Chapter 9: The Captain's Tale
“Killian, where is your brother?” asked Emma as Killian was carrying her below deck.
“Recovering. He will be fine, eventually. For now, it’s about you I’m worried. Do you realize how cold you are?”
“It was cold in the tower, but I’m feeling better, now.”
“You’re still cold.” Killian put her down on the bed and a shiver ran through her body as she couldn’t feel his warmth anymore. “I should have thought of giving you this earlier.”
He removed his coat and put it on her shoulders, before pulling the desk closer to the bed. He then disappeared in the captain’s bathroom for a few seconds before coming back to sit next to her, his hand rubbing her arm in an attempt to warm her up. Emma blushed as she thought of telling him how warmer than his coat he was, but she didn’t dare saying anything. Smee came back with a large bowl of some sort of rice-based soup and a mug of water.
“Will that be enough, captain?”
“If it’s not, I’ll call you again.” Killian dismissed the sailor and turned to Emma. “The choice is quite limited, but you can eat as much as you want. You also have water here.”
“Thanks,” she said, taking the mug of water.
He flashed her a smile, staying close to her. She started to eat while feeling his gaze on her. It was slightly intimidating, but she had missed him so much that she didn’t want him to stop.
“Emma, one of the things that has changed is that the cabin in which you were staying is now taken by my brother. The captain’s quarters are now yours, but it won’t be as quiet as where you were; there will be times when I need to be here. If it bothers you, Liam can come here and you can go back there.”
“Killian, I’ve spent weeks sleeping on a stone floor. Whatever you can offer me will be better than what I had lately.” She tilted her head, leaning against his hand as he brushed her cheek with the back of his fingers. “What happened to Liam?”
“Got hit by a curse. But he will be fine, he’s been healed, he just needs time to recover. I’m coming back.” Again, he went to the bathroom and came back a few seconds later. Another shiver had time to run through her body. “Among the different ways I know to warm you up, one of them is a hot bath. If you’re interested, there is one ready for you.”
“You ran a bath for me?”
“Aye. I can’t let you freeze. I thought that was the most honourable way to warm you up,” he said with a smirk.
While she was in the bathroom, Killian stayed behind the door, making sure she was alright whenever there was silence for more than a few minutes, or when there were sounds such as the one caused by her elbow bumping the bathtub. He was obviously worried; Emma guessed it was because she probably looked weak. And she was; the relief of being back on the ship had let her feel how exhausted she was, making all her worries vanish. Or at least most of them, since she still had to find a way to go back where she belonged, in Boston. But she would think of this later.
When she came back to the quarters and saw him standing in front of his desk, looking up at her, his finger still on the map he had been studying, she remembered of all these times in this tower when there had been only one thing she had wanted to do. Now, there was nothing holding her back; she closed the distance between them and wrapped her arms around him, holding herself against him, her face in the crook of his neck, her eyes closed. She smiled as his arms were not long to tightly wrap around her. Killian didn’t need any explanation and simply hugged her back. He didn’t pull back but she didn’t either, and they stayed there for a moment. When his embrace had soothed her so much that she felt her eyelids grow heavy, she looked up into his eyes.
“Is there anything else that you need?” he asked.
“Other than some sleep, nope. You gave me everything I needed.” She kissed his cheek and pulled out from him. “Good night.”
Exhausted, Emma fell asleep right after lying down. Killian softly brushed her cheek before going out of the quarters. He was on deck the next morning when she found him. Holding the railing of the ship, he was looking at the ocean stretching ahead of them. Seeing him from behind, Emma gulped before going to stand next to him. A smile tugged at his lips.
“You’re alright, Swan?” he asked, glancing at her before focusing back on the ocean.
“Yes,” she replied, examining him before following his eyes. She was seeing nothing but water. “What are you looking at?”
“The horizon. I find it calming, it helps me think.” He shook his head and looked at her. “Is there anything that you need?”
“No, I just came because… I wanted to thank you, Killian. For coming back for me. If you hadn’t…”
“That was the right thing to do,” he replied, still focused on the horizon.
She imitated him, holding the railing and looking at the ocean as she looked for her words.
“You’ve done so much for me, while expecting nothing in return. The day we met, you postponed your departure to help me, telling me it wouldn’t cause any problem though you knew it would. I…” Emma kept staring at the ocean as she talked, unwilling to take the risk of catching his eyes and losing her words. “I’m not used to someone putting me first. In my life, people were always letting me down. No one has ever fought for me the way you did.”
Killian turned to her and cupped her chin, making her look up at him.
“Emma, I don’t intend to let you down. Saving you was the right thing to do, but it was also, and especially, what I wanted to do. Don’t you know? When you came into my life, everything changed. You changed the way I am looking at the world, and it is so much more colourful now.”
Feeling the intensity of his stare, Emma got lost in his eyes. Killian was also close to lose himself in hers, but he managed to focus back on what he was saying. He kept his eyes locked on hers while he talked.
“Have you ever met someone that you would change your entire world for? Someone whose eyes you just knew you were born to gaze into? From the moment we met, I knew. Your beauty struck me the first time when I saw you. This was before another kind of beauty, the one that comes from the inside, even more powerful and enchanting, made me attached to you in a way I’ve never even thought was possible. And now that I know what it is like to have you by my side, life without you would be meaningless. You are a part of my life I don’t want to live without.”
Not taking her eyes off of him, her lips parted and her vision became blurred with tears as she heard his words. She tried to breathe in but there didn’t seem to be enough air anymore. Air was not what she wanted, anyway. It was not what she needed. Slowly, she came closer, until her forehead was against his. He seemed to guess what her intentions were; his lips captured hers, his mouth closing in on her top lip. A tear silently rolled down her cheek while the softness of the kiss consumed her; like when their lips had met for the first time, she felt like a fire was burning inside her. Keeping their lips locked, his arms wrapped in her lower back to pull her closer, while her fingers went through his hair and closed in on some raven strands.
Out of breath, she kept her forehead and nose against his, her fingers still in his hair, not letting him pull away. He had loosened his embrace, hesitant to hold her against him, not because he didn’t want to keep her close, but because he wanted her to know she was free to go if she wanted to. But she didn’t. He opened his eyes.
“You’re not running away, this time?” he asked, letting her feel his breath against her lips.
She shook her head, opening her eyes in her turn. “You still haven’t told me how you found me.”
“Are you sure you want to hear that?”
“Why not?” she asked, noticing the reluctance in his voice.
“It might be a long and not so interesting story.”
“Tell me. What happened?”
“Come here,” he said, stepping over the railing and sitting down, inviting her to do the same. “Smee!”
While she sat down next to him, Emma didn’t hear what Killian had asked the sailor. Soon, the man with the red hat came back with a box containing objects she wasn’t sure she could identify. The captain took one of them and, with his hook, drilled a hole in the shell.
“Coconut juice?” he asked, handing her the coconut.
“Thanks,” she said, dubious. Her tone made Killian chuckle.
“I’ve told you it might be a bit long to explain, we may as well make ourselves comfortable, and drink to the fact that you’re back on board,” he said, locking his eyes on hers while hitting a second coconut on hers. “Rum would do as well, but asking a lady to drink is not good form, I wouldn’t want to bring you to the dark side.”
His teasing tone made her smile. “I was the one stealing from the giants, and now I’m the one with good manners?”
“Aye, it seems like it.” With his hook, he brushed a blonde curl behind her ear. “I think you asked me to tell you how I’ve found you, here’s the story. When you’ve been taken away from me, I could have gone back to the man I used to be, but it didn’t work, I just couldn’t. It took me some time to be able to think again, to realize I had lost you. It was like I wasn’t myself anymore, as if a part of me was missing.”
Killian paused, looking at the horizon, his jaw clenched as he was thinking again of this moment. Emma looked at the horizon as well, remembering how she had also needed time before she had stopped staring blankly at whatever was in front of her.
“Luckily, I had Liam,” Killian continued. “He tried to reason with me, but I wouldn’t listen to anything he had to say. His sense of duty allowed him to agree with me on one point: you had saved all of us and the ship by accepting the Evil Queen’s bloody offer, it was now our turn to save you. After what she had done, there was no way we could keep working for her. From sailors working for the Queen, we became pirates. We didn’t know where she had taken you, but we decided to start by searching her castle. It took us thirteen long days to go back to the Enchanted Forest, to a village close to the castle. But it was better guarded than what we had expected, and we lost a couple days elaborating a plan to enter. Only Liam and I went, otherwise we would have caught their attention. We searched the castle but you were not there. Good thing is we didn’t enter the castle for nothing; I managed to know where you were kept.”
Killian paused, staring at the horizon again. Emma felt like there was something he was holding back. “What is there that you’re not telling me?”
He looked at her, allowing her to see the regret and even the shame in his eyes. “Things have changed, love. I’ve changed. What happened there, it was ugly.”
“Did you kill someone?”
“No, but I almost did. It is only under the threat of death that the black knight revealed where you were kept. You saw what I’ve done to this man at the foot of the tower.”
“Killian, what I saw… it was only legitimate defense.” She didn’t know what else to say. She could only see how he had changed and how uncomfortable he was with this; now she knew why he had seemed reluctant to tell her this story. “What happened next?”
“It wasn’t as simple as I had expected. Some black knights must have warned the Evil Queen. We were about to leave when she caught us. She cast at Liam something which looked like dark magic. With the shock, he fell down. She tried to curse me the same way, but I’ve avoided it. She started sending some fireballs, which I also avoided. She was so focused on me that she didn’t see Liam was on his feet again. He knocked her out with a candelabrum and we ran away. We were halfway between the castle and the village when Liam collapsed. I called for help, but there was no one. This was when I saw the black marks on his right arm. The Evil Queen had indeed used dark magic on him, and it was spreading: the marks were covering his arm when he collapsed, and were starting to spread across his chest by the time I arrived in the village. When seeing me carrying my brother, the inhabitants quickly led me to the doctor of the village. But he couldn’t help me. He told me wounds inflicted by magic could be healed only by magic. All he was able to say was that, when the black marks would reach his heart, it would be too late. This was when I remembered of this man you had talked about, the one who is said to have the most powerful magic, the Dark One.”
“You found the Dark One?” Emma asked, suddenly remembering everything she had read about this man she had intended to find.
“Aye, I did.”
The memories of him were enough to make Killian frown. He remembered screaming in the street. “Isn’t there anyone who can help? I need to see the Dark One! Where is he?”
All the inhabitants around had looked clueless. Then, he had heard a man right behind him. “There is no need to scream, dearie. Rumplestitskin,” he had said, bowing as he had introduced himself.
“I found him,” said Killian, coming back to the present time. “Or perhaps I should say he found me. The man is the strangest man I’ve ever met. I am actually not even sure he is a man. His skin is more like one of a crocodile. When he saw the black marks, he had this maniacal laughter and made the three of us disappear in a puff of red smoke to bring us to his mansion. He had all kinds of potions stored in a cupboard and took some of them. I didn’t follow what he did exactly, but the black marks disappeared and Liam finally woke up. He said the Evil Queen had used something called dreamshade, a venom found only in Neverland; she used on him what we had brought back from there, what the King had asked us to find. The Dark One said Liam would be fine, but that he would need time to recover.”
Killian paused, taking a sip of coconut juice and glancing at Emma. While he had been gazing at the horizon, she had stared at him, listening to his story, realizing he had been through even more than she had expected, just for her.
“The crocodile was expecting us to leave,” Killian went on, “but after seeing what he was able to do, I couldn’t leave without asking him about you. I told him how you had been taken away from me. I knew where you were kept, but I didn’t know anything else. I needed to see you. Of course, he wouldn’t help me for free. I had already given him all the jewels I had stolen at the castle so that he would accept to save Liam. It was only when I gave him a very ancient jewel, which used to belong to my mother, that he took out of his cupboard a crystal ball. This was when I saw you, lying on the floor, rolled into a ball whereas it was the middle of the day. My love, I was so worried. I wasn’t even sure you were still alive.”
Realizing that while she had surrendered, completely giving up on hope, he had never stopped looking for her and had been worried when he had seen her, Emma nestled against him, finding no word. Dropping his coconut, he wrapped an arm in her back as soon as he felt her come closer, placing his hand on her waist. He went on with his story. He perfectly remembered how worried he was and how he had asked the Dark One whether he could send him there directly. But the man had let out a creepy laugh.
“This would be too easy,” he had said. “I enjoy watching you all running after your dreams. Sending you to the tower would deprive me of my entertainment.”
“It is Emma we’re talking about!” Killian had thumped the table, looking daggers at the man. “Her life is in danger and all you care about is your bloody entertainment! One more day could be enough to lose her forever.”
Rumplestitskin had laughed again, causing Killian to clench his jaw even more. “All magic comes with a price, dearie. It would cost me too much energy to send you there.”
“She won’t survive!”
“She will. The prophecy has not come true yet.”
“What prophecy?” had asked Killian, slightly calmed down.
“The one she talked about when she came to find you, of course. The one saying you’re the one who will give her what she’s looking for, the one I’ve written.”
“He wrote the prophecy? Why?” asked Emma.
“Aye, that’s what he said, and I also asked why,” said Killian. Like Emma, he had been intrigued by this prophecy and had asked the man the same question. “You wrote that? Why?”
There had been another maniacal laughter. “Shouldn’t you be on your way to Emma?”
“Please, help me save her.”
Killian had been very tempted to slap him when he had laughed again. “A pirate captain begging me, I like this. I won’t send you there, but I will give you this.”
“What is that?” he had asked, looking at the little box the crocodile had given him.
“Just talk to it and it will send her your message.”
Killian had been about to ask more questions about how it worked, but Rumplestitskin had decided he had spent enough time with the pirates; Killian had found himself back on the Jolly Roger with Liam.
“Once Liam was safe in the lieutenant’s cabin and the Jolly Roger had set sail, heading to this island in the Bottomless Sea where I knew you were kept,” Killian said, “I opened the little box the crocodile had given me. This image of you rolled into a ball on the floor was haunting me, you looked so weak. I knew what I wanted to tell you. I knew that, after seventeen days locked alone in this tower, you were likely to have lost hope. I only wanted you to know I was coming for you, I only needed you to wake up and survive, to understand that I only needed time, because I was still so far away from you. I knew I wanted to tell you all these things, but I didn’t know how it worked. The crocodile had told me to talk to it, so that’s what I’ve done, because I had to try. But I was feeling like he had made a fool of me: how was this firefly supposed to record my message and find you?”
Emma straightened up, her eyes locked on him. “Wait, the firefly? It was you?”
“Did it actually find you?”
“Yes. I saw one, once, when waking up from a dream. Well, I thought it was a dream. I knew it sounded more realistic than usual. It was a dream about you, I’ve heard your voice telling me to wake up and live, to be patient and give you time to come to me, to take a chance on you.”
“It sounds like you did receive it.”
“I did. And, Killian… This message you sent me, it was all I needed, it saved me.” She looked down. Now that she knew everything he had been through for her, she was ashamed that she had thought he had forgot her and gone back to his previous life. She grabbed his hand on her waist and distractedly played with his fingers, still looking down as she talked. “Being locked up there, not knowing if I’d ever be free again… As days passed, I lost hope. I thought you were not even trying to find me. I lost hope to the point that I surrendered. I stopped eating and drinking because I didn’t want to live anymore. But when I’ve heard your voice, I had doubts about it being only a dream, and it was enough to make me realize surrendering was a mistake. This message gave me hope that you would come back for me, and I’ve started to eat and drink again. I was so weak, it took me almost a week to get better and be able to move without feeling like I was about to pass out. I then did my best not to lose hope again, to be patient as your voice had told me, until you found me. I shouldn’t have lost hope in the first place, I should have trusted you.”
Emma bit her lip, not looking up. It was only when Killian’s fingers closed on hers that she realized she had been playing with them all this time. But she didn’t take her hand away, and let him pull her closer.
“Emma, you can’t blame yourself for that. When I sent the message, I knew you were likely to feel like this. These twenty-six days away from you have been hell, being without you made time go by so slowly. But it’s in the past, it’s all right now. And in case you ever find yourself in a similar situation again, just know this: I will never stop looking for you, unless you tell me to.” Keeping her hand in his, he traced small circles on the back of her hand with his thumb, and leant to press a kiss on her forehead. A teasing smile tugged at his lips. “You mentioned dreams. Did you often dream of me?”
Emma felt the warmth of the blush covering her cheeks. She looked up, biting her lip, repressing a smile. “How much is often?”
Killian flashed her a bright smile before whispering in her ear. “I am not ashamed to admit you were in my dreams every night.”
This only made her cheeks heat up even more. She drowned in his bright blue eyes before glancing down at his lips. Slowly, the distance between them decreased. Emma’s eyes closed and her lips parted, and…
“Captain, sorry to interrupt, we need your view about something.”
“You’re sorry?” Obviously annoyed, Killian glared at the sailor. His features immediately softened and his eyes were filled with tenderness when he turned to Emma. “I’ll be back whenever I can.”
The captain pressed a kiss on her cheek and followed his sailor.