When the Jolly Roger pulled into port three messengers made their way through the Misthaven – one to the Dark One’s castle, one to the Queen Mother’s and last to Queen Snow and King David. The first to get the news was, of course, Snow and Charming, then Regina and finally Rumplestilskin. Neither dismay nor surprise greeted any of the messengers but once the news was received each household took up their assigned duty.
Charming ducked as his daughter slashed at him and then swept out his leg but failed to catch her off guard and ended up landing on his butt. Snow, Leo and Henry cheered from the sidelines and Emma curtsied for her audience.
"I see the etiquette lessons are paying off," Charming teased his beloved daughter. "But you know the fights not over and you shouldn't be distracted by your fans."
"Oh, this fight is over," Emma replied and nodded to the approaching messenger. "It's either a king and queen thing or a sheriff." She reached out a hand to help her father up. "Let’s go get this over with."
Charming wrapped an arm around his daughter and walked with her to the messenger.
"Your highness," the lad began. "The Jolly Roger has made port. Two persons were seen leaving the ship and headed to the local tavern." The royal family grimaced almost as one (well except the baby). "Two other messengers have been sent out to the Queen Mother" – Emma snorted – "and the Dark One." Charming signaled his dismissal and the lad quickly bowed, making for the kitchens.
Emma's heart stuttered at the beginning of the message and picked up speed. Killian. Ever since Gold mentioned the name it stuck with her and she wasn't quite sure what it meant. Whether this was the man she had begun secretly searching for or if it was just a link in the chain to really knowing the past and finding her missing husband. Killian. Combined with her urge to run meant she wasn't ready for the answers. Yet.
Charming looked at his wife and then toward his daughter, neither which met his eyes, trying to avoid going to greet the new arrivals as per the council’s arrangement.
Snow lifted the baby and started walking away. "Looks like someone needs a nap."
"That's not fair!" Her husband called after her. She ignored him and continued on to the castle. Charming turned to his daughter and grandson.
"Sorry Dad." Emma started putting away the practice swords. "A barely trained princess has her lessons. You know I really should be better with this etiquette stuff before I greet people." She also walked away.
Henry just shrugged at his grandfather. "Am I old enough to be in a tavern?"
"I hate you all." Charming turned, strapped on his sword and headed to the barn to pick up his horse. "One incident and you are all too embarrassed to be seen there ever again. And it wasn't even my fault!"
Killian nodded to the barmaid who plunked their drinks down on the table. Milah anxiously looked around at the unusually quiet tavern. Those patronizing the establishment turned away from her glance and the uneasy feeling in her stomach got worse.
"Maybe this was a mistake."
"Stop imagining trouble before it's here love," Killian replied and took a long swallow of his mead. "First order of business is to get the lay of the land and if we are lucky we'll find someone to approach the reptile for us."
"How many people do you know that would deal with the Dark One for people he would prefer to kill."
Killian shrugged and went back to his drink. The rumors they gathered over the past three months gave him an inkling of a plan but it was an itch beneath his skin. Royalty was not his cup of tea, or his flask of rum, whichever a body would prefer to drink, and placing both himself and Milah at their mercy felt doomed. However, the most logical path to the crocodile was to get the do-gooders to do good.
The tavern seemed to come alive as the sound of hooves beating a path to the door grew louder. A man close to the door nudged it open to have a look and promptly scurried out the back door.
Hushed whispers passed around the room. "It's him."
Milah looked at Killian. He raised a brow and waved a hand nonchalantly in response. What could they do but wait and see.
"It could be anybody." Both of them turned towards the door hearing the creak of a saddle as whoever "him" was got off his horse and headed into the tavern. A cleanly handsome, clear eyed, well dressed and in general pleasant looking man pushed his way into the tavern. He smiled at the room until he noticed the swing of the back door and how empty it was. He began frowning.
"It wasn't my fault," he proclaimed to no one and approached the only occupied table, theirs. He looked them over as they lounged at the table in a carefully posed relaxed manner. Charming thought that the woman seemed pretty, dark haired blue eyed, a mix of determined and anxious at the same time. The man, the pirate, Charming's mind pushed that description into his mouth such that he almost sneered it aloud, was dark and scruffy looking with a grin that just spoke of trouble.
"Pirate," Charming called him. He was surprised at his own rudeness and the captain was not pleased by it from the dark look on his face. He shook his head and began again. "Captain Killian Jones and Milah, well I don't suppose Gold ever had a last name here did he?" He paused in case there was something to add.
"It's Jones as well," Milah stated clearly.
Charming noted that he wasn't the only one surprised at the married proclamation and the man didn't look entirely happy about it either. She discretely elbowed Killian in the side and when she looked back she just got an identical raised brow from the welcoming committee.
"I'm David." Charming pulled up a seat to the table and waved at the barmaid for another round. "You certainly don't look hundreds of years old." He observed then smiled up at the barmaid. "Thanks"
"You're welcome your highness," she fidgeted a bit. "Um, do you know how long you will be…"
Charming shrunk down a little, tracing a pattern on the table. "Not long, I swear. One drink, no dwarves and hey, either way if you need to you can just call the sheriff then Emma will come deal with me." He smiled hopefully up at her.
Killian sputtered over his drink and he placed it away from him, frowning. He wondered over that brief moment when his breath left him but it must have been the drink as sheriffs never made much of an impact on him.
Milah nudged Killian again. Tilting her head toward his highness and raising her brows.
Killian had no response as the man made even less sense to him. "So the Dark One told you about us," He leaned forward toward royal chisel chin. "Which side you on mate?"
"That's a hard one to answer." Charming leaned back crossing his arms. "Not really any sides to take. Family is family and I do know that your grandson," He nodded at Milah. "Henry, would like to meet you. He's not allowed in the taverns either."
"Family?" Milah placed her hands on the table leaning forward. "Maybe you should be more specific."
Charming studied her. After Gold supplied further details to the council, they had all agreed that it was unlikely the couple was coming to cause trouble but this was the Enchanted Forest and it was wise to be cautious. Additionally, for Neal's sake Gold had promised not to raise a hand except in defense to his ex-wife and her lover. Charming shuddered at that descriptor and for the first time in a while the sense that something was wrong tightened his shoulders. It happened more frequently when they first arrived in the Enchanted Forest but the feeling didn't plague him much. Not like it did Emma and Henry. Not that they admitted it. Charming sighed and it made the two frown at him.
"Once upon a time," he began. "Your son left this world, trying to find a land without magic where he could live with his father, who’d cease being the Dark One once there. That totally didn't work out." He took a long drink before continuing. "In fact it separated the two and Rumplestilskin searched desperately for a way to travel to the land without magic. I think your last encounter with him probably fits in that time period." He paused again, his hand waving in the air as he internally sorted out what to say next. "The story isn’t all that short or simple. He found the dark curse, got someone else to enacted it with a failsafe. My daughter Emma." Charming looked away, pained, thinking of that damn wardrobe.
Killian felt the tug again. Maybe it wasn't about sheriffs in general, but a Sheriff specifically.
"The product of true love who ended up in the land without magic. Alone." He grimaced. "Before undoing the curse and when she was certainly way too young, Emma stole Neal's car. Well, she stole the car he was sleeping in which he stole first. Then he got her arrested and she ended up having his son, Henry, while in prison."
The three looked at each other awkwardly.
"It all works out in the end but it's really impossible to make this sound good." The awkwardness was in no way alleviated by Charming's words. "So that's how you ended up sharing a grandson with us, Snow and me and Gold, I mean Rumple. And now Emma and Neal have worked the past all out."
Killian pulled out his flask and took a long pull.
"Rum?" Charming asked. Killian looked at the flask and back at the King.
"Good guess." He held it out for his royal highness. Charming shook his head no and again thinking about the feeling of wrongness. Milah lifted her mug and took a long sip as well, each of them lost in their own thoughts for a moment.
The door to the tavern banged open and the dwarves walked in. Charming grimaced and looked apologetically at the barmaid who now glared in his direction. He dropped some coins on the table to cover their drinks.
"There’s more to go over but I was hoping to escort you to the castle and offer you our hospitality. Repairs are ongoing but we have plenty of space available." Charming stood sweeping an arm out toward the door. "You can meet Henry tonight and I promise you protection from the Dark One while you're here."
Killian snorted. "What exactly can you do to stop the Dark One?"
"My daughter, she's the savior," Charming bragged, but just a bit. "Or to put it another way, a powerful light magic wielding sorceress."
"We'll be happy to join you," Milah said and stood to follow the king.
Killian scratched behind his ear, looking between the two determined faces. "Allow me to secure my ship first."
"Excellent." Charming headed for the door without stopping even as a dwarf called out his name.
"Did you just ignore that dwarf?" Killian asked a mocking grin stretching his mouth.
"Safer for everyone this way."