The first time he saw her, he had no idea who she was, but he was instantly drawn. Trudging his way up the dock, Lieutenant Killian Jones unloaded a sack of grain from his shoulder, coughing as dust rose from the goods upon hitting the ground. He waved away the small cloud and glanced up toward the palace, where the Jewel’s haul was bound. A number of courtiers were milling about the grounds, dressed in yards of finery. He was ready to turn back for the next load when he heard a low humming. With a pause, he directed his gaze toward the sound.
Sitting upon a swing beneath a tree sat a vision, dressed in the color of the sun. Her long blonde hair was braided in a thick pleat, curled up into a loose chignon at the base of her neck. She picked at flowers in her hand, snowbells as he recognized them to be, as she idly swung back and forth in the afternoon shade. Dusting his hands off on his trousers and grabbing his coat from the railing, he made his way slowly toward the young woman. There was a pink blush of youth in her high cheekbones, and long, luxurious eyelashes told tales of the beauty she beheld. Clearing his throat, Lieutenant Jones offered a hand and stood just far enough away from the lady to remain as unthreatening as possible.
“May I give you a push, my lady?” He gestured to the swing upon which she sat.
Glancing up, the girl flashed bright green eyes and a slowly-growing smile. She took in the sight of his white sailor’s trousers and blue coat with very little insignia. “I suppose you may,” she replied, dropping the snowbells to her side. She wrapped long, thin fingers around the ropes of the swing and finally grinned. “It’s been ages since I had a proper go on this.”
“Allow me, then,” he replied, pink rising up his neck and into his cheeks. Stepping up behind her, he grasped the ropes and pulled them back slightly before releasing them to start a bit of momentum.
The girl in the yellow gown swung slowly upon his release, but as she felt herself moving back toward him once more, he gave a soft push at her shoulders that allowed the breeze to hit her face and her feet to completely leave the ground. Crossing her legs at the ankles, she giggled and bit down upon her lower lip. “Higher!” she cheered.
“Hold on tightly!” He replied and gave more of a push. The old rope swing was firm as it allowed her to soar up higher, higher over the lush green landscape below. Tendrils of her golden blonde hair escaped, framing her face as she laughed.
Her laughter stuck deep into his soul, and he knew he had never heard a sweeter sound. Stepping slightly aside, he allowed himself a moment to admire her beauty as she swung under her own power beneath the thick branch of the ancient oak. Her smile was the vision of youth and happiness itself, and it warmed his heart.
Trumpets sounded from the palace, and Killian heard a gasp. He glanced up at the high stone walls, then turned back to his swinging goddess to find her dragging her feet in the grass to stop herself.
“Thank you,” she said hurriedly, gathering her skirts once her feet were firmly planted upon the ground once more, “I must go!”
“Wait!” He called, stepping toward her as she made a run in the direction of the gates, “I must know your name!”
With a smirk, she turned slightly and slowed her run as she looked back at him, “Emma! Princess Emma!”
The Lieutenant’s eyes grew wide as he realized he had approached a member of the royal family without a proper introduction. He was most lucky that his interference in the Princess’s alone time was well-received. The growing sound of the Jewel of the Realm’s bell snapped him from his reverie and he turned to hurry back to the ship before he could be missed.
The second time he saw her, the Princess was in no such mood, but he was nonetheless captivated. The winds were high and the sky was dark. A storm was rolling in over the shores of Misthaven. Standing upon the upper deck, Captain Killian Jones shouted orders to his men to secure the rigging and batten the hatches. They were cruising into port, and the sooner they could take shelter inside, the better. With the final two barrels of rum removed, the Captain grabbed his tricorn hat and slid it under his arm, the fringe of his epaulette flailing in the wind. He was to be last off the ship, but as he started across the gangplank, a small, thin hand grasped his arm.
“Hide me, please,” a voice whispered.
Turning in the direction of the arm which stopped him, Killian found himself met with those familiar green eyes. “Princess Emma,” he searched for the correct words at that very moment, but found himself unable to think clearly in her presence. It had been some three years since he had first met her upon the swing in the courtyard, and she had only grown more into her inherent beauty.
“Please, Captain,” she pleaded again, her hair whipping in the rising winds, “hide me upon the ship. I cannot be seen.”
Glancing around, he saw the crew had taken shelter inside a local tavern. In a split-second, the rains began to pour to the ground and Killian felt himself unable to make the suitable choice. He grasped her hand and led her quickly into the Captains’ quarters of the Jewel, closing the door behind him and latching it tightly.
“Thank you,” the Princess breathed, leaning slightly upon a table in the center of the room.
“Your highness,” he began, putting his hat aside, “this is most improper.”
With a wave of her hand, Emma shook her head and seemed to be attempting to catch her breath. Some of her hair had dampened in the sudden downpour, and he now noticed she was dressed in what looked like a tavern wench’s gown. “Have no fear, you will not see any consequences from this, I promise you,” she finally stood, pressing a hand against her stomach.
As she stood to her full height, the Captain was able to see through the cloak she wore. The princess’s corset was cinched tightly, to the point that her breasts were roundly pressed above the top of the stomacher. He averted his gaze, feeling heat rising into his ears, as well as seeping into other areas.
“Why did you not seek shelter upon the land, Your Highness?” He asked, moving to the window to gaze out at the storm, rather than look upon her again.
“Please, I know you remember me,” she said, “from that day on the swings. Call me Emma.”
Turning, his eyebrow raised and he tilted back his chin, “Alright, Emma. Same question.”
With a frown, Emma cleared her throat and took a seat upon a chair in the room. “I…snuck out of the castle. And now, I cannot get back in without being seen.”
“Why would you sneak from the castle?” He persisted, stepping a bit closer to her.
“What’s your name?” she countered, gaze narrowing at him. “I know you’ve advanced in rank, but I cannot determine your name simply from your uniform, Captain…?”
“Jones,” he replied cooly, “Captain Killian Jones.” He bent at the waist to bow to her.
“Hm,” she nodded and cleared her throat, “I wanted…to see what life was like outside the castle walls. I’ve never really been much exposed to it.”
Kicking out the chair opposite her, he sat, leaning back against the creaking wood-backed chair. “And now that you have seen it?”
Princess Emma watched him carefully and licked her lips. She shrugged and reached up to untie the cloak which was tied loosely around her neck. As it fell around the back of her chair, the Captain averted his gaze again. She was making it more difficult to avoid getting an eyeful of her…assets.
“I think I liked it,” she replied. “Do you happen to have anything to drink?”
The Captain shook his head and chuckled, “No, I do not.”
“What kind of a sea-faring man doesn’t have at least a bit of rum?” Her perfect eyebrow raised and a smirk spread across her features.
He glanced back at her and stood, moving to the cabinet nearest him. He removed a well-worn flask and shook it slightly in his hand. “I confiscated this from a drunken sailor,” he said, taking in the sight of it. “I suppose a drink won’t hurt us. May help keep us warm in this storm.”
Emma beamed and leaned against the back of her chair, folding her hands in her lap. “Why, thank you.”
The Captain poured two glasses of rum from the small container and placed it aside. “God save the King,” he said in a toast, lifting the glass.
Wrinkling her nose, Emma shook her head. “Let us toast to adventures, Captain.”
“To adventures, then,” he replied, his cool blue gaze trained upon her warm green eyes.
Emma had no sooner downed the glass of rum than a pounding of fists sounded upon the cabin door. Standing quickly, Emma grasped her cloak and seemed to look for a way out. She was, unfortunately, trapped as the Captain rose slowly.
“Who is it?” He asked in a firm voice.
“Castle guards, Captain,” a man’s voice replied, “We have word that the Princess may be taking shelter upon this vessel.”
Killian glanced up to Emma, who looked defeated. She clenched her jaw and stared down at her toes. The Captain had a decision to make. He snapped his fingers together. As Emma looked up at him, she noticed him gesturing toward a curtained closet in the corner. With hurried steps, she hid behind the drapery, crouching down amongst the crates of food and tradeable goods.
He swiped one of their glasses into his jacket pocket and opened the door, cringing as the driving rain spit into his face. A soaked couple of guards stood firmly planted to the lower deck, glaring daggers at him.
“I’m sorry to tell you that you’ve been misinformed,” Killian shouted against the weather, “Just me.”
“If you see the Princess, you will inform us,” the taller of the two grumbled after taking a peek into the small ship’s cabin. Killian gave a nod and feigned a slight salute before the men disappeared and he was able to shut the door behind him once more.
“Thank you,” Emma breathed as she emerged from behind the curtain, “I don’t know what I’d have done if you’d have given me up.”
“I think, perhaps, we should report to the castle after the storm has ceased, Your Highness,” he said, scrubbing at his face with his hand.
“Of course,” she nodded and cleared her throat, stepping toward him. “But thank you, truly.”
Killian opened his eyes to find the Princess very close to him and he drew a deep breath. “You’re welcome.”
More than anything, the Princess seemed to be quite amused by her ability to completely fluster the Captain. She bit down on her lower lip, but before the dark-haired man could take a step backward, she reached up and seized his lapels, tugging him down to her. She pressed her lips firmly against his, and a searing hot flame seemed to ignite his body head-to-toe.
The Captain felt uncertain of what to do with his hands. He had, of course, kissed many women in his time as a seaman, but this was different. She was a princess. The next in line for the throne of Misthaven. The daughter of the King to whom he reported. Was it more inappropriate to refuse the embrace or to indulge in it?
Releasing him from her grasp, Emma took in a deep breath and smiled, her eyes wild with excitement. She stepped back and glanced out the window as the driving rain seemed to begin to slow. “Would you escort me home, Captain Jones?”
Wordlessly, Captain Killian Jones could only nod.
The third time he saw her, Killian Jones knew he was deeply in love. Sword drawn in his shaking right hand with blood dripping down his left, the Captain clenched his jaw and forced himself to remain calm.
“D’you really think you can hurt me, Lad?” The impish voice giggled as the little man danced before him. “You’re on your last leg, I do believe.”
“I demand you release the Princess!” He shouted, glaring directly at the Dark One.
A fiendish giggle sounded and the little man flicked his hand. “Here she is,” he teased as the sleeping young woman appeared, stretched out upon what almost appeared to be a funeral pyre. “You can take her if you like, but until I get my end of the bargain, she remains asleep!”
The Captain’s hand shook harder as he gazed upon his Princess. She appeared nearly dead, and he knew that if he did not seize her from the clutches of this demon, she likely would be.
“The King promises you all of the riches of his land,” he repeated, feeling quite like a broken record at this stage of the game. “In exchange for her freedom.”
The Dark One’s eyes flared red and he surged forth, grasping the Captain by his throat and squeezing. Killian gasped for air, dropping his sword to the ground with a metallic clamor.
“I do not want riches,” he roared, “I want what I was promised!”
The little man threw the Admiral across the cave. All of the breath flew from Killian’s lungs and he collapsed to the floor, a bleeding mess.
“Perhaps I should send her heart back to the King in a little box, if he cannot deliver on his promise,” the Dark One cooed, giving serious consideration to the thought as he moved toward the sleeping Princess.
“No,” Killian choked out, getting to his feet. “Tell me what it is that you demand of the King and I will bring it.”
“A bean,” the little man hissed, “I was promised a magic bean.”
“Is that all?” He leaned down and picked up his sword, his useless left arm hanging limply at his side, “All this fuss over a bean?”
“You act as if these are easy commodities, Captain,” Rumpelstiltskin rolled his eyes, “if they were, we would not be having this conversation.”
“You are correct,” Killian sighed and tilted his head back, exhausted beyond his wildest beliefs. “But, I can tell you that I happen to have one on me at this moment. Bring the Princess back and it’s yours.”
“You lie,” the Dark One hissed.
“Not at all,” Killian replied. He slid his sword into his scabbard and then awkwardly reached into the left pocket of his jacket. He pulled a red knit cap from his pocket. He fished around inside of it before producing a translucent bean, which seemed to shine in the dim light of the torches upon the walls.
“Where did you get that?” the question from the little man was slimy indeed as he moved closer to the Captain.
“Release her, you Crocodile,” the Captain hissed through his teeth.
“She’s all yours,” the Dark One replied with a giggle. The bean disappeared from between his fingers, a purple cloud of smoke whisking it from his grasp. And in another instant, the little man was gone.
“No!” He shouted, lunging for where the demon had been. He turned to the Princess and moved to her side, leaning over the pyre. She was so peaceful, so serene.
“No,” he whispered, reaching up with his good hand to brush her hair back from her eyes, “Emma please, wake up…”
She did not stir. Closing his eyes and banging his fist upon the pyre, he screamed in anguish and glanced toward the opening of the cave.
With great effort, the Captain was able to get his Princess onto his ship and return her to Misthaven, where the King had her laid in state in the middle of the throne room.
“I believe, perhaps, Captain,” the King began, still somewhat somber as he sat in his throne, “that we may forgive your sins of the past.”
Killian Jones, recently patched from his duel with the Dark One, stood firmly before the King. When years ago, he and Emma had been discovered leaving his ship after lying to the royal guards, he had been stripped of his hard-earned position in the Royal Navy. Emma’s protests had fallen on deaf ears as the King desperately wanted to keep her indiscretions a secret. Enraged, Killian had sworn to take orders from no one and led his men on a Pirate’s mission.
“I never really saw them as sins, Your Highness, but call them what you must,” he replied with a touch of salt to his tone.
Closing his eyes, the King sighed and shook his head, “No matter what sort of a past we have, Captain Jones, I want to thank you for returning my daughter to me.”
The Captain nodded and glanced to his left, sadly taking in the eerily-still body beside him. “You’re welcome, Your Highness.”
“I wish to reinstate you as top Admiral to our Navy, if you will accept such a reward, sir,” the King continued.
Such a position would most certainly be acceptable to the Captain, if he had any particular reason to stay. However, with his Princess as she was, he could see no purpose to it. “I thank you,” he nodded again, shifting his weight, “but I have no reason to remain as a servant to your Kingdom…anymore.”
King David’s chin lifted as he glanced to his daughter, radiantly motionless in her coma. “I understand,” he said quietly.
Killian gave a slight bow before turning back to the Princess. He took a step to her side and gazed down upon her. His heart ached to see the innocent smile of the girl in gold or the seductive gaze of the rebellious Princess he knew so well. Instead he saw a pallid mask where her intensely expressive face had been. Taking in a deep breath, he bowed slowly and placed a tender kiss upon her lips.
The King stood from his throne, ready to protest, but a pulse of energy seemed to almost knock him back into his seat. Frowning, he stared at the pirate bent over his daughter.
Princess Emma gasped and opened her eyes. She found herself looking, for the third time, at the face of her Captain. A smile eased over her features and she glanced around.
“Emma!?” The King shouted, jumping down from his throne to move to her side immediately. “Emma!”
“You saved me,” she whispered to the bewildered pirate before her. “You saved me again.”
Killian’s eyes were wide as he watched her, offering his hands to help her up from her funerary pose. Emma flung herself into his arms and he held her tightly, closing his eyes. She glanced over his shoulder at her father as tears rolled down her cheeks.
“Oh Emma,” the King whispered, reaching out to her. The young woman moved from the Captain to her father and embraced him tightly.
Killian stood close by, a wave of relief washing over his body. He watched the father and daughter embrace before clearing his throat softly.
The King turned to the Captain, beaming with delight. “Yes, Captain? Are you re-thinking my offer?”
With a smirk, Killian reached out for Emma’s hand. She slid hers into his and smiled with that girlish blush in her cheeks once more.
“Yes, sir,” he replied, squeezing his Princess’s soft hand in his rough grasp, “but I may now have an additional request…”