So I finally got around to finishing the edits my beta sent to me. So here's a much better version of chapter one. I've also started working on chapter two and hope to finish the first draft tonight.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters.
She finally made it onto a ship.
Not just any ship but the fabled Jewel of the Realm.
Emma had been around the docks and taverns enough to hear the rumors and tales about the crew of the King's favorite ship, the various realms and lands they traveled to and the exotic riches they brought back to fill the kingdom's coffers. She hadn't paid them much attention. After all, it hadn't mattered much to her. It wasn't like a poor barmaid would ever get to see any of that wealth and, well, the tavern she worked at certainly wasn't the place where a crew of well-mannered naval officers would visit. She barely noticed the stories anymore they were just jumbled masses of words and phrases that passed through one ear and out the other as she walked by - stories far too fanciful to be anything other than fishermen's' yarns.
It only took one sentence to change everything. It had been a long, hard night when she heard it. The sailors had been particularly loud and handsy, which was annoying but it also meant that they were drunk enough not to notice a few extra gold coins missing at the end of the night. The entire tavern had been a symphony of words and boisterous laughter that bounced off the walls and echoed throughout the room. As she passed one of the rowdier tables, one conversation stuck out above everything else.
It seemed the Jewel was about to embark on a long journey, a mission that would take them to a realm where time stood still - a place by the name of Neverland.
At first it didn't mean anything to her. It was Just another land she'd never see, another lost opportunity. However, as Emma lay awake in her bed that night, she couldn't seem to stop thinking about it. Of the different possibilities and adventures one could have in a world where time stood still, of all the riches and stories that she could amass.
She made her decision before the first faint light of dawn had shone through her window.
It hadn't taken much, a friendly smile and a well-timed giggle to one of the lower naval officers as he'd been lounging on some crates at the dock and he'd been putty in her hands. All she'd had to do was give the poor boy some sob story about she'd always wanted to see a boat as magnificent as the famed Jewel of the Realm and the next thing she knew, she was walking up the gangplank. Now all she had to do was find the captain.
"Oh, this is amazing! Who runs this magnificent vessel?" Emma twittered at the young sailor, trying to make her expression innocent and her voice as breathy.
"Well that would be the captain, ma'am. He's not here right now, though. he's making sure we're all clear at the castle before we sail." A blush spread across the top of his nose and both cheeks. He was a cute thing, but far too young for her taste. Had she been younger (or he older, less gangly and pass the final stages of puberty), she might have considered him quite a catch. For now, though, he was simply a means to an end.
Her expression dropped into one of clear disappointment. "Oh no! Such a shame. I so desperately wanted to meet the man who controlled such a wonderful ship."
"I believe I can help with that, milady," a cool voice responded right next to her ear.
The young sailor's attention shifted from her face to over her shoulder and he quickly straightened to attention.
That only meant one thing. A commanding officer had finally made an appearance.
Emma spun around to face the new arrival and came face to face with the most attractive man she'd ever seen in her life. Forget the younger officer, this man was pure temptation wrapped up in a uniform. Considering, young sailors surrounded her day in and day out was truly a feat.
Dark brown hair, almost black even in the bright light of day, fell in front of his eyes just enough to give him something of a mysterious air. His defined jawline matched with his high cheekbones perfectly, but it was his eyes that really sealed the deal. They were just so blue, almost as blue and tumultuous as the ocean that surrounded them. Expressive, too, even if the current emotion that was displayed in their depths wasn't exactly as positive as Emma had hoped it would be.
"Officer, mind explaining to me what exactly a civilian is doing on this ship right before we're set to leave?" He addressed the sailor though his eyes were focused on Emma. The beginnings of a blush crept up her neck but she refused to flinch. This was a fight she was not going to lose. She couldn't help but notice that he had a bit of an accent that she couldn't place. It seemed that everything about this man was going to surprise her.
"I-I was just giving her a tour, Lieutenant. She just wanted to see the boat is all."
"Oh I see. And what does Miss…?" the newcomer paused, clearly waiting for her to answer. His eyes flickered briefly down to her lips and then back up.
Emma did nothing but glare back at him. "Swan. Emma Swan. And you are?"
The right corner of his lips slowly stretched up into a smirk as he dropped into a low bow. "Lieutenant Killian Jones at your service, milady." He winked as he rose back up and then began to circle her, looking for any possible flaw or anything that have him an excuse to throw her off the boat and back to the docks. Emma didn't move, instead choosing to stare ahead, watching the other sailors as they worked to ready set sail for the journey. Though to all appearances they were absorbed in the task of moving barrels and other supplies from one of the ship to the other, Emma could tell by the angle of their ears and the turn of their heads that they were all very interested in the conversation that was taking place between her and the Lieutenant.
"What do you think of the fabled Jewel of the Realm, Miss Swan?"
She leveled her eyes with his. "I think that I would like to see the captain."
A look of shock flickered across his features before he quickly schooled his expression back into that of carefree indifference. "And why, pray tell, would you want to talk to him?"
Emma took a step forward until she was almost chest-to-chest with him. The scent of brine and leather fluttered up to her nose and it took her a second to realize that it wasn't coming from the ocean but instead from the lieutenant himself. She smiled up at him, a challenge reflecting in the upturn of her lips. "Well that would be between the captain and I, now wouldn't it?"
The look he shot back at her sent a shiver up her spine. There was a sliver of anger reflected in those blue depths and Emma knew she'd hit a nerve. Thankfully, Emma could also tell that he was curious. Good. That was all she needed to get to the Captain. Just a chance.
"Aye, I suppose it is, lass. Well I would hate to keep a determined lady such as yourself waiting. I am a gentleman, after all." He offered her his arm.
Emma scowled down at the offending ligament before looking back up at him, a sarcastic smile painted across her face. Two could play at this game. "Why, thank you, Lieutenant. Whatever would I do without you?" He pulled her across the deck and towards the stern of the ship.
She tried not to gawk as they passed under what seemed liked miles and miles of rope stretching from one mast to the other and hanging down in man-made webs, the sailors climbing up and down them like spiders as they prepared the boat for sail. Working near the docks had, of course, given her some knowledge about the different ships that had come into port and their inner workings, but Emma quickly found that seeing a boat from the safety of the dock or from her bedroom window at the tavern was nothing quite like actually being on deck. The hustle and bustle of the crew was exhilarating, if not a little daunting, because she felt like she was constantly in their way since the Lieutenant had seen fit to drop her arm from his hold almost as soon as he had taken it in the first place.
Unsurprisingly, the captain's quarters were located behind the helm of the large brig. Emma supposed for easy access to the wheel in case of a sudden storm or pirate attack. As they approached, Killian stepped forward, leaned down, and opened the hatch that lead down into the depths of the hold.
"Ladies first," he said as he turned back to her.
Emma shot him a skeptical look and then headed down a short flight of stairs and into what seemed to lead down into the officers' quarters. She dropped down into the lower level of the ship, she was immediately assaulted with the scent of wet wood. While it wasn't a completely awful scent, it was strong, making her feel like if she put any sort of pressure on the dark walls that surrounded her that water would pour down from between the slats and onto the floor. From what she could tell, she had landed right in the middle of officers' quarters. Doors lined the hallways to her left and right and glass lanterns hung between the doors. As Jones dropped behind her, he grabbed her bicep and quickly took the lead again, drawing her to the left and dragging her towards the door at the end of the hall.
The captain's quarters were just as she expected, functional and perfect for a naval captain. The bed was small, she assumed uncomfortably so, considering it looked like it could barely fit her body let alone that of a full-grown man. She was surprised to see that the sheets were rumpled and not at all what she was sure was typical protocol. Weren't naval officers supposed to be orderly? In the center of the room sat a dining table covered in maps, pens, and a variety of other instruments used for navigation were pushed off to the side in the far corner. It was there she found the Captain. He was hunched off the top of the desk, examining the different maps that lay across it. She noticed he paid particular interest to one with a landmass she couldn't recognize, fingertips running with focus and determination along seas and valleys that stretched across the pulled fabric.
Lieutenant Jones moved to stand at attention, hand rising up to his forehead to form a salute.
The captain looked up as they entered, eyes lingering over her briefly before returning back to his maps. "At ease, Lieutenant."
Jones relaxed and turned to Emma. "May I present to you Captain Liam Jones. Liam, this is Miss Emma Swan. She has some urgent business she simply must discuss with you."
Surprise shot through her body, setting her nerves on fire and a blush to rise back up into her cheeks. "Jones?!"
"Ah, I can tell by your surprise that my dear little brother left that bit of information out." Liam spoke up from the other side of the room as he stepped away from the map table and moved towards them. As the initial shock seeped out of her system, Emma studied the captain as he neared. The more she looked at him the more she noticed similarities between the two men. Where Killian was leaner, Liam had been graced with much more of a stockier build. His hair was also lighter than Killian's, more the color of fine sand than raven black.
Emma offered her hand to the captain in a daze. Feeling that she had just bitten off way more than she could chew as the captain gently grasped her hand and brought it to his lips for a chaste kiss across her knuckles. She could practically feel Killian's laughing gaze burning a hole in the dip between her shoulder blades.
"Now, Miss Swan, how can I help you?"
His question startled her back to reality like cannon fire. It was now or never.
Emma straightened her shoulders and looked the legendary captain dead in the eyes. "I want safe passage aboard your ship. I can offer payment and what my money can't cover, I'm more than willing to work off in the kitchen."
The silence in the room was deafening. Both the occupants stared at her like she'd grown a second head as opposed to simply asking for safe room and board on the ship. To be fair, Liam was handling it much better than his younger brother was. While Liam's eyes had simply widened and he had gone quite still at her request, Killian had practically fainted, his blue eyes going wide and jaw dropping dramatically to the floor.
It was Killian who broke the silence first. "It's out of the question."
Emma turned her head to look at him over her shoulder. "Last time I checked, it isn't your decision, now is it?" Killian simply glared back at her and moved to step around her so that he was standing to Liam's left. All the better to protest and dissuade him, she supposed.
The captain still hadn't spoken a word and it was beginning to unnerve Emma. She could feel the beginnings of a cold sweat breaking out all over her skin, her palms turning slick. She fought the urge to rub them against the fabric of her skirt. 'Don't let them see you falter, Emma. You can do this. Remember, this is your chance to get out of this godforsaken port town.'
"Tell me, Miss Swan, why exactly do you want aboard this ship?" The captain turned back to stand behind the map table he had been studying so critically before their arrival. She watched as he brought a hand up to rub at his jaw before he brought his eyes back up to once again meet hers.
Emma did her best not to show that she was nervous as she took a deep breath before answering. "It's simple, really. I want a fresh start. I'm tired of working as a barmaid. There's more to life and places to see and I want to see it all."
Liam narrowed his eyes a bit as he considered her. "Ah I see and why did you pick my ship? Any particular reason?"
"Well I wouldn't trust a crew of pirates, now would I?" She deadpanned. A small smile stretched across Liam's face at her answer.
"Liam, you can't seriously be considering this," Killian protested, doing anything he could to get his brother's attention away from Emma and back to him. The captain paid him no mind and continued to stare at her. It was obvious that he, despite Killian's obvious aversion to the idea, was in fact considering her request. His eyes were still focused on her face, scrutinizing every inch and lingering especially on the determined set of her lips and the straightness of her shoulders.
Apparently Liam had finally seen whatever it was he needed to see because his eyes left her face and turned to his brother.
"Why shouldn't I consider it?" There was a calm curiosity in his expression as he looked at his younger brother.
For a second, Killian went completely slack jawed, his eyes widening comically as his jaw dropped back towards the floor. In any other situation, Emma probably would have laughed at the sheer absurdity of it all. However, considering it was currently her future on the line, she did her best to swallow the giggles that were trying to make their way up her throat.
Emma watched as the Lieutenant recovered from his shocked stupor and ran a hand through his hair in frustration, turning to pace away from Liam before quickly spinning back around. "You can't! She's a woman, Liam! It's bad luck!"
The captain let out a small chuckle. "So? We've had women on this ship before. You never complained then."
Killian faltered for a moment, eyes darting around the room as if he could find the answers he so desperately needed in the wood grain of the walls or the fabric of the sheets on the bed.
His gaze shot back to Liam as realization and a victorious smile spread his features, "She knows nothing about working on a boat!"
Liam merely smiled. "Neither did any of the cabin boys, or you for that matter, when they came aboard. They learned and so will she and if she's rubbish, then we'll just send her down to help the cook. She's staying, brother. That's the end of it." The tone of Liam's voice left no further room for argument, a fact that Killian quickly picked up on as his mouth shut with a barely audile snap. Even from across the room, Emma could see the way the muscles along his neck and jaw flexed with the effort of keeping his mouth shut.
Liam moved forward to clap the unyielding Lieutenant on the shoulder before turning to Emma once more. "Welcome aboard, Miss Swan. Lieutenant Jones here will show you to your cabin. As for me, I have a ship I have to ready for sail." He patted Killian on the shoulder once more, nodded to Emma, and then quickly left the cabin, leaving the two of them alone.
Not even the burn of Killian's glare could stop the smile that broke across her face.