Three weeks ago…
The tavern was dim and Killian stilled a moment in the doorway to allow his eyes to adjust to the lack of light. Once he could see better he took in the tired décor and glanced around at the few men that sat at filthy, drink stained tables. Nobody bothered to look up and he felt some of his inner tension ease.
It was just the place he needed if he was to remain undetected. His last attempt at gaining entrance to the castle had been far too close a call and he wanted to lie low for an hour or so before he making his way out of the village under the cover of night.
He stepped into the tavern and closed the door behind him. The floor was tacky underfoot and he couldn't help a slight grimace of disgust. The only respite in his journey to the bar came from patches of liberally strewn sawdust used for soaking up spilt alcohol and, by the rancid stench that assails his senses, various bodily fluids as well.
The innkeeper was a portly man with hardly any hair…or teeth as Killian discovered when he gave the pirate what he supposed was meant to be a smile. His clothes were old and looked as though they were never removed and Killian couldn't help wondering if the man in front of him was in part responsible for some of the smell that permeated the tavern.
"Wha' can I get yer?" the innkeeper asked gruffly as he scratched at a festering scab on his arm.
"Rum," Killian replied shortly and dropped a couple of coins onto the dusty counter. The pirate eyed the smeared glasses that sat on the shelf behind the bar distastefully then added, "And just give me a bottle."
The innkeeper took the money with a frown then turned and picked out the drink before slamming it down onto the bar. Killian's eyebrow rose as his mouth quirked up in silent amusement. Apparently he'd offended the squalid little man with his disgusting hovel of an inn.
The pirate nodded his thanks then took the bottle and headed over to the rear of the tavern where the shadows almost encompassed him completely. He sat down on the bench seat with a sigh and steadied himself as it creaked and bowed beneath his weight.
He popped the cork of the bottle then wiped the top around with the palm of his hand before taking a long draught of the spicy alcohol. It was better quality than he'd expected and he hummed out his approval as the fiery liquid burned down his throat and warmed his insides.
Finally something good for a change.
He took another mouthful of drink then placed the bottle on the table and reached into his pocket to pull out a small piece of paper. He stared at it for a moment, memorising the name and the town that was written upon it before tearing it up into little pieces and dropping them onto the floor.
After three unsuccessful attempts at accessing the castle where he needed to obtain the ingredients to enable Regina's spell, he'd decided to try and acquire them from another a source.
Taking a sip of his rum, he wondered at the incentive that now drove him. In truth, he no longer had to make the portal. Anton would soon have beans ready and had agreed to go to Storybrooke to tell Charming what was happening to his kingdom.
Killian was a free to leave, should he choose to do so…but he didn't.
On his way to the castle, he'd seen the oppression the people were suffering under Gisbourne and something within him wanted to help. The man of honour he used to be and had been striving to return to in order to feel worthy of Emma was still struggling to the surface despite the despair he felt over her rejection.
And damn it all the hell but somewhere along the line he'd actually grown to like Snow and Charming. The prince, particularly, could be a stubborn arse at times and it was that trait that reminded him so much of Liam.
He hadn't wanted to be friends yet deep down he knew he could call him that now and as such it just didn't sit well with him to leave him to fight the impending battle alone.
A flurry of movement caught his eye suddenly and he looked up to see a buxom fair- haired woman sit down next to him with a becoming smile.
"Care for some company?" she asked hopefully, reaching across to where his hand rested on the bottle and covering it with her own.
A heady perfume reached his nose and turned his stomach a little as the strong scent mixed nauseatingly with the stench of the tavern. The woman was pretty enough in her faded blue dress that did little to contain her ample charms although her emotionless brown eyes were too heavily made up. Streaks of rouge stood out in stark contrast against her pale face and her bright red lipstick was smudged a little in the corners of her mouth.
Killian glanced down at where she still touched his hand and tried to summon even an ounce of interest to take her up on her offer. Perhaps losing himself in her body for a few hours would be just what he needed to relieve some of the torturous ache that was his constant companion. God knows he could do with hearing some kind words of affection whispered into his ear even if they were all lies.
His gaze lifted to hers again and she smiled wider as she began to trail her hand slowly up his arm then over his chest. He closed his eyes willing himself to feel something… anything that proved he wasn't a pathetic slave to a woman that didn't even want him. As soon as her fingers touched his flesh his skin began to crawl causing him to flinch. Abruptly, he opened his eyes then grabbed her wrist and pulled her arm away.
It wasn't right and he loathed himself for even thinking it could be. If he couldn't be with Emma then he didn't want to be with anyone.
"Not tonight," he told her harshly, more angry with himself than her.
The woman was completely unperturbed by his sudden rebuff and merely shrugged her shoulders as the fake smile dropped her face.
"Pity," she muttered flatly before getting up and sauntering away to try her luck with another patron.
Jaw tensed in aggravation, he watched her leave from beneath his lashes then reached out and grabbed his bottle before standing up. Moving swiftly, he headed for the door of the tavern and went outside. After a couple of paces he stopped and breathed in deeply just relishing the cool, clean fresh air.
Absently, he rubbed at his chest as if trying to remove any last remnant of the woman's touch. It felt as though he'd betrayed Emma in some way, which was ridiculous because he knew he owed her no such obligation.
With a shake of his head at his own idiocy, he raised the bottle to his lips and drank deeply. Thirst slaked for the moment he roughly wiped his mouth with the back of his cuff and began to walk.
He had a long journey head of him.
Emma sat in her room and stared silently out of the window.
Outwardly she appeared calm, serene even. Inside, however, she was a writhing mass of pain and denial, fear and confusion.
Anton was wrong.
He had to be because if Killian was really dead then she'd know, wouldn't she?
She'd feel it somehow, even though they were worlds apart. That connection they had to each other, the one she tried so desperately to deny, it would tell her if he was gone, wouldn't it?
A gentle knocking on her door broke her out of her reverie and she jumped slightly. She gazed blankly at it for a moment before it opened slowly then Snow poked her head through the gap and gave her a small smile.
"May I come in?" she queried softly.
Emma looked down a little self-consciously and nodded. She'd guessed that someone would seek her out sooner or later. She just wished it had been later…much later.
"Are you okay?" her mother asked as she entered the room, the concern clear in her tone.
"I'm fine," she lied, her gaze flicking to hers then down again.
As soon as Anton had pronounced that he thought Killian was dead she'd automatically reacted the way she always did whenever her emotions threatened to overcome her.
She'd run the hell away as fast as she could.
"Of course you are," Snow stated wryly as she sat down beside her daughter, "So do you want to talk about it?"
"What's there to talk about?" Emma commented with a snort.
She could feel the ball of emotion that she'd been trying to keep at bay rising and took a deep breath before swallowing it down.
"How you feel about Killian for one," Snow suggested gently as she reached out and took hold of her daughter's hand. She gave it a light squeeze and smiled encouragingly, "It might help."
"I don't think it will," the blonde refuted flatly with a shake of her head, "and anyway, what's the point if Anton is right?"
Her heart contracted at the thought but her mother, as ever, was always the optimist.
"Don't give up hope, Emma," Snow said earnestly, "We don't know anything for sure and one of the many things I've learned about Killian is that he's a survivor. If it's as bad in the Enchanted Forest as Anton says it is then he's probably just having to lie low until he gets an opportunity to return."
'But what if he doesn't want to?' she retorted in her mind. He'd done it before when he thought he wouldn't see her again. He'd all but admitted to going back to his previous life and after the way she'd acted it wouldn't surprise her if he'd chosen to do so again.
More than ever she regretted the stupid promise she'd had him make. She'd been so desperate at the time, so selfish…so cruel. She'd known he wouldn't break it, counted on it and his 'good form' to uphold a senseless vow just so that she wouldn't have to face up to her own feelings of inadequacy and fears.
She could see it clearly now that it might be too late.
Pulling away from Snow's light grasp, she stood up then ran a hand through her hair and began to pace around the room. She already knew what she was going to do. Had known ever since Anton had come through the portal and not Killian.
She couldn't wait around in the hopes that he might appear any longer.
If he was in trouble then she needed to go to him, to help him as he had her so many times before.
If he were dead…she felt her heart stutter at that thought…then at least she'd have some closure.
But if he'd decided to stay…
Well then, however much the thought of letting him, or anyone, in fully still scared her, losing him terrified her even more. She'd just have to tell him how she really felt and hope that it wasn't too late.
"I'm going back," she stated suddenly, turning to face her mother with a look of determination, half expecting her object, "He found me, now it's my turn to find him."
A wistful smile bloomed across Snow's face and she let out a soft sigh.
"I figured you would," she commented with a nod, "And you'll have some company because David is going with you. He wants to see what Gisbourne is doing with his own eyes."
Emma frowned slightly at her words and felt a pang of guilt when she caught the sorrow lurking in her mother's eyes. She'd been so caught up in her thoughts about Killian that she'd forgotten her parents land had been overrun as well.
"I'm sorry," she told her contritely.
Snow gave her a small, grateful smile of acknowledgement then got back to the business at hand.
"You'd best pack some things. Anton brought another bean through for you to use."
Emma smiled back and as her mother stood, she impulsively reached out to give her a hug. Snow immediately responded and they simply embraced with a few moments just drawing comfort from one another.
For the first time in days Emma felt a sense of peace settle over her, filling her with a warmth that spread throughout her body until it tingled in her toes and fingertips.
"Emma?" Snow suddenly said in surprise as she pulled away slightly.
"What?" her daughter asked in concern.
She followed her mother's gaze to the lights on the wall and her mouth opened in shock at the sight of them getting steadily brighter and brighter until with a loud popping sound they shattered completely.
She turned to her mother with wide eyes and Snow suddenly began to grin in delight.
It appeared that Emma had her magic back.