title: never hit so hard in love
summary: I will never stop choosing you – KillianEmma
dedication: Sonya, the Mercury to my Venus. happy birthday my fabulous little shutter-bug.
never hit so hard in love
He's always been able to hear them crying. The lost boys, that is.
And from the way Swan keeps tossing and turning in her makeshift bedroll, Killian knows she can hear them too.
"It's not an easy thing, being abandoned," he says, quietly enough that his voice won't wake the others – that she can ignore him and pretend to be asleep, if she wants.
He knows enough of loss, after all, to know those who've suffered it don't always want to talk about their wounds. He won't force her.
But Emma sits up abruptly, blowing her hair out of her face with something like exasperation. "What do you know about being abandoned?" she asks, pulling her knees up against her chest.
"Plenty, lass." Despite trying for lightness the words come out flat and heavy, like stones. Milah, Liam, his father – all of them are ghosts crowding around the flickering campfire and tugging at the blackened, shrivelled thing in his chest.
Not so shrivelled anymore, little brother. The whisper belongs to Liam, a voice he's pushed down and tried to forget since the moment he watched his brother's body disappear into the ocean.
Since the moment he declared himself a pirate.
"You lost someone here, didn't you?"
He has to fight down the vicious words rising in his throat, sharp-edged like glass and designed to hurt, to drive people out and away from this festering wound inside him, the hurt places where Liam and Milah were torn away without warning.
Instead, Killian forces himself to smile that shit-eating grin he wears just for her.
'You and I, we understand each other.'
"You're quite perceptive when you want to be," he murmurs, tilting his head up so he can look at the stars instead of her burning stare.
"I'm sorry. It must be…hard, coming back here."
There is real, quiet compassion in her voice. But not pity – never pity, not from Swan. He's never been more grateful for that than he is now.
"This is the second time I've had to come back," Killian says, more to the stars than to Emma. "It gets easier."
A lie, of course; it doesn't get easier at all.
"I went back," she says, and then stops, biting the end of her sentence off hastily with a look like a cornered animal. Killian holds his silence and very carefully doesn't look at her; at the way she clenches and unclenches her hands into fists and hunches her shoulders like she's curling in on herself. He waits.
"When I got out of prison," Emma murmurs, so quiet and sure it's like her momentary battle over whether or not to share and care even happened, "I went back to the first home I ever lived in. The Swans."
He doesn't like the anguished twist of her mouth as she speaks and he wants to kiss it away, to feel her lips on his again and oh how desperately he wants her –
"They were your first family," he surmises, voice gentle.
He knows without having to be told that it didn't work out. An Emma Swan who'd lived happily-ever-after with that first family, the so-called Swan's wouldn't have had that diamond hard look in her eyes the day they first met.
An Emma Swan who'd had a happy childhood wouldn't be able to hear the lost boys crying, as he can.
"I was with them until I turned three," Emma adds, surprising him. "And then they gave me back. Gave me up."
They didn't want me anymore, she doesn't say and it cuts right through him, a jagged knife-edge on scar tissue which has never quite healed over. He thinks of a dark night and a cold floor.
He thinks of waking up to the sound of the sea and realising that father was gone.
Looking up, he sees Emma watching him with the firelight reflected in her blue eyes and all the bad memories fade, dim just a little.
When did she get so close? He can almost taste the air which touches her bare skin, can remember how her hair felt, tangled between his fingers…
"That," he murmurs, "was the biggest mistake they ever made. Whoever they were, they don't know what they missed out on."
"I know," Killian tells her, quietly earnest, desperately willing her to believe that yes, you're bloody wonderful. He thought so the first time he laid eyes on her, when she leaned in with that close-lipped smile and said I'm pretty good at telling when people are lying to me.
He doesn't miss the quick dart of her eyes to his lips and back. Save for the distant crying of children, Neverland is still and quiet and bloody hell, if she keeps looking at him like that he'll move the forest for her so she can get her son back.
(And he's already let the Crocodile on his ship).
He loves the feel of her name on his lips, wonders if she'll ever use his own. He wonders if he'll ever be anything other than Hook to her.
'She's finally starting to see me for the man I am.' And here, with her skin lit up by the glow of the campfire, as she looks at him with those hauntingly blue eyes, it feels like she not only sees that man, but likes him.
Her hands are fisted in his coat, pulling him closer. Or maybe he's the one leaning forward, he doesn't know anymore, all he can feel is that Swan has somehow become his centre of gravity when he wasn't looking. One day he turned around and there she was, with her walls and her determination and the sort of dogged bravery that pirates especially admire.
"Killian," Emma says, voice ragged and breathless and he's a split second from kissing her when he hears someone sit up, cracking their joints nosily enough to burst the private little bubble which enveloped them so briefly.
It's enough to make her freeze, eyes still closed. Her hands go limp and draw away.
"Emma?" Neal asks blearily. "Emma, what are you doing?"
Killian can't move, but he watches her face shutter closed – the face of the orphan he climbed the beanstalk with; the face of a woman who has only ever lost what she loves.
"Nothing," she says. "Go back to sleep, Neal."
It cuts, to see that barrier go back up that fast – but he knows all about shutting people out, doesn't he? He's done it too many times to count.
Look out for yourself and you never get hurt, he remembers. So he turns that blinding grin on Neal – Neal who abandoned her, Neal who didn't fight for her – and delights in making this man who is almost a stranger squirm.
There is too much of his father in him now and isn't that funny? Milah fought for the things she loved, but her son has never been brave enough to try.
"You need your rest," he says, even as he remembers that earnest, saddened boy he once fished out of the sea. "Your boy needs you, doesn't he?"
"Yeah," Neal agrees, but his eyes are wary. "Emma you should get to sleep, too."
She says nothing and Neal eventually sighs and lays back down, rustling the leaves on the jungle floor in an attempt to get comfortable.
Killian looks towards Swan, but her face is like marble and he knows the moment is gone. But that's alright; boundaries are something he knows how to respect.
And he has the feeling now, that their shared moment – that kiss which shattered his world and turned it on its head – was not just a one time thing after all.
They all gave you up, one way or another, he thinks, watching her from the corner of his eye. But I won't make that mistake, Emma.
He wonders if he'll get to tell her that, one day.
notes: probably not what you were expecting from the prompts you gave me ooops?
notes2: I have never written OUAT before good god I'm sorry if this is terrible
notes3: Neal is the kick of the cockblock apparently. I wish he'd bugger off and leave Emma alone because you done fucked up son.