red, red wine, go to my head,
make me forget
"Care for a drink?"
Emma jumped and glanced behind her, wide-eyed, at Hook, who was leaning against the helm with a dangerously neutral expression. Her first instinct said yes oh god please but her second instinct tacked on just not with you.
(Her third instinct whispered only with you, but she ignored it.)
As if sensing her hesitation, he sighed. "My intentions in this endeavor are, I assure you, benign. You simply look as though you could use it."
He was, she had to admit, not wrong. They'd come up in Neverland several hours ago, but apparently wouldn't reach the island itself for at least another two or three days at best; she'd spent the interim wandering around deck in an agitated haze, trying to find something to occupy her mind before the gnawing fear, lingering grief, and crushing helplessness drove her completely mad.
Alcohol — with or without a flirty pirate involved — would be extremely welcome at the moment.
"What do you have?" she asked slowly, not entirely sure what to expect. She knew he kept rum on him and rum was — for whatever reason — the drink of choice of pirates, but he didn't seem like the type to keep only one spirit on his ship.
He motioned for her to follow him, leading her toward the cargo hold. "Quite a bit, honestly," he replied. "What's your fare? Whisky, rum, gin… I should have several bottles of wine…" he trailed off, becoming distracted in his quest and giving Emma the chance to look around.
Hook's ship was oddly… clean. Almost disturbingly clean, when she thought about it; she'd never met anyone stable with a living space organized rigidly according to some sort of — what in this case appeared to be alphabetical — order. Then again, Hook had spent an undetermined yet undoubtedly long amount of time in Neverland plotting revenge against an immortal wizard with a skin condition. Stable probably wasn't a great word to describe him.
"You have red wine?" she asked absently, opening a box and glancing inside: it held spare rope, all neatly tied up and stacked according to thickness. Eerily clean. She considered hiring him as a maid service when they got back to Storybrooke.
"Do I look like a man who favors white?" he countered with a smirk that she, in spite of herself, returned. "I doubt you've heard of the sorts I've got," he went on as he opened a hatch built into the side of the ship — probably originally a smuggling hold of some sort — that had been bastardized into a wine rack, "but you can have a look regardless."
Emma knealt down to look over the wines — his comment about "several bottles" had been a vast understatement — but, like he'd said, she didn't recognize the names. "How long have you had these?" she murmured distractedly, picking up a bottle that called itself Lagrein and looking it over for a date. "I mean, what are the odds of accidentally picking up an, I dunno, ancient vinegar?"
"None," he answered with a little laugh. "I stocked this last time I was in the Enchanted Forest. Oldest ones are probably about thirty or so, but I don't skimp on quality, so I'd wager they're the better for it."
"Captain Hook," she snickered, "legendary pirate, scourge of the seven seas… wine collector."
He laughed outright at that. "I'll take that as a compliment," he replied cheekily, kneeling down next to her and running his hand over the bottles, searching for something. "D'you like yours drier or sweeter?"
"Dry," she answered, and he plucked a bottle out, eyeing it over.
"This should do, if you're not simply stringing me along," he said in a tone that was light like thin ice.
She tapped her chin thoughtfully. "I'm torn between this and whisky," she said honestly, glancing at a box he'd opened, where a deceptively-innocent bottle sat, taunting her.
"Ah, the immortal conundrum," he breathed, both too close and not close enough; his arm brushed against her when he moved but she couldn't feel his body heat and for some reason she needed the warmth, "to drink or get drunk? I would go with the former, but I'm more invested in the company than the bottle."
She clenched her jaw against the blush that threatened to rise up at the comment and opened her mouth to say whisky — because she wasn't sure how she felt about a night with Hook and candlelight and a bottle of wine — but what came out was, "I'll try something new," as she took the bottle from him, almost on autopilot.
Maybe it was a bad idea — okay, no, it couldn't possibly be anything but a bad idea — but Hook was — he was like some sort of drug, when she was around him everything else sort of… faded out. On the beanstalk, she'd had to keep reminding herself about sleeping giant and ten hours and all the ways he reminded her of Neal so she didn't fall into that trap, the banter and the blue eyes and the amnesia of romance that clung to him like an aura.
But right now, that kind of amnesia sounded like a great plan.
There was so much she had to forget, if she wanted to stay sane until they landed.
His smile at her decision, disarmingly genuine, cemented this as both a terrible idea and absolutely necessary for her (and, for that matter, the rest of the ship's) immediate survival.
She followed him back out of the cargo hold and into the galley for glasses, but paused as she took them, looking around anxiously. "Can we not… here?" she asked, wincing, and he turned to her, expression calculating and guarded. It occurred to her suddenly what the alternative was, but he spoke before she could clarify.
"Just dying to get me alone, aren't you?" he quipped, with a smirk that didn't reach his eyes. She wondered what was going on behind them, since she'd sort of expected him to jump at it.
The only response she could come up with was her fall-back not amused half-glare, but she made the mistake of making eye contact when she did — always a bad move, since she could never seem to look away — and it faded a bit sooner than she'd meant.
He turned away first, shattering the atmosphere as he produced a wine key out of a drawer and she tried to shake the moment off, with some success.
"No… offense," she started, eyes moving from him to the bottle and back, "but how do you open that one-handed?"
He responded with a grin that looked much more like the man she knew. "With skill," he replied like it was obvious, securing the bottle between his left wrist and chest and uncorking it with no apparent trouble. It didn't even pop, a fact that made her scowl; Emma could hardly ever open a bottle of wine without popping the cork and this bastard could do it with one goddamn hand?
"Well aren't you just full of surprises," she said blandly, and his smile became a little more devious.
"I've had a bit of time to adapt, love," he said, leaning in a little closer as though to reveal a secret. "I've learned how to a great many things one-handed."
"I'm sure," she replied, in her best "unimpressed" tone, but it only made him smirk harder.
"So where to, darling?" he asked softly, leaning against the countertop. "You've no desire to be caught fraternizing with me, so that rather narrows the options."
For a second, she froze at having been called out; his voice echoed in the back of her mind — you're something of an open book.
On the other hand, he didn't seem particularly bothered.
She played it off on a shrug. "Anywhere is fine. You have a cabin, right?"
"Ooh, forward," he teased, lightning-fast. "I like that in a woman."
"Mind out of the gutter, pirate," she snapped, but without much force. She had kind of walked into that one, after all. He gave a short, low laugh.
"But it's such fun there," he smirked, leading her across the deck and bowing her into his cabin. "In all sincerity, though," he said from the threshold, and sounded it, "I'll not do anything you don't want."
"Thanks," she replied honestly, before she could catch herself and make up some quip about unnecessary reassurances or why would he think she might want anything from him except alcohol; the truth was, it was reassuring.
"Now," he started in a low voice, closing the door behind him and pouring the wine, all while making disconcerting eye contact again, "why did you agree to this?"
She tried to deflect it, but probably gave herself away with the uncomfortably large gulp of wine she took. The look on his face said that she had indeed. "Are you complaining?"
"Not at all," he replied immediately, "but you're not here for me."
Emma wasn't quite sure what was lurking under that sentence — maybe bitterness — and she didn't want to examine it in any depth, lest she find out. She tried, once again, to deflect it. "Well, you do have good taste in wine," she countered airily, gesturing at the glass and taking a seat at his desk. "I mean, you apparently have several vineyards in your cargo hold, so that's not really a surprise."
He seemed to catch the hint, smirking a bit insincerely. "I have a taste for the finer things in life, I'll admit," he said, eyes never leaving her face.
The bottle was mysteriously empty, which was strange because she was pretty sure Hook hadn't refilled his glass at all.
He had taken the seat opposite her, where he was leaning back like an unruly teenager, feet propped up against the table leg and one arm slung over the back of the chair. Half of her wanted to scold him while the other half found it unbearably attractive — he just did that carefully uncaring slouch so well.
To cover it up, she took a long drink, almost draining her glass.
She couldn't remember why she'd thought this was a bad idea.
"We need more wine," she said abruptly, and he raised an eyebrow.
"Out of curiosity, love, how many glasses have you had?" he countered. She blinked.
"I don't know," she answered honestly, after a moment of somewhat uncomfortable reflection, and he nodded slowly.
"Then perhaps we don't."
"Please?" she asked in a small voice, the word slipping out without thought; she was too drunk and still too agitated to bother with dignity. Something unnameable flickered over his face, maybe pity or sympathy or something sharper, she couldn't tell.
"How does this sound?" he offered quietly, finally tilting his chair forward and leaning on the table. "I'll get another bottle if you tell me why you need it."
His words hit her like a bucket of ice; if she hadn't needed another glass before, she definitely did now. She froze, a deer in headlights, eyes locked on his.
Where did she start?
Did she even want to?
Hook was such a risk, everything about him was such a risk, a thousand ways trusting him could go wrong and only a handful that could go right, but she'd spent so long locked up in her broken heart and she wasn't sure she could bear another moment in the cage she'd built for herself. He was either a drug or a medication, a cure or an addiction.
The bottle in the back of her head told her to go ahead and let it out, that the man could practically finish her sentences, that the need to warm herself outweighed the risk of getting burned again.
"What don't you understand?" she asked instead, and maybe a bit harsher than she'd really intended, but he didn't seem affected. "My son's father was murdered by his crazy fiancee, and then she kidnapped my son and took him to a whole different world and I don't know why and now he's alone and scared on that island and there is nothing I can do. Forgive me if I'd like to forget who I am right about now."
"And that's everything, is it?" he asked after a long moment of scrutiny, and she nodded. "All very simple," he said softly, "straightforward, obvious to even the most inept observer. If that's all there is to it, then why the hesitation, I wonder?"
Oh, fuck you.
She ran a hand through her hair. "It's complicated," she answered sourly.
She finished off her wine and stared into the empty glass to avoid looking at him. "I knew she was bad news," she replied finally, grudgingly. "But everyone just told me I was a jealous ex. Isn't that funny?" she asked with a short laugh, even though no part of it was in any way, especially to her. "I'll be perfectly fine on my own, don't need anyone, everyone can go off and leave me behind to fend for myself, but the moment I say Neal's ex is lying, suddenly I'm just a heartbroken teenager who needs a reassuring talk." Her fingers tightened on the glass. "They're a little late," she muttered darkly. "I needed them — I needed him — a decade ago, and — " she cut herself off.
For a moment, he didn't speak, just ran his fingers over his lips in contemplation. "Well, that's the problem, isn't it?" he asked, and she glanced up in vague confusion. "They're late," he explained. "They weren't there when you needed them, and now they feel guilty, want you to need them again so they can make up for it this time."
A horrible sense of vertigo struck her like a fist to the gut, like she was falling back out of the chair and through the floor, straight down into the ocean. "Yeah, that's great," she whispered, "but now my son is stuck in Neverland for some — some nefarious purpose, all because they didn't trust me the one time I really needed them to."
The implications of what she'd said — and what that would mean to him — didn't hit her until he smirked, cynical and knowing. "I'm not going to make excuses for them," he said, shrugging. "But right or wrong, they had a reason. Can't blame someone for being desperate to believe a comforting lie."
"Maybe not, but I can blame them for what they did about it," she replied, the simmering resentment rising up again. She'd put so much effort into shutting it down, so unwilling to be angry with the people she'd spent years — a decade, her whole life — dying to be reunited with, so unwilling to accept that the people she loved could be so wrong.
"Certainly," he drawled. "But tell me something: at this precise, exact moment in time," he started, leaning forward again and looking straight at her even as she refused to meet his eyes, "who do you blame more for this predicament: Tamara, or the people who didn't believe you about Tamara?"
She felt nauseous. "At this precise, exact moment in time," she countered, with some belligerence, "I'm too drunk to answer that question."
"It's all right," he replied, leaning back again. "It was rhetorical anyway. Go on, darling," he said, a small, unkind smirk on his face, "focus all your anger on the woman, forget all about the role your parents' passive self-delusion has played in this. I'm absolutely certain they'll never do it again."
"Don't," she snapped, and he had the decency to — at least momentarily — look slightly admonished. "Being angry at them doesn't do any good. I need to focus on Tamara, she's the — the problem here, she's the one who took Henry."
"Forgive my indiscretion," he said silkily, without much sincerity, "but what, precisely, can you do about Tamara at the moment? Wouldn't it be better," he went on, before she could say anything, "to lay this demon to rest sooner rather than later?"
The words were advising but the tone was almost goading, needle-sharp and expertly aimed for the heart.
He knew she couldn't confront them about it, and he knew why.
"Why do you care?" she asked, a last-ditch bid to change the subject.
"It's only going to get worse, you know," he deflected her. "They'll not simply divine the source of your resentment, nor change their actions, and the more you bottle that anger up, the worse the final confrontation will be. Trust me," he added, with a self-loathing smirk, "the sin of wrath is one I'm intimately familiar with."
"There was a promise of more wine," she said hastily, sharply, desperately, and maybe he realized he'd gone too far or maybe he just decided to back off or maybe both, because after a beat, he suddenly shifted gears, standing up and holding his arms out expansively.
"Of course," he declared brightly, all of the severity gone from his expression and voice, so completely that she almost wondered if she'd imagined it. "Be back in a tick."
She used his absence to compose herself; the worst part — the absolute worst part of this whole conversation — was that he was right. Ignoring the issue wouldn't make it go away, and now was the best possible time to deal with it — right now, while she couldn't do anything about anything else that was weighing on her, right now, she could do this.
But she'd only just gotten them all back.
And she hadn't been able to keep Neal or Henry, and there had been those awful days where Henry was so angry at her that he called her Emma again instead of Mom, and on some level, she knew they wouldn't just pack up and leave her, but under the surface she was still a Lost Girl, so afraid of being abandoned again that she'd do anything to hold on.
She didn't like it, didn't want it, sure as hell didn't need it, but there were some wounds that just didn't heal, ever.
In spite of the fact that only moments ago, she'd wanted Hook to get the hell away from her, she wanted him to come back; without his voice, the only thing she had to fill the silence was her own mind and she had no desire to listen to it anymore.
She glanced around his room to distract herself; like the cargo hold, it was obsessively clean — his bed was perfectly made, the surprisingly large bookshelf (with a bar to keep books from falling out) arranged in alphabetical order, not a scrap of dust or dirt on any surface, papers and maps in the desk neatly stacked from largest to smallest… she never would have pegged Hook as obsessive-compulsive, although in retrospect, it made a lot of sense.
Agitated, she stood and read some of the titles in the bookshelf. She'd expected boring maritime things, like "parts of a ship" or "piracy and you" but it seemed like most of his collection were adventure novels. Like his cleanliness, it was strange on the surface but made perfect sense once she thought about it.
Of course Hook would like adventure stories. He was a pirate, that was probably why he'd gone into the business in the first place.
The image of a tiny Killian Jones with his nose buried in Treasure Island suddenly leaped to mind, and made her smile.
"See anything you're interested in?" he asked, startling her — apparently the man was part cat, who the hell could move that quietly in boots on wooden planks? He had another bottle, as promised, and seemed to have forgotten entirely about the conversation they'd been having before he'd left, or at least was willing to pretend he had. "I've read everything up there a thousand times, you're welcome to whatever you like."
For a moment, she couldn't think of a response and so glanced back down at the book she was holding. It did look pretty interesting, and she could definitely do with a distraction. "Um, yeah, thanks," she stammered, blinking rapidly and trying to compile everything she knew about Hook into something coherent.
An obsessive-compulsive, wine-collecting, book-loving, ruthless, vengeful pirate with a dark past and the uncanny ability to see straight through her, by turns bloodthirsty and suicidally reckless, and compassionate and understanding, giving her honest advice over a much-needed glass of wine.
He didn't make any sense. He was Captain Hook, he wasn't supposed to — to have a collection of adventure novels he'd read a thousand times, he was supposed to be some sort of — of monster. He was a villain in a kid's story, not a complex, living, breathing human being.
And sure as hell not a complex, living, breathing human being who was interested in her.
"Which one is your favorite?" she asked, almost in spite of herself — she was curious to learn more at the same time that she was terrified to, but the fear made her a little defiant. He raised an eyebrow, coming over to her and handing her a full glass of wine, that she quickly began emptying.
"Would you believe me if I said the one you're holding?" he asked, taking it from her and turning it over in his hand. "I've had it since I was a boy, stole it from my grandfather's library."
"Seriously?" she snickered, and he shrugged.
"I've always been a rebel," he replied with a smirk-and-wink combo that made her heart flip (which she forcefully shut down with another drink), handing the book back to her before sitting back down at the desk.
She stared at the book for a moment, trying to form some sort of response — not just to his latest comment, but the whole conversation, the whole night, the whole — everything, everything since she'd met him. The only thing that came to mind was a lame 'hey thanks man' but even if it hadn't been the most pathetic thing she'd ever considered, she wasn't sure she could thank him.
It was all too much, him and his wine and his books and his advice and his lame innuendos and his promise to help and —
"I…" she started, sitting back down and running her hand through her hair, and took another drink to stall for time. "Thanks," she said weakly, unable to look at him. "Um, for… the wine. And the… book, I could… I could use a distraction."
When she glanced up at him, he looked amused, but not mockingly so. "Don't hurt yourself, love," he replied cheekily.
"Oh, shut up," she snapped, glaring at him. "I take it back."
The last thing she remembered was thanking Hook for getting her horribly shit-faced on some obscure red wine; however, in spite of the fact that she had no recollection of leaving his cabin, she woke up in her own bunk, with only her boots and jacket missing. A quick search found her jacket folded neatly on a chair, with a book sitting — perfectly centered — on top of it.
She chose to pretend that she'd done that herself, that the close proximity to Hook and his weird, neat-freak tendencies had manifested themselves in drunken organization skills, that she hadn't undressed further because… of reasons, reasons that had surely made sense to Drunk Emma.
Because the alternative was that she'd passed out in Hook's cabin and he'd had to carry her down here, which didn't make sense because it didn't.