Pulling her cloak tigher around her, Emma scanned the cold empty streets, looking for somewhere to take shelter for the night, if not just for a little while.
She had just made it out of the borders of her kingdom, knowing she had to continue on. She knew how foolish she had been, that the reason she had to leave was her own fault. She hadn't known what else to do except leave, to save her family from embarrassment and hope she could make a life somewhere else.
Taking very few possessions with her, she only took time to leave a couple of letters behind, vaguely explaining to her parents that she had to leave. The night she left, she had tightly embraced both Snow and David, as well her younger brother Leo, before sneaking away in the dead of the night.
What was most painful to her was leaving Killian behind and never saying goodbye. His letter, hidden in his room, was more detailed than everyone else's, but still didn't tell everything, lest someone else see it. She knew she wouldn't see him again, hear his laugh or feel him wrap his arms around her in comfort, and it hurt.
Despite having it been more than a month that she left, she still mourned the people she had to leave behind.
Few people were out, having decided against braving the winter night in favor of taking cover. She knew it would have been easier to travel by horse, but she had sold the mare, knowing she would need the money. Most of the valuable possessions she had taken were to serve the same purpose.
Finding a seedy tavern, she quickly decided to go in, knowing she shouldn't be out too much longer with how the weather was going.
Stepping inside, she was met with loud yelling and laughter. Various men, including pirates, were eating, drinking, and gambling at the tables, some with bar wenches on their laps.
Careful not to draw attention to herself, she ordered some food, knowing she had to take care of herself. She decided she would see about a room after, wanting to warm herself with food first.
She settled on one of the benches to wait, her head low, watching the people around her. One of the groups, the men obviously pirates, took up one of the clusters of tables, raucously laughing at a dice game.
As she waited, she hadn't noticed the large drunk behind her stumbling until his ale splashed on her.
"Sorry about that," he slurred. His eyes brightened when he took her in.
"Here, I'll help you clean you up," he said, grabbing a rag and trying to sop up the mess off of her.
"No, it's fine," she protested, the smell of the ale and the man making her stomach turn. "I can get it myself."
"No need to be so stubborn," he insisted. "A pretty wench like yourself shouldn't have to be alone like you are right now. How about I keep you some company?"
Before she could protest further, a hand tapped on his shoulder, making him turn around in confusion.
"I believe the lady doesn't appreciate you forcing yourself on her," the intruder said.
Emma felt her eyes widen, knowing his voice anywhere.
"What are you gonna do about it?" the drunk asked threateningly.
There was a pause before the sound of flesh hitting flesh sounded, followed by the drunk swaying and falling, landing with a loud thud on the soiled floor.
Looking up at the man who had intervened on her behalf, she took in the long leather coat over the blood red waistcoat, black linen shirt, and leather pants. A necklace with pirate's luck hung around his neck, resting over an exposed smattering of dark chest hair. His hair was shorter, his ponytail gone as it fell messily over his forehead. Black kohl lined his brilliant blue eyes, but Emma would have recognized Killian anywhere.
The biggest shock about his appearance was not his changed attire, but the gleaming silver hook in place of his left hand.
"Swan," he exhaled in shock when he saw her.
Jumping up, she wrapped her arms tightly around him, holding him tightly, everything around them fading away. She thought she would never see him again.
"Killian," she breathed out, fighting to keep her emotions under control.
"I've got you, love," he whispered as he held her just as tightly. "I've got you."
She pulled back slightly, just enough to look at him. "What happened?"
He gave her a small smile. "I'd rather not say here. We can go back to the ship?"
Slowly, she nodded, not wanting to give up her dinner. "Okay, but I'm waiting for food."
He nodded, guiding her back to the bench before sitting beside her.
"Why are you here, Swan?" he asked curiously.
She bit her lip nervously, repeating his answer. "I'd rather not say here."
Accepting her response, he nodded before ordering himself some food.
Despite the many changes and the time spent apart, it was if nothing had changed between them.
Finishing, he kept close beside her, taking up her pack and looping her arm through his, as he led them back to the ship.
She saw the ship was mostly the same, the only change being the name the Jolly Rogerreplacing the Jewel of the Realm.
He led her aboard the ship, heading straight toward the captain's cabin. He released her to climb down the narrow stairs, lighting a lantern as she decended to illuminate the room in a soft yellow glow.
She noticed that Killian had moved some of his possessions into the cabin, further confirming that through some way or another, Killian had become captain.
He pointed her to the single armchair in the room, letting her settle into it while he nervously began to pace.
"We were out for three months," he told her, his voice suddenly tired. "As we knew, Silver was a tyrant. He worked the crew until they collapsed on the deck, then threatened to keelhaul the ones that stopped working. What was the final straw was when he began tormenting the cabin boy and giving brutal punishments for the smallest of mistakes.
"The lad had merely tripped as he was bringing Silver his wine," he said grimly. "Only a few drops had spilled, yet he ordered twenty lashes with the cat to the boy, after which he was to be strung up on the rigging by his arms and legs."
Feeling all of the air leave her lungs, her eyes widened. When she had first met Killian when they were eight, she hadn't understood that he was a slave. As she had gotten older and understood, she became horrified, unable to understand how their father could leave his sons to that life like he did, leave them at the hands of a cruel master. She remembered witnessing Killian about to face the same weapon, prompting her father to demand his immediate release.
She understood why Silver's actions would infuriate Killian and cause him to fight, especially in the case of a child.
"I staged a mutiny," he said, stopping his pacing by the large window. "I knew the consequences, that I would be expelled from the Navy, but I didn't care. I couldn't allow for Silver to torture that boy. The rest of the crew followed me, and I led a mutiny and took the ship. We fought with some of the men that were loyal to him. Silver took my hand."
He held up the hook for her inspection. "I used this hook to beat him. I slashed his throat, but he survived. We stranded him at a port and left. We knew we would all be branded as pirates, so we decided to become them, knowing we could never go back now."
"What happened to the boy?" she asked.
"We made sure he would be taken care of at another port," he replied, putting her at ease. "He was an orphan to begin with, and there was a family willing to take him in."
Her throat tight, Emma nodded her head, knowing the situation he was in. "Killian, I get why you did that. But my parents will, too. They know you. They will take you back."
Killian gave her a small smile as he shook his head. "I can't let your parents let a pirate back into their court. I know the laws, Emma. I was going to return once, then leave."
"Why?" Emma asked in a small voice. "Why would you return just to leave again?"
Stepping closer, he stopped until he was in front of her, reaching up to push her hair back. "I needed to see you one last time, to tell you why I could never come back."
Feeling tears stinging her eyes, she lunged forward to hug him tightly.
"I wasn't about to leave you with no explanation," he whispered.
She shook her head as she clutched him tighter, mindful of his wrist.
"How's it healing?" she asked. "Do you want me to take a look at it?"
He shook his head. "No, love. It's fine. Hurts still, but that's to be expected."
"You shouldn't have that on it now," she said disapprovingly, indicating the leather encompassing his wrist.
He shrugged lightly, keeping his hold on her. "It's fine, Swan."
Deciding to let it go for the time being, they were quiet for a few moments.
"It looks like a lot has happened in four months," she whispered.
Sensing she was talking about more than what had happened to him, he pulled back to look at her. "What do you mean?"
Swallowing, she shrugged, trying to lighten the blow. "You were right. About Baelfire, about all off it."
His expression softened as he took her hand to lead her to the small bed, sitting them both down as he wrapped his arm around her.
"What happened, love?" he asked
Taking comfort in his warm, familiar body beside her, she leaned into him. "Right after you left, he stole one of my mother's necklaces, one that was her mother's. He just disappeared without a word and left me. I couldn't break my mother's heart by telling her it was my fault that one of the last things she had of her mother's was stolen."
Soothingly, he rubbed between her shoulders, a gesture he knew relaxed her.
"That's not your fault," he told her, kissing her hair lightly. "That's on him, Swan, not you. He's the one that betrayed your trust."
They were quiet for a couple of minutes before he spoke again. "There's something else, isn't there?"
She knew she should have known that he would know there was something else; she was always an open book to him.
Slowly, she took a deep breath, steeling herself. She knew he wouldn't judge her, but couldn't handle if he was disappointed in her.
She swallowed, her voice weak. "Killian... I'm with child."
He immediately wrapped both arms around her, holding her close to his chest as she broke down, the weight of everything crushing her.
"I- I know my parents wouldn't have done anything, but I can't do that to them," she sobbed. "I unmarried, and I can't set them with a fatherless child. I couldn't put them in that position, so I ran."
Quietly, he continued to hold and rock her slightly as she cried, comforting her in any way he could.
As her sobs quieted, he pushed her hair back from her tear stained face, his eyes determined. "We spent the night together before I left. I promised you that I would ask your parents for your hand when I returned, and left for my mission. What happened with Silver still happened. When you found out you were with child, you sent word to me so that we could meet and elope, along with being worried about the news of my injury."
Her eyes widened as she realized what he was saying, that he was planning on passing the child off as his own. "What? No. Killian, I can't ask you to do that for me."
He shook his head. "Swan, you and your child have a chance this way. I already know that I'll be facing punishment for my crimes. The least I can do is ensure you have a future for yourself and your child."
"I still can't ask you to do this for me," she argued.
"I'm offering," he insisted. "Emma, this is the best option. Don't think about me, think about your child and what's best for them."
She closed her eyes, knowing he was right. While she knew it wasn't fair to him, it was the best chance her child would have. She ran in the first place to try to give them a chance.
"It will be in name only," she countered. "I won't force you to pretend to be my husband, so you're free to do as you wish."
He nodded slowly, a strange glint in his eyes before it disappeared . "I can accept those terms."
She nodded, feeling like for the first time in months, she had security.
"You can stay here for the night," he told her, motioning the bed. "For the night, I'll stay with the crew. For appearances sake, I'll have to stay in here with you after tonight.
She nodded, knowing it wouldn't be a problem. Growing up, they spent many nights in each other's beds sleeping, their new arrangement wouldn't be any different.
"I'll find us a chapel in the morning," he promised, breaking his hold on her as he rose up. "Will you be okay here for the night?"
"Yeah," she responded. "I'll be fine."
He nodded as he walked to move to the door leading to the rest of the ship.
"Thank you, Killian," she said quickly. "For everything."
Killian paused, his hand resting on the doorway. He gave her a small gentle smile. "You're welcome, Swan. I guess I'm finally living up to my old promise from when we were children."
He closed the door behind him, leaving her alone in the lantern light. Exhausted, Emma shook off her cloak, throwing it aside before snuffing out the lantern, moonlight providing the only illumination to the cabin.
Curling up on the small bunk, she instantly fell into a deep sleep.