Five weeks ago…
Killian knocked on the imposing door of Regina's house and waited, his finger tapping impatiently on the large buckle of his ornate belt. He had no clear idea why he'd been summoned and wondered at the sense of duty he still felt to these people now that his sole reason for staying in Storybrooke had gone.
She certainly felt no such conscience about leaving, why should he?
David had sought him out earlier that day and only said that the former queen had some important news to impart that would affect all of them. He'd flat out refused at first but the prince had been insistent, firmly declining to let him 'mope around like a lovesick teenager' as he'd so eloquently put it.
That had stung. Like Emma had been a mere passing fancy to him.
Didn't the man realise that he'd just lost the one woman he'd loved in centuries for a second time?
Maybe he preferred not to. He'd made it plain often enough that he considered a pirate not good enough for his daughter. And after the promise Emma had demanded from him before she driven out of his life forever, he now knew that she felt the same.
At least the first time they'd been forced apart she'd left him with some miniscule ray of hope. A tiny acknowledgement that she cared even a little for him. That had they remained all together, somewhere, sometime in the future they may have had something.
It had been a moment he'd often drawn comfort from in the unfulfilling and lonely year that had followed. Trying to go back to what he was and failing miserably because in all honesty he'd had no inclination to be that man anymore.
But now…now he had nothing.
She'd pulled that tiny thread of hope right out from under his feet and he'd been trying to stay upright ever since. It was hard though when all he had to support him was an empty soul and aching heart that left him feeling more and more wretched by the hour.
The door opened suddenly and David looked at him in obvious relief.
"We've been waiting for you," he said with an accusing look, "I thought I was going to have to come find you."
Killian rolled his eyes and brushed past him as he entered the house.
"Let's just get this over with, shall we? I have a bottle of rum or two that need my attention," the pirate retorted in a long-suffering tone.
He swept through the house not waiting for the prince and entered the lounge where Snow, Regina, Robin, Rumple and Belle all sat, their expressions showing varying degrees of annoyance or boredom.
"Finally," Regina muttered irritably as she arose from her position next to Robin and gave the pirate a dark look.
Killian merely gave her a sardonic smile then leaned against the wall as David closed the door behind him and sat down next to his wife.
Regina began speaking just as Snow offered the pirate one of her usual sympathetic smiles. They had been prevalent ever since Emma had departed but instead of acknowledging her, for once he looked away. He wasn't in the mood for her pity. He just wanted to be left alone.
Cursing inwardly, he pushed aside the crushing sense of despair that was his constant companion whenever he dwelled too long on the fact that Emma was really gone. It had only been four days since she'd left but already it felt like an eternity to him. He needed something to occupy his mind, better yet, make him forget.
Suddenly, something Regina said caught his attention and his looked over at her with interest.
"…so Gold and I believe that together, after a couple of minor adjustments, we could utilise Zelena's time portal and use it as a way back to the Enchanted Forest. Possibly even use it as a permanent link if we can establish the same talisman on the other side," the queen concluded.
"But what if you're wrong and someone goes through and it's still a time portal?" David asked in concern, "It's too risky."
"It's highly unlikely as we're not using the same ingredients to perform the spell but just in case I will be the one to try it out first," Regina replied matter-of-factly.
"What?" exclaimed Robin standing up, his expression one of complete shock, "Are you serious? You can't possibly…"
"I'll do it," Killian interjected, his voice brooking no argument. Everyone turned to look at him and he shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly before reasoning, "It makes the most sense. I have no ties here unlike the rest of you."
"Now wait a minute…" David began, ready to object.
"Do what you have to do to get it ready," the pirate cut in tersely, ignoring the prince and looking from Regina to Gold before adding, "The quicker the better."
Without waiting for a reply he turned and left. This was just what he needed.
Emma slowly climbed the stairs at Granny's bed and breakfast then made her way along the corridor that led to Killian's room. She'd had a fitful sleep following her talk with Snow and David the previous evening and had gotten up early. The black circles beneath her eyes clearly indicated her unsettled night but her parents wisely didn't comment.
She still hadn't quite got her head around what they'd told her. Killian had willingly jumped into an untested portal without knowing where or even when he'd end up. Moreover, he'd placed his trust in the two people in the whole town that really couldn't care less whether he actually made it or not.
Apparently Regina had given the pirate a list of items to obtain from her castle, a spell and a diagram of Zelena's talisman in order for him to create a return gateway. He'd reckoned on being away for a month at the most but as Emma was all too aware he had yet to come back almost five weeks later.
A little voice in her head kept taunting her that maybe he'd never planned to.
And that's what had brought her to his door now.
She'd gone to Granny's as soon as she was able and had put on a happy face as she'd greeted old friends pleased to see that she was back. She'd assured them that Henry was fine and with Regina then pulled Granny aside and asked if she could have the key to Killian's room.
If the old lady was surprised, she didn't show it. Instead she went and got her the key and informed her that his rent was only paid up until the end of the week.
Emma stood hesitantly at his door then put the key in the lock and opened it up. Entering slowly she looked around and felt a surge of disappointment flow through her body. For some inexplicable reason, she'd expected to feel immediately closer to him just by standing in his room but it wasn't like that at all. If anything she felt even further distanced.
Everything was neat as a pin. She wasn't sure if that was Granny's tidying skills or Killian's but it lent the area an air of coldness and sterility that she'd never associated with the pirate.
Pushing the door shut behind her, Emma began to feel the first tendrils of panic wending their way up her spine. He had to have left something behind, hadn't he? Something that suggested he was coming back; that he hadn't left for good.
A spare shirt perhaps? Maybe a bottle of rum? His fake hand for heaven's sake?
She went over to the bathroom and a cursory glance confirmed that everything in there was as clean and tidy as the rest of his room. The small writing desk by the window was clear, as was the bedside cabinet upon which stood a lamp, its red shade sporting a slightly frayed fringe.
Turning around she spied a nearby tallboy and hurried over. She pulled out the wooden drawers one by one, running a suddenly shaky hand over the interiors in case she missed something just by looking. Each time one came up empty she slammed it shut, every drawer getting louder and louder the more frantic in her actions she became.
"Dammit!" she cried out unhappily before her gaze locked onto the wardrobe on the other side of the room.
Heart racing, she strode over to the large wooden piece of furniture and yanked the doors open wide. Empty hangars rattled slightly on the metal rail and Emma let out a heavy sigh as her body suddenly sagged in defeat.
This had been her last hope for something tangible.
Without it, it was as though Killian had never even been in Storybrooke. A beautiful dream she'd conjured up to help her through all the madness that had become her life and had simply faded away from existence when she'd decided to leave.
If only she'd been brave enough to stay.
She glanced down as she slowly started to close the doors then paused, her heart leaping as she noticed a small black heap in one of the corners. Bending quickly, she reached out to pick it up then gazed at it curiously as she straightened. It took her a moment to realise that soft material in her hand was a scarf. His scarf. The one he'd used to bind her hand when she'd cut it climbing the beanstalk. She didn't even remember giving it back to him.
Closing her eyes, she sat down suddenly on the edge of the bed behind her and allowed the memories of that moment to wash over her. How he'd managed to turn a simple act of bandaging her hand into such a heated experience she'd never fully understand. Using his mouth to tie the knot while looking up at her from under his lashes had nearly been her undoing. The connection that had always been between them right from the beginning had fairly ignited under his tender ministrations and it had taken all her considerable willpower not to respond.
She hadn't trusted him then, more importantly, she hadn't trusted herself or the feelings he'd stirred up.
Opening her suddenly watery eyes, she pushed herself back onto the bed and lay down on her side. Bringing her knees up so she lay curled into a ball, she put the scarf under her head and let the tears fall for everything she'd lost.
No. Not lost she realised, but wilfully thrown away while selfishly still expecting him to wait for her. For him to put his life on hold without leaving a glimmer of hope or giving a thought for how he felt.
All she'd cared about was protecting herself.
She squeezed her eyes tightly closed as her weeping intensified. Tears streamed down her face and soaked into the black material that still held a faint scent of him, further fuelling the sobs that racked her body.
She lay there for a long while just allowing all her pent up emotions to run free. It should have been cathartic but by the time the storm had passed, she just felt worse.
Sniffling loudly, she got up and went into the bathroom. Looking in the mirror, she pulled a face at the sight she made and turned on the tap to run some water. Her eyes were red, her face blotchy, her nose was running and her heart…her heart just ached.
Cupping her hands under the cool water, she bent and splashed a couple of handfuls over her face before straightening up. Grabbing a hand towel, she dried her face then looked at herself again. Apart from some telltale redness still around her eyes, no one would ever know she'd just spent a good half hour sobbing over the biggest regret of her life.
How she wished she could refresh her heart quite so easily.
Inside her pocket, her phone suddenly began to ring. Pulling it out she saw that it was her father calling and she drew in a deep breath before answering.
"Hey, Dad, what's up?" she asked, injecting as much enthusiasm into her voice as she could muster.
"Emma, you need to come to the barn. The portal's opening again. Hook must be coming back," he told her urgently.
She could hear the sound of the wind picking up in the background as she stuffed the scarf into her pocket and dashed from Killian's room.
"I'm on my way," she all but shouted before disconnecting the call and clattering down the stairs in her haste.
Bursting out of the back door of Granny's, Emma broke into a flat out run towards the barn. Towards him. Heart soaring, she began to grin. Killian was coming back and she wanted to make damn sure that she was the first thing he'd see.