Actions

Work Header

Do I Divide and Fall Apart?

Work Text:

"They sold you out."

Killian blinks his eyes open slowly. The right side of his head throbs terribly, but when he lifts his hand to touch it, the chains around his wrists prevent him. They're locked in tight to two metal posts screwed into the ground and his knees are sore beneath him. How long he's been in this position, he can't tell by the dim light of the stone dungeon. The last thing he remembers is boarding his ship. A pirate ambushed on his own bloody ship, there must be some irony in that.

Killian looks to the man who spoke. The short, slightly stout man leans casually against a stained wooden table of what takes Killian a skipped breath to realize are torture implements - knives, screws, pliers, the typical fare.

"I'm sorry." He smirks, choosing to face this new threat without flinching. "Repeat that. I didn't quite catch it over the raging headache. Your doing, I suppose?"

"Mmm," the man affirms. Stroking his goatee, he says, "The family resemblance doesn't strike you? I was always told that I took after my great, great grandfather."

He smiles and Killian blinks again, slow and calculated. He knows that smile. Remembers the day his brother was bestowed the title of Captain of the Jewel of the Realm. Remembers the pride on the King's face as he smiled at Liam.

Killian does not panic.

"Ah, I see it now. Don't know how I missed it before. Apologies, mate."

The man's smile shifts into an easy smirk. Killian knows that look, too. He's worn it plenty enough times to recognize it for what it is. There is another boot waiting to drop, and Killian can already see it aimed right at his face.

"As I was saying before, they sold you out."

"Who is they?"

The man waves his hand. "Alliances require sacrifice on both parts. I provided the materials to rebuild, and – well, I suppose giving up a pirate wasn't much of a sacrifice for them. More like discarding the trash," his kidnapper says.

Killian still does not panic, but his heart does pound in his chest, an unsteady thump-thump that can barely be heard over the sound of blood rushing in his ears.

Charming and Snow were rebuilding their kingdom, forging new bonds, making alliances to try to return the Enchanted Forest to its former glory. Killian had been helping them by overseeing the building and navigation of their trade ships and making sure they were equipped to handle long journeys and sail safely on the dangerous seas. They'd entrusted this to him, what they’d insisted was an important duty, and Emma - Emma had been so proud of him, so happy to see him becoming the man that she knew he could be. The kiss she’d given him had been nothing short of spectacular, the gentle touch of her hand afterwards more than he deserved for so simple a task.

How can he reconcile all that - the smiles, the trust, the pride - with this?

"Discarding the trash, eh? Don't believe you mate," Killian says.

“Those weren’t even my words. The blonde one – the princess had that to say when offered the chance to be rid of you.”

Killian jerks forward. He sees nothing for a moment, but he hears Emma’s voice, words drawn out with annoyance – “Of course, we’re stuck with this job. Nothing like taking out the trash to welcome you home.”

Her expression lifts the darkness of his sight, her smile as he’d said, “Home, eh? You seem to be settling in already, princess.

“Maybe I am.”

This memory gives way to a painful reality, sinking home.

“Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?” the man asks. “She was rather fiery about it, if memory serves correctly. I’m sure yours does.”

He'd always considered his memory to be his curse. Until Emma.

(Until you.)

Someone, somewhere must be laughing at him. That’s what Emma would say. He could hear her voice, cursing the liana with the biting teeth. According to this man, it is Emma and her parents...these people he’d risked everything for. The woman he’d risk anything for.

He refuses to believe it even if memory serves up painful reminders of plaguing loss and unending miseries. He believes in Emma Swan far too much to doubt every single smile she gave him - the annoyed ones that drew tight lines in her cheeks, the ones he teased out with innuendo after innuendo.

That one in the Storybrooke hospital, sad and slightly hopeful. “I’d pick you,” she’d said like she meant it, and he’d thought in that moment that she was apologizing in a way for things she never had to, a sorry for leaving him at the top of beanstalk when she was doing the same as him, protecting her love, her boy through any means necessary while he did the same for Milah, trying to protect her memory by not letting her murderer walk free. “Dead guy of the year,” she’d said like she didn’t want it to be true.

Killian believes in Emma Swan so he gives his best smile -

“Smile for the camera,” Henry had said before flashing that machine in his and Emma’s eyes and blinding them (and then blinding Killian again when he presented the photograph, Emma smiling at Killian’s bewilderment. Her eyes were so crinkled with happiness that you could barely see them in the photograph, so he hadn’t even minded all the other times Henry had attacked him with it because it made her happy, and after all, that’s all he ever wants to do.)

- He gives his best smile and looks up at the man. “Sounds familiar. Lies always do.”

“She said something similar when I asked her what you would think of this arrangement. She said she had a power, and of course, I knew this to be true, every realm knows of the mighty Savior. Well, this power, she said she could always tell when someone was lying to her and…”

The man smiles sympathetically or what could pass for a sympathetic smile if Killian wasn’t certain this man had no such ability in him. He taps the knife now in his grip rhythmically against the table.

“‘Buddy,’ she said. ‘I know you don’t care about what he would say, and neither do I.’”

It sounds like her. No doubt, she’d have shrugged her shoulders and placed her hands on her hips to stare this man down. Her smile would’ve been grim, a dare for him to test her.

“You twist words,” he says, eyes on the man’s instead of on the knife in his hand.

“Do I? Well, we’ll see what you say tomorrow,” he says, approaching Killian.

He draws the knife across Killian’s cheek. Killian doesn’t move. Either way this is going to hurt, but he won’t give the liar the satisfaction of seeing him flinch.

“And the day after that.”

The man slices open Killian’s past scar and it stings, old wounds resurfacing in his new life.

“And the day after that.”

The knife lifts and then it’s buried in his shoulder. Killian screams through his teeth fighting in his chains, fighting the pain that lances him.

“And every day after that she does not come for you.”

With those parting words, he turns on his heel and leaves through the grated cell door. He doesn’t even lock it behind him, a carefully made mistake.

The meaning screaming over the pained whimpers in the back of his throat.

No escape.

I’ll be back.

---

They - the man, his guards, whoever they decide to bring along with them for some casual torture -  slice into his body like it's nothing, so he tries to hold himself together like it's nothing to him as well. He grinds his teeth to keep from screaming out, curses himself every time a grunt leaves his sorry mouth.

And when he does scream, when they take the hot poker to his back branding him with the P for what he is pirate, well, he can't say that he doesn't deserve it, can't say that it isn't what he is.

Realization doesn’t dawn. It comes with the quickness of a storm at sea, lands like lightning bolts against the prow.

Pirate. That's all they ever saw him as. Even after everything, all that he'd done, he was still just a pirate.

And he'd thought he was a man with honor.

He finds himself laughing at the thought even though it makes his chest rattle, makes him even more aware of the broken bones and the deep cuts along his chest, and the one still healing in his shoulder.

It heals so slowly. He’s sure he’s eaten less than one meal in the past...days? He isn’t sure. Time passes in brief moments of unconsciousness, small “gifts” of dirty water, an hour or so where they send in a scared serving girl to clean him for further use, and the fleeting glimpses of sunlight or moonlight when they let in the light from the blocked over window.

Sometimes candle flame just doesn’t do his wounds justice.

Sometimes in the candle flame, he can see Emma. Not her expressions or her form - he isn’t out of his mind - but the flickers of yellow will remind him of her hair, the deep reds the color of her cheeks when she’d kick him under the table for saying something less than appropriate around her parents.

But more, he’d see Emma in the sunlight, the rays on his face like the warmth of her smile, the touch of her kiss.

“I’m coming,” they seem to say.

So maybe he is out of his mind, but it’s better out there than in here with their hands on him and their smiles like knives, sharper than the ones they cut him with.

Smiles that aren’t Emma’s, hands that aren’t hers.

---

He doesn't know when he breaks.

It is like he has been bending since the moment he got here, and so the break doesn't come at any one moment he can pinpoint. It is just that instead of rescue, this is a mistake, and Emma, now all he prays for – when he can muster up the energy to pray at all – is sleep, the blissful, painless dark of sleep.

Praying for death comes later, when they disinfect his wounds, sew him up, and release him to sleep in the corner of his torture chamber, sure that they’ve broken him enough that escape isn’t on his mind.

It isn’t. The last he thought of escape was days or weeks ago when he still thought that he was needed. Now, Killian’s come to terms with the fact that he isn’t. Emma has her family, her mother and father and son, her friends in Ruby and Tink and the other princesses, princes and queens, even the Hatter and the former giant he’d kidnapped while working with Cora.

Certainly, the King and Queen don’t need him. They can do just as well on their own; he was only ever a facilitator for them, not a necessary component. And, Emma – she doesn’t need him, either as a whole man or the broken shell he is now, even with his wounds finally allowed to heal and gifted with his much craved sleep.

It didn’t take much convincing and he suspects all along he was just waiting for this moment, when Emma would choose the Greater Good over him. He doesn’t fault her for that, for choosing her family and friends, the people she loves. In her position, he would’ve done the same – yet his family would have included her.

The people he loves, the woman he loves – goddammit he would’ve chosen Emma, again and again.

 But what does choice matter in this room with the blood stained knives and the open door that he could walk through if he wanted?

If he wanted…

Killian only wants one thing, and he isn’t going to get that, so he settles for sleep instead.

--

It's a dream, she thinks. Or a nightmare, depending on how you look at it.

She can't stop looking, can't stop her eyes from poring over him, collecting every little wound in her heart like they'd torn at her flesh just as they'd torn at him. She can't stop looking at his face, bruised yellow and purple. What's worse - what could possibly be worse, right?

What's worse is the defeat in his eyes when she lifts her trembling hands to unchain his chafed, far too lean wrists.

He doesn't say a word and it's a terrifying moment where Emma thinks "they cut out his tongue" until he licks at his cracked bottom lip and sighs.

"What is the point of this? You don't strike me as the mental torment type. You like to hear me scream. Impersonating Emma won't give you that."

The hoarseness in his voice makes Emma want to scream in his stead. His hair is far too long. She can barely see his eyes - those dull mockeries of the man she -

"Killian, it's me," she says, not expecting him to believe her.

"I know," he says, strange and quiet.

He didn't even move when she removed the cuffs.

"Can you stand?"

"Barely, lass," he says in that same strange voice.

"I'll get my Dad. He'll - he'll help," Emma says and Jesus Christ, her voice is breaking and she can barely breathe.

His broken fingers, scarred and obviously slow healing if the way he winces is anything to go by, wrap around her wrist.

"Stay a moment. Talk to me for a bit."

"I'll talk to you as much as you want as soon as I get you the hell out of this - this damned torture chamber."

She says this yet she can't bring herself to pry his fingers away. Instead she ends up falling to the dirty floor beside him, letting his fingers slide over her arm.

"Thank you," he says.

"For what?" Her words seep bitterness, deep seated self-loathing. "You've been here for a month - it took me a whole fucking month to find you. I'm so sorry, Killian. I'm so sorry."

It isn't right that he should be the one to comfort her, to draw an arm across her shoulder and run his fingers over her neck, just as wrong as her name when he says it. "Emma," in a too quiet tone, like if he speaks too loud she'll disappear.

“I’m not going anywhere,” she says firmly even if that means sitting with him until the end of time. It feels that way already when she shifts her gaze to his. The depths of his eyes seem bottomless, empty wells of blue.

Emma reaches out a hand to touch his face. His skin is warm. When he closes his eyes and leans into her touch, she takes it as a good sign.

If any good signs can be found when they’re still in a place like this.

David finds them like that and if this were Storybrooke, he’d already have the ambulance behind him, a stretcher ready to carry Killian away from this awful room. Instead they only have Emma and David’s arms to help Killian walk.

He leans into Emma as he does. She swears he might say something but she isn’t going to ask him when she’s so focused on getting him to the wagon.

God, the wagon.

She didn’t expect him to be so hurt and the road here was not kind even though it was a short trip from the boats - the boat he’d designed so well that if they’d found him sooner, if they’d found him sooner…

This time she hears him when he says her name. “Emma.” He says it like a wish that won’t come true, says it the way Henry begged her to stay when she first arrived in Storybrooke.

Please, Emma.

“I’m not going anywhere,” she promises. “And neither are you.”

-

Until he feels the sunlight on his back, the Emma in his arms is nothing but a cruel dream. Until he looks up into the sky and feels its burn, too hot already though it can’t be - it can’t be so late.

His sense of time is off.

Everything is off except for Emma and her determined, but careful steps towards the guard surrounded wagon. It looks like half an army has marched with them.

Killian can’t wrap his mind around that...his thoughts are off, too, jumbled.

It doesn’t feel like an escape until he’s bundled into the wagon by Emma and her father - her blood covered father, he realizes in the slow way that he realizes the sun upon his face isn’t as warm as the smile Emma gives him when they’ve both settled in the back.

He’d wished for death and had been saved instead. Isn’t life fickle in its ways?

Killian lets his eyes close for a moment too long and he hears her intake of breath, his name just barely above a whisper. He opens his eyes. Emma looks beautiful in her hunting clothes.

He tells her so. “Hey, beautiful,” he says, and it hurts but he reaches a hand for her to come closer.

She does.

Killian doesn’t intend for her to cry, but she does that too. Still, she smiles at him through it, the smile that’s as bright as the sun, but doesn’t burn him.

For once, it doesn’t hurt, the remembered smiles and touches because her hand on his is real, new memory pushing away the pain of the old.

It isn’t healing, not quite, but it could be if he lets it.

The wagon jumps beneath them and it lances through him - he still hasn’t grown used to the pain - Emma crawls closer, not letting go of his hand. She’s trying to be gentle, but there’s no use to that course of action. All he wants is her hand wrapped tight in his.

Emma is kind enough to agree.

-

When he sees the ship of his design floating in the harbor, that’s when everything dims around him, even the brightness of Emma’s smile.

Alliances require sacrifice on both parts. I provided the materials to rebuild, and – well, I suppose giving up a pirate wasn't much of a sacrifice for them.

He has that branded on his back, he remembers. P for pirate.

Killian waits until he’s in what looks to be Emma’s bed (it has to be because there’s a half folded picture on the nightstand and he’s sure if he opens it up, it’ll be that one of her and Henry on the Jolly Roger). The question tears away at his mind, but he waits until she’s checked all his visible wounds and cleaned around the chafing on his wrists.

He can’t be touching her when he asks, “Where did you get the materials, love?”

She doesn’t seem to understand the question. Her eyes are confused, so lined with worry that he can almost believe it to be real. Wants to believe it.

Try something new, darling. It’s called trust.

He trusts her with everything - trusts her with his heart, but that doesn’t mean she won’t break it.

“For the ships,” he clarifies.

“Arendelle,” she says. “We traded with Arendelle’s Queen Elsa. Do you want to know about her? I can tell you…”

She trails off, eyes flitting across his face. He doesn’t know what she sees because he doesn’t know what he’s feeling, what he’s showing in his expression.

Killian closes his eyes.

“Tell me about it, love.”

Her answer is firm. “No.” A breath passes. “I can see it in your face. Something’s wrong.”

Killian laughs so hard that it rattles the cracked ribs in his chest. It still hurts as much as the first time.

“There’s a lot wrong, Emma. Not just in my face.”

“You’re deflecting.” She was standing by the desk on the opposite side of the cabin, but she crosses the room and sits down on the edge of the bed. Emma bites at her lower lip as she studies him. To be really looked at, really looked at by her - it strips him down faster than their whips had stripped the skin from his back.

Killian shivers and presses his head a little deeper into the pillow. The softness is so different from his hard plank that he can’t get used to it.

“Killian, I -”

“Emma, don’t do this.”

She frowns and the expression deepens into outright fury. Fists balled, she leans over him and says, “What am I doing?”

“You’re picking at scabs that’ll heal on their own,” he says on a sigh.

“Liar.”

He laughs. It’s a softer sound that doesn’t hurt as much. “You’ve found me out.”

Emma uses her fists to keep herself up when she leans further over him and presses a kiss to his forehead. Killian swallows tightly, and the feeling is made infinitely worse by the tear that falls on him.

“I looked for you. For days, I thought - I thought that you’d just - I didn’t believe in you and I’m so sorry. But please, believe in me.”

“I always have,” he says.

It’s the truth, but it’s the kind of truth that digs in like knives. He believes in her - in her strength, in her willpower, in her goodness. But that only makes him believe this more: that had it really been a choice, she would not have chosen him.

“After - after you disappeared, he came. Offered to make a trade with us. He said alliances require sacrifice but that wouldn’t be necessary for us because ‘a simple pirate isn’t much sacrifice at all, is it?’ I tried to - I wouldn’t have let him go, but he had some kind of magic and before I could even lay my hands on him, he was gone.”

She whispers it, but the words are shouts in his ears. “I wouldn’t have let him take you.”

From the very first moment Emma drew that knife on him, he’d seen that she was an open book, unwillingly so. He was much the same, but his had always been open to her if she’d taken the time to look. Sometimes, he’d thought that she just ignored the parts that she didn’t want to see - but now…

Well, he’s used to making amends.

“Aye, but you didn’t have to put yourself at risk for me. Or your family,” he adds, thinking of her father and his blood covered jacket.

“You’re a fucking idiot,” she curses, voice broken with a dozen different emotions. He recognizes all of them, so he waits for her to say it because the hope building in his chest is too delicate for the kiss she lays to his forehead. Weak man that he is, Killian needs more.

It sounds like the end to a conversation she’s had on her own when she says, “I can’t lose you.”

There are words he should say to that. Questions he should ask, but it’s enough for her breath just to ghost across his skin when she says, carefully like the words are as fragile as his body, “You’re my family, too.”

She leans up so that he can truly see her face. Her eyes are red-rimmed and he’s too tired to read more than the fear in their wide pools of green.

“Stay with me?” she asks.

“As long you want.”

She presses her hand to his cheek, trying to be gentle when she rubs her thumb across his cracked lip, but as before there’s no use to that course of action. All he wants is her touch. Emma grants his request, keeps her hand on his cheek until he starts to feel the first tendrils of sleep pulling him under.

The last thing he sees before his eyes fall shut is her smile, so bright to cut through any darkness. It isn’t healing, not quite but it could be if he lets it.

Killian lets it.