The grounds surrounding Hogwarts were eerily quiet. The usual dull roar of students moving about the campus was nonexistent, but it was not surprising considering it was the middle of summer. It was growing cooler by the minute as the sun set off in the west and the Black Lake's surface was as smooth as it had ever been; the giant squid must've been somewhere deep below.
Just as the last of the sun sank below the horizon, leaving nothing but hues of pink and purple behind, great bubbles started forming at the center of the lake. The waters started rushing up on the muddy shores as a giant whirlpool began forming, almost as if there was a vacuum sucking out the water from underneath.
A ship burst majestically out of the center of the whirlpool with a pirate dressed head to toe in black leather standing at its helm. The Jolly Roger settled itself on the water, which had quickly returned to its normal, smooth state. Killian Jones stepped down from the helm and lowered the anchor into the water. He looked around at the foreign location, his eyes settling on the grand, towering castle before him, curious if his sudden appearance had caused a stir to those inside the fortress.
Killian stood for a moment and observed his surroundings. It certainly looked just as he had read it would - the castle, the lake, the hut on the edge of the forest, and the forest itself. Within its thick branches was his destination and he had searched for its location for a very long time.
He made his way across the deck to the bow of the ship where the row boats were stationed and began lowering one into the water cautiously; Killian didn't know what lived in this lake and if any of it was friend or foe. When the boat hit the water below, he stood there for a moment in case some mysterious creature pulled it under, but no disruption came. Deciding that it was safe, Killian slid down the rope on the side of the ship into the row boat. He took an oar in each hand - his left one having been restored by Emma after Rumplestiltskin had finally met his undoing - and began steering himself towards shore.
The lake remained quiet except for the small ripples created by the row boat. Killian had no idea if it was normal for this particular body of water to be so uneventful, but from his experience in other realms, it seemed quite strange.
The boat scraped across the rocks and mud as Killian pulled up on shore. He drew the oars back into the boat and stepped out, his boots sinking slightly into the dark muck, looking around for any other sign of life, but the grounds remained silent. Had it not been for the orange and yellow glow coming from a few windows in the castle, Killian would've thought he was alone. Not wanting to waste any more time, he set off towards the Forbidden Forest.
As he started walking on the ominous path leading into the dense trees, Killian thought back on when he first heard of this place and the treasure he sought that was buried deep within its heart...
Long before the Queen's curse, Hook found himself at the castle of one of the most powerful sorceresses in all the known lands: Maleficent. It was known by some that she had come to the Enchanted Forest from a far off realm, having gained her powers from this other land, learning from one of the most powerful wizards ever in existence. Hook was sure that if anyone would know how to kill the Dark One, it would be her.
"Alas, my dear captain, I cannot help you," Maleficent said to Hook when he requested her help in his mission to kill Rumplestiltskin. "I have studied magic far beyond what most people have in this land, but it did not provide me with another answer besides that which you already know."
"Surely there must be something you know that others do not," Hook argued.
Maleficent, sitting regally in her throne, gave the pirate a bored look. "I may know a lot, but other than using the Dark One's dagger, there isn't any other way to kill him. He is immortal and that is only one way to defeat him."
Hook narrowed his eyes at the sorceress. "Your master was also immortal if I am correct." Maleficent stared dangerously at Hook. "What was his name...?" He was toying with her. "Lord Voldemort?"
"You know more than you lead on, Captain," Maleficent said, cocking her head. Hook couldn't tell if she was impressed or seething at the extent of his knowledge of her past. "It's true," she continued. "The Dark Lord was immortal, but like Rumplestiltskin, his immortality was able to be defeated. Defeated by a boy who was nothing special except for lightning bolt scar on his forehead that my master bestowed upon him."
"And how was he bested by this boy if he was nothing special?"
Maleficent's face curled into a look of pure distaste. "At first I did not know nor did I have the time to find out. I had to escape before they could lock me away. The Dark Lord taught me well. He taught me and very few others how to travel between worlds. That is how I came here to this realm."
Hook did his best not to look bored with the story of how Maleficent found her way to the Enchanted Forest - it did not matter to him - because he knew she could and would not hesitate to destroy him with one wave of her hand if he showed even the slightest bit of rudeness.
"It wasn't until much later that I began hearing rumors of how Harry Potter had defeated my master," Maleficent continued and Hook's interests suddenly peaked. "He became the possessor of the Deathly Hallows and, though I thought them to be just a myth, I quickly discovered they are, in fact, real."
Hook rubbed his fingers along his jawline. "And what are these... these Deathly Hallows?" he asked.
Maleficent reached up and grabbed a hold of the top of her staff, her sleeve falling back as she did, revealing a vivid red tattoo of a skull with a snake protruding from its mouth. She ran her fingers along the orb, tapping her nails against it as she gazed upon the bloodthirsty pirate before her. Never before had someone come to her about the life she had previous to this one.
"Have a seat, Captain," she said waving her hand and conjuring a chair out of thin air, "and let me tell you a story."
She then proceeded to tell Hook a tale of three brothers who cheated death and were rewarded with three objects: the Elder Wand, the most powerful wand in existence; the Resurrection Stone, one that was able to recall loved ones from the dead; and the Cloak of Invisibility, able to shield one more completely without ever losing its power.
"If united, these objects will make the possessor Master of Death," Maleficent said at the conclusion of her story. She stood from her throne and walked down the steps towards him. Hook rose from his seat as she neared him unsure of what she was going to do. "But I'm afraid, my dear Captain," she continued on, "that even if you possessed these items, they would not help you defeat the Dark One."
"But if this boy, this Harry Potter, supposedly used them to defeat your master, why shouldn't they help me defeat Rumplestiltskin?" Hook asked.
"Because Rumplestiltskin's magic is different than that of the Hallows and Lord Voldemort's. As I said before, the only way to kill him is with his dagger." She smiled wickedly. "And good luck retrieving that," Maleficent said sarcastically. She looked him over once more and waved her hand at him. "You may go."
Hook didn't need to be told twice. "My thanks for your insight, Maleficent," he said, bowing low to her. He turned on his heel and strode out of Maleficent's castle, thinking highly of the magical objects she had just informed him about, especially one in particular.
Since then, many things had happened: Regina's curse tore through the land, Emma Swan had entered his life, he returned to Neverland with her in search of Henry, but most importantly, the Dark One had been defeated. Throughout this time, he had casually sought out the location of these Deathly Hallows, though he was only truly interested in one. He discovered at one point that the land which Maleficent originally came from was, in fact, the same land in which Storybrooke resided, but it wasn't until Rumplestiltskin's undoing had he finally been able to fully commit himself to finding them.
Many of Storybrooke's residents, including Emma, had wondered why Killian wanted to stay in Storybrooke. He always simply stated there was nothing left for him in the Enchanted Forest, which was true in many ways. Not only were the Deathly Hallows somewhere in this realm, Emma was too, and despite the guilt he felt inside him, he wanted to stay with her.
When he resumed his search for the Deathly Hallows, Killian was led to an encounter with a woman who had bushy brown hair and was, as he had been told, the brightest witch of her age. She was the first person Killian had found who could give him a first-hand account of the last time the Hallows were seen by anyone, which, according to her, was during the Battle of Hogwarts. The Elder Wand had been destoryed, the Invisibility Cloak had mysteriously disappeared - though Killian had a sneaking suspicion this witch knew exactly where it was - and the Resurrection Stone had been lost somewhere in the depths of a place called the Forbidden Forest. That was all the information he needed.
The witch cautioned Killian that many had sought these objects for centuries before their time and for the wrong reasons. Killian assured her that he was not after all of the Hallows, just one of them, and his reasoning behind it was pure and unselfish. She, in turn, gave him one final warning to not dwell in the past and forget to live.
The words of the bushy-haired witch, who Killian agreed was seemingly bright, filled his mind as he continued to wander deep into the Forbidden Forest, the branches and twigs snapping loudly beneath his weight. He was using the magical compass Emma had obtained from the giant atop of the beanstalk almost a year before to guide him through the thick trees, searching for the one item he had desired for so long. This compass, as they discovered, had the ability to lead its user to whatever they desired the most and now that the Dark One had been defeated, he wanted nothing more in the world than to find this object. He needed the closure that would come with this treasure.
The needle on the compass ticked to the left a couple notches so Killian turned and moved in the direction it pointed. He paused for a moment and looked around. The trees were so thick the night sky above him could not be seen nor could the light from the castle grounds he had left behind him. Killian had no idea how long he had been walking for, but knew he had to be close to the destination. He continued forward, altering his path slightly when the compass directed him to.
A few minutes later, Killian stepped a little to the right and walked on for a few more steps when suddenly the compass needle did a sharp one-eighty in the other direction. He had finally found it.
Turning back around, Killian looked down at the ground. There was just enough moonlight shining through the trees above for him to see. He knelt down on the ground and started searching through the fallen leaves that were strewn across the forest floor, eventually having to dig into the muddy ground. Killian didn't know exactly what he was looking for, but when he saw it, he knew it.
A small, black, diamond-shaped stone, no bigger than a coin, was lying on the ground, barely visible amongst the mud and dirty, old leaves that surrounded it. Etched on the surface was the symbol Maleficent had once described to him - a triangle enclosing a circle with a single vertical line going straight down the middle - the sign of the Deathly Hallows.
He had found it. He had found the Resurrection Stone.
Killian reached down and picked up the stone. He held it in his palm for a moment staring at it. Hesitation overcame him thinking about what he was about to do, but knew it needed to be done. This was the last step in order for him to get his closure.
Standing up, Killian closed his eyes and curled his fingers into his palm, wrapping the stone in his hand. He took a breath and turned it three times in his hand. Feeling the slightest rush of air in front of him as he finished the final turn, Killian opened his eyes and looked in front of him.
She looked almost the same as the day she died, but there was just something slightly different. More substantial than a ghost, but not truly flesh - she was a shade of his past. Milah stood before him with that beautiful smile she always carried on her face. Her hair still dark and wavy, and she was dressed in the same clothes they had buried her in.
"Hello, Killian," Milah spoke softly.
Killian felt tears well up in his eyes. For the last three hundred years, he wanted nothing more than to look at her one last time and here she was, finally, standing just a couple feet in front of him.
"Milah," Killian said, taking a few paces towards her. "I'm so sorry, my love. I'm so sorry for what happened."
She lifted her hand up towards his face. Killian shut his eyes for a moment as he felt her hand brush the air next to his face; he knew she wasn't real enough to touch and that fact alone made him hurt deep in his core.
"It wasn't your fault, Killian," Milah said. "It was never your fault." Killian opened his eyes and the tears starting to fall down his cheeks. "It was my fault," she admitted.
Killian shook his head. "No, don't blame yourself," he said, his voice trembling. She looked at him, her loving smile spreading widely across her face. "I miss you, Milah."
"I know, my love. I know you have. I've been with you the whole time."
They looked at each other for a minute, neither speaking. Tears continued to flow steadily down Killian's face, but he didn't brush them away. He didn't care. All he wanted to do was look at her.
Milah sighed. "We don't have much time."
Killian nodded, swallowing thickly, unable to conjure the words he had wanted to say to her after all these years. All he could do was just look at her, taking in every second, making a mental note about how she looked so he would never forget.
"I love you, Milah," he said finally.
"I love you too, Killian," she replied. "And I need you to do something for me."
"Anything for you, my love."
Milah smiled sweetly. "I need you to let me go. I need you to move on and live the rest of your life. You have someone who cares for you as much as I did. And I know you care for her." She paused and gazed into his glistening, wet eyes. "Emma will make you happy, Killian. She will give you the life I wasn't able to give you. She will give you the family you've always wanted. And you are exactly what she needs too."
A wave of solace rushed over him after hearing these words from the woman he had devoted the last three hundred years of his life to. This is exactly what he needed and she knew that.
"Will you do that for me, Killian? Will you move on with Emma?"
Killian nodded. "Yes. Yes, I will, but I will never forget you."
"I don't ask you to forget me. I just want you to finally have your happy ending. Emma is your happy ending."
He knew their time was coming to an end. There was only one thing left to say to her.
"I love you, Milah. I love you so much. I always will."
"I love you too, Killian. And I will always be with you."
"I know." He leaned in towards her, just wanting one more kiss, but before he could reach her, he felt the stone slip from his palm and Milah disappeared.
A few days later, Killian stood at the helm of the Jolly Roger as he sailed her back to the docks in Storybrooke. He had taken his time traveling back from Hogwarts, Milah's last request ringing in his ears. She was right. If there was anyone that would make his life worth living again, it was Emma. He knew it the moment she first pulled that dagger on him back in the refugee camp, but hearing it from Milah made the fact all the more real. Killian could no longer deny his feelings for Emma. He loved her, and he knew she felt the same way. There was just something - or someone - always holding him back from acting on it. Now he knew what it was and Killian was not going to deny the request of the woman who had had a hold on his heart for the last three centuries.
The helm of the ship brushed gently along the wooden docks. Killian busied himself with tying off the ropes, trying to think of where Emma would be and what he was going to say to her. All he knew was he had to find her. He had to tell her how he felt. He didn't care if she wasn't ready to admit the same to him, but she had to know his feelings.
Killian stood up after tying up the last of the ropes ready to begin his search of the town, but he wouldn't have to go very far. Turning away from the ship towards Storybrooke, he took two steps forward and froze.
Emma was walking quickly down the docks towards him and Killian's breath was taken away as soon as he laid eyes on her. She was even more beautiful then he remembered. Her long, blonde curls were flowing behind her as her face curled into that charming, infectious smile she, no doubt, had inherited from her father. Killian could see the sparkle of her jade eyes growing brighter as she neared him; he could've looked at her for forever.
"Where have you been?" Emma asked as she approached him. "You've been gone for almost a week. I was beginning to think you wouldn't come back."
"I'll always come back for you, Emma," Killian smiled.
He continued to stare at her as she talked about the uneventful things that had been happening in Storybrooke since he left on his journey. Nothing that she was saying was registering in his brain. All Killian could think about was how this woman standing in front of him was his future and he was never going to leave her again.
"But we got all that sorted out and now the dwarves are back to mining," Emma said before she noticed Killian staring at her in a funny way. "What's up?" she asked curiously.
Killian didn't say anything. Instead he took a step forward, closing the already minuscule gap between them, and took her face in his hands, crashing his lips against hers, putting every pent up feeling he had for her into that one kiss. Emma responded a moment later, having been caught off guard with this sudden notion, by wrapping her arms around the back of Killian's neck and kissing him back with just as much passion.
They finally separated, not knowing nor caring how long they stood there kissing, and looked at one another, smiles spreading widely across both of their faces.
"What was that for?" Emma chuckled, still slightly surprised by his actions.
Killian looked deep into her eyes. "I love you, Emma," he said. "I have loved you for a long time now, but something was holding me back and I haven't been able to let it go. Until now." He paused slightly. "I want you, Emma. I need you. All of you. You have made my life worth living again and I don't want to live it without you anymore." Tears glistened in the corners of his eyes. "I love you, Emma Swan."
She stretched up on the tips of her toes and kissed him softly, but passionately. "I love you too."
Her smile was brighter than he had ever seen it. Killian wrapped his arms around Emma and pulled her close. Pressing a gentle kiss to her temple, he rested his chin on top of her head as they stood at the end of the dock not speaking, rather letting all the unsaid feelings pour out of each other in this moment. He finally had her, all of her, and he was never letting her go again.
Emma lifted her head away from Killian's chest and looked up at him. "What changed?" she asked.
Killian brushed one of her curls away from her face. "I just needed to talk to an old friend."
Emma looked at Killian and knew immediately who he was talking about. Even though she was curious as to how he had spoken to her, she decided not to press the subject. It was something she knew he needed to keep for himself. Instead, she took him by the hands and smiled. "Come on," she said. "I think we should celebrate."
Killian started walking towards the town, but Emma pulled him back towards his ship.
"Not that kind of celebrating," she teased. "Not yet..."
Emma led him across the deck to his quarters, smiling sensually the whole time. Killian crossed in front of her and, like the gentleman that he is, opened the door for her and allowed her to pass. She crossed the threshold, stealing a kiss as she passed by him.
Killian followed behind her, never more sure of his decision to move on with her. He had fallen for the daughter of Prince Charming and Snow White and she had chose to love him back when he didn't think anyone else ever could. Killian looked over at Emma - at his future - and closed the door to his quarters, and to the shades of his past, behind him.