Inspired by colinruinedmylife's prompt: "Emma and Killian talking about how their relationship will be now that they kiss and Neal is back."
Set right after 3.06, so spoilers if you haven't seen it.
Emma can't breathe.
Her chest has been aching since the cave, her heart racing – she feels filled with adrenaline and utterly exhausted at the same time, her eyes burning like she's spent days crying them dry. She feels ill, weak, terrified, hates Pan because he's just playing his stupid little games with them all and once again he's managed to snap her in two. She feels like he's watching her, even now, smirking to himself at the progress he's making on his "lost girl" – he promised to take her parents away and damn him, he's delivered even though they aren't dead.
Mary-M – no, Snow White, Snow White's darkest secret is that she wants to try again. And Emma – she can understand that, she can, she's seen how hard Snow has been trying to be her mother, how much it still hurts her that Emma can't even bring herself to say 'Mom', let alone blindly accept her advice or – or be a good daughter at all, she knows she's terrible at this. Emma knows full well that she's disappointed Snow so many times, that even if her mother loves her there has always been that wish of 'if only', Emma knows. But even so, she'd never imagined she could fuck things up so badly that Snow would want to just start over and it – it aches, that familiar dull weight of betrayal with every breath. She catches herself thinking Mary-Margaret would understand, wishing Mary-Margaret were here to just sit with her and listen and understand and it hurts all the more because Snow White is Mary-Margaret, if Emma can't be good enough for Snow then she isn't good enough for Mary-Margaret either, maybe wasn't ever good enough.
And David, Charming – Emma can't even care that he was poisoned, can't even bring herself to get pissed that the whole hope of the sextant was just a false pretense to get him a cure. If she had been the poisoned one she might have done the same thing, have also hidden her pain so that the group could focus on Henry. But while she can understand perfectly his choices, both to hide the poison and then to cure it, those choices mean she's lost her father again, she's lost him forever this time because she can't stay in Neverland. She has to get Henry and get the hell out of dodge, there's absolutely no way Emma can stay here and that means she's going to have to say goodbye to David – and it isn't fair, she feels like she's only just met him.
And then Neal – god, Neal, Pan's fucking icing on top. He tried to talk to her on the walk back to camp; to tell her how he survived and came here but Emma shut him down. Frankly, she isn't interested. She has no intentions of talking to Neal any time soon if she can help it, she – even now, she hates herself because she's still wishing he was dead. Even now, she can't help it, she doesn't want him here, doesn't want his goddamn 'secret', she doesn't want him around because every moment spent with him, every second she takes a breath and knows he is breathing too and wants to be something again – it hurts, right where it always has, crumpling her lungs with that familiar ache. She's been walking around with an open wound for the past eleven years and she'd thought it was finally starting to scab over, but now he's back and she hates him for it. Loves him, despite herself, she's realized that isn't ever going to go away but she can't help hating him too.
She understands fully now why Hook calls Peter Pan a monster. He is no cheerful little boy; he's sick and evil and just toying with them all, and if she saw him now Emma is pretty sure her magic would be potent enough to burn the entire island down without a thought.
It's the most she can do to just keep walking, and when they get to their campsite the tension is more than she can take. David is hovering worriedly around Mary-Margaret, who is stomping around gathering up some rocks to sharpen her arrows, angrier than Emma's ever seen her. Neal is just – just there, constantly at Emma's elbow it feels like, his mere presence suffocating even though he's just eating some of their leftover food from last night, and Hook… He's gone, slipped away as soon as they got back to camp with a soft murmur about getting firewood. Weirdly, Emma really misses Regina right now – the Evil Queen's caustic wit would at the very least break this heavy silence. In her absence, though, the best Emma can do is –
"I'm gonna go get some water," she says, and stands up quickly. Neal makes as if to stand, but she waves him off, heart bruising itself as it hammers rapidly against her ribs. "No, stay, rest, I'll just – I'll be back."
She almost forgets to grab the canteens on her way out, but remembers them at the last minute and stomps off into the jungle in the direction of the nearby river. Emma doesn't bother trying to be quiet; she's practically humming with fear and pain and rage and if Pan wants to take that on right now, he's welcome to fucking try. She almost hopes she does run into him; she wants to murder something right now, to just scream and cry and – she draws in a rattled breath, trying to calm down but she can't.
When Emma stumbles through the last thicket only to find Hook slumped on a large rock by the water, drinking out of his flask, she doesn't even think twice – just sits down next to him and holds out her hand.
He's already given her the flask, and she's drunk about half of it in one long closed-eye gulp, before she realizes what she's just done.
Oh god, Hook.
A glance to the side reveals that Hook is completely tensed, staring out at the water rushing by so intently that it's obvious he's avoiding looking at her. Emma's mouth goes dry in a moment, and she almost chokes on her next swallow of rum.
"Thanks," she rasps, handing it back to him. Hook takes the flask without a word, tilting it up and finishing it off in one quick motion. He keeps his eyes locked on the river.
And all of Emma's pain and confusion and anger… it all just stops for a moment, as she watches him; the way he expertly twists the lid back on the flask one-handed, tucks it away inside his coat. The stiffness of him, the slight clench to his jaw: the hurt in him, it's like looking in a mirror, a familiar sensation.
She's seen herself reflected in him ever since they met.
Since they met.
It isn't like Emma has forgotten Hook's secret – that would be impossible, he was looking right at her and he meant every word; she hadn't needed the magical cave to tell her that. He was telling her – what he was telling her… Emma won't ever forget Hook's secret, down to every word, every breath he took to steel himself for admitting it and his blue blue eyes, the way he looked at her when she was crossing that bridge.
It's just that – of all the secrets shared today, Hook's is the only one that didn't hurt Emma, didn't break her further, and she was so busy trying to deal with all of the pain she was feeling that she just didn't think about what he'd said, couldn't, didn't want to because –
It's fucking terrifying. Emma can't breathe again, just beginning to think of the implications of his words. She feels like she's about to have a panic attack or something, she can't handle this, she can't, she wishes –
No. No, actually, she doesn't wish she'd never heard it. Because much as she might hate to admit it, Emma hasn't ever had anyone tell her they – tell her she means that much to them, hasn't ever had anyone just offer this up for her. And it might just be the scariest thing she's ever heard in her life, because she knows what Hook has done for Milah, and if he's saying that she – that Emma is why…
God, it's scary but at the same time it fills her with warmth. All the more because of how awful everything else is right now, Emma feels valued, feels… ripped apart at the seams and sewed back together different than before, but in a good way, she feels wanted and needed and…
Hook looks ready to shatter in the slightest gust of wind.
"Destroy us, huh," Emma says quietly. He flinches at the sound of her voice.
"Aye. That was his plan," Hook sighs after a long moment. His voice is still low, strained, and Emma realizes now that it's been that way all day. That he's sounded like this ever since he shared the news that Pan had –
Pan had told him.
For a moment, Emma cannot feel a thing. She goes utterly numb, for just a single second because Pan told Hook. Pan told Hook that Neal was alive, he was in the camp the entire time except right after they kissed, Pan came to Hook right after they kissed and told him that Neal was alive, alive in a cave that forced Hook to tell Emma –
"I hate him," she snarls, furious suddenly, strangely protective of Hook because how dare Pan. "I – I am not gonna let him be right about this."
She doesn't know how, doesn't have the slightest clue but – no. No, she isn't just going to sit back and let Pan torture them like this. Playing his game is one thing but if Emma has to play she's going to fucking win.
"We aren't going to let this destroy us," Emma snaps, turning to face Hook and he's staring at her now, eyes wide. She can still see the hurt, the utter devastation on his face; thinks I too know what it feels like and – Emma refuses to allow that.
She'll suck up her feelings about Mary-Margaret wanting another baby. That can wait. She'll find a way to bring David home. They aren't leaving him behind. She'll endure Neal's presence, she'll even make herself talk to him and try again to explain, to make him see that she just needs to heal. Whatever his "fighting for her" involves she won't let it interfere with getting Henry back.
And she will not let Hook walk around looking this way. This was all deliberately planned by Pan, this was all just one of his games and Hook was the target this time more so than anyone. And the fact that he could even be targeted in this way might scare Emma out of her mind, it might make her want to just sit down and think over every interaction they've ever had and try to figure out why, but she is not going to let Pan win like this.
"Hook, what you said – your secret –"
"It's fine, love," Hook says quietly. They both flinch at the last word. "Don't."
"No, I will," Emma says. She takes a deep breath, heart rabbiting, stomach churning, but Hook deserves to hear this. And not just because of Pan; not even just because of today, but because of everything he's done for the past week, ever since he came back and volunteered to take them all to Neverland, for every moment since then he deserves this.
"I don't know what the hell to do with your secret," she says. "I – I can't, right now, I can't –"
"I'm not asking you to, Emma," Hook interrupts, voice positively breaking around the words. "I'm not asking anything, I – you have… Neal, and you're thinking of Henry, and I'm not…"
Emma takes another deep breath; her shoulders roll back with the force of it. Before she can doubt herself, she reaches out and puts her hand on top of his.
They both freeze.
(His skin is hot under hers, she can feel his rapid pulse and it brings back memories of his fingers in her hair, his lips, his tongue, that little muffled grunt he made when she first grabbed him, how quickly he flung himself into her in turn, how she couldn't get enough, how he couldn't breathe right after – how she couldn't, firewood and "as you wish" and she's a liar, liar, the worst liar, she always knew that wasn't just a kiss, long before it ever happened she knew.)
Emma pulls her hand back, and meets his eyes.
"I can't, right now," she repeats. "But I – it's not… I don't have Neal, and I. I don't want this to… Once we get Henry back, once we're back in Storybrooke – I'm not promising anything, I can't, but – okay?"
It's a terrible speech, all truths bitten off before they can burn too deeply, fears trembling on the edge of every word, but she means it with every part of herself. And it's all she can offer, it's the best she can do, but she won't let Pan win, she won't let Hook look like that, she won't let this break before it's even begun – she might want it to begin, she doesn't know, but she knows at least that she does not want to let it end here. It will not end here.
Hook's eyes are wide and bright, so blue it hurts to look at them, his lips are caught between a sob and a smile, he's heartbroken and barely daring to hope, Emma can see it in him like just the tiniest candle flicker, fragile and lost, the only light in a long, long darkness, and she just wants to blow on it gently, fan it a little higher, she can't let it go out here – it's too exactly like herself to let it go out here.
He swallows twice before answering.
"Aye," he says, rough. "In Storybrooke."
(They're both trembling.)
Emma takes a deep breath – it's the first that's comes easily since the cave. Despite the secrets echoing in her head, the Neverland air tastes sweet.
"Good," she says, and fetches the water.