Chapter 5: Inner Struggle
Emma didn't sleep much that night. She spent hours tossing and turning, or even lying on her back and staring at the ceiling, thinking. She was thinking of everything that had happened during the day, and wondering where she would go in the morning; she had a choice, and during the night she kept changing her mind. The Apprentice had offered her some shoes, some water and biscuits, besides sending her to the lieutenant. But Killian had done so much more, not once hesitating to help her whenever he could, postponing his departure on the seas to help her find her way back home and even risking his own life, in the meantime saving hers several times despite what she had said about being the only one who saves her. And he didn't seem to lose hope; even though they had not found a magic bean, he seemed to keep thinking they could find another way, and was inviting her to join the crew. Getting aboard the Jewel of the Realm seemed to be her best chance.
But riding a horse, climbing a beanstalk, or even running away from a giant, were not the thoughts keeping her awake; it was not what she was the most scared of. Other thoughts, mainly corresponding to very brief moments, kept running through her mind: besides the lieutenant's unlimited kindness, there had been all those times when there had been something more. What was there with these bright blue eyes she couldn't stop staring at? Tactile memories of his fingers brushing her chin, of his hand briefly reaching for hers, or of his soft but at the same time secure arms holding her against him, were recurring; and scaring her. She had spent years building up some protective walls, walls who were preventing anyone from coming too close, walls who were keeping her from being hurt. Her fingers closed around her pendant, the one she was keeping to remind herself not to trust anyone. It had worked until then, it had kept her safe. But now she was afraid: in barely more than twenty-four hours, Killian had made her feel in a way she shouldn't feel. She could see that her walls were crumbling down. She was putting herself in danger, she had to escape. Going back to the Apprentice was the best thing to do.
At last, late at night, Emma fell asleep. She woke up when the first morning lights filtered through her window. Her night had not been long enough, but thoughts were already running through her mind; going back to sleep was unthinkable.
Once down in the street, Emma had only walked past a couple houses towards the forest before she stopped, her eye caught by something. Even with her decision made about where to go, she was still unsure how long she would need to stay in this realm before being back in Boston. She was also tired of everyone looking her up and down because of her outfit which didn't fit here. She sneaked to the back of the garden, where the washing was hanging. Some of the clothes looked like they were the perfect size for her. Quickly, she changed into these new clothes, traded the ankle boots she had for some black boots. Leaving the golden coins that remained after she had paid her dinner and her night at the tavern, her own clothes rolled up under her arm, she walked back to the street. She turned right, towards the forest and away from the docks, with the decision to go back to the Apprentice in mind. But like she had done all night, she considered again the two options. The Apprentice would probably stay in his cottage. Killian, however, would leave in the morning. What would she lose by staying one week on the ship?
"Damn it." Emma changed her mind again: she turned around and walked towards the docks. If the village was still quiet in the early morning, sailors were already active. From afar, she thought she had recognized Killian on deck, but it happened to be his brother.
Liam flashed her a smile. "Welcome aboard again, Miss Swan."
"Where is Killian?" When hearing her voice, Emma realized she sounded in a rush and perhaps should have taken the time to reply to the captain, or at least give him his smile back. But he didn't seem to take it badly.
"In his cabin, last door on the left, right before the captain's quarters," he replied with a bright smile which reminded her of Killian's.
"Thanks." Ignoring the sailors watching her, she calmly walked down the stairs, preferring not to crash into the lieutenant like she had done the first time. Lightly, she knocked on the door, which opened quickly.
"Swan! I was hoping it'd be you." Killian was hardly repressing a beam.
"One week," she simply said. But Killian didn't seem to be listening. He was examining her new outfit: her black boots, her blueish leather pants, her long-sleeved ecru shirt with her blue vest and her belt. "I haven't stolen anything. I left all my golden coins."
Killian looked up with a smile. "I wouldn't dare blaming you for your pirate ways. No, I was just thinking it was fitting you very well." He stepped back, indicating her to enter. "Welcome to your quarters. If there is anything that you need, you can just ask."
Emma nodded, looking around. The style was the same as in the captain's quarters but much less spacious, with just enough room for a bed, a wardrobe, and a small desk by the window.
After a quick visit of the ship, it was time to leave. The lieutenant led Emma back on deck, where the crew was gathered in line, receiving the captain's instructions. Killian went to stand next to his brother. Emma stayed a bit behind, pretending to gaze at the ocean in front of them, avoiding all the curious looks from the sailors. Liam noticed he didn't have his crew's attention anymore. With a move of the head, he indicated Emma to come closer. Now standing between the two brothers, she was still avoiding the sailors' looks.
"Miss Swan is our guest. She's welcome aboard as long as she wants to stay."
"But she's a woman."
"Nice observation, Mr Smee." Killian had replied instantly. But Mr Smee wasn't the only one to react. While some of them were casting glances at each other, several sailors expressed their opinions at the same time.
"Captain, are you sure this is a good idea?"
"That is insane!"
"Women on board are bad luck. We will sink in the middle of the ocean."
"We're not allowed to bring our wives aboard, and because he's the lieutenant he can?"
This was even worse than what Emma had expected. Liam was about to reply but once again, Killian was faster and went to stand in front of the sailor.
"If you want to be with your wife, I won't hold you back, you can leave. If you want to stay, I advise you to watch your words." His voice became louder as he addressed all the sailors who were now quiet, while slowly walking past them. "The captain said Emma is welcome aboard, you have no right to question his decision. I won't tolerate such behaviour aboard this ship, and I will personally make sure the first one being disrespectful towards her walk the plank." He stopped in front of one of the men and took a bottle out of his pocket. "Rum, sailor? Is that how you spent the evening? Drinking? Drunkenness leads to bad form, and bad form won't be tolerated."
Confiscating the bottle, Killian went back to Emma, who had watched him all the way. It was the first time she was seeing him like this, and also the first time someone was doing such a thing for her; he had not hesitated standing up for her, opposing himself to all his men, in the meantime showing her again his good ways. He pulled her aside while Liam finished giving his instructions. One hand on her shoulder, looking down into her eyes, Killian's voice was soft again.
"Are you alright?"
Emma nodded. "Thank you, for defending me."
"They had no right to treat you like this, even if I expected they would react in such a way. Emma, I've told you I would keep you safe. I invited you aboard, it is now my duty to protect you." Killian looked up and caught Liam's eye: it was time. “You're free to stay on deck or go back to your cabin. If any of them tells you anything wrong, come to me." He searched her eyes for another second, making sure she was fine before turning to his men. "To your stations!"
Emma decided to stay on deck, curious to see the departure. She found a spot against the railing of the ship, out of the sailors' way. Killian had joined his brother, who was behind the wheel.
"All hands prepare to set sail, make speed!"
Emma was staring at Killian. He really looked at ease, standing next to his brother, supervising his crew. It was easy to see he belonged there. At these thoughts, Emma had a knot in her stomach. The lieutenant may belong here, but she didn't. What was she doing here? Had she made the right choice, choosing Killian over the Apprentice, who seemed to know much more about magic? Scared, she looked at the ocean, trying to keep a steady breath while they were leaving. The docks were already far behind when half the sailors went downstairs. Killian came to stand next to her, a bright smile on his lips.
"Where did they all go?"
"Enjoying their free time. There are two teams. One of them is on deck, while the other one is off duty. Then, every four hours, it changes. There are six watches during the day. You will hear a bell ringing, it makes us keep track of time."
Emma listened carefully, for a moment distracted from her thoughts and fears. "So, you're in the second team?"
"For Liam and I, it's a bit different. We usually take two watches in the row, so that the other one can get some rest. There are also some watches when we're working together. It depends. Right now, I'm free."
Emma felt the knot in her stomach again. Everyone had a planning to follow, duties to accomplish, and she was just there, among men who mostly thought she would only bring them bad luck. Killian's smile faded a little as he looked her in the eye.
"You regret your decision to come aboard. Or at least wondering if you made the right choice." It was not even a question. Emma didn't reply anything, once again struck by his ability to understand her with only one look. "We will find a way to bring you home. Come with me, there are these books I'd like to show you."
She followed him to the captain's quarters. Books were lined up on the shelves under the windows.
"These ones are logbooks, the ones we write to keep track of our journeys. These ones are about sailing, these ones about astronomy. And here are the ones you can be interested in," he said, indicating an entire shelf of books. "They're about the different lands of this realm, and about magic. Perhaps you'll find something in one of them. I should go back on deck. Just know that you're free to go wherever you want on this ship. You can go back to your cabin, but you can also go on deck or stay in these quarters if you want to."
Killian left. Emma trailed her fingers over the spines of the books. All of them were alike, with leather covers in different shades of brown. She went back to the left side of the shelf, and took the first book, a quite voluminous one. Like on the book which had brought her to this realm, nothing but the title was written: ‘Misthaven: a History of Magic’. There was no picture inside: no risk to be brought to another realm, she thought. Going back to the lieutenant’s cabin, she sat at the desk. And as every time she was reading, it only took her a few minutes before being totally engrossed in the book.
In the middle of the afternoon, Killian came to check on her. But duty called again, and soon he had to go back on deck. Emma went back to reading. She was finding these stories about magic and sorcerers fascinating, so incredible that she couldn’t keep in mind they were actually real.
She didn’t hear the knock on her door a few hours later. Seeing she had not noticed him, Killian entered, trying not to make any sudden move so he would not scare her like he had already done a few times. But despite his efforts, she jumped and a light giggle escaped her.
“You did it again.”
“I didn’t mean to, but you looked quite passionate about your reading. Anything interesting?”
“Very interesting, but nothing that can help me go back home.”
“Don’t lose hope, there are many other books. Later, I should have time to help you. In the meantime, dinner?” he asked, showing her one of the bowls he was holding which, too much focused on his eyes, she had not seen.
Killian placed the bowl on the desk and hesitated, tempted to stay with her but unwilling to encroach upon her living space; the room was small, he didn’t want to impose on her.
“I’ll be on deck, if you want to join for dinner,” he said.
“Thanks. But I will stay here, I want to finish this chapter first.”
“As you wish.”
This was only after finishing her chapter and the next one, and eating the mix of fish, rice and vegetables, that she finally went out of her cabin. She had planned to go to the captain’s quarters only to put the book away, but once there she found herself distracted. A book covered in black leather, similar to those Killian had called logbooks, was open on the desk. Emma leant closer, but it didn’t help her deciphering what was written; probably only a sailor could understand all those words, numbers and abbreviations. Curious, she examined the quill and dipped the tip of it in the bottle of ink, trying it on one corner of the page. Her attention was then drawn to the map unfolded on the desk, covering most of its surface. It looked like no map she had ever seen; she didn’t even know whether she was looking at it the right way or whether it was upside down.
“Interested in sky maps, Miss Swan?”
Emma jumped and looked up at Liam, who was followed by his brother. Sky maps; now she knew why it didn’t look like any other map she had seen. “I just came to put a book back on the shelf, but this caught my eye.”
“It’s alright,” said Liam. “You’re free to use or look at anything you may find aboard this ship.”
“Emma, would you be interested to go on deck?” asked Killian. “The night is clear, it is quite pleasant up there.”
After spending her day in the cabin, the idea of going out was appealing. She nodded and followed him. No sailor said anything about her presence aboard; they glanced at Killian when he appeared from below deck, ready to receive new orders, but went back to their work as the lieutenant remained silent. The fresh air of the night was enjoyable.
“Have you ever stargazed?” he asked.
“Have I ever… Oh.” She had looked up at the sky. “I’ve never seen so many stars.”
Smiling, Killian stepped over the railing of the ship and sat down at the precise spot where she had been standing in the morning, close to the bow. He held out his hand to her, inviting her to join him. She looked over the railing at the ocean below.
“Is it safe?”
“It is if you stay on the railing,” he flashed her a smile, his hand still held out. “Do you really think I’d let you fall down and drown?”
She smiled back and, placing her hand in his, hesitantly stepped over the railing and sat down next to the lieutenant. At first intending to leave some space between them, she ended up sitting right next to him, and even let him place his arm in her back, making her feel more secure this way.
“I take it you haven’t stargazed a lot.”
Emma shook her head. “In this place where I live, there are many city lights. So many that we can’t see the stars.”
“You can’t see the stars? Starless nights are dull. This is one of the things I enjoy about sailing; in the middle of the ocean, there is no light to interfere with the stars.”
“This is beautiful.” Emma was looking up at the sky again. She had never suspected there were so many stars.
“Aye, one of the most beautiful things,” he said. Feeling like she was being watched, Emma looked down: Killian was gazing at her. The intensity of his stare made her look away and focus on the stars again. She was thankful for the night as she felt her cheeks heat up.
“Do you know how to recognize all of them?” she asked him.
“Not all of them, there are too many. Only the major ones. Once you know them, they’re easy to find.” Killian glanced at the starry sky. “Here.”
He pointed at the sky on Emma’s right and, his arm securely wrapped in her back, leant closer to her so that he would show her the right spot. Feeling his head so close to hers, Emma felt her cheeks heat up again. He was so close that she could hear him breathing and smell his scent.
“Can you see the bright star, over there?”
It required Emma some effort to focus on the sky again. “Yes, I can see it.”
“This star is called Deneb. And if you follow a line in this direction, you will meet three other stars. You see them?”
“Good. Now, there is another line passing by the second star,” he said, pointing at the line he could see, and giving Emma some time to find it.
“I can’t see that one. Is it…?”
Killian came even closer, so close that his cheek was against hers as he pointed at the line again. Due to this proximity, Emma’s eyes closed and she had to think of reopening them to see the stars the lieutenant was pointing.
“Found them! How are these stars more interesting than the other ones?” Emma asked, not taking her eyes off of the stars, afraid she would not find them again if she looked away. Killian sat up straight, leaving some space between them.
“All of these stars belong to one constellation; we can say it is yours: the Swan constellation.”
Forgetting about not looking away from the constellation, Emma glanced at Killian, who was once again staring at her. A soft sigh escaped her and she leant her head against his shoulder, looking up at the sky.
“I can see the stars, but I don’t see how that’s supposed to be a swan,” she said.
Killian smiled, leaning his head against hers as he indicated the stars again. “It requires a bit of imagination. You can see a flying swan if you consider Deneb as its tail and the first line as its neck. The second line and some other less bright stars are its wings.”
“Okay, seen that way, it can work.”
The lieutenant pointed other constellations, helping her identifying the stars and showing her how they were forming some patterns. Emma sat up straight when a light flashed across the sky.
“What was that?”
“A shooting star; a little rock burning up and shining as it goes through the protective walls of our world,” said Killian, locking his eyes on her. “Ephemeral, being part of our life for only a very limited time, and yet so fascinating.”
Emma’s lips parted but she didn’t find anything to reply. With the feeling he might not be talking about the shooting star, she leant her head against his shoulder again, escaping the intensity of his stare.
“Maybe there will be more of them,” she said, looking up at the sky.
They stargazed, silently waiting for other shooting stars. Emma felt her eyelids grow heavy with tiredness, but she was not willing to go back to her cabin now. Lulled by the sound of the waves underneath them and feeling the warmth of his body so close to her, she was fighting to keep her eyes open.
Something warm grazed her cheek and she heard a whisper. “Emma.”
She looked up. Killian was smiling at her, the back of his fingers still close to her cheek. “You’re falling asleep.”
Embarrassed, Emma sat up straight and let Killian lead her back to her cabin. They awkwardly stood in front of the door, gazing at each other; Emma was wondering whether she should just go inside or whether she could close the distance between them one more time. Realizing she was now staring at his lips, she shook her head.
“Good night,” she said, entering her room.
“Good night, Emma,” he barely had time to reply before she closed the door.
Emma sat down on the bed. Now that he was out of sight, her way of thinking changed; she could clearly think of this time spent on deck. Her elbows leaning on her knees, she buried her face in her hands. She thought of how she had let him hold her close to him, or how she had been leaning her head against his shoulder, when she had not been staring at him. She had totally drifted, indulging herself by letting him be so close. What had she done? From now on, she would have to be more careful. No matter how good it had felt, she didn’t want to feel this way, she couldn’t take the risk to let a man be so close to her. Where was he now? Was he back on deck already, or was he wandering around the captain’s quarters, asking himself similar questions? What was he thinking, after seeing how easily he could get close to her? She should have kept her distance. But somehow she didn’t want to. Exhausted, she laid down and rolled on her stomach, crossing her arms under the pillow. She bit her lip as she noticed a pleasant smell on it which she instantly identified: his scent. It didn’t help her focus, but thoughts still kept running through her mind until she fell asleep. Facing an inner struggle, the only thing she knew was that she was in trouble with this man.