Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Author Note: Title is from the song 'Where The Truth Lies' by Exchange. Set after season 2.
Walk the path I take, and run beneath the sun
"How does it do that?" Emma wanted to know, as the ship tilted and plowed through the ocean when there was barely any wind in the sails.
It wasn't the first time she'd noticed it happening either. Hook might have used the steering wheel to choose their course, but something else was going on too. Emma didn't know much about sailing, but she knew that it took a lot of manpower to get a ship this size moving so smoothly, and a hell of a lot more breeze.
Hook cracked the closest thing to a smile that Emma had seen on his face since before the start of the journey. "Magic, lass."
Emma rolled her eyes. Magic was a catch-all response that didn't give her any actual answers. "I got that."
Hook's hand lingered on part of the ship. He glanced down at his own fingers and quirked an expression that looked genuine. There was a peculiar thrum of something in the air and Emma found herself pressing her lips together, not wanting to inhale whatever it was. She didn't look away though.
"She knows," was all that Hook settled on finally.
Neal was shouting from somewhere really far away and Emma refused to listen. She stuffed her ears with Granny's lasagna and gestured for Ruby to hand over a couple of beer bottles. She threw one in Neil's direction.
Something shattered into a thousand pieces.
Somebody called Emma's name, but it wasn't Neal.
"What does she know?" Emma asked, a twist to her words like she was humoring him.
So sue her, she wanted to draw Hook into conversation. She wanted answers and he was the only one who could provide them. Except for maybe Gold, and Emma wasn't going to ignite that powder keg.
Hook's grin was too much like a parody and it made frustration sizzle under Emma's skin. He was wearing a mask again, like Gold's presence on the ship had superglued it to his face. She wanted to punch him, she wanted to aim her gun and remind him you and I, we understand each other.
"Everything, lass," he said. "It's what she does."
There was a larger-than-life chessboard laid out between Emma and Regina. Regina wore black and her hair was long one minute, short the next. Her lips glistened with blood.
The chess-pieces were familiar somehow, and Emma didn't even play chess but she was doing okay, moving pieces forward and backward and keeping her eyes on Regina. It was how she'd win.
Only suddenly Henry was stood on the board between them, as a pawn, then a rook, then a knight, and he was shouting at them both "Mom! Mom! Mom!"
Somebody else was shouting too, just as Emma raised her gun.
"You actually refer to your ship as 'she'?"
Hook laughed slightly, his hand and hook gentle on the wheel. There was a look in his eyes that made something twist inside Emma. It was a yearning melancholy expression, one that Emma had seen before, sometimes, uncomfortably, in her own bathroom mirror.
"She's a lady, Swan," he replied, her surname falling from his lips as though he was including her in that description, as though... "And she needs just the right touch."
And there it was, another perfect cheesy line. But it was also the truth to him; Emma's handy ability told her that. There were layers that he wasn't saying though, she knew that as well. Layers that locked around him like armor, to keep fresh pain out and past pain from biting too much. Too bad that never actually totally worked.
"You really believe that, don't you?" she wondered aloud.
Hook's eyes found her, intent and burning, but not with his usual gratuitous leering. Emma felt pinned in place, because...because almost as if he'd heard her, the layers were suddenly falling away and now she was looking at Killian Jones, not Captain Hook. Her heart beat fast and she wasn't inclined to reach for her gun.
"Mostly I think she's the only thing left worth believing in."
His words were quiet but they thundered loudly in Emma's ears. She wet her lips.
The coffee was too sweet. Emma wrinkled her nose, feeling grounds on her tongue, and shoved the cup away. As she did, it grew to the size of a bucket. Mary Margaret smiled as she easily hauled it off the counter.
"Don't worry, Grumpy'll take it off your hands."
Emma opened her mouth to reply, but there was a movement on the wall that caught her attention instead. A shadow, the size of Henry. It looked like it was waiting, a foot tapping impatiently, and were those teeth pointed?
When Henry came downstairs, rubbing sleep out of his eyes, the shadow launched itself towards him. Emma lunged for the bucket of coffee as Mary Margaret drew a sword and someone was shouting. The shadow darted between blows and Emma's feet wouldn't move. The shadow danced behind Henry, making him shudder.
He looked at his mother, his eyes the color of the sea. When he smiled, it was with rows of pointed teeth.
"Sometimes, there's…" Hook's words faltered, and he shook his head. "I don't need to tell you what happens."
His gaze glanced over carvings on the wheel before fixing back on the horizon, his hook glinting in the sun. Emma blinked, willing away the surge of pained memory that was unleashing itself at Hook's words and gestures. Mom and Dad. Neal. Henry.
Only her parents were right there, arms around each other, and Henry was somewhere out there too.
She thought about Hook's tattoo and the way that he and Neal had looked when speaking the other's name. Her life was made up of so many false starts and half-finishes. So was his.
Emma was looking at a picture, a drawing, of a woman. She seemed familiar somehow. When Emma put the paper down, the pencil lines disappeared, as though blown away by the wind.
"Row, row, row your boat."
The very same woman now stood across the room. There was a hole in her chest and a look in her eyes that immediately made Emma think of Hook. When the woman walked forward, the porthole light casting shadows across her cheek, Emma knew her.
The woman smiled like a secret. "Gently down the stream."
Emma stared. This was the root of so much of Gold and Hook, so many people's hurts spread out from this one person and her choices. This was Neal's Mom.
This was someone else whose son had grown up without a mother. Emma wanted to say he misses you, a statement full of so many faces. Milah's expression chimed with something that Emma had spent what felt like a lifetime running from. Milah had never had a Storybrooke second chance.
Then her hand clasped Emma's wrist and her breath felt like ocean spray. Her eyes were fierce, willing Emma to understand.
"If you see a crocodile, don't forget to scream."
Emma lay on a bunk below deck, a blanket drawn up to her chin. She could feel the boat pitch and toss, the storm sounded like screams. She could only see gray out of the porthole. It felt like she'd been laying down forever.
Wood gleamed all around her. Emma's hand ran along the side of the bunk. The boat seemed to nudge beneath her.
"Am I dreaming?" she asked abruptly.
Her Dad was sat beside her, spooning up soup. His shirt collar was all ruffles and there were polished clasps on his jacket. His smile was mild and comforting.
"Not for long enough, you need to rest."
He offered up the soup, it was spicy and warm. Emma opened her mouth for more.
"My Papa abandoned me too."
There was a boy in the shadows. Emma looked hard for pointed teeth and dancing feet, but he was just a boy. There was a sadness that matched Milah's in his eyes and he looked at Emma defiantly, like she was somebody else.
When Emma took a step towards him, he glanced furtively out of the door. "I want to go back to my real family."
He sounded yearning, and so young. Emma took another step and nothing changed. "What's your name?"
The boy looked at her like she'd said something funny. Neal had worn the same look when she'd stolen his stolen car.
"Don't you see? We're all lost."
Emma wanted to scream, but somebody else did instead.
Ruby appeared out of the diner's kitchen with a smile on her face. Her lipstick was bright red and her skirt short enough to catch Whale's attention, not that it took much. She shared a smile with him as she deposited a plate in front of Emma.
"There you go, exactly how you like it."
In a pool of sticky red sauce, lay a beating heart. Emma picked up her steak knife, her mouth watering. But then Regina appeared outside, her mouth shouting words that Emma couldn't hear or understand. She shook her head and dived in.
The heart tasted delicious.
There were carvings on the Jolly Roger's wheel. Emma had noticed them before and hadn't asked Hook about them. Some things, you didn't ask. He had met her gaze and said nothing. That was enough.
Hook was at the wheel again, steering. Emma frowned, a strange feeling prickling at the back of her neck.
"Haven't we done this before?"
She'd stood in this exact spot and Hook had said…
Only they weren't on deck anymore, now they were in his cabin. Emma hadn't ever visited it before, but she recognized it all the same. Hook was bent over his desk, muttering sharply under his breath. He didn't seem to notice Emma. But hadn't he been the one calling her name?
Emma looked over his shoulder. There was the picture of Milah, propped up against an ink well, and there was a drawing of the boy, with Milah's eyes and Gold's smile. Hook was trying to touch the pencil marks, trying to reach the boy. There was something in Hook's eyes that made any questions Emma had die in her throat.
"I can change."
Hook spoke instead, something desperate and pleading in his voice, but the boy always ran out of reach, a look of teenage hurt and fury brewing in his expression, his eyes wet.
Emma's hand twitched, like it wanted to find a home on Hook's shoulder. But it didn't, even as her heart thrummed peculiarly. She didn't leave.
There were whispers in the darkness, and shadows with cloaks and hard lonely eyes. Everywhere Emma looked, there were splashes and glimpses of faces. They were always there, always trying to get in. But they couldn't, she had to…what did she have to do? And why?
Who was she?
Emma's sword faltered and she looked up to see Hook outlined against the moon, sorrow bowing his head.
The whispers didn't stop, and somehow Emma knew that she had to grab hold of one, to tear back a hood, only to see Neal/Hook/Henry, three faces in quick succession. Her heart lurched and the boy became delicate, golden-haired and blue-eyed, before sinking teeth into her arm. The pain was so unexpectedly great that her knees almost buckled, but the boy-girl released her quickly, grinning with blood-stained teeth before slipping over the side of the boat. There was no splash.
When Emma looked over into the water, her arm crumpled, she didn't recognize her own reflection.
There was shouting again. God, why was there so much shouting?
"You've got the sea in your blood."
"I never loved you."
"Do you know what he does to people who lie to him?"
"I thought pirates only care about themselves?"
It was dark too, like all the stars had gone out. How could you steer without stars? Emma reached for her gun, but her belt was empty. The voice that had been calling her name called again. Emma ran.
The shouting didn't stop when Emma opened her eyes. Her breathing sounded cracked and raw, like she'd run a marathon, and there was a crowd of faces above her. Mary Margaret was touching Emma's arm, as though reassuring herself that Emma was there. Emma squinted, wondering why she had a headache and why was everybody staring at her? She asked both questions irritatedly and David answered.
"Regina found you out cold on deck; you've been...what happened?"
There was real concern in his voice, which Emma got, because they were on their way to rescue Henry and something had apparently downed her too. But instinctively she managed to answer David's question, right at the same moment that Hook did.
Their eyes met and in a rush, Emma saw boys stealing onto the ship under the cover of darkness. Henry's pointed teeth, David dressed as a fairytale prince, Milah singing, Hook alone and sorrowful. What the fuck...? She shook her head and immediately regretted it, hissing with pain.
"Whatever it was, it left a mark," she muttered, a hand to her temple.
Mary Margaret bent closer, as though that single action would stop the others from overhearing. "Did you see what hit you?"
Emma frowned, because nobody had hit her. Wait, how did she know that? And what the fuck had happened to her? Magic that caused dreams? Visions? Some of them hadn't felt like dreams at all though, they'd felt more like memories, but they definitely weren't hers.
She caught sight of Gold, leaning on his cane and looking at her intently. Milah's voice sang through her thoughts If you see a crocodile...
Gold didn't look like he was gloating over shooting her into the weirdest run of cheese-dreams that Emma had ever experienced – and what would he gain from that anyway? They had a common goal, for once, and he was in a confined space with people who wouldn't hesitate to hit back. Instead, he looked like he was extremely interested in her answer, in what had happened to her. That couldn't be good.
Carefully, Emma shook her head again. "Right now, I can't remember the last thing that wasn't...anyway, I'm fine, how long was I out?"
"Couple of days, lass, had us worried," Hook chipped in.
His face was pale, even with a slight smile decorating it, and Emma thought again about him trying to grasp hold of a picture...then something stuck in her throat, the dreams/visions she'd had now starting to fall into place, like a pattern or puzzle pieces or something else that was crazy and didn't make sense, only now it did. Like Henry's book. Like Hook's history.
Mary Margaret's voice was both soft and a question. Emma's gaze snapped back to her. She couldn't look at Hook right now, couldn't spill the wealth of secrets that had dropped into her lap and into her head. By who? Gold or Regina? Why would they? It didn't make sense.
Emma's hands grazed the wooden deck of the ship. She felt it rolling beneath her. She felt it…
Her heart pounded hard, because that was impossible. Only she'd been living the impossible for a while now – climbing beanstalks, confronting giants, surviving a wicked sorceress's attempts to rip her heart out. Impossible was the new/old family business. Still…
She met Hook's gaze again and held it.
After awkwardly thanking Regina for finding her and apparently not making things worse, Emma slowly made her way up to the ship's wheel. Hook was there already; his body language relaxed and casual, but Emma could see the subtle tension in his neck and face. She moved close enough to brush fingers across the wheel's carvings, two letters dug into the wood.
"You've got the sea in your blood."
Hook shifted her gaze to her. "So, lass, what did she tell you?"
Emma breathed out, because there it was, a vague but leading explanation. Things were never easy, in Storybrooke or the fairytale world. People never said what they actually meant. But she was going to, because she wanted answers.
"I saw a lot of crazy things," she said quietly. "But when I was here, there, I wasn't me, I was somebody else too."
It was strange to try and vocalize the craziness that was souping around her head, but she knew, like she knew when she was being lied to, that what she was saying was true. This was her life now. She pressed against the carvings and shoved the words out, even though they hurt and she knew that they'd hurt Hook. She'd learned the really hard way that the truth hurt, but that it still had to be said.
"Neal, Baelfire, he was here and you didn't want him to leave."
The words seemed reedy, too light, between them, and Hook stiffened upon hearing them, but he didn't deny them either. He glanced down at the carvings that Emma's hand still rested on.
"She's been telling you secrets, love. She must like you a lot."
His hand was near hers and Emma's thumb twitched, almost stroking his. She couldn't shake the images of Hook she'd seen – the raw pain she'd only glimpsed before. Her next words cut through all the layers and hidden meanings.
"We're talking about your ship, Hook. You're sailing a magic mind-reading ship."
Hook grinned, sudden and quick. "Of course, Swan. How else would a gentleman such as myself survive Neverland, where youth is preserved forever?"
True. Emma glanced around the ship in question. "Let me guess, you stole it."
Hook's face softened and suddenly he was Killian Jones again. "Oh no, love, she asked me to jump on-board. She had a different name then, and didn't exactly have a liking for the man calling himself her Captain."
"Still sounds a lot like stealing."
"Come now, is it stealing when the object in question is willing?"
Emma gave him an are you kidding me? look, her mind still caught on the object in question. A magic ship had gotten inside her head and shown her things, things that had happened? Maybe, but they'd all been mixed up and incredibly strange. It had felt urgent though; like Emma needed to know what the ship was showing her.
The shadow, and the boys, wanted Henry. Gold couldn't be trusted. Regina was actually helpful if given the right encouragement. Emma's parents would be there for her. Hook had been alone and hurting for too long.
Boy, did it say a lot that a magically sentient ship thought its Captain was too bowed by grief and loneliness. For a second, she thought about a candle on a cupcake.
She didn't voice any of it though, not yet. But she kept her hand on the ship, beside Hook's. She didn't have to say a word.
You and me, we understand each other.
Emma did not want to sleep that night. Hadn't she just slept for long enough? But God, she was tired. She felt like she'd been running, fighting, for days, and there was no way she'd be any help to Henry like that. So reluctantly, she angled herself towards the narrow bunk. Something made her lightly knock a knuckle against the cabin wall. It was crazy enough to actually make sense in this place and she really wanted a good night's sleep, so she was willing to try just about anything. "Just...keep it down, okay?"
She was talking to a pirate ship. God.
She fell asleep quickly though, something about the steady rocking beneath her felt scarily hypnotic, and she found herself up on deck, staring out across dark water. She looked down and saw a strange reflection in the ocean, staring back.
Emma frowned, it wasn't just that the water was distorting the image, wasn't the hair red and the skin darker? And wasn't that some kind of vaguely-sparkly bracelet? Whoever the woman was, it wasn't Emma.
Emma pressed a hand to the ship frustrated. "What do you want?"
Her reflection smiled back at her, in fact it laughed, and the ship kept moving. Was that it? Keep moving? Emma rolled her eyes in frustration, then looked around. There was nobody else on deck, not even Hook. But the ship kept moving.
Her reflection's smile was warm.
In the morning, Hook was still at the wheel. Did he ever sleep? Or maybe Emma wasn't the only person to have her dreams invaded. Emma leaned heavily against the side of the ship; she was still cramped and sore from lying still for a couple of days. She kept her eyes on Hook, a fact that he was definitely aware of.
"Sleep well, did we?"
He threw the question over his shoulder without looking and Emma managed to move closer. What reflection did Hook see in the water when he dreamed? She went for rueful and pointed and I still cannot believe I'm saying this as she answered.
"Well, your ship wasn't all that talkative so..."
Hook chuckled and moved the wheel slightly to the left. "She doesn't talk to everybody, but now she's spoken to you once, she won't be silent for long."
That was a warning couched in a flirting tone. Emma dipped her chin, message received. She threw out a volley of her own. "So she talks to you regularly, huh?"
Hook didn't look surprised when he turned a thin smile towards her. "Endlessly, lass."
That wasn't happy at all, or even a little bit smug. Emma stared at him, an eyebrow raised inquisitively. She didn't ask what do you dream about here? Or do you ever actually sleep? Or what reflection do you see? She didn't have to.
Hook's expression rippled but his head jerked in a quick nod. He understood. Of course he did. Didn't magic always have a price? Look at Regina, look at Gold, look at all of them.
Emma only knew parts of Hook's story, and the dreams she'd dreamed had only partially filled in the gaps. She swallowed past a hard lump in her throat. But Hook's story was also partly Neal's story so Henry should know it.
He'd gotten the truth of his Dad now and Emma wasn't going to forget how mad he'd been about her lies. She couldn't change that or the fact that Neal was gone, but she could do this. She could collect every part of the story that had brought Neal to the backseat of a battered twice-stolen car, no matter how much it hurt. Then she was going to find and rescue Henry and tell him all about it.
The boat rolled softly beneath them.
Hook cleared his throat and his words were quiet. "The crocodile's very interested, love."
Emma snorted. "Yeah, I got that."
"Well, we could provide something else for him to be interested in..."
He was leering again and it wasn't quite a mask. The thrumming tension that Emma usually felt around him, and that had followed her into her dreams, prickled across her skin. Her hand touched the wheel's carvings. A moment or two later, there was the kiss of cool curved metal against her fingers. Emma wondered what reflection she'd see if she really looked at it. The thrumming tension only increased. She didn't pull away.