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The Price of Freedom

Chapter Text

Emma had never been a very good princess. She hated all the royal duties, the long agonizing balls, and above all, the dresses.

If she ever got the chance, she would put on the pants that her dad gave her... Then her mom would start yelling at her, and tell her that is not would a queen would wear.

The arguments between the three went on and on... It was a miracle if they could go a day without fighting about something.

Her parents, Snow White and David were the rulers of the most populated and spectacular kingdom in all of the Enchanted Forest. One day, Emma would become the queen of this kingdom, and rule just as her parents do now. This was something she wasn't ready for, and probably would never be.

She was engaged to Prince Charles, in fact, she had been for as long as she could remember. She had never met him, but his descriptions made her dislike him nonetheless. He was probably boring, and not to mention a prince. By marrying him, there was no way to get out of being queen.

He was an heir that looked forward to the day he would take over the kingdom. She doubted he was her type at all.

She had begged, and begged her parents to let her out of the marriage, but every time, the answer was no, of course.

She wanted to marry for love, not because their kingdom had been sunk into a debt that they couldn't repay, thanks to the ogre wars. King Frederick and Queen Abigail were close allies, and fueled the Charming's kingdom all the money they needed. Abigail's father, King Midas, had the golden touch... Both a blessing and a curse.

In exchange for the supplement of gold, and to unite the two kingdoms, their son and Emma were to be wed when she turned the age of twenty. Unfortunately, that was coming up quicker than Emma wanted it to.

Twenty-eight days till she was stripped of her freedom.

But, there was one thing that had always made her feel better, always eased her nerves. That was the sea. She always felt it was wrong, and was always told it was crazy, but she felt like someday, it would be her home.

Probably because there was one thing she wanted more than anything.

She wanted to defy her parents, and the law, and show them that she was stronger than they thought, that she wouldn't be treated like some fragile antique.

She wanted to be free.

Chapter Text

Killian Jones, more commonly known as Captain Hook, had spent three-hundred years in Neverland, and he was plain sick of it. After years of having no luck trying to avenge Milah, he had gotten to a point where he just wanted to leave.

He had thought over his options, and through a long and tiring process, he made the executive decision to go back to the Enchanted Forest. He could pillage and plunder there, and still look for a path to revenge.

He loved being a pirate, and that was one thing that Rumplestiltskin couldn't take from him.

"Where are we headed, Captain?" Mr. Smee walked up beside him, and assisted hoisting the anchor nervously. He had been a nice companion over the years, but he learned that when Hook decided to do something spontaneous, it was usually because he was either drunk or angry.

"Anywhere but this bloody island... The first place we come to, I suppose. We could head to a tavern, and recruit some more men for the crew. We lost so many to the Lost Boys. I suppose we'll need more to continue our piracy." Hook's speech was short, and anything but sweet. He honestly didn't care who he left behind or how the remainders of his crew felt about it. He was done with the blasted place.

Smee nodded, "Of course." He paused, waiting to see if Hook would reply. "How exactly are we getting off this island, though? I thought P- the boy never let anyone off." Smee sucked his breath in. He hated saying Peter Pan's name, it scared him out of his wits.

The captain rolled his eyes, "Pan has a reasonable side to him. We came to some sort of... Agreement."

"What was it?"

Hook scowled at him, "It's none of your concern. All you must know is that we are leaving the island, and never returning!" Another thing he was sick of... People always in his business.

Smee lowered his head and nodded glumly. "Aye, Captain."

"Brilliant. Now, go make yourself useful, and help the rest of what little crew we have," Hook replied, a hard edge to his voice.

Smee nodded, but had to ask one more question before the Captain became too focused with steering. "What about your revenge, sir?"

"Hmm? Well, I will continue finding a way, of course. We have spent three-hundred years here, but haven't exactly made any progress. It seems we take our quest elsewhere, wouldn't you agree?" He said it an obvious tone, but it almost made the message sound cryptic.

"Of course, Cap'n." Smee turned, and walked towards a man named John, who was having trouble with the ropes.

Captain Hook made his way to the wheel, and looked at the white bean in his hand. Such a fuss the boy had made about it, but in the end, had so generously handed it over.

It was remarkable how much one little thing could do. It looked so useless, so powerless, but it was quite the opposite.

Hook looked around at the ship, which was now floating gracefully along the water.

His crew all stood at attention, looking at him. He ordered them to be prepared as he threw the clear bean into the water.

"Hang on, mates! There's bumpy seas ahead," he called out as he furiously spun the wheel.

Chapter Text

Emma paced her room back and forth, trying to decide what to do. It's not that she didn't like her life now, in fact she loved it. She loved her parents, even though at times it was hard to. She loved her friends. She just didn't feel free, she didn't feel like this was the right life for her.

Since she was being bound to something she didn't want, she made her final decision. She wasn't going to be queen, she wasn't going to marry Charles, and she definitely wasn't going to be placed into the hands of someone she didn't trust, much less like. She came to the conclusion that there was only one thing to do. That was to run away.

Not bothering to pack a bag, she grabbed the pile of gold coins sitting on her desk that she had snatched from her parents earlier. She pulled a satchel out of her dresser, looking for any essentials she may need on the journey. She put the coins in it, along with an apple she had picked earlier.

Walking across the room, she went to her closet, and put on her most casual light blue dress, paired with a light pink cloak. She didn't want people to know she was the princess... Especially if the guards came after her.

Just as Emma was about to leave, she heard a sharp knock on her door. She quickly shrugged off the satchel, and hid it under her pillows.

When she opened the door, she saw her best friend Aurora come crashing through it, enveloping her in a hug.

"Emma! I'm going to miss you so much!"

Emma stiffened against her tight grasp. How did Aurora know that she was leaving?

"I wish you didn't have to go, but your true love awaits! I can't believe that when you come back, you will be twenty, and married! Sorry I can't attend the wedding!" She frowned slightly, thinking it over. "I can't believe that I have to miss my best friend's wedding... I bet Prince Charles is a wonderful man!" Aurora noticed her friend's stiffness, and added, "Sorry if I scared you! Phillip and I decided to head out tomorrow, and I didn't want to miss the opportunity to wish you luck, and say goodbye!"

Emma relaxed, hugging her friend back. So that's what she was talking about. She had completely forgotten that she was supposed to leave tomorrow to plan the final bits of the wedding. They were headed to Charles's kingdom, where she would finally meet her betrothed. She had been so conflicted with herself about it, but thankfully, she no longer cared. She had made her choice to leave, even if it was one she might regret once she acted upon it.

She couldn't believe that she was actually doing it. Her family, her friends, and especially Aurora and her husband Phillip... She might never see them again. It brought to tears to her emerald orbs.

Aurora eyed her suspiciously. "Hey, what's wrong? It's not like you'll be gone forever!"

But I will be, Emma wanted to scream. I'm not coming back. Against her own will, she decided to keep her mouth shut. She wanted to tell Aurora, but she couldn't. Not if she really wanted to get away. There was no way that Aurora would just let her depart.

She shook it off. "I know, I know." She hated lying to her best friend. "But I'm really, really going to miss you." Aurora would never know how much.

Aurora hugged her tighter. "Hopefully the month will go by faster than we think."

Emma forced a smile. "Hopefully."

She gave Emma an encouraging grin in return, and stood there awkwardly as Emma stared at the ground.

A minute passed before Aurora spoke, her voice coming out loudly. Emma chuckled at her friend that never failed to cheer her up, even on the worst days.

"I have to go." She said with sadness. "Phillip is expecting me. Don't do anything stupid without me!" She said sternly.

Emma smirked, "How can I? You're taking all the stupid with you."

Aurora pretended to look offended, but couldn't help the laugh that escaped her. She gave Emma a tight hug with a small smile. "I'm being being serious, Emma. You don't know the safety of home until you venture out into the big, bad world," Aurora said with finality.

Emma breathed. "It doesn't seem dangerous-"

"But it is. You must be careful." She noticed Emma's look, and realized quickly she was scaring her friend. "But don't worry, you'll be fine. You're strong, and you'll have two brave kings, and a prince."

Emma giggled. It was at times like this when she felt like Aurora was more of her older sister than her best friend. She was a full two years older than Emma, and always tried to use that to her advantage, though they both knew that Emma had all the brains.

Finally, after a long talk full of laughter, Emma grew serious. "Aurora?"

"Hmm?"

Emma hesitated. She didn't know how to continue without giving anything away or sounding utterly ridiculous.

"I just want you to know that if anything were to happen to me soon, or if I disappeared, that you are an amazing friend, and I couldn't be more honored to call you that. I would also want you to tell my parents that I love them more than anything."

Aurora looked stunned, but chuckled. "Whatever you want... But the chances of that happening are about one-percent." She winked.

Emma froze. Her words came out shaky and nervous, "Um, yes, I just thought you should know that."

Aurora shrugged, her typical carefree smile appearing on her face. Sometimes she was just so clueless... Emma wasn't exactly nonchalant about her motives.

Aurora suddenly gasped. "I should get back! See you in a month, Ems! I love you!"

Emma smiled back. "Love ya!"

Aurora stepped out of the room, and began to walk off, but turned back to Emma.

"Oh, and on the sea, watch out for pirates. Trust me, they are not the type of people you want to mess with." The features on her face were full of playfullness, but her eyes were dead serious.

Her look made Emma shudder. Maybe she did know something after all.

Chapter Text

Before Emma felt the need to stay, she left her castle. Planting gentle kisses on both her parent's heads, she left a note next to them, on their nightstand.

The note, in her nice, and neat calligraphy read:

Dear Mother and Father,

I know this is a short goodbye. It hurts to write this, but you must know the truth. ...

I'm just not princess material. I faked loving the balls, the fancy dresses, and overall, I faked loving the man who was destined to be mine. I want you to know, though, that I do truly, and will forever love you. Maybe I will see you again when the circumstances are different, but for now, I'm going to look for my happy ending elsewhere.

Your daughter,

Emma

Emma felt tears spring to her eyes as she sat the note on the desk, but she let her mind wander off to what might happen tonight.

A new life for her would begin. She would be free. She would meet new faces, have adventures. It excited her.

But at the same time, it terrified her. What if freedom was nothing like she thought it would be?

What if she was endangered by the world? She hardly knew how to defend herself.

He father could have taught her to fight, but he hardly had the time. The ogre wars had torn him apart. So many people—friends had died, so much debt, so many problems. It changed him.

Emma was so lost in thought that she barely noticed she was at the stables. Looking up, she bit her lip nervously. Was this really happening? As she was about to open the door, she pulled her hand back, and took a shaky breath, preparing herself.

Her heart beat fast. She was going to do it. She was going to be free. Emma grinned, and with no doubts, opened the door.

Her black stallion was there, waiting for her.

She walked up to the horse, snatching an apple from the barrel.

"Hey, Dawn," Emma said excitedly, giving the apple to her. "You ready to go on an adventure tonight?"

The horse whinnied in agreement, and Emma saddled her up.

Emma nodded as she talked to Dawn randomly, whether she understood or not. Other than Aurora, Phillip, and a few other people—including her parents—there was no one Emma liked to talk to more than her horse. You could tell them anything, and they wouldn't spill your secret.

"Where should we go?" Emma looked at the horse questioningly, and if the horse were human, she would've shrugged.

Dawn just stared back at Emma with dark eyes, and a shake of her head.

Emma chuckled. "You're no help." She really didn't care though. She already had a plan. A plan she had been wanting to act upon for a while now.

"I thought we could visit the tavern right outside the kingdom. Get some insight from the other travelers. I hear they tell great stories there as well," Emma said, her eyes glittering with excitement for her journey, and suddenly, they couldn't leave fast enough.

Dawn stomped her feet in anticipation, and they hurried out of the clearing. She was soon outside, and her speed picked up immensely.

"Woah, slow down, girl," Emma murmured gently, but Dawn didn't listen. It's not like it mattered anyway. Emma loved the feeling of the wind in her hair. She felt heavy with burdens, but every step they took, the wind seemed to whisk them away from her, and she immediately felt lighter. She felt free. This was probably the most excited she had ever been.

The horse seemed to run way too slow, and the time seemed slower than ever.

Finally, the small, rickety building came into view.

Emma could've sworn her heart stopped beating.

A man walked up to her. He had dark brown hair and blue eyes. Emma stared back at him, he was pretty cute. Is this what all the men outside her kingdom look like?

She must've looked terrified, in awe, or surprise because the man chuckled at her.

"You new here?"

Emma gave a soft smile. "Actually, yes. I'm really confused and a little lost."

The man nodded. "Well, I'm supposed to take your horse to the stables."

Emma began to get off Dawn, knowing that even if she didn't see her again, Dawn would find her way back to the castle. "Of course."

He chuckled at her again. "I could lead you inside, I guess. Not much to know about a tavern, but I could tell you everything important."

Emma nodded, smiling happily. "That would be great. I never caught your name, though."

The man smirked back at her. "That's because I didn't give it."

Emma frowned, giving him a probing look.

"But if I remember correctly, you didn't give your's either."

Emma blushed a bit. Could she really trust this complete stranger with her name? She didn't really trust him, who she knew nothing about, with her name. A name holds power, and surely as a man who lives and works at the tavern, he would know her. Princess Emma Charming, daughter of Queen Snow and King David. The guards would be here before she could even finish saying Emma.

"E-" she hesitated, biting her lip. "Elizabeth."

The man smirked, an evil and playful glint passing through his eyes that Emma thought seemed very familiar.

"August," he said grinning proudly as if he had just won a pile of gold. "August W. Booth."

Emma raised an eyebrow. "Middle initial?"

"Wayne," he said, smiling.

Emma grinned. "Pleased to meet you," she said, sticking out her hand.

He shook it. "Pleasure's all mine." He smiled at her and then turned away. "Now off to the stables."

Emma nodded, walking beside him. He held Dawn's bridle, and led her off. Emma watched him carefully. She wanted to take off her hood, and reveal her face. She hated hiding behind it like a mask. It reminded her of masquerade balls, and there was nothing she hated more. Never knowing who your partner was, but one thing led to another. Soon you were telling the mystery man your hopes and dreams, and then he turned out to be the villain, and betrayed you. That's what Emma felt right now.

August seemed so trustworthy. He was so kind, and he just didn't seem like the type to lie. Though she couldn't shake the feeling that she knew him.

August noted her unease. They quickly arrived at the stables, put her horse there, and hurried out. Emma was excited about the tavern, no doubt about that. She practically ran out of the stables.

"Elizabeth!" He called out, trying to slow her pace.

Emma stopped, blushing. "Sorry, I'm just super excited and... Nervous," she admitted.

He smiled understandingly. "Don't be," he said as they approached the door. He reached out to clutch the handle, still looking at her. "Just do what I do, and you'll be fine. The tavern can be dangerous, but you just have to know who not to mess with. Luckily, I do. Just stick with me. And, trust me."

Emma forced a smile. His directions all made sense, she could do all of it, except for the last thing.

Trust never came easy to her. She hoped that one day, someone would show her how it do it.

Maybe today would be that day.

 

Chapter Text

Emma inhaled deeply as she took in the sight around her. The men were drunk, with women practically on top of them. Some played dice, and some held glasses high in their hands. This was nothing like her life back home, and Emma loved it. No right, no wrong, and no rules. This was where to be.

Of course, she wasn't going to turn into one of the people that were here. She was still a princess, after all.

Emma turned toward August. "I don't even know how..." She trailed off, and looked at him, pleading for help.

He nodded, grabbing her hand and snaking them through the crowd. The tavern was large, and there were many people.

Emma took in the appearance of them all. Most  looked ordinary, just like August. Some, on the other hand, looked downright disgusting. To be perfectly honest, Emma was a bit frightened. She grasped August's hand harder.

He tugged on it a bit, gesturing with his head to a large group of burly men. One of them was wearing clothes that were charred from ashes. He was the biggest, most muscular of them all, and had half a head of hair. His skin was red and rough, and he looked as if he'd drank two barrels of alcohol—which he probably had.

"That's Pete," August said, talking about the hideous brute. "And his band of miscreants. Avoid them at all costs. They won't go out of their way to harm people, they're usually content with their drinks. They've a nasty temper on them, though. Make 'em mad, and you'll have another thing coming. So, just to be on the safe side..."

Emma nodded. Had August told her that or not, she wouldn't have touched the men with a ten-foot pole.

"Steer clear of Pete and his gang. Got it," Emma said without doubt.

August grinned, "Great. Everyone here is pretty much harmless." He stopped and checked over his shoulder. "Except, don't go anywhere near the p-"

Suddenly, the room was filled with the most amazing accented voice Emma had ever heard in her life. She ignored the rest of what August was saying, and tried to find out where the sound was coming from.

She heard cups clinking together, and dice being thrown across a table.

Emma turned in a circle, trying to find the source of all the commotion, but people hardly gave her room to move. She stopped, seeing a big group huddled around one table. They were laughing, talking, cheering. She couldn't possibly think what was going on.

The owner of the voice that was talking earlier spoke again.

"To the most clever and dastardly pirates who ever set sail on the open sea. And to our return home."

The man stood up and clinked his glass against several other's, and grinned.

He took Emma's breath away, and she hated that he had that effect on her. There weren't very many men in the realm that made Emma want to even give them a second glance, but he was definitely one of them.

He had flawlessly round, deep blue eyes. They were like the calm before a storm, bluer than the sea. His hair was cut close above his eyebrows, and was jet black. It was windblown, the kind of hair that made Emma want to run her fingers through it. He had an attractive stubble growing around his face. He was tall, muscular, and faultlessly built. His eyes had a think line of black around them. He had leather pants, a long ebony jacket that ran down to his knees, and a blood red vest that showed a small amount of dark chest hair.

If someone asked Emma to describe the man in one word, she would've said perfect.

Tons of woman surronded him, and she could finally tell who they were all swooning over. There was definetley a reason for it.

"To Captain Hook," a man shouted, but Emma couldn't understand him, and everyone cheered. The Captain grinned, and so did she.

She felt a force pull her towards the man, and she wasn't about to let a moment like this pass by.

She began to walk closer to the table, but August grabbed her arm. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Emma scowled at him. "Excuse me? That is no way to address a p-" she stopped, biting her lip. She wasn't a princess anymore. About time she started acting like it.

"I mean, uh, why do you care so much? Who is he anyway?"

August looked at him in disgust, and fear. "Hook. Excuse me, Captain Hook," he snorted. "His crew and him have been frequent customers for the past two days. I heard they are looking for new members to join his crew. He's been... Away for quite some time. I hear he lost a lot of men wherever he was. I'd stay away from him. He's dangerous, a thief, and a villain. Plus he's a pirate," August shuddered a bit, rolling his eyes. "He's trying to kill the dark one, Rumplestiltskin-"

"Good riddance," She scoffed, staring at the pirate who was only a few feet away.

Emma had heard stories of the great Captain Hook. She had heard how he had lost his hand, along with one of his great treasures, to a crocodile. After that day, he had turned into a merciless villain. He was said to have killed everyone that got in his way to his path of revenge, but no one knew why revenge towards the crocodile was so crucial for him.

She had always feared him when she overheard people telling stories about the captain. Apparently they were not meant for a young lady's ears, but Emma listened anyway.

But standing here, looking back at him, behind all the darkness in his eyes, the blackness of his heart, she could tell that he was just another lost soul.

Something drew her to him. Usually, she just rolled her eyes at an attractive man who had charm, but this... This was a whole different story.

"I'm going to talk to him," Emma said with a nod, getting an idea.

August panicked. "Are you crazy?"

She grinned, "Probably." She fluffed her hair, deciding to pull her hood down. Who cares if anyone knew who she was? The pirates certainly didn't. Emma flattened her dress, shrugging off the cloak. It was really hot in here, anyways.

She took a deep breath, walking over to the large crowd of people.

Emma pushed her way through the crowd, ignoring August's cries of panic. She got to the table, her eyes never straying from Hook. Her heart beat fast, but he was into his game to notice.

She leaned over the table, her words getting stuck in her throat. How was it even possible for a man to be so beautiful?

"What are you boys playing?" She asked curiously, with a seductive smile.

He kept his glance down at the dice in his hand. "Oh, it's quite simple really, all you have to do is..." His gaze trailed upwards, meeting Emma's, and he stopped talking entirely.

He raised an eyebrow, running his tongue over his top teeth. "And who might you be, love?"

Emma smirked. "Well... I would tell you, but I don't know who you are either...."

Hook shook his head, "Ah, where are my manners? We haven't been properly introduced." He took her hand, and kissed it. "Killian Jones... But most people have taken to call me by my more colourful moniker. Hook."

Emma looked at his left hand which was missing, and replaced by a hook. "Clever nickname," she said, gesturing toward the silver appendage.

He smirked. "So, what does a lovely lady like yourself want with a bunch of pirates? Fancy a drink, a story? Or did you have more enjoyable activities in mind," he said, licking his lips.

She rolled her eyes, but grinned. "A drink would be nice, but-"

Hook signalled a bartender over. "A glass of rum for the lass, and one for myself."

The bartender nodded, and hurried off, obviously scared of Hook.

"So, what were you saying, love?"

The man set the rum on the table, and Hook smiled. "Ah, thank you."

"Well, um," she said, stuttering. "I would like to become a part of you crew."

Hook almost choked on his drink. "You what? Do you think I let just anyone aboard my vessel?"

She smirked at him. "Well, given your character, I didn't think you had it in you to say no to a woman."

"Is that a challenge?" He asked, raising an eyebrow. "Tell me, lass. Why do you want to be part of a pirate's crew anyway? If you wanted to be close to me, all you had to do was ask."

Emma rolled her eyes again, hesitating. "I want to be free. I'm practically chained down to this place. What better way to leave than to join a pirates' crew?"

Hook looked skeptical, biting the inside of his cheek. "Aye, being a pirate is a grand thing, you are very free. But," he said tilting his head and narrowing his eyes. "I don't let people on my ship who won't tell me their name."

Emma pursed her lips together. She knew this was going to happen. Should she trust this complete stranger with her name? She certainly wanted to, but she didn't want it to have severe consequences.

But what if she didn't, and he somehow figured out that she was lying? What would he do to her then? Hook wasn't known for forgiveness when people double-cross him.

Besides, he hadn't been in her kingdom for quite some time, if ever, it seemed.

If he didn't recognize her now, why would he recognize her with a label?

"Emma," she said, and Hook looked at her, pushing her to tell him her last name.

She couldn't though, no matter how much she wanted to. Everyone would know then. Most people just didn't recognize her because they weren't sober enough to, but the pirates weren't drunk yet. Apparently they had learned to hold their rum, she had seen them down multiple glasses.

And the name Emma wasn't too common. But Emma Charming? That's one in a million.

"Swan," she said, lying through her teeth. She liked the sound of it. Emma Swan.

He bought her lie, but not without giving her a questioning glance, and that forced her to give him a sweet smile in return.

"Well, Swan, welcome aboard the crew of the Jolly Roger. Must I warn you though, a pirate's life may be fun, but it is also dangerous. Mind you, a pirate must be prepared for everything. Are you?"

Emma nodded. "I just want to be rid of this place."

Hook grinned. "Brilliant. It's always nice to have a woman on board, eh Mr. Smee?"

"Aye, Captain," She heard from across the table, and recognized the man in the red hat that spoke earlier. She figured that he was the Captain's first mate.

The crew of pirates cheered, but Emma just rolled her eyes.

"So, Captain. When do we set sail?"

"We leave at dawn," he slurred a bit. "Have whatever you need, settle whatever needs to be settled, but if you're late, you don't come with us. Look for the biggest most amazing ship out there. That's the Jolly Roger."

"Aye, Aye, Captain," she said with a sideways smile.

Hook grinned. He was getting drunk, and he could feel it. "That's the spirit, Swan! By the way, do you have any experience with the sea?"

She chuckled, looking over her shoulders as she walked away. "Nope, but I guess you'll just have to teach me." She batted her eyelashes, hearing Hook mutter something back to her, but she couldn't make it out.

This was going to be one interesting adventure.

Chapter Text

Emma had booked a room for the night at the tavern. She didn't want to get drunk, she didn't want to see any men more drunk than they already were, and she definitely didn't want anyone to try anything on her. She couldn't sleep though, hearing the shouts of the people downstairs. She was tired, she should be, but her excitement was getting the better of her. So, after two hours of laying there, being tormented by her thoughts, she went back into tavern.

Emma was surprised by all the people that were there now, and she grimaced.

She was used to large crowds, she had been to hand fulls of balls—but unlike balls, these people were very unsophisticated, very wild, and very drunk.

She stood there for a moment, taking in the sight until she saw August charging to her. She tried to sink back into the shadows, not really wanting to talk to him at the moment. She turned her back to him, and pulled her hood up, but it was too late. He had seen her.

August pulled on her arm, turning her to face him.

"Emma," he said with sadness in his eyes and voice.

Her eyes widened. "How do you know my name, I-I didn't tell you."

August bit his lip, realizing his mistake. He hadn't wanted that to slip out. Not yet.

Emma looked at him, eyes flaming, "How do you know my name?" She repeated, her voice hard. Then fear entered her eyes. "Do you know who I am, too?"

August cast his glance downward. "Yes," he said solemnly.

Emma clenched her fist, her head was a swirl of emotions. Fear, anger, but mainly curiosity.

"Who are you?"

August looked at her, raising an eyebrow. "I already told you-"

"No, no more lying! I know that we've met before, but I can't remember where. You just, ugh, I can't place it, but you know something I don't. So spit it out. You know who I am, yet I didn't tell you. You got mad at me for joining Hook's crew, but we met just yesterday. Why would you be so worried about me? So, I'll ask you again... Who are you?"

August closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Pinocchio."

Emma looked at him in complete and utter shock. "No. No, no, no. Pinocchio is dead. I don't know who you are, but don't try to use my best friend against me to get whatever it is you want. You won't get it," she said, taking a step back. It wasn't that he was pretending to be Pinocchio that bothered her, it was that she knew he was telling the truth.

"Emma, I swear-"

"No," she said again, tears brimming her eyes. "You aren't him. He died eight years ago. You look nothing like him. He had red hair, and bright blue eyes..."

At that moment, she realized that it was him. Her best friend from her childhood was standing right in front of her. Living, breathing, and healthy as ever. She could tell by his eyes that she looked deep into, and saw the same playful and curious look that had always been there.

"Emma, it's me," August inhaled deeply, pain etched across his face.

"But... How? You—you were gone," she covered her mouth with her hands, and looked at him intently, trying not to cry. He held out his arms, and she rushed into them without any second thoughts.

"I know it seems that way, but I had to fake my death. An evil sorceress was after me, and no one could know that she was, because that would give away my secret. We didn't want to make a big ordeal about it, because she knew that I was," he looked around, and leaned into her ear, whispering, "wood."

Emma's eyes widened. There were very few people who knew about his state. His father, Gepetto, the Blue Fairy, Emma, and her parents. How could such a big secret that so little people know about slip?

August nodded at her surprised and continued. "She wanted to kill me in order to take away the magic that had enchanted me. Because the magic that had turned me human had existed from the most powerful magic of all—true love mixed with fairy dust. We couldn't let her get that, else she would be unstoppable. So, we pretended that I had drowned. I snuck off to a different realm using a magic wardrobe. The wardrobe was destroyed right after I went through, but the Blue Fairy supplied me with a magic bean to get back.

"Soon after, she defeated the sorceress. Once she did, the magic bean would glow, and I could return home. And I did. Two weeks ago, actually."

August scratched the back of his ear, and Emma pulled back from him. He had really changed. He was four years older than her, always had been, but something about him was different. He hadn't only aged physically and mentally, but emotionally. It hurt her to see him in so much pain. She had been eleven when he left, and he was fifteen. She had always looked up to him like an older brother, but acted like a best friend towards him.

About the time that he had 'died' was when she met Aurora. And although it may have seemed like she was a replacement, she wasn't. They became friends easily, but Emma still mourned over the loss of Pinocchio, though she loved Aurora just as much.

"I'm sorry, Emma. I didn't want to have to lie to you, and not to say goodbye, but I had to. It was the coward's way out, I know, but she was powerful. More powerful than Blue was at the time. I hope you'll be able to forgive me," he said, biting his lip.

"There's nothing to forgive," she said smiling, and she meant it. "Because I had the minute you explained."

"Thank you," he said, but then his expression grew solemn. "Em, why are you going with Hook?"

Emma sighed, "Pinocchio-"

"August," he interjected. "I'm used to that. Plus, I don't really want people to know that it's me."

Emma nodded, "August, you know I never liked being a princess. I want to find out what it means to be free. I hate being betrothed to Prince Charles I don't love him—"

"You could give him a chance..."

Emma ignored him"—I want to leave and never return." She smiled gently at him, stating the truth, but leaving out the part about her obvious attraction to Hook.

He sighed. "You're serious about leaving?"

She nodded.

"Then let me come with you."

Emma blinked. "I'm sorry, what?"

"Emma, let me come with you. I'm a man, a strong one. I can hold my own against a bunch of pirates. If they try anything on you, I'll be there to stop them. I don't want to see you get hurt, and I sure as hell don't trust Hook. Please Emma. Let me come with you. I can protect you."

"I don't need protecting."

"You might."

Emma debated this, eyeing him, and pushing her tongue up against the side of her cheek. "Okay," she said finally. "But you're going to have to take it up with Hook. Good luck with that."

August smiled. "Do you really think you are getting rid of me so easily?"

Emma pushed his shoulder playfully, giving him a quick hug. "I'm just so happy that you're actually here."

XXX

Emma had spent most of the rest of the night with Pino–Wait no, August—at the tavern. They had been catching up, exchanging stories about the time he was gone.

As much as she wanted to be mad at him, she couldn't. He was back and she was extremely happy about it.

August was a bit jealous that she had met Aurora and Phillip, but who could blame her? She believed that he was dead.

Emma only had one drink. She had become thirsty, and very nervous, but August stayed completely sober. Apparently, he didn't enjoy drinking. Who knew? He worked at a tavern.

People came and went hour after hour, and soon, the only people left were the pair of them, the pirates, Pete and his gang, and a few stragglers.

It was dawn.

Emma and August eyed the pirates intently as they left the worn down building.

The majority of them were extremely drunk—except for Hook—but Emma could see that he was awfully tipsy, and the occasional sips he kept taking from his flask weren't helping his stumbling around.

August and Emma got up and followed close behind them.

She had stopped wearing the hood. She didn't think anyone would be sober enough to tell who she truly was.

Hook yelled at practically anyone who stumbled over their own feet as they made their way to The Jolly Roger, although he was doing the same.

As much as she didn't want to admit it, she felt like she was about to have a heart attack... That's how nervous and excited she was.

She knew tales of the infamous Captain Hook, but he wasn't at all what she expected. She hoped that the Jolly Roger was just as amazing as the stories said. She had heard that it was the fastest, grandest ship that ever sailed.

The lot of them walked for about fifteen minutes, her and August talking in very hushed voices. She didn't want to draw any attention to herself, especially not from Hook. She didn't know why, but he made her blush and grin like crazy, and that irritated the life out of her.

They approached a very large, lonely ship at a dock by itself.

Emma was awestruck. The Jolly Roger was even more impressive than she'd imagined it.

The white sails billowed in the wind. It was huge with blue, red, yellow, and brown stripes, and the cleanliness was surprising. It looked nothing to her like a pirate ship, but a navy ship.

Emma was in awe as she walked on board behind the crew, and Hook shouted orders out to them. They scampered away, putting up sails, hoisting the anchors, and undoing the ropes.

"Like it, lass?" Hook smirked, putting his arm on her shoulder as he snuck up behind her.

Emma smacked his hand off, but instead of rolling her eyes, she smiled. "This is really your ship?"

Hook grinned proudly, "Aye, the one and only Rolly Joger!" He slurred.

Emma turned back to the ship, still smiling, and ignoring his obvious mistake. She knew what he meant. "I have to say, I'm impressed."

"You should be, love. It's the fastest ship in all the realms, even made from enchanted wood!"

Emma grinned, knowing she had said the right thing by complimenting his ship.

Hook and Emma stared at each other for a moment, not saying anything, but then he noticed August. "Who are you?"

"August," he replied.

"And what are you doing aboard my ship?"

"I want to join your crew, sir," August replied strongly.

Hook looked him over. "You're a friend of Emma's, correct?"

"Yes, Captain."

"Hmm. I could use a few more. You look like a tough lad. You ever been on a ship?"

"No, Captain."

"You know how to wield a sword?"

"Of course, Captain." August smiled gently.

Hook looked towards the sky, inhaling deeply. "You should thank you're parents for teaching you your manners. They're what's getting you aboard this ship. You seem to have good form. So, I'll let you join the crew... But don't think for a moment that if anything goes wrong with you that I'll hesitate to feed you to the sharks."

August let out the breath he didn't know he was holding. "Yes sir."

Hook smiled. "Brilliant." He scampered away from them, climbing up on the rope ladder.

"Listen up, men!" He yelled.

Everyone turned to the Captain, and Emma was once again impressed.

"A few extra people have joined our crew. Assist them with their duties on board, and teach them the pirating ways," he called out.

Then, turning to Emma, August, and and a few men behind them, he lowered his voice a bit. "For those of you new to my crew, you will address me as Captain or Hook. Preferably both. This is my first mate, Smee," he said, grabbing the older man's arm, and pulling him over there. "He'll teach you everything you need to know."

Then, he spoke to the entire crew. "Prepare to set sail, mates!"

The crew hurried off, and Hook jumped down to walk over next to Emma, who was stifling a yawn. "I suppose you'll want to rest, love," he said to her.

Emma shook her head. "I'm fine."

"No, really, you must rest."

Emma raised an eyebrow. "Oh, so now you are going to be a gentleman?"

"I'm always a gentleman."

Emma looked at him skeptically. "Not sure I believe that, but fine. I'll play along."

Hook ignored her last remark, taking her hand, and leading her down the stairs. "You can sleep in my bed till I kick Mr. Smee out of his room so that you can have it."

Emma stopped as they approached the Captain's Quarters. "I'm not sleeping in your bed with you."

Hook's eyes flashed with lust and he smirked. "I never said anything about sleeping together, but if that what you desire, then-"

Emma's eyes shot daggers at him. "No, I meant—ugh, never mind. Just... don't kick your first mate out of his room. I'll sleep in the quarter's with the rest of the crew."

"No, you won't. I don't know who I've recruited, and I don't know if they would try anything for their own needs, should we say," he replied with a pointed expression, trying to get the message across that I would clearly not be sleeping in the crew's quarters. "Plus, it would be bad form not to offer up a room for you."

Emma eyed him suspiciously. "What kind of pirate are you?"

He grinned, "A smart, devilishly handsome, brave, cunning captain, the best one out there, and... need I go on? The list is rather long."

Emma rolled her eyes. Not a good question. "I meant, why are you doing this? Most pirates aren't this kind..."

Hook shrugged. "Because I believe in a type if honor. And you're a lady."

Emma narrowed her eyes. "I'm not a lady," she said harshly, despising the word.

"Well, you sure look like one," he laughed.

"A proper lady does not ride horses, and she definitely does not get DIRTY," her mother scowled at her as she came in the door of her castle after sneaking off to ride Dawn. .. A hobby in which her mother highly disapproved. "Emma, dear, how many times do I have to tell you? You can't skip tea with Queen Abigail just because you don't enjoy being betrothed to her son. That isn't what ladies do. You have certain standards your kingdom sets for you, and you have to live up to them."

"Well maybe I don't want to be a lady, mother!" She shot back. "Have you ever thought about that?"

Emma rolled her eyes. "Well I certainly don't act like one," she snorted.

"No, I suppose not." Hook stood there, staring at her for a moment, with a small smirk on his face. "You're a tough lass. You're going to be one hell of a pirate.

Emma smirked back. "I would hope so."

Hook raised an eyebrow. "Just who are you, Swan?"

"Wouldn't you like to know?"

Hook grinned, "Perhaps I would."

They stood there, staring into each others eyes for a few moments, the only sound being the yells of the men on the deck, and the waves gently crashing against the water.

Hook broke the silence, and Emma was thankful. It was making her very uncomfortable.

"So," he said, pushing open the door to the Captain's quarters. "You'll be sleeping here tonight," he grinned. "If you need anything," Hook started, but Emma interrupted.

"I'll find you."

Hook nodded, "well, make yourself at home. I'll be up on deck."

Emma nodded, barely listening as she marveled at his room.

It was much larger than she expected. The mahogany bed was in the middle, pushed up against a wall. Matching curtains danced around it, with fancy navy sheets and a gold comforter. There was a window on the left side, just in front of a desk that was scattered with papers, maps, and a gorgeous spyglass. Windows were on either side of the bed, along the back wall. Each window had a shelf on it, littered with books. On the sides of them, there were golden mermaids that sparkled in the sunlight.

Emma continued to stand there, looking around, but the longer she stood there, the more tired she became.

Suddenly, sleep overwhelmed her, and she walked over to the bed, fell on it, not bothering to pull down the covers. She snuggled her head down into the pillows, getting comfortable, and soon she was out like a light.

Chapter Text

Emma woke up later that day very confused. She breathed in the smell of rum and saltwater, vaguely remembering that she was in the Captain's Quarters on the Jolly Roger.

It all flooded back to her at once, and she hopped out of bed, overwhelmed. She needed some fresh air.

Not quite sure what to do, she headed back up to the deck to see the rest of the crew, including August and the captain.

Emma had no idea how to begin to be a pirate... Hopefully a member of the crew would teach her... Preferably Hook.

She tried to tell herself that she only wanted him to teach her because he was the Captain. He held the most power on the ship, and befriending him would be a good thing. Though a little voice inside her head kept telling her that it was something more... She refused to listen to that voice.

She didn't know what it was about him, but she was drawn to the pirate captain.

The sun shone down on her and she smiled. It was a lovely, but hot day, and the crew was busy at work, sweating bullets.

Mr. Smee was at the helm, and Emma walked up to him.

"Hello, sir," she started, but he interrupted.

"Please, miss. Call me Smee," he said, smiling, but keeping his eyes on the sea.

She grinned. "Only if you call me Emma."

He nodded, finally averting his gaze towards her. "Will do, Miss Emma."

Emma forced a smile. Not exactly what she was looking for, but it's a start. At least it's better than princess or your majesty.

"Smee, I was wondering if you had seen the Captain...?" She inquired, gazing at the sea behind him.

He furrowed his eyebrows for a moment, thinking. "Well, he went down to his quarters about thirty minutes ago to grab something. He must still be in there."

Emma cast her eyes down to the floor. "Actually, that's where I was. He let me sleep in his room for a while, and he wasn't in there when I left," Emma replied, blushing.

Smee chuckled. "Of course. Well then, I have no idea where he is." Then he looked behind her and nodded as she turned around.

"Looking for me, love?" Hook asked, appearing out of nowhere. He smirked, and Emma almost let out a small laugh. Almost.

"Actually, yes," Emma said, her face stayed emotionless. "I was wondering if I was going to learn about piracy, where we were going to start, and who was going to be teaching me."

Hook grinned at her, "today, actually, and we mustn't waste a moment. I will be the one teaching you."

Emma snorted, "great." Though her breathing steadied, feeling a bit relieved.

Hook raised an eyebrow. "What was that, lass?"

Emma gave an innocent smile. "Oh, nothing. I was just asking about what we are going to do."

Hook walked past her, grabbing the hilt of his sword, and then picking another one up off a barrel behind her.

He skillfully tossed the one on his hook to Emma, and she looked at him skeptically as it fell at her feet.

Hook looked at her oddly. "Lass, you were supposed to catch it."

Emma felt panicked, but she kept herself composed. "A sword? I've held one a number of three times in my life, I can't fight!"

Hook walked up to her, close enough so that she could feel his hot breath on her face. "Exactly. I'm going to teach you." He grinned. "You're going to have to know how to defend yourself, but judging by your character, I don't think training you will be difficult."

Emma eyed him. "What's that supposed to mean?"

He shrugged and turned around, walking ahead of her. "Just that you're feisty, Swan. You've got a lot of fire, and you aren't afraid to put people in their place. Follow me."

Emma walked behind him. "Who are you to tell me what kind of person I am?"

Hook shrugged again, stopping. "I'm just observant."

Emma, not paying any attention, ran right into his back. She wrapped her arms around him, holding tight so that she wouldn't fall backwards.

"It's about bloody time," he smirked, holding on to her so tightly that she could't escape his grasp.

"I ran into you," she squirmed, trying to get away. "I needed something to hold on to, so that I wouldn't fall." She finally broke loose, and was breathing heavily, the close proximity muddling her thoughts.

He gave her a crooked grin and raised an eyebrow. "That's a plausible excuse for grabbing me, but next time, don't stand on ceremony."

Emma groaned, pushing herself away from him, and hearing the cockiness in his voice. "Let's just... Get on with the training."

Hook grinned. "Well, you're going to have to get that sword."

Emma sighed and picked it up. It was beautiful, and surprisingly, it worked perfectly to her size. It was the right length and weight. Emma wondered how Hook possibly could've done that.

"How did you-"

"Pick out your sword?" Hook smiled sadly as he cleared his throat, though his eyes were cold. "It was just a lucky guess. Now, how much do you know about weapons—specifically swords, but if you could handle a cutlass, that would work too."

"Hook, I don't even know how to hold a sword, much less swing one."

His grin dropped. "This is going to take a while then, lass. Hope you have plenty of time..." He smirked and Emma chuckled slightly.

"Well, since we are floating in the middle of the ocean..."

A gave her a humorous look. "Must've slipped my mind. Guess we'll just take all the time we need," Hook said and then unsheathed his sword.

"Okay, love, just hold it like this," he showed her, and then she copied him. "Basically, it should all come naturally to you once you get the hang of it. But for now, all you need to know is block your opponent's blows, and find their weaknesses."

Emma smiled. "How do I stand?"

Hook bit his lip. "Sorry, I should've mentioned that earlier. It's been a while since I've taught anyone."

Emma nodded. "Who was it that you taught before?"

Hook grimaced. "Oh, it was... No one special."

Emma could see that he was lying, but nodded, and decided that she would ask about it another time. Even though she knew that he wasn't a good person, that he was a pirate, and that her parents would never approve of him, she couldn't care less. She wanted to get to know him, and she feared that would be her undoing. They were ridiculous thoughts, she knew, and she wanted to slap herself for them.

Hook taught her everything she would need to know to defend and save herself in a fight. Surprisingly, she was an extremely fast learner. She took all of it in with a fast pace, and Hook was impressed with her.

After about four hours of training, Emma was very tired, but ready for a duel between the two of them.

"Swan, are you sure? You've only just now been introduced to sword fighting. I'm not sure it's the best idea to-"

"Oh, come on, Hook. How am I supposed to get better if you won't push me? I never said you had to try your hardest, I just said you had to fight me," she said playfully, flashing him a seductive smile that she hoped would get him to agree.

The captain rolled his eyes. "Fine. But then we're eating. Most of the crew is already down there, and they barely leave enough food for their captain, I doubt they'd leave any for you," he said, his tone serious with a playful edge.

"Oh, but surely you'd share," she said batting her eyelashes and smirking.

"Hmm, probably not," he answered, and then he put his sword up to her face. "What do you say to battling for the food?"

Emma smirked. "Challenge accepted."

Hook and Emma fought for about five minutes, but Hook, full of energy, noticed that Emma was growing weak, and saw his chance. Though he decided he would mess around with her for a moment. "Good form," he grinned.

"Well, I learned from the best," she grinned, still thrusting the sword at him.

"Aye. That you did, love," he laughed with a proud smirk. "But I still can't figure out how you can fight so well in a dress."

Emma rolled her eyes. "If you make one comment about-"

Hook saw that as his moment to knock her down because she was completely off guard. His arms were on either side of her as her loomed above her small body.

"Normally, I'd prefer to do more enjoyable activities with a woman on her back, but with my dinner on the line, you leave me no choice," Hook smirked at her, and Emma was disgusted, but was holding back a laugh.

She had to stay stone-walled around Hook, and couldn't let herself feel anything toward him. He would go at her, flirt with her until he got what he wanted, and then he would toss her aside like a piece of rubbish. She knew the type.

"A bit of advice. When I jab you with my sword, you'll feel it."

Emma got the feeling she didn't want to know what he meant by that, so she quickly called a truce.

Hook grinned. "And round one goes to the captain."

Emma snorted. "I would've fought back, but I'm hungry," she lied, knowing that he beat her fair and square.

Hook saw right through her. "Oi, Emma I beat you! You just won't admit it."

"Sure. Whatever helps you sleep at night," she answered rolling her eyes and giggling.

"Well, you-"

Emma gave him a death glare, regretting her choice in words. He could literally turn everything into an innuendo. "Not happening."

XXX

Dinner on the pirate ship was exactly what Emma expected.

It was a simple meal with meat, bread, a few other things, and of course—rum.

Most of the pirates ate like slobs, just as Emma had suspected, except Hook surprised her. He ate with perfect posture, was very refined, and had extremely good table manners.

Emma wondered where all that had come from. He was a one handed pirate, after all. A one-handed pirate who was exceptionally talented with his hook.

Emma sat between August and Hook, and Mr. Smee sat across from her.

To be honest, Emma quite liked the older fellow. He was very kind to her, very funny, and he told miraculous stories.

Emma listened intently as he spun another one of his tales about the journey to Neverland, and their many run-ins with Peter Pan.

"So you say you were there for how many years?" Emma questioned.

Smee shrugged. "Hmm three hundred years, give or take a few..."

Emma gasped in shock. That meant that some of the crew member were nearly three hundred fifty years old! But they didn't look it. In fact, Hook didn't look a day over twenty five.

Suddenly, Emma's thoughts were back on Hook. She realized that he hadn't spoken this entire time, and she craned her neck to look at him.

His eyes were dark, filled with pain and anger, and he silently sipped on his flask of rum. He looked... Haunted.

Being the perceptive woman she is, Emma realized that the crew only talked about their time in and after Neverland, and that was her first clue that something must've happened, something bad that they didn't like to talk about. She wondered what it could possibly be.

Her second clue was when Hook subconsciously traced his hook along the inside of his right wrist.

It happened fast, but when his sleeve slid up, she could barely make out the name on a tattoo. Milah.

She desperately wanted to ask about it, and she almost did, but when Smee called her name, she snapped her attention back to him. Hook moved his hand away from his wrist, pulled the sleeve down, and stuffed his silver attachment into his pocket.

Smee raised an eyebrow, but continued to spin his tale, practically yelling over the shouts of the crew.

Emma continued to listen, but she was becoming bored hearing about Neverland. It was exciting, yes, but they seemed to only do the same things. Eat. Sleep. Fight Lost Boys. Plot. Repeat. It was enough to make Emma fall asleep. She couldn't do that for a year, let alone three hundred.

Curiosity and boredom getting the best of her, she brought up the question that had been bugging her the entire time.

"Why did you all go to Neverland?"

That's when it got quiet. Everyone turned and stared at Emma, lips sealed tightly.

Smee looked at Hook for a moment, and opened his mouth to speak, but Hook interrupted.

"EVERYONE BACK TO WORK!"

And at that, the room was cleared in the blink of an eye.

Just Emma and Hook, and with his sudden outburst, Emma was a little scared to be alone with him.

He didn't say anything, but looked at her with a sneer, a sliver of evil in his eyes.

Emma's voice quivered, fear entering it. But she wouldn't be scared of him. She shouldn't be scared of him. "Hook, I'm sorry. I don't know what I said, but whatever it was-"

Hook looked at her coldly. She was getting too close to his past for comfort. He wanted to tell her, and that's what scared him. He couldn't tell her. That would lead to things he didn't even want to think of. Though they were far from that, Hook couldn't help the thoughts that popped up in his head. He couldn't love anyone. Not again. Not after Milah. It killed him that he was even having these thoughts.

He had to push her away. She couldn't get so close.

"You've said enough, Swan."

"Hook-"

"I said enough," he sneered, his voice harsh and deadly, and she almost wished he was yelling instead.

Emma cowered back, not daring to speak, not daring to test him as fear entered her eyes.

HIs gaze softened a bit at the sight of this, but the edge still remained to his voice. "Mr. Smee's room has been emptied and prepared for you. It's now your's. Ask him to direct you there, and for anything else you may need."

Emma gave a weak smile and nodded as she silently slipped out the door.

She didn't even bother to say thank you. He wouldn't let her get a word in, much less two. Besides, it wasn't even his room. It was Smee's. He was the one to thank.

X X X

After Smee had showed her her room, he handed her sleepwear—pirate approved. He said not to let the captain know she had it, he might have another conniption. Smee didn't say why, but he had made it very clear to not let Hook know he was giving her these clothes.

But he also said that Emma shouldn't wear one dress for the rest of her life, and that Smee would buy her some proper clothes himself if the captain wouldn't.

Emma smiled, thinking about how kind he had been to her. Giving up his room, offering to pay for clothes (even though she was sure he didn't have enough money), and his personal assistance on anything.

That was more than Emma could've asked for.

She walked in the narrow door, and looked around Smee's (now hers) cabin.

It was slightly smaller than the Captain's Quarters. The back wall was lined with windows. The door was across from the bed, and there was a table in the middle of the room, to the left of the bed. Shelves lined with books were on either sides of the room, and Emma couldn't help but want to grab one to read.

She turned her head, eyeing both the bed and the books, and while her heart told her to go pick up one of the books, her mind desperately needed sleep.

Right as her head hit the pillows, sleep washed over her, and she closed her eyes blissfully.

Chapter Text

The next morning, the ship was deadly silent when Emma walked onto the deck. The whole crew stopped to look at her, some with their eyes clouded with lust and hunger, while others looked bored to see her.

Emma scanned the deck, looking for no one in particular, but stopping when she saw Hook.

His eyes burned into her, and she instantly felt her cheeks flush red. How long had he been staring?

Hook gave her a satisfied smirk, and turned to focus on the task at hand.

The crew had gone back to work already, and she knew she should too, but she couldn't tear her eyes away from the captain.

He stood tall behind the wheel, the faint shadows of his muscles stood out under the thin fabric of his black shirt. His eyes fixed on the sea, and his jaw tight, Emma studied the stubble along his face, leading down to his rose pink lips. His tongue flicked out over the bottom lip, and Emma instantly wondered what it would be like to kiss him.

"Can't take your eyes away from the captain, I see." A voice said from behind her.

Emma's skin burned as she turned to see where the sound was coming from.

"I-" Her voice wavered, and she stumbled to choose her words.

"'S'all right. I catch every woman aboard doing this vessel doing the same thing." He chuckled.

"There are other woman aboard?" Emma asked curiously.

"No, I was talking about all the captain's one night stands that he dumps off the next day."

"Oh." Emma couldn't help but feel a bit satisfied that she would have Hook all to herself, but then scolded herself for thinking like that. Hook wasn't hers. She was a princess for goodness sake. And he was a pirate.

But an attractive pirate...

Emma shook her head. No! There was nothing attractive about him!

The young man chuckled again and bowed his head slightly. "Porter Blakney, miss," he said taking her hand in his and kissing the top of it gently. "Pleasure to meet you."

Emma chuckled a bit. "Emma... Swan. And the pleasure's all mine."

Porter grinned, and she studied his features. He was slightly taller than her, but not as tall as Hook. He had perfectly white teeth and light brown hair. His eyes were light green with a brown mixed within them—like grass that had been lying constantly in the sun. He had a small stubble, and long lashes that made his eyelids appear as if they fluttered close. To describe him simply—handsome, but he wouldn't exactly stand out in a crowd.

"So, Emma you're a new addition, right? You came with the other new man—August, is it?"

She nodded, opening her mouth, but he didn't let her talk.

"I've been a member for three hundred years." He said boastfully. "Ever since day one after the captain's brot-" he stopped, and cleared his throat. "Never mind."

Emma raised an eyebrow, wondering what he had been about to say, and she couldn't help but be curious...

"So, I saw you caused quite the commotion at dinner last night," he smirked.

Emma frowned. "I'm not even sure why. What's his problem, anyway?"

A look of fear flashed across Porter's face. "You'll have to ask him yourself, or I'll get skinned alive," he shuddered.

Emma gave him a skeptical look, but then shrugged. "Okay," and turned to walk toward the captain.

Porter stared after her in disbelief. She really did have a death wish, didn't she? "Emma, seriously, I was only joking, lass. The captain'll have a-"

"He doesn't scare me."

"Well, he should. You don't know what's happened to half the men on this ship who stepped out of line." Porter muttered darkly.

Emma shrugged again. "I don't believe you."

"Why do you think we needed new recruits? Do you really believe it's all because of the Lost Boys?" Porter said under his breath.

Emma stopped in her tracks and thought about this for a moment. Of course she knew that Hook was a bad guy, that he was not to be messed with. But did she believe that he would actually try and kill her?

"That's what I-"

"He wouldn't hurt me. I'm a woman. I can't see him doing such a horrible thing."

"You'd be surprised, milady. The captain may seem like a nice guy, but truly, he's evil. Don't be fooled by his charms, Emma. I'm promising you that you aren't going to like it when you meet the real Captain Hook. His heart is darker than a piece o' coal."

Emma bit her lip in frustration. Porter was right. She hadn't really met Hook, let alone know his real personality. This frightened her, but she wouldn't back down. She wanted answers, and she was going to get them.

"Don't you think that evil is a bit harsh?" Emma replied, thinking of all the evil people she had met. They were worse than Hook.. Way worse. Emma couldn't dig up a word that could tell you what she thought of her captain, but evil wasn't one of them.

"Evil? Harsh?" Porter shook his head. "Oh, no, miss. Hook could never be redeemed. No one could ever change his path towards-" Porter closed his mouth suddenly, not saying anything further.

"What? Path towards what?"

Porter shrugged. "Like I said, you'll have to take it up with the captain. And you didn't hear this from me."

Emma's eyes shined with a bit of fear and nervousness and she nodded. "Don't you dare try and stop me."

Porter opened his mouth to speak, but decided against it. The feisty blonde had her mind set, and who was he to stop her?

X X X

Emma cautiously crept up behind Hook and cleared her throat. "Hook...?"

"Yes, love?" He turned away from the wheel, facing Emma, and flashed her his signature smirk.

For a second, staring into his eyes, she forgot how to breathe. They were calm, blue as the ocean, and when they pierced her flesh with their gaze, it made her go weak in the knees. They were probably the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen.

She stumbled over her words, completely forgetting what she had come to say, and blushing furiously. "Why did you go to Neverland?"

He stiffened, raised an eyebrow, and tried his hardest to stay calm. "Why are you so interested?"

Emma's gaze stayed down, refusing to meet his. "I just thought I had a right to know since I was on your ship."

Hook sighed. "It's irrelevant. It's just something that happened. We went and left. A quick stop."

"Three hundred years doesn't sound like a quick stop," she shot back, her jaw tight.

"Well, time is different in Neverland." Hook said with finality in his voice, but Emma kept talking.

"Why are you so unwilling to talk about your past? I mean, that's all it is, isn't it?" Emma's eyes shone with curiosity, and Hook frowned. Why did he want to tell her everything so badly?

"Why am I the only one you are so curious about?" Hook asked, his voice hardening.

"Because you're the only one who won't tell me anything!" Emma said, her voice amplifying.

Hook's expression turned cold, his jaw set. "It's none of your business!"

Emma scowled. "Oh, it bloody well is my business! I'm practically selling my soul to the devil, jumping on a ship with a bunch of filthy pirates who won't even tell me why they were on such a horrible place for three centuries, and a captain who I know nothing about but his title! So, yes, I deserve to know something," Emma fumed.

Hook said nothing. He stared out at the open water, and this aggravated Emma even more.

"I still don't understand why you got so mad at dinner last night! Why is it so hard for you to open up to me? I'm not asking you to spill your heart out, I was just asking a simple question." Emma still didn't feel any better after she said that, especially since Hook continued to stay silent.

"Ughh," Emma yelled. "Could you just say something!?"

The crew suddenly got eerily quiet, everyone turning to watch the fight between the two.

Quick as a flash, Hook whipped Emma to the mast behind her and put his hook up to her throat.

Emma gulped and fear clouded her eyes.

Hook's gaze darkened, and he spoke so deathly low that Emma was afraid to move.

"You know nothing about me, and you don't deserve to. What may seem like an innocent question to you could bring back an entire lifetime of painful memories to someone else. I'd keep a hold on that tongue of yours. I only picked you up for my crew because you were a woman, and I won't hesitate to drop you off at the next port. Or better yet, feed you to the sharks. I'm sure they'd think you a wonderful meal. But, if they didn't... I could always kill you myself." Hook scowled, venom dripping from his every word, and Emma could tell he was being completely serious.

Where she got the courage to say these next words, she didn't know, because she was sure that Hook was going to slit her throat right then and there.

"I'm not scared of you. You can threaten me all you want, but I won't cower away. You'll have to tell me at one point! At least something."

Hook growled, digging his hook into her neck, barely piercing the skin. Blood trickled down to her collarbone and she winced in pain. "I don't have to tell you anything! This is MY ship! I make the demands, you follow them. Do you understand!" He yelled into her face, and she could feel tears threatening to spill out.

Emma blinked them away, nodding her head furiously as Hook released his grip on her.

He turned away, not saying another word. Then he stormed off, pulling out his flask of rum.

Emma stood there, not knowing what to do as Hook yelled at his crew to get back to work.

She watched as he retreated to his cabin, and she heard the door slam behind him.

That's when her tears started.

She crumbled to her knees, trying as hard as she could she hold them in, putting her hands up to her face. Smee rushed over to comfort her.

Emma had never personally been threatened by a man. It scared the life out of her.

Smee held her as she softly cried into his shoulder. The man that had been the kindest to her out of the crew, was now starting to become her guardian on the ship, her father figure.

All she could do was thank him for being so kind—loving—as a father should be, and caring for her at the time.

Because at that moment, the strangest feeling she had ever felt began to form inside if her. Emma realized that she hated Hook. She found herself hating him with a burning passion.

X X X

Emma decided to eat outside on the deck that night, not even wanting to be in the same room as Hook. He absolutely disgusted her.

She sat down by the helm not knowing why, because that's where their previous argument had all started. But Emma felt some sort of odd comfort sitting there.

Her food sat beside her untouched. She wasn't hungry, but she knew she should eat something. She hadn't eaten all day.

"The sunset is beautiful on the ship, don't you think?"

Emma simply nodded as August sat down beside her.

A scowl was still on her face and she was still fuming, though the fight of the day had happened several hours earlier.

"You okay?" August asked cautiously. He saw the fight earlier and the after shock. He knew that she was really upset, and he wished he could've been the one there for her.

Emma sighed. "Not exactly."

August turned so that he was in front of her, though she still neglected to meet his eyes. "Emma, I'm sorry about the whole thing. It's a mess. Maybe at port we could-"

"No," she said, veto-ing the idea and shaking her head. She looked up at him finally and gave him a half smile. "I like it here. I like being a pirate. I like the crew, the ship, the ocean, the freedom. I just don't like... him.

August inhaled sharply, looking away. "Well, I guess there is a price for freedom, isn't there?"

Emma nodded. "But, seriously? Hook? He's such a pain, he's so annoying, and he's so unpredictable! One minute he's a flirty, shooting innuendos at me left and right, and the next—boom! He blows up in your face!" Emma groaned, dragging her hands down her face. "I just wish there was a different captain!"

August didn't know what to say. He didn't have anything against Hook... Except for the fact that he made Emma cry... Emma, who was as tough as nails.

Emma took a moment to cool down, but then looked at August. "So, how was your day?" She asked with a laugh, changing the subject quickly.

August raised an eyebrow at that, but proceeded to tell her anyways. "Alright," he said hesitantly, but was interrupted when Hook came barging from below deck.

He looked at the two of them and gave a dark smile. "Good, you two can take first watch. August, I assume Porter has taught you the protocol?" Hook inquired, completely ignoring Emma. She was staring away from him, but felt her heart skip a few beats when he walked out.

August nodded, looking a bit frightened. "Yes, captain."

"Excellent. I"ll be back below deck if you need me." He exited the way he came from, and Emma felt her heart rate slow down immensely.

She didn't know why it was up so much in the first place.

August looked to Emma. "Well, this should be fun," he grumbled, rolling his eyes.

"Oh, come on. It can't be so bad." Emma said with a shrug.

"Emma, you get more sleep than anyone! And Hook put Porter and I on duty last night. I'm about to fall asleep," he said with a yawn.

"Well, don't! Because I have no idea what I'm doing," Emma said, laughing nervously.

August smiled, "I guess I will have to show you."

Chapter Text

One week had passed since Hook and Emma's argument, and they hadn't had a true conversation since then.

They exchanged a few words, but nothing more than three or four at a time.

Every chance she got, Emma sent a scowl in the Captain's direction.

Hook had seen Emma become part of his crew, and it surprised him how much she seemed to enjoy it.

He noticed how easily she got along with them, how she took in every word they said, and especially how much she flirted with the other crew members.

Needless to say, he was jealous.

He hadn't been watching her to make sure she was doing alright. He watched her because he was drawn to her like a bee to a flower, and in all honesty, that surprised him.

She was beautiful, he wasn't going to lie, but she was also very, very frustrating.

He couldn't say two words to her without her running away, and he still hadn't gotten a chance to apologize.

Maybe he never would.

He knew that she didn't like him, and he wasn't too fond of her either, but in some circumstances, he found himself having feelings for her that he didn't really like.

He love her smile and her laugh. Her beautiful golden hair, her adventurous spirit, her pirate side, and especially, her dazzling green eyes.

She was a confusing person, and he knew that all she wanted was answers, but he never opened up to anyone but Milah and Liam, and he hated when people pried... Which was exactly what Emma was doing.

But after seven days of pretty much no talking, Hook finally gave up his pride to go apologize, and also to see if he could make any progress with the girl.

XXX

Emma was sitting on her bed, staring out the window at the rippling waves when she heard a knock at the door.

"Come, in," she answered, assuming that it must be August or Smee... They had been the only ones to really talk to her in the past week.

The door cracked open, and she didn't like what she heard. "Lass, I know that-" 

Emma whipped her head around, her eyes narrowing as Hook stood in her doorway.

"Get out," she spat, her voice full of venom.

Hook frowned. "Lass, will you please just-"

"No! I don't want to talk to you!" She turned her head away from him, refusing to meet his gaze.

"I'm sorry."

Emma's eyes softened, and she glanced at him. What?"

"You heard me, love. I'm sorry... For yelling at you the other day." He smiled weakly, and fished through the pocket of his jacket, pulling out a small bag of gold doubloons.

"Here," he said, tossing the bag onto the bed next to Emma. "We're making port in five days. I've put enough money in there," he gestured with his hook, "for you to buy a new outfit and sleepwear. You could use the extra clothing." He smiled slightly.

Emma should've been thankful towards the captain, but she wasn't about to let him win. She knew he was trying to get back in her good graces, and she wasn't about to let him do that so easily.

He was going to have to prove to her that he wasn't really the jerk he'd pretended to be in the past week.

Somehow in her heart, she knew he would do just that.

"No," Emma said, scowling. "I don't want your filthy money." She tossed the doubloons back to him, and the bag landed at his feet.

Hook stared at the bag, his voice coming out hard. "Emma-"

"I refuse to take it," she growled.

He lifted his eyes up to meet hers, sending shivers down her spine.

The brilliant blue of them had now faded to a haunting gray, and he scowled. "You won't except the money? Fine. But you will stay on this ship with Mr. Smee for the entire day, and you will not leave."

This time, she didn't back down, her voice calm and steady. "Gladly."

Hook picked up the bag, stomped out the door while slamming it behind him.

As Hook left the room, Emma's heartbeat slowed, and she was again questioning why she felt this way every time he was around her.

X X X

Hook frustrated Emma, he really did. And it wasn't just because he was a rude, self-centered idiot who spends his time making innuendos. It was because he was so attractive, and Emma found herself staring at him too much.

She hardly ever made eye-contact with him because it sent a blush to her cheeks every time, and she was very tempted to kiss him once she got lost in his sea blue orbs.

She had been pretending not to like the captain for the past week, but in all honesty, her hatred for him had lasted no more than a day.

He intrigued her.

Being a pirate, he was free to go wherever he wished, and his adventurous spirit led him there. That was one of the things she liked about him, and though there were many, she would never tell anyone.

She liked how he never backed down from a challenge. She was especially attracted to him whenever he was up at the helm, captaining his ship.

He was a mystery, that much she knew, and she desperately wanted to figure him out. She prodded and questioned him about anything and everything, but he wouldn't let her really see him, and for that she was partly grateful for.

Because she knew that she was a lost and broken soul, that she needed mending, but so did he.

There were parts of her life that she hadn't told anyone, sometimes her parents, but every one broke her more and more inside.

And that was why she was so scared. She thought that she might be close to falling for the captain, and she wanted to tell him everything about herself, but she couldn't.

So, she built up those walls. She wasn't going to let anyone get past them, not even Hook.

She was a princess, and she couldn't—wouldn't fall for a pirate.

X X X

Emma yawned as she pulled down the navy comforter and cream colored sheets on her bed.

It was later than it usually was when she went to sleep, but Emma didn't really care, although she was a bit tired.

She fumbled around the room a bit, not being able to see very well, except for the faint glow of the lanterns that lit up the long hallway.

As she lit a lantern in her room, she smiled as the small flame caught the light on the gold posts of her bed, making it reflect slightly off the wall and appearing as the sun.

She slid out of her worn shoes and then looked over at the bookshelf.

Emma got back up, and walked over to it, yawning once for every step.

Looking through the stack, she pulled one book out, but there was another one behind it. She dropped the one in her hand and pulled out the one behind it.

It was the ship's manifest and logbook, along with other notes from the captain.

Emma looked at it curiously. If it was from the captain, shouldn't it be in the captain's quarters?

Shrugging her shoulder, Emma brought it over to the bed with her, deciding she would take a look at it. She hoped to find some answers since Hook wouldn't give any to her.

She snuggled down into her pillows, trying to get comfortable as she ran her fingers over the intricate patterns on the worn black cover.

She opened up to the front page and read the first entry.

June 16th

Left port last night with supplies.

All sailors accounted for. Ramsey had

a bad fever for a few days, but is now

well again. Hopefully no one else

becomes ill.

Emma didn't find anything on those pages, and couldn't figure out who the log was from. It certainly wasn't Hook's... He's a pirate, and would have no reason to keep a tab on supplies and other things of the sort.

Emma flipped page after page, not finding anything of importance.

There were diagrams of the ship, notes from the captain, charts, and about halfway through the book, there was a blank page.

Frustrated, Emma flipped the page over, seeing a whole bunch of star diagrams. Three pages into this section, she noticed the top said Neverland.

This must've been how Hook navigated himself through that island... Maybe it was his.

Becoming bored and deciding there was nothing left to find in the book, Emma flipped the pages to the back cover. She was about to close it when she saw a small slip of paper, folded into fourths.

Emma opened it cautiously, seeing it was tattered, becoming yellow from droplets of what Emma thought were tear stains.

One hand shook nervously as she read it, many thoughts filling her mind.

My love,

I apologize once again for having to leave you and little Mari anna on such short notice, but the king had informed us that this is the way to go, the way to stop this gruesome war.

There is a plant located on an uncharted land, a land I cannot name, that is rumored to cure any sickness or injury.

This will be the turning point for us as a kingdom fighting in the battles. We will never have to bury another sailor at sea again, and will always have to advantage of never losing our best soldiers. So, you needn't worry about meor any of the crew for that matter. We are in safe hands, especially with our new lieutenant on board. I have never felt more at ease whilst sailing.

My little brother has been handling things quite well, more so than I expected, even though I know that he's always had a strict set of morals. He's been keeping the crew in line, and even me, though I am embarrassed to admit it. I am the captain after all.

So, needless to say, our journey has fared quite well. We should be arriving soon, and hopefully, we will be returning home just as quickly.

I am missing all the precious moments away from you, my beautiful Isabella.

I love you with all my heart, and will be counting down the moments till we are united again.

Yours truly,

Liam

Emma stared at the neat calligraphy, the ink bleeding from many years of being trapped in the back of the book.

Many questions floated around her mind, so many that she couldn't think straight.

Who was Captain Liam and his brother? What happened to them? Who was the lieutenant? Was the uncharted island Neverland?

What plant? What war?

Emma's mind dizzied her a bit, and she closed her eyes as she sub-consciously folded the paper back up, putting it back in the book.

She sat it on the table next to her bed and blew out the lantern.

She wanted to ask someone about this, but it was late. Everyone was probably asleep. And if she asked Hook, would he freak out because it was a part of his haunting past?

She decided that she would ask him after they made port, and some of the tension between them was released.

Wasn't she supposed to hate him anyway?

Emma yawned, trying to shut off her brain so that she could sleep.

But it's not like you got much sleep on a ship full of pirates.

Chapter Text

Five days later, The Jolly Roger stopped in Port Royale.

Emma hadn't spoken to Hook since their last argument, and she felt that she should apologize. But, she had too much pride, and decided against it.

She did stick to her word, though, and she stayed on the ship with the first mate while the rest of the crew went to the tavern.

"Smee, are you sure that you don't want to go? I'm perfectly fine staying here by myself." Emma told him after everyone had left.

"No, no, Miss Swan. I don't want you to be here all alone," Smee replied. The truth was that he very much wanted to go, but the captain ordered him to stay and watch her.

Emma narrowed her eyes and smirked. "Smee, I know Hook told you to stay here with me, I'm not blind, nor am I a child. If you really want to go, you can."

Smee's cheeks reddened with embarrassment, but he wasn't going to just leave Emma. Sure, he probably would've had a good time with the crew, but he felt bad the girl couldn't go.

"Well, I see no reason to, seeing as though we have all the rum we need right here," he smiled and pulled out two bottles from the crates the crew brought from the hold.

Emma grinned. "You're too kind."

He chuckled. "I know."

Emma sat on the ground in the middle of the deck, her feet growing tired.

Smee plopped down next to her, drinking his rum as Emma turned to him questioningly.

"Smee, tell me something about Hook."

The older man bit his lip nervously, hoping she wouldn't be too curious. "What is it you want to know?"

Emma shrugged. "I'm not exactly sure. He just... Sometimes I see the good in him. He can be kind and gentle, but then he'll just lash out at me, and I don't understand why. It's like, if I get too close, he's afraid that I'll see a part of him he doesn't want me to see. But can you blame me for being curious?"

Smee smiled gently at Emma. "I wish I could help you, but I don't believe it's my place to tell..."

Emma frowned, her frustration growing. Would anyone answer her questions? "Come on, can't you just answer one question?"

Smee chewed the inside of his cheek. "The captain has a... haunting past that he really doesn't like to discuss. Most of the crew knows about it because they've been through it with him, but there are very limited people to whom he's actually spilled his heart out." Smee sighed. "He's not really the type who likes to open up to people. He'll tell you when he's ready. He's got a lot of trust issues, so just... Try to understand."

Emma nodded, slumping back, and didn't press the matter any farther because she understood completely.

X X X

As soon as they made port, Hook rushed into the market where many familiar faces greeted him.

He quickly greeted them all, rushing over to the small boutique his friend, Ariel, had owned ever since she married her true love Eric, and turned from a mermaid into a human.

He probably looked ridiculous, being a man going into a woman's boutique, but he had made up his mind. He was going to buy Emma some clothes.

If she wouldn't accept the money, and go buy it for herself, then he would just have to pick out something for her. He was sure that dress was a nuisance.

Seeing her in Milah's clothes would hurt too much, using Milah's sword already caused his pain-it felt like he was betraying her... But he would get his revenge as soon as his plan was fully thought out.

As he walked in the door, he heard the small bell jingle, and the young red-head turned her head toward him.

"Killian!" Ariel rushed over to him and gave him a tight hug.

They had talked many times in Neverland. Ariel was his messenger, being the only good mermaid on the whole bloody island.

"You're back," Ariel squealed once she released him. "It's been weeks since I last saw you after you came home from Neverland! You barely stayed here but a month!" Ariel said jokingly, but he could tell she was somewhat hurt.

He chuckled. "Well... Distractions kind of got in the way. We've recruited some new men for the crew, but unfortunately, my quest for revenge has not gone so smoothly..."

"Still trying to get your revenge, I see." Ariel sighed. "Do you ever think you could just-"

"No," Hook growled, eyes growing dark. "I will not stop until the crocodile is dead. Rumplestiltskin must pay for what he's done!"

"Fine, fine," Ariel sighed again, but quickly changed the subject. "So, what are you doing here?"

"In Port Royale?" Hook questioned. "Well-"

"No, no, silly. In my boutique," Ariel grinned. "Did you just come to visit me?"

"No," Hook said, laughing. "Although that is a wonderful bonus, I came here for a-"

"A girl?" Ariel said, shocked. "She must be something special if she can break through your hard shell, Killian Jones."

"Well, I wouldn't exactly say-"

"Ah, so there is one?" Ariel shrieked. "It was just a guess, but come on, who wouldn't get that. What does she look like? Is she nice? Is she pretty—wait, of course she's pretty, why would I even ask that? How tall is she? Where is she from? Where is she now? Does she like you? Do you like-"

"Ariel!" Hook yelled.

"Sorry," Ariel stifled a laugh. "It's just... Really, where is she? When will I get to meet her?"

"Ariel, you should know by now, she's just a woman. I've had plenty of them aboard my ship and in my bed." Hook rolled his eyes.

"Yes, but this is the first one you actually care about. You're buying her something. And I recognize that look in your eye, so don't even try to hide it."

"What look? I don't have a look... And why-"

"Wait, you never told me her name!" Ariel blurted out.

"Emma," Hook smiled gently, thinking of his blonde beauty. No, wait, not his—the.

Ariel smiled. "Emma. That's such a pretty name. I had a friend once who wanted to name her daughter that."

Hook nodded, not saying anything more as Ariel zoned out with a childish smile on her face. Hook wondered what got her so giddy this morning.

"So," she said loudly, giggling again when she came out of her trance. "When can I meet her?"

"Unfortunately, not today. She is back on the ship with Smee. She didn't want to come out today..."

Ariel frowned. "Fine. When are you leaving?"

Hook's face remained emotionless as he answered. "Tonight."

"That's too bad. I was hoping to meet her."

Hook rolled his eyes, snorting. "Maybe. She's a stubborn lass with a huge head. Besides, We aren't exactly on the best terms," Hook finished with a frown.

Ariel's eyes lit up. "Killian, you like her!"

"Hook," he corrected. No one called him Killian since Milah, and he didn't want anyone to either.

But Ariel protested. She believed that Killian just needed love back in his life, and that someone could push the demons away if they loved him as much as she loved Eric.

"Killian," Ariel ground out harshly, earning a glare from the pirate.

"Do you like this girl?" She questioned with a smirk.

Hook's eyes narrowed, darkening once again. "Of course not. Don't be ridiculous. I haven't cared for anyone in that way since Milah, and I don't plan to! Three-hundred years I've plotted my revenge. I cannot rest until Rumplestiltskin has paid the price of taking my love away from me!" Hook spat, raising his voice and slamming his hook into the wood counter.

Ariel's eyes narrowed. "No wonder she doesn't like you. All you ever do is shut people out and close yourself off to the possibility of a happy ending."

"What was that?" Hook scowled.

Ariel stepped back, her eyes cast downward. She had been victim to one of his rage-fits before, and she didn't want it to happen again. "It was nothing. What would you like to buy Emma, anyways? That's what you came here for, right?"

Hook nodded, his eyes immediately softening. "Just pick her something out."

Ariel nodded, still unable to meet his eyes. "You want me to put it in a box?"

"Aye."

Ariel nodded once again, hurrying off to the back room, leaving Hook to his thoughts.

What was he trying to protect himself from by putting up those walls, and shutting people out? Trying to compensate with the loss of Milah? Or trying to close himself off to the possibility that he doesn't have to?

X X X

After the crew got back from the town with everything that was needed, and a break at the tavern, they prepared to set sail.

Emma and Smee had stayed on deck all day, and now that it was probably around five o'clock, she could tell that her skin was beginning to peel again. Even though she had been on that ship for weeks, she still wasn't used to getting sunburned.

As a princess, she wasn't normally outside much, but when she was, she felt like had about six layers of clothing on. They was apparently no such thing as too much protection from the sun, even if it meant getting heat stroke.

August and Porter walked up behind her, chatting away as she stared out on the open water. Another thing she couldn't get used to was how beautiful the sunset on the sea was.

For the first time in days, she allowed herself to think of home, and surprisingly, it didn't hurt as much as she thought it would. Although her blood-family was miles away, she had another family right here. One she loved, and even though it was composed of pirates, they were all perfectly good to her.

As her mind wandered off, she barely heard Porter and August talking to her.

"So, Emma, which one?"

Emma shook her head, recollecting her thoughts. "Huh? Sorry, I wasn't paying attention."

Porter burst out laughing. August snorted.

"Clearly."

Emma giggled as well, and was so distracted by Porter and August that she didn't notice Hook walking down that stairs towards her room, carrying a large, brown box.

X X X

About an hour later, Emma walked down into her cabin.

Upon opening the door, she saw a package sitting on her bed. She raised an eyebrow, wondering what it was and who it could be from.

Porter? August? Smee? She couldn't think of anyone else on the crew that would go out of their way to gift her anything.

Emma pulled the lid off the box, revealing something that was black, but she couldn't tell what it was until she pulled it all the way out.

The first item was a long, black nightgown, made of the finest silks, which flowed out at the bottom. The top had cutoff sleeves that only had a thin strip over her shoulder. It was black as well, with intricate lace patterns across it. The entire thing connected at the waist, and got a little tighter there, being able to adjust perfectly to her curves.

Emma decided to try it on, quickly discarding the dress she had been wearing for two weeks now, and threw it over her corset.

She walked over towards the small bathroom where a tub, mirror, and bucket for washing up stood. She stood behind the mirror, examining the nightgown she completely loved, and looked strangely good in.

It showed just enough cleavage to where the girl didn't feel uncomfortable, and it wasn't choking her. It was a bit shorter than most of her nightgowns at the castle, stopping right at her shins. It wasn't straight, and the bottom flowed out, making Emma love it even more.

She would have to make sure to tell whoever did this, thank you.

But first, she would see what else she received.

The next thing she pulled out was a pair of black leather pants and boots that fit her perfectly.

After that, she pulled out a cream-coloured blouse that had three-quarter sleeves, and it was beautiful. She would wear that under the bodice which she pulled out next.

The bodice was black, and the back flowed down to about the undersides of her knees. It was laced with a floral red pattern which she assumed were roses. It wasn't exactly the most modest thing, and her parents would've frowned upon it, but what could she say? They were pirates.

The next two things she pulled out, which were also the last, was a medallion and a belt.

The belt was mahogany colored leather with patterns pressed into it. The buckle was a rustic gold with what looked like a pattern of suns.

The medallion she pulled out was by far the most breathtaking thing in the box.

It was made of real gold, including the chain, and had a web of gems woven into the diamond.

The outside of it has small aquamarines lining the gold web. Coming toward the middle, lining the web as well were diamonds. And in the middle of the whole thing was a large sapphire. Emma immediately put the necklace on, admiring the way it looked on her pale skin.

She wasn't sure who bought these clothes and the beautiful medallion, but she was determined to figure it out.

X X X

Emma walked up to the deck to go find August, assuming it was him. I mean, he was her best friend, so he would be the obvious one.

Emma was almost a hundred percent certain that it was August, but she was wrong.

She walked up to him with a gigantic smile on her face. He was working by the ropes, but he stopped when he saw her coming towards him.

"What do you need, Emma?" he asked with a sigh, a bit irritated to be pulled from his work.

"Thanks," she said with a grin.

He raised an eyebrow. "For what?"

"You know," she said, laughing.

"No, no I really don't," he admitted, shaking his head, with genuinely confused look on his features.

"The clothes?"

"What?"

Emma stared back at him, studying the gaze in his crystal blue orbs. "You really don't know, do you?"

August shook his head again. "What are you on about?"

She groaned. Was she really going to have to play scavenger hunt just to find out who gave her an outfit? "Someone bought me clothes, but I don't know who it was."

August frowned. "Well, sorry Ems, but I'm afraid I can't help you out there. I don't know either."

Emma snorted. "I can tell."

X X X

Emma went to Porter next. Even though they weren't very good friends, he was the only other one who would buy anything for her. Besides Smee, of course, but they had been together the entire time.

Emma found the brunette during his break, sitting in the meal room playing a game of cards.

"Porter?"

He looked up from his hand, mouth forming into a grin as she approached him. "Emma! How have you been, lass? Did Smee treat you well while we were gone," he said with a wink, knowing of the close bond between the two of them.

Emma nodded, "yes, but I actually wanted to ask you about something."

"Ask away."

"Did you give me the package?"

"What package?" His face was confused for a moment, but then realization spread across his features. "Oh!"

"So, you did send it, then?" Emma asked, clearly confused on why he would do that for her.

"No, no, but I know who did."

Emma raised an eyebrow. "You do? Because I've been trying to-"

"The captain."

"What?" Emma said, stopping abruptly. "Hook?"

"Aye, that's what I said. I saw him carrying a box down to your quarters earlier."

"But... Hook? He doesn't even like me! Why would he do that?"

Porter shrugged. "I don't know, I assume he felt bad about what happened... Or maybe you have the wrong idea about how he feels for you," he smirked, wiggling his eyebrows as Emma rolled her green orbs. "Why don't you go ask him yourself?"

That's how she found herself standing in front of his cabin at nightfall.

X X X

Emma knocked on his door after standing in front of it for five minutes, trying to slow her breathing.

"What do you need?" Hook's voice shouted angrily from behind the barrier.

That alone made Emma want to turn around and leave, but she wanted answers.

So she pushed it open, seeing Hook sitting at his desk studying maps.

Just sitting there, he was still as attractive as ever. Emma could've sworn her heart beat out of her chest.

The captain turned his head towards her as she barged into the room, eyes full of fire, but softening at the sight of her. "Oh. It's you, Swan," he relaxed, his voice gentle. "My apologies."

His gaze burned into her, and her words started getting jumbled around in her head. She didn't know what to say, and it irritated her on how he could have this effect on her.

"Was it you?"

Hook raised an eyebrow, "come again?"

Emma mentally slapped herself. Stupid...Stupid...Stupid.

"Was it you who sent the package?"

Hook sighed as Emma stood awkwardly in the middle of the room, two feet away from him.

"Aye. It was me."

"Why? Why go to all that trouble just to get me something? Especially using your money, which I rudely declined."

Hook shrugged his shoulders, a playful glint in his eyes. "Why did you so rudely decline?"

Emma shrugged as well, her breath catching in her throat as Hook stood up.

"Well Swan," he started, taking a step closer to her. "I wanted to make amends with you. Since you seemed to not like me in the first place."

Emma's eyes grew angry. He did that just so that he could get back on her good side?

Hook saw her obvious anger and hurt. "But then, I realized I had other reasons."

Emma raised an eyebrow, and Hook took another step towards her, they were now only a few inches apart.

Her heart beat fast as Hook's dazzling eyes bore into her. She could feel his hot breath on her neck, and she could smell the rum and sea on him.

She wanted so badly to pull away, the proximity was killing her, but she couldn't. A force was pushing her towards him like a magnet, and she was using all her strength not to move forward and close the gap between them.

"You enchant me, lass. I can't figure you out. You're smart, ambitious, and stunning in every way. You seem to be the only one in the bloody realm who can best me," he chuckled a bit, giving her a smile that made her heart beat a million times faster.

"I know I haven't been the kindest to you in the past week, and I know you feel the same way as I do. You asked questions like you wanted to figure me out as well. I yelled at you because you were getting too close. Too close to the walls that I built up around my heart. You came into that tavern and started chipping away at them, and soon I started doing the same to you. You couldn't handle it, so you pushed me away. Isn't that right, love?"

Emma's heart swelled at the declaration. "Even if it were true, you expect me to admit to all that?"

"You don't have to. You're an open book."

Emma gave him a skeptical glance. "Am I?"

"Quite," he breathed, his voice growing husky as they eyed each other's lips.

Emma may have only known him for two weeks, but everything about him felt so right. She could tell that everything he said was true, but Emma was too scared to trust him. She couldn't trust him.

As the open book that she apparently was, Hook seemed to notice her hesitation, and read her mind, because he said, "trust me. Things will go a lot smoother if you do."

"I still don't like you."

"You don't have to like me. But you can't deny that there is definitely something between us... Call it whatever you like." Hook smirked.

Emma seemed to lose all control of her actions after that.

Her lips parted involuntarily, and her eyes began to close. Hook did the same, both of them inching closer to each other.

But their lips never met because right at that moment was hit by something, and shook violently. Emma and Hook flew apart from each other due to the large impact.

Hook had hit his head on the desk, and put his hand to it, rubbing it.

"What the bloody hell?" He stood up angrily, eyes fuming. Someone was in for a whole lot of trouble because they had pissed off Captain Hook. You just don't do that.

Smee rushed in right after, breathing heavily. His eyes locked with Hook's, full of fear.

"Captain," he said, inhaling deeply. "It's Blackbeard."

Chapter Text

Hook's eyes widened as he stared at the short, chubby man in front of him. "Blackbeard? But, that's not... possible." Hook was sure he had died years ago after their first duel. Clearly he had found a way to survive, just like Hook had.

"Well, obviously not, captain. He's standin' right up there on his deck, firing cannons at us, and demandin' to talk to ya, sir," Smee said nervously.

Hook's eyes narrowed. He was about to burst up there and impale Blackbeard's head on his sword, but Emma's voice brought him back to reality.

"Blackbeard?" Emma raised an eyebrow, recognizing the name, but not knowing much about the person. "Who is he?"

Thankfully, the large cannon that had been fired just moments ago had been a distraction from her and Hook's little moment.

Did she seriously almost kiss him? Did he seriously almost kiss her back? Why did she not regret it at all, and why did she so desperately wish the bloody cannon hadn't flown into the ship?

Hook's face contorted into a sneer. "A ruthless, but unintelligent pirate, who's good in a fight, and also someone you will never meet."

Emma looked surprised. "What?"

"Swan, you have to stay down here."

Emma's eyes widened, "no!"

Hook frowned. "You have to-"

"No! I want to help you fight! You are mad if you think I'm about to stay down here and be useless while you go and get yourself killed."

Hook's eyes pleaded with her own. "Emma, we have only been training a few times! You can't be serious."

"But-"

"No buts."

"Please, Hook." She begged

"I'm the captain on this ship! I make the demands, you follow them! And right now, I am telling you to stay down here! You'll be safe!" Hook yelled.

Emma cowered back, her lip quivering, but her gaze full of fire. "Fine."

Hook relaxed. "Thank you, love." He walked over to her, his eyes burning into here, but she refused to look at him. He cupped her cheek, invading her personal space, making her skin burn wherever he touched. How does he do that? "Emma look at me."

She shook her head, looking anywhere but his sea blue orbs.

"Look at me!"

She squeezed her eyes shut, turning her face to where his gaze would be. And when she opened her eyes, she was met with a gaze so intense, she couldn't break away.

His eyes were no longer blue, but a steamy grey, like a storm on the ocean. They were so full of pain, she wanted to hug him, and never let him go.

"I can't lose you too."

Emma's heart swelled at the declaration, and Hook removed his hand, her cheek instantly growing cold.

He slowly backed away, grabbing the hilt of his sword as he turned back to his first mate.

"Come, Smee," he said, a grim expression on his face. "We can't run from our problems forever."

The chubby fellow scurried out, Hook following.

Emma watched, and Hook slowly shut the door, a fearful look in his eyes as he looked at her.

But she knew that the fear wasn't for himself. He was scared that anything might happen to her.

X X X

Hook's boots clanked onto the deck, and the tall man in front of him turned his head slightly, smirking.

"Been a long time, hasn't it?" Hook sneered at the man standing yards away from him with a crew to back him up.

"Aye, it has been. Nearly three hundred years, it seems." Blackbeard grinned, his teeth yellow.

Hook rolled his eyes. "Not long enough."

Blackbeard frowned. "Oh, is that anyway to treat your old friend?"

"You were never my friend," Hook spat out. "Now state your business. What do you want?"

"Oh, I just thought that I'd stop by to stay hello."

"Anyone who slaughters men from my crew and blows holes through my ship isn't here for just a merry drink." Hook unsheathed his sword, and Blackbeard did the same.

"Too right, Hook. I'm not here for anything other than a rumor." Blackbeard advanced towards Hook with long, deep strides. "I'm interested in a certain treasure you've acquired."

"I thought you had your life-long stock of gold? Or have you used that all up? It seems your life has lasted a little longer than it should've." Hook sneered, pushing Blackbeard back with the end of his sword.

The other captain cackled evilly. "Oh I'm not here for any gold. I've heard that you've got a woman aboard your ship that is supposedly the most beautiful in all the land. You care to exchange her for, let's say... A few hundred gold coins and the same amount of jewels?"

Hook blinked once. "You must be mistaken. I've got no such woman aboard my ship."

Blackbeard thrust his sword at him. "I'm in the know, Killian, and so many people saw a lovely blonde leave with you the last time you left port. Now, how hard would it be for you to just hand her over, leave here unharmed, and with more gold than you can imagine. I'm trying to strike up a bargain here with you, and I don't do that often."

Hook's face suddenly broke out into a grin, and he chuckled. "Unfortunately for you, that woman left my ship right after I had my way with her, so she's long gone. I'm a pirate, Blackbeard, I know better than to get attached to a woman." Hook put his sword done. "Are we finished here? Or is there something else that you needed?"

Blackbeard laughed. "Well, it's a good thing I came for something else. To finish what we started so many years ago."

Hook grimaced. "I can't believe I even let you live in the first place."

"I doubt you'll be able to finish me off a second time."

Swords clashed, and the two charged towards each other.

XXX

Emma paced back and forth across Hook's cabin.

She could hear the fighting above her, and she desperately wanted to go up there and help them, but it's not like it would do much good.

She wasn't a soldier, she wasn't a pirate... But Hook was up there, fighting, and possibly getting himself killed. Emma, as much as she wanted to dispose of her thoughts, believed that they could possibly have something between them. And if anything, she still needed to know if he was a good kisser. She didn't want to blow out that candle just as it had been lit.

Emma continued to hear shouts and screams from above deck. She almost threw the door open, and raced up the stairs. It was agony just waiting in this small room where the walls seemed to be closing in on her.

It was hard to breathe, and she worried that she might actually get sick.

"God, why am I so useless?" She groaned, slapping the table next to her.

She scanned the room for anything that she could use to defend herself, or possibly to use to barge in there and fight.

A sword was definitely out, and anything close to that. What she was really looking for was—ah—bingo.

Emma walked to the corner of the room to an expensive looking bow and quiver of arrows.

She wasn't born with a natural talent for sword-fighting like her father—or Hook for that matter (maybe since she was with him, she could learn), but her archery skills have been perfect since her first shot.

Emma could shoot a man through the eye from a mile away.

Hook may have told her to stay down here, but he must be crazy if he thought she was going to. She was perfectly capable of fighting for herself.

XXX

Hook's men fell at his fell at his feet beside him as he sparred with Blackbeard, who laughed manically.

"Too weak to help your own crew... How much much longer until you are too weak to help yourself?"

Hook sneered, roaring as he forced his sword closer to the other man.

"The only weak one here is you, Blackbeard."

Blackbeard scowled, taking a swing to Hook's sword, knocking it out of his hands.

The blue-eyed captain looked away, stunned, and backed into a corner. "Well, well, Hook," Blackbeard hissed. "Never thought it would come to this, did you?" He brought his sword closer to his chest, but not close enough to touch him. Though it was close enough for Hook to start panicking.

He scanned the deck for something, anything to help him fight. His sword was too far away, and nothing else useful seemed to be close. Hook ran the list of scenarios in his head, but nothing seemed to come to mind.

"I've waited three-hundred years for this," Blackbeard smirked evilly.

He brought his sword up to Hook's neck, and started to pull his arm back.

Hook braced himself for the pain, for whatever way Blackbeard chose to kill him, but silently hoping that one of his crew members would come to his rescue. Even though he was supposed to be some big, tough captain, what his crew members didn't realize was that he could barely hold himself up there. It was so hard to be captain after Liam, to take the position of the person he loved the most. Killian, in this moment realized that he was unfit for the spot. That didn't mean he'd give it up, oh no, he loved being captain.

But that didn't mean he was good at it. He'd always been surprised that no one had tried mutiny. Of course, maybe they didn't do it because they still looked at him as lieutenant Jones, Liam's little brother. They couldn't just get rid of him.

Liam had been a good man, a good captain. But the ship's crew hadn't turned into pirates because of him. Killian had turned all of them to pirates.

He didn't even want to think what Liam thought of him now.

But, he still didn't regret any of it.

Seeing his life flash before his eyes made his old anger come back, and he realized he just had to fight that much harder.

"Guess it took an old enemy for you to realize that you never were cut out to be a captain. You may have spent three hundred years surviving, but that was against a couple puny boys. See what happens when you face someone who's as good as you're supposed to be?" Blackbeard's yellowed teeth curled into a grin, and Hook looked away. The blade lifted higher, and Blackbeard began to take a swing, just as Hook decided he actually wanted to live. "Oh, Hook. If only there was someone out there to save you now."

The sword began to come across his head, about to decapitate him. He didn't close his eyes, but instead watched as the larger pirate's arm dropped the sword.

He screamed in pain, and staggered forward to where Hook could see a perfectly shot arrow had gone straight through his hand.

"Well, lucky for him, there still is."

Hook's eyelids shut and he clenched his jaw. Oh, bloody hell no! He should've known that she couldn't stay away from a fight.

He whipped himself around. "Swan! What the bloody hell do you think you're doing?" He screamed at her from yards away as he ran to get his sword.

Emma shot arrows at the enemy crew members who kept fighting, and Blackbeard yelled curses as Hook faced his enemy.

"Saving your skin, apparently. Thought you said you could take care of yourself?" Emma grinned, but he quickly defended the block of the rather large problem at hand who sneered.

"And I thought you said you didn't have a girl on board, Hook."

Hook smirked, a newly found strength in him. "Oh well, you must know by now that if there's two things I'm good at, one of them is lying."

Blackbeard rolled his eyes as Hook pushed him further and further back to where he was up against the side of the boat. Blackbeard was exhausted, and Hook saw that, but waited for a minute until he —

"And what's the other?" The older man sneered.

Hook was still smirking, knowing that Blackbeard had just done the worst thing he possibly could have... He showed a weakness.

"Surviving." He thrust the sword into his chest as Blackbeard screamed in agony. Hook pulled his sword out and pushed him overboard. His crew members—what little there still were that weren't occupied—cheered.

Blackbeard's crew shrunk back, a few of them still fighting, but getting killed quickly from being outnumbered. They abandoned his ship, but Hook's crew continued to attack them until he reluctantly ordered them to stop.

"Blackbeard is dead. They are surrendering. We needn't fight any longer!" Hook yelled through the crowd.

Some of the men chuckled. "Hook, you act too much like you're still in the Navy! You're a pirate now, remember?"

"And I won't forget it," he grinned, but instantly hoped that Emma didn't hear that last statement. That would just create even more inquiries.

Speaking of Emma... Hook glanced over to where the young girl was, but when he looked down, she was on the ground with blood spewing from her head.

His eyes widened, and Hook rushed over, instantly kneeling next to her. "Oh god, Emma! What happened?"

Her head was badly wounded, and Hook tried his hardest to keep calm.

Emma barely opened her eyes as she looked at him. "Hook, m-my eyes and my head hurt." She gasped for breath as he called Smee over to help.

"I know, love, I know. But I need you not to go to sleep, okay? I need you to stay awake. Keep your eyes on me, darling."

Emma tried to keep her gaze focused on Hook's sea blue orbs, but everything was blurry. It wasn't long before her eyelids couldn't take the pain anymore and she fluttered them closed, hoping it wouldn't be for the last time.

Chapter Text

Emma opened her eyes in a dark room. She turned her head to a small candle flickering. The light instantly burned her eye, and she shut them both quickly.

She turned to the other side of the bed, realizing it was just her one eye that was sensitive to the burning candle.

She tried again, but the effect was the same.

Emma wanted to sit up, but her head throbbed, and she flopped back down to the bed in pain.

The door opened, but she kept her eyes shut until she heard the boots stop next to her.

Was this Hook's bed?

She opened her eyes so quickly she winced, and tried to pull herself up, but strong arms were forcing her back down.

"Emma, darling, how are you?" Hook asked, looking at her intently as he rubbed her arm.

She sunk back, embarrassed. "How long have I been out?" she asked.

He grimaced. "Three days. The last time you woke up was a little over ten hours ago. You were complaining about your eye—said it hurt to open."

"I remember none of this," she answered, frowning.

He furrowed his eyebrows. "What's the last thing you do remember?" He couldn't deny the fact that he was worried, especially if she was having trouble with her memory.

Emma thought hard. "I got hit in the head with something... Is that why it hurts so bad?" she inquired, feeling like hell.

He nodded. "You had a severe head injury. That's why your eyes are so sensitive to light. We bought you this." Hook handed her a black eyepatch, which she pulled over her left eye.

He smiled weakly. "You look marvelous, Swan."

She laughed. "Pirate approved?"

He gave a weak grin. "Most definitely." Hook walked over to the cabinet across from the bed, pulling out a bottle.

"What's that?" She asked as he poured the liquid into a glass.

"Medicine, from a close friend. It's got healing properties from the mermaids," he replied, handing it to her. "Drink up!"

She took it reluctantly. "How do I know this isn't poison, and you aren't going to kill me?"

He rolled his eyes. "Darling, if I wanted you dead, I would have done it ages ago."

She laughed weakly. "I guess you're right."

She gulped down the gold liquid that was strangely delicious, and laid limp back against the covers.

"Go back to sleep, love. You'll need your rest for where we're headed next. Hopefully you'll be healed by the time we get there."

"Where are we going?" She asked as he started to step out of the room.

"Tortuga," he smirked. "It will take a month or so from here, but we'll get there."

X X X

Emma slept for the rest of the day, up until Hook came in at night. She wasn't asleep in the first place, but she wasn't really awake either.

She looked up groggily with the one eye she could use, since her other one was temporarily out of order.

Hook didn't even notice she was awake, and he continued about his business.

Emma was grateful for an excuse to be able to watch him without any questioning.

He looked exhausted, like he hadn't slept in days.

"Hook?" she asked as he began to undo the buckles of his shoes.

He didn't look up. "Aye, love?"

She didn't really know what to say, to be completely honest, she just wanted to hear his voice.

"Have you... Have you slept at all since my injury?" Emma asked tentatively.

He stopped, putting his hook up to scratch the back of his head. "Some," he said. "A few hours, but no big deal, lass. I'm used to it."

She didn't doubt that this wasn't the least amount of sleep he's ever gotten, but he looked stressed, worried, and in desperate need of a long nap.

Emma frowned. "Used to it?"

He continued on the task at hand, pulling one boot off.

"You needn't worry, Emma." He didn't elaborate.

A sigh came from the blonde. "Hook, not to be rude or anything, but you look awful. You need rest."

The captain gave a weak smile. "It's a little hard to do that when someone's currently occupying my bed."

Emma kept her blush under control. "Well... There's enough room for two..." She sat up, and scooted over from the middle of the bed to the side, using up all the energy that she had.

Hook raised an eyebrow, which turned into a grin. "Is that just an excuse to get into bed with me, Swan?"

Emma rolled her eye. "I was merely being selfless. I'm in your bed because I got an injury, and now it's become one of the factors that led to your exhaustion... Just keep your distance, okay? And don't take this the wrong way, like I know you will."

Hook's grin stayed plastered to his face. "You can tell yourself whatever you want, darling," he joked. Emma couldn't come up with anything else to say.

Hook grinned even wider. "See, Swan. You're at a loss of words, what did-"

"Just shut up, Hook." Emma groaned. "You are way too full of yourself."

He rolled his eyes as he finished pulling off the last shoe.

Before he got under the covers, he sat down next to Emma. "Are you sure you're okay with this?"

"You're just sleeping next to me, no big deal. And this doesn't leave the room." Emma scowled.

Hook chuckled. "You really don't like me, do you?"

Emma closed her eyes, settling down into the pillows. "You have no idea."

A laugh was still evident in his throat as pulled himself under the covers. Emma could already feel the heat radiating off of him.

She blushed brightly, but thankfully, he had just extinguished the candle.

"Goodnight, Swan," he murmured.

She smiled. "Goodnight, Hook."

X X X

When Emma awoke the next morning, Hook was gone. The sun was shining through the small window, and she was alone in the bed.

Emma pulled back the covers, missing the warmth of the bed instantly as she got up.

She glanced down at her grimy clothes stained with dirt, blood, and a multitude of other things.

"God, I need an outfit change," she groaned, but then remembered that she did, infact, had something else to wear.

She snuck out of Hook's room, and walked down the hall into her room, closing the door.

She pulled the box from back under her bed, and quickly put the bodice, leather pants, boots, and belt on. When she was done, she assembled it with the beautiful amulet.

She stared in the mirror for a minute, barely recognizing herself with the leather and dark liner on her eye.

She actually felt like a true pirate. As she snuck back up to the deck, she took a deep breath before she revealed herself.

Many shouts and whistles made themselves known.

"You're looking lovely today, Miss Swan," Porter smirked as she walked past him.

August whistled, and Emma blushed as he said, "trying to impress a certain captain?"

Emma rolled her eyes, although that was somewhat true. "You wish, August."

The young blonde ignored the rest of the comments, and walked up to the helm where Hook was talking animatedly with Smee.

He didn't see her until she was just a few feet away.

He averted his eyes from Smee, and locked gazes with her, jaw dropping. "Bloody hell, Swan."

Emma smirked, walking up next to him. "I take it you like it?"

He grinned. "I must admit, I have great taste."

"That you do," Emma smirked.

He turned back to Smee. "Take the wheel, would you?"

"Of course, Cap'n." He scurried off to the helm, and Emma turned back to Hook.

"I have to say," he gave her the once-over. "You've never looked better."

"I feel much more comfortable," Emma said truthfully. "Thank you."

"You're welcome, milady. You wearing that is a plus for everyone."

Emma blushed, but his face turned serious.

"Emma, I believe we should talk about the-"

She clamped her hand over his mouth. "Shh! You aren't supposed to tell anyone! It's got to stay a secret."

Emma thought back to her life as a princess. She knew that at some point, she would have to choose... Pirate or Princess. But thankfully, right now, that wasn't an issue.

He looked confused. "Why?"

"I-" Emma was at a loss of words. Being the future heir to a throne, it would be unwise for her to kiss Hook. And she couldn't let them, any of them, know that she was a princess. Not when she'd been lying to them for more than two weeks.

They were pirates. They hated the royal government more than anyone. What would they say if they knew she was a...

Hook raised an eyebrow at her speechlessness, but shook his head. "Never mind... It's besides the point. I've got to get back to work, but... After dinner, meet me out here?"

Emma nodded her head, and he grinned, walking away before she realized what she had just agreed to.

X X X

Throughout the rest of the day, she mainly accompanied August and Porter, still trying to recover from her head injury.

She didn't do anything too strenuous. They stayed up in the crow's nest, so she practically stared at the sea for hours until suppertime.

Hook avoided her too, but occasionally gave her smirks and grins.

Emma chatted with Smee until the moment she had both, dreaded and looked forward to, arrived.

Hook was already out on the deck. He left dinner early to go captain the ship. The rest of the crew got the night off. Good thing, too. They were all exhausted.

Emma pulled her eyepatch off, not needing it anymore since it was dark out, and went to stand next to Hook.

"You haven't talked to me since our encounter this morning," she began, looking at him while he at ease (and very sexy) as he captained the ship.

He turned to Emma. "Sorry, love, but there's just too much to talk about." He grabbed her hand, and pulled her over to sit against the wall of the ship. "I wanted to say it all at once."

"Oh?" she asked stupidly, not knowing what to say. 

He nodded, opening his mouth for a second before Emma spoke

"Hook, what happened between us, well almost happened... It needs to not happen."

He raised an eyebrow, "come again?"

"I barely even know you! I mean, you are a pirate-"

"So are you."

Emma stopped for a second. Was she a pirate? She had never actually done anything illegal. So what classified one as a pirate?

He saw her skepticism, and seemed to read her mind. "Don't doubt it, love. You are. You just haven't gone with me anywhere because we haven't been on good terms, but I'm determined to make you almost as good of a pirate as I am." He seemed so hopeful, and Emma didn't want to let him down. But she didn't know if she wanted to be a pirate anymore.

She knew that eventually, she would have to return to her royal duties. She was the only heir to the throne, and though her parents could still bear a child, she doubted they would.

But, she was becoming attached to the ship and the pirates, especially Hook.

So in knowing that she would have to leave before she turned twenty-one... Would it be better to let herself feel something, anything for Hook...

Or to nip this infatuation in the bud before it got any worse?

"That doesn't matter... whether I'm a pirate or not, we still can't feel anything for each other," she replied quickly, looking away.

"Why?" he pushed, not being able to take defeat.

Emma growled in her mind. This guy is just a flirt, he doesn't really care for you, she said to herself. Who knows how many women he's slept with in his three-hundred year life-span. He'll only hurt you, and you won't be able to get back on your feet. He's a villain, and even though he hides it well, there is a deep darkness in his soul.

"It just can't," Emma hissed, trying to pull away as his face inched closer to hers. "Now, I wanted to have a serious conversation about things other than-"

"Try something new, darling. It's called trust," he said seriously, and Emma raised an eyebrow.

She started to ask a question, but before she could anything, his lips were on her's in an intense, fiery kiss.

Chapter Text

The kiss lasted for longer than it should've, but Emma couldn't pull away.

She kissed him back with as much passion as he did, and she tugged on his hair with one hand, pulling on the lapels of his jacket with the other.

His lips had the salty taste of rum and the sea.

He pushed her up against the mast, pulling her up into his arms.

She started to wrap her legs around him, but then her brain started to comprehend things.

She was kissing Hook.

She pulled her face away from him, pushing him back.

"Emma-"

"Stop, Hook."

He tried to kiss her again, but she wouldn't let him. "I can't. No, this-"

"Emma, love, stop thinking. Just feel."

He brought his lips closer to her's, but she didn't push him away... yet.

"No. I really... I don't think... This isn't right." She whispered the last part.

Her glance traveled to the ground, but Hook tilted her head up to look at him.

His eyes were glazed over, colored a sort of shady grey.

"Emma, what do you mean?"

Emma shook her head, and tried to push past him, but he grabbed her arm.

"No," she said, pushing away the pain that came up. "You wouldn't understand."

She walked away, leaving the captain standing on the deck by himself.

"I'm sorry, Hook, but I should probably get some rest."

He nodded his head, and she walked back down into the lower part of the ship while Hook got lost deep in his thoughts, pulling out his flask of rum.

X X X

Emma slammed the door of her cabin, falling back against it before it closed.

Why did Hook have to be so enticing?

She sighed, and rubbed her eyes, not feeling tired, but stressed.

How much longer would she be able to push Hook away? She was falling... Hard. Once she fell all the way, it would be impossible to go back home. She would never want to leave.

Emma blinked once, and for the the first time, she realized what she had to do.

She would have to depart once they made port in Tortuga.

It may be a pirate port, but she could easily find her way back home.

X X X

Screaming echoed through the hallways, and Emma shot up in bed.

She only heard the shout once, but she went out of her room to investigate further.

Emma padded down the hall, hearing yelling from the last cabin. She rushed down there, not even realizing where she was headed; Hook's room.

As she threw open the door, she saw him thrashing around in his bed with no shirt on, just pants. She directed her attention away from the fact that he was half naked, and on to the fact that he was having a panic attack.

"Milah!" he screamed, and she rushed over, shaking him gently.

"Hook! HOOK!" He didn't wake up until she yelled into his ear. "Killian!"

He didn't stop shaking, but looked up at her with tired eyes. "Milah?"

She didn't know who that was, but she knew that she was obviously one of Hook's ex-lovers. Her name was tattooed in a heart on his wrist, and he was screaming her name in the middle of the night. She didn't love Hook, she didn't even know if she liked him, but she felt so jealous of this girl, Milah, who was probably long gone.

"No, Hook," she said, rubbing his arm. "It's me. It's Emma."

"Emma?" It looked like it took him a while to remember who she was. "What are you doing here?"

"I-" What was she doing here? She felt a need to comfort him, but how was she supposed to explain that to the captain? "I heard you screaming from down the hall. I thought maybe you were having a nightmare."

He looked conflicted. Should he take her comfort, and show weakness, or push her away, once again?

"Who's Milah?" she asked hesitantly, knowing she was treading dangerous waters.

He looked across the room to a drawing on his dresser of a beautiful woman. "Someone from long ago."

Emma walked over to it, picking up the portrait. "Is this her?"

Hook nodded his head, taking a swig of rum from the flask that sat on his dresser.

"She's beautiful." Emma noted, feeling unbelievably plain, even though this person was only a drawing. "Did you draw this?" She was amazed at the details.

Hook nodded, an empty look in his eyes. "Aye. A very long time ago."

Emma was scared to ask, but she was so curious. "What happened to her?"

Hook swallowed, taking another sip. "It's a long story. One that I don't like to relive."

Emma nodded her head. "Is that what your nightmare was about?"

He looked down, running his good hand over the brace that usually held his hook. "Mostly, although they vary from time to time."

"You have them often?"

He raised his flask, nodding. "Why do you think I drown myself in rum?"

Emma looked down. "Pirates like rum?"

Hook didn't even crack a smile. "I try to forget. But turns out, there's not enough rum in the realm for that. I'm starting to become very immune to it's magic."

Emma stood there awkwardly. "Well, I should probably-"

"Swan, please don't leave." He looked so weak in that moment, so vulnerable. "I don't... They might come back."

Emma walked over to the bed and wrapped her arms around him. She always had been scared of him, scared that since he was a pirate, he wouldn't be afraid to do anything to her. But turns out, it was a woman who drove him to become such a ruthless villain.

"What did she do to you?" Emma mumbled under her breath, and Hook held her tightly, laying up against the back of the bed.

"She did nothing. It was the crocodile."

Emma wanted to question further, but Hook was acting so distressed that she didn't think it would help the matter.

"Try to get some sleep, okay?" she murmured. "I'm right here."

He didn't say another word as they both slowly drifted off to sleep.

X X X

Emma awoke before the sun was up, hearing angry words and curses.

She sat up in bed, rubbing her eyes sleepily. "Hook?"

He looked up from his desk that he was leaning on, and turned around to face her. "How much did I tell you?"

Emma frowned. "What?"

"How much did I tell you?" he growled into her face.

Emma, being shaken from her sleep due to his outburst, shook her head. "Not much..."

"What did I tell you?" he yelled, and Emma leaned back in the bed.

"You just talked about Milah and your dream..." Emma answered softly.

"What did I say about her?" Hook demanded.

"Not really anything. Please, calm down!" Emma insisted, feeling a diver roll down her spine.

"Calm down!" He laughed darkly. "I was practically drunk last night, Emma. You took advantage of that, the state of my weakness, and tried to get me to reveal my past to you. Thankfully, I'm hardwired not to."

Emma scowled with a disbelieving look on her face. "God, you are being ridiculous! I didn't know you were drunk, and you were screaming in the middle of the night. I came to see what was wrong, and-"

"And what, Swan? Thought you would be my bloody savior? Well, let me just tell you, that I don't need you, or anybody else for that matter, so why don't you just mind your own damn business?"

"You don't need anyone, hmm? Because you sure sounded like you needed Milah last night!" Emma fumed.

"You know nothing of her," Hook replied, staring at her with eyes so cold, and speaking with such venom, Emma didn't dare reply. "You think me weak, but let me just tell you that you haven't seen the real Captain Hook yet."

Emma started to get out of the bed. ''Hook, please." She began to reach to him, but he flinched away. "I do know what it's like... To lose hope. Don't treat me like I don't know the meaning of the word pain."

"Well, Swan... Do you know how it feels to have your love's heart ripped out, crushed in front of you? To stand there, helpless, while the ashes float away in the wind? To not be able to move, to watch the one man you truly hate, kill them right in front of your eyes?" Hook said, his voice dead and dull.

Emma said nothing, stuck in place while Hook stared at her so intensely, she thought she was going to pass out.

"No? That's what I thought, Emma. I've seen a lot of death in my life, and endured so much heartbreak... I don't feel anything anymore. Don't think that I give a damn about you, or anyone on this ship for that matter. The only one that I really need is Milah, but she's dead. That kiss was a mistake. You can leave at next port... I've no use for you, anymore." Hook walked out of the room, slamming the door, and leaving a speechless Emma to herself.

X X X

Emma tried to stay strong throughout the rest of the day, but it was hard to when she saw Hook every minute of her bloody life.

She went back down to her room around noon, not being able to handle it any longer. She was ready to either burst into tears, or kill Hook where he stood. Quite frankly, she preferred the latter, but she didn't want to join him on his burial at sea.

She laid emotionless on her bed until a knock on her door let her know that she needed to stop acting like a broken doll, because she wasn't.

She didn't reply to the knock, but the door opened, August revealing himself.

"Emma? Are you alright? You skipped our meal earlier, and you've been down here for hours. It's nearly suppertime. Are you going to-"

"No," Emma interrupted, shutting up August's rambling.

August's voice turned somber. "Emma? What's the matter?"

She turned away from him, facing the wall. "I"m fine, August."

She knew she couldn't tell him the real reason for her issues. August adored his life on the ship, he wasn't trapped out here, he wasn't forced to be someone that he wasn't. Emma couldn't take that away from him.

"Emma, are you sure, because you seem awfully-"

"August, I'm fine!" She yelled, a deadly edge to her voice.

He was quiet for a moment, but then his footsteps neared. "Emma, you know you can tell me anything," he paused for a moment. "It may not feel like it, but you can. I betrayed you a long time ago, and you told me that you still trust me, but I know that you don't... At least not fully. You don't forgive easily, you never have. But I want you to know that I've never seen you as just a friend, but my younger sister. I feel responsible for you, to get you home safely, whether it be tomorow or in thirty years. I'm going to give you space for today, but don't expect me to leave you alone forever. Please, Emma. I just want to be there for you." He turned, and she heard the door begin to close. "I don't know what the captain has done to you, what he's used to poison your mind, but I will do everything to keep you out of harm's way. Even if it means risking my life to take Hook down." August sighed, closing the door behind him.

Emma groaned, running her hands through her hair. Why did she ever get herself in this bloody mess, when she was going to have to go to much farther lengths just to fix it all.

Chapter Text

A week had passed since Emma had decided that a romantic relationship with Hook was out of the question.

She was sick of him treating her like she was an ignorant child that always pestered him.

She had been here, on the ship, for three weeks. She knew the code, she followed every one of Hook's orders, she was the perfect pirate, and had quit swooning over him like an idiot! What more did he want for her to be able to prove to him that she was no longer a child, other than the fact that her birthday was in one week... Not that anyone knew that besides August.

Emma had been scowling at Hook for thirty minutes, angrily scrubbing the hard-wood floors of the deck, which she had been demoted to ever since their fight.

Finally, she couldn't take looking at his stuck-up face any longer. She threw her sponge down, marching over to Hook with a sneer on her face.

"Hook? A word?" Emma asked as politely as she could.

The captain didn't even look at her. "Can't you see I'm busy?"

Emma scoffed, "Please. A child could do that..."

He let out an low growl under his breath, turning his gaze towards Emma. "What, then? What do you want?"

Emma's anger bubble lifted to the surface, unable to hold it in any longer. "I want you to stop treating me like a bloody child, Hook, because I'm not! I've been on this ship for twenty-one days, I know what I should and shouldn't do! Being a pirate isn't hard. I shouldn't have to be left on this ship while you go on all your plunderings! I didn't come here for you, understand that now! You act as if I am one of your barmaid wenches, but I'm part of your crew! You are my captain, so STOP IGNORING ME!" Emma steamed, her breath shaky, and her hands balled into fists.

Hook was quiet for a moment, looking surprised by her outburst. "You're completely right."

Emma opened her mouth to protest, but her eyes widened. "I am?"

He nodded. "Absolutely. I may be a pirate and a villain, but I'm human enough to know that the way I've treated you is anything but fair. You are part of my crew, and I shouldn't act as if you are anything other. I suppose that I was just worried something might happen to you." He paused, and Emma was taken aback. "But never mind that... We are making port in a few days. You're welcome to come with us."

Her eyes widened. "Really?"

"Of course. I've changed my mind about you, Swan. You are definitely no damsel in distress. You've bested me multiple times, and I'd say anyone who's brave, stupid, and cunning enough to go against me is pirate material..." He gave a small wink. "Your temper's good too. You're going to need those things." He smirked.

Emma was completely bewildered. "What made you change your mind?"

He shrugged. "That little speech of your's... And I was waiting for you to prove to me that you had it in you."

She was stunned by the way he reacted, a little more dramatic reaction expected.

A small smile snuck onto her face as Hook called Smee over to take the wheel, and he slipped away to go down to the lower deck.

XXX

For the next three days, Emma was especially nice to Hook, being extremely afraid that he would change his mind about her.

He seemed to be in a much better mood than he had a week and a half ago. Emma had easily come to the conclusion that Hook had a nasty temper, and hated when things did not go his way.

At dinner, she sat next to Hook for the first time in ages.

Hook smirked at her when she walked in. "I'm surprised you've finally remembered your spot at dinner is next to me, and not in your quarters..."

She rolled her eyes, a smile playing on her lips. "Yes, well, don't get too used to it. Meals in bed were very comfortable..."

Hook faked a hurt look. "You wound me, Swan. I can't believe that you would choose solitary before me."

Emma grinned, and then dismissed the subject. "Anyways, I've been wondering about when we were next making port."

Hook's grin dropped. "Tomorrow, but we aren't just making port. "

Emma's eyebrows creased in confusion. "Then what are we doing?"

Hook opened his mouth to speak, but shut it quickly. He bit his lip, deep in thought, before replying. "My crew and I have been targeting this kingdom for years-"

"It's not a pirate port?" Emma asked, her heart rate speeding up.

Hook shook his head."Emma, did you honestly think that we would never go to an actual kingdom and attack them?"

Emma got a horrified expression on her face. "We're what!?" She wasn't too keen on attacking a monarchy, considering her background. Her stomach began to churn. "There could be innocent people there!"

"No one there is innocent!" Hook growled. "They took something from me that I can never get back, and I won't stop until I have taken everything they've got!"

Emma wondered what that king had done to make Hook have so much hatred and malice towards them.

"Emma, I hope you understand you are a pirate now. There's no turning back from this lifestyle. You have to follow through with it." Hook replied, a sour expression on his face.

Emma rolled her eyes, playing it off, even though she still felt a little queasy. But that didn't matter right now. At the moment, she had to choose between castles and maids, or ships and pirates... And she had to make it quick.

Without thinking it over, she chose the latter.

"No, of course I know that. I was just a little surprised that the first time you're letting me off this boat-"

"Ship!" Hook grumbled.

Emma narrowed her eyes sarcastically. "Does it really make a difference?"

"Aye! You have to be very specific!" Hook said, his back straightening.

"Okay, well, anyways, I was just a little surprised that the first time I'm getting off this ship," Emma said, adding emphasis on the word. "Is to attack someone!"

"It's what we do, lass. You don't gradually fall into it. It's both feet in, or none at all."

Emma licked her lips in frustration, "You know, tomorrow is going to be a big day for both of us, and since it's my first time out, I should probably get some rest. Don't you think?"

Hook looked a bit disappointed, but nodded anyway. "Of course. We wouldn't want you to be tired tomorrow!"

Emma excused herself from the dinner, bidding the rest of the crew goodnight, and retreating to her quarters.

She didn't even bother to change, knowing that she would have to get up in a few hours anyway, and it would take less time.

She quickly got into bed as she mulled over the fact that she wasn't sure about being a pirate anymore. How much more could she put up with pretending that she was okay with stealing for pleasure? Kissing Hook while she was engaged? Raiding other people's kingdoms?

Then, the other part, the darker part of her, came up. It told her that it was all okay. That it was perfectly fine to do that.

And she loved it.

X X X

Hook rushed around, screaming at people left and right, trying to prepare for the attack.

"Smee?" Hook yelled.

The chubby man came rushing over. "Yes, captain?"

"Are the cannons loaded? Additional shot organized? Swords packed? And-" Hook listed off everything in a somewhat stressed voice, but Smee interrupted.

"Sir, you don't have to worry about a single thing! I've got it all under control." The first mate grinned proudly.

"You do, hmm? Well then, why the bloody hell is Emma still asleep!?" Hook yelled, feeling like a crazed party planner, even though he was planning something much worse.

"Hook, if you weren't so busy planning, maybe you would see that I've been up for hours." Emma rolled her eyes, giving a small smirk.

Hook grinned at her, a smile forming on his lips. "Always a pleasure to see you awake, and sassing off more than usual."

Emma waltzed over to Hook, and Smee dismissed himself.

"I'm feeling rather, I don't know," she paused, thinking for a minute. "Bold. Perhaps it's all the excitement."

Hook grinned, walking close to her, invading her personal space. "I sensed a difference in you today, love. I just figured that perhaps you finally let go, and let your real side leak through. To be honest, confidence looks good on you," he smirked, seductively running a hand down her arm, making shivers run up and down her spine.

"Well. I'm glad you think so," Emma said, her voice stumbling. She was annoyed that Hook made her so nervous, got under her skin so easily.

"Mmm, well I hope you are prepared for today, because this will not be an easy trip. We have to make these people suffer, whether they deserve it or not." Hook said with a grim smile, but tightened up his jaw, trying not to look happy about was he was going to do.

Strangely enough, Emma really didn't feel as queasy about hurting innocent people. But the thought that she was perfectly fine with hurting someone filled her with a horrible feeling. She couldn't believe anything she said or did, because it was as if Hook had placed her under some spell. A sick, unescapable, alluring spell.

"Hook, before I do anything today, please, tell me what caused you to want to kill these people so badly." Emma said, trying to sound polite about it.

Hook opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by Porter's voice, calling from across the ship. "Captain! we're almost there!"

Hook turned his head, seeing a small island with houses and large villas decorated across a plain.

"Thank you, lad." Hook yelled back to Porter, and then turned to Emma. "Love, I'm sorry," he said apologetically. "Perhaps later?" He ran his hand down her cheek, giving her a soft smile.

Emma grabbed his hand before he retracted it. She narrowed her eyes when she stared deeply into his. "Promise this isn't just an excuse to keep yourself from telling me the truth?"

Hook nodded. "Emma, my dear, I promise that after we get back, I will explain everything and anything you wish to know. I honestly don't think I can say no to you anymore." Hook smiled, running his thumb over her lip, and then turned quickly, leaving a dumb-founded Emma. How was Hook able to make her world stand still?

"Prepare the cannons! Lower the anchors!" Hook said, yelling out the Smee, who began yelling orders to the rest of the crew. "We've got a party to crash."

Chapter Text

Hook quickly steered the ship into the secret docks where the King's navy was. No one would give it a second thought as long as the crew of pirates kept their volume down, and hid any evidence that they were against the monarchy.

Thankfully, most of the people were gone, except for a single guard that was asleep at the end of the dock, sitting in a chair. The prince's coronation ball was being prepared for tonight, and the actual coronation was being held right now.

Hook grinned lightly, and his crew began to prepare to set anchor. They would probably end up waking the guard anyway, but just one against a crew of pirates didn't really stand a chance.

Emma straightend her bodice, and pulled down her leather pants, fixing them. She leaned up against the mast, the suspense starting to get to her head. She rubbed her eyes, still a little tired, but thankfully, she didn't have to wear her eye-patch anymore... Her head injury somewhat healed.

"How much longer?" Emma's knee was jittery with anticipation.

Hook liked his dry lips against the windy weather, helping the ship to move faster. "Why? Excited?"

Emma inhaled sharply, shrugging. "Well, you could say that."

He smirked, pulling the ship into a small slot as the crew put the plank down. "Good, because it's time."

They stood at the edge of the ship together, walking over in a comforting silence.

"So this is it?" she asked. They waited for the crew to get all the supplies off, and watched as one of them dealt with the now awake guard at the edge of the dock. They would be the last ones to get off the ship. Hook was the captain, and there was no way that she was going to leave his side... Especially since she had never done this before.

Hook looked at her, raising an eyebrow. "What do you mean, love?"

She put her hand under her chin, leaning her elbow on the side of the ship, and holding her head up as the last of the supplies were being unloaded. "This is the moment that determines whether I have the guts or not to be a pirate."

Hook smirked at her, taking her hand, and she smiled at him. "Well, I mean, you could say so..." His eyes glistened. "But you're a bloody amazing pirate already, so you needn't worry about that."

Emma grinned wider, still holding Hook's hand as he led her off the ship, the rest of the crew tying up the ship to the dock. She quickly released it, hoping that he understood it meant nothing. It was just a helping hand down the steep plank.

"Listen up, scallywags!" Hook yelled, and the crew immediately turned to face him. "I'll be needing one or two of you to stay here the entire time to guard the ship!"

A tall, buff man with a scary looking face, and tattoos painting his skin stepped up. "I'll stay, captain."

Emma tried to stifle her laugh at his unusually high voice. She expected a brute like him to have a frightening voice, but it was quite the opposite. She exhaled sharply through her nose, squeezing her lips together, and he scowled at her, shutting her up immediately. This was the one man on the ship she had never bothered to talk to, but she never had to since he was always up in the crow's nest, though she couldn't remember his name.

"Wonderful, thank you, Kane."

So that was it...

Kane nodded, glaring at Emma as he went back up the steps to stand guard on the ship. She could tell that Hook obviously trusted him very much, because there is no way that he would leave someone he didn't alone with his precious ship.

"As for the rest of you sorry lot, you're free to do whatever your heart desires until the sun begins to set. Then, meet us back behind the castle, in the usual spot... Those of you who don't know where that is, find someone who does. And for those of you who don't show up, I hope you like this place because you'll be staying here. Also, whatever you do, don't get caught. I don't think I need to make myself any clearer than that."

Everyone nodded their heads, and stood there staring at Hook.

Hook rolled his eyes, waving his hand. "You can leave now."

Everyone scampered off except for August, who walked up to Emma.

"Are you sure you're gonna be alright?" August asked, taking her hand and squeezing it tightly.

Emma nodded, and instead of squeezing back, threw her arms around him. "This was my dream as a little kid, remember?"

August gave a raspy laugh, nodding. "And a ridiculous one at that..."

"August! You comin'?" A distant voice yelled from behind him.

The older boy released Emma, taking a step back. "Well, that's my cue... Stay safe, Ems." He smiled gently, and turned to leave, but stopped, glaring at Hook for a moment. Emma could tell he wanted to say something to him, but nodded instead, changing his mind. For that, Emma was thankful, fearing that Hook would've had a fit if August had spoken down to him. Which she believed he was about to do. After all, the only one who could yell, insult, or do anything of the sort to the captain and get away with it was, well, her.

August slipped away, and Emma was left alone, standing on the ship with Hook.

"You two seem close," Hook noted, messing with his namesake.

Emma nodded, remembering all the little things they had done together during their childhood, and how their friendship had grown into an unbreakable bond. "We are." In that moment, she realized that Hook knew absolutely nothing of her past, knew nothing of her at all but the little things she has told him, like her favorite color and her horse's name. Even some of the stuff that she had told him were lies, especially about her parents. A silence grew between them, and Emma broke it quickly, hating that things seemed to be getting awkward. "So, what are we going to do first?"

X X X

"Just take it!" Hook screamed in a whisper, barely audible, but loud and sharp enough to make his point.

"What?" Emma asked horrified. "No!" She could feel an itching in her fingertips just to grab the beautiful Ruby and Diamond rings.

"Emma, if you don't feel the want, the need to grab those rings, then surely you don't have it in you-"

She reached out before anyone could see her take them from the concealed stand, and quickly rushed away, pulling Hook with her. The pull to grab those rings was too much, she had to do it. She'd never ever felt that before. Maybe it had been because she's always got what she wanted, and there would never have been a reason to need to steal something.

"Why did I just do that!?" Emma shrieked, running her hands through her hair. "This isn't who I am!" She shoved him. "Did you magically make me do that!"

Hook's eyes widened, and he burst into silent laughter. "Don't be bloody ridiculous, Swan. I don't have magic, and even if I did, I wouldn't need to use it on you. You've stopped ignoring your true colors... That's all."

Emma's eyes grew solemn. "What? What are you talking about?" They were hidden in a dark alley, next to the corner of a building where no one was. "I'm not really a pirate, I can't be! I mean, honestly, the whole reason that I even came was to get away from my parents and my life back home, and-" Emma stopped, thinking of her fiancée that she was supposed to wed in four days. "That's besides the point! What I mean is, I am not this person, Hook! Why am I turning into someone I'm not!" She felt crazed by this entire situation, and let out a small, upset laugh.

Hook leaned up against the wall as Emma pulled her hair out, and he just gave a sad smirk. "Emma... You are this person."

She shook her head, feeling the urge to slap him across the face.

"Emma you can't honestly tell me that you didn't enjoy what you just did. That you don't enjoy the adventure, the life at sea. The thrill of the rush, the leather, rum, especially. You're overly obsessed with jewels, and the exhilaration of being alone with me." Hook walked over to her, pinning her against a wall. She felt heat bubble up inside of her. He grinned, his breath like a whisper on her neck, and her breath grew ragged. "Tell me Emma. Tell me that you don't like any of it."

He peppered kisses along her neck and jaw, and she moaned when Hook reached her lips. He quickly pulled away after that, having extreme self-control that she didn't.

She grew bright red, swallowing, and saying nothing.

Hook smirked. "See. You can't. So stop denying it."

Emma sighed, rolling her eyes, but feeling just a little bit more confident.

"Now come on, I'm starving." As if on cue, Hook's stomach grumbled, and Emma barely cracked a smile.

"Okay, let's go."

X X X

They walked through the back alleys of the bustling village, people getting ready for their young prince's coronation.

Emma tried her best to stifle her grumbling stomach, but she could tell Hook was getting irritated.

"Could you shut that bloody thing up!" Hook hissed.

Emma scowled. "Hook, my stomach doesn't have a magical switch to turn it off until I get fed. I'm starving!"

Hook rolled his eyes. "Well, then, we better get you some food before you blow our cover."

Emma scoffed. "What cover? No one is even paying attention to us, and quite frankly, I don't think they would give a second thought. They are too concered with the stupid coronation, trust me, it's a lot of work. I would understand."

Hook's eyes looked at her probingly. "What do you mean?"

Emma quickly caught herself. "I used to work as a maid in a castle for a couple years before I hated it too much and ran..."

Hook looked away, shrugging, and Emma was glad he didn't ask anything else about it. "I would feel the same."

They took a bold move, walking out into the open, but as Emma predicted, no one even glanced their way.

Hook quickly led them down the street, the sun burning her skin as it set on the horizon. They neared a small shop on the edge of the street, and Hook opened the door for Emma. "Come on, we can get some food here."

"Hook," Emma started. "We don't have any-"

"We don't need it... Pirates remember?" He smirked as they walked in the store. "I have connections everywhere." He looked away from Emma, and towards a tall, skinny red-head sauntering from behind the counter.

"Hook," she grinned, walking close to him, practically undressing him with her eyes. "What a lovely surprise."

Hook rolled his eyes, obviously uninterested in the ideas that were running through her mind. "Hello, Clarissa."

She seemed offended, and he gave a small smirk.

"We need your help." He gestured to the blonde next to him who was scowling at her. "We're trying to get into the castle."

Clarissa gave a pathetic laugh at Emma, but looked back at the charming, raven-haired male standing only inches from her. "Well, I'd rather not help her, but you know I'd do anything for you, Hook." She winked at him, running her hand across his chest suggestively.

"That's why I came to you, I needed to discuss this... But I think we need some food first if that's alright with you." Hook said, and Clarissa stepped back, eyeing them skeptically.

She turned, leading them back into the heart of the shop. "Right this way."

Emma, though it had been merely ten minutes since she met Clarissa, knew she already hated her. Her attempts at seducing Hook were all but subtle, and the only thing that kept Emma from strangling her was the fact that Hook didn't give into it.

She ate very little, her appetite not as big as she had originally thought, and Hook did as well.

Clarissa, on the other hand, inhaled her food, and Emma was a bit disgusted.

"So," Clarissa said in between chews. "You need a way through the castle?"

Hook nodded. "Yes. They've closed off the back way that we usually go, and I'm not sure that there's any other way." He sighed, mumbling under his breath.

"Well, lucky for you, there is," Clarissa smirked.

Hook's face brightened, and a devilish smirk spread across his features. "Do share."

X X X

"Listen up men, we have twenty minutes to crash this party and ruin this young man's entire future as king, just like we've been doing since it happened." Hook growled to the crew.

They nodded and cheered quietly as Hook reviewed the plan. They would sneak through the tunnels and passages under the castle, from all angles into the ballroom where the party was being hosted. They would then attack, making a show. Doing that, they would sneak past the guards, and already be where they were when the party started.

Hook separated them all into groups, some coming from the front and back, some coming from the sides. Hook and Smee would sneak into the party, dressed as noblemen as they were now, and give the signal. It was a good plan, but like all plans, it had it's flaws. It wasn't perfect. Hook worried that something would go terribly wrong, but he let go of that doubt, and focused on making sure that it went right.

As the crew began dispersing, Hook pulled Emma aside.

"Emma, love, I need you to go with August and Porter."

Emma's eyes widened. "What!? No, Hook, I am coming with you and Smee!"

"No, Swan, it's not safe with us! You need to be with Porter and August! They can protect you better than I can for this one time, especially since you are going to be with a bigger group."

"But, Hook-"

"Emma, that's enough. You are going with Porter and Smee and that's final, understand!?" Hook growled, taking her head in his hands, and she frowned. "You'll be safer, and that's all I need."

He kissed her deeply, catching her off guard, but as soon as the kiss began, it ended.

"I'll take you over to them, but after that, you need to stay with them."

She nodded, kissing him again, but this time softer and deeper. She pulled away, laying her forehead against his. "Okay." She nodded.

He smiled, and led her away, back to the pair who were to stay with her.

August smiled when they got there, taking Emma, and nodded to Hook. "She'll be safe, captain. I promise."

Hook gave a tight-lipped grin. "I know."

Hook watched as Porter and August led her off, and she snuck a look back at him as she disappeared completely from view, giving him a small smile.

"Captain," Smee asked from behind him. "Are you ready?"

Hook was still watching Emma walk away, but he looked down, nodding.

"As ready as I'll ever be."

Chapter Text

Emma was pulled along with Porter and August, stumbling over her tall, black boots as she tried to catch up with the rest of the group. They were trying to get around to the left side of the castle, so that they could attack through the large, glass windows.

"August, what if we don't make it there in time!?" Emma whispered softly, eyes widened.

August shushed her quietly, gripping her hand tightly for comfort. "We'll make it, don't worry. Even if we don't get there right when we're supposed to... They won't start without us."

Emma felt a bit of relief inside of her, but still, she had doubts on whether or not this plan would work.

They neared the castle, the shining windows in view where they could see the party at it's finest. Hook and Smee stood in the middle of the large crowd, wearing their royal costumes.

The crew hid in the large trees and bushes where they could see, but the people inside couldn't see them.

They waited for Hook and Smee to make the signal, and Emma's heart almost beat out of her chest. She inhaled sharply, the only sounds around them being the intense breathing of the seven pirates.

"Do you think this will work?" Emma asked silently, fearful of what might happen if it went wrong.

"It's Hook's plan, it will work," Porter replied, a smirk spreading across his features.

Emma just frowned in return, seeing no humor in this suspenseful moment.

It seemed as if hours passed while they all waited. Emma's leg bounced up and down as she tried not to make any noise. She pulled her coat closer to her, shivering in the cool air of the night, and the leaves crunched in the wind that swirled around her.

Porter and August held large rocks in their hands, preparing to use them to break the windows once the signal was given.

Hook held a drink, standing by Smee. Emma could see the prince coming out to the front of the large ballroom, and Hook's wicked smirk spread across his face as he took a long sip of his drink.

Porter, the leader of their small group for the time being, announced for the attack to begin. Adrenaline pumped through Emma, and everything seemed to go in slow motion. The rocks whizzed by Emma's ear, shattering the windows, shards flying back at her. Cheers echoed through her ears, as well as the screams from the people inside. Emma's feet seemed to be cemented to the ground. She was unable to move until August grabbed her arm, pulling her through the broken window.

Hook's sword was thrown to him, and he caught it with his hook after he threw off the fake glove that was concealing it.

Smee and Hook stood back to back, fighting off every person that came at them. Terrified shouts were blaring through the spacious room.

Emma pulled out her cutlass and stood by August and Porter, who shielded her from the swords and arrows flying at her.

The innocent party goers rushed through the large doors of the ballroom, screaming as they went.

Emma dodged the army coming at her, blocking their blows.

"So, what's the plan?" Emma questioned, battling the large man that came at her, and sticking the sword through his heart when he revealed his chest.

"Hold off the men that come through that door," Porter shouted over everything, and nodding his head to the left, "for Hook. Other than that, I have no idea. That's all he said."

Emma grinned, working hard to keep up with the rest of the pirates. She didn't want to disappoint the captain.

A sword hovered over August's head, and Emma's heart skipped a beat. She panicked, quickly taking a blind shot at the sword to knock it out of his hands. A sigh of relief emerged from her lips, thankful when the sword skittered away from the attacker and onto the ground.

"Thanks," August breathed, and Emma nodded, smiling.

Suddenly, the path cleared, and she wondered where all the people had gone, because seconds ago, men after men had been charging at her.

She gazed around the room, her eyes catching on Hook and Smee struggling with their battle against twenty men.

She inhaled sharply, debating on what to do when after a split second, Hook got his arm sliced open from a sword, cutting through his skin.

He grimaced, thrusting his sword into the man's chest. He was still fighting, but Emma knew he would fade soon. His fighting arm had been cut, and it was not easy to switch arms when you had a hook for a hand.

Emma's feet processed what just happened before her brain did. She made her way over to Hook, August and Porter following her lead when they realized what she was doing. She battled five men with her closest friends backing her up. Soon, she was within inches of Hook, who was angered when he saw her.

"What the hell are you doing?" He growled, his arm sloppily slicing through men, not having as good of form as he usually did.

Emma rolled her eyes, "Saving your ass... Again!" She looked over at him, but he seemed distracted, his eyes darting everywhere but where his focus should be.

"Hook!" She screamed, blocking a sword that almost decapitated her. "What are you looking for!?"

"The prince," he said angrily. "Did they get him?"

"What?" Emma asked. "Why?"

He groaned. "So we can leave! We're supposed to be here to kidnap him! That's what the bloody distraction was for!" He pushed the last man into another one who had a sword sticking out of him.

Emma stood there, breathing heavily for half a second. They all had to quickly start running away from the second group of people rushing at her.

"Why do we need to kidnap the prince!?" Emma shrieked, pushing through the giant group of people who were not fighting back, just blocking their way to the exit.

"Honestly, Swan, stop asking questions until we get back to the Jolly Roger! The crew should be waiting for us."

Emma, though it was hard, held her tongue.

Questions pried at her lips, but she didn't want to anger or distract the captain, who's face was contorted with troubles.

The ship was already prepared to set sail once the five of them got there, and Hook started to work, yelling orders before he even got on the ship.

The last of the ropes that were anchoring the Jolly Roger to the dock were removed, and Hook helped Emma aboard quickly, before he rushed over to the helm.

"Elijah? The prince?" Hook shouted, a questioning look in his eyes as he took over the wheel from Kane's large hands.

"Safe in the brig, captain. You needn't worry."

Hook nodded his head, dismissing the short, but muscular pirate, and continued to yell to the rest of the crew. "Porter, take watch in the crow's nest! I've no doubt they will be sending every one of the king's naval ships after us! Smee, August, prepare the canons for when they do. We need to knock out every single ship that fires at us." Hook growled, a sneer marring his handsome features. "And Kane?"

"Yes, captain?"

"Put that brute strength of yours to work and make sure those sails don't waiver and inch!" Hook shouted, pulling them out of the small harbor.

Emma approached Hook, her face tight. "What should I do, captain?"

He glanced at her from the corner of his eye, and opened his mouth to speak, but before any words came out, a cannon sounded.

Emma and Hook turned turned their heads to see three ships sailing thousands of feet behind them, but approaching steadily.

Hook smirked, happy his plan worked out thoroughly, but then sneered when another canon sounded, whizzing right above their heads, and going right through their cream sails.

He stormed towards the back of the shop, eyeing the enemy with a gaze so full of malice, Emma would hate to be on the receiving end.

"Oi, mate!" He shouted angrily to the few ships behind him, though Emma had to stifle a laugh since she knew they couldn't hear him. "Did no one tell you never to shoot at a pirate's bloody ship?" He scowled. "Smee! Fire at them with everything we've got. If I don't see those three ships go down in flames, everyone single one of you sorry lot will walk the plank! I guarantee it!"

The chubby man quickly followed the captain's orders, as did the rest of the crew, and set to work at firing the canons. Emma turned on her heels as the ship shook with their own firing.

The crew was barely skimming the side of every ship, and Emma watched impatiently as The Jolly Roger continued to get farther and farther out of range. She saw one last cannon open on the left side, and she rushed over to it, aiming it, and lightning it. She covered her ears as the ship shook again, but this time, the enemy ship was hit, and a visible hole went straight through the side. She smirked in satisfaction as she aimed it slightly to the left, and lighting it again, this time, shooting a hole through the very middle of the ship.

Another cannon from the Jolly Roger whizzed by, and Emma shouted, "to the left a bit, and you'll get her."

The orders were taken, and just as Emma predicted, a perfect shot caused the first ship to flame up, and a grin spread across her perfect features.

She began to take matters into her own hands, using all her skills in archery to shoot down the three ships. It wasn't all that different, really. You just had to have good aim... Which she did.

Hook controlled the steering and captained the ship, while Emma controlled the defenses.

"Porter up a bit, and to the right. You're trying to hit the ship not the skyline. And Smee, stop being so gentle with it! Aim for the bloody deck." Emma hissed. Maybe her princess skills were not so useless as she believed them to be.

The enemy ships had stopped progressing after what seemed like hours, and Emma told them to cease fire. The ships were all lit up, fire dancing across the wooden planks and sails.

The crew cheered, seeing the spectacle in front of them, and Emma felt pride surge through her. She saw Hook smirking at her from a distance, and though she tried to pretend she didn't, she watched from the corner of her eyes as he sauntered over to her.

"Well, Swan, I must say... I didn't see that coming. Didn't know you had it in you to lead an attack." He had a glint in his eyes that made Emma want to press her lips to his, but she resisted the urge, smiling back instead.

"Hook, I've had it in me this entire time. Maybe I just didn't want to admit the fact that you and I are more alike that I thought. But it's true, sadly," she teased him. "Maybe this was my destiny all along."

"Of course it is, love. Only a fool would say otherwise. You were bloody brilliant!" He grinned, and Emma's heart pounded with happiness.

August, Porter, and Smee rushed over to her, cheering.

"You're a natural, miss Swan. Thankfully, we had you on our side today." Smee encouraged, a sideways smile tugging on the corners of his lips. "I don't know what we would have done without you."

"Hook," Porter joked, smirking at the older man next to him. "You better watch your back. People may want to mutiny you so Emma can be captain."

Emma knew that Hook was angered at that comment, that anyone would dare go against him, but he swallowed all harsh words, and sent a cold glare instead. "Emma would never do that to me, though I'll admit she was pretty amazing, wasn't she?"

Emma's confidence in herself raised, and her pride inflated. She couldn't believe how many people were praising her over such a simple task. "It was nothing, really." She shrugged, but a smile broke through her face.

A scream echoed through the hallways and deck of the of the ship, and the jubilant mood of the pirate's was deflated.

Hook sighed. "I guess I was going to have to deal with that bloody royal sooner or later." He rolled his eyes, but gave one last smile before he retreated down into the brig.

Emma watched him leave, but turned her attention back to the bunch before her.

"So, Emma, tell us where you learned to fire a canon," Porter inquired with probing eyes, his white smile glinting in the moonlight.

Emma smirked, telling the story of her using the bow and arrow when she was little, but leaving out any detail of being a princess.

Her friends from the crew watched her in fascination, and Emma realized that she could never go back home. She couldn't leave these men... They had become her family. They were closer to her than her parents had ever been. Even though they knew absolutely nothing about her, they didn't have to. They cared about her just like she was a member of the crew, a sister to them. They loved her because of who she was, not because they had to.

Chapter Text

mma paced back and forth on the cold, hardwood floor of Hook's cabin. She could hear him shouting at the prince she had yet to get a good glimpse of. His yells pierced through the cracks of the wooden boards.

After what seemed like hours, Emma heard the door of the brig slam shut, and footsteps padding up the steps to the captain's cabin.

She stopped pacing, and rushed over to sit on the chair in the corner of the room, trying to reason with herself... Hook was definitely going to be angry when he got in here, and she didn't know if that was something she would be prepared for.

Emma looked out the small window at the waves gently crashing against the side of the ship, the rays of the sun making them sparkle like jewels. The door opened, and she whipped her head around to see Hook fuming in the threshold of the door. She stood quickly, and began walking towards him as his hand shook with violence. Her feet calm to a halt as he swung his hook, growling as the metal dug into the wall next to him.

"Hook?" The blonde asked softly, her voice laced with fear.

He didn't look at her, his eyes closed as he banged his head once, leaning it against the wall that his hook was sunk into. "Emma," he said, trying to calm his anger. "What do you want?"

"I-" Emma wasn't quite sure why she was here, but she needed to come up with a reason. "I wanted to, um... Ask what happened with the prince," she said quickly, but then realizing that was not the right question to ask.

His eyes blazed a dangerous navy blue, and she sunk back a bit. "Not well, I presume, then..." Emma answered herself quickly, biting her lip.

He raised his head, pulling his hook out of the wall as small flakes of it fell down to his side. His feet took a step closer to Emma, and she took a step back. "I have made no bloody progress!" He roared, her eyes instinctively widening. "He won't tell me a thing! No amount of pain, threats, nothing will get him to reveal himself!" His voice was shaky, and his face was so red, Emma thought that he was going to burst.

"Calm down!" Emma screamed, pushing his chest back with her hand, his yells like a punch to the face.

His eyes were deadly, and his jaw tightened. "Calm down? Emma, he's hiding a lot of valuable information, I can't just calm down if he won't tell me what he knows!"

"What are you talking about?" Emma yelled, eyebrows raising in confusion.

His lips pressed tightly together, and he looked up in irritation. "You don't need to worry about it, okay? Leave my business to me."

Emma sighed. "Alright, fine," she didn't want him to get angry anymore, and she knew that if she pushed him too far, she would never get it out of him. "I don't know what you want from him, or why you insist on interrogating the poor man, but you are a pirate..." the woman gave a faint smile, and rolled her eyes. "But he's not going to break in just one day. You are going to have to take everything away from him, leave him to where he wishes he rather rot in hell than be in the brig of your ship." Emma couldn't believe the words coming out of her mouth, but she spoke with so much confidence, and couldn't stop. "You can't destroy a person until you know what they're being strong for. You use their weakness against them."

Hook eyed her with a bit of confusion, wondering where the Emma he had met at the tavern went. For a split-second, a murderous look was stuck in Emma's features, and if Hook hadn't been the most treacherous pirate on the seas, he wouldn't have dared crossing paths with Emma at that moment.

Emma slowed the words coming out of her mouth, seeing Hook's almost fearful expression. She fully realized the weight of her words, and she too, was left wondering what was happening to her on this pirate ship. How she could go from being the most spoiled princess in the entire realm, to being a pirate with the most anti-monarch crew on the seas.

She bit her lip, stretching out her fingers, trying to dull the feeling where her nails dug into her rough hands. "I-" She stopped, honestly having no words to say. What was there to say, truly? This wasn't something that was new, this darkness inside of her had started long ago, it had only just recently began to blossom.

"No need for words, love." Hook said dryly, an impish grin curling at the ends of his lip, and Emma wondered how he could smile, how he could feel pride in bringing out the worst in her.

"No, that was-"

"Actually quite brilliant." Hook interrupted. "You must have more knowledge on this type of thing than you let on."

Emma tried not to reveal any of her thoughts, and just shrugged it off as he continued to talk.

"Which is why I think you should be the one to do it." He said promptly, nodding his head with no hesitation.

The young blonde's eyes widened. "What? No. That was just-" Emma didn't have an explanation, but she knew she couldn't be the one to get whatever information out of the prince that Hook wanted. "How am I supposed to-"

"Just do what you told me to do, Emma. The prince is obviously immune to attacks on his life, so you just have to figure out who's life he cares about most." Hook's wicked grin that Emma was so used to spread across his features and she cringed, knowing that Hook would start threatening her life if she didn't do what he said.

"But... What do you even want out of him, because I can't get it until you tell me." Emma crossed her arms, trying to get out of this as best she could.

Hook sneered at her. "He knows a lot of things, and that's all you need to know for now. Just get him to tell you who he cares for most. I don't care if you befriend him, deceive him, or what... Do what needs to be done, no matter what the price is. Understand me?"

His eyes shone the color of coal, and Emma nodded quickly as she pulled her gaze away from the captain. She rushed past him into her room to clear her thoughts of what horrible things she would have to do.

X X X

Her mind swirled like a whirlpool in the ocean, letting everything get sucked into it till her brain was blank. Her blonde hair blanketed the cotton pillow on her small bed, the soft lull of the ocean dulling her into a senseless dream. Though she was still awake, she seemed to be stuck in her subconscious, the effects of the day exhausting her.

She knew that eventually, she would have to talk to the prince like Hook asked, but she couldn't bring herself to drag her body down into the coolness of the brig below, where the prince was surely starved and freezing...

She felt her heart pang with guilt about everything she had said to Hook earlier, and the compassion inside of told her that was definitely not the answer. Though she knew she had just said those things to impress the captain, she didn't think he would take her seriously. What could this prince possibly be hiding if Hook needed him so badly?

The dark and light side warred within her, until she finally knew what to do... Whatever she had told Hook was the complete opposite of what she should do. Maybe, if the prince trusted her enough, and they became friends, there would be no reason to resort to violence... Hopefully.

Satisfied with her plan, Emma went to the small cupboard in her room where she stored extra sheets, and grabbed them. Surely the prince would need them... It was cold out here on the open water, and especially cool in the brig. She also collected a few things of food and as much water as she could, without wasting their rations and making it obvious to where people would notice it was missing. Then, she started heading down into the brig.

Since it was the middle of the night, she had to be very cautious not to wake anyone up... Hook would disapprove of her plan, being the cold-hearted pirate that he was, and she didn't need anyone to intervene.

A board creaked under her as she walked down the stairs, and she winced, paused for what seemed like hours to make sure that no one saw her coming... Sure, Hook had asked her to do this for him, but what would they think when she was walking down there with nourishment and warmth for the prisoner?

When she was positive that no one had woken up, she continued down the steps, closing the door hatch behind her.

The brig was unsurprisingly dark. The only light came from the one lantern that hung next to the jailed cell where the prince was shivering, curled up into a ball where his face was hidden. All she could see of him was his stark uniform, and his bleach blonde hair, which was shining where the light of the lantern hit it like rays of the sun.

"Hello?" Emma asked calmly, waiting for him to turn around and offer her a smile, or shoot her down with a hateful remark. But nothing came. He just remained in the same position that he was in, not moving even a millimeter.

Emma crept in front of him, expecting to see a cleanly-shaven, primped and polished, stuck-up man. Horror entered her when she got close enough to where the light reflected off her eyes and she could see him clearly.

His breath was drawn ragged, and he seem to be having a hard time breathing... But for a good reason. His face was bloodied and bruised, no doubt results of Hook's anger. His left eyes was black and blue, blossoming like a delicate flower around his eye-lid, and his lip was swelled up, a cut running right through the middle of it. His eyes were closed, dark circles formed under them, a result of days filled with empty sleep, and though the hair atop his head was finely trimmed, a small scruff formed around the edges of his jaw, making it's way down to his chin.

Emma felt anger boil up inside of her at Hook. She might not know this man that sat in front of her, but she knew that no one deserved to be treated like this... She may have thought once upon a time that being a pirate was good fun, that it was exhilarating to be bad, but at some time, there was a point when the charade had to come to an end. She needed to stop living out of her childhood fantasies.

Realization dawned upon her, filling her to the brim with fear and worries. This was no place for her... What was she thinking four weeks ago, jumping onto a ship full of pirates that she had no clue of who they were, and spending countless hours enjoying all the carefree, but horrible things this life had to offer.

This wasn't her, and she knew it. Tomorrow was the day she was supposed to be wed, and that was what she was avoiding, coming to this pirate ship... But now that she had, she felt an absence and longing in her heart to be back with her parents. She knew there was not much longer she could keep lying to all the people on this ship, all the people that she cared about. She couldn't keep pretending to be someone she was not, just so she could keep up with Hook, and distract herself from the fact that someday, she would have to go home... Or she would want to.

The prince began to stir from his deep slumber, pulling Emma back into reality. She set the stuff in the cage with the prince, and quickly rushed up the stairs, not wanting to be there when he woke up.

She didn't want the innocent person that she had helped kidnap associate her with the rest of the despicable beings on this ship. Yes, she cared for them, but she couldn't believe that she had supported the hurt of people, that she took pride in watching the disgusting behavior that the pirates showed.

Emma rushed back to her room before she could let anymore thoughts take ahold of her mind and not let it go, laying down on her bed, and pulling her covers up to her chin.

She was good, and she wouldn't let the darkness of these pirates change that part of her. It had taken her so long to realize that was fooling everyone, even herself. There was a reason that she was so hesitant about trying to be like Hook, and it was because...

She wasn't.

X X X

When Emma awoke the next morning, it wasn't until she began to sort out her jumbled out thoughts that she realized today was her birthday... And just with that one small detail, she felt a huge weight being lifted off her shoulders, and a small one being laid back onto it.

One month ago, she had run away from her shining castle, her parents, her friends... And found herself on a pirate ship.

She couldn't decide now if that was a bad thing, or a good one.

Emma, this entire month, had been so lost in the fear that she was going to have to be dragged into the marriage with Charles, that her mind was never in it's correct place. She had never thought anything thoroughly, she didn't object to Hook trying to make her do things she knew she shouldn't, but it wasn't until now that her mind was finally unclouded. Though she still didn't particularly want to leave, she wasn't sure she wanted to stay either.

She turned, buried her head into her pillow, and screamed. Why was life so complicated? Everything before she had heard the words, "You're wedding will be in one month, Emma. We're sorry that we didn't tell you that you were betrothed earlier" was much simpler, and she suddenly felt nostalgic for the past.

A soft knock sounded at the door, and Emma didn't move. "Leave me alone," Emma yelled at the door, thinking it was Hook.

The door opened, and the blonde slowly peeked up to see a dark-haired, blue-eyed man walk through, that thankfully wasn't Hook... Despite their similar appearances.

"What do you want, August?" Emma grumbled, pulling the covers over her head, knowing that she was way past the time she normally would wake up. Thankfully, Hook didn't give her any work early in the morning... Though she felt guilty about being the only one who didn't have a job anymore, and still helped out anyway.

"Did you forget?" August teased, and though she re-buried her head back into her navy-cotton pillowcase, she could feel him walking closer to her.

"Forget what?" She wasn't really in the mood, but she turned her head to look at him with a smile on her face.

August smirked, a mischievous look in his eyes. "It's my birthday, Emma! Of all the days in the year, I think my birth-date is the most important! I'm ashamed-"

He was abruptly cut off by a pillow tossed at his face, and a groan escaping her lips. "Stop being such an-"

He shot Emma a pointed look before she could finish. "A what?" He asked suspiciously.

Emma rolled her eyes, just settling back into the pillows, turning her back and saying nothing.

He just chuckled from behind her, and she could feel the grin radiating off him. "I'm kidding, Ems. Happy birthday!"

"Thank you, August." Emma sat up, turning to face him, but crinkling her eyebrows when she saw a small gift box in his hand. "You didn't!"

"I've been waiting for years to give this to you, but I just never found the right time." He smiled happily, handing the box to her.

Emma gave him a puzzled look, taking the box from his hands. Carefully, she undid the blue ribbon, pulling off the lid.

Inside, on a piece of white cotton, lay a small, jewelled bracelet. It was gold at the base, diamonds laced across it. "August!" She gasped, looking at the beautiful bracelet. "I-I can't take this!" Emma tried to hand it back to him, but he just pushed it back into her grasp.

"Of course you can," he answered simply. "Here, let me help." He took the bracelet out the the box, and gently placed it on Emma's wrist. "There."

She looked at it in amazement, as the jewels caught the rays of the sun, reflecting onto the walls of the cabin. "Oh it's beautiful!" Emma gushed in awe.

He grinned. "So you like it?"

Emma rolled her eyes, throwing her arms around him and squeezing him tight. "Of course I do! Thank you."

He gave Emma a small hug in return, and nodded. "You're welcome." Then, he stood up. "I have to get back upstairs before they start questioning my absence. I just wanted to give you that first thing."

She shook her head, admiration in her eyes. "I love it."

He smiled, "Good. Happy birthday!" Then he turned to walk out the door, leaving Emma to ponder over how she would make the rest of her birthday just as good as the start.

X X X

Emma grumpily trudged onto the deck of the ship, not really wanting to get up out of bed, but not really wanting to seem like a lazy bum either.

The crew was taking a small break, and were practically dancing jovially around, glasses of rum being poured down their throats.

Emma smiled happily, seeing all her friends in such a good mood, and went over to join August, Porter, and Smee. Hook didn't seem to be around anywhere, and she could only imagine where he had snuck off to.

Whoops and hollers were being yelled in her ear due to the captain's absence as she made her way over the the trio of pirates. She didn't think Hook would be too happy to see that they were slacking off, but no one seemed to care.

"Well, miss Swan, you seem to have forgotten to mention something to us for the past four weeks..." Porter teased playfully, a lingering smile on his face.

"Oh really?" Emma replied. "And what could that be?" She shot back just as easily, grinning.

"Happy birthday, Emma!" Smee erupted into smiles and laughter, not seeming to be able to hold it in any longer.

Emma laughed, as Porter rolled his eyes, but repeated the same phrase. "Thank you two," she grinned.

"We would've gotten you something, but we didn't know-"

"So, we kinda threw you a party." Porter finished for Smee, gesturing around. "It's a bit last minute, August helped us out, but-"

"It's perfect," Emma interrupted, as more people came by to wish her a happy birthday. "You didn't have to go through all this trouble," she gushed, amazed by how little work they had put into it, and it still filled her with joy.

"You deserve it, Emma... Besides, the captain won't mind... Today's not really one of the days that brings out the best in him. He'll be below deck for a while." Porter shrugged, but Smee gave him a pointed, warning look.

She tilted my head. "What do you mean?" Emma asked.

Porter opened his mouth, attempting to say something, but he was promptly elbowed in the side by Smee. A warning glance was embedded in his deep brown eyes.

Porter sighed as Emma gave him a probing look. "Why won't you tell me? Why won't anyone tell me anything!?" She whined. "This whole ship is like a basket for secrets!" She crossed her arms, pouting like a small child.

"Curiosity killed the cat, you know." Smee gave her a pointed look, shaking his head with a smile on his face.

"I don't care! I need to know something or I swear, the next time we make port, I'm leaving!" She scowled, acting like a two year old.

Porter raised an eyebrow. "I thought we were past the whole 'I need to know everything or else I'll jump off the ship' thing, lass. You were doing just fine last night, what happened?"

Emma looked down at her hands which she folded over her thigh. "I realized something... And no, you don't need to know what it is-"

August laughed, now butting into the conversation. "I believe that's called being a hypocrite, Ems."

"August!" She tried to scowl, but broke out into a grin. "You're supposed to be on my side! Someone just please tell me what's going on!" She begged, hating being left out of all the secrets.

"Since you asked so nicely..." Smee rolled his eyes. "Today-"

Before he could get another word in, a door behind them slammed open, and Hook stood there, a murderous look in his eyes as he held up a flask of rum. "Did I say," he interrupted the fun and games of the crew dancing around the deck. "That you could stop your work?" He slurred maliciously, standing straight and tall, looking about ready to kill someone.

Emma sat still, staring at him open-mouthed in surprise. She knew this captain had his dark side, but she had never seen him look so deadly.

With a closer look, she noticed he had a paper held close in his palm with the rum bottle. Though it was held to where she couldn't see it, she already knew what it was.

"Well," he bellowed, taking a step closer to where the small group of people were sitting. "Answer me!"

"N-no, cap'n," Smee replied cautiously, his voice shaking, but the only one brave enough to speak.

"Then I better see each and every last one of you jumping up to fulfil your duties, before I feel like ripping your bloody heads off!" He screamed loudly, his voice dripping with venom and a promise Emma didn't want to see carried through.

"Yes, sir!" They all repeated in sync, as if the drill had been repeated many times before. Which Emma feared it had...

Hook sneered at the lot, and Emma almost thought she saw tears shining in his eyes before he began to retreat down the stairs.

She creased her eyebrows in confusion, and started to walk toward him, but Smee grabbed her wrist before she could get anywhere.

"You don't want to do that, lass," he interjected, and as if on cue, Emma heard a yell and the sound of glass shattering. "Just leave the captain be."

Though Emma wanted to go comfort Hook, she knew it was best if she just let him spew out whatever emotion he was feeling. She didn't want to get caught in the middle of his inner battle.

The blonde nodded, and turned to follow Smee toward the back of the ship.

Her birthday had started out so wonderfully, but now she had to deal with the damper Hook put on her mood, and the clouds rolling over the deck, darkening this very special day.

Chapter Text

The rest of the day seemed to go on as any other day. Well, besides the fact that it was the most beloved person on the ship's birthday, and that the captain was in an even more gloomy mood than usual.

Emma continued to ask around the deck about what was going on with Hook today, but no one seemed to want to tell her. She had given up on trying to figure out Hook's secrets, but now that they seemed to be piling up in thousands, she decided that she wouldn't settle for being clueless... Even if it meant arguing with Hook himself.

No one had seen him since this morning, but they could all hear his rages of fury from the deck. Occasionally, there were loud screams, glass shattering, and crashes against the wall, but everyone seemed to ignore it... Emma couldn't. She couldn't bear the thought that Hook was in some sort of pain, and she couldn't make it go away. She could only do so much, and unfortunately, mental well-being was not her expertise.

Everytime she heard a small noise from below deck, she cringed, thinking that a full-blown breakdown would occur. She was so swept up in her mind, worries inching up her sleeves, that she was becoming stressed and nervous... And though all this emotions had only started to break through the thick barrier that she had put up, it was coming in quickly, flooding her heart and mind like a river.

So, she channeled all of that into three very important things; helping Hook, saving the prince, and finding a way to fix the mess that she'd created.

By the dinner time, Hook had still not shown his face from his cabin, and Emma was partly glad. She was already having enough trouble as it was dealing the way that he made her feel, and trying to run away from those feelings. She hardly knew him as a person, but she has always felt like deep in her bones, she had known him her entire life.

For the cruel way that he had been treating her, and everyone aboard his ship, she was half-temped to leave him down there with his awful pain and let him rot in it.

But then, Emma's huge heart and moral compass took over. She decided to take him some food and a full gallon of water to help drain the alcohol that she was sure he consumed, and help lessen the pain he'd feel in the morning.

Smee tried to warn her about thirty-thousand times. The captain is in no mood to have conversation. The captain is having a rough day, but that it made her even more determined to go down and see him. Whether it was out of her motherly nature to help people, her rebellious spirit to go against Smee's warnings, or just out of all the things she felt about Hook, she knew she had to visit him.

Which is where she found herself right before she began preparing for bed, still hearing his painful sobs and racket.

She held her fist up to the door before knocking, hesitant, and wondering if maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all. But before her thoughts actually processed, her fist was violently against the hardwood of the cabin. "Hook?" She asked carefully before opening the door to reveal him lying across his bed with a full bottle of rum in his hands, looking more intoxicated than a whole pub of people could ever be.

He turned his head, squinting his glassy eyes. "Swan?"

She gave a weak smile, sitting the bowl and glass of water on the nightstand. Her eyes scanned the room, looking at the disastrous state it was in. Clothes were scattered on the floor, more bottles of rum in every nook and cranny, and scratches from his hook were on every piece of furniture and wood she could see.

"How are you?" Emma asked slowly, as he barely looked up at her from under his lashes. His eyes were practically shut, and his head slumped back onto to the bed, being too wasted to even hold it up.

"What are you doing?" He diverted, closing his eyes and groaning, his voice coming out hard and slurred. Emma felt her heart squeeze in sadness, but she pushed it away, remembering that she was only here to help him, not fall for him even more so.

She shoved the bread and broth toward him with the small cup of water. "I brought you some food and some water. To help you sober up." She offered a small, sad smile that quickly dissipated when he shot her a scowl.

"I'm sober enough for my liking, so I'd rather you leave me to wallow in my-" He hesitated, trying to come up with a word to describe his emotions. "Feelings," he scoffed, closing his eyes. "Now, leave."

Emma wouldn't be swayed by his harsh words this time. Unlike every other day, she would not leave just because he got angry, or threatened her, or anything else dangerous of the sort. This time, she was going to help him, and she was going to get answers.

"Please, Hook, you are about as close to being sober as the rum itself... Now eat the food and drink the water, or you are going to have a headache you'll regret in the morning." Emma pushed the food into his face, giving him a forceful look.

"Go away, Emma. I don't need your pity." Hook growled, turning on his side, away from her face.

"I'm not pitying you, Hook! Don't you understand, I'm trying to help-"

"Well, I don't need your help!" He yelled as loud as he could in his drunken state, but his voice came out weak, cracking on a few words.

Emma sighed, not knowing how to get through to him. She had tried time and time again before, each with different tactics, but not one seemed to work. "Yes, you do. For some reason, though I have a pretty good guess, you are extremely distressed. More so today than other days. You haven't eaten in over 24 hours, and you have consumed more alcohol in one day, than the whole crew could in a week. Now please, Hook, just talk to me." She was practically begging him now, not realizing how desperate her voice was coming out, but she hated to see him so hurt. Though she never would tell him this, she cared deeply for him. But she didn't want to think about that. She didn't want to get hurt herself. She knew that Hook would probably never love anyone as much as Milah, and though she was no where close to being in love with him, she didn't want to let her feelings break free of the surface, and her—whatever it was—be unrequited.

"The alcohol doesn't faze me."

Emma had continued to ramble so much nonsense, that she hardly heard his small whisper. "What?"

"For three-hundred years, I have had to live through this day. Live through everyday, to seek my revenge, to remember the life draining from her eyes as the crocodile squeezed it from her." He blinked back tears quickly, turning back to face her. "No amount of rum could erase the memory from my brain. Could make me forget for even one moment." A lump lodged in his throat, as he looked down at his hook. "A constant reminder was always there. I tried everything I could to be free of my pain for just one moment, without losing sight of my one goal... Killing the dark one." He let out a shaky breath, eyeing Emma with such intensity she thought her head might bust. "You want to know my past, Emma? Well, it isn't pretty, and it's not all coming out at once, but you already know about Milah... Today, three-hundred years ago, give or take a few, was the day she died."

Emma could feel tears welling up in her eyes for the sadness that he felt, and she looked down, unable to meet his gaze. "I'm sorry." She didn't have any words, and she felt incredibly horrible, because only twenty years ago, on the day that he was suffering the most of the year, she was born.

"Spare me your condolences, someone was going to tell you sooner or later." He rolled his eyes, tossing away the rum in his hands, and gulping down the water given to his only hand. "I rarely say this, Swan, but thank you."

Emma was surprised by his gratefulness, but only nodded, deciding that she had made enough progress for tonight, and had given him something he probably hadn't had since Milah... Someone that listened.

She smoothed the hair that was stuck to his forehead by sweat, a gentle smile on her face as she kissed his forehead. "You're welcome."

She turned her back, not wanting to say anything that might ruin the small moment they had.

Hook laid his head back down on to the bed, closing his eyes as he heard her quietly shut the door.

He knew that all he should be envisioning in was what he had tattooed on his brain for three centuries, but it wasn't. Today, there was a new picture, along with the vision of his love being ripped away from him.

He knew he should feel guilty for it, he shouldn't be thinking of it on the day he was supposed to mourning his one true love, or who he originally believed it to be... But now he wasn't so sure.

Maybe that's why he tried to drown himself in rum. Maybe not as much to ease the pain, as much as the guilt.

He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to refocus himself.

Milah died. Rumplestiltskin killed her. He was going to kill Rumplestiltskin. And he was going to get this and more by holding the prince hostage.

He repeated these words over and over again in his head, trying to make them the epicenter of his actions.

But he couldn't. Not when the only thing in his mind was her shining green eyes instead of Milah's deep blue ones. Her mop of golden waves flowing in the wind instead of Milah's dark ringlets. The way she didn't let anyone stop her from getting what she wanted, instead of Milah, who always had an excuse or an obstacle in her way.

And he especially could not forgive himself when all he felt was Emma's lips against his, and could hardly remember what holding Milah, caressing her skin, and kissing her felt like.

X X X

As Emma walked out of the bedroom, what seemed to be the entirety of the crew waited for her near the ladder of the room. The men were all sitting around, staring at her with both a confused and curious glance, but Emma wanted nothing more than to ignore them, and go to sleep after her long and tiring day. Though it was her birthday, and she had had a wonderful day, it had been a crazy one. She was exhausted.

So, instead of giving any of them what they wanted, which was answering how she was walking out of Hook's room without a scratch on her head, she glared at August. He seemed to be the leader of whatever was going on.

At first, she was going to scold him, but then thought the better idea would be to just act like nothing happened. "Goodnight, everyone. Thank you for giving me such a wonderful birthday." She said with a smile, walking by them quickly before any of them could ask any questions.

She shut the door with a quiet click, and slid her back against it. She held her hands against her chest, breathing heavily. Though she had been so caught up in Hook just a few minutes ago, she hadn't realized till now how close she was reaching to his heart. They were having a moment, and though she knew how she felt about him, she already knew she couldn't let her dreams become a reality. As long as she thought that whatever she felt for him was out of her grasp, she wouldn't be so heartbroken when she left to return back to her kingdom, whether it be in a year or tomorrow. But moments like those were when she let go of those rational thoughts, and let herself drown in his ocean blue eyes.

She let her eyelids flutter closed, and squeezed them together. Maybe a good night's rest would give her some better insight, instead of being overly tired, when your mind was about as clear as an intoxicated man.

Emma walked over to the bed, finding it much harder to fall asleep than she had originally thought. Her mind was consumed with images and ideas and insanity, she felt as if she had to force a switch to flip in her brain to shut it off. Hopefully in the morning she would feel more rested and less confused.

X X X

Much to her disappointment, her seven hours of sleep that she had craved were rudely interrupted by banging in the middle of the night. Emma subconsciously reminded herself that she was right above the brig, where the prisoner/prince was being kept.

She opened her eyes, staring at the ceiling, pondering on whether or not she should go down there.

Though the shouts were very loud, but unclear, it was obvious that most of the crew could probably hear it too, though they were all most likely tuning it out. Plus, they had all been banned from going down there.

So, either Hook was the one instigating the shouts, or the prince just wanted to cause a racket... And judging by the captain's behaviour earlier, it was more probable to be the latter.

Emma let her feet touch the cool wood of the ship under her, deciding that she should at least go see what was wrong, even if she couldn't stop it. Emma was unable to sleep with the noise, and she envied the fact that the rest of the crew could. She only slept with silence, or else she would be up for the rest of the night.

Following the same routine as she did the night before, minus getting more blankets, she climbed down into the brig where the sounds continued to get louder when she shut the hatch, being enclosed in the somewhat small room with the noisy heir.

The man seemed to stop his shouting and banging against the bars when he saw someone creeping around in the shadows.

Emma realized that she should've brought something to cover her face with, just in case this prince somehow recognized her as Snow White and Charming's Daughter or something of the sort... But it was too late to turn around now, and she didn't think that, even if he told the crew her true identity, they would believe him. She had played the poor and desperate peasant card pretty well, though she had never spent a day of her life living like that.

"Hook?" The prince growled in a thick English drawl. "Whatever business you have with my father, leave me out of it!" His voice was filled with a poison that Emma had felt many times in her father's voice (not towards her or her family, of course), and in her own. "I thought I made it clear that I didn't want to be involved in any of this." Seeing him under the small light that flooded through the window in the wall, she could tell how distressed he was, and how angry. She had only met a few princes, due to the way too guarded life she had, and they had mostly been narcissistic and annoying. Though this blonde before her could surely be the same, she had a feeling he wasn't.

Finally getting enough courage to approach him, she stepped out of the shadows.

She met his gaze, and his eyes widened apologetically.

"I'm afraid you have the wrong person." She gave a gentle smile.

He let out an uneasy laugh. "Forgive me, miss. I assumed you were the captain since he has been the only one to visit me." He nodded slightly, noticing the small scraps of food she could scrounge up for dinner. "I don't suppose you were the one who supplied me with the meal the other night?" He questioned.

Emma smiled sheepishly. "Yes, that was me."

"Well you have my sincere appreciation." He took the food that was handed to him, and though he looked as if he wanted more than anything to eat it, he sat it aside, waiting until she left to consume it. "Although I don't understand why you would be so kind to a lowly prisoner like me." It sort of came out as an accusation, a question, and a statement.

"Well, I've been told you are a prince." Emma said simply, hoping that would somewhat inflate his ego, and make him seem like someone other than he was... Which was someone Emma could see herself in. Emma didn't want to like this prisoner at all. Quite frankly, she wanted to hate him. Then she wouldn't have to deal with the conflicting sides of the pirates and the royalty...

He gave a tight-lipped smile. "Yes." He sort of cringed upon hearing the last word of her sentence. He didn't say anything else, and Emma sighed, her plan not working the way she wanted.

"Well, of course that isn't the only reason, I mean..." She looked down at her hands. "I don't know... I may be on a pirate ship, but I don't think that's a plausible excuse for abandoning all morals, is it?" She asked, shrugging.

"No, I suppose not."

She smiled. "It's just... " She shook her head in embarrassment. "It's silly... My father had this thing he used to tell me... If you are unlucky enough to feel the need to be kind to everyone-"

"Then you will be lucky enough to get kindness in return." The prince smiled in surprise, his cheeks lighting up a shade of rose, giving his face the color that he hadn't had before.

Emma's eyes widened in shock. She opened her mouth to speak, but the prince interrupted. "Sorry, but the queen used to tell me the same thing." He looked behind her in a nostalgic way that almost made Emma feel bad, though it didn't appear that he wanted or needed anyone's pity.

"The queen?" Emma asked in confusion.

His eyes shot up. "Yes, well, I mean... My mother." He stiffened at the word. "Just forget that I said that." He pressed his lips together tightly. "It's quite complicated, so I'd rather not discuss it-"

"No, I understand!" Emma interjected.

He let out a small breath, a grateful expression taking over his face. "Thank you." Nothing was said between the two of them for a small moment before the prince finally spoke. "You know, you're quite nice for a pirate... " He grinned. "I'm Charles, by the way."

Chapter Text

Emma stared at him, eyes widening with every passing second. Could he possibly be the man that she was to marry? No, no, there have to be a thousand people in the realm named Charles, and at least a few of them were bound to be princes, weren't they?

The more she thought about it, the more her reasoning seemed completely ridiculous, and as she thought about it, he looked exactly as descriptions had been told to her.

Charles eyed her oddly, since she hadn't said anything for a while, and kept staring at him with a shocked expression. He laughed lightly to clear the air, but it came out a bit nervously. He wondered why she was staring at him with such confusion.

"And your name is?" He asked, hoping to spark her response.

She shook her head, as if coming out of a daydream. "It's uh... Uh..." Emma stumbled over her words, knowing that if she told him her real name, the cat would be out of the bag, and she would have to leave. Staying would no longer be an option.

Charles laughed. "Hard question?" He raised an eyebrow, and Emma blushed, shaking her head.

What was she supposed to tell him? If she told him a fake name, that could get questions from the crew if he ever spoke to them as a whole, and if she told him her real name, surely he would recognize it, and put two and two together.

"Uh, you can just call me Swan, I suppose." Emma finally blurted out, not having anything else to say. "Most everyone here does." Which that of course, was a lie... No one called her that except for Hook and one or two others.

He grinned slightly. "Okay... I like that. It fits you."

Emma smiled and let out the breath she was holding, thankful that he didn't question her any further on the matter. "Thank you... I guess."

He nodded, "You're welcome... I guess." They both laughed, and Emma was about to say something else when she heard shuffling above their heads, and she looked out the window to see the sun was coming up.

She gasped, realizing that someone was coming towards the brig, and she sprang to her feet. "I'm not supposed to be down here, no one can know I was down here!" She said quickly, scanning the room to find a place to hide. She had told Hook that she was not going to come torture the prince, and because of that, he made her swear she wouldn't come down here. If he figured out, she would have to explain herself. "Promise you won't tell?" She whispered sharply to him, narrowing her eyes.

"I'd lose my only company if I did. I'm sworn to secrecy." He nodded, crossing his heart.

Emma let out a small breath. "Thank you." She ran behind the ladder, hiding behind a barrel as the panel to the brig opened, and leather boots clanked as they made their way down the steps.

She pressed herself against the wall, and held her breath, trying hard not to make a sound.

Charles sat himself back inside the cage nonchalantly, as if nothing happened.

Another pair of boots followed behind, who she now recognized to be Hook, and he turned around to face Kane. "Do not let your temper get the best of you, or you will be walking the plank faster than you ever imagine. We are here to scare him not kill him, since Emma refused to use her tactics." He whispered to the tall brute who nodded. Emma ducked her head, and closed her eyes, sure that they could hear her heart beating. "I'd actually prefer you not to speak."

"Aye, captain."

Hook nodded and turned his head. Emma could see that he was still in very bad condition from all his drinking, but he was obviously ready to resume his position of boss.

He strutted out in front of Charles's cage, a smirk evident on his features. "Glad to see that you've stopped your unnecessary shouting."

Charles looked at him with a blank face. "I got bored."

Hook smiled wickedly, walking closer, the bars just inches from his face. "Thankfully... I was beginning to wonder if I would ever get any sleep aboard this ship."

"That's what I'm here for Hook... To make your life difficult." Charles smirked. Though Emma didn't believe it was a good idea to spite the pirate captain, she did find herself feeling proud of Charles standing up to Hook.

"So it may seem.... Well," Hook said, smiling, bringing Kane to Charles's cage. "I thought it was about time to introduce you two." He gestured between the two. "Charles, Kane. Kane, Charles."

The young prince eyed him with a blank face. "And...?"

"Well, you know I can't kill you... That wouldn't be beneficial to me at all, but I can torture you. Though you see, I'd rather have someone to do it for me. And if you haven't noticed, my mate here could easily snap your neck without batting an eyelash." Hook tilted his head, eyeing the prince who didn't seem to be fazed.

"Your point?"

Hook raised an eyebrow. "Aw, come on, Charlie, thought you would be smarter than that." He said jokingly.

Charles shrugged his shoulders. "You got me Hook." He said, a smirk on his lips. "Please do tell me what terrible fate you've got in store for me."

Hook grinned. "I'm going to give you until we get to Tortuga in two weeks to give me all the answers I require. If I don't have what I want by then... Well, Kane has all sorts of tortuous plans in mind." Hook bent down, leaning his face close to Charles's. "I'm not going to kill you mate... Because even if you don't give me answers, you are still my leverage. But what type of leverage would you be if you were dead?" He let out a small laugh. "No, I won't kill you... But I will give you hell on Earth." He glowered over Charles, who was small in the back of the cage, and pulled back to examine the bigger picture. He spun on his heels, walking up the stairs. "There's some food for thought... Have a nice dinner, and don't make the wrong choice."

Hook began walking up the stairs with Kane following close behind him.

Emma peeked up over the barrel she was hiding behind, right as Kane was turning to look in her direction.

Her eyes widened and she gasped as she heard him stop climbing up the ladder. She ducked back into her hiding spot, praying he didn't see her.

"Kane, hurry up, I need you to help me." Hook snapped, at the older pirate.

Emma heard the skeptical sigh and continuing footprints of Kane. "Yessir."

Charles and Emma both let out a sigh of relief as they retreated. She came out from behind the barrel, only laughing from pure shock.

Charles let on a nervous smile. "Well, I truly wish you luck with that bastard." He pretended to look scared, pressing a finger to his lips. "Shh... Don't tell him I said that." He laughed, a toothy grin spreading across his face that made Emma laugh as well.

"Thank you." She waved quickly, making her way to the ladder. "It was nice to meet you."

"You too... Thanks for giving me company." He winked playfully, and Emma rolled her eyes as she retreated up the stairs, feeling a little bit thankful she had gotten a chance to speak to the prince, and realize he wasn't at all who she thought he was.

X X X

"You don't know that's who he is." August commented to Emma as he scrubbed the wooden floor of the deck.

She would've have helped him, but Hook forbid that she have to do any work cleaning the ground, and hid all of the cleaning supplies from her. The least she could do was give August company while he slaved away in the blazing sun.

"August come on!" She gave her best friend a skeptical look. "How many men-" She shook her head, correcting herself. "Princes, do we know of the name, Charles?"

August stopped scrubbing, and look to the sky in contemplation, rubbing the sweat from his brow. "Uh... None?"

Emma narrowed her eyes, a smile playing on her lips as he went back to work. "I'm serious August! What are the chances that he's not the prince I'm betrothed to?" She whispered sharply, trying not to draw attention to herself.

August stared at her blankly. "Do you want the truth, Ems?"

"The whole and honest truth." She said, matter-of-factly.

He sighed. "Well, I don't see a whole lot of hope that he's not your prince." He looked down, scrubbing more harshly than he had previously. "But, don't worry about it."

Emma looked at him in horror. "Don't worry about it!? August, I'm supposed to-" She stopped, realizing how loud her voice was. "I'm supposed to marry this man! I can't!"

August gripped her arm, stopping her from having a panic attack. "Emma, it's going to fine, okay?" He made her focus her eyes in on him, and gave her a small smile. "Even if this crew and this ship throw you off the face of the earth, I'll stick with you, okay? As your best friend, and your brother."

Emma smiled gratefully at the blue-eyed brunette. "Thank you."

Even though her and Hook had lied to each other for most the time they were on this ship, and they didn't know the majority of each other's past, she had had August ever since she was a baby... And he wasn't untrustworthy or going anywhere. Emma was thankful to have such a good friend.

X X X

Sitting next to Hook at dinner reminded Emma that it had been a couple days since they had last had a regular conversation.

The things she wanted to talk about with Hook were not really things she felt like discussing with the whole crew, so she waited until supper was finished.

She found him up on the deck, steering the ship as usual. Emma had recently noticed that whenever he was up there, he was always less stressed, and more carefree and relaxed. His eyes shone brighter, and a smile was almost always on his lips. She could tell how much he enjoyed the ocean from that and the childish look that was plastered on his features.

"Hook?" she said, nervously for some odd reason.

He didn't turn his head, but his smile widened just a little bit. "Evening, Swan."

She laughed lightly. "How... How are you? I mean, I know it's not my business to pry, but-"

"I'm fine." He said quickly. "I've been better, but... I'd rather not discuss that."

"Of course," Emma answered, bowing her head. "I just wanted to talk to you."

Hook paused in steering the wheel, and turned his body around to face her. He smirked, flicking up his eyebrows. "Talk about what?"

She rolled her eyes. "I don't know I just missed," she paused, rephrasing what she was about to say, "talking to you."

He shrugged. "I'm not that interesting."

Emma looked at him incredulously, and laughed. "Are you joking!? You have brilliant stories! They are wonderful!" She smiled brightly, remembering all the tales he told her earlier.

"Well what about you, love? Surely you have something to share?" He grinned, sitting down on the deck, and pulling her down with him.

She sat across from him, still holding his hand as she sat down. The space was close, and their knees were pressed together. Though the close proximity drove Emma insane, she didn't mind it too much.

"Well, what do you want to know?"

Hook thought for a moment, racking through the questions in his brain. "Your family... What are they like?"

Emma looked down at her hands, not wanting to feel pain over her family, whom she missed dearly. But she wanted to tell Hook about her parents. "My mother... she's amazing. Though sometimes we have our quarrels and differences, I've known that she's always been there for me. Though I have at times found myself questioning her love, I've always known it's there, even when she shows it in odd ways. Her eyes always shine with kindness, and she has this love for others that makes me so envious. And she is absolutely beautiful." Emma gazed off into the dark night sky, feeling tears rush to her eyes at the thought of her parents.

"I can see where you get it from then." Hook answered, letting his hand stroke her cheek gently once, and a small smile appeared on her lips.

"My father is sweet and caring. He's always been on my side of things, seen them my way. He can be very overprotective sometimes, but it doesn't faze me too much." She giggled. "I've learned the hard way that he's only doing that to help me..." She paused, frowning. "But I love him... I love both of them. And to be honest, I miss them."

Hook creased his eyebrows in confusion. "Then why did you leave?"

Emma inhaled deeply, licking her lips. "I've always been spoiled, being an only child, but that doesn't mean I get everything my heart desires. I was being forced to do things I didn't want, and I started to feel like the walls were closing in on me, and I couldn't breath. I knew I had to get out... So I left."

Hook gripped Emma's hand tightly. "And do you regret it?"

Emma tensed up for a moment, thinking deeply. Did she regret it? She had enjoyed every single moment being on this ship, but did she regret leaving her parents, her home?

"Yes." Emma said bluntly.

Hook's face fell. His vibrant blue eyes that always held life in them turned to a dark grey, shadows showing themselves on his faces.

"Yes, I regret leaving my home... I miss it dearly, even though I had my outs with the people there. Yes I regret not saying goodbye to my family, just walking out the door. Yes I miss my friends, and all the people I care about. And yes, despite all my hardships and the duties I had to go through, I miss my old life." Emma paused, trying to get a good handle on her emotions before she continued, and she snuck a peek at Hook who seemed to become disheartened by her lecture. "But no, I do not regret coming aboard this ship. Because even though I miss home..." She inhaled deeply. "I got to meet you."

Hook's eyes shot up to her's, widening in shock. He seemed at a loss of words for a moment before finally, he grinned, and before she knew it, his lips were on her's.

She gasped, her bright emerald eyes growing large before they fluttered shut, and she leaned into him, her mouth molding into his, and kissing him with the same passion as him.

Hook had never felt so alive, so free and so emotional in three-hundred years. Emma brought out the parts in him he believed he would never see again, and he couldn't help but fall for her more and more everyday.

She pulled herself into him, practically sprawled across him on the deck, and tugged on his hair, slanting her mouth over his.

He groaned into her mouth, and gripped her back tightly, pulling her onto his lap, and resting his hand on her lower back.

Though she was reluctant to pull away, Emma knew she had to breathe, and she took one short breath. She knew she hadn't said the words, or actually admitted that she truly cared for the captain in front of her, but she assumed he got the message.

Hook's eyes were shining kindly, and he wasn't looking at her with only sexual desire and lust, but with admiration and care. He looked more youthful and happy than she had ever seen him, and Emma wondered how she could possibly bring that out in him.

Emma wanted to get her mouth back on his as soon as possible, but Hook stopped her.

"Emma, wait."

She raised an eyebrow, frowning. Was he having second thoughts? Did he not like her like she thought?

"I-" He paused, fumbling over his choice of words. "Emma for over a month, you have been on my ship. First as my crew mate, than as my enemy, acquaintance, and friend. But ever since you first stepped onto this ship, you have had this pull on me that I can't, for the life of me, explain. I've been trying to figure you out from the start, Swan. Not because I need to know how to take you down, not so that I can use you, but because I genuinely want to know you. I haven't met anyone like you in a long time, anyone that's made me smile as bright as you. You have this light about you that makes me want to pull away from the darkness that surrounds my heart, and you're so genuinely beautiful. You don't see it, and you don't see the effect you have on me. But Emma Swan... You are changing me every second I spend with you, and that scares me. I can't be strong against something that's my weakness, and that's why I fight so hard against you, when all I want, is for you to be mine."

Hook let out a deep breath, feeling a huge weight lift from his chest. He felt free now, like chains had been removed from his body, like he had finally broken free of the surface and could breath again. He gazed at Emma, waiting for her to have some sort of reaction, when all the sudden, tears slowly fell from her cheeks.

Hook frown deeply. "Did I upset you?"

Emma smiled so widely it hurt her mouth, and she shook her head. Her tears still fell, but for the first time in her life, she didn't care. "No, no, of course not." She held his face in her hands, and stroked her cheek. "It's just... No one has ever said anything to me like that before. No one's ever wanted me to be theirs, or called me beautiful, or looked at me like that." She squeezed her eyes shut, holding in her joyful tears. "How can you think I'm anything special, Hook? I'm just me."

Hook smiled. "That's what makes you so special, love. You are the one and only Emma Swan. You're... You're beautiful, strong, full of light. You care more about other people than yourself... Something I haven't done in so long. But you changed that in me." He smiled, holding his hand against her cheek.

Emma looked deeply into his eyes, and felt so much emotion she didn't know how to handle it. She had never, ever felt this way about anyone. How could she feel it for this pirate? This broken man, this being who hardly had a soul anymore.

"Do you think... Maybe someday... You could love me?" Emma asked in a small voice, knowing that she wasn't too far from being in love with the pirate himself. She didn't know him well, but she felt a connection to him so deep in her bones, it couldn't possibly be wrong.

Hook grinned. "It's definitely possible."

Emma smiled, and let out a breath, feeling at peace, and more importantly... At home. "That's good to know."

Hook laughed, a sound that was both rare, and beautiful.

They both sat in silence as she laid her head against his chest, listening to his heartbeat, and staring at the stars.

"Hook?" She finally asked.

"Hmm?"

"If we go into this, if we are together... I want to take it slow, okay? I know you're pirate, and you aren't patient, but could you just wait... Until I'm ready? For everything?" Emma asked nervously. She knew Hook had had his many conquests of women over the years, and she needed to know before she did more than kiss him, that she wasn't just one of his flings, and that he was going to really, truly, care for her.

"I'll wait a million years if I have to." Hook smiled, and Emma smiled too, not looking up to face him, and just snuggling into his chest, feeling content.

"But I have one request." Hook said with a smirk.

"What's that?" Emma asked carefully, a bit scared of what he wanted from her.

"Please," he said, his eyes softening. "Call me Killian."

Chapter Text

Hook awoke the next morning to a stormy, grey sky, light drizzle falling down. It was near sunrise, and he was the first one awake. He didn't expect anyone to be awake anytime soon, but he couldn't sleep.

Ever since he had admitted to Emma his feelings, and she had committed to a relationship that he had been craving, he had felt something changing deep within him. Not only was he falling for the blonde beauty, but day by day, he could feel her kind spirit rubbing off on him, chasing away his darkness and bringing back his light.

He had been hurt a lot, and felt so much pain and loss, he didn't think he would ever get it back. He was starting to feel happy again, and he didn't know how Emma did it, or why he felt so deeply for her, but he knew, that no matter what, he could never lose her. She would have to be protected at all cost.

Though he was beginning to care for the younger girl, he couldn't give up his quest for revenge. Maybe he didn't love Milah as much as he used to, and maybe his heart was shared by both her and Emma, but he couldn't just give up three lives worth of hunting. No, the Crocodile would be killed, and everyone would benefit from it. Not just him. The Dark One had killed, tortured, manipulated, and hurt too many people in his life to get anything less than what Hook had planned for him.

Maybe then, after Rumplestiltskin was dead, Hook would finally feel at ease. He would have avenged Milah, defeated the Crocodile, and he could finally have solace without worrying whether or not Emma would be safe with him. Maybe that's when he would finally allow himself to love her.

But for now, he would focus on getting the prince to open up to him.

He walked slowly down the stairs, careful not to wake any of his crew members. He didn't want to deal with them asking questions.

The prince was curled up in a ball, his head tucked down by his legs as he laid on his side. His arms were under his head, and his breathing was soft.

Hook rolled his eyes, tapping his namesake on the cool steel of the cage. "Wake up." He growled. The prince didn't stir. Hook sneered, kicking the cage. "WAKE UP."

Charles sat up quickly, in shock at Hook's loud voice. He was sure he had woken up someone else besides the prince, but he didn't think they would be stupid enough to come and investigate.

The prince was stunned to a silence until he noticed who it was. "Oh, Hook." He faked a smile. "What an unpleasant surprise."

Hook returned the smirk just as cockily. "Yes, well, coming down here is just as unpleasant, for I have to deal with you."

Charles rolled his eyes. "What do you need, Hook?"

"I can't come to talk to my old friend?" Hook said with a small bit of hurt, but of course, it wasn't genuine.

"Oh, I'd hardly call us friends. Interrogating ten year olds doesn't really get you many points for a future relationship." Charles said pointedly.

"Well, when said child finds himself in Neverland, claiming to be looking for Rumplestiltskin for just as long as me, what was I supposed to do?" Hook said innocently.

"Oh, please. Just cut the act. What do you really want?" Charles said. "I already told you what I know! What else do you expect me to say? I don't know where he's at!" Charles yelled into Hook's face. "And the king doesn't know what the hell dreamshade is, okay? Why can't you just let me go?" Charles creased his eyebrows together, shaking his head. "The Dark One took away any hope of me finding my birth parents. I hate him as much as you, so why don't we—"

Hook didn't want to listen to his talking any longer. He shoved his hook into his face toward his neck. "I don't want to be partners with someone who continues to lie to me, so until you tell me the truth, consider yourself my prisoner." He said, poking the hook barely into Charles's neck, just enough to draw blood.

"Hook, you know I'm not lying! I DON'T KNOW ANYTHING! WHY WOULD I?" He yelled, as Hook walked away up to the deck, ignoring the rest of his cries.

But the bad part was that Hook wasn't sure the prince was lying. And if he was telling the truth, then Hook would have hit another dead end yet again.

XXX

Emma knew that Killian was oblivious to her presence.

She had been awake for nearly forty-five minutes, just sitting on her bed thinking, when she heard his boots clicking down the wooden floor on his way down to the brig.

She waited until the boots were barely in earshot, and then she snuck out of her cabin, following him down the hall.

She didn't really enjoy spying on him, or sneaking down the brig to see Charles, but whenever she asked about it, he always shrugged it off, and told her it was not her problem. She didn't argue, wanting things to go smoothly in their new-found relationship. Besides, he wasn't the only one keeping secrets.

She sat outside the ladder to the brig, hidden in the shadows, and listening to the conversation.

Leaning closer, she couldn't really hear the first part of what the captain said, up until he screamed at Charles to wake up.

Emma jumped in shock. Not only was Charles wide-awake, but so was she.

The first part of the conversation (or argument) was mostly boring to Emma, until something Hook said peaked her interest.

"I can't come to talk to my old friend?" Hook asked jokingly, and Emma wasn't sure if he was serious or not. Did they know each other from somewhere else?

"Oh, I'd hardly call us friends. Interrogating ten year olds doesn't really get you many points for a future relationship."

Emma was confused. Hook acted like he had never met Charles before they kidnapped him, and now they seemed to have know each other for ages!

"Well when said child finds their self in Neverland, claiming to be looking for Rumplestiltskin for just as long as me, what was I supposed to do?"

Emma's eyes widened. She knew that Charles had been almost twenty-four by the time she had first been preparing for the wedding, but she never imagined that he could possibly be as old as Hook. How long had he been trapped in Neverland? And why in the world was he looking for the Dark One?

Her head was spinning, thoughts rolling around in her mind. How could this happen? How could she get herself in such a big mess?

Pirates. Princes. Revenge. Dark Ones. Neverland.

She couldn't think straight. She needed answers before she went out of her mind.

It didn't seem like that long, but it could've been minutes she sat there, because the next moment she realized that Hook was standing right above her. And he didn't look happy.

"Swan, what do you think you're doing?" Hook said through gritted teeth, trying to stay calm.

Emma felt like she was going out of her mind. Her head hurt, and she rubbed her temples. "Why do you need Cha-" She stopped herself, recovering quickly. "The prince?"

Hook sighed. "Emma, I already told you-"

"No, I want to know the truth, Hook!" She said louder, and Hook tried to shush her, but the more adamant he got, the louder she spoke.

"You said you want a relationship!" She said that part in a whisper. "But that takes honesty!" She knew she would regret saying these words later, because karma was a bitch. She honestly just wanted answers, and she was so sick of waiting for them. "Please just talk to me, Killian." She said softly, reaching out to grasp his one hand.

Hook smiled gently, closing his eyes. "Emma, I will, I promise. But now is just not the time. You need to understand, please Emma, understand." He grabbed her face, holding her head in his hand and hook softly. "I just don't want to drag you into this whole mess, love. Please know that I don't want you to get hurt." Hook's eyes shone with fear and honesty, and he traced her jawline gently, hoping that she would listen.

Emma felt herself melting under his intense gaze. She wanted to know, she hated feeling so helpless and lost, but she couldn't refuse the look that was on Killian's face. He was practically begging, pleading with her to just trust him, to wait for him to tell her what was going on.

She finally relented. "Okay. But I want to know soon. Please." Emma smiled. "I can't stand all this not knowing." She brought her hand up to the left side of his face before pulling herself in to give a quick, sweet peck on the lips. "I'm trusting you to tell me, Killian."

"I will, love. I promise, I will." He kissed her back, and pulled away, leaving Emma feeling warmer from his kisses and touches. "But I have to return to my duties as captain for now." He gave her a soft smile. "I can't do it today, because we are preparing for Tortuga, but would you like to join me for dinner in my cabin one day, Swan?"

Emma's eyes widened, and she pulled a gentle smirk onto her lips. "Why, captain, are you asking me on a date?"

Killian smiled sheepishly, and nodded his head. "I suppose I am. So what do you say, darling?"

Emma smiled widely, feeling a warmth inside that she hadn't felt in quite a long time. "I would love to.

Killian grinned so bright, it seemed as though someone could be blinded. He kissed her softly before returning up to deck. "I can't wait, love."

XXX

August was not a genius, he knew that was for certain. But that didn't mean he wasn't smart. And it had to take a really dumb person to not notice Emma's odd behaviour, and the passionate way she had been looking at Hook.

He knew that this was bound to happen, but he didn't suspect it to be so soon.

Though he was a bit scared that Hook was going to break his little sister's heart, he didn't disapprove of the relationship, as long as he made Emma happy.

He didn't want to make assumptions (even if it was likely to be true), so he approached Emma later in the day to ask about her new-found love.

"NO!" She finally responded after much persisting for an answer. "I do not have a thing for Hook!" She whispered quietly, a red tint appearing on her cheeks.

"You're blushing, Ems." He grinned knowingly. "That gives it all away."

Emma sighed, knowing that he wasn't going to believe her, even if she continued to lie. He was her best friend. Of course he could see right through her.

"Fine," Emma finally relented. "But don't tell anyone what I'm about to tell you."

And so she began the tale of her and Hook upon the Jolly Roger, leaving out the kissing parts, much to August's amusement.

When she finally finished her tale, August's face lit up with a smile.

"So... You are saying that you and Hook are together?"

Emma blushed, feeling so awkward talking to him about this. "Yes."

He grinned, and then, quick as a flash, gave her a giant hug. "It's about time you got over the last one." August said sadly, and Emma felt a pain in her heart, but she ignored it. "I may not have been here through those years, but I had friends watching over you. I'm happy for you, Emma." He smiled, and then raised an eyebrow. "Just know, that if Hook hurts you, I'm brutally murdering him, and feeding his remains to the sharks."

Emma slapped him playfully, but felt a relieved smile pull on her face. She had been nervous about telling him, but she felt a huge weight lifted off her shoulders now that he finally knew the truth.

XXX

For nights, Charles had not been able to sleep. Everything about this ship, these talks he had with Hook, and the whole situation brought back terrible memories. He had always, since he was a child, had a bit of insomnia. He had nightmares about his past, and when he fell asleep, they would come to plague him once again.

Many years ago...

Charles knew it wasn't just a dream.

He knew that he had truly heard the music, that it wasn't just in his imagination, like his parents had said.

He had used all his willpower last night, to just ignore the music floating by his window, but he couldn't do it any longer. He sat up, and peered out his window, seeing a multitude of children from all ages heading towards the alluring music.

Charles felt something inside him snap, and he felt his urge to resist the music fade away. All he wanted was to follow it, to find out where it was coming from.

He climbed out his bedroom window, using skills he didn't even know he had to scale the stone wall.

The night was dark, the sky barely showing any signs of stars, but it was warm for the early spring.

He felt a shiver go up his spine as he reached the end of the tower, turning towards the woods where the other children were heading. He felt mesmerized and enchanted by the sound coming from what he now recognized to be pipes, and though he loved the music, he felt it to be a danger to him. He didn't know what it might hold at the other end.

The ground was muddy from the previous nights of rain, and Charles could feel the water sloshing around in his old, worn down shoes. Hand-me-downs from his older cousins... As most of his clothes were.

He didn't know what he was doing in the woods, but he had been here plenty of times, and he knew he could find his way back. He just had to find the source of the music. Nothing else mattered but that.

The sound got louder with every step he took, and he was beginning to hear shouts and whoops from other boys. He could feel excitement creeping in, and he wanted to join in with the fun. He picked up his speed, not wanting to wait any longer to see what all the fuss was about.

Finally, after a good five minutes of walking, the sound was at it's climax, the music floating around the air like the wind, and he finally saw where the party was.

Boys like him were jumping around, dancing, and shouting, looking as if there was not a care in the world. Charles was beginning to notice that a lot of them were older, teenagers even... And here he was, a scrawny blonde who had just recently hit ten years of age.

Charles wanted to join in the fun, he did, but that wasn't was he felt he was supposed to be doing here. No, he felt like there was a bigger reason for him coming. And that was to find the one who was playing the lovely music.

Charles looked around to find the source, but no such luck appeared. The fire was blazing so bright, that it was hard to see within ten feet of you, so much smoke floating around. "Piper?" He called out in his small voice, but it only came out above a whisper. He could feel fear trying to rip it's way to his heart, but he wouldn't let it. No, he was, for the first time in his life, going to be brave. "Piper?" He said a little louder. "Can you hear me, Piper?" His voice picked up, now carrying itself along with the music, and he was just as loud as the boys around him. "I'd like to talk to you if you don't mind."

Now, Charles might have been raised in a small village, in a small house, with small-minded parents, but that didn't mean he didn't have smarts or manners.

Charles sighed in defeat. Maybe he would never find the maker of the music. Maybe he didn't want to be found. He looked down, slumping his shoulders, and began to turn around. He might as well go home if there was nothing to find here.

His back turned, and his eyes widened as they trailed up to see a much taller boy, with a dark smirk on his features. "Looking for me, lad?" He asked, tilting his head.

Charles quickly look towards the older boy's hand, a pipe grasped tightly in it. He gasped, and looked back up into the piper's eyes, nodding in awe. He couldn't find the words to speak.

The piper bent down to Charles's level. "Well you found me." His eyes shine with a darkness that he should have feared, but the piper's mouth was curled up into a gleeful smile, that Charles didn't know what to think. "You're a special boy, Charles."

The blonde's eyes widened as he stared into the emerald orbs of the brunette. "How did you know my name?" Charles asked in fear and amazement.

The piper laughed. "I know a lot of things."

Charles crinkled his eyebrows in confusion. "You said I was special... What did you mean by that?"

The Piper grinned as if he had been waiting for the blonde to ask that question. "You heard the music, right?"

Charles nodded his head. "Of course... Everyone did."

The piper held up a finger. "On that, you are wrong. Only certain boys can hear this pipe. They feel enchanted by it, and are drawn to it. But only a couple of children can find me." He smiled wickedly, and though Charles knew he should be afraid of the piper, he wasn't. "You have a purpose in a different life, a different time," the piper said, standing up. "Just like your brother."

Charles's eyes widened in shock. "I don't have a brother..." He said in confusion. "I was adopted."

The piper smiled. "But that doesn't mean you didn't have a sibling. Would you care to meet them someday?"

Charles tilted his head. "You could help me find them?"

"Oh I've already found them." He smirked. "It's just a matter of if you want to, too. You see, this all depends on you, Charles. You can meet your brother, find your birth parents, and you can come to Neverland with me and the rest of the boys." He gestured around the campfire to the group of kids all around. They all looked happy, and Charles hadn't felt true happiness in a while. He smiled at the thought. Maybe he could find a place within the band of children.

"Or," the piper said, interrupting his thoughts a. "You can stay here... For the rest of your life. This isn't where you belong, Charles, and you know it. Have you ever truly felt at home in this town?" He said in disgust, shaking his head. "Would your parents really miss you?" He asked, raising an eyebrow.

"My parents love me." Charles said, looking down at the ground. Though he said it with certainty, he wasn't. His parents hardly talked to him anymore, or did anything for him. Mostly he was left to fend for himself. They considered him to more of a nuisance, and less of a gift.

"Do they?" The brunette asked with curiosity. "Are the things your parents do to you, what parents should be doing? Are they caring for you?"

Charles thought again of all the times he parents starved him, just out of spite. How they would leave in the mornings without a note, or even saying goodbye, and wouldn't come home until late at night, waking him up when they were drunk. He thought about how they gave away all his things, and none of their's when they were in need of money, and how he was left with hardly anything.

Charles shook his head, his face falling. "No."

The piper frowned. "All these boys here are just like you. They're all unloved, and lost. They needed a place to go."

"So where do you take them?" Charles said softly, gazing around at all the boys at the fire.

"To Neverland." The Piper grinned. "You never get old there, you can stay a child forever. It's a wonderful place with mermaids, and fairies, and all sorts of things that you can imagine." He held out his hand to Charles. "And I'm offering you the same deal." He nodded towards his hand. "You have a destiny, Charles, and to fulfil that, means coming to Neverland with me for a few hundred years... I'll free you when the time comes."

Charles's eyes grew large. "A few hundred!"

The piper laughed. "Oh, you won't even realize how long it's been. Time is different in Neverland. A day could go by here, and it may have only been a couple hours on the island."

Charles smiled a bit. Neverland seemed wonderful, and if Peter Pan was telling the truth, why stay here?

"Come on, Charles." He held out his hand. "Why stay?" He repeated, as if reading the young blonde's mind.

Charles reached out, but then pulled back, realizing something. "You haven't told me your name, piper."

The brunette laughed, and shook his head. "It's Peter Pan."

Charles nodding. "Okay, Peter Pan." He smiled, and finally took the older boys hand as the sun was beginning to rise. "I'm ready to go to Neverland."

XXX

Hook was feeling bit OCD as he racked through all the preparations the ship would be needing to go through before they got to Tortuga. Though there were not a whole lot, he still felt it necessary to make sure they were all correct the week before, just so they didn't get there, and they didn't have their trading supplies, or enough food, or something to last them through the rest of the trip. Killian just wanted to make sure.

He had always been like this. Everything and everyone needed to be in it's right position. And he didn't feel bad pointing people out if they were wrong.

"Porter!" He yelled across the deck.

The smaller brunette scurried to Hook, saluting as he came. "Yes, Captain?"

Hook sighed, and pointed to the barrels. "There are supposed to be ten, and there are only eight. Where have the other two gone?"

Porter crinkled his eyebrows in confusion. "I don't know... Ask Smee. Are you sure you didn't miscount?"

Hook gave him a cold stare, his head tilting to the side. "Porter, I have counted three bloody times, and I still come up with the same damn number!" He growled. "Now go find Smee, and find the last barrel of rum, or you sorry lot with have nothing to barter for!" He scowled, and Porter nodded quickly, hurrying over to the older man.

Hook rubbed his temples. Sometimes, he was just so sick of being captain, or at least being a good one. Hook wouldn't stand for anything less than best, and if he had to be precise on his numbers, so be it.

XXX

Emma heard the commotion above deck, and simply laughed under her breath at Hook's orders. She was used to seeing him like this, but usually he went a little overboard, and it led her to believe that sometimes, he was more fit to be in the Navy than a band of pirates.

She wanted to help more, but she had been all day, and Hook insisted that she needed her rest.

It was a wonder to her that the man could function with the small amount of hours he slept, and the large amount he worked.

She yawned, climbing into bed. She was about to snuff out the candle next to her, when she saw something familiar at the foot of her bed. She got back out, and walked over to the small table across the room, where a stack of books laid.

On the bottom of the stack was the leather bound journal that she had found a couple weeks ago.

Emma gasped, pulling it out, trying carefully so that the rest of the books didn't fall over.

She had completely forgot about this, and she suddenly felt the need to ask Hook about the letter once again, but she remembered that she was going to have a dinner with him in a few days, and she felt that would be the more appropriate time to ask him.

So she sat the book down next to her on her nightstand, where she definitely would not forget it again.

And then she blew out the candle, and closed her eyes, the darkness of the room enveloping her in an embrace that lulled her to sleep against the peaceful ocean waves.

Chapter Text

Adjusting one last curl that Emma threw over her shoulder, she smiled. Her outfit for the ball was now complete.

She wore an icy, green, strapless dress that flowed down to the ground, covering the crystal heels that she wore on her feet. Jewels covered the top of the dress, and lace was patterned on the bottoms of the three ruffles covering the skirt.

Emma smiled in the mirror, taking in her appearance. She turned sixteen today, and she was to go down any moment for her birthday ball.

"Emma are you almost " The young princess's father entered the room, but his words cut off when he saw her standing in front of the mirror.

Emma giggled as she took in his amazed expression. "Do you like it, daddy?" She gave a small twirl, grinning happily.

Her dad gave his charming smile, and walked over to pull Emma in to a hug. "My little Swan," he said, crushing her against his chest, before pulling away to admire her dress. "You are so beautiful. It seems only yesterday that I was holding you, a newborn baby, in my arms." A tear rolled down his cheek, and Emma felt them pooling in her eyes as well. "Now look at you, all grown up and ready to be queen."

Her eyes widened. "I'm nowhere close to being ready, father!" Emma said in shock.

Charming smiled as he stroked his daughter's head. She may not believe she is ready, but he could tell from the moment she was born, that she was to be an extraordinary leader. "You will be, my love." He said gently, before being cut off by his wife rushing into the room.

"CHARMING, EMMA!!" Snow shouted, trying to locate her husband and her daughter, but instantly shut her mouth when she saw they were having a moment. Emma had always been a daddy's girl, and she didn't mind . Sh e knew her daughter loved her, but her and Charming hardly had any moments anymore with her growing up.

Snow pushed away the scary thoughts of her daughter no longer being a child, and apologized quickly. "I'm sorry! I didn't mean-"

Charming laughed quietly, pulling his wife into the bear hug. "I love you, Snow, and I love you, Emma." He said quietly, as he retracted from the embrace. He laid a kiss on both of their foreheads, and the two woman smiled . The man they loved the most walked into the other room, preparing to take his place downstairs.

Snow knew her time with her daughter was limited, so she hurriedly got the gift she had sat down before coming into the room.

"Emma, sweetheart, I just want you to know that you are truly the fairest in the land, and that I could not be any more proud to call you my daughter." Snow said softly, kissing the blonde's cheek. "My mother gave this to me, and I want you to have it." She handed her the gift box, and Emma stared at it in shock as she began unwrapping it.

Pulling out the diamond crown, Emma's eyes widened, glistening with tears. "It's beautiful." She exclaimed. "I love it."

Snow White smiled, taking it gingerly from her hands, and placing it atop her head. "It looks even more beautiful on you." She turned her toward the mirror. "You are such an amazing young woman, Emma."

Emma let a few tears leak before wrapping her mother in a tight hug. "I love you, mom."

Snow smiled, holding her close. "I love you too." She pulled back, pushing her to the door. "Now go! Before everyone leaves your party!" She laughed, and Emma did as well.

Not many times was her mother so carefree. She knew that in her past life, she had been a bandit, running from the evil queen. But all that had changed after she met her father, and protected her Kingdom from waging a war against one of the most powerful sorceresses of all time.

Ever since Emma was born, Snow had felt so overprotective towards her only child. Not only did she want to raise her as a good mother should, but she wanted to raise her as a good ruler.

That's why Snow had abandoned her old lifestyles. She knew she left her k ingdom when they were most in need of her help, and she didn't want Emma to do the same.

Finally reaching the large doors to the grand ballroom, Emma grinned as they announced her name.

She walked out, seeing a large group of people waving and applauding happily.

Emma smiled kindly, waving back, especially to the small children. She always had wanted a kid of her own, they were so adorable.

Moments later, the music began playing, and though Emma wanted to be out on the dance floor, she knew that she would have to wait until someone asked her to dance.

An older man walked up to her, probably a king or something from another k ingdom, and pulled her onto the floor.

Though she would rather dance with someone more her age (and would feel a lot more comfortable), she politely accepted as a princess would, and danced with him until the song ended.

The next couple songs continued as she danc ed with boring strangers she could live without meeting, until someone came along who sparked her interest.

She had crashed into him, literally, after pulling away from another lad.

He had caught her, pulling her back to her feet. "Oh I'm so sorry, sometimes I'm just the clumsiest person," She apologized quickly, rubbing off her dress.

"No, no, it's not your fault, and-" He stopped, looking at the woman in front of him. "Woah."

Her eyes trailed upwards, meeting his gaze, who was staring at her with awe. She blushed, never having anyone stare at her like that before.

He shook his head as he came out of his daze, and a smile spread from his lips to his warm brown eyes.

"Not to be blunt or anything, but you are the most beautiful woman I've ever seen." The kind stranger said, pushing his brown hair out of his eyes.

Emma blushed once more. "Thank you, you're very kind." People had spoke to her of her beauty before, but none made her feel as warm as the compliments coming from the man in front of her.

The man smiled shyly, scratching his ear. "Would you like to dance?" He asked, extending his hand.

Emma grasped it, and he pulled her close to him.

She felt her cheeks heating up, but it felt so peaceful, and so right in his arms.

"So, I believe I should need a name from the young man who seems to fancy me." She joked lightly, though he blushed, laughing nervously.

"It's Ba-" He stopped himself, clearing his throat with a goofy grin. "It's Neal."

Emma gave a sideways smile, looking at him with a newfound care. "I quite like that name."

"Thanks." He laughed.

"I'm Emma, by the way." She said in embarrassment. She wasn't sure if he knew she was the princess . She didn't want to seem like she was obnoxious about it, but she wanted him to know her name.

"Oh I know." He said lightly , with a grin.

Her face fell. He didn't seem to care at all who she was.

He shook his head. "I just figured you didn't like to be known just by your status. I know what that's like..." He gave a frown for a moment, but quickly covered it up.

Emma's face brightened as she realized this man understood what she was feeling. He was the first person to not address her as princess before the dance. And though most people would have looked at that with disgust, Emma found herself growing fonder of this boy by the second.

She opened her mouth to respond, but then shut it, looking down quickly as the orchestra quit playing. She turned her head to see her father searching the crowd for her, and she sighed. "I'd like to talk to you some more, but I'm afraid I can't... Would you like to come find me after the party's over... Just to talk?" She enjoyed speaking to this man, for he didn't judge her like most people would. She could say whatever she liked, and he would not turn away at her opinions. He listened.

"You would really do that?" He looked surprised.

"Of course." Emma giggled. "Where should we meet?"

Emma jolted awake, not wanting to see anymore of her dream. She knew how the rest of the story went... It didn't end well.

She rubbed her eyes, sighing as she fell back onto her pillow. Looking out the window, she noticed the pitch black sky showed not one ounce of light, and she quickly realized she had hardly been asleep.

She groaned. squeezing her eyes together tightly. If memories like that were going to plague her dreams, this was going to be a very long night.

XXX

Emma had hardly gotten to sleep at all that night, but finally, when the sun came up, she was able to get some.

And when she woke up again, half the day was gone.

She hadn't done much at all through the entirety of the day, but when the sun started to set, she found herself at Killian's cabin, her life becoming a bit more exciting by the second.

Hook walked over, opening the door to see just the person he was expecting.

Emma had been hoping to talk to him about the journal, but then she realized he had a few other things in mind.

"Good evening, Swan." He pulled her into the room, giving her a peck on the cheek. "I hope everything is to your liking?" He asked gesturing around the room.

Emma gazed around at the dimly lit room, a candle sitting on the small table, where two meals were sitting across from each other.

"You did this?" Emma asked in shock, seeing it to be even more than she had dreamed for a date on the ship.

Hook smirked, and shrugged his shoulders. "I did my best with the supplies I had in the middle of the ocean."

Emma laughed lightly, walking over to give him a hug. "This is amazing. No one has ever done anything like this for me before."

Killian was shocked by her sudden embrace, but he smiled, and wrapped his arms around her as well, hugging her warmly. "I'm glad it fits your standards."

Emma rolled her eyes, a smile playing at her lips. "Thank you."

Hook walked over to the table, pulling out a chair for her. "Milady."

Emma giggled softly, and sat in the chair. She laid the book she had hidden behind her, on her lap.

Killian saw it, but still walked over to sit down across from her. "What's that you've go there?" He asked, as they both began to eat their supper.

Emma stopped as she was taking a bite, and looked at her lap. She sat her fork down, and frowned. "Please don't get mad..."

Hook shook his head. "I believe we're past that, Swan."

She looked up, hopefulness in her eyes. "Okay. Well, I found this journal," she pulled it up, and sat it in front of him. "And there was nothing really in it until I found this letter." She began opening it, and read the intricate cursive once again. "I wanted to know what it was." Emma hadn't looked up until then, and she finally noticed the sadness on Killian's features. Tears were pooling in his eyes, and he gave a painful smile.

Emma felt sorrow pull at her. "I've upset you," she frowned. "I'm so sorry, I didn't know this-"

Killian shook his head. "No, no. It's quite alright." He held out his hand, taking the letter from her. "It's been a while since I've seen this." His hand shook as he traced the outside of the paper with his hook. He sighed, setting it down. "I believe it's time I confess some things to you."

Emma's eyes widened, finally getting something out of the sealed-up captain. She couldn't believe he was finally admitting something to her, after all this talk of keeping secrets for her own good.

"This letter is nearly as old as me. I had a fairy spell it for me after a few years, because the writing was fading... I didn't want to lose it." He sniffed, holding in tears, and shaking his head, his voice strong. "Did you read it?"

Emma nodded, looking down at her palms. "I shouldn't have..."

Hook just let out a sad laugh. "I'm actually glad you did. It's time I told you about Liam." Hook inhaled deeply. "Before I became a pirate, I was in the Royal Navy. I was the Lieutenant of this very ship, but back then, it went by the name the Jewel of the Realm."

Emma creased her eyebrows, but didn't want to interrupt his speaking.

"My older brother, Liam, was the Captain. We were very close, and he had practically raised me. My mother had died when I was very young from an illness, and my father left my brother and I when I was about thirteen, leaving Liam and I to fend for ourselves.

"Our father was a fugitive, who fled during the night, leaving Liam and I on the ship where our love for the sea began. The captain didn't want to take us in, but we both promised we would be good workers, and he finally relented, letting us be a part of his crew.

"A few years passed, and Liam and I climbed our way up the rankings, where we were finally the leaders of the King's best ship in the Navy.

"The King trusted my brother and I on a mission, to Neverland, to retrieve what we thought to be a cure to any illness. Instead, it was a poison.

"I pleaded with my stubborn brother." Killian choked out, having to relive the horrid details, and Emma felt her heart breaking with every word he spoke. "I told him what Pan had reported back to me... That the Dreamshade would not only wound us, it would kill us within days, minutes even, depending on how fast the poison reached your heart." Killian looked away, not being able to hold in his tears, but he didn't want Emma to see. "But Liam... He—he wouldn't listen. He cut himself with the Dreamshade... And..." He breathed in a shaky breath, and though he didn't say the words, Emma knew what happened next. "The water of Neverland healed him, and brought him back for a short time. But like all magic, that came with a price... He couldn't leave the island. So when we tried to, my brother left this world. and went on to the next." Killian finished with a sob, and covered his mouth, reeling in his emotions. He hadn't thought about this in so many years, it was hard to now.

"This letter is the last remaining thing I have left of him. He wrote it to his wife and daughter a few days before he died. I never broke the news to them. The day before my brother and I left was the last I saw of my sister-in-law, and niece." Killian exhaled, feeling a rush of regret and grief eating his heart up. "My crew and I turned to piracy, vowing to take away everything from that Kingdom." He rubbed his eyes before his final words escaped his mouth. "The prince, Charles, is who I thought was a descent of their's. That was up until I realized I had seen him before, in Neverland. I had been planning to kill him, but then I found that he had ties to The Dark One. I figured that he would be more useful alive than dead. I could figure out where the Dark One was, how Charles knew of him, and once I was done, dispose of him so the King would have no remaining heir's left." Hook finished with a broken look on his face.

"So that's my tale, Swan." He saw her horrified look, and he instantly thought that she was judging him, for both his past, and the things he did of it. "Not what you expected?" He said gruffly, turning away.

Emma suspected he was embarrassed, ashamed of the bad things he'd done, and hurt by all the pain he had been given.

She reached up to grip his cheek, pulling his face back to where she could look into his eyes.

Tears were shimmering in her light green orbs, and she frowned, shaking her head. "No one should have to go through that pain, Killian. I'm sorry." She said softly, her voice shaking a bit. "But I'm glad that you told me." She stroked his jaw once, leaning in and kissing his cheek, before quickly pulling away.

Killian smiled once she pulled back, and his tearful eyes were now dry. "Emma how can you not think any less of me for doing terrible things, for not doing anything whilst both my brother, and my love died before my eyes!" He said, his voice cracking. "It was my fault."

"Don't say that, Killian!" Emma said harshly, shaking her head. "You did all that you could... You aren't a terrible person. You were hurt and, sure you did some bad things out of your sorrow, but that does not make you a bad person." Emma said truthfully, feeling her past coming back at her while she said these words.

Killian looked at her probingly, feeling like she was talking not for just him, but for herself as well. He reached down, and gripped her hand. "Emma, did someone hurt you?"

Emma's eyes widened as she looked up. "What, no, why—" She said frantically, but Hook cut her off, knowing she wasn't being honest.

"Who was it love, that hurt you? You know you can tell me anything." Killian said, feeling a pang in his heart that anyone would dare lay finger on his Swan.

Emma couldn't find any words to speak. She hadn't talked to anyone about this in her entire life. Of course her family, and guards, and maidens knew something happened, but that didn't mean she had had a conversation about it.

She sighed, bringing her legs up to her chest, and setting her chin on her knees. "A few years back, I met a young man at a, uh, party." She said softly. "He intrigued me, and was kind to me, and understood me like no one ever had before. I spent some time with him, and he came to visit me everyday." Emma recalled her many meetings with Neal, just outside her castle walls. "Being a young and naive sixteen year old, I found myself falling in love with him. He was the first man I'd ever really connected with." Emma held a sad smile, recalling the fond memories. She looked down. "His name was Neal."

Killian gripped her hand harder, seeing as it was hard for her to speak about. All he wanted to do was grab her, and hold her in his arms. Never let her go.

Emma held her breath, trying to will the words out of her mouth. "Nearly a year had passed, and he had admitted to me that he loved me, and I did love him as well. He proposed to me soon after that, and we planned to run away together. He knew of my family, knew they would never approve of the marriage." Emma looked at her and Hook's entwined hand, and though she did love Neal, and she had been furious at him for the past three years, she had found herself forgetting about him everyday she spend with Killian. "So that night I packed a bag, getting everything I could carry to be on the run. I left that night, once the sun went down, planning to meet him at the small pond on the edge of the village... But he never showed." Emma's eyes filled with tears from her heartbreak. "I waited all night for him to come, but he never did." She looked at Killian, noticing his face was mirroring her's. "When the sun rose, I noticed a note pinned on the tree where we had carved our names. All that it said was that he had to leave, and he couldn't be with me." Emma started to cry, but she wouldn't be so vulnerable. This is what she had been running from for the past three years. "I was heartbroken, but I couldn't tell anyone of him. I was too scared they would go and hurt him... Even though he had broken my heart, I still loved him." She whispered softly. "He had left to be in the second ogre war, feeling he had a purpose there. Which is also where he met his end. Though he came home when the war ended, he had fallen ill, due to the sickness that plagued the army camps. He died that year, within two months of being at war." Emma said bluntly. "I visited a hospital, paying my respects to all that had fallen during the war for our kingdom. That's when I saw his body being carted away... I never got to say goodbye." Emma said, tears rolling down her cheeks as Hook pulled her into his embrace, holding her close against his chest.

He hated seeing her in so much pain.

"And I've hated myself all these years for that, and because despite still loving him... I never forgave him... Not until I realized he was dead." Emma said, her body shaking. "I've carried that burden, becoming so closed off I could barely stand it... No one knew about Neal at the time he was courting me, so how could they understand if I spoke of him after he died?" Emma said, her crying coming to a standstill. "I guess, I just have had trouble trusting after he left me."

Killian craned his neck down to Emma's level, and gave her such an intense stare, she felt like her head was exploding. "Emma, I would never leave you, ever, do you understand? You can trust me."

Emma settled against his chest, nodding quietly. "I do, Killian. I trust you with all my heart."

XXX

Charles ran as fast he could, feeling hurt by the words some of the Lost Boys had said to him.

He was the baby of the group, the youngest out there. And though Peter Pan always stood up for him against the crowd, that didn't stop the Lost Boys from picking on him when he wasn't there.

He had been counting every day, keeping track on one of the trees, how many days he had been gone from his home .

Ten years, he had been on this Island.

He didn't know how many that had been back home, but he hoped it was more. He just wanted to be off Neverland , for once in his life . But Pan would not let him go until it was his time... Charles didn't know when that would be.

In the ten years he'd spent with Pan, Charles hadn't learned much about his family, except that to find them, he needed to seek out the Dark One. He would be able to help him.

But Charles would have to wait a few centuries. Who knows if the Dark One would even still be alive by then?

He trusted Pan, but he didn't appreciate all this waiting around. He felt like his life had come to a complete standstill, and he was floating in oblivion until he could start it again.

Charles heard a twig snap, and he turned his head to see if anyone was there. But he suddenly crashed into something hard, and began to fall backwards.

A hook caught hold of his shirt, pulling him back on to his feet.

"Well, look what we have here, Smee. One of Pan's little minions." An accented voice, like his own, rang out through the forest.

He turned his head towards the voice, to see a tall man, with raven hair and blue eyes. He was wearing all leather, along with a hook, replacing his left hand.

Charles had never seen this man before, and assumed he must be new to Neverland.

"Who are you?" Charles asked curiously.

The man raised an eyebrow, surprised that the child had never heard of him, most people have. "Captain Hook." He said with a grin. "I'm sure you've heard my name?"

Charles shook his head, but he got the feeling that he was not as nice as he appeared to be. He just hoped Hook would not hurt him. "I haven't... You must be new here."

Hook looked at the boy oddly. This lad was a lot younger than the other fellows of Pan's brigade . He wondered what made the imp want to have the responsibility of such a small child .

Normally, Hook would have hurt a Lost Boy without a second glance, but this one surprised him... And he was so young, so full of innocence. Why was he with Pan, anyway?

"Fairly..." Hook said finally , after studying the boy. "My crew and I have come here in search for a way to kill the Dark One, and "

"The Dark One?" Charles said with excitement, but then frowned. "You can't kill him."

Hook seethed with anger at someone telling him he could not do something, especially kill that vile man... If he could even be called a man. "Why not?"

Charles sealed his lips tightly, but then sighed. "I'm looking for him."

Hook laughed darkly. "Trust me, you don't want to find him." Then he suddenly was lost... Usually people seeking out the Dark One were older, they had way too many years of pain ahead of them, or were needing something. "Why is a boy like you seeking out Rumplestiltskin?" Hook asked.

Charles looked down. "Pan says he is the only way to find my birth parents."

Hook chuckled. "And why believe anything Pan says?"

Charles crinkled his eyebrows in confusion. "Because Pan is my friend... He's giving me a life on the island, until I am able to leave , to go to a time when I am needed. He took me away from my parents, they never cared for me anyways, and gave me a much better life here." Charles said with a smile.

Hook frowned. Of course he did. That sounds just like Pan to have his hands in everything. "Listen to me, lad. You cannot trust anything that that bloody demon says." Hook said, bending down to grip the boy's shoulder. "He's playing you to get what he wants."

Charles frowned, looking at Hook. "I don't believe you." Fear entered the blonde's eyes. "Pan wouldn't lie to me."

Hook opened his mouth to speak, but Smee tapped his shoulder.

"He's right."

Hook looked up to the voice, seeing Pan saunter into the clearing. "I haven't lied to him. Everything I've said to him is true."

Charles walked back over to Pan, away from the pirate who was giving him a distasteful look.

"And I would appreciate it, if you would leave my lost boys alone." Pan said with a frown. "Before I have to dispose of some of your crew. Show you what it feels like."

Hook grimaced, holding back all urge to un-sheath his sword. He would leave his crew out of this.

"Why did you take in such a young boy, Pan?" Hook questioned.

Pan smirked, before telling Charles to run back to camp. Charles obeyed, wanting to stay, but even if he hid, Pan would know he was there.

"I wanted a friend." Pan said with a smile.

"You have the rest of the Lost Boys. Why did you need him? What do you hope to gain by helping him?" Hook asked.

Pan walked over to him, a smug grin on his face. "Now , why would I tell you that?"

Hook rolled his eyes. "I thought I might be able to get something out of you."

Pan laughed darkly. "I'm no grown-up, but I'm not gullible either. Just know, Killian, that boy might just be an ally of yours in the future. On your quest for destroying the Dark One. I'd be careful who you threaten." Pan scowled, then turned to walk away, leaving a shocked Smee, and a confused c aptain.

XXX

Emma heard the racket at the stroke of dusk, the ropes being pulled, and the shouts across the ship. The noise had awoken her out of her sleep.

She walked up onto the deck, seeing everyone rushing about, and she wondered why.

Hook was shouting orders at everyone, wide awake and full of energy in the middle of the night.

Emma saw small lights, and houses and cottages at the land near. Though it was mostly dark, she could make out tiny little people all along the shore.

She walked over to Hook, completely forgetting what day it was, due to her still asleep brain.

"Where are we?" She asked with confusion, and then a sudden realization hit her as Hook spoke.

"Tortuga."

Chapter Text

Emma's face brightened as she stepped off the ship. The atmosphere of the pirates was so much more jovial than it usually was, and that brought a smile to her lips. She was a bit skeptical of this port, she knew it was filled with nasty, rotten pirates like Blackbeard and his crew. For that, she was a bit fearful.

But she had Hook, and she had no doubt that most pirates would look the other way in a fight against him. She felt safer knowing that.

She was barely listening when Killian was talking to his crew, too caught up in staring at the town.

At a glance, it mostly looked like any other town, minus the drunks laying on every strip of road.

The thing that set it apart was the noise. There was so many shouts and curses, along with loud music, that Emma felt like she was drowning in the sounds.

Although it was much more amplified than she would have liked, it didn't make her hate the small port. In fact, she enjoyed it. She felt as if it was one of the things that made it the safe haven for every pirate... Besides the occupation of the residents, of course. What was a pirate port without pirates?

"You ready, Swan?" Killian asked with a smile sent her way. Emma barely heard him, so lost in her thoughts.

She turned to look at him, and grinned. "Well, I'm as ready as I'll ever be." She laughed a bit. "Where are we going?"

Killian smirked, cocking an eyebrow. "Well I've always fancied this tavern... It's a little ways down the road, but it's..." He struggled for a word, chuckling a bit. "Unique."

Emma let out a small giggle, and nodded.

"Plus it seemed fitting since, of course, we met at a tavern," he grinned.

Emma beamed, leaning up to give him a chaste kiss. "It sounds perfect, Killian."

XXX

To say the least, this tavern was a lot different then the one back home.

Back where Emma lived, most guests were just weary travellers, looking for a drink and a jolly time. There were occasionally a few troublemakers, but they got taught their lessons pretty quick. They were never throwing things across the room, standing on tabletops, or sitting on chandeliers.

Which is pretty much exactly what was going on here.

Upon walking in the room, Emma almost fainted. This was so not her scene.

"Remind me again why we are here." She asked with a skeptical look around the room.

Hook gazed at the pirates, grinning. "To get a drink."

She crinkled her eyebrows in confusion. "No, I mean... In Tortuga!" She practically had to yell over the noise of the insane tavern.

Hook gave her an odd gaze. "Well, we may be pirates, but sometimes we get tired of running. Sometimes we need a break." He shrugged. "So we come here."

Emma thought that sounded completely irrational, but she went along with it, and plastered a smile on her face.

"So milady, let's go get a drink." Hook smirked, holding out his elbow for her to link her arm with.

Emma at least wanted to make it look like she was having fun, so she followed him to a large table, and sat down next to him as he ordered a drink.

"So what do you think of this place?" He asked with a childish grin.

Emma simply laughed, taking a sip of her rum, holding back as Hook poured the whole glass into his mouth. If Hook was going to get drunk, she needed to stay at least somewhat sober.

"It's certainly... Different. It's fun." She had to quirk a smile, and Hook just nodded.

"That it is, Swan." He gave an cocky smile, ordering another round of drinks as his crew came to the tavern. She didn't suspect to see them all there so quickly, but she supposed all pirates must think alike.

"There's the captain!" She heard a voice call out, and quickly recognized it as Porter's. Soon, her and Hook were surrounded by about seven pirates.

The captain was now on his third drink, and he grinned. "Ah, here's my crew to join me... I thought perhaps you'd never come!" He shouted, and a barmaid brought around a whole tray of drinks for the crew members.

Emma had to roll her eyes. She refused to take one while they all cheered, toasting their glasses in the air. Even August was in on the rum-fest.

They all talked for a while, mostly random pirate talk Emma didn't really care about. She sat there for around ten minutes, watching them drown themselves in the alcohol, before she finally relented.

If she went back home soon, this was a once in a life time opportunity.

Granted, most people wouldn't think it fun to get bombed with a bunch of pirates, but what else was Emma to do while residing with them?

She grabbed a glass, and raised it in the air, as the rest of the crew turned to stare at her. "To Hook," she said with a smirk in his direction as he grinned proudly. "The king of the seven seas, and captain of the most dastardly pirates to ever sail upon them!" She shouted, raising a glass as the whole crew lit up in joy.

"To Captain Hook!" They all repeated at once, rum flying in the air as they clinked all their glasses together before guzzling them down.

Emma smiled, and followed their lead, the rum burning her throat and mouth before it slid down and created a warm, tingly feeling in the pit of her stomach. She laughed, finishing it off, and banging the empty glass on the table.

"Who knew Miss Swan could hold even a glass of liquor..." Porter teased, and Emma stuck out her tongue as he hiccuped after his second drink.

"Well we all know who can't." She laughed with a grin, feeling weights being lifted off her shoulder with every minute she spent in the wild tavern.

The minutes started to become shorter and shorter as Emma started to enjoy herself.

But she also noticed that with each one, she was becoming more and more intoxicated, and some of the barmaids were getting a little too comfortable with Hook.

A tall brunette, with her wavy hair pulled up into a wispy braid, sashayed her hips over to the captain. Her dark brown orbs were clouded over with lust, and she grinned as she pulled herself onto Hook's lap, her hands running up and down his chest. "What do you say we take this somewhere else, Captain?" She asked seductively, her hands traveling further and further down, until Emma couldn't take it any longer.

She slammed her drink onto the table, eyes blazing with rage as she shoved the girl off Hook before he even had a chance to blink.

The bar maid scowled as she fell onto the ground, and Emma pulled herself to Hook, growling at the other girl. "He is not your's to touch." She said before connecting her and Hook's lips in a fiery, passionate kiss.

Hook was surprised at first, but grinned against her lips as he rubbed his hand (and hook) up and down her back.

Emma gripped the lapels of his jacket tightly as she kissed him, and she heard the girl huff, walking away.

Emma pulled back with a triumphant smile, and Hook just gazed at her with a smirk. "I didn't know you had that in you, love." He breathed, his eyes filled with desire.

Emma traced his jaw, grinning. "I'm capable of more than you know." She winked, pulling away, and returning to her seat at the table.

She looked down at her lap, and the with a smile, pulled her gaze back up to see the gawking eyes of the other pirates at the wooden table.

Her gaze was defensive for a moment, before she realized what just happened, and then she widened her eyes.

"Oh shit."

XXX

Emma stumbled out of the tavern, a giddy smile on her face as she followed the rest of her crew. Her drinking had intensified after the slip-up / incident with the bar maid. So, now she found herself very intoxicated, and not really having full control on her behaviour.

Hook was helping her along, as well as August, and they both laughed silently as she muttered things that didn't make any sense.

As they approached The Jolly Roger, Emma grinned widely. "I love this ship, it's so pretty..."

Hook smiled as she gazed up at the ship with amazement, and he felt pride surging through him.

"It's quite magnificent, isn't it?" He smiled, knowing his love for his ship went much deeper than most people realized. It was full of so many memories, and even through all the heartbreak, it was the one thing that stood by his side through everything.

Emma nodded with a grin as they helped her down to her bedroom, the cold air sobering her up a bit.

They got her to her bed, and August laid her down as Hook got a glass of water. He knew Hook was capable of helping her himself, so he quietly exited, deciding just to check up on Emma later.

The pirates had been there for most of the day, and the sun setting in the horizon was enough to make Hook realize that Emma had probably drank a lot more than she should've. He was three centuries old, and two important lessons that he had learnt was to hold his rum, and pace himself whilst drinking it.

Emma on the other hand, had only had a few sips of alcohol in her whole life, and they were mostly snuck behind her parent's back. She didn't know how to control herself.

Emma hiccuped as Hook handed her a glass of water, and forced it to her lips. She drank it quickly, swallowing, and felt a sharp pain to her head. She frowned, and laid back down on her pillow.

"I had fun today," she smiled, ignoring the throbbing up and down the back of her head and neck.

Hook looked at her as he sat the glass down on the nightstand next her. "Did you?"

She nodded. "Of course I did..." She giggled lightly. "I haven't got to spend too much time with you, but today I did."

Hook raised an eyebrow as her cheeks lit up, and her smile spread on her lips. "I didn't know you valued time spent with me." He answered jokingly.

Emma gasped, sitting up, and slapping him playfully with a childish grin. "Of course I do!" She smirked. "If I didn't, why would I do this?" She pulled him onto the bed next to her, and kissed him, smiling against his lips. Her hands brushed through his hair as she kissed him softly, and her pulled her up to melt into his body. His hook rested on the back of her head, and his hands rubbed circles up and down her back.

The kiss started out soft, but soon grew more passionate.

Losing her breath, Emma broke away, feeling light-headed and dizzy. She smirked, holding Hook's head in her hands.

Lost in the kiss, Killian had quickly forgotten that Emma was still quite drunk, and realized that he needed to back away, because it was clear Emma wasn't going to. And if he didn't, this was going to go way too far...

Once they went there, there was no going back, and Killian wanted Emma to remember what would be the best night of her life.

"Emma," Hook pulled away, seeing the blonde still leaning in with her eyes closed.

She sighed and pouted, crossing her arms as she looked at him with disdain. "Hmm?"

He couldn't help but laugh at her toddler-like expression, and he smirked slightly. "What do you think you're doing?"

Emma blushed slightly, and shrugged her shoulders with a giggle. "I'm enjoying myself."

Hook raised an eyebrow, his smirk widening. "I know you are... But are you—"

Emma rolled her eyes, tired of all the talk. Hook should just take what she was putting out there. This wasn't gonna happen again.

Even through Emma's complete intoxication, there was a small, wriggling feeling in the back of her mind telling her to stop. But being the idiot she was at the time, she ignored it.

"Yes, I'm sure about what I'm doing." She sloppily leaned in for another kiss, but Hook put his hand up, stopping her.

"You are sure, Emma. You're drunk." He smiled lightly. "And you need to get some sleep." He stood up, feeling as if his self-restrain was about to go out the window. A pirate only has so much, you know, and it was a miracle he was even showing it.

He shook his head, scolding himself. No, he would hold off. This was Emma for goodness sake, not some dirty wench he picked off the streets.

Emma sighed, creasing her eyebrows together as he stood. A frown pulled onto her lips. He turned, and Emma didn't know whether he was just walking across the room, or actually leaving it.

She grabbed his hand in one last failed (or at least she hoped not) attempt to keep him in the cabin.

"Don't go, please." Emma said with a half-pleading, half-seductive voice (how she did that, not even she knew) and a tight smile on her lips.

Hook looked back at her wide emerald green eyes, her tempting pink lips pulled up in a pout, and he raked over her features.

"Please."

It was only seconds before he melted, and gave in with a sigh. He doused out the flame the candle gave out, pulling the covers open and laying next to Emma.

Killian pulled off his hook, laying it down on the nightstand next to him as he sat on the somewhat small bed.

Emma gave him a curious look. "I've never seen you take it off before."

Killian didn't look up from the gleaming, silver hook that sparkled in the moonlight, and felt a odd rush of emotion shudder through him.

He didn't speak for a moment. "In Neverland, we were in constant attack mode. We never knew if a mermaid, a lost boy, or even Pan himself would try to massacre us." He swallowed hard. "I used to take it off before I went to sleep... One night I didn't. I was alone, trekking out by myself in the forests of Neverland. I hadn't realized how far I had gotten from the ship until I decided to head back. So I figured I would just take a quick break... I ended up falling asleep." Hook tilted his head, picking the appendage back up, and twirling it between his finger-tips. "I was attacked by a lost boy that night. My sword was nowhere in sight, and the only weapon I had was my hook... It save my life." Hook set it back down, turning back to Emma with shining blue eyes. "I rarely ever took it off since then. It had already become apart of me at that point, but from then on, it was not only my hand and my weapon... I guess it was sort of like my lucky charm. In a much more gruesome way." He smiled grimly, and laughed a bit before laying his head down.

Emma reached out to touch the brace which held the hook, and Killian winced as she did.

"Why did you take it off tonight, then?" She asked, focused in on the pattern of the black, leather brace.

Hook stared holes through her head. "I couldn't risk hurting you, love."

Emma's hand stopped, and she slowly lowered it, gazing into his eyes at the same time. She didn't say a word, just turned to her other side, snuggling deep into Killian's chest.

Hook smiled as he realized what she was doing, and pulled her close to him, his handless arm draping over her waist.

Emma put her arm over his, closing her eyes as she held his hookless brace close to her heart. "Thank you, Killian."

The raven-haired pirate gazed at her through the dark with a shocked expression, but his face lit up. "Goodnight, my Swan."

Emma smiled in the blackness. "Goodnight, my pirate."

XXX

A fire blazed in the sky as the sun peeked over the cotton ball clouds. It beat down on Killian, warming him through the cool air.

He walked through Tortuga, leaving his ship in the charge of Smee while his was gone, making it clear that no one was to leave. He didn't tell anyone why, or where he was going.

Emma had still been asleep when he had left, a good thing too, due to her behaviour last night. He knew the morning after a few too many drinks was no easy feat to handle. The only problem with him was that the number of drinks his body allowed before that happened was very high. Hook didn't get drunk often, but when he did, it wasn't good.

Thankfully, he was sober (for the most part) for his last morning in Tortuga. They came here to restock, and have a merry time before they were on their way again. Stealing and running from everyone except their own.

He didn't necessarily love Tortuga, in fact he found it a very dirty and disgusting place, but it had an odd sense of joy and togetherness that Hook found comforting in his broken life. It was like his second home, he supposed. Besides his ship, he never really had a first...

He walked down the streets silently, taking in the wild life of the town, using it to fuel him for the next few months until he could return again. He would head back to his ship in a few minutes, but he noticed a mass of pirates gathered around, causing a fuss over something.

A booming voice thundered over the crowd, quieting them. Hook could only hear muffled words over the whispers of the huge group, so he wandered over to check it out.

Pirates may be lethal, especially angry ones, but Hook was not afraid to push through the crowd. In fact, they parted for him.

Captain Hook wasn't a term used lightly. So, when the pirates saw the silver hook practically radiating malice, and the eyes shimmering just like the sea their ships sailed on, they knew not to cause a fuss.

Hook was like a lion, and they were merely sheep. He was the most dangerous pirate of all.

The man who had been speaking, stopped, and looked at Hook with both a fearful and curious expression.

"H-hello, Captain.." He said, forcing a smile on his face.

Hook raised an eyebrow, smirking. "You've heard of me." He meant for it to be a question, but it came out more like a statement.

The man bowed his head. "Everyone has."

Hook let out a laugh, and nodded. "Of course." He looked around at the shaken group, who hushed the whispers of those who spoke them.

"I saw her with him!"

"Is she his prisoner?"

"I swear that she was the girl! I would recognize beauty like that anywhere!"

Hook's eyes held a deadly warning as he heard the words describing a person he knew could only be Emma. "A band this big can't be crowded here for nothing... So would someone like to tell the reason why?"

The man, who held a stack of posters behind his back, nodded Hook's before speaking softly. "A reward has been posted through all the kingdoms, for the return of a princess. The King and Queen are even desperate enough to extend it to the pirates, apparently. And with the amount they are offering, it sure does surprise me."

Hook raised an eyebrow, already smelling the money in the air. All thoughts of Emma were out of his mind. She wasn't in any danger, they had only said they saw him with her. "How much?"

"200,000 gold doubloons."

Hook's jaw practically dropped, but then he scowled, holding out his hand. "Give me that."

The man obeyed, handing the poster to Hook. "I wish you luck in your search, sir. I would want no one other to get the reward." He said it politely, but Hook knew that he was just pretending. Killian was a pirate, and all pirates were greedy and selfish. That man wanted the reward.

But when Hook straightened the paper, he soon realized that man would never get it. A familiar face stared back at him, lips closed tightly in a frown, curls flopping down over her shoulders.

Blood boiled his bones, and he shook with both anger and betrayal. This couldn't be true. He refused to believe it!

But those eyes were ones he saw everyday. Unmistakeable looks were plastered onto this piece of paper, and even though it didn't even do her justice, he knew it was her.

His face fell, growing red. How could he be such an idiot! He should've recognized the signs, a sign.

But that bloody woman hid it well. Every lie she told, every thing she did, every kiss she stole led him astray.

Never in the world would he have guessed it. How could he?

Every single word she said pulled at him, tearing away at him. She may have fooled him well, but he didn't take betrayal or lying lightly. 

Princess Emma Charming, Missing of five weeks. 200,000 gold doubloons will be paid for her return. All criminals will be forgiven of their treachery if she is brought home safely.

No that man wouldn't get the reward... Because Hook already had it.

Chapter Text

Emma had awoken about half an hour earlier, when she heard loud footsteps stomping down to the bedroom. Her head was pounding, and she had drank about three glasses of water and swallowed some medicine before lying back down. But she was right back up again when she felt the hurt and fury radiating off whoever was coming to her.

Emma sat up, frowning. She felt a dizziness in the back of her mind, which she ignored, and watched as the door practically swung off it's hinges. When it opened, she was face to face with Hook, his eyes blazing like the heart of a flame, and he held a crumpled up sheet of paper in his right hand.

"Hook?" Emma asked cautiously, but he just gritted his teeth, looking a multitude of negative emotions.

"Emma, how could you?" He asked with a broken voice, shaking his head.

The blonde looked at him with a dazed expression. "How could I, what?" she asked, clearly confused.

"Lie to me?" He said not in sadness, but anger. "How could you lie to me, especially when I told you so much!"

Emma raised an eyebrow, trying to figure out what he was speaking about, though she had a feeling. She kept her mouth closed incase she was wrong, and felt her heart pounding ten times faster than usual. "What are you talking about?"

Hook's eyes narrowed. "You bloody know what!" he sneered, a scowl plastered on his face. He un-crinkled the paper, holding it to where her eyes could see.

Emma's face fell as his eyes bore into her. "Well, are you going to explain, Emma?" He spat. "Or maybe I just won't listen. You'll probably tell me another lie!"

Emma licked her lips, not wanting to mess up the one chance she might have at his forgiveness. She knew he was going to find out eventually, she just didn't think it would be so soon. She hadn't thought it out this far.

"I will tell you the truth, if you give me a chance." Emma was pleading with him, and she felt tears burning the corners of her eyes. This man, this man she had come to love, was looking at her with such hatred and betrayal, she felt like her heart had been ripped out of her chest.

Hook glared. "Well, hurry up, Swan. We haven't got all day." He crossed his arms, trying to contain himself from hurting her. He didn't want to, and if he did, he definitely wouldn't mean to. But sometimes, he just acted out on impulses, and did terrible things.

Emma took a breath, and nodded. "Well, I guess you figured out already I am a princess..."

Hook scowled. "I don't want to know your whole life story. I just want to know why you lied, why you ran, and why you aren't already gone."

His words stung, and pierced her skin. This wasn't the Killian she had come to know and care for. This was Captain Hook. The vengeful, deathly pirate that Emma had first met on this ship. And the way he was acting right now scared her more than anything.

"I left because I was engaged to someone I didn't know... It was an arranged marriage by our parents to unite our two kingdoms. I didn't want to get caught up in the mess of things, I hated my royal duties anyway. So the night before I was to leave to meet my future husband, I fled. I expected pirates to be my safest, most reliable way out of the place," Emma said softly, not looking anywhere near Hook. "I lied because I didn't want anyone to know who I really was, especially not you!" Emma yelled, but then her eyes widened. "I didn't mean it like that, I-"

"No, I think you've made it perfectly clear, Emma. You don't trust me, obviously you never will." Hook's face sunk. "I'll take you back to your kingdom, return you safely. I'll get my reward and my freedom, and you can be rid of all the lies as you so please. You'll never have to see me again."

Emma's eyes filled with tears. "Killian, that's not what I meant-"

"Then what did you mean?" He growled, a sneer crossing his face. "I have done everything in my power to protect you, care for you! Emma do you not understand how hard it was for me to do all those things? There are sacrifices that I've made for you, and what do you do? Spin a tale of a false life? Is anything you've said to me even remotely true?"

"Yes!" Emma screamed, tears running down her cheeks. "But I just thought you would hate me if you knew what I really was... A princess, an heir to a monarchy. Something you dislike nearly as much as the Dark One! How would I be able to trust you since you were a pirate? I feared everyday what would happen if you found out, especially since I was betrothed!" Emma pleaded with Hook, trying to help the situation, but it only began to worsen.

Hook felt a stab to his chest, and his eyes darkened to a navy blue. "How could you think that for even a second, I would betray you?"

"I-"

"Emma, there are no excuses after everything I've done for you!" Hook said in a shaky voice. "I've told you secret upon secret, things about me that not even my own crew know. But you-" Hook shook his head. "You didn't care enough to even let me know you at all."

"I wanted to tell you..." Emma begged.

"Then why didn't you?" Hook finished, a frown on his face. He didn't want to be angry with her, and it took all his willpower to keep his rage at bay. "Why couldn't you just tell me?"

Emma clasped her lips together tightly, and didn't say a word.

A hollow feeling flared up in Hook's chest and he let out a shaky breath.

"Pack your things, and be ready to leave within the week. We'll be taking you back home." Hook said calmly, and nodded, turning away and shutting the door behind him with a slam.

Emma felt her body shake once, and she collapsed onto the bed, sobs racking through her body. A wave of regret washed out her insides. She knew she should've told him weeks ago... So why didn't she?

X X X

"Get up you dirty git." A gruff voice sounded above the blonde, accompanied by a shrill creak.

Charles sat up in shock, his eyes blinking rapidly to break him from sleep.

Kane stood behind the open door, a scowl on his face. "Well don't just bloody sit there, come on!" He growled ferociously.

Panic gripped at Charles's insides. He didn't realize Hook was planning to carry through with his threats. He cautiously crawled through the rusted cage door, standing before the six foot five man.

"Where are we going?" Charles's accented voice rang through the room.

Kane frowned, as if disappointed. "The captain ordered me to come get you. He wants to have a word."

At first Charles felt relieved that he was not going to be subjected to whatever methods of torture Kane had in mind. But then, it hit him. Hook always came to the brig to speak to him. What would be so important that he needed to talk to him in person?

Charles reluctantly walked behind Kane, following him to the Captain's Quarters. He had thoughts of trying to run, but it didn't really matter. The pirates here could kill him in seconds, and where would he go? They were in the middle of the ocean...

Kane politely knocked on Hook's door, and he opened, leaving Charles in the captain's talons. He was pulled in, and quickly felt something different. Something mad and deadly.

"You called for me, Hook?" Charles asked with fear quavering in his voice.

"Who are you?"

"Excuse me?"

Hook narrowed his eyes at the prince. "Who are you, Charles...? What sort of game are you playing?"

Charles raised his eyebrows. "I don't understand-"

"Charles, I remember you from Neverland! I remember you being the helpless little boy that Pan took care of! So how the bloody hell did you become a prince? Where did you come from, and what is your connection to the Dark One?" Hook yelled at the Prince in front of him. "Tell me the truth!!"

Charles stared blankly at Hook, with a blossoming fear in my eyes. "I didn't know anything until Pan told me-"

"I don't care, I need to know."

Charles let out a breath. "I'm surprised you didn't figure it out sooner."

"Figure out what?" Hook growled deep in his chest. He was tired of running in circles. He just wanted to know the truth.

"Hook, you and I met before Neverland. But there's no way you would have recognized me."

"What are you talking about?" Killian said, feeling a nervous tingling in his chest.

"I think we both know you know exactly what I'm talking about." Charles said calmly. "Milah was pregnant the day she came on the ship. Her child was born on this very ship. And that baby... That baby was me."

Hook's eyes widened, memories coming back to him from all angles. Emotions hit him, flowing at him like a river. His hands shook violently. Anger, pain, sadness, regret. He brought his fist down on the wooden table next to him, pulling him back into reality. "You can't be... How can you..." But he could see it. Milah was written all over this young man. His wavy hair, bright blue eyes. His face was even shaped like her's. He was almost a spitting image, had it not been for the gender, and the light-colored hair.

Hook shook his head, refusing to believe it. That baby had lived a long-life, gotten married, had kids, grew old. Charles, who was only a few years younger than Hook, was not that baby. "You're lying." Hook said through gritted teeth. "You were a bloody newborn! You couldn't have remembered any of that."

Charles smiled lightly, and shook his head. "Of course not... I told you, I wouldn't have known anything about my past or my future had it not been for Pan."

"Pan is a demon. He wouldn't help anyone unless it benefitted him."

Charles nodded. "Pan had a plan for me, and it all benefitted him. All I got in return was answers and a better life. I never even figured out his endgame. He just let me go when the time was right."

"What-" Hook breathed heavily. None of this made any sense. None of it.

"I'll tell you everything," Charles said silently. "But I think you're gonna need something stronger than rum."

"Just tell me your bloody story and let's get this over with, shall we." Hook spat.

Charles shrugged nonchalantly. "If you insist..." He paused for a moment, recollecting his thoughts, before starting his tale.

"When Milah first came on to the ship, she was pregnant with a child she hadn't yet known about-"

Hook scowled. "I lived that tale. I know what happened."

Charles rolled his eyes. "Well after I was given up by my very caring mother, I was adopted into a family who was kind to me at first, but then began to consider me as baggage. They were poor, and starving. I wasn't their real child, I was just another mouth to feed, another person to provide for." Charles said with a poison to his words that Hook had never heard before. "Pan came to me one night. He offered me a life where I could be free. I would be loved, I would be cared for, and I wouldn't be treated like a pile of rubbish... So I left." Charles continued, licking his lips to wet them. "He promised me that I would find my older brother, that the only person who could help me was the Dark One. That the only thing I would have to do to pay Pan in return was to complete his task. I never figured out what it was."

Hook stared blankly. "I'm failing to see how this is all coming together to pertain to us now."

Charles narrowed his eyes as the pirate. "I was the first person that Pan has ever willingly let off the island without his intent of their return. The shadow carried me back home, helping me to develop a life that I never could have had otherwise. He dropped me at the palace, not giving me any information on what I was supposed to do, or how to find the Dark One. I went to the doors of the palace, tired and hungry. I was just a little boy, I had no idea what to do. But King Frederick and Queen Abigail were friendly to me, they took me under their wing." Charles smiled lightly, remembering the fond memory.

"It seemed like a lifetime before they finally made the decision to make me next-in-line for the throne. My mother was unable to produce an heir, but since she was the only child King Midas had, I was their only option." Charles closed his eyes for a moment, swallowing hard. "Of course, at that point I had figured out all of my background. I quickly realized that Rumpelstiltskin was my father. I got to meet my brother, Baelfire on the island. It was something that made me even more thankful about my decision to come to Neverland. We didn't speak after I left the island, but I learned that he had passed a few years ago." A sadness fell upon Charles's face, but he quickly covered it up with a smile. "I learned most about my father thanks to him, but the things he told me were horrible. I knew that the Dark One was a terrible person, a killer, a monster. But, he was my father, and I wanted to meet him. I wanted to ask him if he knew about me, and if he did, why he never reached out to me. I searched, but I could never find him. Last year, I stopped hunting for him, and hunted for the dagger instead. The dagger that would summon him. I couldn't find that either. Countless amounts of people told me about their run-ins with the Dark One, but I couldn't find him no matter how hard I searched.

"I started to give up. I came back a few months before my coronation, realizing that I wasn't searching for a father, I was searching for answers. It was stupid in the first place, so I quit. I went home, and didn't think about it until now." Charles finished.

Hook took this all in. "But why? Why did Pan send you out? This doesn't make any sense, Charles, I don't care about your long lost family! I just want to know why the hell Pan was so persistent you live this life!" Hook growled.

"I don't know, okay, I don't! Pan was very cryptic! He said to me was that I had a single purpose, and that if I didn't fulfill it, then he would kill me... Pan said he wanted to do the job himself, but he couldn't. He couldn't leave the island, his power was draining. He needed me to help him get it back! The only problem is I don't know how to help him. He only told me that I would meet you again. And when I did, I would have to help you." Charles answered solemnly.

Hook stared back blankly. "Help me? Help me what?" He shook his head, feeling as if his brain was about to explode.

"I don't know... With whatever you've been trying to do, I guess." Charles shrugged, his eyes dark and tired, and he frowned.

Hook thought over and over again. What have I been trying to do?

And then it hit him. It was so obvious Hook didn't know how he could've missed it.

"It all makes sense now."

Charles stared at him with uncertainty. "What? What is it?"

Hook turned to him with a half-grin. "He wants you to kill Rumpelstiltskin."

Chapter Text

Emma spent nearly every second of the next two days in her room. She couldn't stand to see Hook, after feeling all the guilt and hurt that she had bubbling inside her.

To be truthful, Emma did miss her family... She knew that when she got back they would force her into marriage, and she would have less than a year before her coronation. But would she be ready for all that, just to go home to her parents? Did she really want to leave the new life she had established on the ocean?

The unpacked things around her confirmed her thinking. She wasn't ready to leave her newfound friends, and she wasn't ready to leave the man she had grown to care for deeply.

She wanted to stay, but she just didn't know how to approach Hook about it. She knew how he felt about her, but he was not one to let his feelings get in the way of his decisions. So maybe he would feel better if she were gone, for both the benefit of him and his crew.

She still didn't know anything for sure, but she never would unless she asked.

XXX

She knocked before entering, but after a few minutes, she knew he wasn't in his cabin.

Instead of waiting, she walked right in without an invitation, and sat down on his bed.

It felt like forever passed the more she sat there. She didn't even know where he was, just that she needed to talk to him. So she continued to wait until he came back, as patiently as she could.

Soon, the door jiggled, her eyes flashing in that direction as it opened to reveal the captain.

He stood with an odd gaze her way that began as something hopeful, but was soon masked with anger. He gritted his teeth, eyes darkening as he took a step toward the blonde on his bed. "What are you still doing here, Swan? I gave you an order, and I expect that order to be carried out!" He growled, trying to keep his voice down.

Emma didn't get angry back, she just took a heavy breath, keeping her eyes on his. She stood up, walking towards him cautiously. Emma held a certain grace and poise that she had slowly felt return to her after her secret was out. Hook had told the crew, but she was actually somewhat grateful. So much she had held back, so hard had she tried to be someone else. She could finally go back to being herself.

But that didn't mean that she wanted to leave the ship, the place she had began to call home. Sure, she was complete opposite of the people on here, and sure she wouldn't be treated fairly with the fact that she was royalty, but she loved everyone here.

Some more than others.

Emma licked her lips, playing with a piece of her hair. She held onto the fact that he still called her Swan, because it gave her hope. That even though she had broken his heart, he still cared.

"Maybe I don't want to leave," she said quietly.

Hook raised both his eyebrows. "What was that?"

She brought herself closer to him, staring him down with sincerity.

"I don't want to leave, Killian." Emma admitted.

Killian looked at her in surprise, and felt joy rise up in him. He shook with excitement. Then, he remembered everything that had happened, and suddenly, he wished she didn't want to stay. It was much easier for him to let her go if there were no emotional strings attached. "Well I want you to." He tried to make it sound intimidating, he tried to sound angry. But looking straight into her glimmering green eyes filled him with anything but anger. His voice was almost low, the glare he gave Emma softened, and any fool could tell how he was lying through his teeth.

The lie gave Emma pause for a brief moment. She raised her eyebrows, pain hitting her like a migraine. But then, she looked into his crystal blue orbs, really looked, and saw everything he wanted to say.

She briefly smiled, taking a deep breath as she realized how truly conflicted he was.

"Killian, I know you're lying—"

"No, I'm not Emma," he tried to growl.

"Yes you are." She took a step closer, invading his personal space. "But you aren't only lying to me, you're lying to yourself. Telling yourself what you want to hear, what you think you should hear." Emma's eyes were probing in a caring way, wanting to help Killian as best she could.

Hook growled, "you know nothing about me!"

Emma shook her head. "I may not know everything. But I know you are Killian Jones. You had a brother named Liam, who died 300 years ago. You became a pirate because of him, and then you fell in love with Milah. When she died, your hand got cut off by Rumplestilskin, and then—"

"Emma, stop!"

"—you went to Neverland. You came back to your home centuries later, and met me—"

"Emma!"

"—and I fell in love with you." Emma finished quietly, her voice barely above a whisper.

Killian's mouth looked like it was about to form the shape of an O as he stared at the blonde. "You... what?" He couldn't have heard her right. There is no way in hell that someone like Emma could love, even care for, someone like him.

Emma glared at him, nearly rolling her eyes at the fact that she would have to repeat herself. But her eyes shed the annoyance, and a look of admiration appeared. "I love you, Killian." She smiled up at him, taking another step closer. "And I don't want to leave you. I miss my family, yes, but I would give up a castle with a golden throne, my parents, and the ridiculous princes just to spend one lifetime with you." Her declaration was short and simple, but she got through to the pirate.

He melted, every hard emotion and wall around him disappearing. "You can't possibly be in love with Captain Hook." Killian took a step closer, eyeing her closely, trying to see past any lies she may be telling.

She looked up slowly. "You're right. I'm not in love with Captain Hook, actually."

Killian felt all joy in him squeeze into a ball of fury.

"Captain Hook is just a mask he wears to hide his true self. And that's the one that I'm in love with. The real, true Killian Jones, and everything that comes with it." Emma smiled, stroking Hook's jaw softly.

He gave a goofy grin, eyes lighting up like crystal blue sapphires, before smashing his lips to her's.

Emma responded quickly, wrapping her arms around his neck, pulling him closer to her. Her slender fingers gripped at his hair, playing with the straight, black colored locks at the nape of his neck.

Killian couldn't concentrate. Usually his moves were quite planned. He had a purpose, he knew how he wanted it to play out, what his endgame was.

But with Emma, he found himself so lost in the passion, he couldn't think straight. No woman had ever had quite this effect on him, not even his lovely Milah. Sure she caused him plenty of heartbreak, 300 years worth in fact, but he found himself truly wanting to start over with Emma.

He paused slightly in his movements, just enough time to move them to the bed across the room.

He laid her down upon in, gazing down at her angelic features, her golden halo of hair spread across the pillow.

"Emma Swan, I love you so much. You have no idea how crazy you make me, how head over heels I am for you, darling." Hook admitted with adoration and lust filled in his voice.

It wasn't quite the declaration of love he had hoped to give her, but there would be plenty of times to tell her.

He hoped there would be many I love you's in the future, many kisses, many comforting moments. He couldn't stop his mind from wandering to the memories they would share together, how truly beautiful their life as Killian and Emma would be.

Killian wanted to run his mind through all the possible adventure they could have together, especially on the vast sea, but with the clothes flying off his chest and her's, his mind and mouth were currently preoccupied.

Yes, Killian would have plenty of time to ponder over the future, but he found that he quite enjoyed living in the now.

XXX

Emma laid her head upon his shoulder, inhaling his scent of the salty sea. Her hand softly traced the dark hair on his bare chest. Underneath the sheets, their legs tangled in a inescapable knot, with no possible way of knowing who's legs were who's.

Killian's eyes were shut, a content smile on his light pink lips.

Emma stared at the features of the man, noticing how much more at peace and ease he seemed.

"Killian?" she asked softly.

"Hmm?" He didn't open his eyes, just smiled even more so.

She was going to ask him about their journey home, how that was all going to play out. But she was happy to see him so joyful. Emma couldn't bear to bother him with questions.

"I just thought... I just—"

"Yes, love?"

"Well, I just thought you should know my last name isn't actually Swan. I technically don't have a true last name. But with the way you kept yelling Swan for the past hour..." Emma smirked, recalling the activities that had just taken place.

Killian grinned, opening his eyes and planting a kiss on her full, luscious lips. "So? Does that mean I can't call you Swan anymore?" Killian pouted, pulling Emma closer to him.

Emma pondered over this, but the thought that Killian would call her anything else saddened her for some reason. "No of course not. I actually love it..." She smiled lightly. She never had liked nicknames, but she loved the fact that Killian had one especially for her.

"Well, I'm glad we are in agreement then. I wasn't going to stop even if you wanted me to." Killian laughed, shrugging his shoulders, and leaning over to blow out the candle on the nightstand.

"Ever the pirate, I see." Emma joked, meeting his blue eyes as she snuggled into his chest.

Killian beamed, his face lighting up so bright it was practically glowing in the dark of midnight. "Always." He swooped down, dropping a soft kiss on her forehead. Settling back into the sheets, he began brushing his fingers into her long, silky hair. She hummed lightly, her eyes shutting from exhaustion.

"Killian, will you make me a promise?" Emma questioned after a moment of silence.

"Anything for you, my dear."

Emma hesitated. "Promise me that you won't leave me, at least not without a reason, or without a goodbye." She didn't want Hook just walking out on her, and she didn't want to be just another one of his shameful one night stands. Someone he just tossed aside the next day, or whenever he got tired of her.

Hook glanced down at her, tightening his grip on her waist. "It pains me to think that you believe, even for a second, that I would want to leave you. Ever. I love you, Emma, and unless something unforgivable happens, I probably always will." Killian's voice was so full of admiration that Emma found him convincing.

Or maybe she just loved him so much that she didn't care whether or not he was lying. She just wanted to stay in this bed, comfortably on his chest, wrapped tightly in his arms. Forever and always.

XXX

The small port of Cobalt was about two thousand miles from her home, but it still gave her worry that people from her kingdom would be around. She knew that it was highly unlikely. She'd been missing for months, surely, they'd have given up on their quest by now...

But the more she thought about it, the more stressed she became. If she had been gone longer, would they be searching in every crack of the earth, even the ones most distant from her home?

Emma felt jittery every time her mind wandered over it. Though she would love to go home and visit her parents, it angered her to think that the way she might be reunited with them is by capture from her own kingdom...

What would her parents think when they realized she had gone rogue? What would her kingdom think of her as a "pirate princess"?

Her mind spun, and she clung tightly to Killian as they swaggered through the small port. Though it wasn't a pirate port necessarily, the sailors here didn't bother them. They went with the ways of the sea, and perhaps they didn't approve of a pirate's life, but they knew better than to cross one.

Killian noticed Emma's unease, and wondered if maybe she was uncomfortable in Port Cobalt. But he thought back at the many places they had traveled, and this one seemed, by far, the easiest to handle.

He noticed the way her eyes seem glazed over, and they were very concentrated. He assumed she was over-thinking something (a typical habit of Emma's), and though he wanted to ask if she was okay, he didn't think she would tell him.

But... If they were going to do this correctly, then he better step a foot in the right direction.

He pulled her aside, and she seemed so troubled that she hardly noticed the way he practically dragged her against the cobblestone.

He stood firm, staring her down intensely, but not to a point where it would make her feel uneasy. "Emma, I know something is the matter, so don't you dare lie to me."

Emma snapped back to reality, "what?" She barely heard Hook's voice. It had sounded like something from a dream... Like when you hear someone talking, but your imagination is so out of sorts the words seem like they are being said through water.

Hook got a bit irritated, but relaxed when he saw her ashamed, rosy face. "I just want to know what's wrong, Emma. I can tell you are out of sorts, please tell me. I want to help you if I can."

Emma debated on whether or not to tell him the truth. She was never really one to share her feelings, but like Hook, she figured that if they were going to be together, she might as well be honest. All relationships are built on a truthful foundation, right?

She took an unsteady breath, running a hand through her unbrushed hair that she pulled to the side of her face. Even though it was Killian, one of the few people she trusted with her life, she was still nervous about sharing personal thoughts. As close as her and her parents had been, she never really told them things a child would tell a parent. Sure, she would tell them stories and funny things she would do with her very few friends, but she was never the type to go, hey mom, there is this really cute boy down at the market... or, my best friends have already turned into adults, so why haven't I? No, she usually kept stuff like that to herself, so that's probably why she'd always been a little scared of telling people anything. But this was different. This was Killian for Gods' sake!

"I just—I'm scared. I'm terrified that I'm going to get captured by someone from my kingdom, and I'm going to have to go back home." Emma shrugged it off like it was no big deal, but Killian knew it was a much bigger problem than she made it out to be.

"You make it sound like that would be a bad thing to get taken back to your castle." Killian replied softly.

Emma gave him a pointed look. "Because it would. It would be bad and you know it. Not only would we have to be separated," she said, softly touching his cheek. "But if they found you with me... Captain Hook..." She trailed off, frowning.

Killian took a heavy breath. "I suppose that makes sense." He had never admitted this to anyone but himself, but sometimes he didn't want to be a bad guy anymore. He wanted to be a normal man, to be with the woman he loved, to be able to get married, raise a family with her and meet her parents. But he knew that with his past reputation, his pain, he would never be able to become what he wanted to be. He would never be able to give up his pirating ways, that much was for sure.

"Killian?" Emma asked slowly.

So lost in thought, he hadn't really noticed her concerned gaze, and he shook his head as he came back down to Earth. He kissed her gently, not knowing what she said.

She pulled away, smiling with a curious glance in her eyes. "What was that for?" she asked, laying a hand on his chest to try and get an answer out of him before he kissed her for a second time.

Killian shook his head playfully, shrugging. "Must I have a reason to kiss the woman that I love?" he asked simply, raising an eyebrow.

Emma laughed, a laugh that made Killian's eyes light up with happiness. She laid a soft kiss on his light pink lips. "I love you too, Killian." She grinned.

And though all seemed happy and well, two second after that, the worse possible thing happened.

Maybe not the worst thing, but this, this was most definitely a close second.

When she gazed over Killian's shoulder, she saw the one person she never suspected to be in this rat hole of a town.

Her father.

Chapter Text

Emma felt a pain in the back of her head, like someone was taking a hammer and hitting her repeatedly.

As fast as she possibly could, she pulled Killian into an alley, crushing them both against the wall.

Her breaths were heavy, and she hoped, prayed that her father hadn't caught a glimpse of her, or even if he had, that he hadn't recognized her under all the pirate exterior.

Her heart was racing, and she was sure it could be heard. Killian opened his mouth to speak, but before any words escaped, Emma clamped her hand over his lips.

He glared at her, but his eyes softened once he noticed the state she was in, practically seeing the emotions ripping through her.

Fear.

Anger.

Worry.

Joy.

Excitement.

Emma shook with all of it, not daring to move. She heard footsteps walking towards her, almost as steadily as her heartbeat. Her nails dug into Hook's arms, pulling them further into the shadows as she pushed herself as close to Killian as possible.

The boots stopped, and she heard her father's recognizable voice ring out through the crowd. "Check every inch of this place... Every inch! I want my daughter home safe and the pirates in chains!" Emma couldn't help but notice the strain on her father's voice, but she couldn't tell if it was from stress or fury.

The soldiers rang out in monotonous voices, "yes sir," before splitting off into groups that walked towards different directions.

Emma stayed still, not even daring to breath. Though hearing her father's voice had made her want to walk out into the street and wrap herself in his loving embrace, she knew she couldn't.

There was too much at stake here. Killian could get captured and executed, as could the rest of the crew, herself included. She had been seen at the coronation all those weeks ago, with people who had kidnapped Charles, who had murdered in cold blood.

Even if she was a princess, those charges would count against her too. She was worried that even with her father being a king of the highest order, not even he would be able to free them of the crimes they had committed.

Dread washed over her, making her more and more antsy as she stood there with Killian.

Though he hadn't said anything at all, or even questioned her, he held her tightly, his fear for her seeping through his touch.

Emma's anxiety radiated off her, and when she finally released Killian and relaxed, he couldn't help but look at her with worry.

"Emma-" He started, but she didn't give him the chance to speak as she quickly composed herself, putting her emotionless mask back on.

"We have to go, Killian. Now."

Killian raised an eyebrow as she pulled him along, looking up and down the roads to make sure the coast was clear.

"But my crew-"

"Should've stayed on the ship like you told them to. Any who left didn't obey your orders, and they'll get left behind... But if we don't leave now, we will all be in danger." Emma said sternly, trying to get through to Killian, who only briefly nodded, having just the slightest idea of what was happening. Maybe once they got back to the ship, he would talk to her and better understand what got her so worked up.

She pulled him along to the next alley, checking every step she took to make sure that there was no one on her tail. It was nerve wracking, trying to stay hidden from something that was everywhere. She never knew where the next soldier would be. She saw her dad with at least a hundred.

As they kept walking, she felt calmer because the ship was now in her eyesight. She practically dragged Killian along, wanting to get out of this area as fast as possible.

She pulled them to one last alley as they neared the ship, just so she could be positive that no guards had found the ship yet.

They were safe.

She continued along, nearing the ship. Her breaths steadied and she released her tight grip on Killian. Her nerves settled, and she briefly smiled before looking around. Her surroundings blurred as she swiftly began shouting orders to everyone on board. They couldn't waste a second.

"Someone hoist the anchor! Quickly, we have to move fast!" She ran over to the anchor to assist as Killian understood, and began yelling what he knew needed to be done. Emma had a brief idea about the way things worked on a ship, but she was certainly in no position to be calling demands. She left that up to Killian.

Soon they were on their way, and Emma finally was able to breath. The seas seemed promising as the minutes they traveled multiplied. She thought she had escaped. She kept telling herself over and over that they were alright, that they had lost the guards.

Boy was she wrong.

"Captain, Captain!" Mr. Smee shouted abruptly. Thankfully, most of Hook's crew had stayed on board, only one person straying, and he was one Emma barely knew.

"What!" Killian growled from the wheel as he stared over to Smee, who was looking intensely through his spyglass.

"We have one gaining on us at full speed! They are coming up fast!" Smee said through a nervous yell.

Killian and Emma locked gazes, and Emma shuddered with fear. She knew what was coming.

"Well, we have to lose them!" Kane shouted above the noise. "Prepare the cannons!"

The men started to get up and move, but Emma intervened. "No!" she shouted. "Don't!"

Everyone stared at her, and she shook her head, feeling the two sides of her clash. She knew they needed to lose them, but there was no way that she was letting them shoot down a ship with her father and members of her kingdom on it. "We can't shoot them. I won't allow it."

"Well it's a good thing that you aren't our captain, then." A gruff voice yelled out, but she couldn't tell who it was.

"But, she's right!" She was thankful that the captain was on her side, because she would have a hard time trying to persuade the gun-happy pirates not to shoot.

Kane whipped his head over to look at Killian. "What!?"

"We aren't shooting at them yet," Killian answered. "We have no idea what they are after, and for all we know, they could be just passing by."

He shared a glance with Emma, and they both knew that he was wrong. That ship was The Golden Swan, the fastest ship in her father's fleet. They were after one thing, and Emma and Killian both knew what it was.

"But, Captain, you always said we should be the first one to-" Smee tried to speak up for the crew, but he was promptly cut off by Killian.

"Not in this case. We will wait for them to shoot to see if they are friend or foe." Hook said with a finality that no one dared challenge.

The men in the crew looked around at each other. It was like the words that were coming out of Killian's mouth were more repulsive than any swear word they'd ever heard. But they didn't rebel against his wishes, they knew better. They just sat, impatient, as if waiting for the other ship to fire a cannon at them.

Emma prayed silently in her mind for them not to. If they knew she was aboard, and they had any common sense, they most definitely would not shoot at The Jolly Roger. Emma only hoped they were thinking, and they weren't on the edge of being drunk or something ridiculous like that.

The silence aboard the ship became unbearable, and Emma was positive she had never been in a place so quiet in her entire life. It was like they were all gripping the edge of their seats, waiting for the plot twist in their favorite play.

In a way, that's almost what it was. Emma desperately wanted to reach out to Killian, to let him pull her into his arms. She knew, though, that this was not the time for that. They all needed to be alert and ready, and they did not need her anxiety stressing the rest of the men out. She, herself, needed to be on top of it. She probably thought quicker than any male on this ship, and she didn't need Killian's scent intoxicating her senses.

She stared out at the beautiful ship, the one that brought back so many memories of home. She could remember it's mahogany deck, playing tag with the young lieutenants. It was all a blur now, memories crashing against each other like tidal waves against sharp rocks.

The ship with her father aboard inched closer and closer, and by the time she released the breath she was holding, it was so close that she could see the people standing on the glorious boat.

She ducked her head, avoiding any eye contact, and only hoping that no one had seen her as she walked into the crowd of pirates.

Killian walked closer to the edge of the ship, watching The Golden Swan intently as it neared. He had slowed his ship, wanting to try and reason with them if he could, and if not... There were other things that he would end up resorting to.

Her father's ship neared closer, and ended up at a point where it was almost brushing up against Killian's. Her heart beat faster, and she pushed through the crowd, desperately wanting to get away.

Unluckily for her, there was nowhere to run. This time, she couldn't just hop on another ship and escape her problems. She had to face them head on, and this was something that took all her courage to do.

She closed her eyes, her back turned to where she knew all of her father's cannons were pointed. Killian was conversing with her father across ships, and she knew that this would end badly unless she intervened. Her father was going to stop at nothing until he got her back.

She rubbed her sweaty palms on her leather pants, taking a deep breath before gathering up all her courage to go talk to the people who would be her loyal subjects in less than a year.

"Well, how about we make a deal," Killian was practically begging her father, and as Emma turned her head, she saw that all the cannons and guns were pointed straight at Killian's head.

"No deals, Hook. You give us the princess back, and we'll blow your ship up right after," Charming said distastefully, an angry look on his face.

Killian rolled his eyes, waving his hook in annoyance. "There's no need for the dramatics, if you want the princess, you can come and get her."

Emma froze from his comment, but in her head, she sighed deeply. Way to impress my father, Killian.

Charming glared at Hook's crew, who didn't budge, waiting for him to come onto the ship.

Emma sunk farther away from Charming's ship as he turned around to speak to his men. She couldn't hear what he was saying, but she knew it couldn't have been good as the soldiers started coming on to the ship.

She couldn't believe that any of them were being this diplomatic in the first place. After the occurrence in Charles's kingdom, she thought that they would be ready to fight any royal that they met.

They patiently waited for orders from Killian as he stood and watched with a look that almost appeared to be excitement. Emma knew he was crazy, but she had never realized how deep his insanity went. She almost laughed at his knack for trouble, and how he so enjoyed getting into it.

The soldiers lined up in front of Killian, waiting for their king to come on board. They stared at Hook with such hatred, Emma became terrified for Killian's survival.

She began to walk, gathering up her courage with each step. It was like a mantra in her head, "I can do this, I can do this." But she didn't know what she was so terrified for. This was her father for goodness sake, she wasn't going to meet her end.

She held her head high, straightening her back. If she at least tried to make an effort to get along with the people of her kingdom, then maybe her father wouldn't cause such a fuss.

She thought of all the possible ways that she could get out of this, faking it to make it seem like she was actually captured for her own selfish gains, pretending that she wasn't on the ship, whatever else popped up in her mind, but this seemed like the best plan. Of course, she just could have been so nervous and that's why it seemed the most logical, but she decided just to go with it.

Her father must have immediately noticed her flowing blonde hair, because he instantly looked over, a smile lighting up his face. But as he really looked at her, his grin fell. Her confident aura boasted off of her, and the pirate getup became more noticeable than anything else, other than the scowl that marred her face.

"Emma?" Charming questioned, almost not believing that this was his daughter in front of him. But with the golden blonde hair practically glowing in the sunset, glimmering emerald green eyes, and pristine features that looked so much like her mother's, there was no mistaking this was his daughter.

"Hello, father." Emma stood like a queen, and Charming couldn't believe how much she had matured in this short amount of time that she had been away. It was like the pirate ship had changed her, but he wasn't sure that it was for the worst. She ducked her head for a minute, scared to look into his eyes. She felt guilty, but she was almost glad she did. It was like being caught by her father for accidentally eating too many sweets as a kid, or forgetting to do her chores. But this time, it was something much bigger. "I was," she cleared her throat, seeing the shocked gazes of some of the pirates around her. Killian must not have told them all about her. "Expecting that you would find me sooner than later."

The soldiers stood next to their king with emotionless faces, but Emma couldn't not see the expressions that they wanted to show. It was almost disappointment, but not that extreme.

Charming's chest rose and fell with the sway of the ocean, just taking a moment to study his young daughter. "What happened, Emma?" He croaked, not knowing what to say.

Emma licked her lips, feeling tears well up in her eyes. She hadn't realized how much she had missed her father until right now. "It's a long story, but I guess I could spare the time to tell you."

XXX

Charming sat on the edge of Emma's neatly made bed, looking around in awe at the ship. He could tell that it was an extremely old, and he was impressed at the quality that it was in. He was distracted for the time being, so Emma was left pacing around the room.

This whole situation was surreal. Emma had expected her father to blow up when he was alone with her, to yell at her, haul her away to prison and execute all the pirates on board.

The one thing she did not expect was for him to come on board with no judgement, leave all his crew behind, and agree to have a civil conversation. Though he had not lowered any of his guns or cannons, it was understandable. Her father liked to always be prepared for things, and seeing as he was on a pirate ship...

"So you were never actually kidnapped..." Charming didn't look at her, and instead stared out the window in an almost sad way.

Emma wet her lips, running words through her head, trying to decide if they would be the correct ones to say. That's how she was raised, to think through every possible answer to a question, and pick which one would be the best choice.

She shook her head, she was being unbelievable. She might as well be honest with her own father. He was treating her well, considering.

"No, I was not." Emma said softly, her throat constricting.

She saw a slight twitch of his head, his hands clenching, but then relaxing.

She watched her tense father, and realized how horrible these past few weeks must have been for him. A terrible feeling ran through her, and she frowned.

Emma had always made herself believe that her parents loved her less than they actually did. She made them out to be vile people, and found that she had grown to dislike them even more since she had left. She was already on bad terms with them from the forced proposal, but out on the sea, her anger grew, knowing that her parents had wanted to tie her down.

While she was "lost" she always imagined that her parents were out to find her, just so that they could get their princess back, their heir. Get the daughter back that was to marry Charles.

She had never considered the possibility that they actually, truly, missed her. That missing her had taken such a toll on them to where they lost sleep, and were to the point that they almost looked sickly.

Seeing her father now, and thinking over the whole situation sent a sharp pang to Emma's heart. She couldn't believe that she could be such a terrible, heartless person. Why had she ever left in the first place?

"You ran away." Emma heard it as though it was meant to be a question, but her father said it so matter-of-factly, it couldn't have been.

Emma assumed that he was waiting for an answer, even though it wasn't a question. "Yes."

A moment of silence. "Was it because you were not happy at home?"

Emma wanted to say no, wanted to make him feel anything else but guilt and pain. But, she couldn't lie to her father. That would just make the whole situation more complicated and hurtful than it already was. "No, I wasn't happy at home, but it wasn't because of you or mother. I love you both so much, and that's part of the reason I was so reluctant to come back. After I left, I realized that I had messed up terribly, but I didn't want you to hate me forever." She felt a swollen tear roll down her cheek, her emerald eyes wet with tears. "And I only left because I didn't want to marry Charles. I wanted to find love on my own, and I didn't want to disappoint you. If you knew how I felt, I didn't think you'd care for me as much anymore, because I wasn't the daughter that I should be." Emma gave a sad smile. "I know I'm not the princess that anyone would want-"

She was cut off quickly by her father crushing her to his chest in a heartwarming hug. His hand cradled her head, and his other arm wrapped around her so tightly she couldn't breath. She could feel his warm tears soaking her golden hair as he held her. She had never felt so much emotion at once, so much love for her father. "Oh, Emma, how could you think so low of yourself?" Her father was frowning at her, but a loving gaze was in his eyes. "Of course you were an amazing princess..."

She noticed the use of past tense, and her face sagged with disappointment, "And I am not anymore?"

She wanted her father to smile and shake his head, tell her how ridiculous she was being.

Instead, the hopefulness drained from his eyes, and his head fell. "It's a bit more complicated than that, Emma."

Emma's agony practically lit her insides on fire. She couldn't believe this. "What do you mean?"

Charming gazed anywhere but Emma's eyes. "I wish I could tell you that everything was going to be alright, but..."

Emma's frown scarred her skin, and she creased her eyebrows together in confusion. She shook her head mentally. How could she be so stupid? "Everything's going to change now, isn't it?" she asked softly, gazing at her father.

In the back of her mind, she already knew this. She wouldn't be able to shake this huge mistake off of her record. The people would never want to take her back as queen, and her love for Killian made the situation one million times more difficult.

She had never seen her father look more defeated. "I'm afraid it is."

XXX

Emma had the words memorized over and over in her head. Her father had made her executive decision for her, but she knew that she wasn't going to stick with it. She had a few tricks rolled up her sleeve, but for now, she was going to have to go with what her father was telling her.

I, Emma, your princess, was forced into traveling with pirates. It was not by choice. They were either going to kill me, or take me with them to give me back to the kingdom once the ransom was high enough.

Emma didn't like it. She didn't want to lie, and she definitely didn't want to get Killian in trouble, or the men of his crew for that matter.

But this was her best idea, and it was the only one that she thought would actually work. There was no way she was going to stand up and fight, her father's hundred men compared to their weak thirty...

Telling her father about Killian would only ruin the situation. It had to be kept a secret until she knew exactly what to do with the information.

Option after option ran through her head. She didn't want to just agree with Charming, but it seemed she had no other choice.

As she walked up to the deck, the whole crew stared at her with wide eyes, as if trying to plead with her for their life. 

Everything in her gut was telling her not to do this, she knew it was wrong. She knew that this was betraying everyone she cared for, she knew it was selfish.

"Go on Emma," Her father said to her with a pointed look as if to say don't mess this up.

Emma took a shaky breath, not looking at Killian as he began walking towards her with a confused glint in his eye.

"I-" Her voice squeaked, color rushing to her cheeks. She didn't like the eyes staring at her, she wanted to jump off the ship and swim to an island where she would be all by herself. Quickly, she took a breath, composing herself. "Emma, your princess..."

She closed her eyes, not daring to look into the eyes of any pirates. She would never regain their trust, especially not Killian's, after this. "Was forced into traveling with pirates."

Cries of outrage.

"It was not by choice—" Eyes opened, she saw every one of their faces, pale and shocked. "They were either going to kill me, or take me with them to give me back to the kingdom once the ransom was high enough."

"Lies!"

"Traitor!"

"We trusted you!"

She shook her head, staring right at the general of the guards. "You may arrest them now." Emma forced back the tears in her eyes, holding her head high as General Mason directed orders to each of the soldiers.

The pirates continued to scream at her, curses flying. She had never seen them so furious, and it broke her heart.

Out of all them, Killian rose above the crowd in the most enraged voice. "We forced you into nothing, Emma! You came to us, we have never once harmed you! I lov—" Killian voice was cut off, a cloth being pulled over his mouth by five different guards. She had never seen him give up so easily.

She turned to her father, not being able to bear the sight of her beloved pirate, the strongest man she'd ever known, in defeat. "I hope getting them out of the way is everything you imagine it to be." She muttered, before storming off into the other direction, a tornado of emotions.

Chapter Text

Emma couldn't believe what she'd done.

For thirty minutes until now, she laid on her bed in The Golden Swan, her mind spinning.

Every pirate was in chains. They each had at least one guard to keep them down, and depending on their size and strength, multiple ones.

Emma couldn't stand to watch. Killian was tied down by at least six men. His hook was removed, his arms cuffed together, and then tied down again. He never made eye contact with her, and even if he did accidentally, it was a sneer that looked her way.

The past few days had been so rough for Emma, and so emotional, she had found that she had been ignoring August. Her childhood friend didn't seem to care, a newfound friendship between him and Porter had appeared, and she found that they quite enjoyed each other's company. Emma was glad, though, that he had found a friend other than her.

But in times of distress, she knew he would be there for her as he was now. Charming had recognized him quicker than she had, and welcomed him back with open arms. Though Emma wanted to be left alone in her cabin due to her misery, August had stopped by quickly. His arms made her feel safer even though her heart yearned to take back she had down to her second family.

August left within five minutes, kissing her cheek lightly. He had explained to Charming that he was only trying to protect Emma, and while it took some convincing that he hadn't done anything that was against the law, the soldiers and the king decided that he wouldn't be hung, as long as he was only watching out for the princess. There would be some charges against him, but Charming promised him he pay for them secretly.

August, in his elation, used his extra strength to help with work needing to be done onboard. The Jolly Roger  was in her father's control, and they needed someone who knew how to work on a ship, due to the shortage of men.

Emma's head throbbed thinking of all the ridiculous things that were happening, and even more so when she began thinking of what she was going to do about it.

A knock sounded on her door, and she sat up. Rubbing her tear-stained cheeks on her sleeve, she cleared her throat. "Come in."

Her dad walked in, a light smile on his face. Emma was furious that he would smile in this time of her distress, but found it wiser not to comment. "Did you need something?" She didn't mean for it to come out so angrily, but sometimes she found it difficult to mask her emotions.

Charming didn't even try to conceal his annoyance at her attitude. "Yes, actually. They found the prisoner..." Charming saw Emma's confusion, and wanted to hope that she didn't know about Charles' kidnapping, but disappointment hit when her faced cleared into a frown.

"Oh, yes, about him—" Emma realized that this was about to get even worse than it already is.

"You are to be wed." Charming said stiffly, without any emotion.

Emma didn't even try to guard the shock on her face. "What?"

"In one week." Charming continued, noticing Emma's wide green eyes. "You must have known..."

"Of course I knew!" Emma sneered. "I just didn't think you would actually make me go through with it! Charles doesn't even know who I am! "

Charming's blue orbs hardened. He loved his daughter, but she was never able to see his side of things. "He does now... Emma, we've talked about this."

"Father, I'm not a pawn!" She hissed, standing abruptly. "You can't just push me around and use me!" Emma was starting to think that all the things Killian had taught her were actually helpful. She had never stood up to her father a day in her life. Not because she was scared of him or anything, but because she didn't think causing trouble between them was worth it.

How wrong she was.

Charming stood up straight, trying to mask the ferocity he was feeling. "Emma, do not speak to me in such a tone—"

"Damn it, dad, just listen!" She growled, shoving the books off her bed.

The only sound heard after that was her father's gasp, and the books smashing to the wood floor. Then, silence.

She felt guilt rise up in her chest, along with a small sense of pride. She knew that she could never get him to call of the engagement, she'd been trying that for years. But she wanted him to know how much she hated him for that.

Her father shot her a scowl, but didn't interrupt her once she began to rant.

"You and mother always talk about how much you love each other, how true your love is! You used to tell me stories, and end them by saying how much you wanted that for me! For ten years I listened to tales of hope, adventure, and love. How do you think it felt when that was all taken from me!" Emma yelled at him, squeezing back the tears in her eyes.

Emma had told him over and over that she didn't want to go through with this, but he never heard her reasoning as to why.

He never wanted to.

"How did you feel when King George tried to force you to marry Abigail?" Emma demanded.

Charming's eyes sunk, discoloring to a shaded grey. "I—"

Emma took a deep breath, trying to calm herself. "You felt just like I do!" she hissed, but lowered her voice quickly. "Did you ever think of that?"

Charming had no response. He had been over this a hundred times with her. Did she not understand that it was not him to blame?

Emma grew weary at the silence, and she whipped her back around, gesturing him out the door. "It's worse when it's your actual father."

Charming's face fell, one last plea on his lips as Emma slammed the door on him.

She was not in the mood for this.

XXX

They had been on the ship for nearly four weeks before they arrived back at Emma's kingdom. Everyday was pretty much the same.

Wake up. Earn scowls from her ex-crew. Eat. Go back to sleep.

Even August couldn't get a smile on her face after everything that had happened.

Emma rarely came out of her room, unless it was to do something important, like eating. But of course, she couldn't help but notice the silence.

Killian's ship was never quiet. They were always screaming at each other, whether it be from happiness or anger. There was always rum going around, whereas alcohol was strictly forbidden by her father.

And of course, the little things were the most important to Emma. Like how she woke up alone, or how Killian was never the one sitting next to her at the dinner table.

If she couldn't hear their screams from below, it would have been like her pirates hadn't existed at all.

When the ship pulled into the docks of her kingdom, Emma began to cry. There was too much to process, she didn't even want to try. Her head hurt, her heart hurt, her body hurt.

And when she first saw her mother, she wasn't sure how she felt. Snow started sobbing, her tears wetting both her's and Emma's dress. She stood stiffly in her mother's embrace, relaxing awkwardly after the surprise.

There was nothing about seeing her mother that upset her. In fact, if anything, she was exhilarated to see her. But, when she looked behind the raven-haired queen, just over her shoulder, she was met with a horrendous sight.

A carpet was rolled out in her honor, guards lined up in salute to the heir. Emma gazed around in both shock and anger, raising an eyebrow at her mother. "What is this?"

Snow's face filled with a slight embarrassment. Somehow she had known that Emma was going to be back today, but Emma wasn't sure how. "It's a party in your honor... Well you and Charles. We're just so happy that you two are home, and now we can continue on with the wedding!"

Emma's face filled with tremendous fury. The guards began to sing the anthem to their kingdom as Snow pulled the princess down the aisle, a bright smile on her lips.

But Emma stood her ground. She stopped abruptly in the middle of the aisle. "I've been gone... For almost six months... And all you can think about is a wedding!?" Emma sputtered out harshly, trying her best not to shout.

Snow frowned. "You don't like it?"

Emma's face just grew even more stern, and she yanked her arm away from her mother's tight grasp. "No. I don't. I hate it."

In return, Snow shook her head in confusion. "I don't understand? We did all this for you, how—"

Emma laughed darkly. "For me? Are you kidding? This is all for you!"

Snow tried to shush her, gazing around at all the degrading expressions. The guards had stopped singing, and everyone around was staring as Emma argued with her mother.

"If you ever wanted to do anything for me, you would have listened to what I said when I wrote that bloody letter. I don't want to be here, mother!" Emma nearly shouted before Snow cut her off, digging her nails into Emma's arm with force.

"Emma, I know you don't understand that now, but please, put on a smile and pretend like everything's alright. We will discuss this once we get inside," she answered sharply.

Emma glanced down at her wrist, and once again pulled away from her mother's grasp. She scoffed, turning away from Snow quickly and storming into the castle.

"Guards, resume your position," she said seriously, as she walked by them all in salute. "I want no part of this."

XXX

Emma couldn't remember the last time she had felt so lonely. Her room was empty.

Well, not quite empty. The huge ball gowns still lined her closet walls. The unicorn mobile still hung in a corner above her bookshelf. Her bed was still neatly made, just as she left it.

The problem was, it still didn't feel like home to Emma. She had been in her bedroom at the palace for nearly three hours, and none of her feelings had changed. No one came to check up on her, who would bother? It was nearly nightfall, and most everyone was settling down.

Perhaps that's why she felt so hollow inside. There was no one there to comfort her, and despite everything she told herself, she knew the truth.

Of course there would always be people that wanted to make her smile.

August hated seeing his best friend in such disarray. He had came by and knocked a few times, but there was no way Emma would let him in.

Her mother just wanted to fix her for the sake of the kingdom. Emma wasn't sure why she even bothered anymore. Fixing Emma was like trying to glue porcelain back together. Not impossible, but the fix would only be temporary.

Then, of course, there was the matter of her father. He disappeared the moment they showed up at the palace, and Emma had no doubt that he was making arrangements for the pirates... It would be everything but comfort for them.

Emma exhaled deeply, turning over in her bed. The early moonlight shone through her silvery curtain, hitting the floor in a way that made it sparkle.

The sight should have made her feel better. It was one of the only constant things in her life. If she couldn't count on anyone, she knew the moon would always be there to paint a picture.

A knock sounded lightly at her door, and Emma sat up in both frustration and surprise. "What do you want?" she said with a growl.

Without another word, the door creaked open slightly. Charles stood in the threshold, shadows illuminating his sleep-deprived features.

Though she could tell how worn out he was from all the drama, he looked ten times better than the last time she saw him. His hair was cut back to above his ears, no longer hanging down to his chin. His face was cleanly shaven, his cheeks brightened from the comfort of the palace. His dirty outfit was gone, replaced with a suit from her father.

If it hadn't been for Killian, she would actually consider marrying Charles based on looks alone.

He cleared his throat softly before coming in. "Emma? Could we, um, speak?"

Charles was acting odd, even a bit nervous. The feeling spread to Emma, and she began to worry. Usually when princes were jittery like Charles was, they were either about to propose, or confess their love... Two things that were almost never entwined when you were a royal.

Emma crawled off her bed, standing quickly. She tried to look as diplomatic as possible, but she found it difficult when her hair was in a tangled mess and her makeup from earlier was smeared.

Charles let out a short laugh. "It's alright, Emma. You don't have to try and fix anything... I mean, I think you'd look perfect either way, but—"

Emma thought she knew where he was headed, and quickly cut him off. "Um, thanks. What did you want to speak about?"

Charles looked momentarily stunned, but then regained his composure. "Do you mind if we sit? It's sort of a personal matter. I'm afraid this conversation might carry out longer than you think, and I'd rather not become uncomfortable standing."

Charles had a strange sense of humor, Emma thought suddenly when he chuckled lightly. Everything he said sounded so serious, like it was never meant to be a joke, but it came out as one anyways. She would have called it sarcasm, but she wasn't sure that he even realized what he was doing.

Emma found herself staring for a second, thinking over his request. "No, of course not. By all means..." She gestured towards her small couch, and they both took a seat next to each other.

Charles took a look around the room, and a tiny smile spread on his lips. "You have a nice room."

Emma raised an eyebrow. "Do you not?" She didn't mean for it to come out as sharp as it did.

Charles gave her a funny look, shaking his head. "No, I do."

She quickly nodded in return, opening her mouth to speak. "So, not to be rude—"

It was at that moment that Charles chose to speak. He sighed deeply, looking up to the ceiling. "Emma, I know that you're in love with Hook."

Emma almost fell off the couch in shock. Her emerald eyes widened, her jaw dropping. "What? How?"

He waved it off, shaking his head. "It doesn't matter... What does is the fact that you're not in love with me."

Emma's mouth tightened into a straight line. She glanced down at her hands, feeling something like guilt fill her insides. "Look, Charles."

He gripped her hand tightly, and it took everything in Emma not to flinch away. "It's okay, Emma." He let out a forced laugh. "It's okay. Quite frankly, I don't love you either."

Emma should've felt hurt by his words, but instead, immediate relief flooded through her. "You don't?" She glanced into his crystal blue eyes, and quickly noticed how dull they were compared to Killian's.

Charles let out a snort, sending a grin in her direction. "Emma you seem to have many misconceptions about me. I don't instantly fall in love with someone just because we're engaged."

Emma squeezed his hand, a smile spreading across her pink lips. "Thank you, Charles."

He returned her gestures, nodding. "I'm no expert on love, but I know that if anything, you would never get over Killian, even if we were wed," he admitted. "Though that still leaves us with the issue... How are we going to get out of this marriage?"

XXX

Rumpelstiltskin sat at the table, staring at the feast before him. He wasn't hungry, and he wasn't sure why he had created it anyway.

His fingers twitched as he tapped them against the table. The past few years had been nothing but, well, trouble for him. Though he had been previously been trying to reform from his dark ways, he was quickly realizing that he had nothing else to live for, and certainly no reason to leave them behind.

It was just a year and a half ago that Belle had left him. They both knew she would eventually, there was only so much she could take. He just didn't think it would have been so soon.

He tried to keep tabs on her, just to make sure she was alright. Just because she was gone, didn't mean that he didn't love her anymore.

But then, she figured out what he was doing. She put up so many cloaking protections on herself that not even he could find her anymore.

Belle was gone. Baelfire was gone.

He inhaled sharply as the door swung open, and the man he had compelled waltzed in.

A wicked smile spread across Rumpelstiltskin's face. "Greg," he paused for a moment. "It is Greg, isn't it?"

The man nodded, his face blank.

"Alright then, Greg. Status report," he spat back at the expressionless man.

He went through a boring list of details that had happened today. The Dark One wasn't very interested, and he wondered how people could think that some of these events were exciting. Even when he was mortal, he didn't understand it.

"And, well, I'm not sure how reliable that this information is, but apparently this pirate is back. He got captured of course, and I think he's in the Charming's kingdom," Greg said.

Rumpelstiltskin's ears perked up. "A pirate, did you say?"

Greg nodded once.

"Did you happen to catch his name?" Rumple asked, his grin widening.

Greg pondered this for a moment, his eyes glanced up at the wall in thought. "I think it was, Hook? Yes, that's it. Captain Hook."

Rumple gave an evil giggle. "So, my old friend has made a miraculous appearance back from Neverland." He smirked back at Greg, quickly snapping his neck without a second thought. "Thank you for this valuable information. I believe your services are no longer needed."

Greg's limp body fell to the ground in front of the table, and Rumpelstiltskin made a mental note to dispose of that later. Right now, he had bigger things to worry about.

It had been a while since the Dark One had killed anyone that had value. Which, he was sure to someone out in the world, Greg meant something, but not to him.

Rumpelstiltskin had done away all his enemies, at least all that he could think of. It had almost become boring, just killing people off the streets, but it was the only therapy Rumple could deal with.

But Killian Jones? Maybe after getting rid of him, Rumpelstiltskin could finally find some peace in his miserable life. He did promise his enemy that he would rot in his grief forever, but three-hundred years seemed like plenty of time.

And if he had been captured by the Charmings as a pirate, that meant he was already on the chopping block. He would be gone either way, and obviously no one would miss him.

But Rumple had to get to him first. There was no way he was letting Snow White and her prince take what was his rightful revenge.

He was going to make Killian suffer even more. He just had to devise the perfect plan, and then he would make his way to the palace.

After all, he could get there with just a snap of his fingers.

XXX

Both Aurora and Phillip had already been by to visit Emma, and were amazed by the fact that she had survived the journey on the pirate ship.

She would have been happy that they stopped by, but the words they supplied her with were a nightmare.

Killian was to be hung in five days.

There would only be five days for her to devise a plan on how to save them all. It was hardly any time at all, and she wasn't sure she could pull it off.

But there was no way in hell she was losing Killian.

XXX

Emma couldn't sleep that night. She tossed and turned multiple times, feeling for the body that wasn't there. It was obvious now that she was spoiled, and she missed Killian more than he could know.

So she quickly made the decision that she couldn't last without him any longer, especially knowing that he was currently hating her. Emma rushed down to the dungeon, only hoping that he would be where she thought he was.

Thankfully, the guard was sound asleep. Emma was half-tempted to wake him up, he should be doing his job. But, just for today, Emma was glad he wasn't.

She wandered deeper into the dungeon, the only light being the faint glow of the torches. It reeked of mildew and dead animals. Emma shuddered as she glanced around.

She hadn't even tried to conceal her appearance, knowing that the only people down here were her ex-crew. She didn't really care if they noticed her.

The only thing was, once they did, the slew of insults and curses never stopped. Emma tried to ignore them the best she could.

Of course, by the time she got to Killian's cell, none of it really mattered.

He scowled at her with such hatred it made her dizzy. "Come to gloat some more?" he spat out, but his voice was weak, and it cracked on a few words.

Emma's heart broke in two. She felt tears welling up in her eyes, and she brushed her hair away from her face. Killian was an absolute wreck.

Bruises and dried blood were on nearly every inch of his body. His leather was ripped from the chains that held him, and his hook was nowhere in sight. Killian's blue eyes had dulled, losing all the color that made them so unique. He looked so broken, Emma thought even one sudden movement would snap him.

But of course, that didn't stop him from the snide remarks and aggressive glares. Nothing could pull the fire out of Killian.

"I'm so—" Emma began, but Killian wanted no part.

"Don't even bother, Emma." He turned his head away from her, and the echoes of the other pirates' words still played in her ears.

"Killian, you don't understand." Emma pleaded with him as the tears unwillingly leaked from her eyes. She was trying to hold them back, but it was becoming a little hard.

He scoffed, "I understand plenty, it's you that's mistaken." Killian cleared his throat, and Emma couldn't tell if it was because it was hard to say things like this to her, or because his throat was physically incapable. "You left us, threw us to the dogs, more like." His eyes narrowed even more than the had before.

"I'm so sorry, I am." Emma was crying, but her voice was still hard from both regret and anger. Killian was so stubborn, he could never just listen. "But, if I hadn't said any of what I did, I would be in this jail cell right next to you." She gazed around. "All of you."

At this point, she was speaking more to the entirety of the dungeon then just Killian, and she bloody well hoped they were listening.

"And if I was in jail, there wouldn't be anyone to spring you out, now would there?"

The insults stopped, and Emma wiped the tears away, grinning.

"Which, essentially was the plan all along. I just didn't want you to know about it. It had to be believable. Trust me, my father doesn't get tricked easily." Emma said with a serious expression, but smiled quickly.

"And I don't expect you all like me again after I betrayed you like that. But I do want you to trust me. I would have no reason to lie now, would I?"

No one said anything, and Emma felt like she was almost speaking to air, or to herself.

"But please, don't say anything to anyone about me coming to visit you. Otherwise you all will be hung as planned, and we don't want that."

She turned back to Killian, breathing heavily as he stared back at her with a blank expression. He didn't reply, but held his only hand out to her.

She gave him a skeptical look, but squeezed it tightly as he pulled her in close for a kiss.

It was over almost as quickly as it started, but it filled her with more strength than she expected. It meant that he still wanted her, if they made it out of here alive.

She smiled. "I love you, Killian. I promise I'll get you out, so if anything, hold onto that."

Her pirate kept his mouth closed, but his lips curved up into a grin.

That was all Emma needed to keep going.

Chapter Text

Emma and Charles had been plotting for hours now.

Four days before Killian was to be executed, King Frederick and Queen Abigail arrived at Emma's kingdom. There was to be a dinner in honor of the union between Emma and Charles, but their parents knew nothing of their little plan.

Of course, the kings and queens of both kingdoms saw this as ideal. If their children were finally spending multiple hours with each other, that must mean they accept the marriage once and for all.

At the dinner, Emma and Charles had planned just to tell their parents. Nothing of Killian would be mentioned, but if they convinced each other's parents that they really didn't care for each other, no extreme measures would have to be taken.

Though Emma quickly realized that Charles was a much better guy than she gave him credit for, she could never think about marrying him. In a way he was almost too nice. Nearly opposite of the pirate she had grown to love. While Charles tried to go about life with an optimistic attitude, sometimes his anger won out. He tried to hide it as best he could, and Emma supposed that was what was so different between the two. Killian didn't open up to people, but if he was feeling something, he would damn sure tell you, even if you weren't sure of the cause.

But that was what was so special about Killian. He wasn't someone she could just get used to. You either loved him, or you didn't, and Emma loved him more than anything.

She visited him again that night, before the dinner. The guards, maids, and other workers at the palace rushed around to make preparations for the visit of Abigail and Frederick. They didn't even notice Emma slip into the dungeon at six o'clock, they were so busy.

Killian looked even worse than he did the night before. A gash on his face had worsened, splotchy purple bruises littered on his skin. Even though he had only been there for twenty-four hours, she could tell how starved and sleep deprived he had become. His eyes had large, dark circles. Skin nearly hung off the defined bones of his face.

Emma's heart ached for him.

They didn't speak as Emma handed him the food, stealing a kiss before she ran off to the dinner. It wouldn't be long before she got him out, it couldn't be long. So even though a few chaste connections of their lips and scraps of bread were all they could share, she knew Killian was appreciative. He didn't need her to give him the world to know that she cared.

As Emma met Charles outside the dungeon, they shared a knowing smile, and walked as slowly as they could up to the dining hall. If anything could make this easier on the both of them, it would be their parents approving their request to end this betrothal once and for all.

XXX

Emma and Charles were the last people in the dining hall by the time dinner was served. Two spots were reserved for them, next to each other at the end of the table.

Charles' parents were on his right side, Emma was on his left, and Emma's parents were on the other side of her. It was only the six of them, sitting together at a small round table.

Though the original plan was to have one meal together as separate families before the wedding chaos took over, Emma found it to her advantage. She would much rather tell the two queens and kings about her dilemma than the whole kingdom.

"So what do you take interest in these days, Emma. It's been so long since we've talked." Abigail started out the dinner trying to make small talk.

Emma tried to remember a time when she had actually held a conversation with the queen. She couldn't even recall ever meeting Abigail, and she wasn't quite sure what to say.

"I like to ride horses," Emma finally answered. It wasn't a lie per se, she just hadn't ridden a horse in a few months. Most of her recent activities including stealing, maiming, and sneaking around. Not exactly skills that someone should have.

Abigail pulled a stiff smile onto her face. "Oh. That's nice."

Emma could see that Charles' mother was trying her best to hold her tongue, so she just nodded her head. "I enjoy it very much."

Abigail's smile faltered. "I'm sure you do." She glanced around the table, eyeing her son for a moment. "Well, since we are all here, why don't we talk about wedding plans," Abigail exclaimed happily.

Frederick sighed from beside her, his hand clamping over her's on the table. "Abigail, my love, we aren't going—"

"Father, it's fine," Charles interjected. Emma squirmed in her seat, already suspecting what Charles was about to do. "I wanted to say something about it anyways."

All four sets of parent's eyes were on him excitedly. Charles felt a pressure on him that he never had before. He know his parents would be disappointed in him, and he had never purposely let them down. He wasn't sure he could do it now.

"Emma and I—" he took a breath, trying to calm his breathing. He had gone over what he would say a million times before, why was this time so much harder?

As the words got caught in his throat, he looked to the blonde princess next to him. Emma nodded her head in a pushing way, almost as if saying, get the damn thing over with already.

He swallowed his speech, and thought up something else to say. But with all the glances in his direction, he didn't have much time to think of something creative or diplomatic to say.

In fact, he didn't really think at all.

"Emma doesn't wish to be married to me," Charles said finally, after many moments of silence. "And I do not want to be married to her either."

Silence so violent, you could hear the soft breathing of the people in front of you. No one spoke for several moments, and glances were exchanged between the parents of the future bride and groom.

Suddenly, Abigail let out a very hopeful laugh. "You are joking, my son. You must be."

Charles shook his head, bringing Emma to stand up with him. "I'm sorry mother, but I speak the truth."

Emma's father stood up furiously. "Then you have been letting Emma brainwash you! All these stories of true love that she feeds your imagination!"

Charles' face grew very red with anger. "Do not place this blame on Emma! I understand what this marriage would mean for both of your kingdoms, but you don't honestly think that we would succumb to something neither of us wanted!" He glared coldly at Abigail and Charming. "Do you two deny that you abandoned your arranged engagement because you loved someone else?"

The two of them said nothing. Abigail's expression grew nervous, and Emma could tell why. Her son had been a golden child, doing whatever was needed for the sake of his kingdom. But now, he was slowly slipping from her grasp, all because of one simple thing.

Abigail didn't like the fact that she had no control over him.

"No? Charming you ran away to be with the one you love. And mother, even though you accepted the truth of your betrothal, you knew your heart would always belong to someone else," Charles spat out angrily. "So I don't care how much you are paying the Charming's to unite the kingdoms. Give them the money they need without a fight. You will not be selling your son to them."

With that, Charles turned around, storming out of the dining room. The four parents all looked distressed, and Emma, not wanting to be in the middle of a heated argument, sped out after Charles.

Though Emma called after him, he didn't stop walking until he got outside to the gardens. He sat next to the golden fountain, putting his face in his hands.

Emma walked up next to him, putting a delicate hand on his shoulder. "You did the right thing, Charles."

"Yeah, well. It was a selfish decision. I've probably ruined everything between our families, and between my parents and I." Charles looked up at Emma as she sat next to him, folding his hands together in his lap.

She smiled. "I will talk to your parents, and mine. They will forgive you, and if they don't, they are the selfish ones." Without a second thought, she reached over and enveloped Charles in a hug. "If anything, I will be forever indebted to you. There's no way I can repay you for this, something I've been trying to accomplish for years."

"I'm so glad that you are so against marrying me," Charles teased.

Emma pulled away from the hug, smiling as she rolled her eyes. "If it weren't for a multitude of things, I might actually be able to love you," she laughed. "But now, that would just be weird. In such a short time, you've become my best friend."

"And you have become mine, Emma." Charles beamed, a bright, white smile on his crimson lips. "I never got a chance to properly thank you for everything you did for me on the ship." He took his hands in hers, squeezing them tightly. "So thank you."

Emma shook her head, not needing his gratefulness to be said aloud. She already knew, and he had shown that through the kindness he had towards her everyday. "It's the least I could do, and in all honesty, I should have done more. And I'm sorry... for not telling you about Killian. I was just afraid you would tell someone. I didn't want to get us both in serious trouble."

Charles looked down at his hands. "I'll admit, the thought did cross my mind." Then he looked up, his cerulean blue eyes locking with Emma's. "But I am not a cruel man. I know how much you love him, and if anything I am happy about that. You're love for Killian saved me, and I will do anything to help you save him."

XXX

For the next couple days, Emma hardly spoke to anyone except for Charles and Killian. They spent many hours creating a plan, and it became crucial in the final quarter. Killian was to be executed in a few hours, as well as the rest of the crew. They would be made an example of, to show whoever would disobey the throne, would deserve the punishment of death.

Killian was a one of the worst criminals around, everyone knew that. So when they heard he was to be killed, the infamous Captain Hook, Emma couldn't believe how many people came to witness it.

Charles walked down to the dungeon, mere hours before the Killian was to walk out onto the platform. He would be first, and the crew would quickly follow behind him.

Emma trudged behind Charles, the guards with them patiently. Emma had requested to personally see Killian to the gallows, where her "fiancée" would accompany her. In the twisted minds of the people around her, killing the person who captured her was supposed to be an early wedding gift. But to Emma, it wasn't a gift at all.

It was a nightmare.

The blonde princess insisted that Killian should be healthy when he was executed, otherwise the kingdom would not take it as such a threat. Instead of a strong man being taken down by their monarchy, followed with a last effort of pride, they would see a weak pirate who was only a prisoner in his own life, if nothing else. So when Emma got down there, she was happy to see him looking stronger. The bruises on his skin had dulled to a bluish color, while the cuts and gashes had cinched together.

His back was turned to her when she walked in. The rest of the crew did not say anything, what little they had left. Many had been killed in being tortured, many had gotten sick, many wanted to die, and made sure they did.

Emma felt terrible about what had happened to them, but there was nothing she could have done. The journey back to their kingdom was hard on everyone, and Emma barely got the chance to move around the ship, let alone go visit her pirate friends in the brig.

"Killian!" Emma whispered softly as Charles waved her on quickly. The guard was already on the floor, passed out, and Emma was surprised they had gotten by so easily.

The blue-eyed pirate looked around in a daze, but smiled when he saw Emma. His lip had been cut straight down the left side, and though it temporarily made his smile a little lopsided, Emma thought he still looked as charming as ever.

"Emma, my love," he grinned, his mood not dampening at all with the current situation. "Any more news?"

She finally flashed him a bright smile. Over the past few visits she had nothing to offer him but the words, we are working on it. But now, she finally had something good to tell him. "We found a way to get you out."

Killian's face lit up, his eyes glowing a deep azure. She could hear the crew talking in excited whispers around them. "Well please, Swan. Do share."

XXX

"This evening, Killian Jones is to be executed in the courtyard at precisely six o'clock. The rest of his crew will follow. You and your families can finally sleep easy, knowing that the infamous Captain Hook will be dead and gone from our peaceful kingdom," Emma read off the flier to Charles, sitting in the chair across from him. "What a load of rubbish! They make it sound like some fancy ball, not the hanging of people!" Emma fumed. "How could my parents—"

"Shh," Charles held his finger to his lips. "The king has ears everywhere."

Emma scoffed. "The king is my father." She sighed, setting her head on her hands. "I hate this, Charles, this whole mess. I never should have ran away. Look what it started..."

The blonde princess had been thinking about it lately. If she hadn't run away, Killian, Smee, Porter, and all her friends wouldn't be in danger. She wouldn't have to risk her whole life to save them. And August and Charles... After what they were about to do for her, she would owe them everything.

"Oh come on, Emma. You can't honestly say that this isn't exciting." Charles smiled.

Emma couldn't tell if he was being sarcastic or not, but she gave him a skeptical look anyways.

He rolled his eyes. "Alright, maybe it isn't so great. But listen, if you hadn't left, your life would still be the same as it was before. Sure, we wouldn't be at risk of being executed along with the crew, but you never would have met Killian. He would still be depressed about his ex-lover, and you would still be engaged to me... It isn't all bad, Emma."

She realized what he was saying was true. Emma was just feeling sorry for herself, and there was nothing else to say about that. Meeting Killian was the best thing that had ever happened to her.

"You're right, Charles." She reached over, giving him one last hug before they parted ways for their mission. Emma's arms wrapped around his neck, squeezing him tightly. "I don't have any clue how I'll be able to repay you for this."

"There's no need." He pulled away from the hug, and they stood. "I'll gladly sacrifice myself. I've lived for nearly four-hundred years, and I have never found anything to fight for. You have Emma, and I will stand next to you for the fight, until the very end." Charles ran a nervous hand through his wind-blown blonde hair. His words shouted confidence, but Emma could see clear through that facade. He was scared. But so was she. "Besides," he smiled, clearing his throat. "I'm getting old anyways. If my whole life was easy, where would all the adventures be?" He winked, turning his back and walking towards the midday sun.

That was the last Emma saw of Charles for several hours.

XXX

"You, what?" Charming's eyes lit up with an intense glare that Emma couldn't quite place.

She frowned. "I wish to escort Killian Jones down to the gallows... Myself."

Her father looked over to the dark-haired queen, who shook her head violently. "No, no Charming. That's a ridiculous thing to let her do! She could get hurt."

"Mother," Emma pleaded. "I see it's only fair. He kidnapped me, he almost killed me, he held me for ransom." She hated lying to her mother, and she hated talking so negatively about Killian. "Why shouldn't I be the one to take him down there?"

"Emma!" Snow exclaimed. "This type of behavior is not expected from the future queen. You sound murderous, and vigilant, and—"

"Let her," Charming relented, his voice tired and exhausted. His head was placed on his hands, his eyes dropping. "I think she deserves as much."

"Charming!" Snow glanced between the two of them, her bright brown eyes wide. But when her husband didn't say anything more, she dropped her gaze and stayed silent.

Emma nodded her head, trying to keep her glee from becoming evident, and to be as diplomatic as possible. She bowed gracefully. "Thank you," she muttered silently, turning to walk out the door.

Excitement bubbled up along with nervousness. Stage one of saving Killian was complete.

XXX

When the time came, Emma felt like she was going to be sick. She had, in secret, supplied everyone with weapons to stand and fight. She hoped that was not what it would come to, but she didn't have any clue what would lay ahead of them.

Killian and the crew were a mess when she walked into the dungeon. They were anxious, bruised, and bloody.

Emma walked quickly, making sure the guards were watching her carefully. She had to play this right, or they would be no chance of Killian escaping. Nearly a dozen guards were at her back, and in a few minutes, an entire kingdom would be.

"It's time." Emma said in as solemn of a voice that she could muster. Get Ready Killian.

Killian looked up, his bright blue eyes flashing with fear, though Emma could tell it was an act. Killian had mentioned being nervous before, but who wouldn't be? One mistake, one flaw, and this plan would cost them both their lives. But she knew that Killian trusted her... And that kept her pushing away the reckless emotions that wanted to take control.

He nodded with a grim expression, but got to his feet. Emma took the chains that were attached to his shackles, and brought him to a halt behind her. "There are twelve guards that will be backing me up. If you so much as move the wrong way, they will ensure you won't be able to even limp to your execution." Please don't do anything stupid. Emma forced a scowl on to her face.

Keep it together, Emma, just a little bit longer.

"I understand." Killian's sea blue eyes lit up with amusement, and he flashed her a grin. Thankfully, it was dark, and the guards didn't see the exchange of glances between them.

Emma knew that if Killian didn't love her, this would have been a lot harder. Captain Hook would never back down from a challenge. He would claw, punch, even kill his way through these guards, just to escape. This time, the thought of doing that had only once flicked into his mind, but he was never going to act upon it. All his trust was in Emma, and even if she let him down, got them both killed, even betrayed him... He would never stop loving her.

She pulled him along the dimly lit hallway, counting the lanterns as she went. There were forty-two in total on the way to the gallows, and Charles would be on number 26. While they were distracting the guards, Killian and Emma would escape, and August would free the rest of the crew. Killian and Emma both counted carefully as they passed.

One... two... three...

It seemed like forever they walked, but at the same time, it all seemed to go by in a flash. Her heart beat rapidly.

Nine... Ten... Eleven...

"Princess?" One of the guards at the front asked. "You doing okay?"

Emma nodded, still keeping her eye on the left side of the wall. "I'm fine."

If being so nervous was considered fine, then hell, she was amazing. The fire burned the lanterns as the sunset created one in the sky.

Nineteen... Twenty...

She took a careful breath, looking back at Killian who nodded encouragingly. She yearned to reach to him, to press his lips to her own. They were so close.

Emma continued along, nearing the lantern where they would continue their quest. She was nearly there, just a few more steps before she rounded the corner, and then —

The wind howled, and soon the dim light of the lantern was replaced by utter darkness. Emma felt panic rise up in her, and she reached for Killian.

"Princess Emma!" The guards yelled frantically, searching for her in the dark.

"I'm fine!" she quickly responded, not wanting to draw any suspicion. Killian grasped her hand.

"Was this part of the plan?" he whispered sharply.

"No..." she admitted. Emma wasn't sure what was going on, but if the guard couldn't see anything, they could work this to their advantage. "But—"

Suddenly, another strong wind swirled around them. Emma's hair flew out of the intricate bun her mother had done, and she reached for Killian even tighter.

Guards fell left and right at her feet, and if being struck down by some invisible force. Killian stayed grounded, "what the hell is happening?" he shouted.

She opened her mouth to respond, but didn't get the chance to speak before Charles sprinted towards her, calling her name in the dark.

"Emma you've got to get out of here... He's here!" Charles yelled frantically, trying to pull her along, but Emma didn't budge.

"Who, Charles?" Killian asked.

He stopped. Emma could hear his heart beating wildly in his chest as he swallowed. "The Dark One."

Chapter Text

Emma grabbed Killian's hand, pulling him along quickly towards the end of the dungeon. Though he shivered, his clothes ripped from all the abuse, he gritted his jaw tightly. Charles followed behind them quietly, not even bothering to speak up.

"Killian?" Emma tried to get through to him, make him see past all the blind rage he held towards the Dark One. She wanted him to be rational, to calm down and think about the situation before he rushed into the mess, guns blazing.

It had nothing to do with jealously, Emma could care less that her pirate was still vengeful over his past lover's death. She understood.

It was cruel for the Dark One to murder Milah right in front of Killian. It was wrong for him to make Killian stand and watch.

Hook blamed himself for her death, that much Emma knew for sure. She could see it, straight through his fiery eyes, the way his fingers curled at even the mere memory of what happened on the ship that cool summer afternoon.

He kept walking while ignoring her protests, determination written all over his features. "The Dark One is here for me, Emma." Killian could hear the screams, but tried to keep them out of his head. "He won't leave until I'm dead. He wants to finish the battle."

Emma nearly passed out from all the emotions exploding in her gut. "Just think this through, Killian!"

"There's nothing to consider. If the Dark One wants my life, he shall have it." Killian responded, stepping in a puddle, mud flying up and splattering all over his leather boots.

"And what of me?" Emma suddenly stopped, pulling Killian to an abrupt halt next to her. "Killian, I risked my life to save you. My reputation, my family, my everything. And this is how you're going to repay me! By going on a suicide mission?" A burst of anger flooded her. The emerald eyes on her face lit up to a poisonous green.

"Emma, innocent people are dying!" He reprimanded.

"Killian Jones, I love you!" She shot back. "I can't live without you, I can't watch you waltz out there as the Dark One kills you."

"You can live without me."

She threw her head back, angry tears threatening to spill out of her eyes. "No, I can't." She shook her head. "If you let yourself do this, you're no better than Rumpelstiltskin when he killed Milah." Emma scowled.

"I-" Killian gave a sour face, but then his harshness dropped away. He shuddered, and sighed, leaning in to kiss Emma softly.

She tried to stand her ground, but melted immediately, pressing herself closely against Killian's chest. He was cold, and Emma's skin was unexplainably warm. She returned his kiss softly, moaning as his hand trailed down her back.

"I'm sorry, Emma," he whispered quietly against her lips. "I just don't want anyone else to get hurt because of me. No one innocent. Not your family, not you..." Killian trailed off, rubbing his fingers through his hair.

Emma grabbed his hand, gripping it tightly as she laced her's through his. His hand held scratches, calluses, bruises from days past, but it suited him. It suited the way he hid his true softness and gentleness behind his rough exterior.

"I hate to break up this moment, but we gotta keep moving," Charles interrupted, causing Emma to suddenly realize that her and Killian and been staring at each other a little too long.

She blushed slightly with a smile, nodding. It was so hard not to get caught up in the ocean that was Killian's eyes.

The pirate smiled, but nodded quickly. "He's right. We can't just wait around down here. We have to do something."

They could still hear the screams outside, but they seemed to be getting louder the longer they waited. It was as if Rumpelstiltskin knew where they were, knew that they were hiding, but it wasn't his style to come after them. He would wait, torture people until he eventually brought them out of their temporary haven.

Emma saw his distraction, and tugged on his sleeve a little, pulling him back to her. He tried to force a smile, just for the princess's sake, but it was nearly impossible in the current situation.

She nodded, as if understanding everything he was thinking. "Come on, we need to go meet up with August and the crew." They walked back towards the direction of the dungeon, away from the chaos outside. Killian shuddered in the cool air.

They walked around for a few minutes, everyone too wrapped up in their own minds to speak. Emma lead the way, the only one who actually knew where she was going. Suddenly, after a while, Emma let out a small scream as the turned the corner.

Her and August collided, and had it not been for them both gripping each other tightly for support, they would have flown backwards across the ground.

"Emma!" August exclaimed in surprise. "Finally, we've been looking for you for ages!"

Killian noticed August and Emma engaged in a conversation, but his attention was drawn to the scraggly looking crew that hovered behind August's shoulder.

His heart raced as he saw them, and a frown came over his face when he noticed how few had made it out alive. Smee, Porter, and Kane were all present, as well as about ten others. Though compared to other dangerous missions they went on, a fair amount had made it out alive, but not as many as Killian had prayed for. He was surprised at how much he felt for them. Not only had he lost faithful followers, but also friends that he hadn't, until this moment, appreciated.

He was a terrible human being, and Killian wasn't sure why that just recently dawned upon him.

Emma's bright green eyes tore him back to reality, a forceful and comforting look plastered on her face. "Killian? Are you..."

He nodded in affirmation, knowing the question she was inevitably going to ask. "I'm ready. Let's get this over with, and get the hell out of this place."

Emma looked a little offended that he had so much disrespect for her ex-home, but it was hard not to... Especially with the Killian and his crew had been treated. It was easy to hate a place where you had been starved, tortured, and nearly killed.

The crew hurrahed, cheering Killian on for a speech. Though he wasn't exactly in the mood for any type of motivation, the fascinated and proud looks of the crew were enough to change his mind.

"Alright," he cleared his throat, but before he could say anything more, he noticed Charles exchanging a few words with Emma. She nodded her head as he turned to leave. Killian could see the underlying worry on her face, but she still nodded to him anyways, so that he could continue.

Killian cleared bis throat again, thinking over what he was going to say. He needed to rally the sailors, his troops. He needed to get ready for a fight.

But then, the more he thought, the more he realized that this was his battle. This was not his crew's, not Charles', and it sure as hell wasn't Emma's...

He had spent nearly his whole life dragging people down with him, spilling their blood, making them fight his wars for him. But no more.

This time, Killian would not go out their with the intention of dying in the process. No, Killian would win this, however much of his life it took. But he would do it alone.

A new determination came through Killian's eyes. No longer did he have a death sentence, no longer was he going on a suicide mission... He was ready to beat the Dark One once and for all.

"Men," he began, looking to each one of the members of his crew. "For three-hundred years I've waited for this moment. For the Crocodile to return. I've spent nearly my whole lifetime tracking down ways to kill him, to avenge Milah."

Killian pulled the vial of Dreamshade out of his pocket, where he kept it safely tucked away in case something like this ever happened. Killian had never been more thankful for that small vial of black poison in his life.

Though, more than once, it had been a threat to him. It would have been so easy just to down that poison and get the pain over with.

But no. Killian was a survivor, a fighter. He always had been, and he would continue to be until the day he died. He had always had something to live for, an endgame. Killian thought that would be killing the Dark One for what he did to Milah.

But now that he had Emma, there was a whole new life in store for him. He had never been so thankful for those three-hundred years in his Neverland. If it hadn't been for that hellish island, he never would have met the love of his life.

The crowd cheered for him, as if expecting a speech from him on how they would all fight as one unit. How wrong they were...

"Which is why," Killian continued after their yells died down, "I must do this alone."

Silence.

Not a sound.

"Captain," Smee finally spoke. "You're crazy if you think we'll let you do this by yourself."

Killian sighed. He knew that this wouldn't go down without a fight, but that didn't mean he was looking forward to it. "Smee, trust me. I've lived a long life, and—"

"I haven't?" He countered. "Porter? Kane?" Smee glanced to the other crew mates. "Cap'n, we've been to Hell together and back again, and you expect us just to let you go out there alone?"

Killian nodded his head. "I don't want any of you to get killed." He answered sincerely, surprised by his own words. Since when had he cared whether his crew lived, died, or sacrificed themselves on his behalf? "Too many of you have passed because of me, I've spilt more blood than you could even imagine."

"I can imagine!" Smee shouted. "I was there!" He shook his head, sighing. "I stuck with you for a reason, Killian. I could have packed my bags and left at any time—"

"You were scared of me," Killian said.

"No. I was scared for you. It wasn't hard to see what you would become. I wanted to help you, and as much as you don't believe it, I am your friend. We all are. Now, Cap'n, you are going to let us come with you, or so help me, I'll kill you myself," Smee said with his dark eyes narrowed.

Killian didn't expect to see so much of a fight. The other pirates rallied, shouted, cheered even. They agreed with Smee, and they wanted to help their Captain.

"Do you really think we would let you do something so stupid alone?" Emma asked, turning his shocked gaze away from Smee. "I don't want you to do this, Killian, but trust me... I would sacrifice everything just to see us all make it out of this alive."

Killian was suddenly filled with a rush of passion for the woman in front of him. Emma was so strong, so beautiful, and she understood.

After sending a nod to his crew, he rushed up to Emma and kissed the hell out of her. It wasn't much, and it didn't nearly last long enough.

But it meant so much for both of them.

"Emma," Killian murmured against her lips, eyes close. "I love you so much, do you understand that?"

Emma began to speak as she nodded, but Killian cut her off.

"So if anything goes wrong here, if you die... I'll never be able to forgive myself. One mistake, Emma, and you run like hell, you hear me? You don't turn around to save me, leave me there." Killian's hands curled around the sword that swung at her hips. He smiled, remembering that day that was really not so long ago.

Emma looked down, seeing how Killian was looking at it. She went to get it off her waist, but he stopped her, pulling her hands away.

"I know it was Milah's," she said quietly. "So why did you give it to me? Especially when she meant so much to you, and I didn't at the time...?"

Killian felt a bit embarrassed, but a small grin played at his lips. "I had a hunch about you," he admitted. "And I was right." He closed his eyes, silently praying to any God that would listen. "That's why I need you to promise
me that you'll stay out of trouble."

Emma sealed her lips together tightly, not saying a word.

Killian's eyes locked with her, pleading with her. "Emma, promise me!"

She took a shaky breath, throwing her arms around him, holding back the tears. She nodded frantically. "I love you, Killian!" Emma pulled away, wiping away the wetness from her face. "I promise."

Killian still felt a bit of unease in his chest, but he didn't let that faze him. He watched as Emma walked back and stood with August. He turned away, not bearing to think that this could be the last time he would see Emma. Thoughts like that would only drag him down.

"Alright," he said with the strongest voice he could muster. "Let's get to it."

Killian led them along quickly, not stopping until he could see the stars shimmering above in the sky. Standing in the gallows, it was almost too iconic, too coincidental.

Already there were so many bodies. Anger, worry, self-loathing welled up in his chest. He had caused this.

Killian had caused this.

It wasn't the first time he had created death, but there certainly was something different about this time. Killian felt guilty, awful even, for bringing about so much destruction to these people.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw him for the first time in years. The Dark One leaned over Charming, his fist curled only inches away from his neck, but Killian could see Emma's father was quickly dying. He had to act fast.

"Give me the pirate!" Rumple screamed into the bloodied face of the King. "Or feel free to join the rest of the bodies!" He gestured to a pile of deceased humans, looking as if they had each been murdered a different way.

Killian felt sick.

Emma tried to pull him back into the shadows, gripping his arm tightly, but he shrugged her off. "You wanted me, Crocodile?" he screamed, and suddenly, the Dark One's head whipped towards him, his reptilian skin glinting in the moonlight.

"Well, well," the Dark One murmured, slithering closely to Killian like a snake. He moved slowly, cautiously, like he was waiting to strike. "Look who we have here..."

Kilian couldn't stop himself from stepping in front of Emma when the Dark One got within distance. It was a quick movement, and had Rumpelstiltskin not been paying close enough attention, he would have missed it.

The smile on his face curled up even more. He giggled wickedly, eyes lighting up with evil glee. "Killian Jones, of all people I didn't expect you to make this mistake again."

It took Killian a minute to realize that he was talking about Emma. His blood ran cold, and the same murderous and vengeful thoughts that plagued him in the time between Emma and Milah returned to him.

"You so much as lay a finger on her–" Killian began, but was quickly interrupted.

"Is that so?" Rumple grinned, his crooked, rotting teeth making Killian sick. "I didn't think you were in any position to stop me."

And before he could say another word, Killian was thrown out of the way, dangling in the air just like he had once before. No, no, no. He couldn't go through this again.

His life flashed before his eyes.

"This is all so very bittersweet, wouldn't you agree, Captain?" Rumple questioned, looking at Emma in a nauseating way.

"Emma!" Killian struggled, but with the iron grip Rumple had around him, the most he could do was breath. "Run, Emma!"

But Emma looked frozen in her tracks. She wasn't scared, really, but she looked back and forth at Killian and Rumple, as if only just remembering what was going on.

"There's nowhere for you to go, dearie. You can run, but you won't get far." Rumple stalked closer.

Emma swallowed, looking over at Killian. Her eyes closed, and she didn't say a word. She tried to steady her shaking breath, because she knew that this was it... This was the end, and there was nothing that she could do about it. The Dark One was too powerful. She couldn't fight, she couldn't run. But if killing her was what the Dark One wanted all this time...

As long as Killian was safe and out of harms way.

"Do it," Emma responded, almost as if daring him. "Kill me."

She could hear Killian's screams. She knew that if she was going to die, she didn't want to listen to Killian's heart shattering for the second time, and she tuned him out.

And right as she thought that the Dark One was going to kill her, that he was going to take her heart and crush it his palm, something happened.

He stopped.

The Dark One turned around, and Emma saw Charles standing there with a determined look on his face. His back was straight and tall, always very much a prince, even in times of trouble.

A flash of recognition went over Rumple's face as he stared into the cerulean blue eyes of the prince. He made a move towards Charles threateningly, but before he could even so much as touch him, Charles spoke.

"Hello, father."

Emma's eyes widened as the Dark One's wicked demeanor started to fall away. He narrowed his eyes curiously, watching him as Charles only stood there blinking nervously.

"Father?" Rumple questioned in confusion. His fingers twitched, almost as if he wanted to reach out to Charles. But instead, a sneer pulled onto his face. "No, my son is dead." He answered in disbelief, stalking towards Charles once again.

Charles stood his ground, not allowing any small amount of fear to enter him. "You're right. One of your sons is dead." A stroke of anger flashed through his eyes. "The other isn't."

The Dark One titled his head in a skeptical matter, his lips pressing together.

"When Milah left you all those years ago," Charles continued, "she was pregnant. I was that baby." He raised an eyebrow. "But you knew that already, didn't you?"

Rumplestiltskin's eyes widened, but there was nothing that hinted that he believed Charles. "If you were that baby you would be dead," he responded. "That was three-hundred years ago."

"I was in Neverland," Charles responded simply. "I met my brother, Baelfire... And then I came back to this world, not that many years ago."

Rumplestiltskin's face softened. "You can't be my son."

Charles's eyes narrowed in anger. "You're right, I'm not your son, and I never will be. By blood, maybe..." He licked his lips. "But you never once looked for me, did you?"

Rumple wanted to protest, but Charles didn't allow him any words.

"I searched for years for you!" He yelled. "I just wanted to find my father, I wanted him to know who I was! But you just hid from me, avoided me. So I gave up. Hell, you're the dark one, why would you ever want to speak to me?" He finished. "I didn't matter to you, even if blood ties were one of the only things that you ever cared about."

"Son," the Dark One spoke.

"Don't call me that." He scowled angrily. "My name is Charles, and you are nothing to me." He pulled out a long, silver gleaming dagger out of his pocket, his fierce eyes illuminating off of it.

The Dark One stiffened, eyes looking back from Charles to the dagger. "So you're the little thief who took my dagger."

It took a moment before Emma realized that Rumpelstiltskin was engraved in the dark silver dagger.

Charles pulled a grim smile onto his face. "No. I just paid someone else to steal it for me. Never thought they'd find it, though." Charles twisted the dagger in his hand, threading it through his fingers. "I never believed that this would even work."

Rumplestiltskin stiffened, not a muscle in his body moving.

"So, according to these rules, I control you," Charles continued. "Which means, you are practically powerless."

Emma felt a wave of relief flush through her as Charles commanded the Dark One to release Killian.

He fell to his knee, sputtering and coughing. Emma ran over to him quickly, helping him up.

"Son–"

"Charles," he bit back harshly, grinding his teeth.

"Charles," Rumple corrected himself. "Why don't we work this out, make a deal?"

The blonde prince almost seemed to be considering it. His blue eyes darted from his father to the dagger, from Emma to Hook.

"No," he said, shaking his head. "No, you're done making deals. Forever." Charles bit sharply, a hard look in his eyes.

It took Rumpelstiltskin a second, but understanding seemed to flash through his features. "You mean to kill me," he answered, a dark laugh coming up from his chest. "You can't kill your own father."

Charles took a step closer, dagger clutched tightly in his fingers. His knuckles turned white. A dark and dangerous look appeared in his eyes. "You are not my father." He hissed sharply. "My dad is kind and caring. He was there for me, he didn't just abandoned me."

"I—"

Charles didn't let the Dark One get a word in edgewise. "He loves me, he took care of me. So you're right. I couldn't just kill my father." Charles took a shaky breath, bringing the dagger to Rumplestiltkin's chest in one swift movement. "But you, I can kill you," he whispered softly under his breath.

Time seemed to fly before Emma's eyes. The dagger was draining the life out of the Dark One, finally killing him once and for all.

Emma thought it was all over. She looked over to Charles and Killian to rejoice, but before she could blink, the sword flew out of Killian's belt.

Their heads both whipped over to see it piercing through Charles's heart, blood pouring from the wound in his flesh.

Emma screamed.

No one was reacting faster than she was.

Frederick and Abigail had been hiding in the castle, but had run out once they saw their son approaching Rumpelstiltskin, they had run out to stop him...

And now he was dead.

Abigail fell to her knees, collapsing in grief. Her lip quivered, and she let out a bloodcurdling scream. Her eyes filled with tears, and her whole body racked with sobs.

Emma didn't know if they had any idea that their son was 300 years old, and that his father was the Dark One. Did Charles ever bother to tell them?

Frederick wrapped his arms around her, holding her back as Charles and Rumpelstiltskin fell away from each other, their bodies hitting the ground.

Charles was still breathing, and Emma raced towards him.

"No, no, Charles," she cradled his head on her lap as Frederick and Abigail mustered up the strength to come say goodbye to their son. "You can't die on me!" Emma yelled. "You can't! This is all my fault."

Charles's blonde hair fell into his eyes as he shook his head. "Don't be ridiculous," he managed to cough out. "I made my choice a long time ago."

He closed his eyes, breathing only slightly as Abigail grabbed his hand.

Her tears fell onto his chest, staining her son's shirt, turning it a darker shade of red.

"Charles, I'm so–"

He smiled only slightly, his eyes still closed. "Don't apologize for anything, mother," he said, his voice raspy. "You've given me the best life that I could ever have, you and father. So thank you. I want you to know, I love you."

Abigail nodded, a sad smile coming onto her face. Frederick pushed the hair off of his son's forehead. "I'm so proud of you."

Abigail leaned down to give him a kiss on the cheek.

Emma went to say goodbye.

Charles only grinned. "Emma, you gave me something to live for. Thank you for giving me your friendship." He turned to Killian, who held Emma softly as she cried. "You take care of her, Hook," he finished.

Killian nodded, his eyes full of grief. "I will, I promise." Though he had only known him in passing, as a prisoner, Killian felt terrible. He had been the cause of all this pain, that start of it...

Emma seemed to notice his struggle, grabbing his hand for comfort. Killian didn't look away from the dying prince, and neither did Emma, but they sat together, drinking up each other's comfort.

Emma had one last fleeting hopeful thought. "How can you–?" She questioned, unable to finish her thought. "You stabbed the Dark One. Shouldn't you be the Dark One?" Wouldn't that make him immortal?

Killian glanced up, thinking the same thing as Emma. He stood, walking up over to Rumplestiltskin, wrapping a hand around the dagger and pulling it out of his chest.

Killian examined it, a sickening feeling welling up in his stomach. "Peter Pan?" Killian muttered, staring at the name on the dagger.

"What's that?" Emma asked, wiping her tears.

"It says Peter Pan," Killian shook his head. "Charles, why does it–"

But the prince, who had his last words muttered under the night sky seemed to understand. He laughed, though unamused, and closed his eyes. "So that's what that son of a bitch did to me."

And then Charles gave one last breath, almost unnoticeable in the chilly dusk.

It was almost scary how quiet it got after that.

XXX

"I don't understand," Abigail said, wiping her eyes. "My son is how old?"

It had been nearly one day since the death of her son, and everyone was having trouble functioning.

It was strange. Emma didn't think that Charles played that much of a role in her life, except for in the past few week. But now that he was gone...

Emma recounted the story back to Abgail and Frederick, telling them all about Charles back in Neverland. It was amazing how little the king and queen knew about their adopted son.

Emma sighed, a hole blooming in her gut. She felt so empty after Charles's death. He did so much for her, and how did she repay him?

Emma didn't know him long enough to really know him, but she knew for sure that he was a good man. He didn't deserve what he got.

After they found the new name on the dagger, Killian (who was now back in the dungeon with the rest of his crew) had discovered that Pan had performed a blood spell on Charles. After he killed the Dark One, the spell created a portal through Charles's body. Since the prince had agreed to it, was pure hearted, and family, just as the spell called for, the magic would go from Charles to Pan. This made it possible for Peter Pan to be the Dark One instead of Charles.

It killed Emma to know that Pan had taken advantage of her friend, all because he was related to the Dark One. Pan couldn't leave Neverland, and he wanted Rumple gone, so he looked to Charles.

She squeezed her eyes shut, her head aching from limited sleep.

Her parents were still upstairs, trying to find a way to bring the kingdom back together. Their castle had become somewhat of a hospital to all the people that had been hurt in the assault by Rumpelstiltskin. Emma hadn't seen them in a few hours.

Abigail asked question after question, though Emma only knew what Killian had told her. She decided not to mention him, since they all but ignored how sorry he was about Charles, and locked him back up.

He may have changed, but in the eyes of everyone around him, he was still a wanted man. Captain Hook was dangerous, and they couldn't just have him walking around alive and freely.

After a few minutes of questioning, weeping, and chatting with Frederick and Abigail, Emma was dismissed.

She walked along the hallways, lonely. If this had been any other day, she would have stopped to talk with Charles in the library, or met him out in the gardens for some lunch.

But now, Emma couldn't do that.

It was funny how quickly things changed.

She walked out to the grand hall, seeing August sitting on the couch, as if waiting for her to come out of the room where the parents of the deceased interrogated her.

Blue eyes met green, and she rushed over collapsing into his arms.

And then she cried.

XXX

Emma's parents didn't believe her at first, when she told them that she was in love with Killian Jones.

He had kidnapped her, held her for ransom, kept her in prison, and God knows what else...

Of course, Charming already knew half the story. She had told him back those few weeks ago on the ship, when he came onto the Jolly Roger, guns blazing.

It just took Snow a while to get a grasp on it.

She didn't understand how she could be in love with a pirate, a wanted criminal. Snow White was used to seeing the good in people, but sometimes, it got a little hard to see past someone's exterior.

She thought Killian had kidnapped her daughter. In the mind of Queen Snow, that was a crime that deserved a punishment worse than death.

Emma spent what seemed like hours in that little room with all the books, just talking to her parents. A fire blazed in the corner of the room, warming them all up. It had been a few days since the deaths, and there had been funerals and all sorts of things to honor the deceased.

A cold front had passed through, and though it was only the ending of Summer, it had already begun to get a little chilly at night.

Emma wasn't sure if it was because of the seasons changing, or the coldness that had started to bloom in her life.

After so many minutes of talking with her parents about the situation, they seemed to come to terms. After all, it was a similar case for the two of them. Snow had been a wanted woman, and Charming had been a betrothed man. In retrospect, it wasn't that different. Sure, maybe Killian's crimes weren't for good reasons, but he had been in a terrible spot for the majority of his life.

He'd lost so, so much. Emma couldn't really blame him. She wasn't sure if she could handle that much tragedy and not go off the edge a little bit.

But even with Killian's haunting past, Emma's parents found a way to accept their relationship. They spoke with Killian for a good long while, asking him question upon question.

Emma had already told them everything, but they just seemed to want to get it twice, just to make sure Killian wasn't a liar or something crazy. It irked Emma off a little bit, but at least her parents were being friendly to the one she loved.

Killian didn't seem to mind the positive attention either.

For a few days, he remained in the dungeon.

Emma begged her mother to let him out, but she had to be reminded that he was still a criminal, and not everyone would see him in the light that she did.

Which led them to an agreement that Emma was sure never would have happened had it not been for her parent's history.

"You can't be serious?" Emma suddenly asked them after they made their suggestions. "I can't just..." She trailed off, not really having a valid argument.

Charming smiled at her loss of words. "Emma, you don't really have much of a choice here. I wish you did, I wish that this was different than it is. Of course, sweetheart, I wish more than anything that you and Killian could stay here for the rest of your lives and I would get to see my beautiful daughter grow up even more than she already has... But Emma that's a fantasy, and you and I both know it. If you wish to be with Killian, you can't stay here." Charming reached toward me her, grief brimming his blue eyes.

Emma nodded sadly, turning her gaze downwards. "So this is goodbye?" Emma stopped for a moment, her heart racing in her chest as tears welled up in her eyes.

Snow's face drew up in a sour frown, her dark eyes welling up with sadness. Snow took a tentative step closer, and wrapped Emma up in a hug. "This is goodbye."

Emma couldn't contain the sorrow that she felt when her mother answered. Her head rested on Snow's shoulder. "But, I don't want to leave you again." Emma began sobbing.

"I know what it's like to be wanted," Snow muttered sympathetically. "But I believe that Killian deserves a second chance, and he can't do that here. If you love him as much as you say you do, then it's clear that he's not the man he used to be. I can see that now, Emma." Snow kissed her forehead. "I trust you, and I trust your judgment. Emma, you are my daughter and I love you. Despite all my previous mistakes as a mother, and what you might think about me, I want what's best for you. I want you to be happy, and clearly the one who makes you the happiest is Killian."

Emma felt tears flowing freely down her cheeks. In that moment, she had forgiven her mother for everything she had done to cause Emma so much pain.

"Thank you, mother." Emma responded, holding her closely, knowing what she would have to do. "And I'm so sorry for disappointing you."

Snow shook her head, running her fingers through Emma's blonde hair. "Don't be ridiculous Emma. I couldn't be more proud of you." She pulled away, holding Emma's face in her hands, and wiping away her tears. "Just promise you'll visit soon."

Emma nodded sadly, and spoke for a moment longer with both her parents, her heart breaking even more with every word the exchanged.

She couldn't believe that she was already leaving again. It didn't feel right, not after she just got back.

XXX

"You going to be okay?" Killian asked Emma as she watched the castle fade into the horizon. The Jolly Roger rocked lightly on the waves as they sailed off to their freedom.

Emma looked over, her bright green eyes misty from the tears she had been shedding.

She nodded, reaching a hand out to grasp Killian.

He walked over, wrapping his arms around her waist with a small smile.

"It's weird, you know." Emma responded, smiling as Killian kissed her on the temple. "I spent so long trying to change my life, and now that I'm finally free of that, of the life that I never wanted..." She sighed.

Killian toyed with the ends of her hair, and his lips rested on her earlobe.

Emma closed her eyes, smiling. "But, yeah. I think I'm going to be okay. As long as I'm with you."

Chapter Text

In the months that followed, Emma found herself creating a life.

Her and Killian discovered an old little house on the edge of the water. It was abandoned, and though it was an accident that they came across it, Emma almost considered it fate.

Her and Killian spent a few weeks fixing it back up, using things that they had stolen to decorate it and keep in it good condition.

Of course, Killian still loved the Jolly Roger. Emma knew that he would never give his ship up, but it was okay. They compromised, taking sporadic trips on the vessel whenever Killian wanted to.

Emma was really up to anything, as long as she had her pirate by her side.

When they weren't on the ship, they spent nights at their home by the lighthouse, just the two of them. August, Porter, and Smee manned the ship. Killian and Emma trusted them both more than anything, and they were happy to take over the ship.

Eventually, Emma knew, they would stop pirating. Killian still enjoyed the thrill, but she could tell that to him, it wasn't what it used to be. It had been an escape, a way to get away from all the crap he had to put up with.

But now his escape was his home, with Emma. Pirating would dwindle away slowly, but it was such a big part of his life, it had been for nearly three-hundred years... He wasn't just going to let it go overnight, and Emma understood that.

But, Emma knew, when that day came, she wanted to get married. Her and Killian had already discussed it, but being felons, known pirates... It wasn't exactly easy to just have a wedding.

Besides, they both knew they weren't ready. The time would come, and when it did, she would know.

And of course, after that, she wanted to start a family. They tried their best to avoid getting Emma pregnant too soon, because having a kid at this point in their life would be a lot of work. Emma was still young, and they were still adjusting to the world that they had begun to create together.

They both wanted kids at some point, though.

From their little house on the coast, Emma enjoyed watching the sun set. It was beautiful, the way the fiery orange and yellows bounced off the turquoise of the sea.

Killian stood from the kitchen, watching as Emma sat on the balcony, her blonde hair wrapping across her face from the ocean breeze. Her eyes were closed peacefully, and a smile was apparent on her face.

"What are you thinking about, love?" he asked her, wrapping an arm around her waist with a smile.

She gazed over, a loving look in her eyes. "Everything," she shook her head. "It's crazy, you know. So much has happened since..." she trailed off, a hand coming up to rest on his cheek. Emma traced his stubble, a sad smile coming onto her face.

"I know." Killian responded.

She sighed, and rested her head on his shoulder, staring back out at the ocean. "Thank you, Killian."

He gave her a skeptical look. "For what?" he asked, genuinely confused. Killian couldn't recall that he did anything for her lately that deserved thanks.

She laughed, shaking her head. "For everything! Do you really think I would have been able to get through these past weeks without you?"

Killian smiled slightly. "Oh... Well then, you're welcome."

She smiled, quiet for a moment. "I love you." Emma blurted out suddenly, reaching over to grab his hand and hold it tightly.

Killian pressed a kiss to her lips, "And I love you, Emma."

She blushed, her grin widening. She had heard it a million times, but she never got tired of it.

A calm silence fell between them as they stared out at nature in front of them, the beautiful serenity.

Two broken souls that had finally found each other, through grief and pain. Through time and unimaginable troubles.

Emma had finally decided there was a price to pay for freedom. She had lost her dear friend, she had lost her family, her castle.

But having Killian next to her, the love of her life...

She would still choose that life over anything she had before.