Author's note: So a few weeks ago, someone prompted me with the song 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' and the first thing that came to mind was Emma and Killian in the Enchanted Forest and Emma complaining about the cold and it sort of evolved into 'what would life be like in the Enchanted Forest for Emma?' and then it sort of took on a life of it's own and I am sorry for the originally prompter because you probably did not expect this.
And I am done with my graceless heart
So I tonight I'm going to cut it out and then restart
- Florence + The Machine, Shake it Out
Emma stumbles through the portal, falls face first onto the forest floor, hand still holding Henry's tightly. After a moment of stunned awareness (they have done it, they have crossed realms) she hears a low chuckle and glances up to see Hook's hand extended towards her.
"I told you to watch your step, Swan."
Henry is up and on his feet, turning around and examining their surroundings so Emma huffs, places her hand in Hook's, and allows him to pull her up. Her free hand splay across his chest as she stands, fingers clutching at the soft leather of the vest he wears, and she swears she can hear his breath catch. But there is no flirtatious remark, nor a cheeky grin or smirk. If anything, Hook tries desperately to ignore it, stepping away from her as soon as possible.
"Your father should have three horses stabled nearby," he tells her, avoiding her eyes (like he has, more often than not, since she's regained her memories). "Have you ever – ?"
"Once, at a Y camp, years ago," she tells him. His eyes meet hers, confused by her language, but he turns to Henry.
"Better once than not at all, aye lad?" he asks her son, who grins.
"So this is the Enchanted Forest?" Henry questions Hook, who grins back.
"Aye, that it is. And we are going to your family's palace," he tells Henry, who is practically jumping up and down with excitement (he has taken the whole memory-loss thing much better than Emma has, to be honest.)
Then he turns to Emma, and when he looks at her she can see the entire year that she's missed stretched between them, the entire year that spawned Hook's rescue mission (she plans to question him more extensively on how exactly he found her and why he thought true love's kiss would work at all, not just on a woman with amnesia) all in the blue of his eyes, and suddenly she remembers that her mother and father are probably waiting for her, along with everyone else in the kingdom.
While she is eager – very eager – to see her parents again, she shudders inwardly at the amount of hugs she'll have to endure, and puts on a smile for Henry's sake. Even with the new memories invading her older ones, there is one thing that has remained constant and that is the fact that other than in regard her son, Emma is not much of a hugger.
"Well, let's get going," Emma tells them. Hook nods, and leads them deeper into the forest.
Riding a horse is much harder than she remembers, possibly because the last time she rode a horse was when she was twelve, so she is grateful that Hook is there to give her directions (she teases him on how well he rides and he does respond with 'Practice, Swan,' and a saucy wink that she's sorely been missing). He is patient with her, irritatingly so, but they reach the palace by nightfall and her family is there to greet her, along with Belle and Neal. Henry races into his father's arms and she will admit that her Grinch-like heart does grow a few sizes at seeing the father-son reunion.
Regina, it appears, is elsewhere, but she will arrive tomorrow with the small force that she commands. When Mary-Margaret Snow tells her this, it's as if it's common knowledge, which makes Emma wonder what has happened to make them so desperate to bring her here.
While she is welcomed back by everyone from the dwarves to Granny, she glances over and sees her father shake Hook's hand and congratulate him on a job well done. There is a moment, when Hook meets her eyes that she swears there is color on his cheeks, but she wonders if perhaps it's just the cold night air. He talks with her father, Emma is caught up in another hug from Ruby, and when she turns back Hook is gone.
Emma's rooms in the palace (rooms, plural, she is still trying to wrap her head around the fact she has multiple rooms) adjoin Henry's, and are near those of her parents. Her bedroom alone is bigger than her apartment in Boston, than the loft in Storybrooke, than any space she has inhabited her entire life. She makes sure that Henry is settled in before exploring her new home.
This is so foreign to how she's always lived – ready to move at a moment's notice, with barely any money for personal possessions – that it is disorienting. Her bed is full of sumptuous linens and way too many pillows – not that she is complaining – and a closet full of so many clothes that it will be impossible for her to wear them all regardless of how long she stays in the Enchanted Forest.
She finds a nightgown to wear, and pulls back the covers on the bed, settling into the lushest, more comfortable mattress she has ever slept on underneath the softest sheets imaginable. But instead of sleep, her active mind chooses to process all of the events of the past few days, which makes sense because she's been moving so fast that she hasn't had time to really think about it all.
The fact that she's lost a year to magic (sure, it's been a year spent with Henry but it is a loss of time with others dear to her as well) is a bitter pill to swallow, and it makes her uneasy to think that all of her memories of Henry's childhood are just fiction. That is more difficult for her to adjust to, because some things – Hook finding her in Manhattan, for one – are just easier to grasp. The new threat, she can handle that. But knowing that all of the memories of her son growing up are just fabrications or, perhaps, Regina's own memories made to fit Emma…well, she's still having some difficulty there.
But she does not regret returning to her family – does not regret listening to Hook and drinking the potion that would allow her to cross realms with him. She can't, because she's here with her parents once again, and there's a purpose to her life that was sorely missing in New York.
She shifts in bed, rolls over onto her side, thoughts drifting back to Hook and how she still remembers his last words to her, and her own to him before getting in the bug and driving out of Storybrooke. Her feelings about him are less-clear than her feelings about everyone else, but having him there at her side once more, ready to head into battle with her, gives her a feeling of steadiness that has also been missing from her life.
Emma's just not sure that steadiness equates to love, at least not the kind that's accepted as the norm in this realm.
She wakes the next morning to an influx of maids.
Or, whatever the equivalent of a maid is in the Enchanted Forest.
She submits to their ministrations as they dress her in soft leather pants and an elaborate tunic, braid her hair back from her face and make sure that she is fed. She is seated at the small table near the door, eating pastries and drinking hot chocolate, when Hook arrives to bring her to the war council. He is still dressed in black, but instead of the fake hand he wore in Manhattan, he wears his hook. He does not wear his leather duster but his sword is still slung low on his hips.
He looks tired, and Emma wonders if this is the result of crossing realms (she remembers Jefferson's madness all too well).
"Have you eaten?" she asks, gesturing for him to take a seat at the table with her. Hook shakes his head and sits down a bit apprehensively, but takes a fancy pastry when she passes it to him.
"Thank you," he tells her, as she hands him a mug of hot chocolate. "I trust you are ready for some answers, Swan."
"I am," she says. "Is Regina here?"
"Her company has been spotted and she is expected to be here shortly. Neal has taken charge of your lad while you attend council," Hook tells her, glancing at another turnover. She pushes it towards him, and they finish their food in silence.
Emma takes a moment to appreciate it, and to mentally prepare herself for what is to come.
Regina has changed since Emma saw her last. She looks as tired as Hook, as tired as they all do (Hook had told her about Regina's constant battle against the Wicked Witch) and Emma can clearly see that the other woman has turned her mourning over Henry into something more productive, and perhaps a way to combat her bitter legacy.
Regina's company is, interestingly enough, Robin Hood's Merry Men, their leader a tall man who stands by Regina's side when Emma and Hook enter the room. The Queen's eyes meet Emma's, and she seems shocked and surprised and happy, if Emma is completely honest.
"Henry's with Neal," Emma tells the other woman.
Regina nods. "Welcome back," she says, "and thank you, Hook." There's a small smile on her face that betrays her excitement over seeing their son again, which Emma can hardly fault her for.
"Of course, your grace," Hook says with a bow before moving to the far edge of the room and leaning against the wall.
The war council starts with a briefing over the recent activity of the witch, and as her parents, Regina, and Robin talk, Emma struggles to see what was so important that it necessitated her return to the Enchanted Forest.
"What am I supposed to do?" she asks, uncertain, and it is Regina who has the answer.
"The Witch was once a fairy, and so her magic is similar to our own. She was cast out of our realm into another, known as Oz, and – "
"She's going after Dorothy, isn't she?" Emma says with a groan. "Oh my god, are there any stories from my childhood which are still sacred?"
Everyone in the room frowns (except Hook, who hides a smile in his hand).
"You know her?" Snow asks as Regina questions, "You know about Dorothy?"
Emma crosses her arms over her chest, and shifts her footing. "She's trying to get to Kansas, right? Ruby slippers and the wizard and all? Are you guys fighting flying monkeys at the border?"
The room falls silent, and Emma shakes her head.
"Just my luck."
"We need you to help defeat the Witch," Regina says, first one to recover. "We need to keep her out of your realm, and make sure that she doesn't get to Kansas and find Dorothy. And because you have always been impervious to curses cast in your realm…"
"You want me to take the witch down." Of course. Because she's the Savior, and she doesn't get a day off, and the one story from her childhood that she thought was untouched by this realm and its weird-ass magic is actually not.
She really did not miss the sense of impending doom when she was in New York, living with all of those false memories.
Suddenly, everything from the past week – the bitterness that arrived with her returning memories, the feeling of frustration that surfaced moments before, the awareness of her station in this realm complete with maids and fifteen pillows on her bed and too many clothes - is too much for her to bear.
"I need a moment," Emma tells them before stepping out onto the balcony and closing the doors behind her.
She should have known better, but being pulled out of a world where her life is a haze of memories and deposited into one where her services are needed once more – she feels like she's in shock when really, she shouldn't be, because Hook came to get her for a reason.
The balcony doors open and close softly, and she doesn't need to turn around to know it's him.
"I'm sorry," Hook says, his footsteps soft as he draws near. "I am so very sorry that I had to intrude on your life and bring you back."
"Are you?" she asks, anger creeping into her tone. She sighs, leans against the balcony and buries her head in her hands. "Sorry, that was uncalled for."
"I've actually been expecting that response for some time, Swan," Hook tells her. "You're getting slow in your advanced age."
Emma snorts. "Says the man who's three hundred and some change."
This earns her a laugh, and she glances over to see Hook standing beside her, looking at her in that way of his that makes her feel better. "Aye, perhaps it was expecting a bit much of a princess."
"Hey now," Emma warns, "this princess thing is new to me."
"But I am sure that you will excel, like you always do." Hook grins. "However, I'm not sure that the townspeople will know what to make of Emma Swan, princess of the realm."
Emma laughs, and realizes that Hook is doing what he always does – breaking the tension, making her smile. She came out here frustrated at her lot in life, and now she's laughing about the thought of her as a princess.
"Can you imagine me in a ballgown?" she asks, smiling. Hook smirks, but the response that she expects -something about imagining her in many different states of dress – doesn't leave his lips.
Instead, he looks off towards the forest, and is silent.
He has been silent more often than not since they found Neal in Neverland, which has been far longer for him than it has for her. A year has passed in the Enchanted Forest and events that to her were just days ago are ancient history here. It makes her feel off-balance, constantly checking herself before she commits some error.
But there is more than just time that spans between her and Hook – there is a declaration made under duress, a failed kiss (and a successful one), and probably more, moments from the beanstalk until now that echo in each and every one of their interactions.
She knows that Hook loves her, believes that his feelings are not at all reciprocated, and that burdening her with this knowledge is unfair. His guilt and her walls are the reasons that their interactions teeter between easy and tense and Emma still has no way to address what should be or what could be when all that she sees in front of her is the constant need to save everyone else and the lack of time to think about herself.
She sighs, pushes off the balcony.
"Thanks," she tells him. "I needed that."
"Of course, my lady," is his response.
Hook follows her back into the room, where only Snow and Charming remain (of course Regina is eager to see Henry, but Emma knows her parents probably advocated for this private audience, to talk with their unruly daughter).
"Emma," Snow says, reaching for her hands, "I know this is difficult for you and it's unfair of us to ask so much of you."
"It's okay," Emma says, even though she's not sure that it is.
"Regina says that the Witch isn't ready to cast her curse yet, and that we have some time, so we think you should take it. Get acclimated to the Enchanted Forest." Take time to get over everything is not spoken, but it's there, a silent request hanging in the air between Emma and her mother.
"All right," Emma agrees, glancing over at Hook, who nods encouragingly and then back at her parents.
"Let's take you on a tour of the palace," Snow proclaims enthusiastically, and as Emma is dragged out the doors and down the hall, she looks back at Hook once more. His smile, as always, is reassuring, and so she allows herself to be swept onward by her parents, and to try to indulge herself in making up for lost time.