Chapter 6: A Mistake
In the morning, Emma took several books to her cabin. The only clear idea she had come up with during the night was that the more books she would read, the more likely she would be to find a way back home. The faster she would be back in Boston, the better it would be; every moment spent on this ship was a risk to get closer to the lieutenant. But her worries vanished as soon as the man in question came into her room. He had a few hours off duty. Taking one of the books, Killian settled down on the bed.
While reading, Emma felt like she was being watched and glanced sideways. Lying on the bed, leaning on his elbow, Killian was staring at her. Repressing a smile, she went back to her reading, from time to time glancing at him; sometimes he was reading, but sometimes she was able to furtively catch his eye.
“I can’t focus,” she said at some point, realizing at the end of a page that she had no idea what it was about.
Emma bit her lip. “I can feel your eyes on me.”
“My apologies,” he said with an amused smile. “It’s just after all these years spent only with men, having you aboard makes things different. I am simply enjoying this new way to see life. But I can go to the captain’s quarters if that can help you focus.”
“No, you can stay.” She bit her lip once more, knowing she was drifting again.
Like the first day, Emma spent most of her time reading, Killian staying with her until he had to go back on deck. In the evening, he came back, a serious look in his eyes.
“Emma? There is something I wanted to ask you.” Curious, Emma closed her book and watched him come sit down on the bed next to her. “It is about tomorrow. In the end of the afternoon, we will make our first stopover. It won’t be long, Liam just needs to see someone, it is part of the mission from the Queen. But where we go next depends on you. If you want to stay here only for a week, then it is about time that we take you back.”
“Take me back?”
“To the Apprentice. Wasn’t it your plan to go back to him?”
Biting her lip, she looked into his eyes, again facing an inner struggle. The truth was that she had not thought about the Apprentice since coming aboard. And after only two days spent on the ocean, she was not ready to think of going back already. The best thing about the lieutenant’s ability to read in her eyes was that he could understand without her needing to find the words.
“Even if you said you’d stay one week when you arrived, you are welcome to stay longer,” he said, smiling as he felt her hesitation. “We just need to know whether we’re going back or continuing our journey. What do you want to do?”
“If I decide to go back to the Apprentice, it means you have to go back all the way because of me.” This was something she had not thought about when deciding to come aboard. “How is that not going to have consequences on your mission? Don’t you have any timing to respect?”
“This is not for you to worry about this. If we need to go back for you, we will. It is entirely up to you.”
Emma gazed into his eyes. She knew what she wanted. She also knew she would regret it whenever he would leave the room, but it didn’t stop her. “I’ll stay a bit longer. All these books, there are so many things about magic, one of them will surely give me a solution. I just need time to find it.”
Her words sounded like a lie to her; she was not convinced the books were her main reason to stay. Killian looked satisfied.
“This is all I needed to know. Stay as long as you wish, and if you want to go back, just tell us and we’ll bring you back. Liam needs me on deck, I have to go. Good night, Emma.” Without giving her time to see him coming, he leant towards her and pressed a soft kiss on her cheek before getting up and leaving the cabin. A hand on her cheek, Emma stared at the closed door.
There was agitation on deck the next morning. Emma had decided to go outside, and though she had not spent much time there, she felt like something was going on. Seeing the two brothers together, discussing while looking at the horizon, only confirmed her impressions. A ship was coming their way.
“Who’s that?” she asked the two men.
“The Black Navy,” said Liam.
“Are they pirates?”
“No, they’re working for the Queen.” Killian sounded concerned, Emma didn’t understand why.
“You’re also working for her, are you in the Black Navy too?”
“No, the Queen has different kinds of ships at her orders,” Liam replied, staring at the ship coming to them.
“I wonder what they want. Liam?” The captain turned to his brother, who indicated Emma with a tilt of the head. Liam nodded and Killian turned to Emma. “Come with me.”
Without waiting, he grabbed her hand and led her below deck, at the floor even below their quarters, into a room at the end of the corridor; probably the least accessible room on the ship. Emma remembered something he had said about treasures when they were at the top of the beanstalk and blushed at the thought of his words: ‘I would keep the most precious ones as far as possible from the entrance, in the least accessible place.’
He didn’t reply and closed the door behind them. Bunks were built in the walls; they were apparently in one of the sailors’ cabins. The lieutenant still looked concerned when he went to the back of the room and lifted up one of the bunks.
“Killian, what’s happening?”
“I want you to hide in here,” he said, indicating the spot under the bunk. “As soon as possible, I will come back for you. It shouldn’t take more than an hour.”
“Killian, what’s wrong? What do they want?”
“I don’t know why they’re coming. All I know is that they might search the ship and I don’t want them to find you.”
“Why?” Emma was struggling to understand. Killian looked down.
“Because the Black Navy is not known to be nice, and we are not supposed to have guests on board,” he said, guilt tinting his words.
“Killian, did you break the rules because of me?”
When he looked up, his eyes were saying it all.
“Emma, please promise me you will stay in here until I come back.”
She glanced at the spot under the bunk and looked back at him. She was not willing to be locked in such a narrow place, but he already looked troubled enough. “I promise.”
“I’ll come back as soon as I can,” he said once she was inside.
Time went by slowly. Emma didn’t like not knowing what was happening. She also didn’t like the idea of being a stowaway; considering her past, being clandestine was not a major problem to her. What was bothering her the most was to imagine the brothers being in trouble because of her.
Finally, the door opened. But there was more than just one man; at least three or four of them, according to the sound of the footsteps. This made her blood run cold and she froze in a corner of her hiding spot. She could hear some noises; it sounded like one of the men was searching the room. Emma held her breath, hoping he would not think of checking under the bunk.
“There’s nothing here,” said an unfamiliar voice. Emma relaxed and breathed again.
“Was this the last cabin?” asked a second unfamiliar voice.
“Aye,” replied Liam. “I told you there was nothing to be found aboard this ship.”
“It is the procedure, sir,” said the second unfamiliar voice.
“I understand. May I lead you back on deck?”
And the footsteps faded away as the men left. Catching her breath, Emma wondered if it was safe to go out or if she should wait for Killian. But at this moment, the bunk was lifted up and the lieutenant came into view.
“Emma, are you alright?”
He held out his hand and pulled her into a hug. Closing her eyes and wrapping her arms around him, she almost forgot to reply.
“I am,” she replied after a few seconds. She softly broke the embrace to look into his eyes. “What did they want?”
“Nothing you have to worry about. Let’s go back upstairs.” He led her back to her cabin. “Stay here for now. I need to talk to my brother. I’ll be right back.”
At first, Emma complied: she took a book and sat down on the bed. But after reading only one page, she closed it; she still didn’t know what the Black Navy was on the ship for, and she had got this feeling the lieutenant was holding something back when telling her she didn’t have to worry.
Quietly going out of her cabin, she saw the door to the captain’s quarters standing ajar. The brothers were inside.
“They’re all blaming her,” she heard the lieutenant say on a reproachful tone. Feeling a dead weight fall into her stomach, she leant against the wall, listening carefully.
“We’re lucky none of them revealed her presence: this visit could have gone much worse,” said the captain. “Killian, our men behaved until now, and they’ll keep behaving. Now, our only problem is this delay. More than one day and a half won’t be easy to catch up.”
Emma felt this dead weight in her stomach even more; one day and a half, this was the time the Jewel of the Realm had stayed on the docks because of her. She burst into the quarters.
“This is all my fault, I shouldn’t have come.”
The Jones brothers looked up at her.
“Emma, I’ve told you to stay in your cabin.”
“And I haven’t listen,” she instantly replied. “You, your entire crew, you’re all in trouble because of me. Tonight, when you make a stopover, you have to leave me. Wherever it is, I will try to find my way from here. You don’t need me here, I will only get you into trouble.”
The next second, Killian was standing right in front of her, his hands cupping her cheeks and making her look up at him.
“Emma, don’t say this. It’s alright.”
“Miss Swan, a word please.”
Glancing at Liam, she looked at Killian again, worried, wondering what the captain wanted with her. The lieutenant inquiringly glanced at his brother, who nodded. Killian pressed a kiss on her forehead, which made her eyes close. When she opened them again, she was alone with the captain.
“Please sit down,” Liam said, sitting behind his desk. Hesitantly, Emma sat in front of him.
“You agree with me, don’t you?”
“Agree about what, Miss Swan?”
“You are late because of me, in trouble with the Queen by my fault.”
“I will admit you’re not totally wrong. But there are things you need to know. I never really had the occasion to talk to you, but now that I have, let me tell you this: when Killian asked me for the permission to invite you and I accepted, we were both aware there were risks. We both know the Queen is not as accommodating as the King we used to work for. The King we were working for was a very honorable man. But one day he sent us for a mission to a place called Neverland. We only spent a few weeks there but something happened on our way back. When we were back in the Enchanted Forest, everything had changed. The King’s castle had been replaced by another castle, and when we asked about the King himself, the inhabitants seemed uncertain; among the ones who knew who he was, some of them told us his reign had ended two hundred years ago, some others said it had ended three hundred years ago.”
“Three hundred years?” Emma repeated, astonished. She had read about many things, and even seen a lot herself since her arrival in this realm, but this sounded unbelievable. “How is that possible?”
“This happened years ago, and it still remains unclear. Our first hypothesis is that, somehow, a portal led us there and took us back. Neverland would then be in another realm where time goes by much slower than it does here. Our second hypothesis is that, perhaps, a time portal was opened on our way back and made us travel through time, to the future.”
“You can go through a portal without seeing it?”
“I don’t know,” shrugged the captain. “If you have any other hypothesis, you are welcome to share. The only thing we know for sure is that many years have gone by; Killian and I knew nobody but the King on land, but none of the men of our crew who were looking forward to be reunited with their family found them. We went to the Queen. She happened to be very interested in what we had found in Neverland; what we’ve been asked by the King to bring back. We’ve been working for her since then. But I’m drifting, there; the point is that we know the Queen, and we knew there were risks in inviting you aboard. But it’s worth it.”
Liam pulled his chair closer, crossing his arms on the desk, staring at Emma with a quite intense look, though not as intense as Killian’s. Emma was listening carefully as he went on.
“I’ve known Killian since always; I was already a few years old when he was born. Our childhood wasn’t one of the brightest. He was still a child when we lost our dear mother. He was very close to her, even closer than I was. For years, he never really got over this loss. He remained quite a sad and introverted boy. Our father abandoning us during our teenage years made things even worse. But we were lucky enough to be together, we had each other. When we’ve been enrolled in the Navy, I discovered a new Killian. Sailing is what he loves and being on the ocean gave me the chance to see my brother smile again. Now, you may wonder why I am telling you all of this.”
Emma was biting the inside of her lip as a part of the brothers’ story was revealed to her. She had been so focused on Liam’s tale that she had actually not been wondering why he was telling her this. Since she was not saying anything, the captain continued.
“The reason why I’m telling you this is that I’ve never seen Killian smiling as brightly as he has been these past few days. He really takes to heart this mission to bring you home. To him, it is much more important than whatever the Queen wants. And the most important to me is my brother’s happiness. This is why I want you to understand this: being late in our mission for the Queen is something that I am more than ready to do for him, and for you.”
Emma tried not to show the captain how astonished she was by these words. “I guess this means you won’t let me leave tonight.”
Liam smiled. “Very unlikely, indeed. This was all I wanted to say to you, you are now free to go back to your cabin.”
Instead of going back to her cabin like the captain had suggested, Emma went out on deck. She ignored the looks of the sailors and went straight to Killian, who was watching his crew from the upper deck and beamed when he saw her coming to him.
“What did my brother want to tell you?”
“He explained why I was wrong in thinking I should leave.”
“Did he convince you?”
“Yes.” She was staring at him again. After the stories Liam had told her, she was now seeing him in a different way. He was not the mysterious lieutenant she knew nothing about anymore, but a man who had been through a tough childhood, an introverted boy who had lost both his parents; an orphan, much like her.
“Is everything fine?”
“Yes. I’ll go back to my reading now.” Before she could stop herself, she walked to him and tiptoed to press a soft and furtive kiss on his cheek. She felt his eyes following her as she went back below deck.
Though very interesting, the books Emma spent most of her time reading didn’t give her any information about travels between the realms or about magic beans. As planned, they made a stopover, but only the captain and a few of his men disembarked; Emma barely noticed, staying in her cabin with Killian, still looking for this solution. The next day and the day after, she found nothing new. With all this reading, she was feeling dazed.
When Emma woke up in the morning, she was confused; she had no memory of going to bed. She tried to think of what she had done the evening before. The last thing she remembered was sitting at the desk, fighting sleep as she was reading, considering going on deck to enjoy some fresh air. But she didn’t remember going there. She didn’t even remember having dinner. Giving up on trying to remember, Emma got up and went on deck. It was still early; the sun was only starting to appear above the horizon. From behind the wheel, Killian flashed her a smile.
“You’re awake early, today,” he said when she had joined him. “Hungry, perhaps?”
“Hungry?” she repeated, surprised by the question.
“You didn’t have dinner last night, you were already asleep when I came.”
Emma was about to reply but no word came. Now there was an explanation to why she didn’t remember the evening. “Did you…?” The idea of the lieutenant tucking her in made her cheeks heat up.
“Aye, I hope it’s alright. I couldn’t let you sleep on the desk. At first I thought you had awakened; when you were in my arms, you opened your eyes. But you fell back asleep straight away.”
“I… Thank you.” Emma pretended to look at the rising sun so that she could hide her face from him, wishing she could stop blushing.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?”
“Very.” She turned back to him. He was smiling at her, a sparkle in his eyes.
“Do you want to try?” he asked with a tilt of the head towards the wheel.
Emma opened wide eyes. “I don’t know how to.”
“This is why I offer to show you,” he said, stepping aside and keeping only one hand on the wheel.
Though unsure about it, he looked so enthusiast about the idea of teaching her that she didn’t feel like rejecting the offer and stepped closer to the wheel.
“You’ll see, there’s nothing complicated.”
The lieutenant went to stand behind her. Emma felt his fingers softly closing around her wrists and, one after the other, placed her hands on the wheel.
“For now, all you have to do is to hold the wheel in this position.”
His hands until then covering hers, he slowly let go of the wheel. Emma was surprised by how heavy it was; she was feeling like the ship would drift to the right if she didn’t hold it.
“The most important is the look. Where you look at, the ship will go,” the lieutenant explained. “Look at the horizon right in front of you and the ship will follow.”
The instructions were clear but Emma was distracted; while he talked, she felt his hand landing on her hip and his cheek coming against hers as he pointed the horizon in front of them. She had hardly been able to ignore her heart racing when his hands were covering hers; now, she was trying to keep her eyes open and to resist the temptation to lean back against him. But Killian soon gave her some space as he went to stand on her right to assess how she was managing, Emma’s eyes following him. An amused smile tugged at his lips.
“Remember, where you look at, the ship will go. Lose control and the elements will take the upper hand,” he said. “Check the position of the wheel.”
Distracted as she was looking at him, she had failed at maintaining the wheel. With the wind and the waves, the ship was deviating. She quickly put it back into position, focusing on the horizon, and the Jewel of the Realm was on its path again.
“Here you go, in control of the ship. Well done, Captain Swan.”
At his words, a smile brightened her features. Not disliking it, she stayed there for a moment, until deciding she should go back to reading. Again, she had not succeeded in keeping her distances. The inner struggle was still the same; she was afraid of her feelings, more and more with every passing day. But whenever he was around, she was forgetting about trying to stay away and was letting him come close, sometimes wishing he would come even closer.
The next time she went back on deck was in the evening. At the end of his watch, Killian joined her at this spot where they had been stargazing and sat down on the railing by her side. Both watching the sunset, he was the one to break the silence.
“Tell me more about you.”
Emma turned to him, startled by the request. “What do you want me to tell you?”
“Anything. I may have let you believe that I can read you like an open book, but your eyes don’t say it all.”
“There is nothing interesting to know about me.”
“I’m not the one with the ability to know when someone is lying to me, but I don’t believe this.”
Emma watched the sunset. She wished she had something interesting to tell. The lieutenant didn’t believe her, but she felt like it was the truth: nothing in her past was worth being told. Killian seemed to notice her unease.
“Emma, I just want you to know that if you don’t want to say anything, you don’t have to. I only asked out of curiosity.”
“It’s alright. I’ve just thought of something: I remember the first time I watched a sunset like this, with the sun disappearing behind the ocean. This is one of my best memories. I was twelve or thirteen. It was the first time I went hiking. From the beach, we walked a few hours and spent the evening at the top of the cliffs. We picnicked there. The sunset was beautiful. This foster family was one of my favorites.”
A tender smile was on his lips as he listened to her. Her last words made him raise an eyebrow, and curiosity got the best of him. “What about your birth parents?”
“I’ve never met them, I don’t even know who they are. I was abandoned as a baby and spent my childhood being shuffled from one foster family to the next. That is until I had had enough of this and decided to make my own way,” she said, her eyes locked on the horizon. She was biting the inside of her lip, breathing deeply to fight back the tears. She turned to him. “I’ve told you there was nothing interesting to know about me.”
“A childhood imprinted with sadness and loneliness doesn’t make you uninteresting,” he said, softly cupping her chin and letting her drown in the tenderness filling his eyes while he was searching hers. “Have you ever been in love?”
Disconcerted by the question, Emma kept looking into his eyes. “Maybe,” was the only answer she could come up with. “But we’ve talked only about me. Your turn, now.”
“Can I say something about any moment of my life?”
“Yes.” The lieutenant could tell her anything he wanted. All she wanted was to stop talking about her.
“What I have to say is about this past week,” he said. Emma had a knot in her stomach and held her breath until hearing what he had to say. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m glad we didn’t find a magic bean.”
“You’re glad I didn’t find a way to go back home?”
“If you had, it means you would be back in your realm by now, away from me, probably forever.” Killian glanced at the sunset to look away from her for a second. “I know this sounds selfish, but let me explain, or at least try to,” he said, his eyes locked on hers again, Emma’s heart racing. “From the start, I wasn’t willing to let you go, and this wasn’t only because of the prophecy. When you walked into me, the first time we met, I drowned into your eyes. The only thing I wanted was to know more about you: who were you, to simply bump into me and make me lose myself the way you did? Then we went up that beanstalk and I knew, I knew I didn’t want to let you go. You burst into my life and lightened my world, and may you be, for me, as ephemeral as a shooting star, I still wish this time I have with you will be as long as possible.”
Staring into these bright blue eyes, Emma was drowning. She had spent the week struggling, trying to hide behind her walls, fighting her feelings and this temptation to give in to him; hearing his words was all it took to shatter the few resistance she had left. She slowly shifted closer and, her eyes closing, allowed their lips to meet. Softly capturing his bottom lip with hers, she shifted even closer, one hand resting on his thigh while the other one slipped in his neck. The way his lips were moulding hers made a fire burn inside her. She melted even more when she felt his hands in her back and in the back of her head, pulling her even closer. Their foreheads leaning against each other as they caught their breath, his fingers trailed along her jaw and brushed her chin, and she captured his lips again, their kiss becoming even more passionate. At last, breathless, foreheads and noses touching, they kept their eyes closed.
“That was…” Killian whispered and Emma bit her lip.