Chapter 10: Still the Same
Staying on the railing, a soft sigh left Emma as her eyes followed Killian. Something had not changed since her first days on board: how easy it was to give in to him when he was around. But she was not regretting anything at the moment. It was trying to pull away from him which had brought her nothing but regrets; she may as well enjoy the days she had left on board.
Since the captain looked busy and wasn’t coming back, Emma decided it was time to go back to the books. She had yet to find a solution to travel across the realms. On her way down to the quarters, she hesitated, standing in front of the lieutenant’s cabin. Softly, she knocked on the door and heard a weak voice. She wasn’t sure about what he had said, but she entered.
“Miss Swan, it is nice to see you again.”
Exhaustion could be seen on his features and heard in his voice. Even smiling seemed to require much effort. Emma smiled back before pulling out the chair and sitting next to the bed.
“I went past the door, I thought I could pay you a visit. I hope it’s not a problem?”
“Of course it’s not. You did well. As I said, it is nice to see you again.”
“Killian found me, he brought me back. But you probably already know about this.”
Chuckling made him cough. “Indeed, I know. News tend to spread fast, aboard.”
At this moment, Emma wondered just how much he knew. Whenever she was with Killian on deck, she was forgetting they were not just the two of them, she was not paying attention to the sailors seeing them. A soft blush covered her cheeks.
“How are you feeling?” she said, changing the subject.
“Better than yesterday,” he replied with a weak smile.
“I’m sorry, this is all because of me.”
“Miss Swan, we already discussed this. I stand my ground. I would do anything for my brother, and Killian can be stubborn when he has an idea in mind. These past weeks, his only idea has been to find you. He’s the one who wanted to go to the Queen’s castle. Don’t blame yourself.”
“He wouldn’t have been to her castle if it wasn’t for me.”
“And if it wasn’t for you, he wouldn’t have known about the Dark One. Thank you for this.”
“Sounds like you won’t admit it is all my fault.”
“Indeed,” he said with a smile.
“Killian isn’t the only one to be stubborn. Must run in the family.”
“Aye, you may be right.” Amusement was visible on his face. At this moment, something in his features reminded her of Killian. “But on that one, my brother agrees with me: he will never blame you for what happened.”
“Alright then, I’ll do it myself.”
“Miss Swan, believe me when I say there is no need for you to blame yourself.”
Emma didn’t know what else to say. She gave him a soft smile. “I will try. I should go now, you look like you need some rest.”
“Thank you for coming.”
Emma looked up when Killian came back to his quarters. She saw his bright smile fading as his eyes were locked on the book she was reading.
“Are you still trying to find a way to go back to your realm?” he asked with a hint of disappointment in his voice.
“Yes, why would I stop?”
Killian searched her eyes before replying. “Perhaps I was hoping you felt as I did.”
“In this other realm, I have a place to live, a job.”
“But think of what you could have here.”
Emma closed her book and stood up to softly cup his cheek. “Killian, it has never been in my plans to stay here, Boston is where I belong.”
“Plans can be changed,” he said, desperately trying to make her change her mind.
She bit her lip, looking into his eyes, her hand still on his cheek. “You knew I was here only for a limited time. Remember what you told me about shooting stars being ephemeral.”
Killian looked down. Usually getting lost in his eyes, Emma was then able to focus on his other features. Not finding anything to say to soothe his obvious sadness, she slowly trailed her fingers along his jawline, her thumb brushing his lips. Finally looking up, Killian tilted his head and pressed a soft kiss on her palm. Still not finding any word, she closed the distance and nestled against him, her face in the crook of his neck.
“I don’t want you to miss me when I’m gone,” she said in a low voice.
“How could I not miss you?”
Emma tightened her arms around him and stayed in his embrace. What had she done? Since the beginning, she had been aware letting her walls down was dangerous, she had known she could be hurt. But she had still taken the risk. What she had not expected was that he could be hurt in the process as well. She had not thought he could grow attached to her the way she was attached to him. She let out a sigh.
"Where is the ship going?" she asked, still in his arms.
"Where it was supposed to go. The Evil Queen had initially sent us to look for some flower which gleams and glows. All I know is that it is precious and she wants it. She won’t get it, we’ll take it first."
“Can you take me to the Dark One? Maybe he will know how to travel between realms." She was hesitant, wondering if he would help her go back home while he was clearly not willing to let her go. Once again, he proved to be perceptive; breaking the embrace, he cupped her chin to look her in the eyes.
"Emma, the fact I don't want to lose you doesn't mean I won't support and help you in your choices, whatever this choice is. I will take you to the Dark One if it is what you want. Right now, we're closer to this flower than to the Enchanted Forest. Would you accept if we go and find him only after finding this flower? It would make you stay a few more days."
"I don't mind staying a bit longer," she said, her smile immediately reflected on his features.
Emma spent most of her day reading. She was not reading about the Dark One anymore, but about something else which might be helpful.
"Where is Killian?" she asked the man with the red hat, not finding the captain on deck.
Smee seemed surprised he was addressed, but still replied. "In one of the crew's cabins, the one at the end of the corridor. But now is not a time to go and see him, he's sleeping."
Emma felt embarrassed as she realized that, once again because of her, he had to use one of these bunks in the cabin where he had hidden her from the Black Navy. Considering their reaction when she had been announced as a guest on board, and still seeing no sign of kindness coming from any of them, Emma had never tried to talk with the sailors and had learned to ignore them; without Killian on deck, she had no reason to stay and went back to the quarters. She would wait for him there. The night was falling. It became difficult to focus on what she was reading, her eyelids grew heavy.
Everything was dark, warm, and seemed to be moving. Emma found the strength to open her eyes.
“Shh, don’t worry, love, you can sleep.”
Looking up at him, Emma tried to reach for his cheek but only managed to brush his jawline with her fingertips.
“My handsome captain,” she said in a dreamy voice.
She heard a chuckle and the warmth went away as she felt something flat and not so comfortable under her back. The last thing she remembered was something warm touching her cheek.
Emma could feel summer was drawing to an end: even for an early morning, it was quite cold. Killian was back on deck, behind the wheel. He flashed her a smile when he spotted her.
"Can I talk to you about something I've read?"
"Of course, love. Smee! Take the wheel."
The sailor came and replaced Killian, who led Emma to their spot on the railing.
“How are you so warm when it’s so cold?” she asked once they had sat down, feeling his warmth on one side.
Killian smirked and looked at her with an eyebrow raised, shifting even closer and tossing an arm in her back. “If you want me to hold my body against yours, you just need to ask. There’s no need to use cold as an excuse.”
Emma felt her cheeks heat up; she had not expected this at all. She used the same teasing tone as him as she replied. “You couldn’t handle it.”
“Perhaps you’re the one who couldn’t handle it. The offer still remains, I’m your handsome captain after all.” Her look of surprise made him laugh. “You used these words yourself.”
“No, I didn’t,” she instantly denied, which seem to amuse him even more.
“Aye, you did. Yesterday night, when you were in my arms as I carried you to bed.”
Suddenly, Emma remembered looking up at him and trying to reach for his cheek before saying something; realizing he was right made her cheeks burn and she buried her face in his neck.
“Just so you know, you don’t need to hide,” he said, still amused. “I have quite a fancy for this blush covering your cheeks.”
“Killian…” She was almost whining now and he laughed, while her face was still in his neck. “What happened to you? Why are you so teasing today?”
“I don’t know, I guess I’m just happy to be with you.”
These words were enough to bring back this inner struggle; having someone whose face brightened with a smile at the simple sight of her was nice, but she hated to think of how hurt he would be when she would leave. Since she didn’t say anything, Killian went on.
“Didn’t you want to talk to me about something you’ve read?”
“Oh, yes.” She lifted her head up to catch his eye. “I’ve read something about a place in the Enchanted Forest. It is a lake, Lake Nostos. It is said in the book that the waters of this lake have healing properties. Things can be restored to their former glory. Maybe it could make the bean magic again?”
“Healing properties? You’re bloody brilliant,” he said, looking proud of her. “After we find this flower which gleams and glows, we can go to this lake.”
“Before going there, can we stop by the Dark One’s mansion?”
“Why? You found a solution, we don’t need him.”
“I still have questions to ask him. I want to know more about this prophecy.”
“Alright. But I must warn you: he is very strange. The least I see this crocodile, the better. I think he can even be dangerous.” Killian tilted his head and suddenly got up. “Come with me.”
“Where are we going?”
“I’ve just thought of something.”
“Captain!” called Smee as he saw them leaving their spot. “How long am I supposed to stay here?”
“Until I tell you to go, Mr Smee. You’re doing very well, keep the wheel for now.”
“But I’m supposed to be off-duty,” he said, not loud enough for Killian to hear him.
Emma followed him below deck. She didn’t remember where the door he was unlocking led.
“I don’t know if I’ve taken you here when I made you visit the ship on the first day,” he said, opening the door. “This is the armoury.”
“Why are we here?” she asked, looking at all the swords and daggers stored there.
“I’m going to teach you how to fight.” He examined the different swords before picking one. “This one should do.”
“Are you sure this is a good idea?”
“Aye. Life on the ocean has not been so peaceful lately. I’ll be reassured if I know you’re able to handle a sword to defend yourself,” he said, coming back to her with the sword he had picked. “Can you unbuckle your belt?”
“What are you imagining, love?” he asked with a smirk as he saw the look on her face. “It’s just so that I can equip you properly.”
Complying, Emma let him pass her belt in the sheath and buckled it again.
“I don’t think I can do this.”
“This is what you said before climbing the beanstalk, and you managed very well.” Killian cupped her chin and let her feel the intensity of his stare. “I am not even sure I have much to teach you, I saw how you used this sword to trap the giant at the top of the beanstalk. Your vision of yourself doesn’t seem accurate. When will you realize the extent of your abilities? You are able to do so much, Emma. I have yet to see you fail.”
Emma had no word. She was thinking he was the one with an inaccurate vision of her. She watched him going to search through a chest.
“Take this, it will protect your hands,” he said, handing her a pair of greyish leather gloves which went up to her elbows.
They went back on deck. She was examining the golden hilt of her sword when she felt him standing behind her.
“The first step in sword-fighting should be utterly easy for you, your move when we were at the top of the beanstalk was perfect. The first thing you have to do is to unsheathe the sword. If you don’t execute the move accurately, you lose time, and time during a fight is precious,” he explained, looking at her over her shoulder. “Before a fight, you have to make sure your sword is on the side opposite to the hand you use, because it will be much easier this way. I took it you would use your right hand, because that’s what you did the first time, am I right?”
“Yes,” she said, surprised he had remembered such a detail. He was so close that she could feel his breath against her cheek as he talked.
“You don’t only need to pull it out of its sheath, you also need to orient the blade towards the opponent. For your move to be effective, you have to be smooth and not to break it up in several steps. Let me show you.” Killian crossed his arm over her stomach and his hand covered hers on the hilt of her sword. Without warning her, he quickly and smoothly unsheathed it, before putting it back. “This is what it should look like. Now, I’ll show you again, slowly. Try to remember the feeling, feel it in every muscle of your arm.”
Slowly, he performed the same move, unsheathing the sword and orienting the blade forward. “Now, in this position, you’re ready to parry or engage, to do whatever you need to do to win the fight. Did you feel it?”
“Yes, I think I did.”
Again, he sheathed her sword. He was so close that she didn’t resist and leant back against him, tilting her head on the side, her nose brushing his cheek. Her eyes had closed at the sound of his voice, and now, his scent was intoxicating her. For a moment, none of them moved. Killian then tilted his head and pecked her lips, before stepping aside.
“Do it on your own, now. Show me.”
Looking down at her hand on the hilt of her sword, Emma unsheathed, trying to reproduce the move Killian had showed her. As soon as she had finished, she looked at Killian, wondering if she had done it right. He beamed at her.
“I told you that you could do it. Since you seem to be good at it, we’ll just go with your instinct for now. I will be your opponent, you will have to try and disarm me. You don’t have to worry, I’ll move slowly at first. Just one thing before we start: think defence before thinking attack, this is what’ll keep you safe in a real fight. Get ready!”
Killian unsheathed his sword and she did the same, holding hers in front of her in a defensive way, both her hands on the hilt. He stepped forward and, slowly, engaged. Easily, her sword stopped his.
“Well done, love.”
She stopped a second blow, and a third one, but since he was moving forward, she had to step back, and stumbled. Instantly sheathing his sword, he held out his hand.
“Are you alright?”
“Yes,” she said, taking his hand and standing up. “Can we try again?”
“Of course. But first let me tell you this: it was good, but it could be even better if you relaxed. Your muscles are too tense, you cannot act with speed like this. This is maybe what made you fall, your legs were too tense to obey you.” He came to her and placed his hand on her shoulder. His hand trailed down her arm. “Loosen your muscles, love. This is how you have to keep your elbows: bent, and close to your body.”
He reached for her hand, his fingers massaging her palm while his thumb brushed the back of her hand. His hand then reached for her hip and trailed down the upper part of her thigh. It worked, since Emma felt the muscles of her arm and leg but also of all her body loosen.
They tried again, Killian executed the same moves and, this time, Emma didn’t stumble. She kept stopping the blows, stepping back as he kept moving forward. But soon, the mast stopped her and Killian smiled, standing right in front of her, their swords still against each other.
“You did very well, love. Your only mistake is that you let me pin you against the mast. This is very important: don’t focus only on your opponent. Even if he happens to be your handsome captain,” he added on a teasing tone. He became serious again. “You have to focus not only on the one standing in front of you, but on everything else which is around you, so that you can avoid being trapped like this, and even possibly trap the opponent.”
Pinned against the mast, Emma was staring at him, listening carefully. He was so close that the blades were only a few inches from her.
“Being smooth, relaxing, and being aware of what’s around,” she recited.
“That’s it,” he said with a proud smile. “Do you want to try again?”
Emma nodded and they positioned themselves again on deck. She had been attentive enough the previous time; instead of waiting for him to attack, she struck first, trying to use the same moves as him. It was not as efficient, but after a few blows, she finally made him step back. A smile brightened his face.
“I always knew there was a little pirate in you. Some more training won’t hurt, but you have it in you, love.”
Emma smiled back, unable to resist the tenderness and the pride sparkling in his eyes.
“We should stop for now, to end on something good for today. We can do it again later, if you want to.”
In the evening, Emma was reading in the quarters. This time, it wasn’t a book about magic, but about astronomy; during this night they had been stargazing, she had realized she knew nothing about the stars. She had been fascinated by everything Killian had told her, and wanted to know more. The knock on the door made her look up.
“Dinner time!” announced Killian. “I have a little time before going back on deck, may I have dinner with you?”
The words had come out instantly. Between evenings when he had been on deck and days when she had been pulling away from him, the last time she had dined alone with him dated back to the first days when they had been together. Sitting opposite him, Emma was barely taking her eyes off of him while she ate. Her eyes then lowered to the piece of metal. Her hand reached across the table for it, and she distractedly trailed her fingers over the hook, instantly causing him to stop eating. She was thinking of what he had told him, when explaining her how he had found her in this tower.
“You still haven’t told me how you got that hook,” she said, looking up at him.
Staring at her fingers which were still trailing over his hook, it took Killian a few seconds before focusing on answering her. “It happened while we were searching the castle. Liam and I had taken separate ways, to increase our chance to find you. One of the black knights I had to face saw I was holding something, and decided he wanted it. I refused to give him, of course. I had underestimated his skills in sword-fighting. Also, his sword was enchanted. A sword normally doesn’t go through flesh and bones so easily. This is how I lost my hand, and replaced it with this hook who was there. He was faster to grab what I had been clutching in my hand, but I took it back. It was this, I had found it in your cabin.”
Killian searched through his pocket and pulled out of it something Emma recognized at once.
“Killian… This is just a necklace.” Emma was staring at her swan necklace in his hand, biting her lip, wishing he had just let the black knight have it. “It was not worth…”
“It was the only thing I had from you,” he said, as if it was a reason good enough. “I didn’t have the occasion to give it back to you. You can have it back now.”
She kept biting her lip, feeling sorry he had thought this necklace was worth his hand. “You can keep it, I don’t want this anymore. The only reason why I kept it was to remind myself not to trust anyone. But I trust you.”
Closing his fingers on the necklace and putting it back in his pocket, he raised an eyebrow. “Perhaps you shouldn’t.”
“But I do,” she said, disconcerted by his words. “With everything you’ve done for me, how could I not? I know I can trust you.”
“That’s a lot of faith you’re putting on me, Swan. Perhaps you could trust me before. And even then I’m not sure, I had told you I’d keep you safe, and I failed. I let the Evil Queen take you away. But now, it’s even worse, things have changed, I doubt I deserve your trust.”
“Killian, why are you saying this?” she asked, reaching for his hand.
Emma didn’t understand. Had she upset him by telling him the necklace was not worth? But she was looking into his eyes, and there seemed to be more than that; it wasn’t about the necklace. Did he really think he did not deserve her trust? He, who usually seemed so confident, looked now full of doubt. The thought she might not be the only one to face an inner struggle crossed her mind, a struggle he was only now allowing her to see. It was like he was torn between the lieutenant he was when she had first met him, and the pirate captain he was now. But by being so unsure, he reminded her of this exact man he was saying he was not anymore. The sadness in his eyes was too much, she couldn’t let him think like this: she stood up, skirted the table, and went to sit sideways on his lap, her eyes locked on his. His surprise didn’t stop his arms from wrapping around her waist.
“Killian, listen to me. You say everything has changed, but whether you’re the lieutenant or the captain, I know who you are. I know that, deep down,” she said, placing her hand on his chest, her fingertips slipping under the red velvet, “here, there is only one man. You may have changed, but you are still you. You are the lieutenant who helped me, you are the pirate captain who saved me, you are the man that I…” A soft smile tugged at her lips as the word simply wouldn’t come out. “You are the man that I believe in.”
Emma didn’t remember if he had ever gazed at her as intensely as he was now. She got lost into his eyes, until she felt his lips closing on hers and pulling her to him. Her lips parted as soon as she felt his tongue brushing them. She wrapped an arm around his neck, while her hand slipped further under the velvet of his vest. The taste of his lips and the way his tongue was now stroking hers were addicting. Without breaking the kiss, Emma got back on her feet, just the time for her to shift position: she sat back on his lap, this time facing him, which made him moan against her lips. His arms wrapped in her lower back and he pulled her even closer. Keeping her hand on his chest, feeling his heartbeat against her palm, her other hand ran through his hair. The kiss left them both thoroughly breathless. Still out of breath and completely leaning against him, Emma kissed his jawline and his neck, her lips lingering on his pulse point.
“You can’t imagine how hard you’re making it for me right now. How am I supposed to go back on deck now?”
Emma smiled against his skin and looked up. “You’re the captain, can’t you decide to stay if you want to?”
“Emma… Don’t tempt me.”
Her smile brightened. All she wanted was to capture his lips again, but he didn’t give her time to do so.
“Oooh!” She melted in his arms as he pressed an open-mouthed kiss in her neck. He then trailed kisses up to her ear.
“I need to go. Captain’s duties,” he whispered. She looked up into his eyes; he looked serious. Something in her expression seemed to amuse him. “You don’t have to worry, I’m not done with you.”
Emma had no word. At least, there was no hint of sadness left on his features; her teasing and confident captain was back.