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On the Banks of the Acheron

Chapter Text

Acheron [ak-uh-ron] - A river in the Underworld over which Charon ferries the souls of the dead

"No, there has to be another way."

"Didn't you hear Belle, mate? There is no other way."

David turned to stare at Killian as an uncomfortable silence filled the tiny loft space. At least he was looking at Killian. Regina and Mary Margaret were trying their hardest to look at anything but the pirate. Belle, meanwhile, was on the sofa by the window, her arm around Henry's shoulder to comfort him.

The book sat open in her lap, and Killian felt the impulsive need to walk over and grab it from her. "It says so right here. We need Excalibur and we need a life. The darkness can be tethered to the Underworld, but only if the price is paid to tether it there." Killian tossed the book on the kitchen table with a loud bang that made everyone in the room jump. "Our choice is to pay the price and save Emma or let the Dark One consume her. And frankly, we all know that won't take much more."

David rubbed his hand over his weary eyes. "You're right about that," he said. "I think she's getting close to the point where she won't be able to turn back."

"We can always save her!" Mary Margaret said vehemently.

"Can we?" Regina asked. "She's turning dwarves into potted plants and almost roasted the sheriff's station yesterday with people in the holding cells. And let's not forget what she did to Gold."

Belle's face turned towards the mayor. "But he will be OK now that you made that potion for him."

"But I only have so many ingredients for potions and concoctions to combat this dark magic before I run out," Regina explained.

Mary Margaret shook her head. "The price is too high. There has to be another way."

"I think this is our last option," Regina said quietly

All eyes finally moved towards Killian as the loft fell silent. This was going to be hard for all of them.

Henry got up from his seat and threw himself around Killian. "You can't leave us after everything we've done together."

Killian could hear that extra bit that Henry didn't say out loud. You can't leave me. But the pirate had already spilled his heart out for Emma, had already given all he could give, and he gave it all to her. Despite that, Henry's plea struck him square in the chest and he could feel his throat tightening as he wrapped his arms around the boy's shoulder. "Henry, she's going to need you to be strong," he explained soothingly. "You're the one person she loves more than any other."

"She loves you, too," he replied, his voice muffled by Killian's leather coat.

His arms slid from Henry's back as he pushed back a bit to look Henry in the eye. "Aye, she did. But she doesn't now and she won't ever again."

"You don't know that," Mary Margaret said.

"Then I'll just have to keep telling myself that until I do know it." He gave her a sad smile. "It's alright. I have all of eternity to work on it."

Mary Margaret walked over and squeezed her way between Henry and Killian to give the pirate a strong hug. "Once you get Emma back, we'll find a way to get you back too."

"There's no need for that," he said quietly. "You have to be here for Emma."

"You know this is going to break her heart."

"Which is why you have to be here for her." Killian gently pushed Mary Margaret away and headed for the door. "It's time to go, mayor."

Regina nodded once in understanding and started to follow the pirate.

"I'm coming too," David said, quickly grabbing his coat. "You don't get to have all the fun."

Killian gave him a weak smile and slowly trudged down the stairs and out the door. It was already dark out and the wind had picked up a bit. He had become so used to numbing the pain of Emma not being with him that he hadn't paid much attention to the temperature outside. It was only now that he realized that the warm summer air in Maine had begun to be replaced by the chill of the fall.

"We can take my truck," David offered as he unlocked the front door.

Killian opened the passenger side and helped Regina in. "I'm assuming this is part of a plan."

"So far."

Killian slammed the car door closed behind him. "So where are we going, mate?"

"Emma's place."

As they drove through Storybrooke, a nervous silence filled the truck. Regina's leg was thumping up and down while David's fingers danced over the steering wheel. Killian, on the other hand, was still and stoic. It hadn't taken him long to accept that this is what he had to do for Emma. It was the only way she could be herself again. She would just have to be herself without him.

"Wait. Stop here," Regina said from beside him.

David pulled the truck over near the cemetery and shifted into park. "What's going on?"

"We need to have a way to get the fury to find us," she explained. "I think I have something for that in my crypt." She motioned for Killian to get out and he did, offering her a hand as she stepped out of the truck's cab with her high-heeled shoes.

"So what's our next move, your majesty?"

Regina gave him a quick look of indignation for addressing her like that. He was going to miss those. "We'll meet in the park - the bench down by the river - in an hour. That should give all of us enough time."

Killian nodded and pulled himself back into the truck, closing the door behind him. "An hour," he told David quietly.

David pulled away slowly and sighed in the driver's seat. "Next stop is Emma's place."

xxx xxx xxx

"I don't understand," Emma said as she stared at Killian and her father. "I don't want to get rid of this gift. It's who I am now. Why can't any of you accept this?"

"Because you made us promise that we would find a way to get rid of your darkness."

"That was before I realized how it could be used."

Killian was starting to wonder if he was too late, if the darkness had gripped her heart so much that there was no going back. He walked over to Emma, his eyes staring into the blackness of her own. "We need to give this a try."

Her hands reached out and began to stroke the leather lapels of his jacket. "But you just said that if this works, I'll never see you again."

Killian clenched his jaw, trying to relieve the tension brewing in his bones. "You family needs their Emma back."

She cocked her head, trying to figure him out. "But what about you? Don't you need me now?"

He stepped back slowly, watching Emma's hands slip from his coat. "I could live an eternity knowing you're here without me and without the darkness than live one more day with you possessed by this evil." He gave her a bitter smile. "And if this plan works, that's exactly what's going to happen."

Emma sighed in defeat. "Fine. Let me get some things."

She headed for her bedroom, leaving the men alone downstairs.

"We can find another way," David said quietly. "You still have time to back out of this."

"Didn't you listen to what she said, mate? Her heart is only getting darker by the moment. You know we have to do this now."

David stared at Killian before reluctantly nodding silently. They didn't need to say anything to know that there was an unspoken understanding between them. This is how it had to be.

"Is this what you need?"

The men turned to see Emma standing behind them in a long black leather coat that reminded Killian of his pirating days. It was one he had never seen on her before, and he wondered why she had chosen that particular style of coat, if it had anything to do with him. In her hand was the sword - the one he would take with him to the Underworld.

"Let me help you with this," she murmured, wrapping her arms seductively around his waist to buckle the scabbard around him.

He could feel the hair on the back of his neck stand up straight, both for the way her body was so warm next to him and the way her voice was so cold. Killian waited until she was finished, then purposely stepped away from her to stare into her dark eyes.

"Let's go."

xxx xxx xxx

Even with his new leather coat on, Killian felt chilled to the bone. If he had more time, he could've grabbed his long duster from his ship. Instead, he would just have to accept that he would be cold for a long, long time. Of course, it probably didn't help that he was standing on the edge of the river between a very dark Emma Swan and a black fury.

"You'll be back, you know," Emma said coldly. "I'm not here to say my final goodbye."

"We'll see, Dark One."

Emma's hand pulled his away from the hilt of Excalibur at his side, and he turned to look at her. Her hair was still white and pulled tightly into a bun, her lips uninviting, her eyes vacant. They looked the same as they had any time he had seen her in Storybrooke since their return from Camelot. Even aboard his ship with Emma in her pink dress, he knew the darkness still firmly held on to her. He could tell from her eyes. They were still green, but somehow the darkness had snuffed out the gold flecks that Killian could see when he was close to her. Tonight, he could also see a hint of confusion creeping in.

"Why are you even doing this?"

"Because your family needs you back, Emma. The real you."

Her head tilted slightly. "But you know this is the real me."

His jaw clenched at her words. "I'm going to prove to you that that's not true, even if it means I will never see you again."

"You don't have to do this," she said. "There's no reason to do this. I like being who I am."

"But you see, Emma, I know the truth. I know this isn't who you are."

She stared blankly at him before they were both pulled out of the moment by the high-pitched wailing of the fury beside them. Killian turned to see a small boat captained by a dark hooded figure.

"If you loved me, you wouldn't try to change me," Emma said from her spot next to him.

"If I loved you?" He scoffed and turned to look at her. "Let me very clear: I love Emma Swan with all my heart. But what you still don't seem to understand is that you aren't Emma Swan."

"I'm still Emma."

He shook his head and leaned in closer to her. "I would never do what I'm about to do for you. I'm doing this for Emma."

"But if you succeed, you'll never see me again, or Emma, or whoever you think I am."

He took a deep breath. "You're right. I'll never see you again, Dark One. And I'll never see Emma again either. But at least I'll spend the rest of eternity knowing that I fulfilled my promise to her."

"And what promise is that?"

Killian gave her a smug smile. "I found a way to get rid of the darkness."

The hooded pilot pulled the boat alongside the edge of the river, and Killian could feel the fury's ghostly hand push against his back, forcing him towards the vessel. He stepped on, surprised by its stillness on the water even with his boots and the heavy Excalibur strapped to his side.

The ship's captain took his oar and pushed off the bank of the river, steering it back towards where it had come from. The boat moved through the still water with relative ease, as if being pushed by an invisible force. Or perhaps it was just gently being pulled home.

Killian took a quick look back at the shoreline of Storybrooke. Even in the darkness, he could see Regina standing there with David next to her, his hands on his hips as he stared at the boat drifting away from them. And in front of them was the dark version of Emma, a blank look on her face as she watched him drift away.

This was going to be Hell for sure, but Killian would enjoy finally defeating the Dark One.

Chapter Text

Traveling between realms with the Underworld's captain was a new experience for Killian. He was used to the rough transitions when magic beans and water were involved, but this was different. This boat just slowly slipped into the darkness and if Killian hadn't been paying attention, he would have easily missed the light slowly disappearing until there was nothing left.

The only light they now had was a burning torch on the boat filtered through the fury in front of him. Beyond that was nothing.

After what felt like an hour, a glow began to bloom beyond the bow of the ferry. It wasn't the red he was expecting the Underworld to be bathed in but something that actually resembled natural light. Soon, the darkness was completed gone, replaced by a sky full of soft light like setting sun on a clear evening on the water.

The boat pulled up to a dock on the bank of the river with a small storage shed next to it. Apparently even the transportation master of the Underworld needed a place to store his equipment. On instinct, Killian stepped onto the dock before the boat had come to a complete stop, grabbing a small bit of rope from the deck to help secure it. Even in the Underworld, he still couldn't get the sailor out of him. Perhaps he would have to speak with the captain about helping him out for the rest of eternity. Although Killian had no idea what would actually happen to him once he gave his soul over to Hades. He doubted he would have to worry about what to do for a job once he was relegated to the Underworld for the rest of eternity.

The ferry captain got out and stood before him, staff in hand and hood still over his eyes. He waved his free hand towards the fury, giving the spirit permission to leave, and Killian watched it float away down the river. Then the captain turned his hooded head towards the pirate.

"State your name and intention," he said in a deep voice.

Killian pulled himself up straighter and stared at the hooded figure. "Killian Jones. I'm here to see your boss."

The boat captain remained still and silent before his hand moved and slowly lowered the hood on his robe, staring at Killian with blue eyes that matched his own.

"Father?"

The man stood silently for several moments, taking in the pirate's features. It looked like his father - or at least what Killian remembered of his father. It had been so long since he had last seen the man, before he even joined the navy under Liam's protection. Like Killian, the man looked young, as if he himself had also spent centuries in Neverland.

The man's face contorted in anger and he charged at Killian, forcing him against the wall of the shed with the staff against his chest. "What are you doing here?" he demanded.

"What the bloody hell is going on?"

"You're not supposed to be here, Killian! What are you doing here?"

Killian pushed the old man off of him. "I'm here to save the Dark One!" he yelled. Killian straightened out his jacket, trying to process this whole situation without much luck. "I'm pretty sure I could ask the same damn question of you since, apparently, both the woman I love and the father who abandoned me work for the Devil."

"His name is Hades," Killian's father growled.

"So just like the Dark One, you seem to be well versed on the technicalities of being evil. Bloody brilliant."

Killian continued to stare at him. This was too much. This was all too much. His mind was racing, trying to figure out exactly how any of this even happened.

"Let's get moving, Killian," his father said, grabbing his arm and leading him away from the dock. "I don't want anyone to know you're here."

Killian could only nod his head. To be fair, there wasn't anything else he could do at that point, especially considering he was having trouble just thinking about what exactly was going on at this moment. He was in the Underworld, brought here by the devil's captain who also happened to be his father. The father who abandoned him and his brother so long ago.

Davy Jones led his son up a small grassy hill to a house framed in dark wood and surrounded by trees. It all seemed so idyllic and calming, almost as if it was a small river cottage in the Enchanted Forest.

"I thought everything was supposed to be dark here," Killian said as he walked up the steps towards the front door of the cabin, his hook resting on the silver sword on his hip.

"We're in the nice part of town," his father explained with a sarcastic tone.

He pushed open a door that led inside the cottage. In the small main room, there was a fire burning - of course - along with some chairs and a small kitchen. It seemed quite a bit cozy and domesticated for the Underworld. But then nothing was going as Killian expected it to at this moment.

His father undid a black clasp on his robe and hung it on a peg by the door, revealing an outfit that actually looked familiar to Killian: leather pants with a red waistcoat over a black shirt. Apparently, his father was a pirate of the Underworld and the inspiration for Killian's own fashion choices over the centuries.

He closed the door and stood there, hands on his hips, silently taking in his child standing before him. "Son!"

Killian rubbed his ear. "I'm right here. You don't have to yell like that."

His father glared at him. "I wasn't talking to you." He pushed past Killian into the main room of the cottage and walked over to a set of the stairs leading to a lower floor. "Son! We have a guest!"

"I know you're lying because we never have guests," a voice said from the stairwell.

Killian could feel his legs almost give out from under him, and he had to reach for the table next to him to keep himself steady. He could hear footsteps coming up from the stairs below, echoing in his ears, replacing the voice that he hadn't heard in centuries.

It couldn't be.

A man emerged from the stairs and stared at Killian's father. "What are you going on about, old man?"

The man quietly pointed at Killian and another set of blue eyes just like his own turned to look at him.

"Brother?"

Killian prided himself on being tough and never emotional. He didn't cry. And yet standing there in front of Liam, a man he hadn't seen for so long, a man whose death had so deeply affecting him, he couldn't stop his eyes from welling up with tears.

Liam crossed the room towards Killian in three long strides, throwing his arms around him and pulling him close. "Little brother," he whispered. "It is so good to see you."

"Younger brother," Killian replied teasingly as he pulled Liam closer to him, smelling the salt that still surrounded his former captain. For a moment, he forgot how he even came to be here, why he was even in that place in that moment. But then Liam pulled quickly away from him and the moment was broken as his look of joy immediately turned into concern.

"What are you doing here?"

"He's on a suicide mission," their father said from behind them.

"Seriously, Killian. What are you doing here?"

Killian pulled away and took a deep breath. "I'm here for a woman."

"Not just any woman," their father said. "He fell in love with the Dark One."

"She wasn't the Dark One when I fell in love with her," Killian replied bitterly.

"Well, that makes it all better then."

"What right do you have to criticize my choices now after you abandoned us all those years ago?" Killian yelled.

Liam put his hand on his brother's chest. "I think we all need to sit down and talk, Lieutenant."

Killian remembered his occasional outbursts on the deck of the Jewel of the Realm, and he remembered his brother always calling him by his naval title and not his real name to calm him down. He couldn't decide if he was comforted by that memory or not, but he understood the importance of his brother's order.

The three men stood in silence, looking at the others, each perplexed by the situation they currently found themselves in. It was finally Killian's father who sighed before grabbing a bottle of liquor from a small cabinet near him.

"I need a drink," he said gruffly. "Then we'll talk."

Chapter Text

Killian stared at the rum in the glass in front of him, trying to straighten out the thoughts in his head. He was sitting at a dining table in a cabin in the Underworld with his father who had abandoned him and his dead brother. At least, he thought that was what was going on. He still wasn't exactly sure how all of this worked.

The three men silently drank from their tumblers with Killian too afraid to look up, instead running his fingers along the handle of Excalibur, which he had leaning against the table next to him. Perhaps this was all a dream or a nightmare or simply the devil playing tricks on him.

"This isn't real, is it?" he said quietly, looking up to see his father and brother staring back at him.

"It's real," Davy replied. "Perhaps I should start explaining."

"That would be helpful," Killian said bitterly.

Liam put a reassuring hand on his brother's shoulder as if telling him to trust the words he was about to hear. It was a feeling of comfort that he had missed dearly.

His father took a long drink from his glass, forcefully dropping the empty tumbler on the table. "First, you should know that people in this realm call me Davy Jones, just as in your realm. But my formal title here is Charon."

Killian gave him a skeptical look. "As in the ferryman of the Underworld?"

"The one and only." His father looked up at him, and Killian wordlessly motioned for him to continue. "Centuries ago, I was in love with a woman. Your mother. She had this beautiful long brown hair and these brown eyes that you could get lost in. And I got happily lost. But her death…" His voice trailed off and he ran his fingers through his wavy black hair. "Do you remember how she died?"

Killian turned to look at Liam. "She contracted a fever."

Liam immediately broke his gaze to fiddle with the glass in his hand. "It wasn't a fever."

"What do you mean?" Killian replied before turning to his father. "What aren't you telling me?"

"Your mother's heart was crushed by a woman who yielded dark magic. That's how she died."

Killian took a deep breath. All these years, he thought it was just a sickness that had come over her and killed her. He remembered her lying quietly in the captain's quarters on his father's ship, looking as if she was simply asleep. He had always thought she had died peacefully, not in pain as her heart was crushed before her very eyes. He knew all too well how torturous a heart being pulled from your chest could be. But to think that his mother had gone through that struggle, to think that she had died the same way as his first love, it felt like his own heart was being strangled inside his chest.

"Why would someone do that to her?" he asked quietly.

"As I learned later, it was simply because your mother had accidentally bumped into a woman at the marketplace in the port. So pointless." He sighed. "There was nothing that could be done. And I was so overcome with grief, I did something unforgivable."

"You abandoned us."

"I didn't just abandon you," he said somberly. "I was in such despair, that I left you for this life." He looked up at Killian, his eyes dark and brooding. "It's something I know I can never be forgiven for, and that has haunted me every day that I've been here."

Killian stood and began to wander in the tiny space of the cabin, trying to process all this new information about the loss of his family, his childhood, everything he had known that was now wrong.

"But the Underworld has been here for a long time. How could you just take over the job?"

His father shrugged. "Charon is the name for the ferryman, and there were many before me who had held the position. I'm just the current Charon."

"And Liam?" he said, pointing to his brother. "How can Liam be here? Why isn't our mother here too?"

"It was her heart," Davy said quietly.

Liam's cleared his throat and stood up to join Killian. "When a heart is crushed, the person has no hope of coming here. And we have tried." He put his hand on his brother's shoulder. "We even tried for you."

They had tried for him? He staggered backwards to stare at them. "Milah?"

"Aye," Liam replied. "But she was lost to us."

"And you?"

"Dreamshade is actually a creation of Hades so it was pretty easy for father to claim me for this place." He smiled, hoping to comfort his brother after the centuries apart. "I know you've worried about me all these years, but I haven't been alone. And now that you're here with us, you don't have to be alone either."

"But I have something I need to do first."

"Aye, the Dark One nonsense," his father said. "I think it's time for you to explain exactly why you're here."

Killian looked at Liam and nodded his head towards the table, walking back to take his seat with his brother next to him. His fingers once again found comfort in the silver and gold hilt of Excalibur, a sword that was beautiful in its own right but still not as beautiful as the woman whose name was once etched on its blade.

"I'm here for Emma Swan."

His father gave him a surprised look. "The savior?"

"Aye," Killian replied. "How do you know that about her?"

Davy smiled. "There are certain people we all know about here," he explained. "Emma, for example. She's the savior and a bloody good one too. Even Hades has respect for her."

"Well, she saved us by becoming the Dark One." Killian grabbed his glass and drank down more rum, the bitter memories of that night on the street boiling up again inside him. "She took on the darkness for us and now I'm here to save her."

"And how exactly do you plan to do that?"

"With this."

Killian stood and grabbed Excalibur from its perch against the table, pulling it out to show off the ornate silver blade - the blade that he had pulled from the stone and reunited with the Dark One's dagger.

Davy stood and walked over to his son. "May I?" he asked, holding out his hand.

Killian nodded silently and handed the blade over. It shined in his father's hand as he examined it. The large ruby at the end gleamed in the light, and Davy ran the blade against the palm of his hand to get an extra sense of its weight.

"And this is why you're here, brother?"

"Aye," he replied. "We found an ancient text that said the darkness could only be removed from our world forever if the sword came back to its rightful home in the Underworld."

"So you just need to leave the blade here and go back?" Liam asked.

"No. That's not how it works." His father's somber voice was quiet but firm. "There is a price that has to be paid to destroy the darkness, isn't there, son? A life that has to stay in the Underworld?"

Killian could only nod as his brother sank farther into his chair, overcome by the news that this had most definitely been Killian's choice to come here - and to never leave.

"She must be some woman," Davy said, handing the sword back to its owner.

"She is."

"Liam, we'll have to make a trip tomorrow."

Liam nodded. "Of course," he said somberly. "I'll head down now and get the boat prepared." He stood and gave Killian a warm brotherly hug before walking out the door that led to the path back down to the water.

Killian watched him go before turning back to his father. "I don't understand what's going on," he said. "I need to get this darkness out of Emma, which means I need to talk to Hades. That's what I swore I would do. I don't have time for your excursions."

"You have time for this one," his father said. "Besides, I have to check in with my boss anyway. An extra Jones won't be an issue." He looked up and smiled at Killian. "In the meantime, you have to get some sleep. Tomorrow is a big day."

Chapter Text

Killian walked down to the river, following in his father's footsteps. The light above was still the same as it was when he arrived, as if the sun was constantly setting even though it was now morning. Or at least his morning. He was starting to realize that his father and brother no longer seemed to have a true concept of an actual day. Apparently, the residents of the Underworld live their eternal lives differently than they did in the real world.

The water at the dock was still and calm, a sharp contrast to the turmoil in Killian's soul. He once again put his hand on the hilt of Excalibur strapped to his side. It was heavy, but a comforting heavy, almost as if Emma was there beside him.

Emma. He wondered what she was doing right now. Who was with her? Where was she? And most important, what would it be like for her when he handed the blade over to Hades? Killian was happy to have it with him for now, but he was going to be glad to get rid of it knowing that it would help Emma - the real Emma - return to her family. He just wished he could be there to see her triumphant return.

Instead, he would be here forever, and not a day would go by that he wouldn't think of her. At least he had his family now to help him forget the pain. It was a welcomed but unexpected surprise to have them on this journey with him.

His father walked up beside him on the dock as Liam prepared the boat for them to leave. "You ready?"

Killian shrugged. "Doesn't matter if I am or not," he said somberly. "Let's go."

"You know, I can still take you back to the place I picked you up from," his father explained. "You don't have to stay here with us. You can go home."

He turned to his father, who had a look of both pain and sympathy on his face. "There's no home for me there if Emma remains the Dark One."

His father nodded and put his hand on Killian's shoulder. "You've changed quite a bit since you're pirating day, captain."

"You know about my pirating days?" he responded with surprise.

"I know more than you think," he replied. "Of course, it helps that you chose to live on the water. Much easier than trying to track you on land."

"We're ready to cast off, captain," Liam said from his perch on the deck of the ferry.

Davy nodded and lightly pressed his hand against Killian's back, nudging him forward. The pirate took a deep breath and stepped on the boat, again surprised at how little it moved when he added his weight to it. His father followed him with an oar in his hand and took up his position on the back of the boat. Liam, meanwhile, pulled up the small rope and pushed off the dock with his foot. The deck jerked a bit underneath them as Davy steered it into the river before the calm water began to push them along.

Killian was amazed as he looked up at the shore, seeing more cabins and trees that lined the river. It all seemed tranquil and calm, almost like a quieter version of Storybrooke except, of course, that it was nowhere close to Storybrooke. Killian's hand once again found the sword on his side. He felt on edge without knowing what was coming despite the fact that his brother and father seemed to be unphased by the trip.

"Who lives here?" he asked his brother standing beside him.

"Friends and employees of Hades," he explained. "He likes to make sure we're taken care of so we can help him whenever he needs us."

Killian stared at the sparse shoreline. "No one else has a dock?"

"No one else has a boat," Liam said. "Father is the only one. Even with the luxuries we have in this area, no one really has permission to leave. Well, except our father."

"What about you?"

Liam looked out over the bow. "I'm just the assistant."

"So you're the lieutenant?" Killian asked teasingly.

His brother turned to him and smiled. "Don't forget that I outrank you here, little brother."

"I'm sure I'll have a long time to figure it out."

Liam put his arm around Killian's shoulders and pulled him closer. "I'm proud of you for what you're doing. When father said you became a pirate after my death, I worried about you. But you seem to have become quite the hero."

Killian laughed bitterly. "I'm no one's hero."

Liam just tapped him lightly on the shoulder and pulled his arm away, looking back at the river and quietly leaving Killian to his thoughts.

He really was no hero, and he knew that his brother would realize that soon enough. He was just there out of desperation to save the woman he loved, a woman he would never see again. That was all.

Over the bow of the boat, Killian could see another dock come into view - the only one he had seen their entire journey since leaving his father's home. On the hill above the dock was a large mansion made of the same dark wood as his father's cabin. The home towered above the trees that surrounded it with large windows looking out towards the water.

As they got closer, Killian could see a large deck built next to the water with benches and lush green potted plants. At a table on the deck sat a man in a dark suit with dark hair intently reading some papers. The man looked up as the boat approached and smiled in a way that didn't set Killian at ease. His hand slowly fell to the hilt of Excalibur, and he made sure it lay over the ruby at the end to make it harder to be recognized by someone who may be familiar with it. Plus, he prided himself on being a swordsman with enough talent to quickly switch to attack mode if he needed.

The man in the suit stood and walked down to meet the boat as his father deftly steered it to the dock. "Captain, it's good to see you!"

"I hope I'm not interrupting, boss," Davy replied.

"No, of course not," the man said cheerfully. "Just the usual business to keep this place going. Liam, always nice to have you here as well."

"Thank you, sir," he said kindly.

Liam jumped off the boat with a rope to drag it into its final spot, with Davy and Killian stepping onto the dock as he secured it with a sailor's knot.

The man's eyes narrowed suspiciously as he noticed Killian for the first time. "I'm sorry, I don't think I recognize you."

"It's my first time here."

Davy cleared his throat and walked over to the man in the suit. "Sir, this is my younger son, Killian," his father said.

"Hades," the man said, stretching out his hand to greet him.

"Killian Jones."

Hades smiled at him. "Can I call you Captain Hook?" he asked. "I've heard you're quite the swashbuckling pirate, and I even allowed your father some extra time in your world so he could come back with more tales of your escapades. You're quite entertaining."

Killian stared at the man with a bit of surprise. He wasn't sure if Hades being a fan of his pirating ways was a good thing or a bad thing - or really just an odd thing. This was definitely not what he was expecting at all. He took a breath, telling himself to not let his guard down while also trying to encourage this friendly character in front of him to stay friendly.

"I appreciate your admiration, sir, but my father outranks me so Killian will have to do."

Hades smiled at him and gave him a friendly squeeze of his shoulder. "Of course, of course. You always have to admire a man's respect for his father," he said. "So Davy, what brings you by to visit?"

Killian noticed his father's face had taken on a bit of a serious look. "My son is here to discuss some business with you."

Hades looked back at the one-handed pirate. "Well, if he made it this far, I'm sure I can find some time for him. Why don't you three follow me up to the house?"

Killian nodded and muttered a simple "Thank you," while the man in the suit put his arm around his father as if they were old chums and led them up the stone stairs built into the hill.

He could feel Liam come stand at his side as they began their ascent, and Killian turned to see him smiling. "Best behavior, little brother, and your love will be fine."

Being on his best behavior was usually not one of Killian's strong suits, but for Emma, he would do anything.

Chapter Text

Hades led the Jones family into his home, which resembled more of a mansion that Killian had seen in the modern realm than a fire-and-brimstone type place. It still had some Underworld touches - the walls were dark red with black trim to match the black furniture, and the entryway they came in was tall and imposing like you would expect from the guy in charge of a place like this.

A man who seemed to be a servant in a dark suit walked over to the group and began to talk to Hades. "Want anything to drink, boys?" he said, turning towards the Jones brothers. "Rum perhaps, Killian?"

He nodded, figuring it would be good to go along with the big boss. "Aye, thank you."

"Four glasses and a bottle of the good stuff," Hades instructed before motioning for the group to follow him.

They walked down a long hall covered in red silk wallpaper with small black flowers before the hall opened up to a two-story office at the end of it. There was a large mahogany desk in the middle and black leather couches next to a fireplace against the wall. Of course, being that it was practically Hell, there was already a well-lit fire going.

"Please, have a seat," Hades said as he directed the group to the couches.

The Jones boys sat down across from their father just as the servant came in behind them with a silver platter and four glasses of rum. Killian followed Liam's lead and grabbed one for himself, taking a small sip from the etched glass. Of course the head of the Underworld would have some smooth rum.

Hades walked over to the group with a large book he had picked up from his desk and put it on the coffee table in front of them next to the platter.

"This really is one of my favorite drinks. There's just something warm and dark about it, which I really like."

Davy and Liam laughed as if they were having drinks with an old friend. "Warm and dark, sir?" his father said. "That doesn't sound like you at all."

The man's smile got bigger and he gave Davy's shoulder a friendly slap. "I know, right? A bit predictable, I guess." Then Hades looked over at Killian as his expression became slightly more serious. "Not as predictable as you, Killian," he said, pointing a finger in the pirate's direction while still holding onto his tumbler of rum.

Killian gave him his best pirate smile. "A pirate always tries to keep others off guard."

Hades hummed in agreement as he drank, then set the glass on the table next to his big book. "Do you know what this is?" Liam shifted a bit next to him while Killian could only shake his head no. "This is my ledger. My book that keeps track of the population of this place, of all those who are supposed to be here." His fingers began tapping on the cover of the black tome and his eyes narrowed. "You're not in this book, Killian. So why are you here? And more important, how are you here?"

Davy sat up a little straighter and cleared his throat. "Boss, if I may interject for a moment, Killian actually summoned me to get him."

"With what?"

"A fury."

Hades looked back at him with a surprised look. "A fury? Wait… did you summon it or was it Regina?"

"You know Regina?" Killian asked surprisingly.

The man genuinely laughed at his question. "Do I know Regina? Yes, I know all about her. Cora talks about her all the time."

Killian was caught off guard and sat up quickly, too emotional to hide his genuine reaction. "Cora? How do you know Cora?"

Hades just waved him off. "Don't worry, young man. That woman is such a blow hard. Seriously, Davy can tell you as much."

"It's very true," his father replied with a smile.

"If she's not bragging about how much havoc she wreaked in your world, she's bragging about how much havoc her daughters have created. She mentioned you a few times, but with a bit of disdain, so I'm assuming you didn't leave things on good terms. And yet you still survived, which is impressive." He gave Killian a small smile. "Anyway, I'm not all too impressed with that whole lot. I mean, you're doing something wrong if your skin turns green."

Killian gave him a smile. "Zelena definitely is not one to hide her emotions away."

"You know what kind of afterlife I've created for them?" Hades asked with a mischievous gleam in his eye. "They all have to live together when they're here."

"Really?" Liam said.

"I'm going to have so much fun watching the three of them." Hades gave the men a big smile. "But enough about them. You, Killian! You are something." He picked up his glass of rum from the table and leaned back on the couch next to Davy. "So let's get back to you. You got here with a fury. Why?"

Killian stood up, the weight of the sword at his side suddenly more noticeable. "I brought this I was told it was something that you could work with." He pulled Excalibur from its scabbard and held the blade up.

Hades' eyes got wide as he looked at it. "I noticed it at your hip at the dock but thought I was wrong about it. I haven't seen that sword since it was forged here centuries ago. May I?"

Killian gave him a slight nod as the man stood up across from him with his hand open. As soon as Hades touched it, the pirate could immediately see the wonder come over his face. "I've missed this blade," he said wistfully as he carried it over to the fireplace to see it better with the light from the flames. "One of my favorites! It carried some darkness with it, of course, but only near the tip of the blade. It was a good balance between light and dark. And then it was cut down like some cheap weapon to be used as a dagger instead. It was their own fault for untethering the darkness from its light balance."

"I'm sorry, I don't understand. It wasn't always a dark dagger?"

Hades leaned on the sword, the tip of it digging into the rug in front of the fireplace. "No, not at all. It was forged to be a sword that balanced light and dark. But the dark is at the tip, the place where it makes its first entrance into an opponent's body, for example. It was passed from hand to hand for generations until someone decided to have it cut down to unleash the darkness. Shame too. It's a beautiful piece when it's together." Hades gave him a tight smile. "So why are you wielding it now? I can tell you aren't the Dark One, but I haven't been keeping track of where the dagger's been lately. You know, running the Underworld," he said with a smile.

Killian took a deep breath to make sure he could control his emotions for what he was about to say next. "A woman I love is the Dark One. I was told you could get the darkness out of her if I brought this to you."

"A woman you love?" Hades asked.

"Her name is Emma Swan," Davy said. "She's the savior."

Killian gave his father a surprised look, but Davy just shrugged in response.

"Emma?" Hades said in a quiet voice. "How did she become the Dark One?"

He looked away, his eyes moving towards the windows on a far wall that overlooked the river. "She took on the darkness to save us."

"Ha!" Hades said, lifting the blade with a look of amazement on his face. "Of course she did. That curse of Regina's had quite the fail safe. I mean, even I couldn't have predicted what a strong savior Emma would turn out to be." He looked back to Killian and smiled. "So you're here to save the savior?"

"Aye."

Hades stared at him intently. "You know, your father has talked highly of you, and Liam has as well. Even when you became a pirate, they saw the good in you. I understand why now. You're quite the captain."

Killian's eyes met the boss. "I'm just a deckhand here, sir," he said. "My father is the captain."

"Of course, of course. And the best I've had in centuries!" Hades said with a wave of his hand as he looked over to Davy. "So Killian, why do so much to see me?"

"I need you get rid of Emma's darkness."

Hades gave him a questioning look. "You realize that there is a price to pay for this magic."

Killian nodded solemnly. "I understand."

"What do you understand?"

Killian stared at him. "I understand that if you remove the darkness from that sword, it will take away the darkness from Emma. And in exchange, I have to stay here for eternity. That's the price."

Hades gave him a skeptical look. "And you're willing to stay here for her?"

He looked at his brother and his father, trying to tell himself it wouldn't be that bad. He had his family here now. He could find solace in losing his love by being here with them. Of course, he would apparently have to avoid Cora, but he could manage her.

"Killian, will you stay here?"

"Aye," he said solemnly.

Hades took a deep breath. "OK then."

He casually stuck the tip of the blade into the fire burning in front of him, and the flames began to flicker around it before turning a bright blue. Killian could see the tendrils of darkness being pulled from the blade, catching fire, and collapsing into ash in the hearth of the fireplace. And then… then it was over.

"All set," Hades said.

He leaned the blade against the stone around the fireplace and walked back to his place on the couch. Then he grabbed the glass of rum and leaned back, taking another casual sip as if he had just signed off on some boring paperwork. Liam and Davy seemed to be unphased by the whole thing as well, as if this was just another day on the job.

"Welcome home, brother," Liam said, tipping his glass before taking a drink.

Killian just stood there in shock, confused by the whole situation. "That's it?" he asked incredulously.

"That's it," Hades said with a friendly smile. "I mean, I can do a little dance if you want or something. Maybe put some devil horns on if you would prefer."

"No, I wouldn't prefer."

"Bummer. Your father bought me a pair as a gag gift the last time he was in your realm for Halloween."

Davy smiled. "They light up and everything."

Killian couldn't understand any of this. All this effort and time and emotion, and that dagger was fixed with a simple wave over a flame in the Underworld? He sank down on the couch and slammed back the rest of his rum in one swift move, letting the liquor burn his throat before slowly putting the glass down in front of him.

"Sorry it wasn't a bigger production," Hades said with a kind tone. "If it helps, you're not the first person I've disappointed. I just like having things be quick and easy, which apparently doesn't fit with the view of who I am back where you're from."

"It's fine," Killian said quietly.

Hades grabbed the bottle of rum and smiled before pouring more into Killian's glass. "Emma seems like she's quite the woman."

Killian smiled slightly and picked up his tumbler. "That she is." He tipped the glass in thanks in Hades' direction and downed the entire thing.

Chapter Text

If someone had told Killian that he would enjoy hanging out with the guy in charge of the Underworld, he would never believe them. But that's exactly what happened.

The trip to see Hades lasted longer than he expected it to, and Killian actually did enjoy his time there after the whole Excalibur thing. But then he wasn't thinking about that. He was drinking rum. He was telling pirate stories. He was spending time with his father and his brother. He was most definitely distracting himself from thinking about the fact that this was his life now, because his life now didn't include Emma Swan.

Killian was finishing a story about a particular night with a particular bar wench centuries ago when Hades' servant came into the room to give him a sign that he was needed elsewhere.

"While I would love to have you all stay and drink my home dry, I apparently have some work that needs to be attended to," Hades explained as he stood.

As the Jones family started to head out of the office, Hades grabbed Davy's arm and whispered something in his ear. "Boys, would you mind if I just had a moment with the boss?"

Liam and Killian nodded and followed the servant back to the grand entrance and out the doors they had come in.

"Does father usually have conversations alone with him like this?" Killian asked subtlely as they walked down to the docks.

"It happens, but it's not normal." Liam turned to take in his weary-looking brother. "You alright, brother?" he asked quietly.

"Aye."

"It's been a long time since I last saw you, but I still know when you're lying."

Killian gave his brother a tight smile. "I am happy to be back with you and our father. I didn't expect that at all. But…" He trailed off before taking a deep breath. "I had to let go of Emma."

Liam nodded. "That you did, brother. You were definitely the hero I remembered you to be."

"Again, I have to remind you that I was never a hero," he scoffed. "I just followed your orders."

They stopped at the edge of the water near the dock, and Liam looked wistfully out at the river running in front of them. "I'm here because I was stubborn and didn't listen to you, Killian. And I would've arrived even sooner if you weren't there to save me in Neverland. That makes you a hero." His boot kicked at some of the rock on the shoreline. "And I know about David."

"Pardon?" Killian asked.

Liam's blue eyes snapped up and looked at him. "I know about David. About the way you were able to save him after his run-in with the dreamshade."

Killian could feel his throat tightening with emotion. "It was the right thing to do."

Liam gave him an understanding smile and a pat on his shoulder. "It was good form for sure, brother. I expected nothing less from you."

Killian smiled, aware that even after all this time, his brother's opinion of him still carried so much weight. This was what Killian had missed, this feeling that he and his brother belonged together. They were partners on the deck of the Jewel of the Realm, and they would be partners again now doing whatever it was Liam usually did here. Killian was a little startled to realize that he still didn't actually know what exactly Liam did in the Underworld aside from occasionally helping their father. But just as he was about to ask, Liam looked up the hill to see their father walking down to them.

"Time to go," Liam said as he walked down to the dock and started untying the rope for their journey home.

Killian's father walked past him with a stoic look on his face, barely acknowledging the son he had seemed so proud of just a few hours earlier.

"Something wrong, father?"

"Get on the boat," he said quietly.

The three of them pushed off, headed back in the direction they had come in. The air was warm with a gentle breeze through the trees along the banks as they quietly slid through the water. It was all so tranquil and peaceful - something that would take some time for Killian to get used to. It wasn't bad. It was actually really nice. But it just wasn't what he had expected.

After a short time, his father's dock came into view, and Liam began to pull on the ropes at his feet to prepare for their arrival home.

The boat kept going.

Killian wasn't the only one surprised by the change in course. "Pa, what are you doing?" Liam asked.

Davy continued to look straight ahead. "Taking Killian home."

Killian's eyes narrowed as he stared at the older man. "I am home. This is my home now, father."

"No, it's not."

"I thought..." He shook his head, trying to clear out the jumbled mess that seemed to be forming in his brain. "I thought I was staying."

"You're not," his father replied as his eyes continued to stare at the horizon.

Killian started to get worried. If his father was sending him back, what would happen to him? What would happen to...

"What about Emma?"

"She needs you."

"But I paid the price for her!" Killian said. "What about the price?"

Davy's lips turned into a smile and he finally turned to look at his son. "Hades and I laughed a bit about how wrong you got it," he said. "That was dark magic you were messing with. You can't just poof it away without repercussions."

"Which is why I have to stay," Killian growled. "What other repercussions are there?"

"True love's kiss."

He gave his father a dumbfounded look.

"You need true love's kiss, son," he said. "You're going to get back to Storybrooke and find Emma is void of the darkness, but she's not awake."

"But her family is there. Her son. They don't need me."

"A kid Henry's age doesn't have the depth to understand true love, and Emma's parents have a whole curse to make up for. But you?" Davy looked back up over the bow of his boat. "You are once again the only one who can save her. Hades may be in charge of the Underworld, but he isn't the bad guy everyone thinks he is. And you made quite the impression."

Killian didn't understand. All this time he thought he had to give himself over, but just being nice to the guy in charge saved him from an eternity without Emma? Killian could feel the warmth returning to his chest - a warmth that only she could give him. But then that warmth once again began to fade.

"What about you?"

Davy smiled wistfully. "I work here. I live here. I stay here," he explained. "But that doesn't mean I can't come to visit."

"Isn't it a bad omen when you come to visit?" Killian asked jeeringly.

"Not always," he replied. "I used to watch you from afar, especially when you were out on the water on the deck of your ship. No reason why I can't do that again. And now that you know who I really am, I hope you wouldn't be adverse to having me come ashore from time to time and actually visit with you."

"I wouldn't mind having the two of you visit at all."

Killian noticed something change in his father's expression, but he couldn't really explain it, especially considering how dark the sky was becoming. The darkness began to surround the entire boat until Killian could barely see what was in front of them. His father's centuries as the captain of this ferry must have trained him to navigate this section of their journey in a way that no one else - not even Killian - could fully grasp.

But then the darkness began to lift again and Killian started to recognize the forest around them. Storybrooke. He had prepared himself to never see this place again, and yet here he was right back where he started this journey.

The boat stayed still under him as Liam stood on the deck and solemnly pulled it flush with the bank of the river in front of the familiar park bench he had spent so much time sitting on with Emma.

Killian had to take a deep breath to steady his emotions again, reminding himself that he wasn't going to have to say goodbye to them for good. This time, it was simply a goodbye for now. His brother and father would be back to see him again. It wasn't the ending it had been in the past.

Killian stepped back and hugged his father, holding on tight to the man who had one around him while the other stayed on his oar.

"I'm so proud of you, son."

Killian could only pull him closer, not able to respond with any words to his father. And then he pulled away slowly and smiled. "I'll see you again?" he asked.

"You will," his father replied with a small smile. "I'm not going to let go of you as easily as I did before."

"Good."

Killian walked up to the bow of the boat where Liam stood and gave his brother a hug as well. It was still amazing to him that the man who once died in his arms was now standing before him - and would be there to see him again.

"I know our father is in charge of this ferry, but you will always be my captain," Killian said quietly.

"I'll see you again, brother," Liam replied. "Take care of my ship for me."

"Always."

Killian pulled away and gave his brother a tap on his shoulder before finally taking a breath and stepping up on to the bank. He turned around to get another look at his father, who remained still at the back of his ferry.

"Go on, Liam."

His brother quickly turned and the two of them stared at their father in shock. "Go where?"

Davy gave him a sad smile. "You weren't the only one who was given a pass to come back to this world. Now go and promise me you'll keep an eye on that pirate brother of yours."

Liam stood still for several moments before slowing walking back to the stern of the boat and pulling his father close to him, whispering something in Davy's ear that Killian couldn't hear. Then he stood back and took another look at his father, squeezing the man's shoulders with affection.

Liam took a leap from the deck of the ferry, putting his feet on the solid ground next to Killian before leaning over and pushing the boat away from the shore.

"Promise me you'll look out for each other!" Davy yelled as he began to steer the boat back where they had come from.

"We promise!" Liam replied.

Davy gave them one last smile and turned back to the river. The two Jones boys watched their father drift out of sight, knowing that this time there would be no last goodbyes. This time, their father would come back for them.

"So," Liam said, clearing his throat to try and erase the emotion that lingered there. "I think you have somewhere to be, don't you?"

Killian's eyes snapped to his brother as he remembered that his mission was still not over. There was still one more thing to do.

"Lead the way, brother," Liam told him. "It's time for you to be a hero. Again."

The pirate smiled at his brother's words. "Follow me, captain."

Chapter Text

The Jones boys were breathing heavily from their run by the time they made it to the white picket fence in front of Emma's house. Despite the fact that he was determined to finally break the Dark One's curse, Killian still had to stop and catch his breath for a moment before he could even walk up to the gate in front of the house.

"Quite a nice place for a Dark One."

Killian turned to see Liam standing with his hands on his hips, catching his breath as he stared at the blue-and-white home in front of them.

"She wanted a white-picket-fence kind of life," Killian explained.

"Emma Swan seems to be full of surprises."

Killian's face broke into a smile. "Don't I know it."

He started up the sidewalk towards the house, his brother close behind him as he opened the gate.

"Killian?" Henry was staring at him from the front stairs of the home, his eyes wide in surprise. "Killian!"

He came bounding down the stairs at full speed, launching himself at the pirate and pulling him in for a huge bear hug.

"Hello, lad!" he replied, trying to sound cheerful and light to cover up the deep emotion he felt for seeing the boy again. Henry wasn't his own son, but he felt a sense of responsibility for the boy, especially after Baelfire's death. And he always did enjoy spending time with him out on the water, something Killian thought he would never be able to do again before he left only a day earlier.

"I'm so glad you're back," Henry said before finally letting go. "We figured you succeeded when my mom passed out and her hair color changed back."

"She's a blonde again?" Killian asked cheerfully. "Well, that's a nice change."

Henry's demeanor changed, as if he was about to deliver some bad news. "She's been asleep for a week now, and we can't figure out how to wake her."

Killian's face went from amusement to shock. "A week? What are you talking about? I left yesterday!"

He felt his brother's hand close around his shoulder as Liam leaned in closer to him. "Time passes differently here than in the Underworld."

"Are you bloody kidding me?" Killian muttered to himself as he started walking up the stairs. "Is she inside, lad?"

"Yea, in her bedroom!" Henry yelled up to him. "Wait, who are you?"

Killian turned to see Henry staring intently at his brother. "Oh, my manners, lad. Henry, that's my brother, Liam. Liam, Emma's son Henry. Now let's go."

The others didn't wait for friendly handshakes or more formal introductions. Instead, they just followed Killian in the front door.

"Brother, I'll wait down here for you," Liam called out as Killian started charging up the stairs, too determined to reply. "Go ahead, lad. I'll be fine down here," he could hear his brother say to Henry, followed by the boy's steps behind him.

At the landing at the top of the stairs, KIllian looked around, realizing that the Dark One had never invited him this far into her house and he had no idea which room actually belonged to her.

"This way," Henry said, pushing past him towards an open door at the end of the hall.

He followed the boy into the room to find shocked faces staring back at him - faces he never expected to see again.

"Hook," David said quietly.

"What are you doing here?" Regina demanded.

"I'm here to save Emma."

He looked around, finding her lying peacefully on her bed with her mother sitting in a chair by her side.

"Well, welcome back and good luck with that," Regina said sarcastically. "I don't know what you did to get the darkness out of her, but she's been asleep ever since. You have some sort of plan we haven't thought of?"

Killian's lips curled up at the mayor's questions. "I have a plan."

And with that, he took two large strides to Emma's bedside and leaned over her, pausing briefly to look at her. Her hair was blonde again, just as Henry had described it, and it was laying around her on the pillow in those soft curls that he loved running his fingers through. Fingers that were getting twitchy in the hopes that they could touch her soft skin again - and Killian was more than happy to oblige.

He took her face in his hands and pulled her close, kissing her hard and passionately as if the extra emotion he poured out of himself would wake her faster, get deeper into her soul to spark the light and warmth that she still had inside her.

It felt like forever before she finally responded, but her first reaction seemed to be the need to harshly push him away. It reminded him a bit of the time he kissed her in New York, trying to break that curse with true love's kiss - a kiss that turned out to be a failure.

This time, it worked.

Emma grabbed at the lapel of his coat, almost as if she was pulling on it to ground her in reality again. Then she looked up at him with her green eyes blazing, and a smile began to creep across her lips.

"Killian." It was a whisper, tinged with more awe than shock. It was as if she knew he was going to come back. Unlike everyone else in the room, for her, there was no doubt.

"Miss me, love?" he asked teasingly.

She pulled him down and kissed him again, this time with passion and emotion. "You saved me, Killian," she whispered against his lips. "You saved me and came back for me."

"I told you I was a survivor."

She laughed quietly and looked into his eyes, only inches from her own. "Thank you."

David cleared his throat behind them, loud enough to make both of them jump a bit and break them out of their moment. "Sorry, Hook. I just wanted to give my daughter a hug."

Killian stood up and gave Emma a wink. "I'm just going to head downstairs for a few minutes, love."

"You don't have to leave," she said.

"There's someone I need speak with," he explained. "I promise I'm not leaving you."

Emma smiled at him before being attacked by her son, throwing his arms around her neck to welcome her back. Before he walked out, Killian turned one last time to see Emma, her eyes closed, hands pulling in her son for a hug. Her mother's head was on her shoulder, and her father cradled the back of her head like he always did when he pulled her close. Emma was back to old self, the self she was before she had become the Dark One, and it was because of Killian.

xxx

Killian could barely feel his feet touch the floor as he walked down the hall towards the stairs. He didn't see Liam when he initially got to the bottom of the stairs but then heard cupboards opening and closing in the kitchen.

"Brother?"

Liam was startled by his voice and turned around quickly to face his brother. "Sorry, I was just uh…" He stared at the open cupboard in front of him. "I'm not used to being this hungry. I guess I forgot how much different the Underworld is from your world."

Killian smiled and put his hand on his brother's shoulder. "And it's once again your world too." He looked in the cupboard Liam had opened to see cans stacked on the shelves. "You don't want this," he said.

Killian closed the cupboard door and began to look around. If the dark version of Emma had organized this kitchen the same way his Emma had organized hers, he knew exactly which cupboard to open: the one next the fridge.

Sure enough, his Emma hadn't let him down. He pulled out a blue package with the word Oreos on it and handed them to his brother. "You'll want these," he said triumphantly. "And…" He paused, again thinking about the layout in Emma's loft. Just as predicted, she put her drinking glasses in a similar place. The milk was always inside the fridge.

Killian poured them two glasses of milk at the table as Liam sat down. "This isn't rum, but you'll like it anyway."

"Well, that's good because I never drank rum. You were the pirate, not me."

"And I was a bloody good one at that!"

The Jones boys began to eat the sugary treats Killian had collected - and he even taught Liam how to dip the chocolate cookies in the milk for added deliciousness. It was nice to have just the two of them together doing something so minor and trivial. These quiet moments between the brothers were moments that Killian missed the most after his brother was gone. To have them back, well, that was something he would never take for granted again.

Of course, David apparently was the moment destroyer for the day, loudly clearing his throat again, causing both Jones boys to quickly look up at him.

"Does Emma know you're eating her Oreos?"

Killian gave him a big cheesy grin. "I'll buy her more."

David walked over the to the table, grabbing a cookie from the package before extending his hand to the stranger in the room. "I'm David Nolan, Emma's father."

The older Jones brother reached out and shook David's hand. "Liam Jones."

"Liam? Wait." David looked back and forth between the two men. "Are you Killian's brother?"

"I am, sir."

Killian just rolled his eyes and smiled some more. Of course his brother would be polite and all business, even after returning to this world.

David pulled out the extra chair at the table and slowly sat down, his cookie completely forgotten about. "I don't understand. You're supposed to be dead, right?"

"Not anymore, mate," Killian said before stuffing a cookie in his mouth.

"This is confusing," David said slowly.

"Aye. Let me explain. Liam was living in the Underworld with our father, who is the pilot of the ferry that picked me up from the river bank. He took me to Hades, who thanked me for giving Excalibur back to him, and then he let me return here and bring my brother with me."

David just stared at him in disbelief. "I'm missing quite a bit of this story."

"You want details?"

"I think I may need some rum first."

Killian gave him a sly smile and reached for the flask in his back pocket. "I can help you with that," he said, handing it over.

Chapter Text

The sun had already set on Storybrooke by the time Killian and Liam were done telling their story and answering all of David's questions - and there were many. They were only pulled out of their discussion when they heard footsteps and voices from upstairs.

Emma was the first one down and looked much more like herself. Her blonde hair cascaded over her shoulders in the waves he remembered so well, and she was wearing her usual jeans with black boots with a white sweater. She was bright and light and beautiful.

"Sorry I took so long," she said as she walked towards the kitchen. "I really needed a shower."

Killian walked over and wrapped his arms around her. "Had to wash away the darkness, love?"

"You could say that." She pulled away from him but only slightly, her green eyes still so close that he could see the small flecks of gold that had returned to them - something else that the darkness had taken from her. "Thank you," she said quietly.

"It was the right thing to do, Swan."

She gave him a warm smile followed by a kiss, her lips so inviting and intoxicating. He had definitely missed them.

Of course, he didn't miss David, who apparently was uncomfortable with their public display of affection and cleared his throat - again. For as much as the man had become a friend, Killian would have to remind himself that David was also Emma's father, and he definitely acted that way at times. Now, for example.

"Hey, what happened to my Oreos?" Emma said suddenly.

Killian followed her line of sight to the empty package on the kitchen table. "Uh, I can explain."

"Really?"

"It was my fault, my lady."

Killian smirked at Liam's pomp and formality. "Emma, this is my brother, Captain Liam Jones."

"Brother?"

He took a deep breath. "Liam was able to help me out with the whole…" His voice tapered off, not wanting to explain the experience again, or do it in front of Emma. It would just be too much after everything he went through for her. "Anyway," he said, trying to move on with a flourish of his hand. "This is Liam. My brother. And he's going to be here with us in Storybrooke now."

Emma gave Liam a big smile and threw her arms around his neck in a move that actually made Killian a little jealous. "We're glad to have you here," she said.

Liam smiled and put her arms around her. "I'm happy to be here, my lady."

Killian involuntarily cleared his throat. Damn David for getting that idea in his head in the first place. Emma pulled away and gave him a knowing smile that told him she understood exactly what he was thinking - and she would tease him about it later.

Killian introduced Regina, Robin and Mary Margaret to him, and noticed the small flicker of jealousy in David's eyes when Liam took extra care shaking Mary Margaret's hand. "You don't look old enough to be Emma's mother," he quipped.

"That's another story for another day, brother."

"Yes, another day," David said pointedly.

"Can we tell it over dinner?" Emma asked. "I'm starving after that whole dark thing and sleeping for a week."

"Grilled cheese and onion rings at Granny's?" Killian said.

"Yes. Now."

Liam turned to his brother with a confused look on his face. "What are onion rings and who is Granny?"

"Just you wait and see," Killian said. "Oh, but Granny is a good shot with a bow so don't insult her cooking."

xxx

The last of the plates had been cleared away a few hours ago, but the small group had stayed until Granny finally told them it was time to go home.

"Will you need a room for the night?" she asked Liam.

"No, he doesn't," Killian interjected.

Liam looked a bit surprised before turning back to her. "But thank you for the offer. And the food was delicious this evening, ma'am."

Granny seemed a bit flustered and thanked him for the compliment. Unlike the pirate, Liam would have no problems making friends with the people of this town.

The group headed out and began to make their way down Main St., Emma's hand firmly in Killian's. As they passed by Gold's pawn shop, he quietly asked her where Belle was. "I haven't seen her since I got back."

"Right after you left, Gold and Belle headed out of town," Emma explained. "I think they were both afraid that if the darkness became untethered, that it would try and return to him."

Killian nodded in understanding. He knew all too well the dangers of having the darkness out there again, and having it try to worm its way back into Rumple's soul. "Belle is going to be alright?" he asked.

"I think so," Emma said. "You seem quite concerned for her."

He shrugged. "She's quite a resourceful woman when it comes to magic. It's because of her that we were finally able to figure out how to get the darkness out of you," he said. "Speaking of which, I never did ask how that happened. You know, how the darkness left you."

"I just had this feeling in my chest," she explained. "This warmth that started to spread through my body. And then the darkness just kind of… Well, we had a fire in the fireplace and I was sitting around with everyone, staring daggers at all of them."

"Really? Those are the words you want to use?" he asked teasingly.

Emma smiled. "Anyway, the darkness just kind of seeped out of me in these tendrils. And then it all slowly got sucked up by the fire and disappeared. Definitely not as dramatic as when I let it take over me."

Killian nodded his head. He knew all too well how undramatic the destruction of the darkness turned out to be. But the fact that the fire had destroyed it the same way it had when he was with Hades - well, he knew it wasn't a coincidence. But he didn't think she was ready for the story just yet.

The group made it the street that led down to the pier, and Killian pulled her aside while everyone else continued towards Emma's house.

"I know I haven't been back long and I really do want to spend more time with you -"

"I have my family with me. Go be with your brother." She grabbed the lapels of his jacket, trapping him in a delicious kiss that he savored before she slowly pulled away. "We have lots of time to spend with each other later. Alone."

A slight moan escaped Killian's throat. "Alone sounds very good."

She gave him a teasing smile. "Go home, pirate."

Emma turned and started heading towards her family, who had stopped to wait for her on the sidewalk. They were all smiling at her, especially Henry, who reached out to grab his mother's hand.

"Oi, Jones!" Killian yelled out. "We're going this way."

Liam turned to say his goodbyes and by the look on Mary Margaret's face, Killian was sure the captain was impressing her. Yep, he was going to have no problem making friends in this town.

The group finally parted with Emma's family headed back to her place while Liam walked over to his brother. "So where are we headed this evening?" he asked. "Granny seemed like she was more than welcome to have us stay with her."

"I have a place better than Granny's," Killian explained quietly as he started walking towards the pier.

The night had become a bit chilly and Liam pulled his coat tighter around him. "I forgot what cold felt like after those centuries in the Underworld."

"Well, you know how much colder it can get when you're closer to water."

"Why are we headed for the water?"

Killian stopped and nodded towards the docks. "To get you home."

Liam turned and looked up - and up and up. His eyes took in the masts that still stood tall, the sails that Killian had tied down before he left, the rigging that held his ship in place. Well, their ship. Killian's ship was once again reunited with its true captain, and he was more than happy to have it be so.

"She's still a jewel, isn't she?" Liam said in awe.

"Well, actually she's the Jolly Roger now."

Liam nodded solemnly. "Right, right. Father told me you had rechristened her after, well, after everything."

The pirate put his arm around his brother's shoulder. "And we can rechristen her again now that her captain is back."

His brother smiled at him. "Well, you're her captain now, Killian."

He just shrugged and started walking down to the dock. "We can share," he said with a smile. "C'mon, captain. Stop standing there."

Liam jogged a few feet to catch up to his brother and the two of them finally made their way up the gangplank on the dock. Killian watched in awe as Liam finally set foot on his ship again, his hands running over the railings and the ropes as he looked up at the tall masts. Then he stared down at the deck under his feet, his left toe skimming the boards before he found the spot he was looking for. He stepped on a loose board, sending the end of it up while his foot almost got stuck in the hole he created.

"Yea, I keep meaning to get that fixed," Killian said.

His brother just smiled and gently put the board back in place. The wind started to pick up and Liam pulled his coat tighter around him.

"Let's get inside," Killian said.

Liam headed towards the hatch leading down towards the captain's quarters before abruptly stopping, staring at the deck with a awkward look on his face. "I guess I should follow you since she's yours now."

"You know this ship as well as I do, if not better. Go ahead."

Liam stood still for a moment before giving Killian a nod and continuing towards the hatch and down the ladder. Killian followed, intent on seeing the look on Liam's face as he laid eyes on his quarters after being away for so long. He wasn't disappointed. His brother's face was stoic as he surveyed the room before a small awed smile teased at his lips.

"I missed this cabin," he said quietly.

"I'm sorry if it's not totally how you remembered," Killian said. "Milah insisted on adding some color to the place, and I definitely didn't keep it as tidy as you did."

"To be fair, you were the captain of a pirate ship," Liam replied. "I'm sure your standards weren't the same as a naval officer."

"No, they weren't."

Killian looked away as he felt his cheeks begin to burn with embarrassment. He spent two centuries in this cabin on this ship, and never lived up to the standards his brother had set for him and the rest of the crew. He was still just a pirate no matter how much time had passed.

"Stop overthinking this, brother."

"What?" Killian said as his eyes snapped to his brother.

Liam gave him a teasing laugh. "You were always the one who overthought things. Good form and all that, but you seemed to take it to the extreme."

"I did even after you left too," he replied. "Even if I adjusted the definition for the life of a pirate."

"It was still good form," Liam said. "Now let's say we have a night cap. Maybe some of your rum?"

Killian raised his eyebrow in mock surprise. "Well, if the captain insists."

Chapter Text

Killian wasn't sure how long they had been talking. It must've been hours, especially considering the amount of catching up they had to do. He was surprised by how much his brother had done for their father during his time in the Underworld and how much he knew about the pirate's exploits in this realm. Apparently, their father had been keeping quite the eye on Killian, and he never had a clue.

"To be fair, he was Hades' captain," Liam explained. "There are certain perks that come with the job. Blending in, for example." He took a drink of rum from the tumbler in front of him. "Plus, you were a cocky pirate. You didn't always pay attention to those who weren't part of your crew."

Killian smiled at just how right his brother was.

And so it went, gently teasing each other as they always had, until both of them paused when they heard a noise outside. Although to be fair, whoever had come aboard was not very quiet as they marched along the ship's deck. Whoever it was also still felt the need to tap lightly on the captain's hatch despite the fact that they were so loud announcing their presence.

Killian opened the hatch to see Emma staring down at him, her blonde hair falling around her face.

"Hi," she said quietly.

"Swan. Come on in."

"I know it's late, but… " Her voice trailed off as she paused on the ladder. She noticed Liam across the room, who had stood up as she entered. "I'm sorry. I'm interrupting you two," she said, turning to leave.

"Come back, Swan. You're not interrupting anything."

"In fact, I was just about to get some sleep, lass. It's been a long day."

Liam gave them a slight nod and started to make his way out of the room when Killian gently hooked his arm. "Where are you going?"

"These are your quarters, Killian."

He gave his brother a teasing smile. "You were the captain first. This ship belongs to you. I'll be bunked up in the crew quarters."

"You don't have -"

"Good night, Liam," Killian said quietly. "I will see you in the morning."

Liam stepped back to allow Emma and Killian to get through. "Good night, m'lady," he said, bowing his head slightly towards her.

"Good night, Liam." Emma leaned over and gave him a friendly kiss on the cheek that may have made Killian a little jealous.

He held the door open for her and then followed her down the small hall through the Jolly Roger to the crew's quarters. As she walked in the door to stand among the bunks, he remembered the last time she was there with him, trying to get ready for a fight on their way to Neverland. Things had changed so dramatically for both of them since that trip so long ago.

"You know, I can't remember the last time I slept in this cabin," he told her.

"Centuries?"

"Most likely," he replied with a smile. "But I never had a woman as beautiful as you by my side in a bunk here."

"Good form?"

"Lack of space?" he said mischievously before his tone became serious again. "But yes, I had to be a good example while under my brother's captaincy."

"And now?" she asked.

He sighed and looked over at her. "The last two days have been quite… confusing for me."

Emma gave him a sad smile. "I know. I apparently lived through a very strange week, and I don't remember any of it. Everything just seems different. I'm not sure how to deal with it just yet."

"She says to the man whose brother is sleeping in his bed."

"Things have definitely changed over the past few days and yet we seem to be the only ones who understand each other. Just like before."

"So can you help me understand why you're here?"

She just shrugged. "Because I didn't want to be there?"

Killian nodded, knowing this was the only way Emma could really explain herself at this point. Even with her walls, she was always an open book to him. He couldn't help but take a step over, his hand sliding under her red leather jacket to pull her closer. She stiffened against his touch for just a moment before he felt the tension leave her body as she leaned into him. He had been willing to give this up just to know she would no longer have the darkness controlling her. But as he stood in this moment with her, he was thankful to have been given a second chance to touch her like this again.

"You can stay here tonight, love," he said.

"I just -"

He pulled away quickly, her voice stopped by the movement before he gently cradled her cheek in his hand. "Stay here tonight."

"Thank you," she whispered.

"It's no trouble, Swan," he said reassuringly. "There is plenty of room in here for you."

"I mean, thank you for saving me."

"Always."

Chapter Text

Killian and Liam were fixing up the deck of the Jewel of the Realm - Liam had insisted on going back to her original name - when they saw Henry running down the dock.

"Your dad's boat is in the park, and he's freaking people out!"

It was understandable considering Davy was the ferryman for Hades, but the Jones boys knew he was only there for a visit to see them.

And that's how Killian and Liam came to be sitting in a booth at Granny's, exposing their father to something he had never experienced before: fried food.

"Thank you, ma'am," he said as Granny put a plate of chili cheese fries down in front of him.

"As long as you don't take me with you today, you can eat whatever you want," she said with a sarcastic smile.

"Definitely not today, Ms. Lucas."

"You can call me Edith," she told him sweetly.

Killian gave her a perplexed look as she walked away. He knew no one - no one! - in Storybrooke who was allowed to call Granny by her first name. She was either trying to be extra nice to his father so he wouldn't take her back or she was… No, there was no way that the widow Lucas was flirting with his father, who worked for Hades. Gross.

Killian felt a hand slide over his shoulder, and he turned just in time to have Emma plant a gentle kiss on lips. Then she pulled away, gave him a mischievous smile, and slid into the seat across from him. The seat right next to his father.

"Captain Jones," she said, sticking her hand out to welcome him.

Davy held up his cheese-covered fingers with an apologetic look on his face. "Sorry," he said sheepishly. "But it truly is a pleasure to meet you, Emma."

"You know my name?"

"I know everyone's name!" He starting to point at people in the diner. "Archie. Leroy. Jonathan."

"Um, actually his name is Happy."

"He's happy because his real name is Jonathan and not Leroy," Davy said as he reached for the plate in front of him. "Would you like some fries?"

Emma smiled. "Thank you, but I prefer onion rings."

"What are onion rings?" he replied.

"Oh, you need to try Granny's onion rings."

Killian soon found himself listening to his father and the woman he loved swap stories about him while he sat across from them at Granny's. He wasn't sure if he liked this new relationship between them.

"You know, I'm right here," he said in an agitated voice after the two of them finally stopped laughing about some embarrassing incident from Killian's childhood.

"Oh, we know, Killy," she replied teasingly. "And on that note, while I wish I could stay, I promised I would baby sit Neal for my parents. Davy, it's been a pleasure."

"Likewise, lass," he said with a smile.

She leaned over and gave him a quick hug. "Next time you're in town, I have a guest room for you."

Then Emma got up and gave Killian another kiss before heading out the door. The Jones family followed a few minutes later after Davy finally finished up his grilled cheese and once again complimented Granny on her cooking.

The sun had set as they began to walk back to the river in the park, working on a plan for Davy's next visit. But as they got to the river bank, there was no ferry to be found.

"What happened to your boat?" Killian asked him.

Davy responded with a sly smile. "Cora isn't the only one who can cloak ships from view." Killian gave him a surprised look. "Yes, I know about that, son. One of the many things she was bragging about when I saw her a few days ago."

Killian couldn't help but smile and threw his arms around his father. "Please take care of yourself."

"I always do," Davy said. "Take care of Liam for me."

"I'll try," he responded.

Davy pulled away and walked over to his older son. "And you take care of Killian," he said, wrapping his arms around Liam.

"Of course."

The boys watched as their father took a step on the river, his boat's cloaking spell disappearing as its captain set foot on the deck again. Then Davy pushed off from the bank and gave them a quick wave before turning to begin his journey back to the Underworld.

"We have quite a strange family, don't we?" Killian asked as he stared out over the water.

"But it's nice to be a family again, isn't it?" Liam asked.

"That it is." he replied. "Now, if I remember, we have to go back so I can show you how to fix that ripped sail."

Liam rolled his eyes. "The only reason you know how to fix a sail is because I taught you," he said. "Besides, I thought you had someone else to be tonight."

"That I do."

xxx xxx xxx

Killian knocked quietly, doing his best to not wake up baby Neal. Emma opened the door and smiled. "Hi," she whispered.

"Hi," he said quietly, leaning forward to kiss her before walking into her house. "Still baby-sitting?"

"Yes." She looped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer. "Any particular reason you ask?" she asked teasingly.

"Oh, I have a few, starting with not being interrupted."

He pushed her back against the door and kissed her deeply, her lips warm and soft against his. She moaned softly and threaded her fingers through his hand at the nape of his neck. He missed her hands on him. He had spent too long without her touch in the Underworld.

Neal fussed in the crib set up in Emma's living room, distracting them enough to give Killian the chance to breathe again. Emma's head leaned back against the door, her smile infectious as she took in her pirate.

"So." Her hands slowly slipped from his coat, but her warm look remained. "Want to snuggle up and watch some Netflix?"

Killian couldn't help but smile. "Only if it's something you've quoted before so I'll know what you're referring to for once."

"Then I guess it's time to introduce to you to Marty McFly."

"The time-traveling wizard?"

Emma gave him a knowing smile and slid her hand into his. "Come on, pirate. I have alot to teach you."

He raised an eyebrow and gave her a devilish look. "I promise to be a dedicated student."

(To be fair, Emma did teach him one thing that night: what her father would look like when he found his grown daughter kissing a pirate, even if it was on her own sofa in her own house. Unfortunately, Killian still had no idea who Marty McFly was.)