Author's Note - Hey, new to the fandom, though I have written a lot of fanfiction before. Sorry for any English eccentricities :-) This is set after the latest episode (3x07)
He watched the fire flickering in the center of the camp, casting its dancing light on the faces of those surrounding it, including her. Her smooth face was illuminated in a golden glow that made her look even more beautiful than he thought possible. She looked delicate and strong at the same time like a single flower standing tall in a snow drift.
Captain Hook snapped from his thoughts like he'd been bitten, glancing round to see who had said his name. It was Charming. He looked angry and Hook quickly scanned his mind for something he could have done to upset him. He came up blank.
"You alright, mate?" Hook replied, shooting the prince his most charming smile.
"Yeah, I just thought we could do with collecting some more firewood," David said, his voice even.
Hook scrutinised him for a moment, unable to detect whether this was another one of 'those' trips into the wilderness that included fist fights and overprotective-father-episodes. Sometimes he wondered whether the Charmings thought he was here for a laugh, to enjoy their misery and destroy their family, and not because he cared about doing something good for someone. He knew he didn't have the best form in the past but he thought that considering all he'd risked for them so far that they would cut him a bit of slack.
"Ah, yes, we do look like we are running rather low," he agreed, eyeing the fire that was still burning fiercely. Wearily he pushed himself to his feet and dusted off his leather trousers. "Into the jungle then…" His voice rose in volume with fake melodrama but didn't seem to disturb the people around the fire who were still staring intently into nothingness. He glanced at Emma but she was too caught up in her own worries to notice him.
Charming walked towards him and caught his arm, practically dragging him into the trees. Hook fought the urge to yank himself free as he knew it would only make this little chat more hostile. Instead he allowed himself to be pulled several hundred feet into the dark shadows of the trees until Charming stopped and released his grip. Subconsciously, Hook rubbed his arm and stared warily at his companion; his light blue eyes assessing the exits in case he needed an abrupt departure.
"I think you know what this is about," Charming began, his handsome face furrowed with intensity.
Hook took a moment to consider his reply then shrugged and said, nonchalantly, "To be honest, my lord good prince, can't say that I do." His lip curled in a sly smile, especially when he saw Charming's expression darken even further. Perhaps he shouldn't antagonise the protective daddy-bear but it was frankly too fun not to.
"Don't play games, Hook," the prince's tone was warning, "And then no one needs to get hurt."
"Hurt?" Hook's eyebrows raised in a look of mock surprise. "I wasn't aware we were having a showdown, I would have brought my more impressive hook – you know, to add a bit of showmanship."
Charming's face reddened, the tendons in his muscular neck strained, as he tried not to punch Hook there and then.
"Pirate," he growled, sounding more and more like a bear with each passing minute, "I will not spell this out for you."
"I'm sorry, mate, I think you're going to have too…" Hook shrugged, looking puzzled.
"Yes, what about her? Fabulous woman, all legs and her breasts are to die fo-ach!" Hook choked on his last words as he found himself thrust against a tree with Charming's thick arm crushing his windpipe.
"Wanna say that again?" Charming said, slowly, his blue eyes flashing dangerously.
"Ach…eugh…" Hook choked some more, gasping for air. He had pushed too far, he knew it, and now he was paying for it. Why couldn't he just be less antagonistic? There had to be something wrong with the way his brain was wired. The same brain that was currently running short on oxygen. "I'm…sorry….eugh…."
Charming released him and Hook felt the glorious cool air whoosh back into his lungs. He gulped in as much as he could and tried to ignore the pain of his bruised windpipe.
"I'm not messing around here, Hook. I know you saved my life and you do seem like a nice enough guy but then you go around shooting your mouth off like that and acting like you do and you know, it just doesn't inspire much trust in you." Hook had the grace to look a little contrite but at the same time he couldn't help how he acted, that was just who he was. It's not like he hurt anyone by flirting with people after all.
"It's just who I am, m'lord," Hook said, unapologetically.
"Exactly," Charming said, jumping on his confession, "And that's why you need to leave my daughter and Neal alone."
"No, leave them be, Hook. You saw how much they mean to each other in the cave. They have a child together and they've found each other after all this time; just like true love always does. Do you not think she's been through enough bad guys in her life already without adding you to the list?"
"I'm not a…" Hook began but David cut him off.
"Henry will need a strong family when we get him back, especially with Mary Margaret and I remaining here, so they could do without the meaningless interference of a dishonest pirate. Do you really want to deprive the poor boy of a chance at his happy ending? You have to remember true love will always prevail, Hook, just look at me and my wife."
Hook fell silent. His quick lip had failed him for once and all he could do was allow Charming's barbed words sink further into his heart. He was right. What Emma and Neal had was true love and he was just a nuisance – a nuisance who had had his chance at true love and lost it over a hundred years ago. Milah had been his one chance at a happy ending and she was gone. And he shouldn't be trying to break up a family, he'd done that once before and nothing good came of it – every single person involved was hurt by the fall out.
"Do you understand, Hook?" Charming said, grinding his message home.
"Yes…. Yes I think I do," Hook said, staring at the gnarled bark of a tree, trying not to allow the hurt seep into his voice. "I'll stop messing around with Emma and let her find her true love."
"Good, I'm glad we're on the same page." Charming morphed back into a normal human being now, his fair face pleasant and warm. "Shall we go get some wood then?"
Hook nodded, trying his best to ignore the leaden feeling of the broken heart in his chest.
He didn't stare at her any more, didn't try and catch her looking at him, didn't surreptitiously try and rub his knee against hers when they sat side by side. Essentially he tried to imagine she wasn't there at all being her beautiful, brave, intelligent self.
Instead he focused on the task at hand: finding Henry so they could get the hell off this island. They had the shadow and they had Tink. All they needed now was to find that blasted imp of a boy. Peter Pan. The boy who had bested him more times than he cared to count. He was a horrendous creature who didn't think it inhumane to rip small boys from their beds and murder their families. They hadn't even seen the worst of him since being on this island and that was what Hook was afraid of. It made his guts twist into knots just thinking about what the immortal man-child was capable of doing. After all, he was the one that orchestrated the death of every single man on the Jolly Roger making sure that Hook had to watch every horrific end. Twenty-two deaths. The memories still haunted his dreams.
"You look worried, care to share?"
Her unique scent and her calm, quiet voice caught him off-guard and he froze; every nerve in his body felt like it was quivering beneath his skin. Annoyed with himself, Hook forced himself to calm down. She was just a woman. Just a woman. He'd had plenty before and he could have plenty in the future. She didn't belong to him. He repeated the mantra in his head several times before he found his voice.
"I'm fine, Swan."
"You don't look fine; in fact, you look kinda green… like someone colored you in with a vomit-colored Crayola."
"Even though I didn't understand half of that, I'm guessing it's meant to insulting?" He glanced at her, almost shyly, like he was sneaking a peak of something he shouldn't.
"No, not insulting," Emma replied, pausing for a moment to try and catch his eye but he'd already looked away, "It was meant to show concern."
"Oh don't be stupid, love, you don't have time to worry about me. You need to focus on Henry."
"But if you're not well…"
"I'm perfectly healthy," Hook interrupted, meeting her gaze finally and finding, much to his surprise, how concerned her expression was. It was almost a nice feeling, to have someone worry about him when they hadn't in such a long time. Unfortunately, it was a feeling he had to quash if he wanted to make sure he wasn't ruining someone else's life. "See, spry as a hare." He jumped to his feet and unintentionally shot her a white-toothed grin.
Emma smiled back, tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear. The gesture made his heart lurch unexpectedly as he was reminded of the beanstalk and their adventures up there; how close they'd felt even then. Swiftly, he turned away and began to leave.
"Hey, where are you off to?" Emma asked, jumping to her feet too and catching his sleeve. "I thought we were having a conversation there. You still aren't telling me something." Her pretty face was marred by the deep furrow lines between her eyebrows – something Hook couldn't help but liken to her father.
"There's nothing to tell, lass," he replied, his tone sharper than he had intended. "Now why don't you run along back to Mr Swan and leave me in peace."
Emma released his arm abruptly, stepping back as if she'd been slapped. She had recognized earlier that Hook had been off with her but she had not expected this sudden change of tune. Her face was full of hurt and confusion but Hook ignored that and headed off into the night, unable to take her company any longer.
"Hey, Emma, I caught a fish. You want some?" Emma caught sight of Neal heading towards her, holding a glimmering bream in his hand. "Isn't she a beauty?"
"I'm not hungry," she answered, abruptly, "I'm going for a walk."
"Emma, you can't go out at this time."
"I can do what I want. I'm an independent woman," Emma replied, fiercely. She could suddenly feel tears stinging her eyes, like little pinpricks. Blinking, she backed away. "I'll be back in twenty minutes. I'll eat then." She said the last part to appease him but she doubted that she would feel like eating, not when she felt like this.
Neal looked more than a little shocked by her outburst but he didn't stop her as she went marching out into the jungle with her knife and crackling torch. Snow looked up from where she was banking the fire and shot him a questioning look. He shrugged in return. He wasn't sure what had gotten into Emma lately, everything he did seem to upset her. He was trying his absolute best to make up for his past wrongs but it just didn't seem to be enough. With a sigh, Neal sat down and began to gut the fish.
Emma ducked beneath an overhanging vine and carried on her aimless march through the trees. She could hear the crickets chirruping in the nearby plant-life and the moon was already casting an eerie glow on everything around her. Several nocturnal animals were already peering out of their burrows, ready for a night's foraging. She engrossed herself in the noises of the jungle: the hums, squawks and squeals. She had to admit it was much nicer than the ugly sounds of the city back home.
She wasn't really sure why she had come on this walk. She supposed partly she had been hoping to follow Hook but he seemed to have vanished into thin air and partly she had wanted to clear her head so she could refocus on the task of finding her son safe and sound. Somehow she had allowed the reappearance of Neal and Hook's unexpected confession to cloud her judgement and she couldn't allow that to go on any longer. What kind of mother was she if she could allow herself to be distracted from saving her son? Just thinking about her inadequacies made her feel sick to her stomach.
Suddenly, she found herself in a clearing that was bathed in moonlight and to the edge of the clearing was a small spring that glistened and bubbled. Slowly, she padded over to it and stared at the rushing water, trying to calm her taut nerves. Eventually her tension eased a little and she allowed herself a moment to sit down.
It was as she was sitting watching her reflection in the rippling water that she saw a shadow pass behind her but before she could react something solid connected with her skull and blackness filled her vision.