A/N: Just a little drabble that wouldn't get out of my head. Written under the influence of a LOT of medication, so I hope it comes out all right.

Better Now

He wasn't sure when it all changed. There was no one moment where it shifted … it happened gradually, over time, until one day he realized that rum didn't make him feel as good as it had before — the comfort it offered him was negligible, at best.

He couldn't even remember when the dreams had shifted. For as long as he could remember now, the nightmares had haunted him, always dark, with flashes of angry red — bloodlust, coursing through him even in sleep. Blue eyes and dark hair, taunting him with the memory of what he could never have, of what he'd lost. The sound of his brother's laughter, in better days, reminding him more. He was a failure, and everything he touched turned to ash.

Aligning himself with Cora had seemed the most logical step. One step closer to the Crocodile. One step closer to the end of this endeavor … in all ways. He'd be sated and replete, and able to rest at last. It was all he wanted, after all.

Gods, he was tired.

It was funny, the times that the words from the Crocodile would come back to torment him. He hadn't killed him, when he'd had the chance. That's not in the cards for you … he'd said. And Killian had never understood what he meant.

He couldn't have told you the moment that had changed, couldn't have told you the moment of clarity. It had happened sometime in between almost being fed to an ogre and almost being fed to Maleficent … revenge had lost its appeal. It was a thing he did, simply because he was so used to doing it … but nothing about it felt fulfilling. It felt meaningless … there was nothing waiting for him at the end of it, was there? Whatever afterlife he'd earned himself in pursuit of it would surely be one of agony and flames.

And there would be no one to mourn him at all.

But there, again, flashes of gold breaking through the darkness, and words not meant to soothe or console, but to make him fight. That's what she did. There were no pretty words from this one, no pandering, no assuring him he was right, when he knew damn well he wasn't. Nothing but the truth. Nothing but someone who saw him, as easily as he saw her, and wasn't about to let him get away with anything because of it.

He should have hated her, for being what she was. For being everything he was supposed to despise, for being just like himself.

But then he'd woken one day, and he'd felt — odd. Not bad. Just different. Something was off, and he couldn't put his finger on it, until little flickers of memory from his dream had come back to him. Flashes of red, as usual, but not the same. Lust again, but not for blood, not now. Longing and yearning and want, stronger than even his want of revenge had been.

Blonde hair, not dark, against his shoulder. Grey eyes, stormy, with flashes of green and gold, temperamental as the sea itself, looking back at him. Warmth, and not cold. Sunlight. Not shadow.

A feeling of contentment settling through him, and a realization that no amount of rum would ever be able to bolster him, make him want to try, the way that bringing a smile to her lips, no matter how small, would. No amount of rum could make his head spin the way her lips against his had.

Nothing about falling in love with her had been easy. Nothing about being in love with her would be, either. Nothing about her was simple, nothing about them had ever been, either. But she had woken him, after centuries in the dark, drawing him, blinking and a little bewildered, into the sunlight once again.

And he'd be damned if he'd go back there again. He'd be damned if he was the reason she had to go back there. And he'd be damned if he went anywhere she wasn't.

After three hundred years with nothing to steady him, three hundred years of being a spinning compass, with no real direction, he had a fixed point now. Solid ground beneath his feet.

And a name on his lips, unfamiliar to him still, and yet … everything. A whole world in just four letters. He feared even speaking it aloud too often, not wanting it to lose the certain magic it had to it.

Emma.