The first thing Regina was aware of was a soft masculine voice, singing a slow sea shanty.
I dreamed I saw my own true love,
Lowlands, Lowlands, away, my John.
She came to me all in my sleep,
Lowlands, Lowlands, away, my John.
I dreamed I saw my own true love,
My Lowlands, away!
And then I knew my love was dead.
Lowlands, Lowlands, away, my John,
I dreamed I saw my own true love,
My Lowlands, away!
The voice was mournful, and yet soothing. It reminded her of her father, of the looks he gave her behind her mother’s back. The looks that said that he loved her and would do what he could, but there was only so much within his power.
The next thing Regina noticed as she continued her slow ascent from unconsciousness was that her hair was damp and the top of her head was cold, but the rest of her was blissfully warm. And that swaying motion wasn’t The Jolly Roger – she was being rocked in someone’s arms. A someone who had wiry muscles and a strong chest.
A strong, naked chest.
Regina’s eyes snapped open. Her first sight upon fully waking was a patch of dark chest hair. She tensed, and the crooning song stopped.
“You awake then, love?” came the voice of Captain Hook.
Regina pushed away from him, opening her mouth to tell him in no uncertain terms that she was not, and never would be his ‘love,’ but her retort fizzled into white hot outrage as she saw that not only was Hook completely nude, but she was as well. That no good disease ridden bilge rat had undressed her!
She pulled the tatty blanket that had been spread over the both of them up to cover her breasts, and shoved Hook off the cot with one foot, sending him sprawling on the packed sand floor with a satisfying whumph.
They were in a ramshackle beach shack from the appearance of things. The walls were greying wood, speckled with salt spray and dotted with barnacles. From the shape of some of the boards, and a faded inscription on one wall that said The Interceptor, the wood had been salvaged from wrecked ships. There wasn’t much in the way of furniture. Just the cot made of bamboo reeds on which Regina was lying, a chipped chamber pot, a fire pit in the center of the shack, and a single chair. Hook had placed the chair near the fire and draped their wet clothes over it to dry.
There was a waterlogged satchel next to the door (which was little more than a curtain of woven palm fronds). Regina could make out the end of Hook’s spyglass protruding from the flap of the bag, along with the handle of what looked like a pot. His sword stood upright against the wall next to the door, the sheath lying next to it. It wouldn’t be good to keep the blade in leather drenched with salt water.
All of this, Regina took in within seconds, her thoughts skittering back to their last moments on the ship. The mermaid attack, the useless arguing with Snow, Snow’s squeamishness, the mermaid’s curse, the tidal wave, and then her sense of gravity shifting as the ship capsized…
Regina looked at Hook, her anger fading when she concluded that he had saved her life. She raised an eyebrow and made to say, I assume that we washed up on shore, and you brought me here? Since you undressed me in order to share body heat, I’ll forgive the liberty. This time.
Only when she parted her lips, no sound came out.
She frowned and tried again.
Hook was watching her with narrowed eyes, his spread legs doing nothing to hide his assets. He seemed unconcerned with his nudity, barely even aware of it, and so Regina chose not to react to it either. While she did not particularly want Hook gazing upon her, she had no problem at all looking at him, and she hadn’t had a man since Graham…
Not that she would seriously consider bedding Hook. He was uncultured and crude, no matter how beautiful. And, though she would not admit it, even in the confines of her own mind, he was a mirror of herself, one that she could not bear looking into for long stretches of time.
She tried again to speak, and reflexively raised a hand to her mouth when no sound came out.
Hook nodded to himself with the look of a man confirming a suspicion. “Can’t talk, can you? Sea Witches are really fond of that one. Happened to me once, but Milah had me right as rain in no time.”
Regina glared at him, and Hook held up his good hand in a placating gesture. “No need to look like that. I’ll explain.” He stood, the metal of his hook catching the light of the fire. Without his sleeve to cover it, the stump of his left arm was red and puckered with scar tissue, the only part of Hook that wasn’t roguishly handsome. Regina decided she liked it for that reason alone.
“Seems to me,” Hook said as he prodded at their clothes, testing the level of dryness and rotating a few pieces, “that the mermaid’s final curse has latched onto you, most likely because you’re the one that killed her. Usually the spell would steal your voice for the mermaid’s use, but she’s dead so I’ve no idea where the bloody thing is. Here’s the trick.” He eyed her, and something in his expression made her muscles clench. “Only thing that can return your voice to you is True Love’s Kiss.”
Regina squeezed her eyes shut.
She was going to be mute for the rest of her life.
Hook wisely left Regina alone after the revelation of the mermaid’s Curse of Silence. Announcing that he was going to hunt up something to eat, he pulled a cheap tin pot out of the satchel by the door and exited the shack, still naked, leaving Regina to her thoughts, of which there were many.
Taking advantage of Hook’s absence, she went to dry her hair by the fire, the thin blanket loose around her shoulders. She’d be no help to Henry if she fell ill.
No matter what curse she was under, what problems she was facing, Henry was what mattered. What would always matter. She wasn’t always a nice person, and certainly not a good person, but she was a good mother, and she would kill everyone on this island to see her son safe again.
With that in mind, she tested her magical reserves and found them to be nearly replenished. They weren’t anything near like they were in the old days, when she had hoarded power through bloodshed and stolen hearts, and she was handicapped by her inability to speak, but she should be able to use gesture based spells just fine, and most battle magic was of that kind. Good.
That strength assessed, Regina moved to the satchel by the door and emptied it of its content, swiftly realizing that it was comprised of items that Hook had saved from the wreck of The Jolly Roger. Perhaps they had washed up on shore, and later the pair of them would be able to scour the beach for more finds that would help them to rescue Henry.
Aside from the pot that Hook had taken with him, there was a spyglass, a dagger, an empty water skin, a few sticks of kohl wrapped in oiled cloth to keep the damp out, and a corked jug of rum that tasted only slightly of seawater when Regina had a sip of it. It was awful stuff, making her cough, but slid down her throat in a blissful blaze of warmth that banished the ice from her bones.
She heard Hook’s returning footsteps before he got to the door, and hurried to arrange her blanket to preserve her modesty. The blanket wasn’t long enough to cover her from neck to ankle, so she compromised by allowing a good bit of bosom to show, her mother’s voice in her head reminding her that a display of décolletage was right and proper, but a lady must never reveal her bare legs.
Hook pushed his way through the door of palm fronds with his usual leering smile, and a pot full of oysters.
“Dug them up on the beach,” he announced. “And set a few crab traps as well. We should have a decent dinner, provided that you can magic us up some water that’s fit to drink.” He looked down and noticed the things from the satchel laid out on the sand. “See you’ve been into the treasure.”
He picked up the dagger, and as casually as if they were friends or lovers and had eaten together hundreds of times, sat down and began to shuck the oysters and serve them to Regina on the half shell, deftly cutting the meat loose without wasting a drop of the liquor. It was rather impressive, considering that he only had one hand. He alternated handing one to her with eating one himself, and Regina thought he must be as hungry as she was, perhaps more so considering that he had done all of the work of carrying her to shelter and recovering what he could of their belongings, not to mention digging for oysters.
Halfway through the pot of oysters, Hook’s nudity allowed Regina to see that he was becoming aroused. He caught her looking and waggled his brows at her. “Can’t help it, can I? Oysters are aphrodisiacs and I’m in the company of a very beautiful woman.” His eyes raked over her. Regina shivered, and told herself very firmly that it was because of a lingering chill. “But don’t worry, love,” Hook went on. “I trust you not to take advantage of my poor, vulnerable self.”
Regina tried to snap at him for calling her ‘love’ again, but pressed her lips into a tight line when she remembered she couldn’t speak. Firmly ignoring the little voice that whispered that it wasn’t just the oysters or the nudity, that there had been a sizzling attraction between them since the first time they laid eyes on each other over thirty years ago now, Regina changed the subject. Using her index finger on the sand floor of the shack, she wrote, Where are we?
Hook leaned over to read her words, and she could feel the heat from his skin.
“Old secret place of mine. I used to come here when I needed time away from the crew and the ship, but I was always careful not to make it too nice so that it wouldn’t attract the attention of Pan.”
So they had made it to Neverland. Regina erased her previous question with a sweep of her hand, and wrote, The others?
“No sign of them,” Hook answered her. “You want to look for them?”
Regina shook her head. We assume they’re dead. Henry is what’s important. We find him.
Hook nodded, pragmatic as always. “Aye. I say we take a few days to build up a store of food and water and retrieve what we can from the Roger, and then we set out for the island’s interior. That’s where Pan will have Henry.”
Regina shook her head again, more vehemently this time. Henry could be in danger! There is no time! She underlined the message several times, already missing the persuasive power of her voice, and looked at Hook.
He met her eyes, and Regina was reminded that like herself, he was much older than he appeared. Older even than she was – only a few years younger than Rumple, in fact. She could see the years there, in his irises. He was tired. Tired of fighting, ready for his ending, happy or otherwise. And wise in ways that she could only contemplate.
And he had come back to this place of nightmares in order to help her son. Because, in a way, he was Henry’s grandfather, and he felt he owed this to Baelfire.
“I’m all for swashbuckling,” Hook said in the same gentle tone he’d used to sing the sea shanty, “but if we want to help Henry, we must make sure that we’ll survive long enough to get to him.”
Regina grit her teeth, nearly vibrating with tension, but eventually let out a frustrated shriek that was no more than a puff of air, and ceded to Hook’s experience.
He smiled – he always seemed to be smiling – and stood, helping her to her feet and drawing her towards the cot. “Then I suggest we sleep.”
Regina stopped him with a hand to his chest, giving him a look that she hoped adequately conveyed, What do you mean ‘we’?
Hook returned her look with one of his own. “The sun is setting and the beach is cold at night. Our clothes won’t be completely dry until morning. We only have one blanket, and we’ll be warmer together.”
His sensible words were belied by his cock, which was growing hard before Regina’s eyes.
Hook shrugged. “It’s a compliment, love. I’ve always liked the fiery ones.” He winked at her. “But I’m not a fool. I’ll not do anything to you that you don’t want. You might not be able to scream, but you’ve enough magic to hex my bollocks off, and I rather fancy them where they are, thank you.”
I’ll not do anything to you that you don’t want.
Hook was offering her sex, but would not force it on her. That was more than Regina’s late husband, the king, had ever done.
And though she had scoffed at the thought of bedding Hook just hours ago, that was before she knew that her voice was gone, before she was aware of her curse, before she was fully cognizant that Hook was possibly the only person left in this land who would willingly help her find her son.
Regina wanted to forget, if only for a few moments. She wanted to fill up the empty place inside her, the place that seethed with darkness and silence and yearned for magic and misery. She wanted sweat and heat and pleasure. Selfishly, perhaps, but that had never stopped her before. She wanted the comfort she had found in Hook’s singing and the warmth that was in his arms.
She pressed a hand to her abdomen and worked a charm that would protect her from pregnancy and any diseases that Hook might be carrying. He was a pirate, after all. Then she dropped her blanket and stepped close to Hook.
“Oh, hello,” he whispered huskily, his breath and mustache tickling Regina’s neck. He suckled at her throat, his hand gripping her hip and his hook skimming coldly over the skin of her back.
They didn’t kiss, because that wasn’t what this was about. They’d both already loved and lost, and Regina had never heard of anyone finding true love twice, not even in a fairy tale. Instead, she pushed Hook back onto the cot, and he called encouragement, murmuring obscene, dirty things that she liked more than she thought she would. He loved a woman who knew what she wanted, loved a woman who wasn’t afraid to be rough with him, and she obliged, forcing him into a seated position and impaling herself on him, riding him with thought only to her own pleasure.
Hook writhed beneath her, grunting and moaning, his lips on her breasts, hand in her hair. Regina tossed her head back, her own moans silenced by her curse, and rotated her hips. “Killian,” Hook panted against her chest, just over her heart. His hips were jerking up in shallow thrusts to meet hers, and Regina pursed her lips, a snap of her fingers making the cot sprout reed bands that wound themselves around Hook’s thighs, keeping him still. He made a joyful, choked sound that was almost a sob. “By Davy Jones, Regina,” he cursed, his fingers digging into her scalp. He pushed against the restraints, but she could tell he liked them.
“Killian,” he said again, this time in a whisper. “Think of me as Killian, not Hook. Every lass I’ve ever bedded has called me by my real name.”
Regina rolled her eyes and rocked her pelvis against Ho – Killian’s. It wasn’t as if he would know the difference, seeing as she couldn’t speak, but she obliged him in her thoughts anyway.
It was a small thing to ask, and he was being so very good.
Morning came, and Regina woke much as she had the previous day, with her nose buried in a patch of Hook’s – Killian’s – chest hair.
She sat up, shrugging his arms away, and clambered over him to use the chamber pot and get dressed. Royalty she may be, but she was no delicate flower. She’d roughed it in the woods a time or two before, and done things much more distasteful than relieve herself with a slumbering man in the room.
Her clothes were thankfully warm and dry, and she donned them, wrinkling her nose at the smell and feel of the salt that had dried into the fabric. Her blue velvet jacket was ruined as far as appearance went, but it was still warm, so she didn’t discard it. She could always repair it with magic later, but for the moment she was cautious. She didn’t want to attract the attention of Pan before they were ready to face him by performing too many spells too close together. Before she had mastered the way magic worked in Neverland. It seemed… wilder, more primal here.
She felt more primal here.
Hook – Killian! – rolled out of bed and looked blearily in her direction. She was wearing her fitted black trousers and white blouse, though the blouse was still unbuttoned, revealing her brassiere. Killian blinked, stepping up to run his hand over the silken bra cups. “Convenient and comfortable looking, that,” he said. “Though overall, I think I prefer corsets.”
Regina snorted, started to say that he wasn’t the one who had to wear them, and was struck with the effect of her curse anew when no sound issued from her lips. Speaking was such an automatic action that it was easy to forget, at least for a few seconds, that there was no point in her trying.
Killian didn’t notice her consternation, or was at least pretending not to. One could never tell with him. He slipped one finger into the left cup of her bra to brush against her nipple. “Course,” he said, “you’ve never really needed a corset, have you, love? I remember that dress you were wearing the first time our paths crossed. The back was so low that I was hard pressed to keep my head in the game.”
He smirked, and Regina pulled away from him, hoping her expression adequately conveyed her exasperation. Henry, she mouthed at Killian.
His expression went serious. “Right you are.”
He gave her nipple a final tweak and then stepped back to retrieve his own clothes, shimmying into his tight black breeches and throwing on his black shirt and red vest, followed by his heavy medallions and large rings. All at once, he looked much more dangerous, and Regina remembered that this was the man she had contracted to assassinate her mother, and expected to succeed. For all that the pirate acted the clown, he was canny enough to have survived for centuries, and a skilled enough swordsman that it took the Dark One to permanently injure him.
As far as consorts went, Regina could do worse. Unlike her mother, she had always judged the worth of men by their abilities, not their pedigree. Though it was odd to think in those terms again. Consort. There were no consorts in Storybrooke. There, Killian would have been her lover, or her boyfriend. Her… whatever Graham was.
But this was Neverland, and they were allies who shared a bed. Consort was the word that applied.
Killian examined the warped leather of his sheathe before strapping it to his waist and sliding his sword into place, then pulled on his boots. After picking over the pile of things from the satchel, he tucked the spyglass into his coat, put the tin pot and the empty water skin in the satchel, and handed Regina the dagger. “Know you’ve got magic, love, but you should have a bit of cold steel about you in a place like this.”
Regina frowned at him, and bent to write in the sand. Don’t call me ‘love.’
Killian raised a brow, his dangling earring twinkling in the morning light that filtered in through the cracks in the walls of the shack. “Sure thing… poppet.”
Regina glared her deadliest glare, and Killian laughed, his teeth very white against his beard. Regina contemplated stabbing him with the very dagger he had placed in her hands, but he was more useful alive and uninjured, and it was beneath her dignity to kick him in the shin.
But she wanted to.
Instead, she turned her back on him and tried to work out a way to wear the dagger. There was no sheathe, but Regina was wearing a belt. Surely it wouldn’t draw too much attention to change the shape of something that already existed…
A few gestures reshaped the leather of Regina’s belt into a wrist sheathe, which she put on, sliding the dagger inside, the tip pointed toward her elbow. She put her jacket on over the weapon, and let her arms dangle by her sides. The bejeweled pommel just barely showed.
“Very nice,” Killian complimented her. He’d just finished adjusting the half dozen smaller knives he kept secreted about his person, and now he was approaching Regina, the oiled cloth pouch of kohl in his hand. “This will help with the glare off the water and the sand,” he told her, before extracting a greasy stick of black and lining her eyes for her.
“Very nice,” he said again, when he was done. “Black’s your color, poppet.”
Regina couldn’t stop a small smile. She’d often thought the same thing herself.
Taking the kohl from Killian, she lined his eyes for him, and much more artfully than he was wont to do himself. The effect was striking, but it was hardly the first time Regina had seen Killian wearing eyeliner, so she remained unmoved.
Their fingers were smudged.
Regina put the stick of make-up back in its oiled pouch, and then she followed Killian down to the beach.
Killian took her first to an outcropping of rocky shore that held several tidal pools, explaining as they went that he’d set a few crab traps there the day before. “I’d left the things in the shack way back when, and luck was with us and they were only rotten in a few places. A few reeds was all that was needed to patch them up. There was a net too, but it was no good, more’s the pity. I don’t have time to weave a new one.”
Regina nodded along to his monologue, not able to do much else. It seemed that Killian was determined to make up for her lack of speech by talking twice as much as usual. Regina didn’t mind so much. It was better than her own silence echoing in her head, and her worries for Henry.
She mulled over Emma for a bit, feeling sorry that she was likely dead, if only because she was a powerful asset for Henry’s protection. While still supremely irritated by the woman, Regina could not deny that the Savior was effective, when she was on your side.
For the first time in a very long time, she thought of Snow and Charming not at all.
“Here we are,” Killian said, retrieving the first of two wooden traps from the tidal pools. It was filled with small crabs and other crustaceans. “Is there any spell you can do to keep them fresh?” he asked as he hauled in the second trap. “Fish I could steam and salt to preserve for our trek, but without a net or a line, fish are damn hard to catch.”
Regina waited until Killian looked at her, and then nodded to indicate that she could do what he asked. He beamed at her in response, and tucked the two crab traps under his left arm, bracing them against his side. Then he pulled out the water skin with his right hand. “And if I fill this, you can purify it?”
Regina nodded again, and took the water skin from Killian and pressed it between her hands, willing it to render any water held within it drinkable. It wasn’t a spell, not really, so much as her forcing reality to shape to her desires. It made sweat break out on her brow, but Regina didn’t want to take an easier path. She still wanted to avoid alerting Pan to their presence if at all possible. Hopefully Pan and his blasted Shadow would assume that they had all perished in the shipwreck.
When her work was done, Regina lowered the skin into the tidal pool to let it fill, then raised it to her lips and drank.
The water was cool, clear, and salt free.
Pleased with herself, Regina drank until her thirst was quenched, and then passed the skin to Killian. He took several long draughts himself, refilled the skin, and tucked it into the satchel. “Good job, poppet. Now come this way and I’ll show you where to find the oysters, and some bananas too, if you don’t mind climbing a tree.”
Regina made Killian climb the tree.
That afternoon, they feasted on steamed crab and shrimp cooked in banana leaves over the fire. Killian reclaimed Regina’s dagger to shuck oysters, and Regina spent her time enchanting their satchel so that it would keep any food they put in it fresh. She explained as she did that it would save her energy and be less conspicuous if she only had to cast the spell once, and so it made more sense to enchant the container rather than the food itself. She did not explain that her magic was that of fire and death, not hearth and healing, and so any spells she placed on food likely wouldn’t take anyway. Unless, of course, she was trying to poison it.
Once Killian had nodded to show that he’d read her message in the sand, Regina swept the floor clean and wrote out, We need signs. Agreed upon signals between us, in case there is nothing for me to write on.
“Not a bad idea,” Killian agreed. “You come up with them then, poppet, since you’re the one who has to use them. Teach me when you’ve decided.”
Pleased with how cooperative he was being, Regina smiled at him and ate a few oysters as she thought.
The first sign Regina came up with was rather obvious. She got Killian’s attention and crooked her first two fingers into a hook, and then pointed at him.
“Right. That’d be my name, then. Hook.”
Regina shook her head and wrote in the sand. Not Hook. Killian. Provided you stop calling me ‘love’ or ‘poppet.’
Killian’s answering smirk was beatific, something like lightning in his eyes. “Majesty, then,” he told her with a laugh. “For you’re a queen after my own black heart.”
The next oyster Killian opened held a black pearl inside. With an exaggerated show of gallantry, Killian went down on one knee and offered it to Regina, still in the bed of the oyster, like a true knight would to his monarch. “A token, majesty.”
Regina wasn’t certain what game Killian was playing. His intentions and loyalties were as treacherous and ever shifting as the sea itself. Truthfully, she admired that about him, when she wasn’t the one who might fall prey to his plans. But she accepted the pearl. Gemstones could be used to store magical energy. It was another tool in their quest to rescue Henry.
She couldn’t tell Killian to rise, but he took his cues from her body language and stood, pulling her into his arms. “May I take you to bed?” he asked her, but Regina knew better. Killian didn’t want to take, but to be taken.
So she did.
With a few hours left until sunset, Killian went to reset the crab traps while Regina walked up and down the coast, looking for more wreckage from The Jolly Roger. Provided the haul from the traps was as bountiful tomorrow morning as it had been this morning, Killian estimated they would have enough food to leave for the center of the island the day after. Regina wanted to be sure they weren’t leaving anything useful from the wrecked ship behind. When she indicated this, Killian just shrugged, told her to beware of mermaids, and left her to it.
Regina spent several hours on the beach, waiting for the waves to bring in the flotsam that she could see floating just beyond shore. The first bit of dark wood that was delivered to her was a ruined cask of flour. Regina frowned at it, and emptied the white muck out of the little barrel. The flour was of no use now, but they might find a use for the container.
The next few things to reach shore were just so many shards of wood. Useless, even for feeding the fire, for they wouldn’t be dry before Regina and Killian left the shack.
Another piece of useless trash later and Regina was starting to get sunburned, and feel foolish to boot, but she stubbornly stuck with her self-assigned task, waiting until the last bit of darkness floating in the water got close enough for her to grab it without getting too wet.
And this find made all the hours of waiting worthwhile.
The actual piece of wood was of no consequence, but hooked around it, caught on the splintered side, was the belt on which Emma had worn her gun. It was unbuckled. Perhaps Emma had taken it off while she was drowning, trying to make herself lighter… But no matter. The gun was still in the holster. They had a gun. Regina didn’t know much about modern guns, but she knew that as soon as the gunpowder dried, they would have at least nine shots.
Here, in Neverland, where most things of magic were vulnerable to Cold Iron, this was a powerful weapon indeed.
Regina fished the belt out of the water and fastened it around her waist, resting her hand on the butt of the gun, as she had seen Emma do many times. She practiced drawing it with both hands, until she felt confident that she could do so smoothly. Then she picked up the empty flour cask and headed back to the shack.
Killian wanted to examine the gun, and Regina allowed it because she could tell he would be insufferable otherwise. He turned it over and over in his hands, making little noises of exclamation and humming to himself, and made Regina see red when he took the thing apart.
What if you’ve just broken it! she wanted to shout at him, well remembering how long it had taken her to learn how to operate all the machines in her house when she first woke up in Storybrooke. She stomped her foot, but he pretended not to hear her, though she knew very well that he did.
“So that’s how it works,” he murmured, spreading the pieces of the gun out on the cot.
Regina gave his shoulder a shove, grabbing his chin and forcing him to turn and look at her. He raised both his brows and she glared at him for all she was worth, gesturing at the gun and making the hand signal they had agreed meant whatever you’re doing is making me angry.
Killian – Hook, she refused to think of him as Killian when he was being so idiotic – heaved a sigh. “Don’t get your knickers in a twist, majesty. I paid attention when I was taking it apart. I can put it back together.” He demonstrated, carefully and meticulously reassembling the gun. “There’s just one bit I don’t understand,” he said, pointing to a little switch on the… handle part, above and behind the trigger. “And, with your permission,” he added, falsely servile, “I would like to fiddle until I’ve figured it out.”
Regina huffed and went to double check the food they’d stored in the satchel.
They left the next morning after Killian had retrieved the crab traps and they’d had a breakfast of bananas. Killian led the way, already complaining that hacking through the jungle was going to dull his sword and he’d lost his sharpening stone, though the plants did not yet grow close enough together to impede them. Regina tuned out his ramblings, paying attention only when he stopped to point out some danger in their path.
She resolutely did not allow herself to think on the fact that Henry did not have a guide to warn him of the same dangers.
Hook carried the satchel of food, and Regina the water skin. The flour cask was deemed too burdensome, so they left it in the shack. Regina wore the gun, though Killian had protested that until she pointed out that he had their only sword; she was likely as good a shot as he was from years of tossing around fireballs; and she was a primarily long range fighter, while he was not. He’d finally agreed to let her wear the gun in exchange for another sexual romp, a price that Regina had been happy to pay.
They pushed through the jungle for seventeen days. Regina kept track by cutting marks into a stick with her dagger. The air was hot, the jungle dark and close and full of peril, beams of sunlight that reached the ground rare. Regina started braiding her hair to keep it out of her face and off her neck, and wished she had something to keep her lips from chapping.
They ran out of seafood on the fifth day, and began to subsist on what they could forage. Fruit, mostly: bananas, coconuts, dates, mangos. Killian killed an enormous snake that dropped on them from a tree around day ten, and they ate a quarter of it after roasting it on a spit over the fire, and dried the rest of the meat into jerky with the aid of magic to speed the process along. Killian had eaten snake before in his travels, and assured Regina that it was safe and not that bad. She found the taste similar to pheasant, or quail, and wished she had a vial in which to save the snake’s venom.
They traveled by day, when enough light filtered down through the trees for them to see, and built a fire with sparks of Regina’s magic as soon as it started to grow dim. Killian said that the flames would keep the big predators at bay, and sat close to her, singing sea shanties to keep their spirits up. He never repeated the first one she’d heard him sing, the one about dreams of a dead true love, and for that Regina was grateful. She’d much rather listen to Blow the Man Down and A Pirate’s Life for Me. They at least had jaunty tunes, and made the despair and terror at what could be happening to Henry seem far away.
Every night, Killian made overtures of sex, and Regina took him up on it more often than not. It was an act of defiance, proof that Pan’s jungle had not killed them. Regina couldn’t shout out a battle cry because of her lost voice, so she made Killian scream her name instead, and slept in his arms afterwards because it was safer and more comfortable than the hard ground. She even grew to like the feel of his hook on her skin. It was empowering to know that, at least while in the throes of passion, Killian would never dream of turning it upon her as a weapon.
The longer they were in the jungle, the edgier Killian got. “We should have been there by now,” he mumbled to himself whenever he thought Regina couldn’t hear. Her lack of speech had the odd effect of making Killian occasionally treat her as if she was deaf too.
Regina put his unease down to shoddy memory of the territory at first, but as days passed and his agitation grew more pronounced, Regina began to put stock in his mutterings. She started paying more attention to their surroundings, and became suspicious when she spied a discarded oyster shell lying beneath a tree. How did it get so far inland? Certainly a bird could have carried it, but that was unlikely.
Hurrying to catch up to Killian, Regina gripped his elbow and tugged, signaling she wanted to stop. He turned to look at her, sword in hand. They’d bathed together in a stream that morning, and in the humidity laden air Killian’s black hair was still damp.
“What is it, majesty?” Killian asked, his gaze darting to and fro, looking for signs of danger.
Regina wiggled her fingers. Magic.
“Yours or someone else’s?” Killian stepped closer to her, and slipped his left arm around her waist, his hook resting against her belly, ready to defend her.
Regina made a slashing motion with her right hand, then pressed her palms together and wiggled her fingers again. Not mine. I need to cast a spell.
Killian nodded. “Give us the pistol then. I’ll watch your back.”
Regina smiled a razor sharp smile, drawing the gun and offering it to him. He sheathed his sword and took it, then looked at Regina expectantly.
Seeing that he was ready, she took a step away and closed her eyes, drawing in a deep breath and letting it out slowly. Cautiously, she opened her personal mage shields a crack, wary of letting Pan or anything else into her mind. When she opened her eyes, she viewed the world with Mage Sight.
Mage Sight was one of the very first things Rumplestiltskin had taught her. It allowed a mage to see what around them was touched by magic – a skill with an infinite amount of uses. Regina used it now to examine the trees, to be certain that she selected one that wasn’t magical in the least. It wouldn’t do to offend a dryad or a brownie, or get pelted with fruit and branches from a sentient plant.
Once she had staked out a tall palm that was dull and ordinary in her magical Sight, she drew her dagger and scored an ‘x’ into the trunk, being sure to make the marks deep enough that the ‘x’ would still be visible even when the bark healed.
That done, she shut her eyes again, closing herself off from outside forces once more. Turning to Killian, she signaled that she was finished. He cocked his head, watching her with a shrewd intelligence.
“You think something’s been done to keep us going in circles,” he said, a statement rather than a question. “Pan’s got some voodoo making us think we’re traveling closer to his camp, but really we’re wandering about the same bit of jungle.”
Regina nodded, favoring Killian with a grim smile, tapping two fingers against her temple. I know this.
And she did. The Endless Labyrinth spell was a standard protection. Regina had cast several on the royal forests surrounding her palace in the old days, and had once taught Maleficent how to do it in exchange for a few dragon scales.
And that meant that if Pan really was using the Endless Labyrinth spell, she knew how to break it. She would wait and be certain, but once she was…
Regina gestured forwards to indicate she was ready to resume walking. Killian shook his head at her and took the lead.
They traveled for two more days, Regina examining the trees every morning before they set out. It was on the third morning, just after Regina had rubbed the waxy side of a banana peel against her teeth to clean them and eaten a piece of mango to chase out the taste of sleep, that she saw her marked tree again.
The ‘x’ was an old silvery scar on the trunk, her deep cuts in the wood long grown over with new bark, but it was unmistakably the remains of the sigil Regina had carved herself. Clapping her hands to get Killian’s attention, she waved him over to show him the tree.
“You were right. We’re caught in some of Pan’s hocus pocus.” He traced his hook over the silvered bark, peeling off little shavings of wood. “But you’ll break the spell, now that we know what it is.”
Killian spoke in his Captain’s voice, and Regina wondered if he was giving her an order or expressing his confidence in her abilities. Perhaps it was both. If she had been able to speak, she would have made a sharp remark to warn him to watch his tone, but as it was she simply cleared a spot on the ground and started to write a list of the things she would need in the dirt.
They spent the better part of the morning preparing a spell circle, Killian doing his best to follow Regina’s unspoken directions. A spell circle was not strictly necessary, but Regina wanted to be even more circumspect now that she’d had a taste of Pan’s magic. A circle cut and then burned into the earth, sprinkled with salt, and consecrated with drops of her blood would keep anything that wanted to harm her out while her mage shields were down.
When their preparations were complete, Regina brought Killian to stand with her in the center of the circle and double checked the items she needed for the counter spell. She had a scraping of bark from the tree she’d marked as a representation of Pan’s influence. She had earth and water to represent the island. Now all she needed was the price…
Regina raised her dagger and mimed cutting her wrist, then pointed the blade at Killian.
“What? Really? That’s a bit kinkier than usual, lass.”
Regina pulled a face and flourished her hands in blatant mimicry of Rumplestiltskin’s over the top mannerisms.
“Yeah, yeah,” Killian groused. “All magic comes with a price. I know.” He shrugged out of his coat and started to roll up his right sleeve, but Regina stopped him and gestured to the left. For her purposes, blood from a scarred, incomplete limb would be more powerful.
Killian gave her a long look, but eventually removed his hook and allowed Regina to reopen his old wound.
The Endless Labyrinth spell broke with a sound like a gong.
After the counter spell was done, Regina fetched their small jug of rum and poured some over Killian’s cut to clean it. If she could speak and she had her magic book, she’d be able to do more for him. But the book had been lost with The Jolly Roger, and she was under a Curse of Silence. Nothing would come of wishing, not for her. Her genie was back in Storybrooke, and fairies didn’t come to her call, not since Tinker Bell.
So she poured rum over Killian’s broken skin and seared the bleeding stump with mage fire, then wrapped banana leaves around the tender flesh. And, to her embarrassment, she kissed Killian’s forehead as she had always done to Henry after tending to one of his hurts.
Killian seemed bemused by the gentle treatment. Regina turned her back to him before he could study her face. He was getting too good at reading her expressions by far, something equal parts helpful and dangerous, for surely a day would come when they were enemies again…
But she wouldn’t worry about that. For now, she needed to rest. Then, tomorrow, they would start their search for Henry anew, with the knowledge that they were actually getting somewhere.
Killian held her close that night.
The next few days were filled with the hardest traveling they had done yet. The vines grew so close together that they choked out all light, and Killian barely had room to swing his sword. The ground was treacherous, filled with sinkholes and plagued with sudden mudslides that might send them plummeting down a hill, or off the side of a sheer cliff. Regina had already taken one such tumble and been saved only by her instinctive command to the surrounding vines to catch her.
Worse than that, things moved between the trees. Regina could feel eyes watching her, the hairs on the back of her neck standing up. Some of the things moved like large cats. Others were accompanied by the sound of slithering coils. But the worst… the worst walked on two feet.
“Keep close,” Killian told her quietly. “There’s a tribe what lives here, in the deep dark, that has a deal with Pan. And they aren’t too fond of me, seeing as I once kidnapped their princess. Oh, I returned her sure enough,” he went on, sensing the questioning nature of Regina’s silence. “I just needed leverage to get back one of my crew. The Lost Boys had got their hands on Mr. Smee, and he was a loyal sort. Preferred to keep him alive and close, if I could.”
The nights seemed darker and longer, the jungle canopy blocking out the stars. Their fire was a tiny dot of light in such a vast expanse, and they huddled around it, sides touching, Killian singing a low, haunting melody about a woman waiting for her sailor to come back to her. Regina couldn’t join him, but she mouthed the words of the chorus anyway.
My heart is pierced by Cupid,
I disdain all glitter and gold.
There is nothing can console me
But my jolly sailor bold.
The song evoked memories of Daniel, of the intense, overwhelming love that had made Regina ready to give up her noble birthright and scorn a king, all to be the wife of a stable boy. Killian too, was lost in memory, the eerie descant and oppressive press of the jungle taking him somewhere that Regina could not follow, and would not want to.
They did not have sex. They were tired and covered in mud and they needed to be on their guard. But Regina clung to Killian, her ear pressed against his chest to listen to the beating of his heart, and he combed his fingers through her hair, his surprisingly pleasant tenor flowing up and down through all twenty verses of My Jolly Sailor Bold.
My heart is pierced by cupid,
I disdain all glitter and gold.
There is nothing can console me
But my jolly sailor bold.
Regina felt a prickle of warning before the attack came. She opened her mouth to scream, to tell Killian to duck – but no sound came out.
Thinking quickly, she pulled Emma’s gun from the holster on her hip, pointed it up in the air, and squeezed the trigger. Her first attempt did nothing, and Regina snarled, blaming Killian. He really had broken it when he took it apart!
And then Regina saw the little switch near the trigger, and with an instinctive half memory of seeing Emma prepare to fire her weapon, slid the little metal bar toward the barrel, then tried again to shoot into the air.
The resulting crack-boom made Regina wince, and all the ambient sounds of the jungle cease. Then there was the flapping leather sound of Killian’s coat as he whirled to face her, and the swishing ring of his sword in the air. “Regina!” he shouted, eyes wide, starting for her.
But he did not get far. Seeming to melt from the shadows, as if they were part of the jungle itself, three dark skinned warriors came to stand between Regina and her pirate. They wore their hair in matted dreadlocks, and they were dressed in loincloths and body paint and little else. Necklaces of bone clanked around their throats, and similar ornaments garlanded the ends of their deadly looking spears.
“Well, well, well,” came a heavily accented female voice. It was rich in tone, and seemed to belong here, among the vines and tigers.
A woman stepped into view. She was wearing a dress of woven grass that had been dyed red, and a short cape of striped orange fur. Her inky black hair was an intricate arrangement of cornrows, adorned here and there with the feathers of exotic birds. She carried what Regina recognized as a blowgun, thanks to Henry’s obsession with Indiana Jones movies. “If it isn’t my old friend, Captain Hook,” the woman said, barely pronouncing her sibilants and popping her lips on the ‘d’s. “You son of a wild dog. I told you if I ever saw you again I’d kill you.”
“Now don’t be like that, L’jiljan,” Killian addressed the woman, though his eyes never left Regina. “I’ll have you know that my mother was a whore, and quite good at her work. My father never had any complaints, at any rate. Speaking of dear old Dad, he sends his regards. He’s been quite close with Tia Dalma in recent years.”
The woman, presumably the tribal princess Killian had warned her about, paused for a moment. But then she bared her teeth, waving a dismissive hand. “Do not think to trick me, Captain Hook. Tia Dalma’s friendship with your father has no bearing on you, or anything that happens in this land.”
Killian cut his eyes down at his hand, and Regina shifted so she could see what he was looking at.
He’d changed his grip on the hilt of his sword in preparation of throwing it.
Regina firmed her jaw, tightened her fingers on the gun, and hoped Killian’s skill at reading her face would tell him that she understood and was ready.
“Can’t blame a bloke for trying,” Killian told the princess. Later Regina would learn the woman was called L’jiljan Tigar, The Tiger Lily.
Then Killian threw his sword at one of the warriors standing between himself and Regina, and the world narrowed into a red and black tunnel of violence. Time moved strangely, like a collection of grisly snapshots put into a slideshow. In one instant, Regina was shooting at L’jiljan Tigar. In the next, Killian had wrested a spear from the grip of one of the warriors and shoved it all the way through the man’s gut, so far that the point was protruding from his back. There was a flare of scorching heat, and the jungle around them was on fire, and it was Regina’s magery that had done it.
She tossed another fireball, this time cooking the largest of the warrior men into a black husk without hesitation or remorse. Killian let loose a whoop and a bloodthirsty laugh, and a small part of Regina cowered in the face of this ruthless pirate, but the larger part was more attracted to him than she had ever been. She joined in his predatory laughter, though hers made no sound, and turned to watch him toy with the last warrior still standing, dancing and feinting with a joy for the sheer physicality of the fight. He certainly made a pretty picture, with his bright eyes and his coat snapping briskly in the wind.
L’jiljan had faded back into the jungle, presumably to get reinforcements. They’d best not be there when she returned, so Regina casually tossed a fireball at the man Killian was fighting, and rolled her eyes when Killian protested that he’d just been getting warmed up.
Once the last warrior’s screaming had died down and she'd put out the brush fires started by her magic, she went to inspect the body of the man Killian had gutted, and Killian followed her, helping her strip the corpse of anything useful.
“Reckon we should eat him?” Killian asked, appropriating a knife that had been stuck in the belt of the man’s loincloth. “Been a while since we’ve had fresh meat.”
Certainly not! Regina thought, making a disgusted face. She’d done some admittedly depraved things in her long life, but cannibalism was something she’d yet to stoop to.
Killian winked at her. “Pirate, majesty. I’ve had long pork a time or two. S’not too bad, if you don’t think on it too hard.”
Regina wasn’t sure if she believed him. Killian often made outrageous claims, spinning outlandish tales that he swore up and down were true, only to admit at a later date that he’d made the thing up in its entirety.
She rolled her eyes and was raising a hand to sign her doubts to him, when Killian’s face changed. He leapt over the corpse of their fallen foe, crashing into Regina and wrapping his arms around her, spinning them in place.
Two feathered darts sprouted from his neck in quick succession.
Regina looked up, over Killian’s shoulder. L’jiljan Tigar hadn’t gone for reinforcements after all. She was standing on a high limb in a tree, her feet braced apart, lowering her blowgun. When she saw Regina looking, she smiled and waved, bold as you please.
Killian had shielded Regina with his body.
Quick as a striking snake, and with just as much accuracy, Regina whipped out Emma’s gun and shot L’jiljan right between the eyes, freezing that sickly smile forever on the woman’s face. The Tiger Lily’s body toppled and fell from the tree, but Regina never saw it hit the ground because at that moment Killian’s legs gave out, and he dragged her down with him.
His lips were turning blue.
Regina grabbed his shoulder and shook him, shoving him off of her. He flopped, their legs tangling together, so much dead weight.
Extricating herself, she turned him so that he lay on his back, and leaned over him. It took a long second for his eyes to focus on her face. “Sorry, majesty. The darts are poison tipped. I can’t move anything below my neck. Can’t feel anything either, or I’d ask you for one last thrill.”
He tried to make one of his usual suggestive expressions, but it fell far short. “In a few minutes it’ll stop my heart beating, right enough.”
Killian was dying.
Killian was dying.
Regina made a slashing motion with her hand. No!
He wasn’t allowed to die. She wasn’t through with him yet. She needed him! For Henry. And because… traveling with him was almost like having a friend. Who else would know her expressions so well that they could have a conversation without Regina saying anything at all? Who else would be bothered to learn her personal version of sign language?
Who else would care enough about Regina to throw themselves into the path of a poisoned dart, not because it was the right thing to do, for Killian Jones was no hero, but because he didn’t want to see her hurt?
Who would give blood for her magic without batting an eye and laugh while they killed their enemies?
Who would understand her, if not Killian?
Damn this mermaid’s curse! If Regina had her voice, she might be able to spin a healing spell. She’d at least be able to try!
“Don’t cry, Regina, love,” Killian said, his words already faint. Regina hadn’t noticed her tears. “It’s alright. It’s not so bad. Not a happy ending, exactly, but at least I’m not alone. You’re here. That’s more than I thought I’d get.” His eyes unfocused, and haltingly, the notes flat, he began to sing. “…I dreamed I saw my own true love, Lowlands, Lowlands…. Away my John…. And then I knew my love was dead, Lowlands, Lowlands…. Away…”
He stopped, his chest going still. Overcome, tears leaving streaks of kohl around her eyes, Regina put her head down to resuscitate Killian, sealing her mouth over his to push air into his lungs.
In all of the times they had coupled, they had never once kissed. Not a true kiss, lips to lips. It was an implicit rule between them. Even when their joinings were gentle, they suckled necks and nuzzled cheeks, but did not do the one thing that would declare their union to be something other than a convenient satisfaction of physical needs.
When Regina’s lips touched Killian’s, the quality of the air around them changed. There was a sharp increase in pressure, a buildup of pure magical force, and then, just when Regina thought she wouldn’t be able to stand it anymore, the magic bubbled over and the pressure was released with a sonic boom, sending a shockwave radiating out around them.
Regina gasped, something inside her unwinding, and something lost returned.
“Killian,” she said, her voice sounding strange to her after so long without it.
True Love’s Kiss.
Her silence had just been broken by True Love’s Kiss.
Damn that mermaid! Regina thought, it not even occurring to her to speak her outrage aloud.
She loved Killian. Killian Jones, Captain Hook, was loved by Regina Mills, the Evil Queen.
She hadn’t known.
She hadn’t realized, not until this moment. It was so different, so very different from her memories of loving Daniel. Did this mean that she’d never really loved her stable boy at all, and her entire life had been shaped around a, a… an unfortunate teenage crush? Could she really bring herself to believe that?
No. A love may be different, but no less true. Look at Snow and her prince, sickly sweet puppies that they were. Regina refused to believe that any love she felt could be anything like their bond of rainbows and unicorns, and yet she couldn’t deny the truth of what they felt for each other when proof of it had been shoved down her throat several times over.
She had truly loved Daniel, and against all conviction and vows otherwise, she had granted Daniel’s final wish for her.
And this, Regina saw now, was the mermaid’s real curse. This knowledge that the curse brought her in its breaking. She might have borne Killian’s demise if she had stayed ignorant of what he truly was to her. But now? Now that she knew she loved him, his death would destroy her from the inside out, and not even the murder of every member of L’jiljan Tigar’s tribe would satisfy her thirst for vengeance.
“Killian,” Regina said again.
She would not let him die. He was hers now, and she wouldn’t allow it.
She started to chant a healing spell, and when it did not work fast enough she plunged her hand into Killian’s chest and pulled out his heart, forcing it to beat with gentle flexes of her fingers.
Killian’s eyes fluttered open, his hook going to his chest, resting on the skin revealed by his open shirt. His head was in Regina’s lap, and she smiled down at him, stroking his hair away from his face.
“Hello,” she said, her recovered voice full of sultry promise.
Killian’s smile was like a sunrise. “Hello, love,” he answered.
Regina did not protest the endearment.
“You saved me.” He raised his hand to cup her cheek, wiping away a stray tear with his thumb. “My bloody hero, you are.”
Regina scoffed, bending to press a kiss to his lips, wondering how she had gone so long without knowing their softness against hers. “You know we’re not heroes,” she whispered into his mouth.
“Not my hero, then,” he conceded. “My bloody pirate queen.”
“Mmm,” she purred. “I like the sound of that.”
Two days later, when they came across Emma and the Two Idiots quite by chance, they shared one of those speaking looks they’d gotten so good at when Regina was still under The Curse of Silence. Emma and her parents were half starved and one third delusional from eating the wrong plants, and parched with thirst on top of that.
If this is what heroism looks like, their eyes said, then I’m quite happy being the villain of the piece.