand. "Ah! I see it now! Determined, ruthless, persistent—you've water magic in your veins, boy. No doubt about that! If you weren't already spoken for, I might have been tempted to keep you for myself." Her laugh is harsh and smoky when he jerks his face away.

"Such a stickler for propriety. Very well, then. My most well-known name is Thetis, daughter of the titan Nereus, mother of Achilles. I am helping you because Hecate and Artemis cannot. Pan was a menace among our kind, and the Trivia was not the only one whose sisters suffered for his lusts and impudence. There were fifty of us once—daughters of Nereus…" For the first time, the demi-goddess shows something other than confidence, lost in memories of those long forgotten by humanity. "I cannot bring back my father's children, but I can avenge them by making sure that that upstart satyr suffers.

"Hecate and Artemis have already made deals with Emma Swan, thus they can aid her no further. Deities may be powerful, but even we have rules regarding how much influence we can wield over the realms; we can only hold onto so many mortals' contracts at a time. And so, I am doing them a favor."

"This is all very fascinating. Riveting, my dear, really. But none of this explains what this has to do with me." The boredom is as much a façade as it has been in the past, but he cannot hide the slightest quiver of excited hope that has sprung up within him at her words. Thetis places her hands on her hips, regarding him thoughtfully for several long moments. Clearly, she comes to some sort of decision about him in that time.

"Knowledge of the future is complicated… So many things, tiny details sometimes effect the largest of outcomes. Would you care to see what possibilities hinge on this one choice of yours, boy?" The witch sashays up to Killian, conjures a handful of water, and dips one fingertip into the miniscule pool. On his forehead, she draws a five-pointed star and then flings the remaining water to the deck of his ship. Images wrestle for dominance inside his brain; he can see so many things, and yet nothing at the same time.

But a flash of brilliant white light blinds him, and when his vision clears, he sees her. Green eyes dance with joy and mischief, while her hair trails behind her in a golden, sun-lit ribbon; she's running away from him, barefooted through a sunny forest, but she turns and beckons him with a radiant smile. She glows with love and happiness, left hand gently resting on top of her full, rounded belly. And then he's right behind her in a bed, supporting her and telling her to breathe. She squeezes his hand, begging him to stay with her; he promises that he's right here and not going anywhere, that she's absolutely beautiful and there's nowhere he'd rather be. He holds her as pain clearly overwhelms her, but then they both start laughing when they hearing a little wailing cry. She kisses him and thanks him for giving her a family before the pain starts all over again.

Next, he sees her beautiful green eyes staring back at him from the tiniest face he's ever seen. The baby girl has a full head of soft black hair that he can't resist touching. He sings to her and makes ridiculous faces just to see her smile light up. He can feel a solid blanket of love and peace wrap itself around him and the little one; he looks up to see her staring at him from her rocking chair, nursing their blue-eyed girl who has only pale white wisps of down on her head. He's distracted enough by the mother that he doesn't notice his daughter pulling on his necklace until it's too late. He gently unwraps delicate fingers from around the medallion and reverently kisses each one, all while his three girls laugh at him.

He sees lessons in sailing and horseback riding; he watches the infants become children, chasing after three toddling little boys of various heights and coloring; dancing and music, archery and sword fighting; an endless whirl of childhood and growing up. And through it all, he has a blonde beauty by his side who makes every moment complete and perfect. That physical presence of love and devotion grows stronger throughout the various scenes he witnesses until he can see it floating on the very air that surrounds this vision.

Killian Jones weeps, tears splashing down his cheeks unreservedly when the Sight leaves him. He's just a man, bent and twisted by years of dark loneliness and rage. "But all that time and all that pain haven't broken you yet. There's still hope ready to live inside you again, if you're willing to risk it. Are you a gambling man enough to take a leap of faith, in yourself? Do you want that dream to become a reality badly enough to take a chance?

"I can't lie to you and don't condone it in most cases anyway. You, boy, are NOT Emma Swan's true love. But you could be. The worlds exist, thrive on balance—good and evil, light and dark, man and woman. Your life thus far has been one of hedonistic excess and terrible darkness, until she came along. If you can prove yourself worthy—if you can atone for the sins of the past and convince the gods of your selfless love for the girl, then you will become more than the man she already loves…. Have we got a deal?" The water flows off of his body, then stands up in front of him on the deck. A translucent scroll sits on an open book, ready and waiting for his consent. The witch extends her hand to him, a quill resting between her outstretched fingers.

For the first time since he kissed Emma just before the fight with Pan, Killian Jones smiles. "And what sort of deeds will persuade the gods themselves of my sincerity?"

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The Enchanted Forest- Two Weeks Later

It feels so good to finally be home. Snow allows herself this moment of unadulterated happiness. The kingdoms are in shambles, ogres and trolls run rampant, and her home is in desperate need of a complete overhaul. But it's that very word which fills her with light and hope. Home. She and David and Emma and Henry and all the others are finally back where they belong. All around her, Snow can hear the sounds of hammering and the clanking of pick-axes on stone. Servants are sorting through the debris and putting rooms to rights. The only note of true sadness comes from the chapel where they have placed Emma's bed.

The choice was Henry's. David argued that it was morbid, as if they were treating her like a dead body. But Henry pointed out that a goddess would feel most comfortable in a place of worship and contemplation, and that hope was often lit in prayers. He also, strangely, said that Emma wanted to sleep there. Snow had looked at her husband and shrugged, unwilling to question their grandson on this point. Every day, Snow makes a point of sitting with her daughter, brushing her hair and speaking to her of the things that were happening now in the Enchanted Forest.

Artemis had assured her that Emma could always find these things out from Hecate, but it soothes the queen in ways she doesn't fully understand. As part of their agreement, the goddesses had promised to protect her family while she "slept" and to take them all back home if that is what everyone decided on. Snow smiles at the thought of her daughter bargaining with deities. Her skirts shush against the stone floor as she toes off her slippers by the entrance.

The bed is placed on a dais, covered in purple velvet and gold satin. Curtains have been hung on a canopy to provide a measure of privacy for when members of the royal family visit. As always, there is one dwarf on duty, axe at the ready to defend their princess. Snow can feel the presence of the goddess, not because she can be seen, but because of their connection as warrior maidens, as huntresses. She nods to Doc, indicating that he can go rest or join his brothers in their repair work. He squeezes her hand, a gesture of love and solidarity, before quietly leaving. The drapes are open right now, letting light fall gently on Emma. In honor of her magical abilities and sacrifice, Hecate had robed her in a blindingly bright bluish white toga—a garment and color only worn by deities and demigods. As a concession to her heritage, the skirt is split down the middle to reveal matching leather pants and boots; her sword and dagger, polished to a high gleam every day by David, are sheathed in their scabbards at her sides.

"The pirate was here earlier." Faint disapproval colors Artemis' words; the goddess wasn't fond of men generally speaking, but had yet to rethink her instant and pronounced dislike of Captain Jones. Snow smiles both at her new friend's unspoken commentary and at the thought of how much had changed with regard to the former buccaneer. He had come to her and David the morning after the council meeting and informed them that not only was he going with them, but that they could use his ship to transport everyone to the Enchanted Forest all at once. Goodwill had positively flowed to him from that point onward, and Snow knows that it will only be a matter of time before David can convince Jones to accept the commission they have planned for him.

She settles in beside her daughter and is about to pick up Emma's hairbrush when she notices an envelope addressed to her resting by her daughter's pillow.

Your Majesty,

I know this act may seem cowardly, or at least one of extreme ingratitude, but I am afraid circumstances have forced me to depart without the usual, proper farewells. Please see these other letters to their intended recipients, as well for me. Let us be frank, milady—you know that I love your daughter to a point beyond all reason. But the heart seldom shakes hands with what is logical. Perhaps it is madness, and indeed I cannot deny that it will seem so to many, but I dare to hope that someday I will return and will be man enough to restore Emma to you. I cannot promise that I will succeed when I come back, but I ask that you have faith that my love for her can transform me into a man worthy of her love. One last request: read the enclosed to her every day and keep an eye on the horizon.

Your obedient servant,

Captain Killian Jones

Snow's eyes fill with tears. She may have missed Emma's first words, first steps, and a world of other firsts… But she now knows that she has been given a gift that eases some of the sadness—she was allowed to watch her daughter's path to True Love grow and blossom. She has no doubt that Killian Jones will return, and that he will break this curse. She gets up and immediately searches for her husband and the captain of the guard. That very night, a watch is set to scan the seas and beacon fires prepared to relay the message of a certain ship's arrival. Before retiring for the evening, Snow and David light candles to dispel the gloom and shadows from the chapel, and to read Killian's letter to their daughter.

I swear to you: I will never give up, princess. I will bring you home.

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Three women stand on the mountain top above the glistening bay. A ship sails off into the sun in the distance, winking out of sight in a flash of blue-green light. "Really, Thetis, was it necessary? Telling the man he wasn't her True Love after claiming not to be able to lie? That's a touch cruel, even for you."

"He's entirely too cheeky! Besides, if he knew the truth, he would have kissed her and all this planning would have been for nothing! Pan would have been released, and it would have all started over again! No, he has a long road to journey on before he can believe himself worthy. Plus, he made demands of his own: wants to be taught how to use his magic, and to know where he comes from."

"You'd think he'd have learned by now that the past isn't what defines him anymore. But no matter; once he passes our tests, we will give him what he seeks."

"You're so certain of him are you, Hecate? Why? He's mortal, flawed, weak! How can you be so sure of his success?"

"Because everyone deserves their chance at redemption, to reclaim their lives and become the hero of their own stories. Recognizing that and making that choice takes a lot of courage, a little luck, and something else he has—a heart capable of great love."