Emma always loved the sea.
When she was a child whenever her mother and father would take her to the summer palace she would jump right out the back way of the castle into the water below, a hundred foot drop and was never once afraid.
She would spend all day in the water often for hours at a time rather the sun was shining and the heat dried her hair within minutes of laying on the shore or when it was so cold out her lips turned a shade of blue after being outside for only a half an hour or so.
Every day of her holiday would be spent outside the stone walls of the castle. She loved swimming in the sea, watching the ships in the harbor, laying in the sand, listening to the call of the seagulls and the crash of waves against the shore until her mother called her in for supper and she would grace the dinner table stinking of seawater and shore, her hair frazzled and dripping with wet stains on her dress where she hadn’t had time to dry properly.
Her father would take her sailing and she would stand out on the bow, grinning as the wind swept through her hair and the mist of the sea sprayed her in the face.
Emma even wanted to marry the prince Eric for that very reason. She only knew the young prince by reputation but he lived in a maritime kingdom and if she married him then half her time would be spent in a castle near the sea and the other half would be spent on a ship. Her mother promised if by the time she was marrying age Eric wasn’t betrothed already she would try to wed Emma to the black haired prince.
Eric took a red headed mermaid for his bride though but by then Emma was head over heels in love with her knight in shining armor; Neal of House Weaver who loved her just as fiercely in return. She was the happiest princess in all of Misthaven, sea kingdom or no sea kingdom.
Then the Ogres War happened and Neal volunteered his sword, promising Emma that he would return and when he did they would marry and he would talk to her parents about seeing if the two of them could live at the summer palace by the sea instead of the inland castle she lived at now.
But several weeks before he was to come home an ogres mace, seven feet long and made of heavy wood and iron, sent Neal flying half a hundred feet through the air and crashing down onto the blood stained muddy battlefield.
He was dead before he hit the ground and Emma got a letter from his commander a week later telling the princess of his untimely demise.
Afterwards Emma took her horse, barely managed to saddle it through teary bloodshot eyes, and rode as hard and as fast as she could away from the green meadows and rolling hills, screaming at her stallion to go faster and faster and faster still until she finally reached the shore closest to her palace. It was early spring, snows still covered some parts of the countryside, so she was alone when she lept from her silver horse onto the wet sands and dove headfirst into the waters, still in her dress and cloak and heels, letting the waves crash over her and surround her in a blanket of bitter cold saltwater that mingled with the tears that streamed down her face while her screams echoed off the waves and rocks.
She stayed there all night, sleeping on the sand like a peasant and in the morning she found her silk dress and fur cloak filthy and ruined beyond any sort of repair. As Emma watched the sun rise on the horizon, the tears slid slowly down her cheek as she looked out over the sea of blue, the warm red and orange sunlight reflecting off the water like diamonds and rubies. She never wanted to leave. She never wanted to go home again, she wanted to build a little cottage right here on the shore with dark drift wood and spend her days swimming and fishing and laying out on the shore and doing nothing else.
She didn’t care about being a princess anymore, she didn’t care about ruling, she didn’t care about the people of Misthaven, she didn’t care about her parents or anyone else; she just wanted Neal and her drafty one room cottage by the sea.
But that would never happen. That COULD never happen, her responsibilities as Princess of Misthaven were far too great for her to just abandon because of heartache. So she went back, built a statue of solid gold in Neal’s honor, and begged her parents not to set her up with another suitor until she was ready.
It took nearly ten years and her mother reminding her she was far too young, beautiful and important to remain single forever and the princess agreed that she was to ready to open her heart again, even if she doubted her and her suiter would ever share the same love she and Neal had shared.
She met with a few kind and gentle but old kings, young but arrogant and prideful princes, a few middle aged but dreadfully boring lord’s who were solely looking to marry into royalty...
Then one day her parents introduced her to King John of Nottingham, the ruler of a small kingdom full of poor farmers and poorer peasants who spoke with foreign accents. He told them Robin ‘The Righteous Lion’ Locksley, son of his brother Richard the Lionheart and one of the heroes of the Ogres War, was a young handsome prince with a gentle hand and an even gentler heart who had almost condemned their kingdom into bankruptcy thanks to his charitable nature.
Emma and her parents all knew of the young prince Robin’s charity work; they couldn’t begin to count the amount of gold and bushels of wheat, rye and oats that came not to the Queen and King to decide how to spend and distribute but directly to the orphanages and soup kitchens and poor houses and not just Misthaven but the kingdom of Agrabah, the kingdom of Arendelle, the maritime kingdom ruled by Eric and Ariel, Camelot…
But, as generous and kind hearted as The Righteous Lion was, Nottingham was an inland kingdom. So far inland it would take nearly a month of riding before they even saw a shore. It was full of neverending forests and the only water they saw were rivers and creeks that weaved in and out of the tall trees. Green and brown were the color of Nottingham and of the house of Locksley, not the blue of the sea, and Emma would live there until her last day; surrounded by forests and fields rather than shores and seawater.
But Emma wasn’t getting any younger and her childhood dream of living by the sea took second fiddle to the need of a good match so Snow and David agreed to the betrothal and six months later here she was; locked in cold damp cell in the belly of a pirate ship staring out the small circular window at the docks while her husband of less than 72 hours slept on a straw filled musty smelling mattress after being forced to watch a man and woman have sex and covered himself in a moth eaten wool blanket.
The night had finally began to wane and the sky had turned from pitch black to a dark blue with the sun's first rays far off on the horizon and she had already seen fishermen getting an early start so that those who might be so inclined for fresh fish for breakfast in a few hours could be satisfied as well as the men heading home to their sleeping wives after a night spent at the tavern or the brothel or both if they were feeling adventurous, none of them giving the Jolly Roger so much as a curious glance.
She hadn’t been able to sleep, how Robin could was beyond her, but the sounds of the men laughing and singing and celebrating their latest capture kept her awake, as well as the heart clenching fear she felt every time she heard footsteps walking close to the stairways that led to the brig, sure that any one of them would come down here, unlock the cell and do what violent men do to beautiful women they could never have otherwise. But the only visitors they had all night was a deckhand that came downstairs every few hours, walked in with his lantern, checked to make sure Emma and Robin were still there, checked to make sure the cell was still locked, and went back upstairs without a single word.
She heard footsteps on the stairs again, this time lighter ones then that which had belonged to the guard that had been tasked with checking on the prisoners, but she didn’t even bother turning from her view of a fisherman mending his net when what she assumed was just another deckhand approached the cell.
“Adaptable isn’t he?” Hooks voice rang out. Emma twisted herself around, her eyes wide with fear as she backed herself so hard against the the furthest wall away from him that had it not been so steadily built she may have fallen through it.
The captain was standing there wearing a plain white linen shirt stained with age and use and a pair of simple black wooden breeches with black boots rather than the leather outfit he had worn yesterday meant to frighten and intimidate his prisoners. He only had a single metal stud in his ear rather than all the silver chains and earrings and rings he had earned through his piracy over the course of his years and the remnants of his eye makeup were smudged and streaked from sleep, not crisp and thin as it had been the other day.
A tray full of something she couldn’t see thanks to the lack of candle light laid at his feet.
He smelled different, she realized. Not like sweat and piss and cum like the rest of this godforsaken ship and the men who worked it; but he was enveloped by the scent of waterlogged ropes and sand and salt and dark rum.
He smelled like the sea.
As Emma backed further and further into the wall, Hook raised a brow at her, offended. “I cut off a man’s ear for threatening to touch you the other day. You don’t even wanna know what I threatened to cut off of Jorah if he so much as reached through the bars last night.”
“Well seeing as you are world renowned for your chivalry rather than raping women with your hook, you’ll forgive me if I don’t entirely trust you.”
“Lies spread about me through the mouths of your father’s soldiers. I never once put a single thing inside a woman she didn’t want. When I stab women with my sword, they want it,” Hook smirked as he leaned forward, flicking his tongue at the princess.
Emma swallowed her disgust. “Except when you make a woman cry by forcing her to have sex in front of another man.”
Hooks face fell as his eyes flitted from the still sleeping prince back to Emma. “She knows the laws of the sea,” he spoke sharply. “She knows the price for-.”
“The price? For what, sailing on a ship?”
“Lasses are bad luck on a ship, everyone knows that.”
“So you would rape her because of a superstition?”
“The wench has never told me no.”
“Because she’d rather lay underneath you then have your fist slammed through her teeth.”
Narrowing his eyes at her, Hook crossed his arms in front of his chest. “What do you know about it, Your Majesty? How much time have you spent around sailors and ships?”
“More than you would think.”
The captain rolled his eyes to the ceiling made of damp nearly rotted wood. “Well I’m willing to bet I’ve been around more than you. The wench can walk off this ship right now and no one would stop her, she chooses to be here.”
Before she could respond Hook reached down and grabbed the the reason he made his trek down from his quarters to the brig. The tray he brought down was full of two chipped bowls filled with a grey sludge that resembled porridge, one of them even had a few slices of dull colored but still ripe red apples mixed in it. There were also two pewter mugs of dark ale.
“I can’t ransom starving royalty,” Hook said as he held the bowl without the apples through a square slot in the cell door designed for just that purpose.
Eyeing the bowl as of it would reach out and strike her, Emma took the first bowl along with the first mug of ale and set it down next to Robin.
“That’s his.” The captain handed the apple porridge through the food slot. “This is yours. Afraid I could only give you what the rest of the crew eats, the wench has a whole barrel full of sweet bright red apples that she keeps cool with ice from Arendale that never melts just for her but the last man who took one without her permission lost a hand and, well, as you can see I don’t have an extra one to spare.”
Emma took the mug of ale as well, noticing the mug was less chipped then the one they gave Robin, still eyeing him carefully, waiting for the inevitable to come; to frighten her into thinking it was poisoned, to offer a trade, her body for the food, to live up to the reputation of the murderous lust filled villain that her father and his soldiers all spoke about.
But nothing. Not so much as a whisper as he walked over and turned up the low hanging lanterns to its fullest potential. The lanterns were fairly dim, even at its most powerful, but the brig was so small and dark that even the faded light made a difference and flooded the room with its yellow flame.
“Why are you delivering the food?” Emma asked as he turned on the other lanterns scattered across the room. “Isn’t that the job for a deckhand?”
“I may be the captain but I’m still a part of this crew.” He walked back over to the cage. “I still pull guard duty shifts, I still do mundane chores such as deliver meals to prisoners. I’m not in charge of this vessel because I got lucky that my father squarted me into a royal twat rather than a milk maids cunt.”
“Oh how admirable.”
Hook glared at the princess. “Believe it or not, Swan, I do consider myself an honest honorable man, for a pirate anyway.”
“You burn sailers alive. You steal, you murder, you pillage, you rape-.”
“I do not rape!”
“No but your men do! And you terrify women into thinking you’re gonna to abuse them!”
The shouted words caused Robin to stir and both princess and pirate glanced at him before they turned back to one another.
Hook pressed his face against the rusted iron bars, the blue of his eyes filled with dislike for her false words. “Let’s get one thing straight, Swan… I do kill. I like killing, especially your father’s soldiers. I maim, I steal, I burn ships on the open seas… But I don’t touch women, not unless they want me too. I don’t cheat, I don’t do any of that ass licking and backstabbing you royals love to do; my men trust me, they fear me, they respect me. I know the story of every man who has ever sailed with me… Can your father say the same of the sailors he sends out to war with pirates? Can your ‘righteous lion’ say that about the men who sows all that wheat he gives away? Better yet, Your Majesty, what can YOU tell me about the poor sap who had to empty your chamber pot every night?”
Emma hardened her gaze. “You’re a regular hero, Captain Hook. A real man of the people.”
“Aye, Love, I am. Far more than any Lion or Swan.”
He nodded towards the bowl of porridge still in her hand. “Eat up. Like I said, I can’t ransom a starving princess.”
Without another word he turned on his heel and headed back up the stairs to start his day.
She sat down at the edge of the bed where Robin still slept and looked down at the bowl of food, if you could call it that, picking one of the apples out of the grey mass, shook the porridge from the fruit and began to eat. The apple slices were mealy and the white flesh was more bitter than sweet but it wasn’t rotted in any case. She ate half of the fruit and put the other half aside for when her prince finally awoke and dug the metal spoon onto the grey porridge.
It was as plain a meal as one could have asked for with no milk or honey or cream the bowl was full of just water and boiled oats; cold, unflavored, thick porridge that stuck to the roof of her mouth.
This wasn’t supposed to be the first meal she shared with her husband. This wasn’t supposed to be the breakfast she woke up to. She and Robin were supposed to be dining on sweet berries and cream, crisp bacon and soft freshly baked warm bread with melted butter spread over top of it in their cozy chambers before their servants drew them a hot bath they would have taken together.
Instead they were in a cold drafty damp cell eating cold gray porridge and mealy apples while they drank warm dark ale with nothing to look forward to but their eventual rescue or ransom.
Emma has nearly finished her bowl by the time Robin awoke, his eyes half open as he lazily smiled at his princess before he realized where exactly he was and he flew up off the mattress.
“Where are we?” His voice was thick with sleep and confusion.
“In a cell on a pirate ship,” she said dryly.
“How’d we get here?”
“We were kidnapped.”
The look on his face would have been comical if the situation not so dire. His confoundedness melted away to realization before he sank back down on the mattress.
Robin rubbed the sleep from his eye, groaning as he did so.
“I don’t know how on earth you managed to sleep,” said Emma, handing him his bowl of porridge and handful of apple slices. “With all the noises, not to mention the fear of what someone might come down here and do.”
Robin took a deep drink of the ale. “You forget, I was on the front line of the Ogres War for close to a year. I learned to sleep in the rain, the snow, the grass, a slab of hard rock with nothing but my cloak to offer warmth and my quiver to aid as a pillow while the sounds of war was being waged all around me.” He stretched his arms to the sky, yawning deeply. “A mattress with a proper blanket and pillow while people merely laugh, talk and get drunk above me is a luxury. Not being frightened for my life or virtue however is an unfair privilege I was born with when the Gods saw fit to make me a prince rather than a princess I’m afraid.”
The prince sat there, slowly chewing his apples and eating porridge, occasionally sparing a glance towards the blonde who was scraping the bottom of her own bowl.
“My uncle wrote a note to Hook.” Emma looked over at the blue eyed prince who ate another swallow of the grey meal. “He offered a million gold if he executed me.”
The porridge and apples turned to a slab of stone in her stomach. Her mouth went dry and her hand shook so hard the bowl clinked against the spoon.
That made no sense, King John was a good kind man, a man who took in his nephew after The Lionheart died, who raised Robin to be the good and kind man he was. Sure some of the that came from Nottingham to Misthavens capital spoke about being starved and treated cruelly but what occasional commoner didn't insult the king they served?
Another spoonful of porridge. “When my father died John told me if I didn't wish to see my people harmed, then I would relinquish the hold on the throne until he had an heir of his own or I married.” A swallow of ale. “I suppose now that it's time to keep his word he had a change of heart. It’s quite an ingenious plan though, to be sure. Hook is a villainous cur, John can't be held responsible for what he does. He'll of course try to save me, he'll offer Hook gold, land, women, whatever he wants for the safe return of the prince. If he refuses, well, that's hardly my uncle's fault is it?”
Sour acidic bile rose to the back of her throat and she had no choice but to take a drink of warm ale to try to force it back down again.
“If Hook touches you…”
His face hardened. “You won't do anything.”
“M'lady, I would rather be burned alive then have you fight for my life and lose your own because of it.” He reached out and buried his calloused hand in her long blonde waves. “If Hook takes the offer, if he murders me on my uncle's word, then you fight to stay alive, you wait quietly for your parents to rescue or ransom you. Then you go and tell your father what offer King John made, and you tell him my last wish was for him to get the pretender off of my throne.”
Emma closed her eyes as hot tears built up behind her lids. She made the mistake of opening them and when she did she found herself staring into warmth and softness and such a kindness that she was sure only one man in a generation possessed.
“I don't want to be without you, Robin.”
“You won't be. Because I'll be in here.” He reached out and placed a hand on her heart. “I'm always in here.”
Emma took his hand and brought it to her lips, placing her lips tenderly on the back of it and inhaling deeply.
Even now, even in the belly of a pirate ship at sea, he still had a faint lingering of the Sherwood Forest on him; earth and pine and freshwater, and he always would, she suspected. The forest was apart of Robin, as it would eventually be a part of Emma.
She just wished that this particular forest was far closer to the sea…