The feel of rough, itchy material scratching at Killian's chest had been the first inkling that maybe, just maybe what he was seeing was real.
Because when he'd first awoken and seen her standing there as he'd pushed away the last vestiges of sleep he'd been certain it was no more than a dream.
It had to be because as he'd stared at the vision before him he'd known that it couldn't be real.
She couldn't be real.
So he'd remained still and had simply drank her in; revelling in the way she was bathed in a soft warm light that gave her an ethereal glow, highlighting her golden hair and lightly flushed skin. Her green eyes, usually so guarded, were for some reason he couldn't fathom shining with a mixture of joy and a fear that had made his heart lurch with concern.
More than anything he'd wanted to reach out and comfort her but he'd been too afraid to move even the slightest inch lest she'd disappeared all the more quickly.
That's when slowly, but surely, as he'd become more fully alert, he'd grown more aware of his surroundings. The low hum of voices nearby, the crackling of a fire, the irritating cover that he wanted to remove from his person…he knew he wouldn't experience those things if it were all but an illusion.
Which left one of two possibilities. Either he'd finally gone completely mad…or he actually was awake.
Naturally he leaned towards the latter and if that were the case then it could only mean that…
Hope filled his heart and her name tumbled from his lips before he could even think to stop it.
Just a whisper, just for her, just in case…because there was still the tiniest doubt that lingered that he could be wrong. That she was a mere hallucination brought on by his own desperate desires.
She didn't respond at first and as the moment stretched on he began to think that maybe he had gone insane after all.
He was about to look away and curse himself for being all kinds of fool when suddenly, she took a step forward and a wondrous smile such as he'd never seen the like directed at him before graced her features.
"Killian," she breathed almost as quietly as he had done as though, she too, didn't want anyone else to hear.
The pirate was stunned, a myriad of emotions hitting him all at once, taking his breath away and leaving him feeling quite light headed. Joy, wonder, disbelief, shock…love all combining together in a tumultuous mix that he attempted unsuccessfully to temper as it brought forth a multitude of questions that raced through his already reeling mind.
Why was she here?
Was it for her parents?
Had they asked her to come back?
Did she decide for herself?
Dare he hope it was for him?
She took another step forward and he quickly pushed himself up to sit, not even registering the fact that he was partially unclothed nor that his shoulder no longer hurt like the devil anymore. All he could see was Emma, all he wanted was Emma so when another, albeit familiar, voice suddenly sliced through the night air, penetrating his dazed state it was like he'd suddenly been doused in a bucket of ice-cold water.
"Killian! You're awake!"
He jerked a little at the cry then saw Emma turn her head and watched her face fall before settling into a neutral expression. He drew in a deep breath to try and gain some equilibrium then followed her gaze and saw Martha coming towards him with a relieved smile plastered across her face. The shard of frustration that ignited in his veins at the young woman's badly timed interruption cut deep and it was all he could do not to tell her to go the hell away.
"I was so worried," she said as she dropped to her knees by his side and engulfed him in a hug.
He tensed in momentary surprise at her actions then quickly grabbed her arm and abruptly pushed her away from him with a frown.
"No need, I'm fine," he told her brusquely as he darted a glance in Emma's direction, trying to get a gauge on her reaction.
The blonde stared back at him impassively, battling hard to get a handle on the flare of jealousy she felt. It was obvious from the way Killian had reacted that anything going on between the two of them was purely on Martha's part but that didn't stop her wanting to slap the younger woman anyway.
"Of course. I'm sorry," Martha apologised bowing her head at his blatant rejection.
He looked at her a moment then felt a pang of remorse for his previous annoyance. He hadn't meant to hurt her but he also wasn't blind and didn't want to encourage what he'd already begun to suspect was a developing crush she had on him. It was hardly her fault, or his, and she had stayed with him when he'd been hurt.
He frowned slightly at that thought and drew his head back to look down at his left shoulder then rolled it back gingerly as he gritted his teeth in anticipation of the pain. When none came he reached around with his hand to double check then looked up in surprise and glanced at both the women seeking an answer.
"My wound…how has it come to be healed?" he queried.
"Emma did it," announced Charming matter-of-factly as he appeared at his daughter's side with a smile. Martha's shout had alerted him to Hook's rousing and he, Robin and Regina had all hurried over, "It's good to see you awake finally. How are you feeling?"
"Fine," the pirate muttered automatically as he suddenly began to flounder emotionally.
In truth he was finding it all a bit too much.
Everyone was staring at him and he'd barely had time to process the fact that Emma was even there and now the prince was telling him that she had somehow cured him. He couldn't help but feel as though he was the only one that had missed a very important plot detail in some bizarre theatrical he agreed to attend but couldn't remember turning up to.
He shook his head a little dazedly then looked up at Emma quizzically and queried in a dubious tone, "You healed me? But…how?"
"With my magic, actually," she replied a little self-consciously.
"Your magic?" he echoed in surprise.
"Yeah, I…got it back," she revealed as she gave a shrug then looked down at her feet.
She braced herself for his inevitable question of how it had happened and felt a twinge of guilt at knowing that she was going to have to skirt around the truth…for now at least. She wasn't ready to lay her heart on the line, especially in front of an audience, and that's what she would be doing for she was under no illusion that the main reason her powers had returned was because of how she felt about him.
Killian noticed the embarrassed almost guilty air she had about her and his stomach dropped. Suddenly, in his mind, everything clicked into place and the reason for her return became painfully clear to him.
It wasn't due to any change of heart over leaving her parents or even Storybrooke and most certainly not because of him.
It was because her power had returned unexpectedly and she'd no doubt felt the sense of duty that her mantle of being the Saviour entailed.
He swallowed hard as the disappointment slammed into him. While he was glad that she had her magic back because he knew how much it was a part of her, the realisation of knowing she was there because she felt she had to be was like a punch to the gut.
Unsure whether he should comment favourably on her newly restored powers as it was something he knew she'd seemed pleased to be rid of just a few weeks ago, he forced a tight smile to his lips and merely settled for a simple, "I see."
Emma looked up at him in surprise, a little taken aback at hearing what seemed to be displeasure in his voice. When he steadfastly refused to meet her gaze a ball of dread formed and settled low in her gut. Of all the things she'd imagined when she found him again, it had never occurred to her that he, the one person who had always encouraged and supported her magic, would be unhappy that she had it back.
Unable to look at her for a moment for fear that he would allow his inner discontent to show, Killian turned away in search of his clothing. He had belatedly become uncomfortably aware of the chilly night air…and the way Martha's gaze roamed avidly over his body.
"Well, now the niceties are over with, tell me, Hook, did you manage to locate those items that I asked you to get?" Regina asked stepping forward.
Killian found his shirt within reach then picked it up and nodded, relieved to have something else to divert his thoughts.
"Aye, they're in the bag," he replied shortly as he pulled the black garment over his head.
"What bag?" the Queen demanded with a frown.
He straightened up his collar then stilled and looked at her in concern for a second before Martha spoke up.
"I hid it to keep it safe," the young woman explained, "I knew it was of value and there were so many guards around that I didn't want them finding it. I can take you to get it if you like?"
"No, it can wait until the morning," Charming interjected firmly, "Right now I think it's wise that we all have something to eat and get some rest."
Regina opened her mouth to object and even though his mind was still in turmoil, Killian couldn't help but smirk a little when she abruptly shut it again as Robin concurred with the prince.
"I agree. A few more hours won't make any difference. My men are keeping watch tonight and it would be prudent to obtain the bag when it's light."
The Queen gave the archer a look that would have made lesser men quake in their boots but he merely stared back at her unmoved until she finally turned on her heel and stalked away. The thief raised his eyebrows and sighed heavily before giving the other's a brief smile and trailing after her.
Killian watched them go then threw off the blanket from his legs and attempted to rise so that he too could head over to the camp and get some food. As soon as he tried to push himself up however, his ankle gave way and he sank back down heavily onto his rear with a muttered curse.
He tried to rise again but Emma crouched down and laid one hand on his leg and another on his shoulder effectively stilling his movements as he tensed.
"Don't move. Let me take a look at your leg," she ordered, her face alight with concern.
She recalled Martha saying that he'd also injured his ankle and it appeared to be more serious than she'd imagined.
"It's nothing, just a sprain," he retorted dismissively, trying hard not to react to her touch that practically seared him through his clothing.
"You better let her take a look just in case," Charming advised, "There's still some things to fill you in on and we need you fit and able to fight. I think we've got a hell of a battle coming."
The pirate saw the gravity in the other man's eyes and let out a heavy sigh as he commented wryly, "Oh, by all means, make me well again just so that I have the chance to get killed. Makes perfect sense."
The prince rolled his eyes at Killian's levity then noticed Emma giving him a distinctly pointed look. Her gaze moved to Martha where she was still knelt at the pirate's side and her father gave a slight nod of acknowledgement before holding out his hand to the young woman.
"Let's leave them to it and go and get something to eat, shall we?" he proposed with a smile.
"Aye, that sounds like a good idea, lass," Killian endorsed when it seemed as though she might object, "You need to keep up your strength."
"Of course," she agreed curtly as she shot Emma a frosty glare. She'd caught the exchanged look between father and daughter and she wasn't happy.
The blonde merely raised her eyebrows and gave Martha an overly sweet smile in return that rapidly faded as the woman got up and walked off with Charming.
"She likes you," Emma commented accusingly as she began tugging on his boot with a little more force than was strictly necessary.
He raised a brow at her tone but immediately rejected the notion that she was in anyway jealous and forced a smirk to his face. She wasn't here for him; he needed to remember that.
"As surprising as that seems, Swan, not everyone is as immune to my charms as you," he replied flippantly as he leaned forward to assist her in easing off his boot.
Their hands brushed, the light touch sending sparks of awareness coursing through her body as they both stilled then looked up at each other. Faces inches apart, Emma's breath caught audibly in her throat when she saw the flash of desire that burned bright in his azure eyes. Knowing he was as effected by the innocent touch as she lent her the nerve to lean towards him a little more.
Welcoming the familiar pull of the heady attraction that she'd always felt whenever he was near, she let her gaze drop purposely to his mouth. His tongue darting out to moisten his lower lip merely heightened her anticipation to taste him once more and her heart began to pick up its pace.
"Please, I think we both know I was never immune," she told him on a whisper.
"Really, Swan?" he replied after a beat, his voice as soft and alluring as hers at first then suddenly his tone hardened and with more than a touch of bitterness he demanded, "Then why did you make me promise not to try and see you again you when you left? It hardly tells a man that his affection is welcomed or returned. Quite the contrary in fact."
His change in demeanour was so swift that it took Emma a long moment to fully comprehend what he'd said. Once she did, however, she reflexively drew back then watched in awkward silence as he reached out and yanked his boot off being careful to avoid any further contact with her.
She chanced a glance at him and it pained her to see a mask of indifference sliding into place on his normally open and honest features but, really, what did she expect?
She'd hurt him. Badly. Slammed a metaphorical door in his face seemingly without a backward glance. Of course it was going to take more than a little flirtation and the hint of a kiss to win back his trust.
She was stupid…naïve to think otherwise.
In the past it was normally at times like these that she would ignore everything and move on. It was a lot easier to simply not talk about it. But if the last couple of days and the many weeks before had taught her anything, it was that she needed to change her ways.
Especially when it came to loved one's.
She'd already started to do that with Henry and her parents to a certain extent but now she had to do it for Killian as well.
For too long she'd closed herself off not only from other people but also from herself. Fearing to love, fearing to trust. But having been forced to face the very real possibility of never seeing him again she wanted, more than ever, to now let him in.
She just hoped it wasn't too late. That she hadn't pushed him so far away that she couldn't get him back.
Looking around she saw that everyone else was still eating their supper. Knowing that they wouldn't be disturbed for a little while longer, she took in a deep breath and gathered her courage.
"I'm sorry," she began apologetically as she turned back to face him, "I was scared and I ran. It's what I do. It's what I've always done because I didn't know what it felt like to have a real home or people I cared about enough to stay. Not until I left Storybrooke that is, and my parents and…you."
Killian looked at her in mild surprise. He had expected her retreat behind her walls as usual. He certainly wasn't prepared for her to offer an apology, let alone explain her actions to him.
"Me?" he repeated incredulously, just to be sure he'd heard her correctly.
"Yeah," she nodded with a soft smile, "That's why I came back. I just missed everything…everyone."
Killian's heart began to thud in his chest at her words but before he allowed himself to get too hopeful there was still one thing he needed to clarify for his own peace of mind.
"Do you really expect me to believe that regaining your magic had nothing at all to do with your decision?" he asked sceptically.
"Why would it?" she countered, confused at his question, "I only got it back after I returned," she explained before pausing and adding wryly, "At the cost of many, many light bulbs."
"After you returned?" Killian queried, wanting to be absolutely certain.
"Yes, why?" she answered, then it slowly dawned on her, "Wait…you thought I only came back because of my magic, didn't you?"
"Well, it was a reasonable deduction considering the circumstances in which you left," he replied a trifle defensively.
Her gaze narrowed on him as another thought struck then she ventured hesitantly, "So…you're not unhappy that I have my powers again?"
His eyes widened in surprise at that and he immediately shook his head.
"Whatever gave you that notion?" he asked looking quite aggrieved at her suggestion, "Your magic a part of you, Emma. How could I possibly be unhappy about that?"
If his words hadn't been enough to allay her fears, then the earnestness of his expression did and a huge wave of relief flowed through her body.
"Good," she replied simply and saw from recognition in his eyes that her choice of wording wasn't lost on him.
Killian couldn't hold back the reminiscent smile that lit his face when he thought of the last time he'd heard her say that to him. It had been a confirmation of her accepting his feelings then and by all the Gods he was going to take it to mean the same thing now.
For the first time since he'd found her again in New York, the pirate felt a seed of cautious optimism that maybe it would work out between them after all.
Emma smiled back at him then saw a flicker of pain cross his features as he suddenly shifted his leg. She'd almost forgotten about his ankle and quickly looked down to check it out. There was a mass of purple and yellow bruising not to mention obvious swelling and she began to be concerned that maybe he'd broken it.
"I guess I'd better fix you," she muttered absently as she ran gentle fingers over his foot and ankle trying to ascertain if there was any more serious damage.
"I'm not a dog, Swan," he retorted dryly.
She looked up and saw the amusement shining in his eyes then gave him a mock reproachful glare.
"Just keep still," she ordered lightly and closed her eyes.
She could feel his gaze settle upon her and used the knowledge as she focussed inwards then held out her hands over his ankle.
Killian watched her brow crease as she concentrated on her magic then felt a sudden tingling warmth spread out from his foot and travel up his leg. A small, proud smile tugged at his lips when he saw the bruising rapidly fade and swelling recede leaving his foot feeling as good as new.
"I've said it before and I'll say it again; you're bloody amazing, Swan," he stated with quiet awe as he flexed his foot a couple of times.
"Maybe you just bring out the best in me," she countered with a smile as she opened her eyes to look at him.
Killian huffed out a soft laugh then looked away and scratched self-consciously behind his ear as colour flared high on his cheeks at her words.
"I think I'm more the type to bring out the worst," he muttered self depreciatingly.
"You do that too on occasion," the blonde conceded ruefully earning another slightly less forced laugh from the pirate.
She watched him lean forward then grab his boot and put it back on before looking up at her again. They stared at each other for a moment, smiles gradually fading as the ever present attraction between them crackled into life.
There were still so many things she needed to talk to him about, still so many feelings to work through but they would all have to wait. She'd found him again and right in that moment suddenly all that mattered to her was that he knew that she did care.
Killian held his breath when he saw Emma move towards him and her gaze drop to his mouth. She paused briefly, her eyes suddenly seeking out his with a trace of uncertainty lurking in their depths and he gave her a small, reassuring smile telling her without words it was all right. That this time he wasn't going to deny her; deny them both.
He would only be that kind of a fool once.
When her lips finally touched his it felt like coming home as he squeezed his eyes shut and lost himself in the heady sensations she never ceased to evoke within him. His hand found its way to the back of her head and cupped it gently just as he felt her fingers rake through his hair, pulling him closer as she deepened the kiss.
It was slow and tender and just that little bit demanding, a reconnection of two wounded souls that had found each other again…and all over far too quickly for his liking.
He opened his eyes as she pulled back slightly and slid his hand around to cup her cheek unable to quite relinquish all contact just yet.
"We'd better get some food," she said obviously struggling to catch her breath.
It was the furthest thing from an endearment he could imagine but just hearing how much she'd been affected by their kiss warmed his heart nonetheless. He knew there would come a time for them to sit down and talk but he was mindful enough of their current situation to know that it certainly wasn't there or then however much he wanted to do so.
It had been a good moment and for once they'd both taken it while they had the chance.
"Aye, that's probably wise, love," he replied with a smile as he let his hand fall from her face.
Emma smiled back then stood up and brushed down her jeans while he pushed himself up to stand next to her. When she straightened she surprised him by holding out her hand and looking at him expectantly.
He reached out and clasped it firmly feeling a sense of contentment come over him the like he hadn't known…ever. Then together, they walked over to join her father and the rest of their friends.
Half shrouded in shadows, Martha sat apart from the rest of the group by the fire and surreptitiously watched Emma and Killian from under her lashes.
When she'd realised the pirate hadn't used the potion she'd given him she'd known it was going to make things a little trickier, but she was nothing if not resourceful.
She knew how to adapt.
Glancing down at the dry looking rabbit meat that lay on a poor excuse for a plate, she bit back a grimace then glanced around to make sure no one was watching. With a quick wave of her hand the food transformed into succulent moist chicken breast and she slowly began to eat.
As long as no one found out she still had magic, she'd be able to bring Gisbourne the person he wanted.
That's what he paid her extremely well for after all.
And she'd never failed him yet.