A/N: First of all, endless thanks to my lovely soulmatey Noe (colinostahpit), and to the awesome Hilary (lady-silverblood) who both helped me betaing, polishing and editing this little story. You both rock and I love you with the passion of a thousand Killians (yes, I know that sounded strange, but bear with me, it's 1 AM over here xD).
Second of all, a little background on what inspired me to write this. This story was inspired by several things, and some headcanons from my shipmates over on Tumblr: the headcanon that somewhere along the line Emma may fall under some sort of curse and that Killian will feel her in danger, just as Charming did with Snow in "Apple Red as Blood"; the parallel with Snowing regarding to episodes 1x03 - 2x03 (when they first met and when they got married in the lake, respectively) and that maybe on episode 3x06 we would get either their first kiss, love declaration, or both; and finally, this was also inspired by the Charmed episode "A Witch's Tail" where Phoebe turns into a mermaid. This fic will have 3 chapters and an epilogue, and the rating is T for now but it may go up ;-)
I hope you enjoy it and I swear I won't make another one of these über long author's notes, LOL =P
It had been a week since they arrived in Neverland, after the less-than-pleasant jump through the portal aboard the Jolly Roger, but this was the first day they had left the ship, and Emma was happy that they were finally doing something to find Henry. Not that the past week had been wasted; Hook had been more than helpful explaining the general layout of the land, and letting them know which plants they could eat and which ones they couldn't even touch lest they die some horrific and painful death. Emma had expected Neverland to be a dark and menacing place ever since Gold and Hook had looked so wary at finding out Henry had been taken here. And after more than six months living among fairytales, she had come to accept the fact that our world's version of them were, as Hook had so cutely pointed out, merely "lovely tales" – lovely, but quite inaccurate.
Neverland was, on the surface, the most gorgeous place she had ever seen. Everything was so bright and full of light that when she first laid eyes on the island, she wondered if she had ever seen real colors before. The vegetation was gorgeous, especially the ones that were the deadliest, and the sky was always a perfect clear blue, with the brightest and biggest stars she had ever imagined. Every dawn was a spectacle that would put the aurora borealis to shame. But just as with the mermaids' song Hook had told them about, it lured you in with beauty before dragging you down to inevitable death.
That was why they had waited a whole week before venturing out, in pairs according to Hook and Gold's suggestion, trying to find clues that would lead them to the Lost Boys. Emma knew the delay was inevitable, her head understood that perfectly, but her heart kept yelling at her for having wasted seven whole days. Now she was cranky, she was hot (God, was it hot here, Hook had lent them some clothes since it had been obvious that what they were wearing was perfectly ill-suited to the hot and humid weather), and she couldn't help but feel frustrated and more than a little scared that they wouldn't find Henry in time. She didn't even hear what her mother was saying, her anxiousness and weariness growing with every passing minute. She was becoming more and more worried about Henry, but she hadn't had any nightmares for once since they had gotten here.
Suddenly, she found herself playing yesterday's events in her mind once more, sinking into the memories while her feet kept carrying her forward…
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She was tossing and turning in her bunk belowdecks, sleep refusing her once more. They would finally get to land tomorrow to start looking for Henry, yet she couldn't help but feel guilty for her little (well, not so little) outburst earlier, when she snapped at everyone for having wasted precious time instead of going after Henry the minute they went through the portal. She had been especially hurtful towards Hook, and she hated to admit that was the main reason she was having so much trouble sleeping right now. Her words were still ringing through her head, and she cringed at the memory.
They had just finished eating, and were talking about how the teams would be formed for the trek tomorrow. Emma was losing her patience and her temper, and she got up from the table and stalked to the door, more than a little annoyed.
"Emma, honey, this is important. You should give us your input," her mother said gently. "About the teams."
"I don't care about the teams. All I care about is that we are finally doing something after sitting here for a whole week doing nothing but endless discussions like this one, coming up with plans that all of you decided were pointless, wasting precious time looking at maps. All I care about is finding my son."
The others looked at each other silently. They were used to Emma's impatience, but this time, Hook took the initiative to try to talk some sense into her. "Lass, please. We talked about this. We decided we couldn't afford to get out there without a plan and without detailed maps of the land. It's been ages since I left Neverland, and I never even needed them my first time here, because I rarely left my ship. You know that we're here for the same reason, we are all committed to finding Henry and helping in any way we can. Please. You have to trust us."
Emma scoffed, "Trust you? Five minutes ago you were about to flee with the bean to save your ass, and then you, for some reason I don't yet understand, decided to come back. Don't you even dare to think that cuts you some slack or that I suddenly trust you, because I don't. I'm still waiting for you to betray us again, just so you can finally kill your crocodile."
Hook looked at her with that same anguished and pained expression on his face as when she left him in Anton's lair; even Gold had seemed completely surprised and somewhat embarrassed. Hook cast his gaze down and turned away from the group, going back to his quarters without another word, leaving four stunned people and one still very angry Emma.
Neither of them had seen Hook again that afternoon. He had confined himself to his cabin and didn't emerge, not even for dinner. They had finished laying out the plan, however, and before they dismissed the meeting, her father approached. "Emma, I know we all want to find Henry as soon as possible, but I do think you were a little harsh to Hook. He is genuinely helping us, and he isn't getting anything from it either. And I'm not his biggest fan, but we can't afford to fight like this."
She knew that David was right, that she had crossed a line, and the worst thing was, she hadn't meant a word of it. She trusted Hook. She trusted him so completely that it scared her, just as it had during their journey up the beanstalk. No one had ever done what Hook had for her. He had turned back, he had come back, and not only been because of Neal's memory – they had some sort of past, and she thought that Hook remembered him at least somewhat fondly, because he had been truly shocked to learn that Neal was dead – but because of her too. She had been sincere in her offer for him to be a part of something, and even if he did run away at first, he had steered his ship back to her. Seeing the Jolly Roger on the horizon had left her speechless. And then she saw him coming down the gangplank, offering her the bean and his help, without a flinch, to go in search of Henry. He had even laid down his revenge before Gold, he had given up the only thing he had dreamed of for more than three hundred years, and she didn't want to admit that it had meant so much to her. That he had accepted her offer and, essentially, become a part of her family. And what scared her the most was that she wanted him in her family in a more literal way. Simply wanted him.
With that realization, she gave up trying to sleep and got up, leaving the crew's quarters to head up to the deck. The night sky was breathtakingly gorgeous, and there seemed to be even more stars than usual. She was lost for a moment, contemplating their beauty, when she heard a familiar voice behind her.
"So you couldn't sleep either, Swan."
She flinched at the cutting way in which he said her name; she could sense the hurt in his voice. "Are you afraid that I'll flee in the middle of the night with all the maps, after having stabbed the crocodile in the chest – again?"
Slowly, she turned to face him. Those sapphire-blue eyes of his were glinting with anger and hurt, and she could see disappointment too. She lowered her head, ashamed, and looked at her fingers wringing her black tank top, surprised at how unsure her voice sounded. "Hook, I'm… I'm sorry for what I said before. I was so out of line and totally unfair. You are risking your life to help us, to help my son who you barely even know, and I know how difficult it was for you to give up your revenge for m… for us. I… I do trust you. And I need to say thank you. You'll never know how much this means to me; I'm just so scared for Henry. What if we don't find him in time, what if…"
Her words died in her throat as she felt his hand caress her cheek. His thumb tenderly dried a tear which she hadn't even noticed had been shed.
"I know, Emma. I understand your frustration and I realized afterwards that you hadn't actually meant to say those things. But they hurt, lass. Hurt me more deeply than any of the times you so graciously knocked me out in the past." He let a sarcastic chuckle at that, before closing the space between them until their noses were almost touching, his gaze softening and his voice barely a whisper, so caressing and soft that it made her shiver.
"You know why I came back, and you know why I'm doing this. It's all for you, Emma. You achieved what I never thought was possible, you made me realize how much I had wasted my life in this pursuit for revenge, and how empty I felt. When Tamara bound me and took me back to Storybrooke in that little and highly uncomfortable box, and I saw that the crocodile had not only not died, but was happy with the woman he loved, even though she was not the same woman I shot at the town line… I realized that he had won. He had sentenced me to suffer; he left me alive that fateful day so long ago after he took my love and my hand from me so I could forge my own prison and sentence with my own choices. And then I met Bae. Providence brought him to me after his coward of a father left him too and I saw a light of hope, to protect the boy Milah had loved so dearly and had regretted so much for leaving. She wanted us to be a family. We were going to take him with us when we decided to go back to their little town, but he rejected me. He didn't believe I could change and I understand now that he was right. I wouldn't have been able to let go of my desire for vengeance. Not even loving him as my own son would have been enough, because every time I looked into his eyes and saw Milah, I would see him too, and that festering wound wouldn't have closed. So he left me, and in my anger and arrogance, I sold him out to the Lost Ones in exchange for having peace with them here in Neverland."
His eyes were cast downwards now, shame and guilt evident. "When you offered all those things to me in that strange tavern back in Storybrooke, I was so eager to accept, to believe you. But I got scared, and then learning that Bae was dead hurt me, and I felt the guilt for what I did all those years ago, all over again. I thought I wasn't worthy of that offer and chose to run away, to look after myself once again so I wouldn't get hurt once more." He looked into her eyes again, and she realized what he meant by that, and how much her leaving him on top of the beanstalk had hurt him. She felt a pang of regret for it.
"But then, as I was on my ship running away from you, I looked at that bean in my hand, and I realized I did want to risk it, to take that chance again, to be a part of something. With you, I was tired of being Captain Hook. I craved to be Killian Jones again, a man who was whole, with a heart that wasn't rotten with the despair of three hundred years of an unhealed wound. I needed to let that go, I needed to heal myself to finally be able to look forward, to walk the right path, for myself, and for you, because I chose you, Emma… I chose you."
He rested his forehead against hers and closed his eyes. Her breath caught in her throat at the burning sincerity of his words. She felt his warmth against her, and the soothing thump of his heart, her eyes filling with tears again.
"Killian…" His given name tasted so sweet on her tongue. It felt right to call him that, and she wondered, amazed, how just a name could make her feel so alive, so light and happy. Killian opened his eyes slowly, a smile across his lips that brought such light to his eyes, the same smile he had given her on the beanstalk before she chained him, and looked at her in awe.
"You… you said my name. Say it again. It has been so long since I last heard it spoken to me, it almost sounds foreign."
"Killian…" She saw him smile again, felt his arms around her. And then he laughed, a carefree and joyous laugh, and her heart simply melted.
"Thank you, Emma. I want to hear it from your lips every day from now on."
With that, he dipped his head and claimed her lips with his own, a tender but passionate kiss, and she felt a warm, bright current coursing through their bodies. It lasted only a few seconds, and he broke it gently, caressing her face with his hand and looking into her eyes again.
"Emma, I would love to continue this in my cabin as more enjoyable activities," he said with a smirk, to which she punched him in the arm and rolled her eyes, "but as you remember, we leave bright and early tomorrow to start the search, and it wouldn't do if we were both exhausted. Especially since for some reason we decided it was a good idea that I should team up with your father. And even though he has little experience at fatherhood, he seems to understand the 'absurdly overprotective' bit quite well. I would rather that he didn't punch me in the face yet again."
"He wouldn't punch you if you could just keep your mouth shut."
Killian pressed his hand to his heart in mock offense. "Oi, but you wound me sore, Swan. Remember that I am a gentleman, and gentlemen do not kiss and tell. Especially not to their lasses' fathers."
Emma rolled her eyes again, but felt a little smile curve her lips. She continued to be amazed at how he could go from serious, tender and sweet, to playful and infuriating in less than a second. Still, he had a point. "Okay, you're right. We should go to sleep. But remind me again, why did Gold and Regina team up together? Wouldn't it have been better to distribute the magic users evenly?"
"Well, love, if you had paid more attention to the plan instead of yelling at this poor pirate – " he flashed a pout – "you would have heard that we decided that for this first scouting trip, it was better for those two to assess the kind of magic this land has. The crocodile knows quite a bit about it since he was apparently here before as well, but they still need to see if there are plants useful for some of the potions that can either protect us from the Lost Ones or be used to attack them. And then, of course, your father said there was no chance in hell he would let me team up with you… huh, so that was why I ended up with him for this little adventure. I almost forgot. Your lips distracted me for a minute." He closed the space between them again, with a seductive smirk and a very different fire in his eyes.
"Whoa, easy there Don Juan. We already established that the 'enjoyable activities' are out of the question for tonight. The sky is changing colors again. That means it soon be dawn and we need our rest, remember?"
Killian sighed heavily. "You're right, love. But I promise, there will be plenty of time later…" He got close to her again and brushed his mouth up to her ear, his stubble tickling her cheek and his breath hot against her earlobe, "for all the downright sinful things I want to do to you. Because I'm afraid to tell you that you've caught yourself a pirate, and he's not going anywhere. After all, I am a very patient man."
He stepped back, leaving her with trembling legs and flushed cheeks, and took her hand, guiding her back below deck to the hallway that led to the crew's quarters. At the door of his cabin, he gave her a quick and chaste kiss. "Good night, Emma. Sleep well, we will need our strength."
Emma looked into his soft gaze and smiled. "Thanks, I will. I'm not so scared anymore, thanks to you."
She headed down the narrow hall, unaware of the beaming smile still plastered on Killian's face, and opened the door quietly, trying not to wake the others. She crawled into her bunk, and fell asleep immediately.
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Emma heard her mother's voice again, and turned around distractedly, blinking in confusion. "I'm sorry, Mom, I didn't hear you. Did you ask me something?"
"In fact, I asked you about five different things before you started almost running. Emma, honey, I know you're upset and you feel a little guilty for what you said to Hook, but you could always apologize to him, you know."
At that, Emma let a laugh escape her lips; who knew her mother would be so concerned about the pirate? "No, it's not that. I apologized to Killian yesterday, actually, and I didn't know you cared about his feelings that much." She saw her mother raise an eyebrow questioningly, both at calling Captain Hook 'Killian' and admitting she had apologized to him.
"Well, he may have done some… not-so-good things in the past, but he did come back with the bean when he was our only hope, and has certainly helped us. And when exactly did you started calling him Killian?" her mother asked curiously.
"It's a long story," Emma answered dismissively, somewhat irritated. She didn't have the energy to discuss her relationship with Killian – she startled herself at that realization – with her mother. Besides, she was still annoyed and anxious about something that she couldn't quite pinpoint.
"Well, that's okay, whenever you are ready to tell me about it… but if you're not upset about Hook, why are you so nervous again all of a sudden? When we left the ship you were in a better mood, but then you started sulking around mid-morning."
Emma let a long sigh escape her. "I don't know. I had a very good night's sleep, for the first time since we got here, and I didn't even dream about Henry, but somehow I'm growing more anxious the deeper we venture into this forest. Almost as if something dark is waiting for us. I'm sorry. I'm talking nonsense."
Snow looked at her daughter with concern. "Not at all, sweetie. It's only natural you feel anxious, but we are going to find Henry. You know that, right?"
"Yes, I know, but still… I'm so worried now that we're on land because of this unbearable heat, and the poisonous and terrifying plants, and just all of this horrible place. He is out here too, we don't know if he is alone and even if he is not, his present company is not exactly safe nor worried about his safety. What if he is thirsty, or hungry, or scared, and has lost hope that we will find him, or…"
She felt tears starting to fall down her cheeks and wiped them angrily, while her mother continued to rub soothing circles on her back. "Emma, look at me. We are going to find him. It's our family's motto for a reason, you know? You can't lose hope, because that won't help Henry."
"Yes, I know. That's why I find this all the more infuriating, I'm not one to give up without one hell of a fight, I almost feel like I'm not myself right now. It must be this damn heat messing with my emotions or something." She could feel heavy sweat trickling down her back and through her hair, and felt extremely flustered. Her mother, however, wasn't sweating that much, and she found that odd.
Snow looked briefly alarmed, but took out their canteen. "Yes, we have been walking for a while now. I think we should take a rest and drink some water. You may have a little heatstroke."
Emma accepted the canteen and took a large gulp. It quenched her thirst, but not enough. She wanted to finish it, but she knew they couldn't go through their water rations so fast, so she retrieved the map Killian had given her from her back pocket and stood up. "We need to find one of these streams that are safe to drink from so we can refill the canteen." She started walking fast again, not paying attention to her mother's suddenly frantic voice.
She halted when she saw a stream right in front of her, and looked at Killian's map again. It pointed to a stream nearby, but she wasn't sure if this was the one. Yet the water was so clear and glistening in the sun, and looked so beautiful, that she simply felt driven to it. She broke into a sprint and knelt beside it, throwing the map carelessly to the floor, and sprinkled a little onto her face, before taking big gulps of it with her hands.
Suddenly, a bright yellow flower came down the stream and sat in front of her. She reached out to it to touch it. She just had to, it was gorgeous and inviting…
She didn't hear her mother's voice desperately crying out her name as she fell into oblivion.
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The trek with Emma's father had been dull to the point of boredom, but then again he didn't quite know what to talk about with the father of the woman he loved. He didn't even flinch when the realization dawned on him. He loved Emma, there was no way around it, and he welcomed it with open arms. He hadn't felt this alive in over three centuries.
To his surprise, after several hours of silence, the prince was the one to break the silence. "So, Hook. Are you going to be honest with me now?"
Killian looked back at him, confusion evident in his eyes. "What are you talking about, Your Highness?"
David sighed. "Look, mate –" this time, there was no sarcasm or malice behind the title – "I admit I wasn't your biggest fan back home. You did knock me out with a crowbar, after all."
"Well, I did ask for your apologies, mate. Of course you were already unconscious and I gather you didn't get the chance to hear it." Killian flashed a smirk.
David shook his head in – almost – mock annoyance. "What I mean is… you came back and offered your help and your ship without hesitation, and even gave up your revenge. When I first asked what your motivation was while we were looking for the beans, you said you were only doing it for yourself. But I know it wasn't only that, not even back then. So why did you come back?"
"I think you already have a good idea of why I did, don't you? You shouldn't ask questions whose answer you're not going to like."
"Yes, I do have an idea, but I would appreciate some confirmation. And you're wrong, it's not that I won't like the answer. I actually don't know what to make of it, to be honest."
Killian stopped walking and turned back, looking David directly in the eye. "I came back because of your daughter. I decided to accept her offer to become a part of something. To live and fight for, and alongside, something other than myself."
David measured him carefully, and saw something in his eyes he had seen before. To be honest, it scared him. But before he could dwell on it, Hook gave a pained cry and doubled over, hitting the ground and clutching his chest with his hand.
David knelt by his side, concerned and confused. "Hook? What's wrong?"
Killian looked up into David's eyes, pain and worry clear in his face, and breathed, "Emma. Something happened to her."
Killian doubled over again, and David felt two very different kinds of panic inside him. His daughter was in danger… and Captain Hook was her True Love.
Please do let me know what you thought of this first chapter =)