AN: Some Emma/Daddy!Charming interaction. Can be considered as part of the "Cleaning This Gun" and "Mother's Intuition" world, or as simply a post "Dark Hollow" fic on its own. Either way, we need more Emma/Charming on the show, so this is my way to try and fill the gap.
Charming can see that Emma is confused. It's written across her face clear as day when she returns from the Dark Hollow with Hook and Neal. She is confused and hurting, and trying so very hard to be strong for Henry, to maintain hope that they will win this, but he can see the strain being in this place is having on her.
He thinks he understands. Emma is lost and running from her past, she has been her whole life. But on this forsaken island, the past is all that exists. With every hour they remain on the island, Charming can see the past breaking little pieces of his daughter away, stripping her of the strong woman she has become and leaving behind the scared little girl she's been trying so desperately to run from.
He knows that the confessions in Echo Cave almost crushed her, that hearing Snow claim to want another child was a blow Emma doesn't quite know how to deal with. Nor does she know how to deal with learning that the father she is just now getting the chance to know won't be in her life once she saves her son. The guilt he feels for that threatens to bring him to his knees at times, because while what they did was done out of the best intentions, it is good intentions that pave the road to hell, and that's where Emma's been living since they sent her through that portal.
Neverland has been slowly breaking his daughter, but the fractures are so much clearer today as she sits next to the fire keeping one eye on the coconut that holds Pan's shadow and the other alternating between Hook and Neal. Charming isn't sure what happened in that Hollow, but it was enough to cast a shadow over the rather large victory they just scored in this game against Pan.
"I'm going to get water," she announced suddenly, standing up and grabbing the coconut. She hands it to Neal, very careful that their fingers not touch. "Watch that. Don't let it out of your sight."
Charming expects Hook to volunteer to help; the pirate has been careful not to be too forward in his actions toward Emma since Echo Cave, but he also hasn't retreated from her. To his surprise, the pirate simply gives her a nod and goes back to sharpening his hook. Emma pauses to look at him for a moment, something unidentifiable in her eyes, and Neal watches the interaction with tight lips and a mix of resignation and anger in his eyes.
"I'll help," Charming volunteers when it's clear neither of the other men is going to do so. Snow is speaking in hushed tones to Tinkerbell, and while it's clear that she will no longer be giving him the silent treatment, it's also clear that she's still angry with him. A chance to escape the chill that lies between them while hopefully helping his daughter in whatever small way he can seems like an excellent plan to the prince.
Of course, he never really considered that his alone time with Emma has been non-existent so far and that, in reality, he probably knows more about Hook than he does his own daughter. The silence between them as they make their way to the stream is awkward; the silence of two people who know they should have a connection but simply aren't sure how to make one.
"Are you okay?" he asks at last, as waiting for Emma to break the silence seems like a fruitless endeavour.
"My son is kidnapped by a… what did Hook call him? A blood demon. How do you think I am?" Emma replied shortly and he has to bite back a sigh. His daughter, it seems, will not be making this easy on him.
"I wasn't talking about that," Charming said. "I know you're worried… I meant how are you? This, being here, can't be easy. Especially not with recent developments."
"Which recent developments? Neal being alive or Hook deciding that now would be a good time to try and get in my pants, or woo me or whatever the hell it is pirates do? They almost got us killed with Pan's shadow. I was terrified and they were dying, and if it had taken me one second longer they wouldn't be here. And why? A pissing contest over a lighter?"
Charming wondered how long Emma would have held that ran inside if he hadn't spoken to her, and he's thinks it couldn't be healthy to hold in that much anger, but it turns out she isn't done yet.
"He was just hanging there, and those, those… things were ripping him away and all I could think was that I was going to lose him. He told me that I never failed at anything, and I was so sure that I was going to fail him and it was all because he was such an idiot that he couldn't leave good enough alone! I don't have time for innuendo and love, but he's always there and smirking and how am I supposed to concentrate on Henry when all I can see is him dying over a stupid lighter?"
Charming's first response is to ask which he they're talking about, but innuendo and smirk don't fit Neal all that well, so he thinks he can safely assume the idiot in question is a certain pirate.
"People in love do stupid things," he offers up when Emma stops ranting in order to take some deep, cleansing breaths. "I once convinced your mother that she pulled Excalibur out of a stone in order to get her confidence up again. And then there's the whole Dream Shade debacle that I'm pretty sure she'll never forgive me for" – Charming winces at the glare Emma shoots his way, the glare that says she's not sure she'll ever forgive him for the lie, and he wishes, more than he's ever wished for anything, that he could be there to see them when they finally do forgive him – "and okay, that's not the best thing to mention, but still. We do stupid things for the people we love, Emma. It's why there's nothing practical about the emotion, and for Hook it's probably worse because, up until a few days ago, he was a villain and Neal was dead. Now we're finding out the pirate isn't completely horrible, and Neal is back and that means he's competition. He wants to get a leg up before you make a choice-"
"A choice I don't have time to make! Henry is out there scared and alone, and I can't have them posturing like male peacocks when Henry is my worry!" Emma bursts, but Charming, once she finishes, just continues to speak as if the interruption had never occurred.
"- But it seems to me you've already made that choice," he finishes, and Emma looks at him shell shocked, which he takes as a sign to elaborate. "You said you thought you were going to lose him, Emma, not them. Obviously there is a lot of history with Neal that we don't know, and it's clear that the two of you meant a great deal to each other… but it wasn't Neal you were terrified of losing. You don't have to do anything with that knowledge right now, but it could be helpful to you while you're here."
"How so?" Emma asks, and though her face is like stone, there is genuine curiosity in her eyes. It makes Charming think of how it could have been, had he and Snow been able to raise the beautiful woman in front of him. He would have seen that curious gaze daily, and the thought sends such pang through his chest that he has to reach out and brush some of her hair behind her ear. Emma stiffens for a moment, much as she did when he hugged her, but her head tilts ever so slightly into his touch, and that motion is enough to send Charming leaning forward to kiss her forehead.
"His secret was that you were the first person in three hundred years to make him feel again, Emma. When things get bad, when this island has the shadow of your past looming so high you think it will strangle you, remember that. Remember that you've given him the first flashes of hope he's had in centuries, and that no matter where the future takes you, he loves you. There's no magic more powerful than love, except maybe belief. And while a pirate may not be the suitor I would prefer for my daughter, that particular one sees both those things in you… and I'd say that means he has good taste, if nothing else."
"How do you know what to say?" Emma asks softly, as if afraid that speaking any louder might ruin the moment between them. "Mary Margaret… she tries, and I can appreciate that, but she doesn't seem to understand. She wants me to happy so badly, but she seems to think that happiness is Neal, and she just can't understand why I don't."
"Your mother – Snow," he corrected, uncertain if Emma would want him to refer to Snow as her mother. "She's a romantic, Emma. She believes in love conquering everything, and it's a beautiful sentiment. But I still have David Nolan's memories, and they may belong to a cursed person, but he did love Kathryn once. It was genuine, but it simply wasn't enough, not when it came to Mary Margaret. So I get it, that first love isn't always true love, but it doesn't mean it's not love, and that it can't hurt. So grieve, Emma, and let yourself hurt over Neal. Find Henry and take him home… but don't forget that you're loved. And don't let that love escape you because you can't let go of the past. Neal will understand, and if he doesn't? Well, you don't owe him anything."
Emma smiles and looks away, and Charming knows it's because there are tears filling her eyes and she doesn't want him to see them. It causes a brief sting – he wishes more than anything she felt she could cry in front of him – but he refuses to let it ruin this moment. It's the first time his daughter has let him in, and he will hold it tight to his chest when they're gone and he is all that remains.
"We'll get Henry," Emma says, wiping her eyes clear and looking up at him with a fierce expression. "We'll save him, and we'll save you, because Pan doesn't get to win, David, not with Henry, and not with you. You want me to believe, then I'll believe, and Hook tells me that I have yet to fail, so I won't fail with you. I… I want to know my parents, both of them, and I think I would be a really kick ass older sister, so we'll win this. And then I'll do the whole facing my past thing, because there's a really attractive pirate who fancies me when I'm not yelling at him, and I think we could have something great together."
Emma gives a swift nod, as if she had simply made a decision on what to have for supper and not that she wanted parents and a relationship with Hook. Then she turns and continues toward the creek while David is left behind speechless and rather startled, because the passion she got from him comes out at the most surprising times and he's not entirely sure how he's supposed to react to it. In the end, he decides to act naturally, because making a big deal of it will only spook her away and he doesn't want that to ruin this, because for the first time Charming is feeling hope that he may make it home, and it's all because Emma is deciding to show a little faith.
"I didn't need to hear the attractive part," he muttered as he caught up to Emma, and she laughs a full, light-hearted laugh. He knows this won't last forever, that Neverland's shadow will return again and that he has to be prepared for that, be prepared to offer her the same hope she's offered him, but right now, in that exact moment?
Charming doesn't think he's ever heard a prettier sound.
AN: So, someday I am going to actually write something that involves Emma and Hook speaking to each other regarding their feelings, but for now it's all Emma/Charming. I wanted her to have a little hope, and for Charming to have a little hope, and those two are just so much alike it sometimes kills me, so I figured why not have them give each other a little hope?