"Where is Emma Swan?"
The man leaning over Julietta Peterson's desk seemed quite the charmer, or more accurately, he seemed like he would be quite the charmer in any situation that was not this one. Right now, he was more threatening than charming, though he somehow managed to be both at the same time. He was in black leather clad from head to toe, and there was something unsettling about the dark look in his too-blue eyes and his unshaven appearance. Of course, it could just be the hook he had instead of his left hand, or the scabbard hanging from his hip. His whole appearance made her think of the Peter Pan fairy tales she had adored in her youth, and that hook of his looked sharp enough to slice her half to pieces.
Get your shit together and stop appraising the appearance of a man who looks like he might murder you for blinking, Peterson. Christ.
"W-why would I tell you that?" Her voice came out a lot shakier than she'd intended, and she repeated the question after clearing her throat. This time, at least, she didn't stammer.
Hook (as she called him in her mind, it was just too fitting) didn't look abashed at her defiance and his apparent lack of authority over her. If anything, he looked both heavily bored, and slightly amused at her attempt at bravery. For a moment she thought she detected a hint of impatience flaring in his eyes too (were they the color of the ocean or was that her imagining things? No, shit, get it together. You're freaking married, for god's sake), but quickly discarded the thought. "Because if you don't, lass, you're not going to like what comes next. See, I really want to know where the Swan girl is. She's... quite precious to me, and my people."
"Not the point. Where is she?" The man leaned forward so he was nearly lying across her desk. He braced his body on the desk with his arms, his elbows resting amongst her paperwork, his hook dangerously close to her neck as his face came level with hers. "Listen lass, I'm not here to hurt her, neither am I here to hurt you. Then again, if you keep defying me, if you don't tell me where she is right now, I might do something I'll regret."
"What do you want with her anyway? She's barely seven years old!"
"Seven?" He seemed genuinely surprised. "Hmm. I honestly thought I'd been trapped in there for longer. That wretched little demon!"
"What place? Trapped, demons... What the hell is wrong with you?"
"Hm?" Apparently he hadn't realized he had spoken out loud. "Nothing is wrong with me, although I do thank you for asking, my dear. Just tell me where the girl is, please. All I want is to speak to her, then I'll be back on my merry way. Well, Jolly way more like it." He laughed, at a joke only he could probably understand.
Julietta noticed his hook had crept closer as he spoke, hovering no more than an inch from the pale skin of her throat now. "She, um, she's here. In - ah, could you get that away from my thro- ah, she's in Boston."
"Yes, yes, lass, a bit more specific now..."
She gave him the address, even being so kind as to give him a map, with said address encircled.
"Why, thank you, lass. Now, don't contact her foster parents with some modern form of magic as I've been informed you have here, or you will not even live to regret your poor decisive skills. Now, I have a house call to make. Goodnight."
The mysterious man with the hook turned and left, leaving Julietta in a combination stunned silence and downright fear. She was quite proud that she had not wet herself, actually. She sat frozen behind her desk, terrified for the safety of the little girl the man had been looking for.
She didn't know what to do. She wanted to warn Emma's foster family, she did, but the man - Hook - had told her not to or there would be severe consequences. Julietta had always been squeamish of blood, especially her own, and the look in Hook's eyes had told her that bloodshed might be exactly what the consequences of contacting anyone might entail. Then again, he hadn't told her not to contact anyone, exactly; he had told her not to contact the foster parents. With magic, he had said, but Julietta stubbornly decided to ignore that last part for now. Turning to the phone, she dialled a number with shaky hands.
"Peter? Hi. Um, could you check up on the Denaro family? ...Call it a hunch. ...Yes, that's the address. How come you have it? ...Screams? What are you- ...Oh. Just go, and be careful. ...I told you, a hunch. Don't ask. ...Forty minutes? Make that thirty, okay? ...Bye. ...Yeah, you too. Bye."
She hung up on her friend, hoping he'd make it to the Denaro's home in time. That fellow with the hook, she felt, was not one to handle anyone who dared defy him gently, especially when pissed off.
Hook exited the office, already contemplating on what to say to the Swan girl. Only seven, that lass behind the desk had said? Odd. He was certain he had spent at least a hundred years in Neverland, and before that he had spent about two in the Enchanted Forest, where (to his knowledge) the speed of time paralleled Earth's. According to his calculations, at least ten years should have passed by now. That island in itself is wretched, causing time to run rampant and memories to be lost...
He frowned, shaking his head, trying to get rid of any thoughts on time. He was no damned philosopher, for the gods' sakes! No, he was, as someone had once spat at him after he broke her heart (not his fault, really, she hadn't been Milah), a 'fucking pirate!'.
Having made his way to the address encircled on the map (thank the gods the maps from this realm resembled those from the Enchanted Forest), he rapped on the door. As soon as it opened, he blurted out the first words that popped into his head.
"Hello, I'm looking for Emma Swan. Does she live here?" Bloody hell, could I have been any less subtle?
The man who stood before him looked quite decent, at least. His dark brown hair was shaved close to his scalp – completely against the fashion of both Neverland and Enchanted Forest, where especially the rich men tended to walk around with shoulder-length hair carefully kept out of their faces with a ribbon. (Hook himself had actually done the same once, he remembered with a shudder. He recalled that horrid ponytail with the navy blue bow he used to don, before cutting his hair short so it wouldn't tangle up in the ropes flying about the Jolly Roger.) Then again, Hook had seen many men walking on the streets with hair as short as his own, so perhaps the fashion in this realm was simply different. Putting his thoughts on minimalist modern haircuts aside, he went back to examining Emma's foster father. He seemed closer to forty than to fifty, and despite a hint of a beer belly he looked remarkably fit to be a parent, if you ignored the smell of alcohol wafting around him.
That is, until he opened his mouth.
"Who in the world are you and why the hell are ya looking for that brat?"
Hook raised an eyebrow. He was not a fan of bad form, and this was bad form like he'd never seen before. His hooked left arm, the lack of a proper hand carefully concealed in his jacket pocket, twitched with the desire to drive his hook into the man's stomach until he understood that it was always advisable to be polite to Captain Hook.
t"Mr... Denaro, is is?" he asked, reading off the plate hung next to the door with the family name on it. "My name is Capt – ah, Killian Jones. I'm here to check up on Emma, make sure she's treated right. I'm with-" He remembered the plate that had hung over the office of the woman who had given him Emma's address. "-with Social Services." He realized he needed to work on his improvisation skills. If Denaro decided he wanted more information, Hook would have a hard time providing it.
"Social Services, huh? You guys sent someone last week already, for God's sake! I'm telling ya, she screamed because we were watching a horror movie. One she had chosen, for the record."
What in the world was a horror movie? And wait – Emma had screamed? Hook knew a liar when he saw one, and Denaro was not very skilled a liar at that. Whatever a horror movie was, it was not what she had been afraid of.
"I'm, ah, not here for that. May I come in for a second?"
"Sure, whatever" Denaro answered. Looking Hook up and down, he stepped aside to let him enter. "What're ya wearing anyway? You look like you walked straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean."
Pirates of the what? This world truly is quite strange, Hook mused. Can't believe that poor girl has to live here. Still, pirates. Sounded like something he might enjoy. Distracted from his thought process by the inside of the house, he looked around. Now, he would be the first to admit he knew nothing about home decoration in this realm at all, but even he thought that pieces of clothing strewn all over the living room could not be fashionable. The smell of old beer nearly toppled him, strong as it was. A huge bowl of some type of snack or another (unhealthy, he had no doubt), was set on a side table, with a few half-empty bottles of something smelling like alcohol set next to it.
"Ah, you might say that I have," he answered the man's question, chuckling mysteriously. Hopefully Denaro would get the hint and refrain from asking him anything else.
"Whatever. You can dress however the hell you want." Hook thought he heard Denaro growl something like 'fucking hipster' under his breath. The meaning of at least the second word eluded him, if not the intention behind it. No doubt it was an insult. "So what are you here for?"
Hook's mind went a mile a minute, searching for a plausible explanation. He was lucky he was quite the liar, and that he had a fine memory. Recalling Denaro's earlier words, he started by telling him a little bit of the truth – that he wasn't actually with Social Services.
"Then why are you here? Cut the crap and tell me already. Jesus Christ."
He was liking this man less and less by the second.
"Emma is quite dear to me, actually, one might say I'm invested in her future. The stakes are quite high. I figured out where she was by asking the lass at the Social Services office to enlighten me on the matter, very politely of course." Too late, he realized that his barely contained grin at the last few words would probably do nothing to reassure Denaro of his trustworthiness.
Hook's fears were justified. Denaro had connected the dots, and even his alcohol-addled mind recognized a threat when it was standing right in front of him, leather-clad and grinning a trademark devilish grin. "Get out. You killed her, didn't you?!"
Hook scoffed. "Please. That'd be highly unprofessional."
"Yeah, right. Listen up, you asshole. I don't know what you want with Emma, but you're not going to hurt her." Hook was relieved for just a second, before the man continued his sentence. "She's the reason I can buy my booze. Adoption Assistance bloody rock-"
That was it.
He grabbed Denaro around the throat with his good hand and shoved him up against the wall. Brandishing his hook and pressing the round part lightly against the man's cheek, his lips twisted with anger before saying a word. His voice came out calm and composed, and Hook thanked his composure. Calm and composed usually did much more to frighten a man than enraged. "I already told you, I'm invested in her future. That means she will have to be cared for, not used to buy alcohol."
"Who are you?" The man's face had turned such a ghastly shade of white it almost seemed green, Hook noted with interest. He'd not seen this color often before. "What do you want?"
"I'm Captain Hook, my friend," he answered with a jovial laugh. "Have you never heard of me? I'm hurt." In that moment, he noticed a little girl standing just outside the room, probably drawn downstairs by the sounds of a scuffle. Her face stilled him for a moment. More than the fact that she was exactly like Snow White except with her father's blonde hair, he was shocked by the black eye and bruised cheekbone her perfect white skin was marred with.
He shoved Denaro up against the wall once more, now with the sharp end of his hook pressing into his cheek just hard enough to draw blood. "What did you do to her?"
Amazing. He still sounded calm. Ish.
"I didn't do nothing you freak. Get the fuck off of me!"
Hook's jaw tightened. Instead of impaling the disgusting creature that called itself a foster father on his hook, as he so desperately wanted to do, he punched him in the temple, knocking him out instantly. He was not in favour of murdering people in front of little girls. That was very bad form, as was swearing in front of them. Denaro slouched, his full weight toppling on Hook as he slumped to the floor. Hook shoved the man aside before he was dragged down too, and slowly turned to Emma.
She surprised him by being the first to speak. Well, to ask, but whatever.
"Are you really Captain Hook? Where's Peter Pan? You didn't hurt him, did you? Is Denaro dead?"
Hook's eyebrows shot up in suprise for more than one reason. This girl would make quite the interrogator, one day. But-- she girl had heard of him? She had heard of Pan, too, and didn't want him to hurt that obnoxious little piece of shit? Also, the nonchalant tone her voice had taken on when asking about her foster father's health didn't so much surprise him as sadden him. Obviously the man had maltreated her until the point where she actually didn't care anymore whether he lived or died.
"No, he's – he's alive, don't worry, lass. He'll get through it, though he may have a headache worse than any hangover."
Was that disappointment? Wow, this kid was screwed up. Then again, he supposed he shouldn't be surprised. With homes like this one, where the daily life existed of corporal abuse, alcoholic foster parents and messed up houses in general, Hook supposed any kid would be screwed up before a year had passed.
"Okay, lass. Um," he glanced at the clock. Nearly half an hour had passed since he left the lass in the office. If he had read the woman right (and he was pretty certain he had) she had most likely called one or the other of her men to check whether Emma was okay, and he would probably arrive soon. "See, Emma, I gotta go."
"How do you know my name? You talk funny. And you haven't answered my questions yet."
"Oh. Yeah, I'm Captain Hook, though my true name is not that. Pan is alive, I haven't harmed him. The little dem- Ah, the... boy came close to harming me though, before I managed to make my escape. And I'm not the one who talks funny, you are. Where I come from, everyone talks this way."
Little Emma crinkled her nose. A habit Hook immediately found himself adoring. "You don't look like Captain Hook."
Well, that must have been the oddest comment on his looks he had ever heard. How could he not look like himself?
He glanced at the clock again. Thirty-one minutes since he had left the Social Services office. "Listen here, lass, I really do need to go now. There's someone coming here to help you. Don't tell anyone who I really am, okay? Tell them you don't know my name, and that your foster father has been beating you. No," he said, raising his right hand when she made to protest, "I know what the results of a beating look like. I do. Trust me."
To his surprise, the girl nodded. Just like that, she trusted him? Hook was astonished, moved and terrified at the same time. How could he leave when he didn't know whether Emma would be okay?
The bell ringing alerted him to a visitor.
"Listen, sweet Emma, lass, I have to go. You go open that door, and don't let anybody harm you ever again, okay?"
Although he really had to go, he couldn't refrain from one last comment. With his signature lopsided grin and one half-raised eyebrow, he leaned in close and whispered. "The next time we meet, I'll teach you how to fight with a sword. Deal?"
Emma Swan nodded. "Deal."
As Hook turned to go, he heard a frantic whisper behind him.
"Wait!" And after a short pause... "You're not like Captain Hook at all, you know. You're a good guy, not a villain. Thank you. You're one of the first to be this kind to me." He turned around, only to feel two skinny arms wrap around his waist. He sighed, resting his hand on Emma's curly hair. He would miss this girl when he was back in Neverland – because he intended to go back. When Emma came of an age to break the curse, he couldn't be walking around grey-haired with a cane to match Rumplestiltskin's, now could he? Otherwise he'd never get to skin the Crocodile.
"Goodbye, Emma. See you in two decades, lass." And he was gone.
That night and many nights after, little Emma Swan, named after the first wouple who abandoned her, would lay awake, thinking of a certain captain who had promised he he'd teach her how to fight.