A Little Advice

A day after their arrival in Storybrooke, Charming appeared at the dock without Mary Margaret.

"To what do I owe the pleasure?" Hook asked, though he was fairly certain he knew why the Prince had decided to pay him a visit.

"I thought we could talk," he said as he climbed aboard the Jolly Roger. "About Emma."

Charming gave him a look that implied he wouldn't be leaving before he said whatever it was he'd come to say, so Hook reluctantly gestured for him to take a seat.

"If you're here to tell me to stay away from Emma…"

He defiantly rested a hand on the handle of his sword and leaned back against the solid wood mast of his ship. He was ready for a fight – shoulders rigid, jaw clenched…

Charming held up a hand and a faint smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.

"That's not why I'm here."

His hand fell away from his sword and his brows shot up in an uncharacteristic look of surprise. If the Prince wasn't there to tell him to stay away from his precious daughter, then what the hell was he doing on his ship?

"I've seen you with Emma," Charming explained, slowly rubbing his hands together in front of him. "I know you care for her."

"I do," he answered simply.

There was no denying it at this point. Everyone had heard his confession in the Echo Cave, a confession he never would have breathed a word of, and certainly not then, had he been given the choice. Perhaps it was his imagination, but Charming appeared pleased by his tenacity.

"Emma is very important to Mary Margaret and I," he continued, glancing out towards the sea. "We only want what's best for her, and for our grandson."

"Is this the part where you ask me to do the honourable thing and leave, Dave?"

He tried to keep the rancour out of his tone, but it bled through anyhow. He damn well knew he wasn't good enough for Emma. He didn't need bloody Prince Charming to come and tell him that.

The Prince sighed softly and fixed him with a weary look, "No. This is where I ask you to do the honourable thing and stay."

For a moment he said nothing because his brain was too busy trying to comprehend the Prince's words. In the end what tumbled out was an astonished, "I'm sorry?"

Charming rose to his feet and paced back and forth across the deck, his gait even and self-assured.

"Emma likes to play her cards close to her chest. She doesn't trust people easily and she doesn't let down her walls."

Hook nodded in agreement. He'd seen that side of Emma for himself. It'd taken him a damn long time to convince her to trust him, to let him in just a little. It was the challenge that'd first attracted him to her, but it was the woman he'd discovered behind those walls that'd made him stay. She was a fascinating creature – full of spirit and light and completely unaware of her own strength.

"I watched you two together while we were in Neverland. She's different with you, Jones. Now I won't pretend to understand my daughter's heart because I don't think any father's supposed to, but the fact that she's chosen to let you into her life means something to Mary Margaret and I. It's not the sort of decision Emma makes lightly."

Aye, he knew that too. She'd shut him down countless times, but he'd somehow managed to prove himself to her. Slowly, with an aching wariness, she'd begun to trust him bit by bit. He'd endeavoured never to disappoint her, never to let her down. He fantasized that perhaps in time he would come to mean something to her as well.

"You're good for her, Jones," Charming said with certainty. "Whether she's ready to admit it or not, Emma needs you right now and I think you need her too. Whatever happens in the next few days, we'd like to ask you to stay."

Hook rubbed his hands through his dark hair until the ends stood up in perfect disarray. He'd never expected Charming of all people to show up on his boat and ask him to stay in Storybrooke. He'd hoped it would be Emma. He still did. Her absence troubled him, but he chose to interpret Charming's appearance as a good sign. Then again, perhaps it was just the Prince's insufferable optimism finally rubbing off on him.

"Have you spoken with her then?" he asked softly, not entirely sure he wanted an answer.

"Only a little. She's been preoccupied with Henry, and with Neal."

The Prince's expression soured at the mention of Henry's father. Hook lifted a curious brow but didn't press the issue. Whatever Emma's issue with Neal, it was hers to work out or settle. He wouldn't thrust himself into the middle of it like he had on Neverland. He'd promised to stay out of it, and he would, but knowing that Emma was spending time with Baelfire while he sat alone on his boat didn't sit well.

"It will be Emma's choice," he explained to Charming with a defeated sigh. "I will promise to wait, but if she asks me to leave…"

If she chooses Neal…

Charming commiserated with a nod, understanding his unspoken words.

He couldn't envision leaving Emma behind in Storybrooke, but in the end he might not have a choice. The thought of it formed an ache in his chest that felt remarkably like having Regina dig out your heart. If Emma asked him to go he would abide by her wishes, but it would be the hardest thing he'd done in 300 years.

"I understand," Charming promised with a firm nod and clapped his shoulder. "I know this can't be easy, but Mary Margaret and I, well, if you ever need anything you know where to find us. We'll do whatever we can to help."

He nodded, uncertain how to deal with Charming's encouraging and disarmingly genuine smile and the warm, friendly hand gently shaking his shoulder. Here was the sort of man he might have become had things turned out differently. The Prince was virtuous, self-assured, and confident in his beliefs. He never wavered from his moral code, which defined him as a man of honour, a man worth aspiring to. No one would ever aspire to be like Captain Hook, he knew that, but perhaps he hadn't failed entirely if a man like Charming could look him in the eye and tell him he was a good for his only daughter.

Truth was, even without Charming's speech he would have stayed as long as it took for Emma to return and face him. He couldn't leave without hearing it from her lips, whatever her choice might be. Still, he shook Charming's hand when it was offered and flashed a smile of his own.

"I appreciate you coming," he said, surprised to find that his words were genuine.

They might've clashed at first but he and the Prince seemed to have reached a certain understanding. There was a lot of Liam in Charming and perhaps that's why he welcomed the opportunity to make a new friend. Or perhaps it was because Emma was so very much like her father that speaking with him reminded him of her. In either case, he felt no qualms about inviting the Prince to join him should he ever feel the need to sample his stores of rum.

Charming laughed good-naturedly and shook his head, insisting that he'd had more than enough rum to last a lifetime. As he headed for the ladder, the Prince stopped and turned back to wish him 'good luck' and then climbed down the side of the ship.

Hook stared after the spot a good long while, listening to the sure gait of Charming's boots until they were swallowed up by the pier. Of all the people to visit his ship and ask him to stay, he'd never imagined it would be him.

Author's Note: Just a little drabble I cooked up on the plane back from New York. I originally wanted to include this as part of my follow up to "Partner's In Crime" but decided to cut it out in favour of more...sensual scenes. I guess you could see this as part 2 of 3? I'd love to hear what you guys think!