Emma hadn't thought she'd ever get a moment alone. Not since her mother had woken her up, fussing about with plans for her upcoming birthday celebration … none of which interested Emma in the slightest. Her father had promised her she could go with him on his hunt, but then Snow had put her foot down.
Emma didn't want to talk about ballgowns or what color candles for the tables or any of that. And she certainly didn't want to talk about a possible betrothal. Every time she tried to mention how well that had worked out for her father — she was promptly silenced though. Needless to say, she was in a foul mood by the time Snow finally allowed her to retreat to her chambers.
Once she was sure she wasn't about to be bothered, she moved over to the old trunk inside her armoire, digging through the lace and ribbons and silk until she got to the bottom, pulling out a simple, common-looking blue dress and slipping it on. It would only take her a few minutes to scale her way down the side of the tower — something she'd done many times before — and head into town. The last thing she wanted was to be stuck here, especially today, when the fleet was due to come back. Well, according to the talk she'd heard from the servants around the palace. And when the fleet came in, it meant the markets in the village were crawling with new and interesting things to see.
She donned a travelers' cape, pulling the hood up over her head before making her way down the tower, her feet and hands easily finding the familiar holds in the stone there. Once she was at the bottom, she made her way to the village, keeping herself at one with the crowd, doing her best to blend in. She got distracted by all the merchants and their wares, there was a lot to see here today, and she was glad she'd managed to get away, even if she only had a few hours.
"We've almost made it in to port, brother." Killian announced as he slipped into the Captain's quarters, removing his hat and holding it behind his back. "The crew's insisting that we stay about for the rest of the afternoon, I granted permission so long as they get the cargo off in a timely fashion."
"It's still Captain even behind doors, brother," Liam gave a chuckle, patting his brother's back. "Excellent choice, however, Leftenant. It'll keep the crew happy. But don't let them be the only ones to enjoy themselves, take the afternoon yourself."
"I'll think about." Killian said with a wide grin, "I suppose I do need a break from time to time." He'd become so engrossed in his new position aboard the vessel, that he scarcely took time to himself. He needed it.
Liam and his brother made their way back onto the deck, overseeing the rest of the crew as they unloaded their recent load of cargo, unloading them on to carriages to take into market.
Emma bought a fresh, warm sweetroll from one of the vendors, eating it slowly as she made her way through the throngs of people. Several seemed to be heading toward the docks, and Emma stood on her tiptoes to see what all the fuss was about. It appeared that a few new ships had just arrived at port, and she supposed everyone was hoping for first dibs at whatever goods they'd brought from wherever far-off place they'd come from. She sighed a little wistfully — for having grown up near the sea her whole life, she'd never actually been anywhere of note. Nowhere outside the kingdom.
Emma gave a little shrug, starting to turn back toward the village proper, when one of sailors caught her eye. He seemed younger than the others, and his face was a … lot nicer than any of the faces she saw around the palace or in the village on a regular day. She didn't realize she'd been staring until he looked up, right in her direction. Widening her eyes a bit, she quickly ducked her head, reaching to tug the hood of her cloak a bit further up to hide her face as she turned back toward the village.
"Always full of life by the docks." Killian commented, watching the crowds of people as they came to take the crates, wheeling them off into the market place. He scanned the crowd idly, until his eyes caught sight of a face that seemed apart from the rest of the crowd. His brows creased together, barely getting longer than a few seconds to look at her before she was ducking her head and blending into the rest of the crowd.
"Mind if I take my leave now, Captain?" Killian questioned, turning to look at his brother. "They've nearly finished with the cargo." He glanced back towards the crowd, hoping to see the woman again. If he left now he could perhaps catch up to her - get a better look at her. But for what purpose? She was just a face in the crowd.
Emma was trying to make her way back into the village, but there was a cart blocking the road, and people pressed like cattle on either side, so basically she was stuck, and she didn't like it. She'd never been much for cramped quarters. With a heavy sigh, she pushed her way back the way she'd come, back toward the docks, figuring it was probably safe enough. There was no guarantee the sailor had seen her anyway, just a bunch of faces in the crowd. And why should it matter, anyway? She sidestepped around a woman trying to carry her two children, finally breaking free of the crowd. With a heavy sigh, she leaned against a nearby crate, tearing another bite off her roll and popping it into her mouth as she looked out over the water. She'd always loved the sea, even if she'd never been on it.
Killian managed to leave the ship, heading down the gangplank onto the dock. It was crowded - worse than it ever was aboard the ship. You became accustomed to tight quarters at sea, but that was different than this crowding mass of townfolk. He kept a watchful eye on every cloaked figure that passed, searching their faces for her. Perhaps he'd been at sea too long.
He sidestepped around a woman carrying two children, offering a small smile to the bedraggled woman. "You've got your hands full." He said, a little awkwardly, not really receiving a warm response from the woman.
Pressing his tongue to the inside of his cheek, he glanced back towards the ship, before turning his attention back to the crowd. That cloak. He caught sight of a woman standing near a crate, clad in a cloak that looked similar to the woman he'd seen.
He straightened his Naval blues, inhaling deeply to calm the sudden flutter of nerves. He stepped towards her, clearing his throat. "Pardon me, miss."
Emma looked up, eyes widening when they met the sailor's — far too blue to be real. He was even handsomer up close, and she hadn't been sure that was even possible. Her heart did a funny little flip. She wasn't quite used to being around men who weren't friends of her parents. But what was he doing here? She arched a brow as she looked up at him. "May I help you?" she asked him, glancing over her shoulder to make sure it was actually her he was talking to.
He floundered for the right words. He was a hopeless case in situations like these. "I-.." He met her gaze, that little rush of excitement running through him. It was her. Without a doubt. "Have we… met before?" He asked lamely, as if it were an excuse for coming up to her.
Emma had to bite back a laugh. She was hardly ever allowed off the palace grounds on her own, let alone down by the docks where the "unsavories" gathered. "I seriously doubt it," she told him, a small smile on her lips anyway.
He inwardly cringed, knowing just how bad that introduction was. "Well…" Killian offered with a small smile of his own. "Now we have met… Perhaps I have seen you down here by the docks in the past."
"I don't know," Emma said, giving him an appraising look, trying not to be too obvious about it. He was very striking in his Navy blues, but she was fairly certain that letting him know she thought so wasn't proper. She decided to play along. It wasn't as though she'd see this man past this afternoon, after all, there was no need for him to know she was Princess Emma. And if he didn't recognize her by now, chances were good he didn't know. "Maybe you have. Does your ship come here often?"
Killian rubbed the back of his neck and nodded, "Indeed. We come to port every quarter." Which he supposed was frequently enough. Their voyages weren't as long as others. Some, he knew of, were gone for well over a year before they returned with their shipments. He would remember a face like hers if he'd seen her when they last came to port. "You just… feel familiar."
"Well, I think I would remember if we'd met," Emma said, tilting her head to the side. Her brow furrowed at his words. She was sure it was a line of some sort — not that she would really know, from experience — but she was intrigued, nonetheless.
Killian chuckled, a stupid grin spreading over his face, lighting up his blue eyes. "Oh? You would have?" He gave her a teasing look, his gaze flickering over her. "You haven't given your name yet, lass. Perhaps that will remind me." He was almost certain that he'd never seen her before, he was just curious about her name, if she came to port frequently, if she was from here. But he didn't know how to broach the topics without sounding daft.
Emma's smile faltered briefly. If she gave him her name, this pleasant interlude where she was just a regular girl out at market and he was just a sailor, fresh into port, would come to a grinding halt and become stilted and formal, like every other encounter she ever had. She was desperate to avoid that with this handsome, blue-eyed stranger. She fixed him with a look then, her eyebrow cocked in wry amusement as she tried to come up with a way to avoid him having to know. It wasn't as though she'd ever see him again after this, anyway.
"Do you think I'm in the habit of just telling complete strangers my name, sailor?" she asked him with a small grin. "Perhaps you should introduce yourself first."
Killian smirked at her reply. He enjoyed a bit of a challenge, especially when it came to women. He hadn't really indulged much in that lifestyle, but he and his brother had always attracted quite the crowd of interested women. But none attracted him like this. Killian made a show of formalities, dipping into a grand bow, "Leftenant Jones… Killian if you care to be informal." He said with a charming smile on his lips. Emma felt a slight flush rising to her cheeks at his overly dramatic bow. She was used to such things at court, of course, but out here, it was a bit much. Nevertheless, she smiled. "I'm … Hope," she said, blurting out the first name that came to her. "It's nice to meet you, Leftenant."
"I'm afraid my brother would have scolded me for not introducing myself first. My apologies." He laughed, nervously, rubbing at the back of his neck. He shifted on his heels, meeting her gaze. "Hope is a lovely name… Full of hope." He offered as a slight joke, but he cringed as soon as he said it. Emma bit back a laugh at the bad joke. "It's just a name," she said with a shrug, glad he seemed willing to accept her small little lie — she didn't necessarily like doing it, but she didn't want to scare him off — and usually, finding out who she was would do that to just about anyone. "You have a brother? Is he a sailor, as well?" She felt awkward as she fumbled for things to say, but she wanted to keep him talking. His voice was nice — soothing and deep.
"Aye, he's the Captain of the vessel I'm aboard." Killian said, sounding quite proud of his brother. He smiled, uncertain how exactly to keep the conversation going and he wanted to - more than anything. "Do you come down here whenever ships come in?" "Your parents must be very proud, a Captain and a Leftenant," Emma said, smiling a little. Her expression grew a little wistful then at his next question. "I try to," she said honestly. "Sometimes … it's hard to get away, so I have to settle for just watching from my window."
Killian's expression faltered, not wanting to ruin the conversation. "They must be." He said vaguely, not wanting to spoil the moment by correcting her on the fact that their parents were long gone. "So you've never been far from this village I take it?" Emma caught the way his expression fell, albeit briefly, but she was good at reading people, she always had been. She didn't want to drag the conversation down, but she didn't want to seem inconsiderate, either. "I'm sorry," she said quietly, shaking her head. "I've only left the village once, which probably explains my horrible manners." She tried to make light of her misstep, not wanting to do something that might scare him off.
Killian chuckled, giving her a warm, good-natured smile, "You mustn't apologize. I don't exactly expect anyone to be aware of my brother and I's past." He shrugged his shoulders, rubbing the back of his neck. "So where did you travel to when you left?" He asked, wanting to know more about her.
"My father and I went to Ishtar," Emma said with a simple shrug, as though it weren't even worth discussing, and it really wasn't. Her parents and the king of Ishtar had been working on some kind of arrangement now for awhile — as far as Emma knew, it wasn't final yet, and Gods willing, it wouldn't ever be. She couldn't imagine uprooting her life from this kingdom by the sea and moving to that desert wasteland. Any more than she could imagine marrying that king. His daughter was only slightly younger than she was, for pity's sake.
"I've never been there," Killian replied, adjusting his jacket rather nervously. "It's far too inland for the Navy to have any business there." He arched a brow, a small smile playing on his lips. "Did you enjoy it there? Or is it as miserable as I've heard tell. Can't imagine a land made of dessert and derelict villages."
"You're not missing anything," Emma told him dryly, rolling her eyes a little. "It's as bad as you've heard, and then probably worse. Completely landlocked, barely any trees or plants of any kind … " She swallowed thickly. Just talking about it made her chest feel like it was seizing up. She shook her head quickly, trying to dispel the thoughts before she had a panic attack about it. "Gods willing, I'll never have to go back. I don't think I'm made to spend time in places that aren't near the sea."
"It's a shame that you can't go to sea like a man." Killian commented, tucking his hands behind his back, standing up more upright. "I've always found that to be quite disappointing. If you've got the sea in your blood, you should be free to sail it." He smiled, meeting her eyes. He knew that it was an impossible mindset, the sea - aboard a vessel - was no place for a woman. He knew how the men behaved when they came to port, he could only imagine what a ship full of women would cause.
Emma tilted her head. Now there was an idea. Not that it would ever be a possibility, but the very idea of it seemed — exhilarating. "Well, with any luck, I'll never be far from it," she said with a small shrug, as if it didn't make any difference. "We all have our lots in life, I suppose. Mine is here."
"At least it's by the sea." Killian replied, canting his head to the side, his eyes flickering over her face. "I can't imagine living far away from a place like this. Or in a place like Ishtar." He laughed, glancing over his shoulder towards the ship. "I've got the afternoon off," He said, turning back to her, "If you wouldn't mind walking with me to get something to eat. I'm well and truly done with the food aboard the ship."
Emma made a face at the mention of Ishtar again. It truly plagued her every waking hour, knowing how soon her birthday would be upon them, and with it … well. Nothing good. That was for sure. She managed to smile then, when he seemed in no great hurry to depart from her. It had been a long time since she'd had anyone to talk to. It was possible that this had never happened for her, since everyone she ever spoke to only knew her as Princess. "Are you sure they won't miss you?" she asked him, her heart speeding up the smallest bit in her chest at the idea of spending more time with him.
"To be honest, I never really enjoy our time at port." Killian shrugged his shoulders, trying to be casual (and failing) about the fact that he'd seen something - someone - that made him want to take leave from the ship for a few hours. "But today, I decided that there were things worth doing here in the village."
"Oh?" Emma asked, trying not to let any disappointment color her words. It wasn't as though whatever this was would progress beyond today anyway — ships only stayed in port for so long and sailors were happiest at sea — everyone knew that. Besides, she was a princess. "Well, I guess fortune saw fit to show us favor today." She nodded back toward the village. "Come on, I'm sure they've moved that cart that was blocking the road earlier by now."
"Indeed it did." He said with a smile on his lips, tilting his head to look at her as they walked. "Favor's been very good to me as of late. I suppose my time has finally come." Killian laughed softly, letting her lead their walk. It would be nice - just for one afternoon - to enjoy the company of someone new.
Emma was silent for a moment, trying to come up with something interesting to say — not that she had much to talk about. She couldn't really talk much about herself without giving away who she was, and she really didn't want to do that. It was far too nice to just enjoy a simple conversation with someone. And she was quite certain that she'd never felt nearly so drawn to anyone as she did to this man. "Where did you travel from?" she finally asked, realizing that there were many things she could ask him about the places he'd seen.
"An uncharted island. We were escorting a Royal associate there for research, returned them to the lower end of the kingdom and then protected the cargo we delivered today. That part of the journey was rather boring, but going to the other land… It was exhilarating." Killian drew them to a halt, "Will you wait here while I purchase a sweetroll?" He asked as he eyed the small stand. "They look delicious."
"A royal associate?" Emma asked then. "From this kingdom or another?" She'd heard of no such expedition, and she was typically very good at overhearing things she wasn't supposed to, much to her parents' constant chagrin. She came to a stop when he did, smiling. "Oh, they're very good," she assured him, but couldn't resist adding, "but don't you think you ought to eat realfood, too?"
"This kingdom, actually." Killian pursed his lips. "The King, as far as I understand, is requiring a gift for his daughter's eventual wedding." He said nonchalantly, "The researcher found several specimens that seem likely." He gave her a look. "But perhaps I want something sweet."
Emma was sure her eyes couldn't have gotten any wider, but luckily, his back was turned. She made a sound of disgust, trying to make it sound like she was just offended on the poor princess'behalf, but on the inside, she was fuming. Her mother had told her it wasn't decided yet. "That's barbaric," she muttered. "Women aren't cows to be sold to the highest bidder." Her eyebrow shot up when he turned back to her, giving her a look she wasn't quite sure she'd ever seen directed at her before. She swallowed thickly. "Well … be my guest," she said, her voice a little more strained than normal.
"Well, don't harm the messenger," He laughed, trying to make light of her sudden tone of disgust. It wasn't his fault that that was how the King and Queen chose to treat their daughter. "I was simply aboard the ship keeping watch. I didn't find the bloody plant myself." He felt his cheeks go a little pink. "That was terribly improper, I apologize. That was no way to speak to a lady." He ducked his head before excusing himself to fetch his sweetroll. It was delicious - just how he remembered it from the last time they made port here and his brother returned with a spare for him.
"No, it's fine," Emma said, shaking her head and waving her hand dismissively. "I shouldn't have snapped about it, I mean, it's not like there's anything that I could do about it." She nodded her head toward his sweetroll. "How is it?"
"I mean, it's quite unfortunate for her. I can't imagine being bartered off as such. Marriage should mean far more than that. Ironic, how royalty can have it all, but those important details that make life worth living are denied them." He shrugged his shoulders, tearing off a piece of the roll. "It's delicious. I was starving."
"Doubly ironic considering that the king and queen themselves are not an arranged marriage," Emma said, almost scathingly, though the tone wasn't aimed at him at all. She gave him a look out of the corner of her eyes then, her heart doing that little fluttery thing again. His views on things were not like the ones she was accustomed to here — though she supposed his life was much more freeing than hers. "Well, you'll be hungry again in about five minutes after you finish that. They're good but not very substantial."
Killian could feel her gaze on him and he turned his head to look at her more clearly, "Perhaps fortune will show her favor one day." He offered, uncertain as to why their topic turned to this potential royal marriage, it effected neither of them. "But enough with that, it's neither here nor there for us."
"Right," Emma said, making herself smile. If everything he said was true, this was likely to be the last afternoon she'd have like this — possibly ever again. The last thing she wanted was to squander it. "I'm sorry, you're right." She nodded toward the rest of the marketplace . "Is there anything you'd like to see? It's your afternoon free, after all."
"I wouldn't even know where to look for something to see." Killian commented as he stuffed another piece into his mouth, chewing it down before speaking again. "How about you take me somewhere that's interesting around here. You are from here after all." He smiled at her, "And tell me something about yourself."
"Well … " Emma began, trying to think. She didn't know many places in the village, since she hardly ever came here. There was, however, one place — though it wasn't a place she'd ever shown anyone before. It was a place she went when she was trying to duck the palace guards whenever she snuck out. She cast a glance toward him. "Follow me," she said, nodding her head down the path once more. As they walked, she tugged nervously at her cloak. "What do you want to know about me?" She wasn't used to the question — people she talked to assumed they already knew all there was to know about her, and they were mostly right.
Killian followed after her, not questioning where she led them. It was nice, to just let go of the rigid airs he put on as Leftenant and just enjoy the afternoon around the village. A respite from his day-to-day life, one that would more than likely never be repeated again. At least not with this company. Not with someone who made his heart beat faster in such a way.
"Well, what do you do here in the village? Are you the daughter of a merchant or vendor?" He questioned as he finished his sweetroll, running his fingers through his hair to make sure it was somewhat neat.
Emma paused … she hadn't anticipated the personal questions. "My … father is a shepherd," she said after a moment. It wasn't an out and out lie — David had been a shepherd in the past. "Outside the village a fair way." She looked over her shoulder at him, offering him a small smile as they wound their way through the throng of people in the village. There was a deserted strand of beach, not far from here — windswept and lonely, where a few ruins of towers that once stood tall and proud now crumbled in ruins. Her mother often said no one went out there because it was depressing, but Emma loved it because it was quiet.
"You're not secretly a siren leading me to my doom are you?" He teased, flashing her a bright - boyish - smile. Killian caught up to her, keeping beside her as they walked. Even in silence it was nice. Perhaps he hadn't been so off his mark, the longer he spent near her she did feel more familiar. But he was certain he'd never met her before.
"Guess you'll just have to take your chances and find out," Emma told him, widening her eyes a bit dramatically as she led him out toward the windswept dunes. It was strange … but the more time she spent with him, the more she felt as though she'd known him all along. She couldn't remember ever meeting someone who felt so … kindred. Which was a crazy thing to think, but nice, nonetheless.
"I think I might be able to do that. Being a sailor is so calculated and everything is thought out and then overthought. It's rather refreshing to get away from the ship and just… well, I suppose live might be the right word to use. The men are so accustomed to it, but I've kept from it. Living in the shadow of my brother."
"And what would your brother, this Captain, say if his second-in-command were to be lured to his doom by a siren?" Emma asked, cocking her head and giving him a small smirk. "Seems a very ironic end for a sailor."
"I've heard many a tale of sirens and mermaids leading sailors to their tragic deaths. I'd say he'd be distraught over his loss, but he'd overcome it all soon enough. He can be very hardened at times." Killian returned her smirk. "You're worrying more and more that you are a siren, Hope."
"And yet you're still following me," Emma said, almost coyly, though she'd never really learned the art of courtly behavior. Much to her mother's constant consternation, she'd always been somewhat — blunt and forward. But she found it rather easy with this blue-eyed sailor. "I'll make sure and send your brother your regards if I am."
Killian laughed, pressing his tongue to the inside of his cheek before he clicked his tongue against his teeth. "Charming. I've fallen into the trap of an evil siren, here to seduce and murder me." He rolled his eyes. "Clever, if you were a siren," He commented, not really guarding his words. "Choosing the nape Hope, something I want to cling to so surely."
They were far enough out of the village now, not a single other soul around as they neared the barren beach up ahead, so Emma lowered the hood of her cloak. If he hadn't recognized her by now, he wasn't going to if she lowered her hood. Chances were good Princess Emma was just a name to him. "You don't seem too bothered by the idea," she pointed out, the same small grin playing over her lips as she looked over at him, trying to ignore the flutter she felt at his words. No one dared to speak to Princess Emma so bluntly, and she found it slightly heady.
Killian cocked a brow, a cheeky grin spreading across his features. "Perhaps I'm just a masochistic sailor, seeking a watery grave at the hands of a beautiful siren." He looked away quickly, realizing how truly bold that sounded. He hadn't meant it to sound that way, it was all in jest.
Emma's brows rose and she turned to face him, walking backward as she tucked her hands behind her back primly. "Unfortunately, I can offer you neither. I'm just the daughter of a shepherd, and this … " She looked around at the abandoned beach, "is just a quiet place I like to come sometimes. I thought — well. I'm sure you deal with enough people on your ship." She ducked her head, feeling a little silly now that they were here. "I thought you might like the quiet."
"It's lovely out here." Killian said, trying to mask his embarrassment. "The crew can be quite lively, it's nice to have a bit of silence and good company to share it with."
Emma ducked her head, a blush creeping up on her cheeks. She was long past the point where she should have headed back to the palace, but it was hard to find it in her to care at the moment — especially knowing what awaited her when she went back. "Well," she said, raising her gaze to his tentatively, still a little unnerved by the blue of his eyes. "I'm sure you would have found someone else to spend your afternoon with." The words were meant to be reassuring for him, but she didn't like the way they made herfeel, stupidly. "I probably would have just fetched some food and returned to the ship." Killian said, pressing his lips together as he looked out towards the sea. "As I said, something caught my eye today…"
Emma felt her blush deepen, and she looked away quickly, out over the water. The wind off the water was cooler here and she sighed, inhaling the scent of the sea, wondering how much longer she'd be able to even enjoy it. "I'm sure many things have caught your eye," she said, giving him a slightly cautious look then. "You've been much more interesting places than this."
"Aye, it's true, I've been all over but…" He trailed off, shaking his head. "There's always more beautiful things to be found." Killian chewed on the inside of his bottom lip. "Do you always bring strangers out here with you, lass?"
"Actually … no," Emma told him, turning to look back at him once more. The cool breeze off the water whipped a few strands of her hair in front of her face and she brushed them back absently. "I sort of think of this place as … mine. I've never brought anyone out here." She gave a little shrug. Maybe she shouldn't be admitting to things like that. It dawned on her, for the first time, that she was putting an awful lot of trust in someone she'd just met … but it felt right. "Do me a favor and keep it a secret?"
Killian tapped his fingers against his lips, "Shan't tell a soul about your little retreat." He smiled at her, before turning his attention back to the ocean. "It's beautiful here, I can see why you would come here."
Emma smiled, mostly to herself, but it was a hopeful sort of smile, the kind that came when you felt a sort of buoyancy in your heart. The fact that he found this place beautiful — just as she did — meant the world to her, for some reason. "My mother says it's depressing, and that's why no one ever comes out here," she said, rolling her eyes a little. "It is a little sad, I'll give her that … but it's sort of a … pretty sad, you know? Like a poem." She blushed then, she normally didn't say things like that to other people, but it was easy to talk to him … too easy, maybe.
"I certainly don't find this place depressing." Killian's brow creased together as he glanced in her direction. "Depressing is that god forsaken dessert land that you spoke of." He laughed, shaking his head. "Anywhere by the water, even a place like this is beautiful."
Emma inhaled sharply at the mention of Ishtar again. She didn't know why it hadn't dawned on her … this inevitable betrothal meant that she'd have to say goodbye to this place as well. There was a lump in her throat then, and she looked away quickly, biting down on her lip. "Yeah," she said after a moment, giving a little breathless laugh, trying to sound unaffected. "Imagine being stuck living in a place like that. I think I'd rather be dead."
Killian's brows creased together, "I apologize if I've said something wrong." He said quickly, searching as much of her face as he could see from how they were standing. "I'd hate to be in a place like that as well. Good thing your father's a shepherd, terrible grazing lands I've heard - no sense in you going there with your family."
"No, no," Emma said quickly, shaking her head. "It's not you." She smiled reassuringly, laughing a bit at his quip about the grazing. She wondered if she shouldn't just tell him — it would explain her mood, and he wouldn't think her so crazy. But the idea of all this changing — well, she didn't want that either. "Tell me something about you," she said then, in an attempt to change the subject to something less panic-inducing than her upcoming nuptials. "It's only fair, isn't it?"
"Well, what do you want to know?" Killian asked, turning to face her with an amused look on his lips. "You know that I have a brother, who's the Captain of the Jewel of the Realm… You know my most recent voyage. What more do you wish to know, lass?"
"I don't know," Emma said, smirking a little as she looked at him. "There must be more to you than just being a sailor … surely you have a hobby or something? Or are you one of those all work and no play types?"
"All work and no play. It takes actual force to get me off the ship most of the time. Despite my distaste for liquor, most of the crew drinks - as any sailor does, it would seem - which makes me less than fun when we go into taverns." Killian commented with a slight laugh. "I help run a tight ship, that's all I do."
"Sounds a little dull, Leftenant," Emma said, a teasing lilt in her voice now. "Don't you just ever want to … not?" There was a playful glint in her eyes, but she was quite serious in her questioning. She moved to stand in front of him, maybe standing a little closer than she needed to. "Should I be flattered that you're off your ship now?"
"You should be very flattered. I'm sure my brother will question me mercilessly about my sudden need to leave the ship. It might be good for my image." He teased back, enjoying the way she looked and sounded in this moment.
"Well, I hope you won't be getting into any trouble on my account," Emma said, her eyes flickering up to his, realizing in that moment just how close they were standing. She knew she should probably back up, but it was hard to come up with a reason why. She had never in her life been allowed out on her own, and certainly not in the company of strange men … and the whole thing was going to her head, she was sure of it.
"My brother makes it his purpose in life to find ways to irritate me. Like referring me as his little brother opposed to younger brother. He'll just tease me, no doubt." He laughed, smiling down at her. They were very close - far too close than people who just met should stand.
"Well isn't that sort of an older sibling's job?" Emma asked, tilting her face up to look at him, even though it would have been easier to step back, but she didn't really want to. That was probably a problem … but at the same time … why? She wasn't Princess Emma right now. She was just … Hope. And she was never going to see this man again after today … the thought was sobering, and her brow creased a little. "How long do you typically stay in port?" she found herself asking, before she could stop the words.
"Typically a night or two." He canted his head from side to side, pursing his lips. "Liam was off to speak with the King, which could potentially prolong our stay here." Killian looked down at her with a smirk. "Worried about seeing me again?"
Emma rolled her eyes then, meeting his smirk with an arched brow. "No, I was actually wondering if I had time to meet the rest of your crew," she retorted dryly.
Killian flustered, "I'm sure they wouldn't mind meeting a beautiful young woman like you but… Perhaps we can keep this our secret afternoon. You have shown me your little stretch of beach." Killian offered, smiling nervously at her.
Emma had to bite back a laugh — did he actually think she was serious? "Well now I think I should be offended," she said, but her tone was light and teasing … he was handsomer — if that were even possible — when he was slightly flustered. "What sort of girl do you take me for, Leftenant?"
"I-… Oh." Killian pressed his lips together, shaking his head with a stifled laughed. "Maybe this is why I'm never off the ship. I don't know how to communicate like normal individuals." It was purely her fault. He was never this flustered.
"Normal individuals are boring, if you ask me," Emma said with a slight shrug. "To be perfectly honest with you … I don't get out much either." Though in her case, it really wasn't by choice.
Killian smiled a little more then, "Then you understand me." He said, arching a brow as he searched her eyes. "Though you hold yourself together far better than I do."
Emma blinked a little at his words, at the way his smile lit up his whole face. "My parents sort of insist I don't disgrace the family name," she said, keeping her tone light and noncommittal. "Not that I'm ever given the chance to do that." She leaned in a little, lowering her voice conspiratorially. "I'm technically supposed to be home, right now."
"Am I leading you astray?" Killian asked, his voice dropping just a little lower. He arched a brow, wetting his lips slightly. "Is this how you'll disgrace your family name by wandering around with a sailor alone?"
Emma's eyes dropped to his lips, before snapping back to his own eyes, her heartbeat quickening at the low tone in his voice now. There was a part of her that knew she should take a step back and give them both some breathing room … but she couldn't quite make her legs move. "Well, it certainly wouldn't please them to know," she returned, her own voice lower now. "Which is exactly why I won't be telling them about this. Our secret, right?"
"Our secret." Killian confirmed, holding out his hand, "Shake on it?" He asked, perhaps secretly just wanting to touch her hand, to feel her skin brush against his own.
Emma looked at his proffered hand for a moment, before reaching out her own and offering a firm shake. "You realize that the consequences of telling this secret are pretty serious, don't you?" she teased lightly, though there was some truth to her words.
"No, what are the consequence? Will I lose a hand or an ear?" He asked with the same teasing tone in his voice, a wry smile plastered across his expression. He shook her hand, his thumb brushing over the top of her hand. It felt… right.
Emma looked at him, the brush of his fingertips over her skin sending little shivers down her spine. She wasn't used to be touched so… familiarly. She didn't mind it… But maybe only because of the one touching her. "Wouldn't you like to know?" she asked, her voice lower than it had been a moment ago.
Killian's gaze flickered to her lips, before he pulled away, realizing just how improper all of this was. "I do believe that I would like to know, lass. But, I'm wondering if you're actually going to tell me or not." He said with a smirk.
Emma's breath caught, knowing that if her parents ever caught wind of any of this, she'd likely be boarded up in one of the castle towers indefinitely.
Or shipped off to Ishtar to marry some old king…
She met his eyes once again, pushing the bad thoughts away for now. "Why would I do that? Can't let you my secrets, now can I?"
"You showed me this secret place." Killian reminded her, tapping his nose with a mischievously little smirk. "I want to know the consequence of telling someone about this place." He teased, "There's this very beautiful blond I met… Oh wait." He met her gaze, biting down on his bottom lip. He felt lighter and happier than he had in a long while.
"Exactly!" Emma said with a rather defiant toss of her head. "I showed you this place, how many more secrets do you think you need to know? You're awfully greedy, Leftenant. I'm not entirely certain you could handle more of my secrets." She arched a brow at his smirk.
"I'm wounded, you have such little faith in me." Killian's brows creased together, giving her a look. "Perhaps I'll save a secret or two for the next time we might perchance meet." Emma returned his look, cocking her head to the side. "Oh, and what sort of secrets does a good little Naval Leftenant have to hide?" she teased with a smirk, hands resting on her hips as she looked at him.
Killian's blinked a few times, just to be certain that this woman was in fact not a figment of his imagination. She was something else. All fiery and sassy and… strangely enough everything he'd wanted in a companion for the afternoon. "Wouldn't you like to know."
Emma gave him an appraising look, as though she were assessing him, before shaking her head. "Sorry, can't see it. I love a good scandal, but you, Leftenant, do not have one." She grinned at him cheekily.
"Not yet." He teased, arching a brow. "That's not until I return to the Jewel and this little tête-à-tête becomes my secret." Killian shifted his weight from the balls of his feet to his heels, straightening out his clothes again.
Emma's brows rose at his words. "Are you suggesting that I will be your dirty little secret?" she asked lowly, not sure why she felt a little thrill run through her at that. Sneaking out of the palace was something she'd done innumerable times… but she'd never dared to meet anyone or stay gone so long before. And she found, the longer she spent with him, the more she didn't want to go back at all.
"As I said, I'm here in port for at least two days. Perhaps we could cross paths again tomorrow." Killian offered, his heart beating faster as he looked down at her. His younger years had been stunted by joining the navy - but now he found himself interested in sneaking around. The thrill that it brought. Emma's heart fluttered wildly in her chest. He wanted to see her again? She couldn't contain the smile that formed on her lips then, even though her mind was already racing — how the hell would she get away from the palace again? After her stunt today, they'd be watching her more closely, she knew that.
But she also knew it didn't matter, she'd do whatever she had to to see him again, especially since it would be his last day in port until his ship came back again. The thought filled her with sadness, which seemed absurd to her; she barely knew him. But she wanted to know more.
Her eyes flickered to his. "We could meet back here … " she said tentatively, testing the waters, still not sure why he'd even want to, but she knew that she did, very much.
"I think I could manage that." Killian answered quickly, pressing his lips together to hide the overzealous smile that tugged at the corners of his lips. He didn't know what was wrong with him - he'd just met her and yet… he wanted to spend more time with her. She brought with her a familiar sort of comfort, as if he'd known her far longer than an hour or two.
"It won't get you into trouble will it?"
Oh, it would definitely get her into trouble — being out here right now was just asking for a lecture from her parents and a strict retinue of guards watching her every move for awhile — but it was well worth it.
"Nah," she said easily, shaking her head a little. "Come this way," she said then, nodding a little further down the beach. "Unless — you need to get back?"
"I have a little while longer." Killian said, offering her his arm. "As long as you desire my company still." He smiled at her, his eyes flickering over her face. Emma bit her lip, before taking his arm, her heart giving another little flip as she touched him. "Well, I haven't run off screaming yet, I think you can take that as a good sign, Leftenant."
Killian pressed his tongue to the inside of his cheek, chuckling as he patted her hand with a cheeky grin. "Well, that certainly boosts my morale." Emma started walking, leading him a bit further down the windswept shoreline, wishing there was some way to just stop time, right here, indefinitely. She gave him a sideways glance, a small smile tugging at the corners of her lips. "If you were looking for an ego boost, you might have fixated on the wrong girl," she told him matter-of-factly.
"Oh, I'm quite certain I fixated on the right girl." Killian countered, looking at her out of the corner of his eye. He licked his lips before turning his attention ahead of them again. "Oh, so you're admitting that you're fixated?" Emma retorted, a sort of smug satisfaction in her words. She was used to being doted on as the princess, but she was never certain any of that was genuine flattery. This felt different though. It felt nice. "Good to know, Leftenant." She gave him the lightest nudge in his side with her elbow, not sure when she'd ever felt freer.
"I may have just admitted that I am." Killian chuckled, feeling his cheeks flush. "Not such a bad thing to admit is it?" He questioned, looking at her out of the corner of his eye. "Wasn't expecting this today." "No … I don't think it's bad." Emma turned her head just enough to look at him, smiling a little, suddenly feeling a bit shy. "Neither was I," she admitted. "I just thought it'd be another day in the village." She nodded a bit further ahead. "Up there. The tower that's not completely in ruins. There's a pretty view from the top — you don't mind heights, do you?"
"I don't mind heights at all. I've been up in the eagle's nest enough to no longer be bothered." Killian replied, glancing at her. "Now you're leading me up to an old tower… Are you sure you're not trying to kill me?" "Well you can always stay down below if you're scared," Emma said, a challenging glint in her eyes and a smirk on her lips . "I would understand… whether or not I'm a siren is still in question, after all."
"I don't know, I think I'm just curious enough to go through with this." Killian said, arching a brow. "Just to see if you are a siren or not. Or find out a little more about you."
"Well then," Emma said, widening her eyes dramatically, "follow me." She reluctantly let go of his arm, ducking through the archway that led inside the tower. "Just mind your step," she told him, "there are a few loose stairs, and I'd hate to be responsible for a broken neck. I promise it's worth it."
Killian laughed at her words, "No one knows I've wandered off with you if I do break my neck. You'll get away with it without being caught." He teased as he followed after her up the stairs, "But know, I'd haunt you from here to kingdom come."
"Well, that is what a proper siren would do," Emma teased over her shoulder, pointing out the loose stone in the step in front of him. "Perhaps you're just one of a long line of sailors, lured to his doom here."
"Doesn't seem like a terribly awful fate." Killian retorted, making his way up the staircase carefully at her prompting. "Beautiful woman, an entertaining afternoon… Near the sea."
Emma flustered a little when he called her beautiful, thankful that she was walking ahead of him so he couldn't see her face. Once she reached the top of the stairs, she reached above her to the little latch on the ceiling that opened a trap door that led to the parapet of the tower, boosting herself through. The wind was much sharper up here, but the view of the kingdom was spectacular. She moved to stand near the stone wall, waiting for him to join her.
Killian watched her go above, before hoisting himself through the trap door, joining her on the parapet. "Wow." He breathed out, though he wasn't looking out at the kingdom, his eyes were fixed on her, hair billowing around her in the wind. He looked away quickly, pretending it was something out near the sea that caught his interest.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" Emma said, looking out over horizon. The sun was starting to sink, which added a sort of rose-colored hue to the ocean, little sparks of light shooting off in all directions. She knew she shouldn't be here now, she should be back at the palace, but there was no appeal to that idea at all. "I come here when I have to get away from everything."
Killian tilted his head to look at her, admiring her and not the view. "It's certainly a beautiful sight up here." He said softly, feeling that ridiculous flutter in his chest again.
"Yeah it … " She trailed off, finally looking over at him, only to find that he wasn't looking out at the view at all. She arched a brow, a nervous laugh escaping her lips then. "You're not even looking," she said, feeling her cheeks growing warm.
"What?" He flustered, blinking quickly when he realized she'd caught him watching her. "Oh.. I um… got fixated." He laughed, feeling his cheeks turn very red.
Emma turned to face him then, though she knew her cheeks were burning even redder than his were. "Fixated, huh?" she asked, her voice a little breathier than it had been before. "Is this going to be a common occurrence with you, Leftenant?"
"It's certainly not." Killian grinned at her, "Unless you're the ship." He laughed, rubbing the back of his neck. "It really hasn't happened really." He bit down on his bottom lip. "And you don't bring sailors up here frequently?"
Emma rolled her eyes a little. "What do you think?" she asked him, tilting her head to the side as she looked at him. "I've never brought anyone here, sailor or otherwise." There was no use going into the fact that she had no one to bring here, in the first place.
"I feel honored then." He said, ducking his head out of embarrassment. "Today has been a very successful day at port. I hope tomorrow is just as lovely." Killian smiled at her, eyes sweeping over her features. She was truly a beautiful young woman. "Oh, and what's made it such a successful day, hm?" Emma asked, a playful glint in her eyes. Maybe she just wanted to keep him talking to her … maybe she wanted him to say things he probably shouldn't, all things considered. But she wasn't married off yet … and she was certain that she'd never feel this way about the old man they were deadset on shackling her to. She would only have things like this day, to look back on and remember once she was off alone in the desert.
"Well, there was this beautiful woman I met today. She rather took my breath away and entranced me." Killian smiled at her, amused by her playful tone. "Has today been a good day for you, lass?" Emma lowered her lashes, a small smile on her lips again. "Oh, it's been fairly eventful for me," she said coyly. "It's not every day I can lure a handsome sailor into my trap here," she added with a grin. She felt like it was okay to say such things — after tomorrow, they'd not see each other again … this could just be remembered as a lovely dream.
Killian turned to face her, laughing and shaking his head at her words. "Ah the truth comes out. You are a siren. I should have known better." He stepped closer to her, though he knew better than to. "Or perhaps I'm just a bored, lonely girl who is trying to ease that a bit … and not a siren at all," Emma said, her gaze flickering to his as he stepped closer. Good judgment told her to step back, but her heart and her body didn't seem to agree with that notion at all, and she stayed put, allowing him to close the distance between them.
"You should tie your hair back when you're up here," Killian said, hesitantly reaching out and tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. "It might get in your eye." He felt his cheeks grow hotter. Emma sucked in a breath that would have certainly been audible if it weren't for the wind up here, her eyes following his hand as best they could as he tucked her hair behind her ear. "I don't mind it so much," she said, feeling as though she were frozen to the spot.
Killian met her gaze, tensing, "I'm sorry that was impolite." He laughed, clearly flustered. "It just felt right." Emma reached up to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear — a nervous habit — only to realize he'd just done that, and she blushed, feeling silly for being so unnerved by him … she'd never in her life felt this way around someone. "I'm not really complaining, am I?"
"No… you're not." Killian smiled at her, ducking his head, looking at her through his lashes. He rubbed the back of his neck, making no moves to move away from her. "I feel like one day has reduced me to an idiot."
"I don't think you're an idiot," Emma told him, looking up at him. "I don't think I would have brought you here, if I did." She smiled tentatively. "But it's all right if you'd rather … I mean, if you don't want to come back tomorrow. I'll understand."
"No. No. I want to come back tomorrow." Killian said quickly, his hand moving to touch her arm. "As long as you want to. I wouldn't want you to feel burdened by my presence."
Emma blinked when he touched her arm, a hopeful smile blossoming on her face. "It's no burden," she told him, ducking her head. "I'd like to see you again … more … "
Killian gave a flustered laugh, "Then it's set to meet here tomorrow. Around the same time?" He asked, canting his head to the side. His heart was pounding in his chest, pulse thumping in his ears.
"Earlier," Emma said, biting down on her lip. There was no way she'd be able to pull off another afternoon like this one — not so late. "If … if that works for you … around … midday?"
"I can do midday, that'll be just after we dismiss the crew from morning rounds." He glanced back out to sea. "We should get going. I don't want you to get in trouble. It might disrupt tomorrow for us." He chewed on his bottom lip, his gaze falling from her eyes to her lips, before looking away again.
"I … " Emma started to say something, but something out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. Riders. On the road. From … no, not from the palace. She started to breathe a sigh of relief, until she saw the banners they were flying.
She felt her stomach drop. There was nothing good heralded by their arrival here. And if they were here now … it meant they'd been summoned some time ago. Meaning …
"I have to go," she said, her eyes flickering to his face, sure there was a somewhat desperate look to her features now. "I'm sorry, I have to go now." She gave him a long lingering look, not sure what it is she wanted in that moment … it certainly wasn't to leave now, but she had no choice. With very little forethought, she leaned in, kissing his cheek, very near the corner of his lips, before pulling away and dropping through the trapdoor, hurrying off before he could say anything that might make her stay.
Killian followed her gaze, rather uncertain about her sudden change in disposition. His eyes fluttered closed when she pressed a kiss to his cheek, uncertain how to respond to all of this. "I-.." He started to say, but before he had a chance she was gone. "Hope?" He called after her, moving to go down the trapdoor after her.
But she was already gone.
Emma was halfway back to the palace before she let herself stop, leaning against the trunk of an ancient old sentinel tree, inhaling shakily and trying not to cry. She should have said goodbye. She was never going to see him again, that much she was sure of now … she should have at least said goodbye.
Had he done something or said something wrong? Her sudden flight left him questioning what it was that he had done wrong - it had to be his fault. His brows were permanently creased together as he made his journey back towards the village. He'd lost Hope before he even really knew her. And foolishly he had let himself start to fall for her bold personality. It was refreshing, to just be at ease with someone.
Killian's shoulders sagged as he walked, idly watching nature as he walked. His eyes widened when he spotted a figure up ahead, "Hope?" He smiled, though he kept his distance - just in case he had been at fault for something.
Emma's head shot up, her heart speeding at the sound of his voice. "Leftenant?" He'd somehow found her? Had he come looking or … She looked over at him, in spite of everything a smile of — ironically, hope — forming on her face. She really didn't want to part with him on such a sour note, since it would indeed be the last time she saw him.
"I'm sorry," she said sheepishly. "I … usually have better manners than that. I didn't realize it was so late … I … " She lowered her lashes. "I'm afraid I might be in some trouble, after all," she admitted. "I was supposed to take care of something for my father, and I completely forgot to do it."
Killian tried to mask his disappointment, "So this is where we part then?" He smiled at her, his head ducked a little. "I was afraid I'd done something terribly wrong and upset you. But I am very sorry that this is the last time you and I shall meet. Perhaps in three months when I return to port, we might encounter one another again."
"No, you didn't do anything wrong. You were … perfect." Emma's smile was sad, almost tremulous as she looked at him. "Three months?" she said, trying for a light tone, but her voice was rather faltering. "I suppose that's not … so bad." She looked down. "I'm very pleased to have met you, Leftenant Jones," she said, extending her hand. "I hope … I hope you have a safe journey — wherever you go next." She bit her lip. "Thank you for the … nicest afternoon I've ever had. I'm sorry it couldn't have … been longer."
Killian smiled wistfully, "I have hope that we shall meet again." He assured her, though he wasn't certain where his own certainty came from. In three month's time they'd both move on from this. "I shan't forget this afternoon for a very long time, lass." He held out his hand, expecting her to take his.
Three months was a lifetime. Three months from now, she'd be in the desert, miserable and alone, with a husband who was older than her parents and … a stepdaughter who was nearly as old as she was. The idea made her want to burst into tears. "I won't forget it, either," she said softly, reaching out for his hand, feeling a rush of something she didn't have a name for when they touched.
Killian brought her hand to his lips, brushing his lips over her knuckles gently. "I wish you all the best, Hope. Until we meet again." He smiled at her warmly, before releasing her hand. He didn't know what that sensation was.
Emma's skin tingled where his lips brushed, her eyes flicking to his and holding his gaze for a beat longer than necessary. With a smile that she hoped hid the sadness in her eyes, she gave a sweeping bow, mimicking the one he'd given her back at the docks. "I hope you have fair winds and … you know, all that stuff you sailors need for safe travels," she said with a wry smile. "And … well … I'll look for your ship."
"I'll hold you to that." Killian laughed, giving her a lingering look as he started to back up. "I best be going and you as well. I shouldn't want your parents to be cross with you."