The missive arrives by mermaid; not one of Ariel's kin, but a vicious-looking creature with teeth like needles and eyes the lightless black of the drowning depths.
Davy Jones seeks parley.
The town leadership gathering at the diner seem to have chosen to focus on entirely the wrong detail, much to Killian's relief.
(Though that detail itself is not without its annoyances.)
Regina, newly arrived with Robin, rakes Killian with an accusatory glare and asks, "Davy Jones?"
"No relation," he says brightly, for at least the third time since the mermaid appeared. He would be tempted to make a more dramatic gesture, but his Swan has trapped him in this booth (perhaps on purpose), her thigh pressed against his. His tone might have held more bite than he intended, for she drops a hand to his forearm.
He allows himself to be mollified. "It's a common seafaring name," he says, this time without deceit, but with chagrin. Perhaps his current discomfort balances the scales for the lie he once told to Henry.
"We'll find out what he wants," Emma says, her words clipped. It seems she's even more tired of the inquest than he is. He glances over at her, but fails to catch her eye. She pushes herself to her feet, shoulders back, eyes watchful, as whipcrack-ready for a fight as he once teased her about being.
(He knows her softer side now, but gods, does he enjoy her fire.)
Killian stands at her shoulder, thumb tucked behind his belt buckle, and watches the staredown between the two women.
It's broken by David, who nods to Killian. "We'll go with you," he says, his face the picture of princely determination, but Killian shakes his head.
"He won't deal with you. It's me he wants." He feels Emma's sharp-eyed gaze on the side of his face this time, but doesn't look at her.
David crosses his arms, his own stare a mirror of his daughter's. "You're not going out there alone."
"Indeed I'm not." He tips his head at Emma, who blinks, then jerks her chin sharply downward. David looks between the two of them, and and Killian takes a deep breath before stepping closer and lowering his voice. "He's not here to make any mischief for the town, mate. We can handle it."
They share a look, and an understanding, as always, where Emma is concerned.
"Be careful," David says, including both of them with his words, and Killian inclines his head in agreement.
Once they're alone on their way to the docks, Killian says darkly, "I know the word 'coincidence' existed in the Enchanted Forest, but I'd no idea one had never been encountered in the wild before."
She sighs, the sentiment not meant for him. "I know they mean well, but yeah, the whole 'everyone is related to everyone, ever' deal is getting old."
"Thank you, for not asking the question on everyone else's lips."
She snorts out a humorless laugh. "Try growing up a foster kid going to public school with a bird's name," she says, and if he doesn't follow every nuance of her words, the meaning behind them is clear. "Sometimes names are just names."
And sometimes they're not, he thinks, watching her determined stride, her head held high. "They didn't deserve you," he says, and she looks at him, a shy smile on her face.
"I notice you didn't try to stop me from coming with you," she says, and if her eyes are still soft, the corner of her mouth is turning sharp.
"Why would I waste my breath on such a fruitless endeavor?" he asks. She rolls her eyes and turns away, but not before he catches a glimpse of a pleased smile.
The gulls are wheeling overhead, splitting the quiet with their forlorn cries, when she stops him with a hand on his arm. Her expression calculating, she searches his face. "All right, spill. What is it you weren't saying back there?"
He looks right back at her, letting her read the truth of it. "I meant what I said, Swan. Storybrooke is not at risk."
"And I believe you." She says it as if there could be no other outcome. He's certain she can't know what a gift that is, that simple trust. "But I also know you weren't telling us the whole story."
He shakes his head slowly, a weight settling on his shoulders. He can put this off no longer. "He's not here for the town, love. He's here for me."
Her expression hardens, and she drops a hand to the holster by her side, thumbing off the catch that keeps her firearm in place. "And you didn't think that this might be information we needed to know?"
Her voice is as flinty as her eyes, and he winces to have scattered her earlier humor. "It couldn't be helped, I'm afraid--it's not their story to hear. Nor is it entirely mine to tell."
"Whose is it, then?"
"Mine," says a voice as cold as the deep, and Davy Jones is with them.
All the time she's spent getting used to the whole Captain Hook/Killian Jones visual experience has not prepared Emma to be staring down a ghost pirate, at all.
She's not sure what she was expecting (the movie version, maybe, with the face and the tentacles? Wizard of Oz wasn't so far off in some respects), but that's not what she gets. Davy Jones looks human, if a human had all the color washed out of him; not pure white, like a cartoon ghost, but as if even white was too strong a color--as if color had no place in his world. It's impossible to tell if his hair is blond or gray, or what his clothes once looked like, and his eyes are pale and pitiless. And now the daylight is starting to seem murky around them, like it's filtering down from the waves above.
Full fucking points for creepy, then.
He fixes those pallid eyes on Emma, and says, "Away with ye, lass. This be pirate business."
His voice is hollow, but it echoes weirdly--every other sound around them has faded away.
"Aye, it is," says Killian, and takes a step forward. With his hook, he's holding his coat clear of his cutlass, though Emma's not convinced swords would do anything to--that. (She gets it now, though, why he's wearing all the leather again; in her street clothes, she's feeling a little like a party crasher at the pirate ball.) Killian nods to her, keeping his eyes on the bad guy. "She's crewed a ship, sailed the sea... followed the rules, as you set them down."
She really wants to ask what he means, but more than that, she wants to present a united front to this--what-the-hell-ever he is--so she keeps her mouth shut.
Davy Jones looks her over--looks through her, it seems, like he's searching for something. She feels the faintest tickling sensation, like someone's rifling through her brain--and finally nods. "It seems she has. Ye may stay."
Like she would fucking leave. She steps up next to Killian, ignoring the quelling glance he shoots at her. He'd never let her face anything alone, even when she was blind enough to think she wanted that, and she's not going to let him, either.
"You know the code, Jones," says the apparition.
Killian swallows, but nods solemnly. "Aye."
"What's it to be, then?"
"Wait, what code?" Emma asks. Killian's starting to look ill, and her brief resolve to let him handle this himself vanishes just that fast. "What is he talking about?"
Davy Jones looks at Killian, giving the impression of a frown without any real expression on his face. "Ye've not taught her?"
"It's not been her life," Killian says shortly. "Your business is with me."
"Killian, what code?" she demands, grabbing the sleeve of his coat. He turns to her, his movements just a little jerky, unnatural.
"The pirates' code, of course," he says, with such false cheer that it opens a hole in her gut, even if she's still not sure what he means.
"I thought that was just in the movies," she says, and he blinks at her, then shakes his head.
"I've no idea what you're talking about," he says, distantly, but before she can answer, Jones holds up a pale hand.
Around them, it gets darker. Rippling shadows pass over them, like the outlines of deep-sea nightmares.
Jones's eyes begin to glow milky white, and his voice goes colder still. "Any captain who gives up his ship without a fight owes me five years before the mast, or no pirate be he, nor welcome in our ranks, nor given solace nor quarter on the waters."
He stares at Killian, and Killian shakes his head once.
"I'll not be joining you."
The shadows begin circling them. "Then ye know your fate."
Emma gets hit with a wave of apprehension, hard. Killian's looking worse than ever, but there's determination in the set of his jaw. Emma glances between him and Jones, wanting to make sure she understands. "Wait, are you saying you're--disowning him or something?"
"'Dismasting,' we sometimes call it," Killian said, and then blanches further. "They call it," he says, softly.
"No, this isn't right," she says, gripping his arm.
"Swan. It doesn't matter." He turns his wrist over, takes her hand in his, but his is chilly. The resignation in his eyes doesn't hide the look of loss, though he gives her a wan smile. "It's all right, love."
"No, it's not," and, okay, he might not really be that man any more, the pirate he used to be, but she knows what it means to him, that life he led, that sense of identity, of community. She knows now what it means to belong to something, and what it means to not. And she knows the way he looks out over the sea, how his eyes light up when they rent a boat, when he teaches Henry about sailing. He can't lose that, too.
She's accepted all of him, Killian and Hook, the hero and the pirate. And no ghost-pirate son of a bitch is going to take any part of that away from him.
She stares hard at Jones, fisting her hands at her sides. "Yeah, he gave up his ship. But what makes you think it was without a fight?"
Jones looked back at her, a deathless stillness in his face. "I know all that passes on the seas, lass."
"And I know him," she says, and hates the way her voice is shaking, but goddammit this is wrong. "When has he ever done anything without a fight?"
Jones stares at her, hard, and then he's right in her face, without moving, peering into her with those wan, hungry eyes. She hears Killian shout, "Swan, no!" and then--
--it's like drinking the memory potion in New York, everything hitting her at once, but this time her brain is being ransacked, pillaged. She feels her magic rising up, about to push Jones out, and somehow she grabs hold before it can, turns it, channels it, and concentrates--
this, this is how he fought for me
--everything he's done for her, in one blinding flash.
Her vision goes white, and when it clears, Killian has his hook around her waist, holding her to his side, his sword out and pointed at Jones. "You do not touch her," he says, his voice raw with fury. She slides her hand up Killian's back, letting him know she's okay, and his jaw unclenches the tiniest bit, though his eyes never leave Jones.
Jones, who's unmoved by Killian's anger, his hollow gaze on Emma. "He did all of this for you," he says, and Emma nods.
"Yeah," she says, straightening up, though she still feels wrung out. It was like living through everything all at once, all over again, but this time, she'd already stopped running from him; this time, she could feel everything she'd walled off, pushed aside, clamped down on the first time around.
She swallows hard, and her hand fists in the leather at Killian's back.
Jones keeps staring at her, and she stares right back--how dare this waterlogged asshole judge Killian? What fucking right did he have--
The shadows swim away, leaving murky daylight behind, and she blinks.
"A worthy sacrifice, then," he says, and tips his head to her. To Killian, he says, gravely, "Trading a pirate's life for the life of another pirate has never been done."
She feels his arm press against her hip, and she lets him take more of her weight. "I'd do it again," Killian says, his voice soft in a way that makes her throat tight.
"Aye," Davy Jones says, cocking his head at them. "Ye would." The glow fades from his eyes. "No pirate breaks the code who holds his treasure in such regard."
He seems to nod, or maybe it's just the wavering light. "Pirate Jones. Pirate Swan."
And then he's gone.
"Shit," says Emma, and all the fight drains out of her. "Oh god, down, put me down, or I'm gonna fall down."
Killian's sword clatters on the dock as he lowers her gently, kneeling beside her. She puts her head between her knees and breathes until the spinning passes.
"Are you all right, love?" he asks, when she raises her head.
"Getting there?" she says, and breathes out a laugh. The daylight is back to normal, and she can hear the town around them again, though the gulls are nowhere to be seen. Smart birds. "So, that happened."
He cradles her cheek in his hand, fingers careful, and she's learned by now that it's not because he thinks she might break. (It's because he thinks he might.) "You frightened me," he murmurs, but it's not an accusation.
His eyes are so, so blue, and she has to reach for him, too, has to cradle his neck. She can feel his pulse under her palm, feel him swallow when her thumb brushes over the corner of his jaw.
"Sorry," she says, and means it. She raises her eyebrows at him and says, "But that guy was a dick."
He laughs, bright and sudden, and then kisses her hard, relief fading into joy. Her head's spinning again, but she doesn't mind this time.
When he leans away, she keeps hold of his collar so he doesn't go far. He presses a kiss to the back of her hand and sits beside her. "You astonish me, Swan," he says quietly, but the smile hasn't left his eyes. "Constantly."
She can feel herself smiling back, and she glances away, over the harbor. "So, um, did we just make supernatural ghost-pirate history?"
"Aye," he says, and from the corner of her eye, she can see him shake his head.
She turns back to him with a grin, and taps her fingers on his knee. "And Davy Jones called me a pirate."
"That he did, lass. You're as official as it gets." He covers her hand with his, then gives her a sly look. "You did steal my ship once."
"Well, there were extenuating circumstances," she says, and he smirks at her. "Henry will love that, though--two pirates in the family."
He stills, and stares at her with wide eyes.
She can feel her cheeks heating up, but resists the urge to look away. Hey, she just got an invite to his clubhouse, so. Only fair he knows where he stands.
(And has for a while, now.)
"Come on," she says softly, and tugs at his hand. "We should get back, before they start to worry."
They help each other to their feet, Killian still watching her as he sheathes his sword. He steps in close, and she shifts her weight from one foot to the other, something off about him putting her on edge. He gestures to where Davy Jones had been, and says in a low voice, "Not that I don't appreciate the gesture, Swan, but you shouldn't have done that." She narrows her eyes at him, starts to open her mouth, and he holds up a hand. "You've seen only a little of what pirate life is like." His face twitches, more a grimace than a grin, and his voice is thick with self-loathing. "Much of it you'd not be proud to be associated with."
She lifts her chin, looking back at him. "Why didn't you argue with him?"
He nods to her, slowly. "As I said, I'd do it again, without hesitation."
"Exactly." He frowns at her, and she lays her hand on his chest. "You get to choose what you are and what you aren't. Nobody else gets to make that choice for you." She shrugs. "Besides, it's not like my past is all good deeds and unicorns. But everything we've done before makes us who we are right now."
"Astonishing," he says again, and raises her hand to kiss her knuckles.
She ducks away from his look, keeping hold of his hand to pull him into step with her. (He makes it easy, falling in right beside her. As always.)
As they're walking back, she asks, "So, now that I am a pirate, you want to explain this code thing to me?"
"I'm not sure that's wise," he murmurs, and she looks over at him. "You're terror enough on dry land, love," he says, and smiles faintly. "On the high seas? You'd rule the bloody world."
Crew a ship and sail the sea
Scoff ye at authority
Steal and drink and live ye free
Then under the pirates' code ye be
And if the pirates' code ye break
Davy Jones your soul will take