Well, apparently I got it out faster than I ever thought. Thank God for this Write or Die program.
Emma had taken her time walking to the diner after leaving Jones in the pawn shop. She wasn't an idiot; she knew he was plotting something with Gold. Any right-minded human being knew Jones would rather spend the least amount of time with Gold as possible. God knows he insinuated, implied, and said it enough times.
So when she got to Granny's diner, sat down at the bar with Neal, Henry, Ruby, Belle, Regina, and her parents, and watched ten minutes tick by, Emma knew something was wrong. Or at least, something was going down at the pawn shop.
Considering Jones was pretty much their last hope—since none of them really knew how to sail a ship by themselves—she doubted Gold would kill him and try to stash the body. So what was taking him so long?
Not that she particularly wanted him to show—
Okay, fine. Enough was enough.
It was high time to be honest with herself because God knew she needed to re-evaluate her life. Neal was alive and well and happily hanging out with Henry (for as long as he possibly could considering he'd nearly died and now they were all about to die considering their universe was going to implode) and he was firmly in her romantic past.
She liked Jones. She liked having him around. She enjoyed his inane commentary and how she felt surprisingly calm when he was nearby. She liked the fact that he seemed so eager to prove himself, but she also liked that he didn't push her. She liked that he basically just sort of stood there, waiting for her to make the first move. Like he was going off of her actions rather than taking certain unwanted initiatives like most of the other guys she'd had histories with. All he did was wait for her…like someone who knew she'd turn to.
It was like he was home—as if he'd prepared a whole house for her benefit, but he didn't nag her to hurry or even drag her back. He was just…there…for her.
So where was he this time?
She wasn't trying to sound like she expected him to always be there, it's just that she'd gotten used to seeing him when she turned around.
And that's when she slid off the barstool.
"Emma?" Snow called, swiveling her seat as Emma began to back away. "Where are you going?"
Emma blinked and shook her head, biting the inside of her lip. "I need to go check on something."
"Why?" Ruby asked. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing, nothing," Emma answered. Unconvincing, she knew, but she wasn't in the right mind to make more valid excuses. She needed to get to the docks. "I'll be back in a few minutes. Just a hunch. Don't worry."
She jogged out of the diner, leaving a confused conversation in her wake. She passed the windows, making sure she was way out of sight of the diner before she broke into a full sprint.
She wasn't an idiot. If he didn't stay behind with Gold to have some sort of verbal or physical smackdown, there was no other reason for him to stay unless he was waiting for the potion-bomb. She wasn't an idiot, and if he thought she was, he wasn't as fond of her as they both thought. That dickhead.
By the time her pounding footsteps transitioned from cement to wood, she was thoroughly enraged and feeling like she was about to die. She really needed to do more cardio.
"Hook, you asshole!" she shrieked, spotting his head bobbing along his ship as he puttered around, prepping.
"That's nice!" Jones barked right back, scowling. He craned his head to see her but then turned away to continue working again. "Call me obscene names as I'm trying to get ready to save the bloody world."
"Lower the gangplank right now!" she commanded, still panting from her side-splitting spring.
"No, I don't think so," he called back nonchalantly. "I'm quite busy, Swan."
"You lower that gangplank right now or so help me, I'll jump!"
Jones leaned over again and eyed her pointedly. "Even if you made long leaps for a livelihood, darling, you couldn't possibly make that. Even with a running start, you'd smack against the side of my ship and slide down into the water."
"Then you'd have to haul me up," she argued.
"Or I'll just sail off and let you haul yourself back out like I know you can."
Seeing that he was undeterred by her threats, she turned down a different road. "Jones, what the hell are you doing?"
"What does it look like I'm doing, love?" he countered, shrugging. "I'm preparing my poor ship for her swan song."
"Are you sure you're only preparing? Because it looks to me like you're about to set sail—especially considering the lack of gangplank."
"You and that gangplank," he chortled. "Don't worry, darling. I'm not leaving quite yet."
"So why won't you let the gangplank down?!"
"I'm going to give that bloody thing to you for your birthday."
He finally stopped and came to the railing to look her straight in the eye. "Swan?"
She glared at him, hands on her hips, still trying to catch her breath. "I'm not an idiot."
He smirked. "I wouldn't be so fond of you if you were otherwise."
"So don't treat me like an idiot."
His smirk faded, and he patted the railing with a sigh. "I'm not treating you like an idiot, Emma."
"Only for a bit, love."
"You're going to leave without even telling us? Why—What could possibly have compelled you to do that? God forbid you let us help get the ship ready or—"
"I chose to leave—or at least attempt it—because I'd rather not have all of you wishing me luck and saying goodbye as if it'll be the last time you'll see me," he said simply.
"What the fuck kind of rationale is that?!" Emma screeched.
Jones's eyebrows shot up, and Emma took a deep breath to steady herself.
She was pissed. She furious that he was gonna have to play hero. She was furious that he was about to risk his godddamn life to blow up his ship and save the worlds from disintegrating. She was furious that he didn't even want to say goodbye. And that was saying a lot, considering she didn't even like goodbyes, and yet him not saying goodbye was pissing her off.
She needed rum.
NO, that was not a euphemism, dammit.
When she opened her eyes again, he was peering down at her worriedly.
"All right there, love?"
She ignored his question. "So what? You're just gonna…go and blow up your ship and try to swim away before the portal sucks you in with it?"
He blinked and nodded. "Aye."
"Let me guess, you don't want me to call the others and tell them you're gone?"
"Why?!" she snapped.
"Because I'll be back before you know it, Emma," he answered with a small smile.
"Don't—don't pull that kind of positive, confident attitude because—"
He grinned. "Oh, ye of little faith."
"You have ten seconds, Killian! You have ten seconds to get clear, and that's not accounting for shit like the current o-o-or the whirlpool or what-the-hell-ever! You—"
She blinked and glowered at him like she wanted to set his entire existence on fire.
He grinned again. "Darling, don't worry. Remember what I told you?"
"Goddamnit, Killian," she muttered under her breath, shaking her head.
"I'm not leaving you, you crazy woman," he said, ocean-blue eyes sparkling in the morning sun. Beautiful asshole. "How many times must I tell you?"
"Lower the gangplank."
"Because I'm not going to waste time. The sooner I leave, the sooner I'll get back. Then you can hit me and berate me more for trying to leave without saying goodbye because I don't think it necessary. Now if you'll please excuse me, I've got a ship to sail, a magical bomb to detonate, a portal to evade, and an universe to save." He disappeared from view again.
Slowly, the Jolly Roger began to glide away from the docks.
Balling her hands into fists and taking another calming breath that did nothing to stop the unnamable emotions that made her entire form tremble. "Killian!"
His head poked over the railing again. "Yes?"
She wanted to strangle him. "Please be careful."
He winked. "Am I ever anything but?"
She didn't even turn around. She just heard the stampede of footsteps on the dock, running up to her. She couldn't peel her eyes away from the ship sailing straight for the whirlpool in the middle of the harbor.
"He's gonna do it!"
"Emma, did you know?!"
"Gold, I can't believe you gave him the potion."
"It's a suicide mission."
She didn't really pay attention to them. They kept asking her questions that she ignored in favor of watching the damn ship. It'd stopped in the middle of the harbor, and she knew that he'd lowered the dinghy to stir open the portal with the mermaid's trident again. He'd sailed away to give himself enough time and space to maneuver his ship properly, and now he was on his way.
The idiot was seconds from sailing into a portal with a magical bomb.
Disabled rudder chain or whatever he'd said he was going to do, the odds of him making it out of this was slim.
Even if she was ignoring her mother, she was fairly sure Snow was thinking the same thing.
She felt a hand slip into hers, and she knew it was Henry's. When his arm wrapped around her waist and his face burrowed into her side, she pried her eyes away from the ship for the brief moments it took to wrap her arms around her son.
For all her earlier protestations, she finally admitted it to herself.
She really was an idiot.
Because in the time between him sailing off with a playful wink and salute and when the others thundered up to her to stand on the edge of the dock, she realized that she was a giant fucking idiot.
He was the biggest persona non grata in Neverland, the prize with the biggest bounty on his head. He was nearly clawed apart by Polly Pocket monsters—he nearly died in that forest—before her touch somehow healed him. And yet he never betrayed her. He sent the pixies on a wild goose chase and nearly got his ship set on fire, and yet he never turned his back on her. Even if Pan and the pixies had promised to turn him loose with nary a scratch, he didn't walk away from her.
He didn't belong in Storybrooke. He didn't belong in the world without magic. He belonged in the Enchanted Forest, with his ship and his crew, sailing the high seas and fulfilling his legendary role as pirate captain. He had nothing in Storybrooke. He'd have to deal with finding a job, finding a home, getting an entirely new wardrobe, getting acclimated to an entirely different culture, and he wouldn't even be able to do a thing with his ship except occasionally sailing it or selling it to a museum. He had every reason to stay in the Enchanted Forest when they'd asked him if he wanted to. There was nothing for him here, and yet he still came with her. He didn't walk away from her.
Now he was sailing off, probably to his death, because he wanted to save them all. He wanted to bring her and her family back home. He wanted to protect her. He wanted…to give them all their best chance.
She wanted to bang her head against a wall. Or punch herself.
Because August had walked away. Even if he was three or four or six or whatever age it was that a kid thought it was okay to abandon a baby at an orphanage, he'd walked away from her because it was his best bet. He was a child who'd have to fight against the foster care system in order to protect a baby. It wasn't his responsibility, it wasn't his fight, it wasn't his world. He had ever right and reason to walk away—even if it was a fairly shitty thing to do regardless.
She wanted to hit something. Anything.
Because Neal had walked away. He left her because August—because Pinocchio—told him that she was the long-awaited savior, and Neal didn't want anything to do with a past he'd left behind. He didn't want to be near anything that was even remotely associated with the world he'd been forcibly sucked out of, from a father he absolutely hated. He said he loved her, and yet he betrayed her. He called the cops on her so she would be sent to jail, and he'd be free to fucking go off and do whatever it was that asshats like him did. He said he loved her, and yet he turned his back on her.
Emma wanted to cry. She wanted to cry and scream and punch something and throw shit and break shit and everything because this asshole—this pirate captain who'd swaggered straight out of a fairytale and wound up being more of a prince charming than anyone else she'd ever met (apart form the real Prince Charming, who happened to be her father)—was going to leave her, not because he wanted to, but because he was trying to save her.
It sucked giant, hairy troll balls because she knew he'd succeed. She had no doubt that he'd manage to send the Jolly Roger through, detonate the bomb, and keep the worlds from smashing into each other. The only thing she doubted, the only thing she was worried about, was if he'd be able to walk out of this mess.
He was going to leave her, and while it seemed like he had the choice, he really didn't.
And it hurt so much.
"He'll be all right," she heard Henry mutter beside her. "He's gonna be fine. He's gonna be all right. We should send a boat out to make sure he doesn't have to swim all the way back. He's gonna be fine. He's gonna be all right. He's gotta be all right."
The ship swirled into the portal. When all they could see was the tip of the crow's nest, it exploded. A burst of stars and magnificent green and purple light beamed out of the portal, nearly blinding them, before it slammed shut. The water stopped churning and settled.
No one bobbed to the surface, no one cut through the surface to swim toward shore. No one was there.
Emma sank down to the dock. Henry didn't go down with her, but he held her hand. That was all she focused on. His hand. Because she couldn't breathe. She couldn't breathe.
She'd just reconciled herself with the thought of him in her life and now he wasn't gonna be there anymore, and it took her breath away. Like an ice pick lodged against the side of her throat, cutting through her collarbone. Like a shard of glass sitting in between her lungs, just waiting for her to inhale. She couldn't breathe.
"Where… Where is he?" Belle whispered over the wind.
It swirled around them, blowing hair and coats about, and blasting away the black storm clouds, bringing back the beautiful day.
"He did it," Snow said thickly. "He saved us."
"Where is he?" Henry muttered so softly only Emma could hear. "He's gonna come back—where is he?"
Neal bent down next to his son, his hand on his shoulder. "Henry—"
"No, no," Henry said. "You're not a sailor for three hundred years without being able to outswim a tiny whirlpool, right? He's still out there."
Even David had come closer, both to grab onto Emma's shoulder as she struggled to even inhale. "Henry, he's—"
"I didn't even get to say goodbye."
The rhythmic, uneven thumping sounded along the dock as Rumplestiltskin hobbled along. He'd made his way to the diner once Hook had taken the potion back to the Jolly Roger. When Rumple had stepped through the door, the others had immediately realized what happened and rushed off, but the Dark One took his time. He finished off the coffee he'd seen sitting in front of Belle and began to make his way toward the docks.
He could see their little group, standing at the furthest edge, staring off into the harbor, where he reckoned the portal had closed. Belle, the Charming wife and husband, the Wolf family, Baelfire, Henry, and the Swan girl, who was sat upon the dock, clutching her son's hand like it was a lifeline.
He was still a ways off when he heard the telltale splash over the side of the dock. He limped toward the edge and bent down. He was about to prop his elbow on his knee when a hand shot up the side and clamped onto the edge of the wooden planks.
Rumplestiltskin reached down and took Hook's other hand—his left hand—and heaved up the pirate captain. He figured the moniker might not be applicable any longer. Dripping wet, he'd shed his black leather duster and boots, so he was left barefoot with only his shirt and trousers, and very much hook-less.
The faint cries of surprise they both heard signaled the others' attention. Jones took a few moments to catch his breath, propped on all fours and shaking water off his face.
"Thanks for the hand, Crocodile," the pirate said cheekily.
Rumplestiltskin just snorted and rolled his eyes.
With a groan, Killian Jones pushed himself up, wobbling on his feet, just in time to catch Henry, who'd dashed across the docks and hurled himself into Jones's arms. He grasped the boy against his chest, little arms tight around his neck.
"Did you think I died, Master Mills?" he asked teasingly. "Have you all honestly no faith in my abilities as a sailor?"
"I told her you'd be okay," Henry said, sniffling against Jones's shoulder.
Jones looked up to where Charming was smiling at him, hand on his shoulder and on Henry's back. "Where is she, by the way?"
Ruby and Regina moved aside so he could see Snow helping Emma up to her feet, hazel eyes staring straight at him. Jones set Henry back down on his feet, ruffling the boy's hair. He vaguely heard everyone gasp at the lack of hook, but he didn't pay much attention.
Because Emma was striding toward him, looking both furious and relieved, and he was just happy.
When she punched him in the chest (not hard, mind you), he only pretended to be winded, still grinning. When she called him a "Dick" under her breath, he pretended to understand what she meant. When she grabbed him by his shirtfront and yanked his lips down to hers, he took half a heartbeat to rally and kissed her right back.
Even though she took his breath away, it was like he could finally breathe again. His lungs expanded and contracted to their fullest extent. The weight in his chest—from three hundred years' experience and the force of his shadow's return and the genuine worry that he was about to die—faded as he wrapped his arm around her waist and cradled the back of her head in his hand.
Three women over the course of three hundred years made his heart race, but only one quieted the storm. She was infuriating and inspiring, closed off but welcoming, broken and beautiful. And his entire existence was at peace.
He was never going to let this bloody woman go.
A throat clearing behind them caused them to break the kiss, but true to his previous thought, he didn't release her from his embrace. Instead, he dropped gentle kisses on her cheek, by her eye, on her forehead, on her jaw.
"So you did manage to get clear?" Prince Charming asked. He might have been curious, but Jones figured it was mostly to make them stop kissing.
"In a ways, yes," he answered, eyes still locked onto Emma's face. "I rigged up a series of knots to burn and break at the right time to 'automatically' sail the Jolly Roger through the portal and detonate the bomb. Once I turned the ship to sail straight for the portal, I jumped off—had more than enough time to get clear."
"Which is why we couldn't see you in the water," Snow said, nodding. Her face-splitting grin beamed at him happily. "I'm so glad you're okay, Killian."
"Why didn't you tell us you were gonna do that right from the start?" Regina asked.
"Didn't want you all to get your hopes up in case something went wrong," Jones replied. "I've booby-trapped things but never an entire ship to sail itself."
"But everything went all right, I'm assuming?" Grandmother Wolf asked wryly. "Considering you had two hands to do everything perfectly now?"
Jones grinned widely, finally turning away from Emma to see the rest of the group smirking or rolling their eyes at him. "Aye," he answered simply.
Snow nodded and pulled on Ruby and Charming's arms. "Well, I think we left the diner unattended for too long, hm?"
While the rest of them began walking away, Charming glared at her. "Snow—"
"I'm hungry, David," she said pointedly.
It was the wrong choice of words.
"Snow!" Charming hissed, eyes darting back and forth between his wife and his daughter and her pirate.
Snow's gaze turned steely. "Charming."
Charming's shoulders sagged in defeat, and he let himself be led away by his wife, though he still shot daggers at the pirate.
Henry hugged Jones tight around the waist again. "I'm glad you're okay."
"So am I, Master Mills," Jones said, squeezing the boy back with one arm.
Henry scampered off, leaving Jones to devote both his arms and all of his attention to Emma, who continued to hold onto him as if she was memorizing the feel of him before he could leave again. He bent his head to continue kissing his way along her face.
"What did I tell you?" he whispered against her skin.
She chuckled thickly. "You wouldn't leave me."
He smiled, nuzzling the side of her nose with his. "And have I kept my word?"
She nodded. "Yeah."
"I'm not that easy to get rid of," he teased, though he was mostly serious. "Rumplestiltskin can attest to that, I'm sure."
She chortled, but her smile faded and she looked up at him seriously. She took a deep breath. "Look, I'm a big proponent of not complicating my life. If there's something I need to do, I'll do it. Brash or not, I want to keep things simple. Do it or don't."
Jones nodded, brushing her hair back from her face with his fingers.
"So I'm gonna tell you…that I'm attracted to you. I want to be with you. I don't want to just sleep with your o-or play games or some other dumb shit like that—I want to be with you."
He didn't bother stifling his giant grin.
"And I-I've been hurt before." Her chin rose defiantly. "You know that. You know…how I feel. And I trust you—I do. With Henry's life, my life, the lives of everyone in the Enchanted Forest and Storybrooke. So I'm trusting you…to not hurt me. Please."
He pressed his forehead against hers, cradling her face in his hands. "Emma, love, to hurt you is to hurt myself."
"I think you've proved your self-preservation instincts are kind of shitty sometimes."
He smirked. "That was back when I had nothing to lose." He kissed her again, soft and lingering. "Besides. I think I've proved that I won't leave you—not even if my life depended on it."
"I'm stuck with you?"