Chapter 8: Good Form
The Jewel of the Realm was now too far away for Emma to see Killian. Her look was vacant; she was still unable to process what had happened. It was like she had lost the ability to think, as if she was lost in her thoughts but her mind was empty. She heard the Queen saying something, but the words didn’t register. It was only when the ocean suddenly disappeared from view that Emma looked around; she was now in a circular room with the Queen and a black knight.
“Where’s the ship?”
“Where we left it. I don’t have time to stay on a ship, my ways are much faster.”
“So, now you’re going to kill me?”
“No, that would be too easy. I will just let you rot in here, alone, and out of your suffering will rise my victory.”
These were the Queen’s last words before she smirked and disappeared in a puff of purple smoke. Confused and powerless, Emma didn’t even try to fight the black knight. When she collected herself, she was still standing, facing the stone wall. Her hands were cuffed, a heavy chain was connecting the handcuffs to the floor, in the centre of the circular room. Emma was able to walk around the room, but the chain was too short to let her reach the walls. She tiptoed to see through the high windows – two openings in the stone wall; on both sides she could see the ocean stretching to the horizon. It looked like she was trapped at the top of a tower, on a deserted island. Noticing there was no ship in sight gave her a heartache. She sat down. As hours passed, she regained the ability to think clearly. She looked back on everything that had happened during the day. The fact that she had been quietly reading in her cabin in the very morning was barely believable. From the moment when Killian had knocked on her door, everything had become so complicated. There were so many things she didn’t understand. Having a hand sinking inside her chest had been the weirdest sensation. Emma tried to recall what had happened before she had seen this wave of white light, but soon lost herself in her thoughts as she remembered the way Killian was looking at her while he was tied up to the mast. Her eyes filled with tears as she thought of how he had tried to stop her, of how he had pulled her to him. She remembered the touch of his hand pressed over her heart, and of his fingers brushing her hand while she was pulled away, as if trying to hold onto her until the very last moment. Tears didn’t stop that night, until, exhausted, she fell asleep, lying on the stone floor.
When she woke up the next morning, realizing where she was made her feel sick. Getting up, she tiptoed; there was still no ship on the horizon. She had to find a way out, she had to escape. She couldn’t surrender so easily, it was not the first time she was in a situation which seemed hopeless, and until now she had always found a solution. Thinking, she ignored the round loaf and the glass of water that the black knight brought her. Doing her best to keep calm, Emma thought of what remained to her the biggest mystery: this wave of white light. She was sure she had heard the Queen talk about light magic, and according to what she had read in books, it was very likely that she was right. But how did it happen? She had read it was rare to have magic, and that using it properly required years of practice. How could she, who was not even coming from the Enchanted Forest, have such powers? She spent most of the morning debating about it, wondering whether the light magic could be coming from someone else. But she had not imagined it, she was almost sure the wave of light magic had come from her; she had seen it spreading in the distance, and this was when she had been able to breathe again. It had prevented the Queen from ripping her heart out; it had saved her. ‘Conjuring magic is not intellectual endeavour. It's emotion,’ this was something she had read in one of the books. Emotion; she had thought she was about to die, probably the fear had been strong enough to create this wave of white light. But Emma frowned; she didn’t remember feeling afraid, she had been too much occupied thinking of… She lifted her head up as a new hypothesis formed in her mind. Thinking it was the end, she had let her feelings overwhelm her; these feelings she had spent days to fight and which she couldn’t deny anymore. Sitting on the floor, alone with her thoughts, Emma spent another few hours debating, considering other explanations. But she didn’t find any. At last, her hypothesis was that her feelings for Killian were stronger than she had let herself believe, strong enough to make her feel like her heart was in fire and to trigger the magic.
All these thoughts of magic had a positive impact: they were keeping her mind busy and constituted a glimmer of hope; if she had been able to use magic once, maybe she would find a way to use it again, and maybe she would be able to free herself. Focusing on her handcuffs, she thought of his lips against hers, of his hands in her back, pulling her to him, of this passion burning inside. But nothing happened. She kept staring at her hands, imagining them free, but the handcuffs remained. Focusing more, she was trying to feel her heart burn again. Soon, she was staring at the cuffs blankly, as she was lost in her thoughts. Exhausted, she gave up; she would try again later.
The next day, still hopeful it might work, she tried again. But as hours passed, hope dimmed. Tears started to roll down her cheeks as it dawned on her that she might be trapped in here forever. What she regretted the most was these last days she had spent locked in her cabin while she could have spent them with Killian; now, she would give everything to see him again, even if it was just for one moment, one moment long enough to be in his arms one last time.
She thought of this time when, a decade earlier, she had found herself in jail, for the crimes of the man who said was in love with her. Like everyone else, he had let her down, and she had found herself locked up and pregnant. Though she was locked up, her situation now was different, and somehow even worse; in jail, she knew how long she would have to stay there. Here, in a land whose rules she ignored, she didn’t know when the Queen would release her, if she would release her at all. Another major difference was that none of Killian or her had given up on the other, they had been separated against their will; Killian had not let her down. On the contrary, he had done everything he could to protect her, even asking the Queen to spare her and make him pay instead. Lying on the stone floor, she cried silently during long hours.
Emma suddenly got up and looked through the window. Memories of a dream she had during the night had come back to her: she was looking at the ocean, and a ship had appeared on the horizon. Not any ship: the Jewel of the Realm; Killian had found her. But it had only been a dream; Emma could see nothing but the ocean and the sky, there was no ship to be spotted. ‘It can also make your dreams come true,’ this was what he had told her; maybe she should just hope that he would find her. Of course it didn’t sound likely to her, but she pretended to believe.
The next days were mostly spent losing herself in her thoughts. It often ended in tears, but at least time was passing by faster than if she was just waiting. There were times when she tried to use magic to free herself from the handcuffs, but she simply didn’t know how to. And sometimes, she stood up and looked through the windows, on the lookout for a ship, before sitting down again, following his advice and trying not to give up on hope. The only company she had was the black knight, coming everyday with a round loaf and some water; a man whose face was hidden behind a mask and who was dropping the food more than giving it to her. He never talked or showed any sign of compassion; it was fair to say that she was alone, in this tower.
Days went by slowly, very slowly. Emma didn’t remember any time in her life when days had been so slow. She had been locked up for just a bit more than a week when she felt like it had been a month.
Looking through the window, finally she saw it: the Jewel of the Realm was in sight. But it didn’t stop; it went past the island and was now drawing away. When she wanted to scream, trying to signal her presence, Emma felt like she was choking. She saw the Queen standing by her side, her hand in her chest, this malevolent smirk on her lips.
“Can’t you see? He doesn’t care about you. He was peacefully living with his brother before you came into his life and got him into trouble. I made him a favor by locking you up here. He is free now. It took him only a few hours to get over you, and a few days to forget you. You love him but you are not loved in return. Did you really think he wouldn’t let you down, just like everyone else? Hope only leads to disappointment. After all these times, you should have known opening your heart to him was dangerous. But I can help you, you won’t make the mistake again after I’ve ripped it out of your chest.”
Emma screamed and woke up, immediately sitting up, her breathing fast, her hand on her chest. There was a second of relief as she felt her heart was still in its proper place. She then burst into tears as she thought of the words of the Queen, words reflecting what she was thinking deep down. Turning her feelings into anger, she shifted to the centre of the room, to the metal ring holding her captive, tying her to the floor. She grabbed the chain and pulled as hard as she could, trying to tear it. Since it didn’t work, she stood up and ran from one side of the room to the other, yanking the chain whenever she was stopped, tears flowing down her cheeks. Her thoughts were not clear anymore, being locked up in here without knowing how long she would have to stay was driving her crazy. She kept running across the room, pulling on the chain as strongly as she could, screaming as she gave into madness. All she wanted was to be free, but all she did was to hurt her wrists. There was nothing she could do; hitting the handcuffs against the metal ring or against each other didn’t work either. Tears didn’t stop until she felt like there was no tear left to be cried.
When she woke up the next morning, she remembered her dream: Killian was smiling at her, his fingers brushing her cheek, his eyes locked on hers. He was telling her everything was fine. He was wrong, but if sleeping was the only way to see him, she wanted to sleep more. She didn’t have the strength to fight against the chain, anyway.
Trying to sleep was how she spent the next days. She often woke up without any memories of her dreams, but sometimes it worked, and she could think of his bright blue eyes, his smile or his reassuring voice filled with tenderness until she would fall asleep again. But falling asleep was not so easy.
Sleeping any time of the day and the night, she lost track of time, she didn’t know which day it was, or how long she had been locked up; about two weeks, she thought, even if it felt more like two months. All she knew was that each day spent here was hell. There was no hope left. Killian would surely never find her; he was probably not even looking for her. Even if she regained freedom one day, what would she do? She had no place to go, nothing to do, no reason to live for. The Queen had been right, death would have been too easy; being locked up in this tower was much worse. If she had managed to rip her heart out, at least the pain would have lasted only a few seconds. She was tired of fighting. Emma stared at the round loaf the black knight had just dropped. This daily one piece of bread was not enough, she could feel she had weakened in the past few days. How long would she be able to survive if she stopped eating and drinking? Surely not many days. She grabbed the loaf and threw it out of the window, before lying down again, drowning in her tears.
Refusing to eat or drink anything, Emma spent most of the three next days lying on the floor. She felt weaker and weaker. It was raining and the cold wind was rushing into the tower. Shivering all night consumed some more of the few energy she had left. The next morning, she barely had enough strength to move. She was rolled into a ball, feeling dizzy. It felt like she was falling asleep when she passed out.
“Emma? Emma, love, you have to wake up.”
A faint smile made its way to her lips as she recognized his voice. She refused to open her eyes, afraid his voice might vanish if she did; the dream would end. His voice echoed again. It sounded more real than in any of her previous dreams, tempting her to wake up and check whether he was not here, but she resisted and listened carefully.
“Wake up and live. It’s been a long time but don’t surrender. I know you think hope only leads to disappointment, but please take a chance this time, take a chance on me. I am on my way, I am coming to save you. I only need time. Emma, I need you to survive, don’t surrender. This can’t end like this. Wake up, love. Wake up, eat, drink, breathe. Now it is my turn to tell you this: be patient. Wait for me. I am coming.”
Since the voice faded away, Emma opened her eyes and looked up. But apart from the firefly which zoomed out of the window and disappeared into the night, there was no one here. Lying on her back, she closed her eyes again, thinking of his words and trying to remember every feature of his voice. It was not the first time she was hearing him in her dreams, but it had never sounded so clear. The other difference was that he was usually telling her with a soft voice that everything was fine; this time, his voice imprinted with worry was making it more realistic, so realistic that she now had a doubt: had it really been a dream? She had no explanation, but this doubt was enough to clear her mind: what was she doing? What if he had not given up on her and really was on his way? The glimmer of hope was dim, but it was enough: she couldn’t surrender, maybe he only needed more time.
When the black knight came back, she pounced on the goblet of water before devouring the loaf. It required a few days before she regained the ability to move without feeling dizzy. She never heard his voice again, but was still clinging to the hope that he was somewhere out there, looking for her.
Sitting on the floor, Emma was looking down at her handcuffs. It had been days since she had not tried to use some magic. Focused, it was when she least expected it that the door behind her slammed open.
Her heart skipped a beat. This time it was real. She barely had time to stand up and turn around when she found herself in a tight embrace.
Her eyes closed, she bit her lip, trying to fight back the tears. The handcuffs didn’t allow her to wrap her arms around him, so she just let him squeeze her in his embrace, keeping her face in his neck. Though he was holding her so tight that she wondered how no rib had broken yet, she felt like in one moment he had fixed everything, as if all her broken pieces had been pulled back together.
“I was hoping you’d find me,” she said in a weak voice.
“There’s not a day that went by that I didn’t think of you. I was afraid I would never see you again.”
Emma didn’t have time to reply anything: she forgot everything when he pressed an open-mouthed kiss in her neck. Her lips parted and she tilted her head, stretching her neck where his lips lingered.
He smiled against her skin before standing up straight. He had arrived in the room so fast that she hadn't got the time to see him. But when she did, her heart skipped another beat; he was even more handsome than in her memories. His blue eyes looked even brighter. Perhaps it was because of the black line circling them. This wasn't the only difference: his hair was now short, he was wearing a black stud on his ear, and he had traded his outfit for a red velvet vest and black leather.
"Killian? What happened?"
At this moment appeared in his eyes something which reminded her of herself, the night after climbing the beanstalk, when she had felt embarrassed as she had showed him the golden coins she had stolen from the giants, when she had been ashamed of her behaviour while his manners were so good.
"We need to go," he simply said, ignoring her question. He looked down at her handcuffs and that was when she saw it.
"Killian! What happened to your hand?"
Emma watched as the hook hit one of her handcuffs, skilfully enough to break the lock. He opened it and freed her left hand, before trying to free her second hand. It required a few attempts before the second handcuff broke free. As soon as she was released from them, she cupped his cheeks and looked him in the eyes.
"What happened?" she asked.
"I’ll tell you later, there is no time to explain now, the black knight could wake up anytime," he said, his hand covering hers on his cheek. "Let's get away from here."
His fingers closed on hers and he grabbed her hand before pulling her out of the room. Emma had indeed spent weeks at the top of the tower: on the landing were only some stairs leading down. Killian was still holding her hand, leading her as they ran down the spiral staircase. After all this time spent barely moving, running like this made her feel dizzy and she stumbled. By trying to hold herself up, she only managed to cut her palm with a stone of the wall.
“Stay with me, love,” said Killian, catching her right in time before she would hit the stone steps.
Still feeling dizzy, she lost herself in his eyes. She didn’t dislike how he had called her, ‘love,’ like in some of her dreams.
“Oh! Is this safe?” she asked; without any warning, he had scooped her up, and was now running down the stairs, even faster than when she was running behind him.
He sounded so confident, and also was so warm, that Emma didn’t complain. Her arms wrapped around his neck, she leant her head against his shoulder and let him carry her downstairs.
Killian stopped and put her down, indicating her to stay quiet while he listened carefully.
“The black knight seems to be back, stay here,” he whispered before going out, leaving her inside.
Leaning against the cool stone wall and not being in his arms anymore, she was cold again, even more than before it seemed; she had got used to the cold in her cell, but now that Killian had reminded her what it was like to be warm, she was shivering. The light coming through the ajar door let her think it was sunny, and probably warmer, outside. He had told her not to move, but curiosity got the best of her; quietly, she walked towards the door and peeked out. Eyes opened wide as she saw Killian in a sword-fighting with the black knight. It didn’t take her long to realize she didn’t need to worry about him; he was skilfully avoiding every attempt of the black knight to hurt him. Soon, he firmly pinned him against the wall, his sword against his throat.
“You didn’t get enough the first time?” Killian asked menacingly.
Emma had never seen him like this. She couldn’t see his eyes, but she could hear the violence tinting his words and could see how he was frowning, or how his jaw was clenched. Killian threw the black knight’s mask away and hit him hard in the head with his hook. The man fell on the ground, knocked out.
Killian’s expression switched when he saw Emma staring at him: all the traces of violence disappeared, his look changed; he now looked worried.
“You’ve watched this?”
By the tone of his voice, there was definitely something worrying him. Emma didn’t reply. She was staring at him, both admiring his skills in sword-fighting and being surprised by the violence she had just witnessed. The man standing in front of her looked like the Killian she remembered, but was at the same time so different. Slowly, he walked closer to her.
“I didn’t mean to let you see that, not so early, not before I had time to explain. Emma, I may have changed, but you don’t have to worry, I will never hurt you.”
She lightly frowned as she processed what he had just said. “Worry? But I’m not worried,” she said, glancing at the man on the floor. “Killian, what you’ve done… Back in my world, that’s what we call legitimate defense. He wouldn’t have hesitated. All you did was protecting us.”
Killian’s features softened and he flashed her a smile, while closing the distance between them. “We should go. Give me your hand.”
Emma held out her hand, thinking he just wanted to pull her away from this tower. But he looked up at her.
“The other one,” he said. Emma didn’t move and kept staring at him, wondering what he wanted. Since the moment when she had stumbled in the stairs, she had kept her fist clenched, trying to stop the cut from bleeding. “It’s cut. Let me help you.”
“Oh, no, it’s fine,” she said, hiding her hand in her back.
“No, it’s not. After all these efforts to find you, I’d be grateful if you could avoid bleeding to death. Give me your hand.”
“Killian, we don’t have time, what if he wakes up?” she asked, indicating the black knight.
“I would say he’s knocked out for a while.”
Since he was insisting, Emma sighed and held out her bloody hand which he grabbed with his hook; it was bleeding more than she had expected. Killian uncorked a bottle and poured some liquid on the wound.
“Ow! What is that?”
“Rum? Why do you carry some with you? I thought rum was leading to bad form and…”
Emma stopped in mid-sentence, losing her words as she saw him; Killian had wrapped her hand in a scarf, and was now tying it up, holding an end in his hand and the other one between his teeth, his eyes locked on hers. She blinked, but it didn’t help keep her ideas clear. Finally, he stood up straight, finishing to arrange the scarf around her hand.
“Rum can indeed lead to bad form, but things have changed, love. Lately, I’ve realized good form was not leading anywhere, not when I’m not with you. To get what you want, you have to fight, and good manners will make you lose.”
Emma stared at him again; things had indeed changed, the Killian she knew would never have said this. She was distracted from her thoughts when he scooped her up again. It took him a few minutes to walk down the path and reach the oceanfront, where the Jewel of the Realm was waiting. Or at least that was what she was thinking.
“This is another change: welcome aboard the Jolly Roger, Emma,” he said while getting on board. He kept her in his arms as he addressed his crew. “All hands on deck! We’re leaving now! Smee!”
While the other sailors were active to set sail, a short and plump man in a red hat came to them.
“Go down to the galley, and bring some food and water to my quarters.”
Captain? Quirking her eyebrows, Emma looked up at Killian.