Emma leans with her elbows against the railing, eyes lost in the horizon and wind blowing in her hair. Henry's laughs and screams fill the night, as he's playing dice with his father, both sitting around a barrel and pretending to be real pirates. Henry's voice melts with Neal's low chuckles, with Snow and Charming whispering to each other, with Tinkerbell's soft footsteps as she explores the ship. The Jolly Roger is livelier than she's ever seen it, probably lively for the first time in years, decades. Nobody cares much about Regina and Gold brooding in their respective cabin, too enthralled in the victory, in going home.
She rubs her arms, not for the first time that night, lamenting the loss of her coat – and isn't that a great feeling, complaining about something as trivial as clothes? She's actually tempted to ask David for his jacket, because he would give it to her in a second, would do anything to please his daughter, but she doesn't have enough time to think about it. Instead, something heavy and leathery falls on her shoulders and, when she grabs it, she's barely even surprised that it's Hook's coat. She turns her head toward him but he's already walking away, climbing the stairs to the helm. Hook might feel her eyes still on him after a while, because he stares back, and all she manages to do is grab the collar of the coat and nod in thanks. He gives her a lazy salute, two fingers against his temple, as a reply.
She goes back to watching the ocean, soothing in how familiar, how not-Neverland the black waves are. They're only supposed to reach Storybrooke in the morning, which means one more night aboard, and Emma finally lets her eyes prickle, lets herself overcome by the exhaustion from too many sleepless nights – she's not ready to go to sleep now, thought, not yet. Still, it dumbs her senses a little, and she jumps when Snow appears by her side, mirroring her position with an easy smile on her lips.
"Not feeling like celebrating?" she asks, voice soft.
"Not really, no…"
Snow glances at Henry, or maybe at Neal, Emma isn't sure, then back at her daughter, a knowing look on her face. Because she knows, of course she does, she has put two and two together a long time ago. They stay silent for a few more minutes, arms barely brushing, and it feels nice.
"May I share a piece of family wisdom with you?"
Even with a frown on her brows, confused by the path this conversation is taking, Emma nods. Probably because she remembers Mary Margaret, the roommate she could talk about everything with. Probably because, deep down, she wants her mother to give her advice, wants to feel like a confused teenager, wants to be taken care of.
"When I was younger, my mother would not just tell me to find true love. Sure, every girl back in the Enchanted Forest dreamt of love at first sight and true love's kiss but… She'd also tell me it was important to find someone who respects you like a pirate respects the sea."
"A pirate, seriously?" Emma scoffs, because Snow isn't even trying to be subtle. Her mother laughs lightly, rolling her eyes.
"Well, the exact word may have been 'captain' but, you know… It seemed more fitting."
Emma can't help but chuckle, glancing at Hook over Snow's head. Still focus on his ship, focus on anything but her, like he's been since they saved Neal. Trying to give her some space, trying to do the right thing. She doesn't realise she's put her arms in the sleeves of the coat until it's done, that salty masculine scent of him tickling her nose, and she sighs as she holds it closer to her. Snow's smile grows even bigger – of course it does – but Emma doesn't find it in her to glare at the brunette.
"My point being," Snows continues, "you should find a man who looks at you with awe and reverence, because he knows you're a force of nature. Like the sea."
"Does David think you're a force of nature?" she asks, as to change the subject, but also out of curiosity.
Snow laughs. "Remind me to tell you how we met, okay?"
It only makes Emma even more curious, until it doesn't. She frowns again. "Is it – you giving me your blessing?"
The shrug she's given as an answer is almost too impish to her liking. "Well, David did give him his blessing so…"
And, with that, ignoring her daughter's look of shock, Snow walks away, back to her husband, leaving as quickly as she arrived. Emma watches as she sits next to David, as they go back to their whispers and light kisses with ease – it's almost disconcerting, how easy they make it look.
She tries to focus on the sea once again, tries to convince herself it's time to call it a night, but Snow's words come back to her mind, again and again, until there's nothing else she can think about. With a deep loud sigh, she lets go of the railing and doesn't even try to go to her cabin, climbing the stairs to the upper deck instead. Hook pretends not to notice her at first, just like she pretends not to notice Neal staring at her from the lower deck, but he ultimately looks at her, the grin on his lips not quite reaching his eyes.
"Told you you'd make a hell of a pirate. You even look the part."
Half a dozen innuendos he could have made about losing his clothes for her come to her mind, and she's almost disappointed he didn't say one. She misses his teasing, their battle of wits, more than she's willing to admit – she misses him, to be honest. Quite understandingly, he hasn't been the same since the Echo Cave, and it doesn't feel the same without his lame jokes and crooked smirks.
"Maybe I should rise in mutiny then. Tinkerbell would be my second."
His laugh is loud and bright as he takes a step back, inviting her to take the helm with a hand gesture and a raised eyebrow. It's provocation, of course, only meant to show her that sailing isn't as easy as she thinks it is. But Emma Swan has always been one for a challenge, and she grips the helm with a proud smirk of her own.
She has, of course, no idea what she's doing, even if she pretends otherwise, looking resolutely in front of her. Hook's low chuckle is close to her ear, his breath tickling her skin, and he places his hand on top of hers to help, fingers intertwining.
"Careful, love. The Jolly is a delicate ship. You need a light touch to sail her."
They remain in that position, Hook sometimes rectifying their trajectory. He keeps whispering to her ear, sailing jargon she doesn't understand, directions and winds and waves. He talks about it with pride – no, with awe. If at some point Emma ends leaning against his chest, none of them points it out.
His hand drops, leaving hers cold and craving for his touch already, as he moves to look at her face. "What for?"
She rolls her eyes, because isn't that obvious? "For helping us. For lending your ship and saving Henry and saving N…" They both tense at the same moment. "You know. For proving me wrong."
His smile is not one she's used to, small yet sincere, almost shy and sad. "Always a pleasure, Emma."
Silence falls against them once again, and soon Hook's hand comes back above hers. Everything is quiet if it's for Henry's laughs, so far from the awkward silences between them in Neverland. She could get used to it, to that peaceful atmosphere, to pretending nothing matters but Hook's hand on her and his voice in her ear.
"Were you always a pirate?" she asks, out of the blue.
"No." He chuckles softly, as if it's a joke only he can understand. "I was in the Royal navy once, a long time ago. Try not to be shocked but I was indeed a man of honour at some point."
"You are a man of honour, Hook." When he doesn't answer, don't offer her one of his quip, she knows he's trying to keep his composure and not to show he's touched by her words. Changing the subject seems of order. "So you're from this universe too."
"Oh no, I'm very much from the Enchanted Forest. They have royals too, if you hadn't noticed."
Emma half-gasps half-laughs at his sarcasm and hits him on the arm, which only makes him laugh. Yes, she definitely missed his cocky self. She also missed having fun, can't remember the last time she laughed for the sack of laughing. Still, her chuckle turns into a yawn, and Hook doesn't fail to notice.
"You should go to sleep." She shakes her head, can almost feel him rolling his eyes. "I won't have you pass out of exhaustion in my arms, Swan, no matter how lovely this prospect is."
"Liar." She shudders when his nose brushes her cheek, tries not to be affect by the touch. She's never been the cuddling type, and neither is he, but it feels just right. It's almost enough to sober her up, to have her awake all night long. Almost. "Go to my cabin, the bed is more comfortable. Have a good night of sleep, you deserve it."
He lets go of her hand, almost pushes her away from him, but she can't find the strength to be offended because he's so very right. She hates him a bit for that, hates that she's an open book to him, that he can see right through her. (She doesn't hate him at all.) He nods, eyebrow raised, a silence command, and she can only pout in reply.
"Goodnight, Emma," he says, turning his head to look back at the ocean, to make it clear that they're done with this conversation.
Of course, he immediately looks back at her, eyes wide and hopeful, and Emma just knows. Snow's words come back to her mind, awe and reverence and force of nature. Because if she had a vague idea of what it meant, now he's looking at her with those bright blue eyes of him, and he's as much of an open book to her, and she knows.
Dizzy and confused, she turns around and almost runs to the cabin. She hides under the blanket, and everything smells like him, salt and leather and Hook. It lulls her to sleep in a matter of seconds.
She wakes up to soft snores, to hot breaths against her neck. When she opens her eyes, it's to Henry against her, so close that nothing could come between them. Part of her thought that, maybe, he'd spend the night with Neal, or even Regina, and she's touched that he chose her instead. (She wonders if a certain someone wanted Henry to have the most comfortable bed too.) She plays with his hair until she's afraid to wake him up and, slowly, delicately, she untangles herself from him and leaves the cabin.
It's early morning, sky still pink, air still cold from the night, yet Hook – no, Killian is already up and at the helm. Maybe he hasn't moved at all. "Good morning, sunshine" he says as she sets foot of the upper deck, dazzling grin on his lips. Emma only replies with a vague hand gesture, mind still blurry with sleep, and she leans against the railing behind him, very much ignoring his low chuckle, the bastard.
It takes her a few more minutes to finally and completely wake up, and only then does she realise she's still wearing the damn coat. (Part of her hopes against hope that he's not that attached to it because she might as well never give it back.)
"Aren't you cold, staying outside all night long?"
"Don't fret about me, love. I've seen worse."
Emma doesn't doubt it. Still, she feels bad about knowing he spent the whole night fighting against the wind only wearing that thin shirt of his. Or, at least, that's what she wants to believe is the reason behind what she's about to do. Coming closer to him until her chest is against his back, until her arms wraps around his waist. His whole body tenses up, especially since she leans her forehead against the space between his shoulder blades. He doesn't dare moving, doesn't dare opening his mouth, doesn't even dare breathing for a while. Until he realises she's not about to move and his hand brushes her arm with a delicacy she doesn't know him to have.
"What are you doing, love?" Voice barely contained, falsely casual.
"Sharing body heat" is her reply, as if it is the obvious answer. And maybe it is, maybe it's just that easy. She sighs against his skin, tightens her grip around him. "About that secret of yours…"
Killian surprises her then as his hook finds a loop of her jeans and he pulls her until she's in front of him, facing him. She looks up at him with a smile that he mirrors. "You know how I told you I used to be in the Royal navy?" She nods. "And, well, technically, you're a princess…"
Emma doesn't have time to frown, confused, because his nose comes to brush against hers and her mind suddenly goes blank. He does it again, and again, until she realises it's a question, a request and awe and reverence and until I met you. She kisses him, light and soft and loving, his smile against her lips and his hand in her hair. One kiss becomes two becomes three becomes light kisses on the mouth, the nose, the cheeks.
"Technically I'm a princess…?"
"Aye." His lips brush her jaw. "Can I swear allegiance to you?"
A nervous giggle escapes her lips, because it sounds ridiculous and ridiculously romantic, and damnit it's Captain Hook asking her such a thing, and she kisses him again until they're out of breath, panting and smiling. "You already have."