Chapter 7: Mayhem on the Ocean
Opening her eyes, realizing what she had done, Emma quickly took her hands off him and stood up.
“Don’t follow me.”
Her breathing was still fast and her heart still racing when she went back to her cabin. Closing the door, she leant back against it and took her fingers to her lips. She closed her eyes, remembering the moment, thinking of his lips against hers, of his hands in her back and in her hair, of his breath against her lips when their foreheads were in contact, and of this feeling inside her, this passion which had made her capture his lips again. So many times she had wondered about what he was thinking, and he had finally told her. The kindness in his eyes and the softness in his voice when he had described their first meeting or compared her to a shooting star had made her melt and she had drifted. Emma let herself slide down against the door. Sitting on the floor, she hid her face in her knees. What had she done? When she was with him, it was so easy to drift. She had crossed the lines and if she was unable to resist him when he was around, she would have to stay away from him; this was the only way.
Lying back on the bed, it took her a long time before falling asleep. She spent the two next days reading in her cabin. The only times when she saw Killian was when he brought her dinner. And each time, she didn’t let him in.
“Emma, are you alright?” he asked the second time.
“Yes. But I have things to do… Books to read.”
“Perhaps I can help you?”
“No. I prefer to stay alone. Thanks for dinner.”
Taking the bowl he had brought her, she barely had time to close the door before tears filled her eyes. Staying away from him was harder than she had expected and it was only reluctantly that she was closing the door. But the worst part was the sadness she could see in his eyes; hurting him was hurting her even more.
The only solution she had in mind was to find something in one of the books, something which would allow her to go back to Boston. This way, she would be away from him; probably forever, as he had said. She would miss him, but she would miss him even more if she spent more time here. Because they would be separated at some point anyway; if life had taught her one thing, it was that good things always come to an end. It was better to be separated as soon as possible, before she would drift again and strenghten her feelings for him.
If, until now, she had found nothing in books but interesting stories about magic, it seemed to change the next morning; maybe she had found a solution. She read a few pages about it before going out of her cabin, the book under her arm. The two brothers were on deck, at different spots. She didn’t hesitate much before deciding where to go.
“Miss Swan! We haven’t seen you much lately,” said the captain.
He didn’t seem surprised that she was coming to him, whereas Killian was only a few metres away. This made Emma think that he knew what had happened. Of course he would, she thought; the brothers were probably talking a lot, surely more than what she was thinking.
“Can I talk to you about something?”
“Of course. Did you find anything?” he asked as he noticed the book she was carrying.
“Maybe. It doesn’t tell me how to go back to my realm, but maybe I’ve found someone who can help. Have you ever heard of the Dark One?”
“I’ve heard stories. How can that help?”
“In the book, it’s said that the Dark One has the most powerful magic. If someone can help, it is him.”
“That’s right. He can probably tell you how to go back. Then, all we need is to find him. Does the book say where to find him?”
Emma softly bit her lip. “Nope, there is nothing about where to find him. I was hoping you would know.”
“Unfortunately I don’t. But soon we will make our second stopover. The men I have to meet there may know something about it. Here’s what we can do: we make this second stopover to do business with these men, I ask them about this Dark One, and then we’ll go and find him. Does it work for you?”
“Yes, it sounds like a nice plan. But you already have a delay because of me, what if this man lives at the other end of the realm?”
“Miss Swan, don’t you remember what I’ve told you a few days ago? What Killian wants is to help you, and I will support him in his choice. We will find a way.”
Once again seeing how devoted to her the two brothers were, and thinking of how she was pushing one of them away, Emma had a lump in her throat. She thanked the captain and headed back to her cabin, looking down at her feet as she walked. What she didn’t know was that Killian had seen her talking with his brother. She had almost reached the passage leading below deck when fingers closed around her arm.
“Killian,” she said as she turned back to face him. She didn’t know what else to say.
“I know you wanted to be left alone, but I’ve seen you talking to Liam.” He glanced at the book before looking up at her. “You found a solution?”
“Maybe. I’ve read about the Dark One, his magic is the most powerful. We will try to find him, maybe he’ll be able to help.”
“This sounds like a reasonable plan. You will find your way home.”
Killian smiled but Emma couldn’t help noticing the sadness tinting his words. “Killian…”
“I can feel you keep pulling away from me, this is not really how I wanted to spend the little time I have left before you leave. Please just tell me this, have I ever done something wrong?”
“There is nothing you can blame yourself for. It is all me,” she replied, feeling a dead weight in her stomach; she hated hurting him this way, and it seemed to be even worse than what she had expected. Not finding the words to explain him what was wrong with her, she looked him in the eye, hoping that he would understand without words, as he had done so many times. She was holding his stare, letting him search through her eyes; how much she had missed these bright blue eyes.
“If I can’t blame myself, can I at least understand?” he asked. “You look afraid and seem to be fighting some dilemma. Perhaps this dilemma is about where to go? I feel like you can see a future here. A happy one. But for some reason, this future you can see is the origin of your fears. Why?”
Once again, Emma was startled by his ability to read her. He was right; at least about the first part, because she wasn’t sure she had ever considered a future here. But somehow, he was still right; he was thinking the idea of a happy future was what was scaring her. He was close, since what she was afraid of was how good she was feeling with him. And she knew where her fears were coming from.
“I was in love once,” she said. “And after all these years spent in the foster system, feeling like a lost little girl who didn’t matter everytime I was being shuffled from one family to one other, I’ve been foolish enough to believe that being in love meant life would change and become good. I’ve been foolish enough to believe that I could be happy. But I was wrong.”
“And since then, you’ve been running away from any hope of happiness?” he asked, his eyes still searching hers.
“Hope is the worst thing, it makes our expectations too high and leads to disappointment.”
“But it can also make your dreams come true if you take a chance.”
“Killian, I can’t take a chance,” she said, feeling tears being close. “Everytime I’ve tried, it didn’t work. I’ve been broken beyond repair. I can’t be fixed.”
Not taking his eyes off of her, he stepped closer and softly brushed her cheek with the back of his fingers. “At least let me try.”
Emma drowned into his eyes. A faint smile tugging at her lips, she let out a soft sigh.
“I need time.”
“Time before you go back to your realm is almost up.”
“Be patient.” Closing the distance between them, she furtively kissed the corner of his lips.
She didn’t say anything else before going back to her cabin.
The next morning, locked up in her cabin to read more about the Dark One, Emma had no idea about the agitation there was on deck. The crew was worrying about another ship coming closer.
There was a knock on her door.
“Emma, I know I may not be the one you want to see right one, but please open the door, this is important.”
Hearing the rush in his voice, Emma immediately complied.
“The Black Navy, they’re back. Two visits in a few days, this can’t be a good thing. Emma, I need you to hide again.”
Thinking of this moment spent in her hiding spot, waiting for Killian to come back, Emma felt she was close to panic; she didn’t want to go through this again. What if, this time, they found her? But seeing how concerned he was, she didn’t say anything and followed him.
“I’ll be back as soon as I can. Stay here and stay quiet, no matter what, until I, or Liam, come back.”
Her breathing fast, Emma sat down in a corner and waited, listening carefully, trying to hear something coming from deck. But she couldn’t hear anything. She had no way to know the ship of the Black Navy was coming alongside the Jewel of the Realm. Nor could she notice the presence of an unexpected visitor: leading the way, followed by eight men, was a woman dressed all in black, her black hair lifted up in a high ponytail.
“The Queen…” whispered a sailor, stepping aside to get out of her way as she came on board.
“The Evil Queen, dear,” she corrected as she went past him.
While the sailors all stepped back, lining up against the railing on both side of the ship, leaving as much distance as they could between them and the woman, Liam and Killian stepped forward and faced her and her black knights.
“My Queen, this is quite a surprise to see you here. To what do we owe the pleasure of this visit?” asked Liam politely.
“Do not pretend you don’t know why I’m here. You are late. You’ve been warned a first time, but nothing changed. I am disappointed, captain, I was expecting better from you. If you are unable to accomplish your mission in time, you are useless to me.” She then addressed the whole crew, scoping the ship. “Do you know what I do with useless people?”
Her lips stretched into a smirk as she saw the sailors leaning back against the railing, their eyes reflecting their fear.
“Now,” said the Evil Queen, “I may be merciful and spare your life if you give me a reason for this lateness.”
Worried, Killian watched his sailors, trying to catch their eyes and make them understand they had to remain quiet. If the first time they had not said anything, he was afraid that their loyalty might stop when their lives were threatened. And he was right: before he had time to stop him, one of his men stepped forward, barely daring to look the Queen in the eye.
“The lieutenant’s lady, she is the reason. We left two days later because of her.”
“The lieutenant’s lady?” she repeated, a malevolent smile on her lips as she turned to Killian. “Not fulfilling your mission because of a woman, lieutenant? My mother used to say love is weakness.”
“Please, she came to me and asked me for help. I couldn’t leave her, I needed more time on land.”
“You chose her, and the consequences of that decision,” she said without any hint of compassion in her voice. She turned to the black knight on her right. “Go and get her.”
“Don’t touch her!” Without thinking, Killian instantly went to stand in front of the passage leading below deck.
“Thanks, lieutenant, this is all I needed from you,” the Queen said with a smile and a glint in her eyes which made him realize how much this name of Evil Queen suited her. “I now know for sure that your love is somewhere on this ship. Now, out of the way.”
Realizing the Queen had ignored until then whether Emma was aboard or not, Killian hated himself for falling into her trap. He stared at her, not moving from his spot and blocking the passage, his hand on the hilt of his sword, ready to fight if he had to. But this was without taking into account her magic; with a simple move of her hand, he felt his feet leave the ground and landed a few meters away. Standing up again, Killian tried to go back and block the passage, but two other black knights strongly seized his arms and prevented him from moving. Liam went to stand where Killian had been, but he received the same treatment; he was sent away and ended up with two black knights holding him. The crew was watching them, petrified. Killian struggled but didn’t manage to free himself and, powerless, watched the black knight disappear below deck.
In the meantime, Emma was wondering what was happening on deck. She had not moved since Killian had left and was still sitting in her corner, paralyzed by fear; she had never met anyone from the Black Navy, but what she had heard about them after their first visit let her think that things wouldn’t go well if they happened to find her. Hearing some footsteps and the door opening, Emma stopped breathing, afraid to be heard. She hoped it was Killian but soon realized it was surely not him: she heard noises sounding like a dog sniffing something out. She heard the footsteps come closer as the man came straight to her hiding spot and lifted up the bunk.
“Here you are! The Queen wants to see you.”
The Queen? Emma felt her heart race, breathing was difficult. While waiting, she had imagined many scenarios, but none included the Queen herself. Lacking any sensitivity, the black knight grabbed her wrist and pulled her out of her hiding spot. The man smirked as she came into light.
“Now, I understand why the lieutenant would break the rules for you. Such a beautiful woman, besides this delicious smell,” he said, placing her hand on his cheek.
“Don’t touch me!”
She slapped his hand and tried to escape, running towards the deck. But the man was faster; he caught up with her and pinned her against a wall.
“There is no escape. Don’t try to run away, things will go much better if you let me take you to the Queen.”
Emma didn’t really consider the possibility of getting into more trouble: perhaps it was due to the way he was holding her against the wall; she punched him in the face and escaped from him, running towards the way out. The only thing she wanted was to see Killian. All eyes were on her when, panting, she finally arrived on deck.
“Here is our stowaway,” said the Evil Queen.
The blonde turned around and spotted the two brothers, each of them held prisoners by two guards.
“Release them!” she said, addressing the Queen. “They’ve done nothing wrong, it is all my fault.”
“Emma, no!” said Killian.
Both him and Liam were struggling. Powerless, they watched her walking towards the Queen who was smirking again, staring at her.
“Your fault, this is exactly what this man said.” The woman pointed the sailor who had betrayed his crew; he looked down. “If it is your fault, you will understand that you’re the one who should be punished.”
“Leave her alone! I was the one to invite her aboard, punish me instead!”
The Queen ignored him and walked closer to Emma. At this moment, Killian finally managed to free himself and went to stand between the two women, facing the Queen, protectively hiding Emma.
“She is innocent.”
“Out of my way!”
Again, a simple move of the hand was enough to send him away.
“Killian!” Emma screamed as she saw him flying across the ship until his back hit the mast.
Ropes magically coiled around him, tying him up to the mast. In the meantime, Liam managed to free himself from the black knights. But the Queen noticed his intentions to come and protect Emma: with another move of the hand, he found himself frozen on the move, immobilized.
The Queen looked around before focusing again on Emma.
“Now that there seems to be no one else to protect you, we can get back to our discussion,” she said, stepping even closer. “We were talking about who should be punished…”
“And I said it was me,” Emma interrupted her, looking her straight in the eye.
“We agree on this point,” said the Evil Queen with a smirk and a malicious glint in her eyes.
Suddenly, Emma felt like she was choking.
She didn’t understand why Killian was screaming. She didn’t understand either why it was so difficult to breathe. Then she saw it: the Queen’s hand was inside her chest. Immediately, she understood. She had read about this kind of magic. The Queen was about to rip her heart out. She was about to die. Emma looked back at Killian, a tear rolling down her cheek. While the Queen was pulling on her heart, she kept her eyes locked on him, only wishing he could be here, holding her in his soothing arms one last time. She thought of their first kiss, of this fire burning inside her. Memories were so vivid that she could actually feel her heart burning with passion again. Or was it because it was about to be ripped out? But at this moment, she saw a wave of white light and suddenly felt fresh air filling her lungs. She felt free. Not understanding what had just happened, she took her eyes off of Killian and, astonished, saw that the Queen was on the floor, a few metres away from her.
“Light magic…” she muttered, glaring at Emma. She got up and came back to her. She looked even angrier now. “If I can’t rip your heart out, I will find another way.”
Emma gave the Queen a blank stare, too much astounded to focus, still trying to understand what had happened. But the Queen soon got her attention back.
“Have you ever noticed how this ship is made of wood? Imagine what it would become with this.”
Looking more evil than ever, she turned her hand over and a fireball appeared. Her malevolent smile widened as she watched Emma staring at it. The blonde was reminded of some words one of the sailors had said, when they had set sail with her on board: ‘we will sink in the middle of the ocean.’ Setting fire to the ship would prove him right.
“I have an offer,” said the Queen. “Come with me, alone, and I won’t turn this ship into ashes.”
Emma didn’t hesitate and stepped forward; whatever the Queen had in store for her, she would accept it. She simply couldn’t let her set fire to the Jewel of the Realm. Satisfied, she put the fireball out and indicated her to follow. But the blonde stopped when fingers closed on her hand.
“Emma, please! Don’t do this! Don’t go.”
When the Queen had failed to rip her heart out, being sent away had disconcerted her enough to make her lose control: the ties maintaining Killian against the mast had come loose, loose enough to allow him to free himself from all the ropes. Finally, he had managed to get rid of all of them and was now here, holding her hand, asking her to stay. She wished she could, but she had no choice. Another tear rolled down her cheek. Not having the strength to speak, she locked her eyes on his and made him understand she had to leave. Pulling her to him, Killian closed the distance between them. Her forehead against his, a hand on his cheek, she pressed his hand over her heart. Knowing their time was very limited, she looked up at him.
“Thank you,” she said in a strangled voice. There were so many reasons she could thank him for that she didn’t quote any.
Their time together seemed to be up: lost in each other, they had not heard the Queen losing patience; black knights pulled them apart from each other. Emma felt his fingers brushing her palm and her fingers as she was pulled away. The black knight led her to the ship of the Black Navy. When she looked back, she saw Liam, who had regained his ability to move, holding Killian back. It seemed like he was trying to reason with him, and he was right to do so; Emma knew Killian couldn’t follow her. The Queen would without any doubt light up another fireball if he did. Eyes filled with tears, Emma saw the Jewel of the Realm draw away. Killian was holding onto the railing. Both of them were too much in shock to do anything but stand there and stare at each other, while the Evil Queen was standing behind Emma, watching them, regaled in their pain.