Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters or Once Upon A Time - the trolls Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz do. If I did, those two would spend their onscreen time together smooching and doing the frick frack. Don't judge me.
Killian stood outside of the hut, wary of knocking. He could feel a thin sheen of sweat forming on his forehead, and he brushed some rebel locks from it with an impatient tug as he steeled himself before clearing loudly his throat and finally pounding with his fist on the modest wooden door.
He prayed the man was alone. He really didn't want to have an audience for this conversation.
After movements of shuffling from inside were heard and the locks fiddling, he was standing before the man he had been seeking out. "Rumplestiltskin."
The expression on the imp's was surprised to say the least. "Captain. I wasn't expecting you." Turning to stare back inside with a frown, he gave him an apologetic grimace. "Belle and Bae are not here, I'm afraid."
Killian shook his head impatiently, letting his weight shuffle from one foot to another. "In fact, I came to see you."
Rumplestiltskin's eyebrows shot up, but promptly tried to mask his surprise. "Oh. To what do I owe the pleasure?"
"I... I have a few questions," he muttered. There must have been something in his expression, as two men measured each other for a while, and Killian wondered not for the first time what he was really doing there. It was not like he hated the man, but he didn't exactly feel at ease in his presence - and he couldn't really expect him not to feel some kind of resentment towards the pirate for stealing Milah's heart. Though he guessed the fact that he had found Belle and they had managed to apologize after first fleeing their home had worked out swimmingly.
Yet there he was. Sitting alone with the man whose wife he had fallen for, offered the world to, 'stolen' from him - even though they had made it clear that hadn't been what Milah leaving her home had been about.
There he was. Plagued by thoughts of a woman. A woman that wasn't the one he and the imp had in common.
Not by a long shot.
The squeaking of a quaint bench besides the hearth brought him to the present, and he turned to see Rumplestiltskin taking a seat and motioning for him to join him. "So. What is it?"
Killian faced him, passing a hand through his hair and sighing heavily. He stared at the flames, the dancing red and oranges and yellows and golds, and the memory of that dream, the golden strands of hair wiping across her tear-stained cheeks squeezed his chest in agony.
"Do you believe in fate?" His voice was hoarse and doubtful, and he was sure the other man didn't fail to notice.
"What would make you presume I know anything about it?"
He gulped. "Your son. He once said something that you had told him: that everything that happens, happens for a reason. No matter what we do, fate has a way to intervene."
Rumplestiltskin studied him with a guarded expression, the only sound heard around them the crackle of the fire warming his chilled bones. "Yes, that's right."
"Do you really believe in that?"
A nod. "I do."
Killian observed how the imp reclined on the bench, gripping the cane he usually carried around with whitening knuckles and a faraway look in his eyes. "There were two women I grew up with after my father abandoned me. They were more than spinners, I realized when I grew up. They knew about people's destinies, they talked about the tangling and spinning of mortals' lives." He paused with a heavy sigh, and met Killian's eyes, vulnerable and open, something he would have never thought he'd find in Rumplestiltskin's expression. At least not in front of him. "And they, somehow, knew since they first saw me what would happen with my father."
Killian pondered his words with a frown. "What if they were just trying to get you away from him so you would stay with them? To have a kid of their own?"
Rumplestiltskin shook his head, a sad smile curling his lips. He looked almost... pitiful, at Killian's eagerness to deny what he was being told. As if he had been through this, had learned it the hard way. Perhaps he had. "They knew way before. They offered us a way out of it, and somehow, it ended up going down the same path they had predicted: my father would have abandoned me one way or another, bean to go to another land or not."
Killian knew there was more to the story. Knew why the limp the man sitting before him suffered from had come to happen, how he had let a seer's prophecy to injure himself so he could take care of his son. What had driven Milah away from him. He understood why he didn't mention it too - it was not an issue he was willing to discuss with him, either. He chose his next words carefully, throat constricted and words clogged inside, not ready to be spilled out. "So what you mean to tell me is that... what is supposed to happen..."
"...will happen. Yes," Rumplestiltskin finished for him in a whisper, and they both fell silent at once, each lost in thought.
Killian didn't know if this had been such a great idea after all - he found himself even more lost now than before. The dreams, memories, or whatever it was that had been filling his mind lately were not stopping, and he knew he had to do something about them, or find out at least how to stop them. If they were dreams, if they were a warning, a threat, anything... why had he come to ask Rumplestiltskin? Why not go to a sorceress, to the fairies of the kingdom?
And yet, he had asked about fate. About destiny. Why?
"What is wrong, Captain?"
He lifted his head to find furrowed brows, and he'd even delude himself into thinking he could spy some concern on the other man's face at the helplessness Killian was displaying, the faraway expression and emptiness in his eyes when he recalled her broken 'please, don't forget me'. "I don't know. I don't really know."
She should have gone to the bar she usually frequented, Emma lamented silently, cringing at the too-loud-for-her-taste music blaring from the speakers behind the bar. She sat at the counter, staring absentmindedly at the tumbler she gripped in her hand, her index finger drawing nonsense on the cold glass.
She had needed a drink.
Hell, she had needed a drink every night since she had made that deal with Pan, but that was another thing entirely.
But since she had started dreaming of Hook - Killian - whatever - she had found herself hiding at every pub open she ran into before she went to sleep to get her mind sweetly buzzed and foggy, chasing the dreams away. Or at least, if she did have them, she wouldn't remember them in the morning, a headache replacing the hazy face of the pirate confronting her in the Enchanted Forrest.
It had worked for the past weeks, at least. She didn't want to think that far ahead as what would happen when she got too used to her worryingly-increasing scotches per night.
Not that anybody would care, anyway.
Emma closed her eyes, grimacing instead of muttering a curse. Sometimes being diplomatic - and attractive - sucked. She turned to find a man who had taken a seat right at the stool next to hers, smiling down at her, almost amused. (As to what he'd find amusing, she would really like to know.)
"Hey," she finally acknowledged, returning her focus to the drink before her, and wondering if she should ask for a refill soon.
"You look lonely."
Well, if the conversation kept going this way, she sure as hell would need to get wasted.
Emma suppressed a chuckle. You have no idea. "What if I am?"
He smiled again, charmingly, eyes twinkling, and somehow she found herself transfixed at the sight, memories of the one person she was desperately wishing to forget hitting her like a punch in the gut. She inhaled sharply, shutting her eyes for a moment and willing herself to stay calm. She opened them again to see that he had inched closer to her seat. Too close.
She wanted to slap herself. It wasn't like she hadn't done this before. This was what she did, what she had always found easy and comfortable - no strings attached, no feelings, just the flirting and the one night stands.
Then why did she feel like she was doing something wrong?
When she had been in Storybrooke, she had had no wish, no interest at all in romance. She had been there for Henry, just for him only. He was her priority. There had been moments - she scoffed to herself, a brief conversation with her father, his offered arm and his attempts at lifting her spirits joking about Hook coming to mind - where her resolution at keeping her heart at bay had faltered, that was for sure.
Graham. Even a tiny something when August had been by her, always taking her side - until he told her he was Pinocchio, of course.
Hook. Neal. Both of them fighting like children over her in Neverland. Promises of keeping fighting for her when they were back, safe and sound. To win her heart...
"I... would like to help you."
Emma raised a brow, smirking at the cocky smile on the guy's face. He was confident alright. She swirled the last of her scotch before sipping it in one go, welcoming the burn lingering in her throat. "And how would that work out, exactly?"
Encouraged by her answer, he managed to get even closer, angling his body towards hers. "Well, we could talk for a bit, you know. Exchange names. Maybe a few drinks. Even our numbers."
No more winning-her-heart speeches for her. No epic fairytale love story ahead of her.
She would have never imagined she would have entertained the idea for herself, and yet here she was, regretting she had lost her chance.
Turning towards him and with a final - and not-so-subtle - inspection of her not-so-subtle-either suitor, she nodded, lifting her shoulders in a careless shrug. There was nothing to lose here.
"Drinks first," she commanded. If they were doing this, it would be in truly Emma Swan fashion, as she had always done it. On her terms.
The guy - she hadn't even bothered to ask his name, good - nodded, pleased, and signaled for the bartender. "Rum, please. And scotch for the lady." At Emma's staggering in her stool, he furrowed his brow, concerned. "What?"
She tried to mask the bewilderment showing on her face. She had avoided rum since... well. Since he was gone. Had avoided every creep who had tried to hit on her who reeked of it at the bars. She shook her head, ignoring the shaking in her hands by passing her fingers through her hair and giving him a shaky smile. "Nothing."
But she knew it was not 'nothing', not when he kissed and hovered over her later at his apartment, his lips grazing the bare skin of her neck and chest before starting to shed their clothes. Not when she tried to stop a tear from falling as a part of herself wished for the scent of leather and the sea instead of cheap aftershave and smoke.
It was anything but nothing.
Killian had always found that a night at the helm helped him whenever he was upset, nervous, worried or sad. It helped him think - even if others claimed it was rum that did the trick, but he refused to give in, not even for this, bad form, - to grip the wooden spokes, sometimes drumming silent songs over them with his fingers, murmuring the sea shanties through barely-opened lips.
It wasn't working. It hadn't been working for days, now.
He took a moment and reached into his pocket for his flask, but finally decided against it and slipped it back into its place with a muttered curse. He really didn't need the rum dulling his brain - not that it wouldn't be a welcome distraction from the troubling thoughts plaguing it lately, but he would rather not reek of liquor when he finally decided to slip into bed beside Milah.
He almost jumped when a soft voice called out to him. "Killian, it's late. Let's go to bed."
He adjusted his eyes, making out her silhouette against the railing as she ascended the wooden steps leading to his place at the helm. He sighed, dropping his gaze towards the scribbled letters he had once carved for Bae when he taught him how to steer the ship, one of the first times the boy had come aboard. He smiled briefly at the thought, how Milah had been so glad to see her boy accepting Killian and even warming up to him.
Simpler times. Easier times.
He never would have thought he'd wished for a simpler time. He was a pirate, he lived for the thrill, the adventure, the relentless coming and going of the waves... and yet, now, he had no clue what he wanted.
He had everything - anything he had ever despaired he had lost.
But something was missing.
And he felt like the worst human around for entertaining the thought. The most selfish, vile and horrible creature, with a beyond saving heart, corrupted to the core, for seeking out more than he had. Something that he surely didn't deserve.
"I'll be down in a minute, love," he said softly, adjusting his collar in an attempt to look nonchalant, not meeting her eyes. She saw right through him, of course, stepping up to him and setting her hands over his chest.
"No you won't," she argued, incensed, stepping closer, forehead creasing into a little V as she frowned. "You haven't been sleeping these past days, and when you do you wake up from nightmares."
"That's not true," he countered before he could stop himself, and at her challenging expression - surely defying him to deny it, - he sighed, defeated.
He couldn't deny it, of course. Wouldn't, either. "They are not nightmares," he admitted quietly, the words that spilled out of his mouth caught on his tongue. He would not let those dreams get tainted that way, even if they terrified him, shook him to the core as much as any horrible nightmare that he had ever experienced in his life.
He felt soft hands cupping his cheeks and he met piercing aquamarine eyes, as brilliant as the clearest waters, now shadowed in the night and searing through him. "What is wrong with you?"
His heart fell. This was what he had tried to avoid; to worry her, to change any demeanor or attitude around her when this... whatever it was that had been going on inside his head had started. But everything had gone to hell, he admitted to himself as he saw the tight set of her jaw and crinkles in the corners of her eyes while she stared up at him wonderingly, the hurt and confusion etched to her features that he had always had no problem in sweeping away now mocking him.
He took her hand in his, and looked down at their entwined fingers, matching rings, tanned skin contrasting. "If I knew, I would tell you."
He looked past her to stare at the way the moonlight reflected on the sails of the Roger, the gentle lapping of the waves, every little thing that made this his home, his place in the world. And yet, right now, he didn't feel like Captain Killian Jones. He was Killian Jones, the orphan, the young lost boy who had had no place to go after his father left him, not until he found his way home - to Liam.
Not letting go of Milah's hand, he let his thumb rub her knuckles gently. "I miss something that I can't even place," he finally admitted in a whisper, mainly he was ultimately sure that she deserved some kind of explanation for his behavior, as pathetic and nonsensical as it might be.
And not meeting her eyes, afraid, terrified, panicked at what he'd see in them, Killian Jones realized he was slowly becoming the thing he had always despised.
Coward, coward, coward.
He heard rustling and soon there was a shifting between their joined hands, until he was holding something in his palm and she was closing his over it. "Well, when you're lost, you always had something to guide you," Milah said, her voice wavering just slightly.
And then, with a last sad glance over her shoulder, she stepped down back to their quarters.
Killian held back a staggering breath, a choked sound he would have never imagined himself to utter, not in a hundred lifetimes. He brought his gaze down to his hand, and slowly pried his fingers away to reveal what it was Milah had given him.
A compass. The golden one that had caught his eye back in that market, when that orphan girl had tried to steal from him. She had noticed he had wanted it and had gone back to get it for him.
He bit back a curse, gritting his teeth in agony. Even when he didn't want to, he kept hurting her - not telling her what was what really got him bothered, why it disturbed him so, why he wanted to beat himself to death for the single thought that he had not enough, that her love wasn't enough for him.
A slight movement from the corner of his eye snapped him to the present, and he realized with a jolt that it was the compass' needle, that had started spinning. He stared, transfixed, as it finally stopped moving after a disturbing amount of twirling, and it stayed firmly pointing to one direction.
Killian didn't need any map or chart to tell him it was Snow and Charming's castle in that course.
She curled her fingers around the walkie, caressing the worn edges, before bringing it closer to her lips and pressing the button. "I did something really stupid the other day. Well, maybe you would have liked it, I don't know. I never asked you what you thought about this particular topic. I call it 'Operation Ink' - not squid ink, but, you know, that could be another mission for the future, hey kid?" She paused, breath hitching.
One, two, three, four, five.
Six, seven, eight, nine, ten.
No response. As always.
The little smile she always wore whenever she 'talked' to Henry slipped from her lips - as it always did, - but then she sighed and pressed the button again. "Anyway, I went into this tattoo parlor. I don't really know why, I just... went in. And I got another tattoo. Nothing too fancy, or flashy. And no, no tramp stamp either." She chuckled, almost expecting a groan from her son. She could practically hear him, see him, scrunching up his nose and rolling his eyes at her.
Sobering up, her voice shook when she went on. "You know, you never asked me and I never told you when we were home... about the other tattoo. When I got it, I didn't really know why I wanted it, or what it meant. Then Mary Margaret saw it and commented how it looked like the royal crest in their kingdom back in the Enchanted Forest."
She recalled that day, how when cursed Mary Margaret had first seen the flower on her wrist had complimented her about it - and then, when it was her mother, Emma had almost expected a 'when did you decided branding your skin with ink for your entire life would be a good idea' talk', but it never came, instead giving her that small part of her family, of her home back in Fairytale Land. It had been... nice, to find out something about them, the royal family she was supposed to belong to, a realm from where she hailed and would have been a ruler of.
"This time, it was more like the same. I went in, and the guy looked at me like I was lost or something." She paused, fiddling with the hem of her shirt, suddenly feeling shy.
She was so losing it. "I asked him about symbols for 'hope'. He told me that candles are usually lit as symbol of hope and prayers in the Catholic word - and I almost burst into tears right there, kid. I was such a mess. I thought how ironic it was that a complete stranger would suggest for me to get a freaking candle - can you imagine if he proposed a blue star candle, on top of that? At this point, I shouldn't be surprised." She let out a sad chuckle, because really, there was nothing that could faze her anymore - not after finding out she was the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming. "I was going to leave, but then I looked at my first tattoo. And I knew what I wanted." She raised her left hand, staring at the newly branded skin, and she smiled kindly. "I got a forget-me-not. It is blue, and I kiss it every night thinking of you, kid." She pressed a kiss to it then, voice catching before dropping another kiss on the walkie, a ghostly goodnight to the son who had no idea his mother was somewhere out there, reaching out for him. "I love you. I miss you."
The door opened and he heard a loud gasp. "Killian?"
He tipped his head and bowed mockingly, waving his hand in a pompous manner she had always laughed at. "Long time no see, Tink."
She closed the distance between them in a couple of fast strides and hugged him fiercely, squealing in delight. "What are you doing here?," she said as she let go, pulling him by the hand and dragging him inside. He followed her obligingly, amused even in his conflicted state at the eagerness and cheerful demeanor his friend was displaying at seeing him. He sighed and went for the kill.
"I need your help."
"What did you do now? I am not getting into trouble to save you after whatever it is you got yourself into now..."
"It's not that," he cut her off, and scratched his head nervously. "It's... about your area of expertise."
There was a slight pause, until Tink tapped her foot impatiently, voice full of sarcasm. "I believe I need you to be a little bit more specific here."
He waved his hand impatiently. "You know. The pixie dust."
"What would you need pixie dust for?," she wondered aloud, frowning. Sudden realization hit her then, and she gasped, horrified. "You don't need to go back to Neverland, do you?"
Killian almost laughed. Here she was, absolutely panicked at the prospect of him leaving for another realm again, meanwhile he would find the idea a mere fancy compared to what the real deal here was. "No, not at all. It's for... something else."
His fairy friend was looking more and more exasperated by the minute. She threw her hands up, whining loudly. "Killian, I'm confused. What do you want from me?"
He slammed his eyes shut, pinching the bridge of his nose. Here went nothing, he guessed.
"I need you to use pixie dust on me."
She pulled back as if he had hit her with his plea. Shock was quickly replaced by confusion, and she cocked her head to the side while she stared at him apprehensively. "That would be a complete waste of pixie dust - you have Milah, you don't need it."
He knew that was what she'd say. It made sense - pixie dust showed you who your true love was, your soulmate. He had found love, he had found his first mate, his best friend, his better half in Milah. He had no reason to ask for Tink's help, it would most certainly be a waste of dust, as she had pointed out.
But that name - Emma, Emma Swan - rang in his ear every day since the moment he heard it, her eyes branded in his brain, and something nagged at him to find out.
"Tink, I wouldn't ask you this if I didn't need it. Please, help me."
Fairies helped people find what they needed, what they lacked, what would make them happy. They gave a hand out, sprinkled their dust to fix the broken, or at least gave a little push so they were right in the way to get it. It was in Tink's nature to see that Killian was truly lost now - he must have looked like a broken wreck for her to finally nod and jump from her seat. "Okay. Let's see then."
She flitted around the room until she let out a small 'aha' and came back, a beady, sparkly - as everything she owned, he mused with a silent and fond scoff - pouch in her hand. She opened it in front of him so he'd take a look, and he gasped.
"How did you get your hands on that? I thought you'd have to ask Blue."
She shrugged absently, reaching into the pouch and closing her fist over some of the powder she had collected in her hand. "I earned it, don't worry about it." Closed hand hovering in front of his face, she gave him an encouraging smile.
He tried to answer it with one of his own, but he felt his features frozen and his hands were getting sweaty and his hands were shaking and gods what if...
"Here we go," she said, and with a soft blow of her pink lips, the dust flew, and all he saw was bright green, green like the foliage in Neverland, green like the light from the portal that he had crossed to get to Neverland the second time, green like Emma's eyes...
He heard a gasp, and he craned his neck to find Tink staring up at the steady trail of the dust... until it split up. One went back to his ship, he knew - back to Milah, to his love.
But the second one... it flew upwards, away from them. It would have been delightful to say that he could follow said path and find where it led... alas, he couldn't. It stopped somewhere, he could see its abrupt end, and he wanted to growl in frustration - every time he got closer to find out what, who, where she was, there was always some obstacle, something in the way, in between him and her.
Tink's tentative voice interrupted his spiraling thoughts. "Have you met someone else... since Milah?"
He shook his head, still trying to figure out how he was supposed to find her - find this Emma, this other soulmate he apparently had, somewhere, whom he had to find. "Not that I can remember."
"What does this mean?," she asked, bewildered. Killian was sure this was the first time something like this happened to her - pixie dust being inconclusive wasn't something widely discussed, after all.
He lifted his hand, passing it through the second trail of dust, letting the sparkly dots of light brush his skin, like the ghost of that woman's touch, and he ached at the thought. Ached at the notion of not being able to reach and touch her. "I have no bloody clue, but I need to find out. Find her."
Emma bit back a curse when she entered the elevator, noticing her neighbor already inside trying unsuccessfully to shush her son and balancing her purse and a messenger bag slung over each shoulder.
It was not that she wasn't a social person - it was more like she was not a baby person.
She nodded politely at her when she stepped in, and let her eyes take in every mark, stain and handwritten message over the old carpeted wall of the elevator when there was a loud ringing. The woman groaned loudly, and almost on cue the baby in her arms started crying. Emma pressed her side against the wall, inwardly wishing it would swallow her, memories of a baby's cry she hadn't even been able to look at coming back...
"Oh my - could you give me a hand, dear? I really need to take this, they were supposed to call earlier but..."
Emma's eyes widened, completely panicked as she saw her neighbor offering the baby in her arms towards her with a similarly panicked expression on her face. "Uh, I'm not sure I..."
"Please?" she begged, the ringing and cries mixing inside the now asfixiating space, and before Emma realized it, her arms were already reaching for the baby,
"I... I just..."
She just gently laid the baby over Emma's arms, and to her surprise, it fit perfectly fine, her head falling over the space between her arm and her chest, snuggling comfortably and warming her. "Here, it'll be fine, it'll be just a minute, I promise," she insisted, and turned to hurriedly take out things from her purse until she finally found her phone, hastily picking up the call and barking at whoever it was who had called.
Emma wasn't listening. She was too busy being completely transfixed by the small bundle in her arms, who curiously enough had stopped crying, choosing to stare up at her in wonder and play with a strand of her hair with tiny and chubby fingers.
"Hi there," she whispered, cocking her head to the side so the tip of her curls tickled him on the forehead, making him bubble a laugh in response. She smiled - really smiled, like she hadn't in what felt like years. "Hi. Don't worry, your mom will take you back in a bit," she promised. She was not sure why she felt the need to share that - it wasn't like she was protesting for being away from her mother, anyway.
But lost girl Emma wanted to make sure that this baby knew she wasn't being left behind, that she had people who loved her and wouldn't let her go.
She heard a long sigh by her side and lifted her head to find her neighbor leaning against her side of the elevator, looking completely exhausted. She sent Emma a tired smile, and shook her head before straightening up and walking up to her. "Thank you so much."
Emma passed her the baby with as much care as she could - the most she had ever put in anything, she feared, she looked so fragile - and cleared her throat in order not to show how utterly broken the encounter had left her. "It was nothing."
Her neighbor smiled down at the baby, noticing how it kept waving her small hand in Emma's direction. She laughed and jerked her chin at Emma's curls. "She seems quite taken with you - and your hair."
She was about to choke down some lame excuse like "I don't think so, I'm not good with kids," or anything, but there was a loud ping and the doors were opening, and before she knew it, she was already striding out of the elevator. She muttered a farewell as she left, ignoring the tentative plea the other woman offered for he to come over to their place whenever she wanted. Or making as if she hadn't heard it in her haste as she ran out of their building and into the crisp air of Boston.
She was sure she was going to make everything in her power not to see that woman and her baby again.
Following where the compass had guided him had, as Killian had suspected at first, brought him there, to the Charmings' castle. What he hadn't expected, though, was it leading him towards someone he barely remembered meeting briefly, once at a ball.
"Captain!," Henry creaked in delight once he saw him standing at the door of his chambers. Killian had asked permission to see the boy alone, and his mother had accepted with a mixture of confusion and amusement.
He smiled down at the boy, tipping his head in greeting. "Hi, Henry. May I steal some of your time?"
"Of course," he said, and let him in. Killian complied, sweeping his gaze over the boy's belongings and noticing the wooden swords leaning against one of the walls. Ah, surely the prince was teaching some knight moves to the lad.
"Are you okay," Henry asked him, and Killian shook himself out of his reverie to stare him down. He went to sit by him on his bed, and sighed, long and tired.
"I was hoping you could help me with something that is troubling me."
There was a flicker of surprise in his face - and Killian couldn't blame him. It was not like adults to seek help of children, especially when their family was bloody royalty. "Oh. Shouldn't you ask for uncle David then?"
"No, no, I need your help," he insisted, locking eyes with the boy. He inspected him closely for a moment before nodding, all business.
Killian had feared where he should start this conversation, if he would be laughed at or seen as if he had gone off the rocker... yet looking down at Henry, all doubt left him.
"Does... the name Emma mean something to you?"
His heart clenched at the flabbergasted expression in the lad's face. He knew.
Killian passed a hand through his hair anxiously, willing the boy to share what it was he had been seeing too. "I have been having these... dreams, being hit by memories of a woman, a blond woman... and I don't know what to think anymore. It seems like a dream but at the same time they are so real, and at times I would swear I can actually see her and talk to her and I ache at the thought that she is actually real and out there and I can't even properly know where I know her from."
He met Henry's gaze, and he was almost afraid of hoping that the smile slowly stretching over the boy's face meant what he thought.
"I thought I was the only one."
Killian exhaled, and felt like it was the first time he really had breathed since... well, since everything.
"You have been experiencing these too?," he wondered apprehensively. Henry nodded frantically.
"At times, yes. I thought they were some strange curse at first, but was afraid to tell my mother until I knew more. But it didn't seem dangerous at all. They just come and go, and I only feel... sad, and empty, when they are over."
Touched at the boy's words, Killian felt an odd sense of kinship with him at knowing he had not been so alone in this journey towards this mysterious woman, the ghost of a loved one, someone who was missing from his life but he so desperately needed to find his way back to.
Shaking in anticipation, Killian cleared his throat and went for the kill. "Do you know who she is?"
Henry cocked his head to the side before jumping out of the bed, going to a small wooden chest on the other side of his chamber. He rummaged inside for a while until he found out something at the bottom and brought it with him back to his seat. Killian's eyebrows shot up in surprise.
It was a book.
Ruffling through pages nervously, he got to a page where a picture stood out. There was a man crouched down, blood staining his white loose shit, a sword laying at his side while he cradled a baby in his arms.
"I... I think she is my mother," he whispered brokenly, tracing the outline of the baby in the picture, wonder and longing lacing every word. "My real mother."
He recalled what the prince had told him about Henry being found in the woods by a friend - maybe the Huntsman, now that he thought about it, - and how it was then when Regina and Daniel had taken him in. Could it be? Was this Emma Henry's birthmother?
He was far more transfixed by the picture in the book right then, something in the colors and the way the man on it held the baby as if it were about to be ripped away from him oddly compelling.
Following the boy's actions, Killian's hand went on his own accord to join his, delicately passing it over the baby's silhouette. "I believe so too."
He noticed the name embroidered in the blanket that enveloped the baby, and when he was pointing at it, there was a sudden rush in the air, blowing from every direction and making them gasp. A wave of memories hit Killian, a whole lifetime, far longer than he had ever hoped living, full of regret and heartbreak and pain and also hope and love and possibility and light.
He came back to find Henry gripping his hand, and he knew that the boy's tears were most surely mirrored in his eyes.
Killian tried not to quiver at the alarming thought of considering himself some true scoundrel for basically kidnapping a ten year old (or was he eleven?).
(Yeah, he was eleven now.)
Alas, desperate situations called for desperate measures.
It wasn't like he had taken him hostage or the like... he had just told the boy's parents they would be out for the day while he taught him the 'pirate tricks' he wouldn't be learning anytime soon amidst all those goody-goods he was always surrounded by. Charming had just rubbed his face in annoyance before consenting after a brief exchange with Daniel, who bless his kind soul hadn't minded at all.
Now, the truth was they were not going sailing or learning pirate slang and form.
They were on a mission - one that both Killian and Henry were set on achieving.
And the only people that Killian hoped would give them any kind of answer at all were two sisters that Rumplestiltskin had mentioned in passing when Killian went to see him: the spinners.
After his and Henry's curse had been broken and they had realized it hadn't been enough to make all of them get back to Storybrooke, or have Emma come back, they came to the conclusion that they would have to find another way. For that, they needed help - from someone with insight on what had transpired, of what it was they were living in this bizarre alternate realm where even the people they had lost were back and their stories had been altered to fit some mold where everybody appeared to find their happy endings.
All except Emma.
Killian tried to squash the staggering pain he felt every time he thought of how lonely and desperate she must be right then. Believing that she had lost them again, knowing they were happy somewhere with no recollection of how she had affected their entire existences.
It was not fair.
He recalled Henry's hesitation when Killian had proposed him going over to see the spinners so they could get whatever information they were willing to give so they could break whatever curse Pan had inflicted upon them.
"Would you be willing to give up everything you have here, even your hand, for her?," he had asked tentatively, and Killian hadn't blamed him for questioning him. He had a real chance at a happy ending here, he had Milah back, his heart wasn't rotten nor blackened in a quest for revenge, he had a family and a crew...
But at what cost?
"This? What we are living? It's a second chance, one I hadn't even asked for - I have wished for it, but I never earned it. We got it because she sacrificed hers." He shook his head, hands curling into fists thinking back of Emma's choice. Bloody stubborn woman. Stupid, perfect, wonderful woman. Brilliant woman.
Gods, he missed her.
"It's not fair," he stated with finality, and Henry just nodded in agreement. It was decided then.
They got to the small village where these women lived, from what he had gathered in the past weeks. He motioned Henry not to fall behind as they made their way through the crowded streets, players and drunks gathered here and there and wenches showing as much skin as they could in order to find some clientele. They found themselves at a dead end, and Killian could have killed himself for being so stupid as to not use the enchanted compass to find the place.
He had been so agitated since he had gotten his memories back, two lives living inside his head completely wrecking any chance at peace of mind.
He only wished he would get it as soon as he found his way back to Emma.
Finally reaching a quite decrepit-looking shack, Henry knocked quietly on the worn door, and they waited with baited breath until it opened for them. He wasn't too sure what he must had expected from these women Rumplestiltskin had warned him about, but one thing was clear: they looked as plain as any other working woman in a humble village could get.
"We had been waiting for you."
Killian's eyebrows flew to the top of his forehead in surprise. "You know who we are?"
"Of course we do," said one of them with a dismissive hand, and the other spoke right on cue. "And we know why you're here."
"Does that mean you will help us?"
They laughed at once, an eerie sound that did nothing to calm Killian's already frayed nerves. "Us? You will help yourselves."
"But we need answers," Henry insisted vehemently.
Killian put his hands over his knees to stop them from bouncing in anticipation. Answers. Information. Emma. "How do you know about our purpose?"
The two women shared a look, until the brunette one sighed tiredly and sat in front of them, taking a skein in her hands, playing with the end of a loose thread. "We know what the Savior did as soon as it happened. She did something unique that day - not only such a selfless act that brought back an entire realm back to their homes, but by doing it, the thread became twisted."
Henry looked up at him confusedly, and Killian shrugged. He had no bloody clue what they were barking about. He even wondered if these two had been alone for far too long, their minds not what they used to be anymore. "The thread?"
"The thread of destiny," they chorused, and there was a sudden flash of recognition in Killain's mind, an old tale his mother had liked to tell him about when he was a young lad, about three women who happened to control the mortal's lives from birth to death.
He was rudely brought back to the present when one of them went on, eagerly "Exactly. See, everybody's threads changed that day - their colors brighter, softer to touch, the tapestry they would have woven completely different from what it would have been back then. These new happy endings corrected that."
"Not only that - by making up this new happy realm, the path all of our destinies should have taken was altered too. Like there was a knot in the thread," added her sister.
Henry and Killian sat, unmoving, trying to piece everything together. That was all well and good, he guessed, but they had not told them what they could do to stop it. Or how to find Emma, or bring her here with her family, with them. With him.
Henry voiced his concerns then. "So... if we can get back to how everything was, to the land without magic, to her - will it restore itself?"
"Probably. As much as Peter Pan wanted to believe he'd win, messing with different worlds is never wise. One way or another, it would have come to an end. The consequences may have been catastrophic for all of us."
Of course. Killian had learned through his many voyages how dangerous it was to play with fate - take the Dark One's case. He wouldn't have pegged Pan as being so naive to believe there would be no consequences after casting this curse - because this was a curse, maybe disguised in pretty robes smelling of happy endings, but Killian was not easily deceived. And after learning that there was a ticking bomb attached to it, ready to explode at any minute... well, let's say he was way more eager now to get this done.
Henry bit his lip, concerned. "Will the rest of them remember what happened?"
The spinners shook their heads sadly. "We can't be sure."
Bracing himself, Killian stood rather ungracefully from his seat and inhaled sharply, now completely sure that he was willing to do anything in his power to stop this nonsense that Pan had forced on them. His jaw clenched, he met the sisters' eyes intently, his face a mask of control and purpose.
"What do we need to do?"
Walking down Long Wharf wasn't exactly the same as going to the humble docks in Storybrooke, that was for sure. (Truth be told, downtown Boston was no Storybrooke either, so it made sense to not make such a comparison).
Yet it didn't stop Emma from wandering through the commercial wharf of the port, eyes going from ferries to cruise boats, letting the salty air whip her hair against her cheeks. She found herself strangely at peace when she came, just as she had sometimes sought relief when she wanted to think or be alone back home.
(Back in Storybrooke.)
(God, it hurt to call it home.)
The problem was, even if she found that peace she so longed for even for a little while, she always came back sadder home. She wouldn't admit she stared longingly at the horizon just in case she spied white sails, just as once before, when he had come back. Back with the hope she had lost, offering her the chance to get back what she loved most.
He always came back for her.
Emma told herself it was not weird at all to feel tears prickling against her eyes due to the wind that had picked up. Curiously enough, it happened every time she visited Boston Port.
Every time her eyes didn't find any silhouette against the horizon.
Killian was not so sure he should be here, considering he was putting his life in danger - and, thus, endangering the whole mission. 'Operation Kansas', as Henry had called it. Killian had had no bloody idea what Kansas meant at first, but had simply shrugged and let the boy go with it.
He only wanted to get to Emma. It was his first and foremost priority.
(Henry had later explained about that 'movie' of his, about that Dorothy Gale and her adventure to get to Kansas, to her loved ones, her home.)
(He had just stared open-mouthed for a while until he had somehow choked back a 'good name, lad'.)
But he also knew he had to come back. He owed it to him.
When he heard a twig snapping quietly behind him, he lifted his arms in surrender, and before he turned around, he called, "I would rather not be almost killed this time, if you may."
There was a pause, and Killian was about to pray - he, a pirate who only vowed devotion to the seas and its deities, gods, the irony - for the strike to be quick and painless, but there was no need. Quiet steps alerted him of the presence that had been targeting him, and Killian turned his head to stare into the Huntsman's curious gaze. "Cocky as always, I see."
"Good day, Huntsman," Killian said inclining his head, half-mocking, half-politely. The Huntsman's lips curled into an amused smile and returned the gesture.
They stood in silence for a moment, measuring each other, the words that Killian had so carefully thought over for hours on his trek to meet the hunter caught somewhere inside of him at the knowledge that he had no clue what the outcome would be. Before he had a chance to say them, though, he was beaten to it.
"I didn't realize you would seek me out before your mission."
Killian startled. "Pardon?"
The Huntsman waved his hand in front of him, signaling in his direction as if it were something completely obvious. "You remembered."
He froze. Gods, he knew. He knew and Killian was there, ready to tell him, but he already knew. Had known before he had gotten there.
And he had done nothing to stop him.
He had remembered too - it had to be. Emma had broken his curse back in Storybrooke, it made sense it had broken in here too when Killian and Henry remembered.
Killian studied the other man carefully. Who had this man been in Emma's life? What had he meant to her? And her to him? It was obvious he had felt something strong about her, no heart withstanding, for him to be able to slip away of the Queen's curse back in the Land Without Magic. Why had the curse broken for him too? "Who were you, back in the cursed land?"
The Huntsman crouched down, petting the beloved wolf that revolved around him all day. Killian could see then the same man he had met that day in the woods, when he had told him about feeling heartless and empty. But there was something about the way he acted, like there was a new layer of humanity added over him. The man he had been, the fake life he had had in Storybrooke. The life that Emma had been in. "Graham Humbert. The sheriff."
Killian scrunched up his forehead in confusion. "But Emma was the sheriff."
"She used to be my deputy. She replaced me when I was gone." He smiled fondly at the memory, and Killian put the pieces together.
When he was gone. The emptiness, the loss - Emma's twitching whenever someone mentioned the sheriff election after the passing of the former...
"The Queen. She had your heart. That's why you felt like you didn't have one," he finally muttered, eyes full of pity while he stared down at the other man. His heart had been crushed to dust, just like Milah's had - just like Milah's would if they went through with the plan, but no, it had all already happened, this was not reality, Killian, focus...
The Huntsman - Graham - the mix of the two men that was before him interrupted the whirlwind of worries going through his mind, and he saw him tsking under his breath, unamused. "She was not happy when she realized I felt something for Emma. Even without my heart."
Of course Regina wouldn't have been happy. She must have raged at seeing her puppet falling for Emma. Even without a heart.
Killian couldn't blame him for that.
And he was not surprised that Emma had managed to capture a captured heart.
He threw him a cautious glance, and it must have been the survivor in him that made his hand drop slowly, subtly, towards the hilt of his sword. "And you're not going to stop me from going back to how it was?"
"Why would I do that?" There was real confusion in the hunter's face, and Killian let his hand fall, weapon all but forgotten.
"You will die."
The other man stood up and stepped in his direction, jaw clenching and eyes hardening. Killian almost backed down at the sudden fierceness in his features, but stood his own until they were face to face. "And Emma will be home again, with the people she loves. She deserves that."
Speechless, Killian could only admit, "You're an honorable man."
The Huntsman appraised him for a moment, inclining his head in acknowledgment. "So are you. I know it must be hard to leave whatever it is it's holding you back here just to get back to her."
Killian didn't bother trying to hide his flinch. This man could read him all too well - had done the same the first time they had met. He had known he was feeling restless and had escaped the people he loved to seek solace about his troubled thoughts, and now he had guessed how utterly miserable he was by the knowledge that he'd have to let go of this second chance he had been given.
A second chance you didn't deserve. The only one that deserves anything is Emma, he chastised himself, just like every time his resolve wavered.
He met the Huntsman's eyes sadly, wondering how fate liked to play with them. Here they were, two men who had fallen, hard, for the lost and broken princess, the Savior of the realm, the magic in her capable of making a man without a heart feel for the first time in years and a revenge-driven pirate to find hope.
And she had brought them together - briefly, but it didn't matter. The man was going to die and he was at peace with it.
"She misses you. She wears a shoelace around her wrist that belonged to you."
There was that sad, soft smile again on the hunter's lips, and Killian tried to fight back the tiny spark of jealousy of knowing that him and Emma had obviously shared their own story. He knew he had no right, but... he was only a pirate, after all.
And pirates didn't enjoy sharing their treasure.
"I missed her too, even not knowing what it was I was missing. Just like you did," he told Killian, giving him a knowing look. He chuckled softly, and suddenly an idea hit him.
"Would you like me to tell her something?"
There was wonder in the Huntsman's face at the idea, and Killian couldn't blame him. He could only thank Emma for this chance at least of being able to say goodbye. He had spent too many centuries regretting not telling Milah how much he loved her one more time - even if there being a last time hurt like hellfire.
He was glad he could help this man, be his voice, last words to his love or not.
"Could you give her a message?," he asked Killian, eyes big and pleading. "I left something for her but I don't think she ever found it."
Killian wondered what could he mean by that, but was happy to oblige either way. He owed it to him. "Of course."
Henry stared from the door at the four people sitting by the fire, enjoying their glass of wine and chatting quietly. He padded silently to them, and they smiled when he came to stand next to them.
He first hugged David, and when his uncle - , no he was his grandfather, Gramps, - let go of him and ruffled his hair fondly, he turned to Snow, kissing her cheek. He couldn't help himself but grip her chin, and she laughed, swatting his hand away and taking the gesture as a game of his.
It wasn't, of course. Emma's chin.
Henry sighed, and steeled himself. He turned to go over to his mother, who opened her arms and cradled him against her chest. He wanted to sob at the prospect of her mother knowing she had had everything she had ever wanted - a loving family, her mother's approval and love, her true love... and he was taking it away from her.
But he couldn't back down now.
He kissed her cheek as he had done with Snow, and finally ran to hug Daniel. He seemed surprised at his watery smile, but when asked if something was wrong, Henry just shook his head.
It wasn't fair.
He was going to miss him so bad.
At least you got to say goodbye. Most people don't get that much.
He remembered saying those same words to David back in Neverland, when they had gone on their trek to Dead Man's Peak. Right after he had seen how the prince hugged his daughter fiercely and then kissed his wife, tender and soft and longing. Killian had been torn while witnessing that moment - he pitied the man, even though he was going to help him, or at least offer him the chance to save himself, staying stranded in the bloody island for the rest of his life notwithstanding; but at the same time he had been incredibly jealous.
He knew it would be the last time he saw them. He got to say his farewells.
Oh, the irony.
He had spent the day prior at Milah's side, reaching for her touch at every single minute, not leaving her out of his sight. Taking in with a smile the little quirks and mannerisms he had fallen for over the years - her low humming when she was distracted, the way her lips curled at his jokes until blossoming into a dazzling smile, her impatient waving away of rebel locks of hair on her face.
He tried not to let thoughts of Emma's own little traits - the things that had made him fall for her, - taint these moments with Milah. And when somehow a memory of her hit him, he felt sick all over again.
They had stayed in their cot in the captain's quarters for long hours, sometimes talking, sometimes in silence. Sometimes loving each other, sometimes holding the other - Milah almost lazily, while Killian gripped her against him like she would disappear at any minute. Killian was almost afraid of letting the despair he felt show through his actions, but his love didn't seem to mind at all the onslaught of attention directed at her. Sure, he had always been tender and observant with her but that had been different.
He hadn't known there was a due date to their happiness.
Now, he did.
Killian stared down at her, now asleep, contentment clear in her features as she snuggled contentedly to his side. He didn't bother stopping the tears now, his hand - his left hand - reaching out to touch the silky strands of hair spilling over the pillow (pillow she had insisted on buying, a color he had detested at first but had caved on at her pouts). He bent down to lay a kiss over her forehead, her cheek, her nose, and finally her lips, softly, almost a brush of skin on skin, not wanting to wake her up.
Forgive me. Thank you. Thank you for loving me. I love you. I miss you. I already miss you. I will miss you every single day.
Carefully maneuvering himself as to not wake her, he slipped away from the bed, one last lingering glance in her direction before leaving his quarters and stepping out to the deck. He walked over to the spot she had once died, where the Dark One - the crocodile - Rumplestiltskin - had taken her life...
...and his hand.
He recalled the spinners words when he and Henry had visited them, a shudder coursing through his spine shaking him to the core. "You will have to revisit a moment that happened at the time, replay it as close as it was as possible." When Henry had asked, they had given him a sad smile, telling him it wasn't up to him to do this, it was no time for him to be a hero, not this once: he hadn't even been in the Enchanted Forest back then. They had set their eyes on Killian, then, informing him that it was up to him.
He had to become Captain Hook.
When Henry had understood what they meant by that, he had looked completely horrified, and had almost broken down in his resolve - if only for just a brief moment. Killian knew the boy had felt ashamed afterwards, believed himself weak, but he had made sure to remind him every hero had a low moment before stepping up.
He had also insisted on how what had to be done was a small price to pay when compared to the sacrifice Emma had made, nowhere near as painful as hers.
He steeled himself and reached the exact spot, memories of that day clenching his heart and managing to make him falter in his step. He slipped his hand inside his breast pocket to fish something the spinners had given him in order to play out the scene as vividly as it was possible.
A magic bean.
He closed his fist over it after inspecting it wonderingly, clearer memories, not so polluted by heartbreak and horrible agony, of Emma handing him another bean to travel to Neverland, finally offering him a sliver of trust so they could go after her son.
This was why he was doing it. This time, to go after her.
Not letting go of her face, her expression, her, he slammed his eyes shut, hand curled in a fist with the hidden bean inside, meanwhile his right one unsheathed his word.
Her eyes as she looked confusedly down at him, a conman laying between corpses. Her broken 'maybe I was, once' and the tears in the corner of her eyes when she left him chained up that beanstalk. Her hair the only bright spot in the night he shot Belle and that car had hit him. You and I, we understand each other. Her insistence on helping at the helm during the storm in Neverland. The broken expression on her face when she attacked that Lost Boy in their fight with Pan. Their kiss. Her tenderness whenever she was with her son, when she accepted comfort from her loved ones...
The sword swooshed down, and he wouldn't have been able not to scream even if he had wanted to. Everything was fading away in a swirl of colors - the blue in Liam's jacket, red as Milah's pendant, green as the pixie dust Tink had lent him, the brown with read tints in Belle's hair, black like Red's fur, white as the gown Snow wore at their ball, the barely there hint of a golden hue in the horizon like...
...like Emma's hair.
He passed out with that last thought coursing through his mind, right hand still gripping the bean as everything around him collapsed.
Emma woke up screaming in agony, holding her left hand against her chest. Wrecking sobs escaping her, she kicked the sheets violently as she cradled her arm gently, wondering what position she must have been in for it to hurt so much. Leaning against the headboard, she clenched her eyes shut and took a couple of cleansing breaths, mustering all her courage to examine it, fearing she might have torn her skin in her sleep.
Weird, she didn't remember having any other nightmare.
The fingers of her right hand reached out to touch her left wrist, and to her surprise she found the pain gone.
She stared at the perfectly fine limb in bewilderment, still dazed. She could almost feel the lingering fire coursing through her wrist. She turned it and brought it closer to her face, inspecting her tattoo confusedly.
On an impulse, her lips leaned down to press a cool kiss over it, as if soothing the ghost pain she was no longer feeling.
When she woke up the next day, Emma's hand was still gently snuggled against her heart.
She looked up from her book when she heard the knocking at her door. Peeking at the clock sitting at her bedside table - 8:15, huh? - she ignored it for a moment, assuming it'd be someone who had gotten the wrong door.
She was definitely not expecting anybody.
In fact, she believed she hadn't gotten any visits since she had moved back to Boston.
It was better that way, she knew. Don't get close to anyone, and they won't be able to hurt you. They won't have the chance to leave you.
She was getting more comfortable on the couch, draping her blanket over her legs and repositioning the book on her lap when the knocking resumed, and she rolled her eyes, annoyed. It'd better not be any drunk who had somehow slipped through the doors of the building and had stumbled upon her door.
An excuse on the tip of her tongue to kindly tell whoever it was to fuck off and leave her doorstep, pronto; she strode to the door in her pajamas, not even bothering to fix her hair or look the least bit decent. Not that she was interested in dazzling whoever it was that kept knocking, God, would they just wait a freaking second...
She froze when she finally opened the door hastily, a curse about to leave her lips and something about having a little bit of patience when she noticed the two figures standing before her, expressions equally awed as hers.
They were there.
They were at her door, they had knocked, she had gone and opened the door and they were just... there. Standing there. For her.
God, she had done it. She had gone mad. Oh God, what if she had developed some sort of schizophrenia, and that was why she was projecting? Was that what it was called? Because there was no way they could be there, Henry, her son, and Hook, her... her pirate. They were supposed to be back in the Enchanted Forest, living their happy endings. That had been the deal; if they were there - which they couldn't be, she couldn't believe they were, she didn't want to believe they were, not to discover that it was all an illusion, a dream, God, what if it was a trick of Pan's? - then it meant the deal was off, and Pan would be after Henry again, wouldn't he?
She was going to pass out.
Please don't let me pass out, please, let me stare at them some more...
"Mom, it's us. It's really us."
That did it. Hearing her son's voice for the first time in months, after imagining it so many times every night and in her head and her dreams, Emma broke.
She fell to her knees, and before she knew it Henry was running to her, hugging her with all the strength an eleven-year-old could muster, and there was only white noise, sobs mixing with laughs as she caressed her son's face, drinking in every feature she feared she had forgotten since he had left her side. Henry was crying too, burying his face in the crook of her neck and not letting his arms go from her, as if afraid that she'd disappear.
Picking him up in his arms, she got up, still hugging Henry to her and letting the scent she had always come to place as his envelop her. Her son.
And then she met Hook's eyes over Henry's head.
She would never know how long they stared at each other, or who looked more afraid, more shocked, more broken at that moment.
She let Henry on the ground, even if everything in her screamed at her to not let him go, never again, never, but she needed a moment. After that night and that dream... could it be possible she had really talked to him? Had she done it? How? And why? And how had they actually broken Pan's curse?
Stepping inside the foyer, he closed the door behind him and looked her up and down with a beaming smile. "Swan."
It hurt to smile back, terrified that it'd turn into a grimace as she attempted to fight back a sob, but she managed. "Killian."
If it was possible, his eyes lit up at hearing her call him by his name, and she knew he was thinking of that dream too, when he had introduced himself as Killian Jones and not Captain Hook. Where he had had two hands. Her forehead scrunched up in confusion, and she stared down to find that he was wearing the prosthetic hand he had worn on special occasions. Before she could question him though, he told her, "Looking lovely as ever."
A sudden blush stole her cheeks at that, suddenly self-conscious of her choice of attire. "My pajamas are not exactly a little black number," she countered, trying to appear unaffected by the way he was obviously staring at her.
Killian - Hook - God, her head hurt just thinking about all of it - fixed his impossibly blue eyes on hers, and her breath hitched. "I'm afraid you'd look stunning in pretty much everything, my love."
She could feel her cheeks flushing even more at that, and she tried to hide it by playing with her hair. Setting a hand over Henry's shoulder, she smiled down at him until her own need for answers was awakened.
"How the hell did you find me?," she croaked, voice wavering and incredulous because really, if they had gone back to Storybrooke how did they know she hadn't decided to leave somewhere else?
Henry and Hook shared a look, and after her son jerked his chin at the pirate, he sighed and fished a small pouch from one of his large leather coat's pockets. He waved it in front of her, arching an eyebrow. "Pixie dust."
Emma furrowed her eyebrows, confused. Wasn't that supposed to... you know... make you fly? How had that helped them get there?
Hook just shook his head at her, and she knew she'd find out eventually. There was too much to say, to think about right then. She knew he would tell her.
"And... how did you... I mean..."
Henry seemed to understand whatever she had been fumbling to ask, and she saw how he beamed up at the leather-clad pirate with pride. "Killian did it. He brought us back. He..."
"Lad. That's a story for another day. I'm sure your mom just wants to be with you and to get back home to see her parents," Killian interrupted him with a stern look, and Emma understood what he was doing - he was trying not to overwhelm her, and she really appreciated it, she did, but she also wanted to know what he had done, how had they found out she was out there, how had they realized she even existed if they had had no memory of her for months...
Henry stared up at him in confusion. "But..."
But Emma didn't need to hear it. Instead, she said it.
"You gave it up."
Killian and Henry turned to her, and the understanding, the loss, the pain in their faces almost crumbled her to pieces all over again. They had been happy - she did not know how, or with who, even if she could probably bet, and they had given it up. For her.
"We all did," Henry affirmed with a sad nod. She attempted not to let more tears fall, but it was futile at that point.
She had been so lonely, so lost - so done. So sure they would not need anything from her, not their savior, not after she had taken care of their wishes coming true, their lives and happiness fixed. And yet here they were, her true loves knocking at her door, literally. They had put it past them, choosing her.
They had chosen her.
No one had ever chosen her before, no one. Not her parents, deciding their land's destiny was far more important that growing up with her, not her first foster family, not Neal, not anybody.
But now here they were. Because they had chosen her.
Killian approached her until they were facing each other, and it was the same look in his eyes, the same expression, the same vulnerability she had seen for the first time when they were in Neverland, what felt like a lifetime ago, in the Echo Caves and he had shared his darkest secret. For her to get to Neal. For her.
He was always choosing her, wasn't he?
He raked his eyes over her, and she belatedly wondered if he was doing the same she had done earlier with Henry, committing to memory every detail of her face, terrified that, if they lost each other once again, he wouldn't have a proper memory of her. "Emma, you are my happy ending. I don't need anything, I don't want anything but you."
She reached for him then, one arm wrapping itself tight around her waist, the other diving into her hair. Then his mouth was on hers and she was breathing into him, breathing him, and taking all of him even as he did the same for her. He held her like she was something precious, something to be cherished - something he had lost and had found back.
It opened something inside of her, something she had feared she would never get to have, not again.
And somehow, it had come back to her, knocking at her door when all hope had been lost.
All happy endings start with hope, Mary Margaret's voice whispered in her ear.
They pulled back, forehead against forehead, noses brushing, and she didn't know if she wanted to laugh or cry anymore, if someone could die of happiness and heartbreak, all at once.
She stepped back from him, even if he didn't let go of her waist and she was not complaining, she was not at all happy slipping her hand from him either, and motioned for Henry to come to her side, tucking him against her. He stared up at her, hazel eyes glinting happily, and she couldn't stop the smile that curled her lips in response.
"Now let's go home," Killian said, and she nodded, letting them guide her wherever they wanted.
She had already found her home. It had come knocking on her door.
so... there you go. final chapter of the story.
Hope you liked it - I... had quite a hard time writing this. It hurts me so to see Emma hurting (BABYYYYY) - so does Killian for that matter. Ugh. Who thought being so emotionally invested in fictional characters was a good idea in any way?!
thank you Cee, you special unicorn, for your betaing. *mwah*
See you soon, dearies. xoxo
PS: 'Make This Go On Forever' and 'Somewhere A Clock Is Ticking', by Snow Patrol. Loads of Snow Patrol, ngl :)