Note – I don't own Once Upon a Time, Just Breathe by Pearl Jam, or I'm Not What You Need by Joe Purdy

Just Breathe

I want to let you take a hold of this sinking ship and lead me home…

Hook's legs gave out and he fell to the deck of his ship. He'd hoped to make it to the helm so he could steer the Jolly Roger out of the bay and into open waters, but his strength had finally dissipated. The pain stabbing through his chest with every breath finally claimed victory in the war his body had been waging ever since the last battle that had won them Henry's freedom.

A veil dimmed the stars and he let the darkness wash over him. He was ready to let go.

Laughter. He heard laughter and opened his eyes and turned his head to the side, watching her … watching Emma. She had Henry in her arms, grasping him in a tight hug the boy returned. Both had tears in their eyes and smiles on their faces. He felt content watching her. If her happiness meant his death, then so be it. Dying a hero sure beat the alternative – a small bright spot to the footnotes of his life.

Her parents – the prince and Snow White - were hovering over them, looking proud and relieved. Baelfire was off to the side, obviously still a little unsure of just where he fit into things. Hook knew that with time, the lad would find his way.

Regina stepped up and Henry latched onto to her. So much love for one little boy – a man his age shouldn't feel a pang of jealously over a lost childhood, but it was there, twisting his heart in his chest.

Emma moved away, allowing Regina her moment. She glanced over her shoulder and he guessed she must have noticed him lying there, her smile fading. He took a deep shuddering breath, hoping to summon some flippant remark to shrug off the whole dire situation, but he couldn't come up with anything except a whispered, "Emma."

She ran over to him, dropping to her knees. "Hook. What? Where?" she said as she turned him over onto his back and ran her hands over him, up under his leather coat. She pulled her hand back, the red glinting wetly in the moonlight.

"This isn't just a cut," she gasped.

"Aye, love, I know," he said weakly.

"This is serious."

"Fatal," he admitted and then his brain switched into panicked, rambling mode and the words started tumbling out. "My own sword, too. Poetic, really, if you think about it. Wrestled away from me by a Lost Boy. Not one of my finer moments. My dying wish is that we never speak of it again."

"Shut up," she snapped as she pulled his jacket open. "You aren't going to die," she said, her voice determined, steely, but sounding dangerously close to devolving into a sob.

"We all die someday, Emma," he said with a tired smile. "Every adventure has to come to an end."

"Stop being so dramatic," she said as she ripped his shirt open and pressed her hand over his wound. "Regina … Regina can fix this. She fixed your ship, this is a piece of cake."

"About that …"

"Regina!" Emma called and the woman reluctantly made her way over to the pair.

"What?" she asked, her voice bored and annoyed. Emma moved her hands and the queen blanched, her mask dropping for a second, genuine concern for someone other than herself or Henry fleeting across her features.

"Save him," Emma ordered.

"I …" Regina started.

"Just do it. He saved Henry. We owe him. You owe him."

"Of course. What kind of a person do you take me for?" Regina asked as she waved her hand over Hook's chest, purple light flaring out and settling over the wound. Nothing happened. Her brow's knitted together and she waved her hand again.

"This should work," she said in disbelief.

Hook coughed and he could taste the blood in the back of his throat. "What I was trying to tell you, love, before you summoned her royal highness – the blade was enchanted. By Cora."

"My mother?" Regina asked, her shoulders dropping. He knew defeat when he saw it.

Hook nodded. "Aye."

"Enchanted how?" Emma asked, even though she had a feeling she wouldn't like the answer.

He at least had the decency to look a little embarrassed as he explained. "Any wound it creates will be impervious to magic to heal it."

"Well, that's just great," she pushed at his shoulder and he winced.

He put his hand up to defend himself. "I wasn't bloody planning on having it used against me."

"Really? It didn't cross your mind that with your shitty luck it might backfire on you?"

"Attack a man while he's down." He raised an eyebrow, trying to bring a little levity to the situation. He grinned. "You're never one to disappoint, Swan."

She tilted her head and he had a flash of her looking down at him in the hospital, the moment when she stopped being the sheriff and was just Emma for a brief moment. She brushed her hand through his hair and he could see her swallow heavily – her eyes glassy even in the darkness. "I'm not giving up," she whispered. "If magic won't heal you, we'll just have to do this the old fashioned way."

"On the Jolly Roger? In the middle of nowhere?" Regina asked, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

Emma sighed and glared back over her shoulder. "Regina, you're not helping."

"She's right, love. I've lost too much blood, the wound is deep and it feels like …" He took a shuddering breath that tugged strangely in his chest. "It feels like something is wrong, something more than a simple stab wound. I fear this is beyond even your stubborn will, lass."

Emma grabbed his hand, her eyes flashing, like she was angry but her voice was trembling beneath the steel. "We're going to get you home."

"We still don't even know how we're getting back to Storybrooke," Regina pointed out and Emma closed her eyes - Hook swore she was counting to ten under her breath. Regina continued her show of support – she would have made one hell of a town crier. "The pirate was supposed to steer this thing. Now what?"

"Well, she's just a bloody ray of sunshine, isn't she," Hook muttered under his breath and Emma ducked her head toward her shoulder to hide her laugh from the queen.

Someone cleared their throat and Hook suddenly remembered there were other people aboard his ship – all of whom were staring at him as he bled to death on the deck. He gaze settled on Henry and the boy nodded at him and he nodded back.

Baelfire …no, his mind corrected, Neal raised his hand awkwardly. "Um … I can. I can steer the ship."

Hook gave him a tired grin. "You sure?"

Neal nodded and gave a short laugh and rubbed his hand across the back of his neck. "Pretty sure I remember everything you taught me. Just like riding a bike, right?"

"Aye, or making love to woman," Hook said and Emma squeezed his hand, perhaps a wee bit harder than she needed to.

"We still don't have a way to open a portal once we set sail," Regina pointed out.

"Tinkerbell said she'd be here," Snow said.

"The pixie lied," Regina rolled her eyes.

Snow pushed past her, her shoulder nudging her from behind. "Have a little faith," she hissed in Regina's ear. "And help me find some bandages and supplies." The two women disappeared below deck as David and Henry climbed up to the helm to joined Neal.

"Need any help?" Charming asked and Neal's started giving orders, hesitant at first but soon his voice rang out with confidence and authority. Hook grinned, remember their short time together as he taught the lad everything he knew – if anyone would get Emma and her family home, it was Baelfire.

The voices faded as everyone set to work to get the Jolly Roger on her way, leaving Hook alone with Emma.

Hook squeezed her hand, his strength waning with each painful breath. "My one regret," he managed to say, his voice weaker than he realized.

"What?" she asked, leaning closer to hear and his breath caught at the way her hair fell over her shoulder, looking like spun silver in the light of the moon.

"My one regret is that we shared only that one kiss."

"It was a good kiss." She smiled, her expression wistful and sad as she ran her fingers over his forehead, brushing his hair back. "If I promise to kiss you again when this is all over, do you promise not to die?"

"That's a tall order, love," he said, returning her smile. The darkness around the edges was growing and he wasn't going to be able to hold it back much longer. "I never break my promises, I'd hate to start now …"

XxXxXxXxXx

It's strange, the things the brain processes when coming back from the dead.

Beeping. An incessant beeping that would drive any sane man mad. And then a strange click followed by an even stranger hiss – over and over again. Something heavy had settled onto his chest, making it a struggle for each breath – though the fact he was breathing was a bit of surprise. And something warm and soft was snuggled against his right hip.

His fingers stirred, wanting to explore the source of the warmth, but they were trapped and wouldn't obey. He had a brief flash of panic, remembering those many mornings where he'd wake up, thinking he was a whole man, forgetting he had lost his hand, only to relive it all over again when he remembered.

He must have jerked his arm or something because the vice on his fingers tightened and he felt something fluttered across his forehead. "Killian," a voice said gently and he scrunched up his brow in confusion. No one had called him that in centuries.

"Killian," the voice said more forcefully. "Open your eyes."

"Nay," he answered stubbornly, his voice barely above a rough whisper.

The answer he received was a laugh. "You can't pretend you're not awake, pal. I saw you move."

Reluctantly, he opened his eyes and winced. So much white. Everything was out of focus and bright and so bloody white.

"Hey," the soft voice said and he turned his head, trying to get his bearings. Everything took on a sharp clarity when he saw her … Emma.

"Hey," he croaked back and was rewarded with a huge smile. He must really be a mess if he could coax that sort of smile out of her.

"We made it," she said. "You're going to be okay."

He must have had a confused look on his face because she suddenly rushed into a lengthy explanation. He picked up bits and pieces of it, but his brain was so foggy he figured he'd simply ask for a repeat of the story the next time he woke up. All he got was the word hospital, which made him groan since he did not have the best memories from his last visit. Something about a whale performing surgery, which made not one lick of sense. And lastly, the bit about Emma being scared, which made him want to wrap her up in his arms and apologize, but since modern hospitals saw fit to keep him strapped down with wires and tubes and assorted torture devices, the most he could do was nod.

"How? Neverland?" he managed to ask and somehow she knew what he meant.

"Tinkerbell." Emma made that wry twist with her mouth that she made every time she mentioned the pixie – he made a note to find out just what made Tink so unbelievable in her world. "She came back," Emma explained. "She found Pan's stash of pixie dust. Long story short: portal opened, Neal got us home, you didn't die."

"Kiss?" he asked, wincing at how sore his throat was and how rough his voice was.

"What?"

"A kiss." He managed a grin and raised an eyebrow, his strength returning a bit. The grin turned into a childish pout when she rolled her eyes at him. "You promised," he prodded and she sighed.

To be continued …