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Emma sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose in exasperation. “Did you really have to do that?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Turning her head to look at the supposedly unoccupied seat, she glared at the smirky pirate lounging on the chair. 

Well, correction: the dead pirate who apparently only she could see.

“Don’t feed me that crap. You know what I’m talking about.”

 

“Alas, I really don’t. Care to enlighten me?,” he asked, fiddling with his hook and pointedly ignoring her burning gaze. She threw her arms up in the air, not caring about the startled looks she was receiving from other guests in the small restaurant - the only decent one, possibly, in the whole town. 

“You have to stop ruining any date I go on.”

He feigned surprise. “I have done no such thing.”

“Haven’t you? Because I’m pretty sure that glass of wine didn’t spill itself over his trousers.”

“It’s not my fault he was acting like a fumbling baboon, love.”

She whimpered, hiding her face behind her hand. “Seriously, Hook.”

The idiot even had the guts to actually pick at his nails with the tip of his hook - if he weren’t already dead, she’d make sure to kill him just on principle for being such a pain in the ass. “I swear even one-handed I am far more competent than him.”

She crossed her arms over her chest, and that seemed to catch his attention. God, she hated this dress. “It’s not your place to judge who I go out with or not. Or to decide if they’re good enough for me or not.”

He shrugged, unaffected. “I’m just showing you their true colors, Swan. See: this one?” He pointed over his shoulder in the direction of the restroom where her date, - a guy whom David had sworn was some guard back at their castle in the Enchanted Forest and had begged her to join for dinner, - had run off after the wine incident. “His breath positively stinks, his table manners leave something to be desired and he wouldn’t stop gawking at your delectable bosom. Not that I can’t blame the poor sod, but not the best gentlemanly behavior.”

Emma gawked at him for a long moment, but he didn’t even flinch, meeting her stare straight on. Letting out a small huff, her eyes spied over Hook’s shoulder to check if the guy in question was within earshot. “It’s true he wouldn’t even meet my eyes,” she finally muttered, recalling with a flinch how he would not stop staring at her cleavage.

Lovely, just lovely.

Glad that she seemed to agree with him on that one - and really, she really couldn’t deny it, she had been about to throw the freaking tablecloth over her shoulders just so he would take the hint - he winked at her. “I’m just trying to help you, love.”

She raised an eyebrow in disbelief. “Sure you do. Sure it has nothing to do with you not wanting me to be with anyone else.”

“Pirate’s honor,” he swore, placing his hook over his heart and bowing slightly in his seat. She just rolled her eyes, but unable to restrain herself from smiling. 

He really was the same idiot, irritating, flirty pirate, dead or alive. 

“I think you mean ghost pirate’s honor.”

 

(.)

 

She was rinsing her hair one last time before turning off the shower when she saw it.

She was going to murder him. Oh wait - he was already dead. What could she possibly have done to deserve a stalking ghost pirate leaving her messages on the shower screen?

The choice of that day in particular: a rather dashing swan, wings spread open, - and he had even added a crown to it, the word ‘princess’ written at the bottom. 

What a fucking idiot.

Wrapping a towel around herself, she stepped out of the shower, piling her hair on the top of her head and bracing herself for the shouting match. “HOOK!”

She had to give it to him: he was as silent as ghosts, spirits, whatever were supposed to be. She turned around to find him lounging against the doorframe of the bathroom. “Yes, my lady?” 

There was not much change between dead Hook and alive Hook, now that she thought about it: he still wore the same clothes, but considering she had never seen him out of them, it wasn’t like she could tell the difference. Same mannerisms, same stupidly fluffy hair, same ever-present smirk. Same haunting eyes.

Same annoying habit of following her around. 

“How long have you been in here?,” she asked, advancing towards him and bracing the towel like it was a bulletproof vest or something. He looked startled at her question, staring at her confusedly. 

“I just came in.”

“No you didn’t, you wrote this now.” She pointed at the now ruined doodle, and his eyes lit up at the mention of his piece of art. 

She hadn’t even known he liked drawing, for that matter. 

Foregoing his ‘message’, he shook his head and looked back at her. “No I didn’t - I wrote it earlier and it shows now when you turned on the hot water.”

Huh. That made sense. But it still didn’t make it okay to go to her shower and scare the crap out of her and leave random drawings for her… like… an annoying roommate. Or something. “There are boundaries in this creepy spirit thing you have going on.”

He scrunched up his forehead in confusion. The fact that she still found it adorable made her grit her teeth in annoyance. Stupid ghost. Stupid pirate. Stupid Hook. “I wouldn’t even know which those are, darling - or the ones I shouldn’t break, for that matter.”

Raising a hand, she started counting with her fingers. “For starters: showers are off limits.”

“Duly noted.”

“Or any other situation in which I am naked,” she added, raising an eyebrow to see his reaction. 

He pursed his lips, but finally nodded, urging her to go on. “Pity, but I shall follow your wish.”

“Or getting undressed.”

How was it that pirates could pout? “You’re no fun, Swan,” he whined, but she stood, deterred, until she realized there was a rather large pool forming at her feet from her wet hair and she was still talking with a dead pirate while she was half naked. She shooed him away, waving a hand in front of her frantically. 

“Why are you still here? GET OUT.”

“I was merely taking note of your requests,” he claimed in between chuckles, already spinning on his heel. 

OUT,” she screeched, hoping that the door would hit him as he left.

Of course, it didn’t. He had already left, but not before he tossed teasingly over his shoulder, “As you wish.”

 

(.)

 

“Leave that where it was, Hook.”

She wouldn’t wish this even on her worst enemy: a spirit following her around while she tried to do the groceries and stopping him from filling her cart with whatever he felt like she needed or caught his attention. “Why? I recall you devouring these last week. You seemed rather fond of them”

Fishing the cereal box from the cart and putting it back in the shelf, she pushed the cart forward, knowing that he would follow her.

He did.

“I’m not in the mood for those today.”

He picked up another box and shoved it in front of her face. “What about these?”

She swatted it away, glaring at him until he sheepishly went back to set it over in its place. “No. I want chocolate,” she said. 

To her surprise, he said nothing for a while, and when she looked at him there was a flash of understanding on his face. “…Oh.”

“Oh?,” she repeated, half amused and half wary of that response. It wasn’t like him to stop his bugging so soon. 

“Give me a minute, love.” He disappeared down the aisle they were in, and she just stood there, completely baffled.

“What is that supposed to even mean?” she called out, and she was rewarded with a weirded out customer, who looked right and left, seemingly searching for whomever Emma was talking to.

Right. Everybody thought she was crazy, since she, you know, had started to talk to dead people. 

Luckily for her she didn’t give a flying fuck what they said about her. 

Not even bothering to give the other woman the stink eye, she left the aisle, set on finding the stupid ghost, just in case he decided to wreak havoc in the liquor section. She wasn’t sure ghosts could get drunk either way, but just in case. She was the sheriff.

Right before she called out his name, he showed up, swiftly putting a new box in the cart along with the rest of her groceries. She looked down to read what it was.

Tampons.

She could feel the heat radiating off her cheeks, and she groaned loudly. The freaking pirate knew what she craved at that time of the month? “This is getting creepier by the minute,” she whimpered, and for once he didn’t say anything, - not a teasing comment, not a pet name. He just kept in step by her side, just like he had since the day he had died. 

 

(.)

 

There was a rather loud bang, and she jumped on her seat to find her parents in identical hands-on-hips poses. “Emma, we need to talk.”

She stared up at her mother quizzically. “…okay. Shoot.”

The rather decisive stance she had sported a minute before seemed to seep out of her, and a rather nervousness clung to her. “It’s about… you know. Those… apparitions. Of Hook. You know.”

Emma heard a quiet scoff, just as she had expected. The lilting voice behind her brought a tiny smile to her lips. “‘Apparitions’. How lovely.”

Ignoring his remark, she shook her head sadly at her parents, who were exchanging worried glances between them - as if she couldn’t see them. She saw too much these days. “They’re not apparitions. It’s him, he is here, you know.” 

To try to prove her point, she waved her hand behind her to where Hook was leaning against a pillar. He waved mockingly - knowing as well as she did that they could not see him. 

The didn’t.  

Mary Margaret sat beside her, turning the stool so she was facing her. “Emma: he died. He can’t be here. That’d be impossible.”

She was about to respond, probably in the most frustrated-teenage-girl fashion she could muster, when Hook spoke again. “Curious words coming from the princess turned bandit turned queen who was awoken from a sleeping curse by true love’s kiss.”

Emma couldn’t help it: she snorted, and instantly tried to cover it with a cough. She saw from the corner of her eye how Mary Margaret bit her lip worriedly, looking at David for support. He just sent a cautious look behind her, and then back at her.

“Emma?”

Shoulders still shaking in silent laughter, she pointed at the pirate, who hadn’t even moved but preferred to smirk at them from his place. “I’m sorry but he has a point.”

David sighed, and carefully approached her, taking her hand in his and rubbing her knuckles with his thumb. Emma was sure it was meant to be comforting - and it was, in a  way, her father was way better at this parent-thing than Mary Margaret, maybe because they were much more similar and he got her - but not this time. “We need to figure out how to fix this - we should go to Gold, or Regina, it may have something to do with your magic…”

“Always keeping it in the family, isn’t it?”

She laughed again. He did have a point. It seemed like every time there was a problem in this forsaken place, there were only two possible solutions: going to Gold, or going to Regina. She would have thought it’d be a good idea to ask for Tink’s help now that she was a fairy again, but alas, no such luck.

At David’s flabbergasted expression - she couldn’t actually blame him: his daughter was openly cracking up at him for no reason - and Hook finally made his way over to them. “Sorry Dave.”

“He can’t actually hear you, you know,” she reminded him. He got to the counter they were all huddled around, leaning his elbows on it.

“Thus I have this lovely lass who can send my message.”

She gasped. “Am I a carrier pigeon now?”

“Would you be so surprised? Your mother does speak to birds,” he said, motioning to Mary Margaret and smiling faintly. 

Huh. He was right. She had talked to that crow of Cora’s back in the Enchanted Forest. She guessed she should have been way more impressed by that fact when it happened, but she had been quite preoccupied at the moment trying to stop Mulan from taking the compass back to the witch.

She didn’t miss the openly terrified looks her parents were exchanging behind her back, but she didn’t care. She was currently pretty much more worried about the conversation she was engaged in. 

“So my fairytale counterpart is a freaking pigeon?”

“I did not say such thing.”

She tried to ignore his smirk, openly glaring at him and picking up the knife she had been using to butter her toast. “I’m going to kill you.”

He smiled sadly at her. “I’m afraid you’re a little late, love.”

 

(.)

 

She woke up from her nightmare yelping faintly. It was the same nightmare every night, and she just wished it would go away already. She could not go on like this.

“Hook?,” she called out to the dark room. 

“Aye?”

“Are you here?”

There was a shuffling sound, and she made out his silhouette against the faint light creeping from her window. “I’m always here,” he whispered, and there was a dip on her bed as he sat on the edge of it, staring down at her lying form. “What is wrong, love?”

She suddenly felt quite out of place, and even a bit childish, but… well. She had already called for him, hadn’t she?. He was there. Dead or not, he always was. “Can you… talk to me for a bit? ‘Til I fall asleep again?”

He was silent for a moment and then sighed quietly. “What do you want me to talk about?”

“Anything.”

She would never admit it to him, but she loved his voice. It was warm and comforting and alluring and the way it wrapped around her always soothed her, even when she didn’t expect it.  

She patted her side of the bed, and he wasted no time in lying on the free room she left for him. It was weird, having him there, hearing him, talking to him, laughing with him, but not feeling the warmth of his skin or his breath near hers. Knowing that he could not feel cold nor heat.

It was unsettling and so irrevocably sad

“Well, I could tell you about the stars that would come out after a storm we would find our ship in - how they would reflect over the water, as if we sailed a sea of constellations. How I would not know if I was either in heaven or earth, both of them joined. Finding myself unable to see where one started and the other ended.” He put his hand behind his head, leaving his hook at his side, and stared up at the ceiling. She mimicked him, replaying his words in her mind, pretending that those same stars he talked about were up there, only for them to stare at and wish upon. “I could tell you about fearsome creatures I have faced, angry beasts craving for my flesh and tempting mermaids luring my sailors to their demise with their evil singing and illusions.” Slowly turning to her, he quirked an eyebrow at her, his lips curling into a teasing smile. “I could tell you about pirates and princesses and wizards and ogres, but I’m sure you have heard enough of those already.” 

She huffed a laugh. “You could say that.” She realized her voice had come out choked and soft, and prayed that he hadn’t noticed the effect his words had had in her.

He didn’t say anything, though, but turned to look at her inquisitively, a hint of mischief in his eyes that sent shivers through her. “I can always tell you about something you have never heard, I’m sure.”

She stared dubiously at him. “What is it?”

“The most scandalous of gossips, Swan. I don’t know if your delicate princess ears are ready to hear such atrocious information.”

She inched closer, a sudden excitement coursing through her. “Tell me.”

He grinned impishly, that stupid smile he only reserved for her. “Your wish is my command.” He paused for dramatic effect, and lowered his voice, as if it was indeed the most guarded secret about to be shared, right there in her bed. “That dwarf your parents are so fond of… is currently engaged in quite the affair with a lovely poor thing.”

She almost jumped out of her own skin. “What? Who?”

“A nun.”

She was about to fly into the sun. “You’re kidding me. What?”

He nodded, biting his lip trying to stifle a laugh. “I assure you I’m not lying.” Once he  started spilling the secrets he sure as hell had been digging for since he had turned into some weird spirit, apparently he could not stop. “Oh, and I’m pretty sure Madam Mayor has some sort of dalliance with our dashing archer.”

Emma gasped, clutching her chest in shock. “Regina and Hood? I knew it.”

It had been pretty obvious there was something going on with those two, but rather than being a smartass and an snarky bitch like Regina used to be whenever the subject of Emma’s suitors came up, she had politely bit her tongue and ignored the pointed glances and brief touches Regina and Robin exchanged from time to time when she ran into them. 

What a pair.

“And that strange fellow so fond of hats? He sleeps every night with a stuffed rabbit in his bed. Quite bizarre, that one.” 

Emma gripped her pillow in her hands and put it over her face, muffling her uncontrollable giggling. “Please stop.” 

She kept chuckling for a while, picturing everything he had told her. Who knew he’d be so curious about the lives of the rest of the folks from the Enchanted Forest? 

And of course he had eased her mind, making her forget the nightmare that had awoken her and lighting her mood. Just like he always had. Just like he always knew what she needed.

She set the pillow on her lap, turning on her side so she was facing him. Her hand hovered between them, and she saw him giving it a hesitant glance, before looking back at her. It was strange: she knew he could touch things, he could move them, though he just did it when she was the only one who could see it. But he had never touched her, nor had she tried to touch him. If she were honest with herself, she knew she hadn’t tried because she was terrified it would not work: that it would only remind her that he was not really there. 

That he was gone.

Her fingers hovered over his face, almost tracing the scar on his right cheek. “I wish I could touch you,” she murmured brokenly. His expression softened, and it only made a pang of sadness resonate through her.

“You’re the savior, you can do anything.”

She shook her head, a stray curl falling over her eyes, and she saw his hand moving in its direction to awkwardly settle back where it was. 

She realized he was as terrified of the prospect of not being actually there as she was. 

She closed her eyes, ashamed of the tears gathering in them. “I’m scared it won’t work. That I’ll fail - just like I failed to save you.”

“It was not your fault.”

He had said so over and over again whenever she gave in and broke down, scenes of that day bombarding her brain and leaving her a sobbing mess. No matter how hard she tried to forget, it was pretty damn hard with the only casualty of that battle walking around and following her and making her smile and talking to her and being the person she had always wanted at her side, needed at her side.

The only problem was that he actually wasn’t. Not anymore. 

“I know I should let you go, but I can’t,” she confessed. Just one more secret revealed in the dark in that same room, she mused, along with the scandalous gossip from the inhabitants of Storybrooke.

They stayed silent for what seemed like hours, laying side by side, fingers almost touching but never making contact, and she wanted to kick herself for being such an idiot, for being such a coward. For not touching him enough, taking his hand in hers, caressing the stubble on his face, moving strands of hair from his forehead. 

“Do you want me to go?,” he asked quietly, and she understood what he was asking. If she really wanted him to go, to move on. She knew she should - God, she knew she had heard it enough from Archie, from her parents, from everybody, - but that was it. 

She was not ready.

“Not yet.”

And, as he always had, he gave her what she needed.

And so he stayed.