Two weeks ago...
Killian stood outside the small stone dwelling on the very outskirts of the village he'd just passed through and regarded it a little despondently. Dusk was fast approaching and in the waning light the house appeared to be abandoned. He gave the building a quick once over taking note of its peeling paintwork and cracked windows not to mention the thatch that certainly seemed as though it would need renewing sooner rather than later.
Surely if the witch he was seeking still lived there she would have done something to enhance her home and not leave it to ruin?
Maybe the man who had given him this information had lied. It wouldn't surprise him given the current state of the realm. People were getting desperate. It had only taken a single gold coin to secure the witch's name and whereabouts, he should have realised it would likely be a falsehood.
He was about to turn away and decide his next course of action when the click of the lock had him tense up. The door opened slowly, creaking loudly on its hinges then moments later a young woman appeared and stared at him warily.
He frowned slightly in confusion as from where he stood he could see that candles were burning brightly inside the house and yet from the outside it still looked dark.
"It's a simple cloaking spell to deter unwanted visitors," she remarked suddenly, seemingly reading his mind.
"That's understandable," he replied with a nod.
He knew exactly whom she wished to avoid. Lately on his travels he'd heard many a rumour that Gisbourne had been sending out his men to find anyone that possessed magical abilities. What he wanted them for was anyone's guess but it went without saying that it probably wasn't anything good.
"Who are you? What do you want?" she asked cautiously.
"My name is Killian and I was told I'd find a woman here by the name of Martha. I am in need of some items that I believe she can provide," he told her, taking a step forward. He reached into his pocket then pulled out a pouch full of coins and shook it gently before adding, "I have the means to pay."
The woman glanced at the bag of money then at him again, eyes narrowing as she seemingly assessed the truth of his words. After a few seconds she moved backwards and opened the door a little wider.
"Come in," she invited, "I'm the one you seek."
"Thank you," he said gratefully then swiftly entered her home.
He stood in the middle of the room and glanced around taking in the cosy atmosphere. It was certainly a marked difference from the outside with its lightly coloured walls and rustic furniture.
Dropping the money onto a nearby table, he turned to face the woman just as she closed the door. In the candlelight he got his first proper look at her and could see that she was a good deal younger than he'd thought, no more than seventeen or eighteen years old at most. Her shoulder length curly hair was dark brown and she had a smattering of freckles over her nose and cheeks. Her eyes were the colour of honey and held a maturity that seemed at odds with what he'd surmised her age to be, as did her clothes.
The dark grey dress she wore had a very modest neckline and long sleeves that appeared aged around the edges. The apron that completed her ensemble was perfectly clean but it too seemed old.
"What items are you in need of?" she asked, walking over and eyeing him consideringly, "Something to help you forget, perhaps?"
Killian tensed and a frown formed on his face as he stared back at her trying to quell the small dart of uneasiness at her astuteness.
"What makes you think that?" he queried with a snap of irritation.
She gazed back at him with pity in her eyes as she drew nearer and let out a sigh.
"It's obvious," she stated lightly then went on to add, "Oh, it's true, you hide it better than most but I can still see the heartache within you, Killian. The pain that you wrap yourself is like a shroud and you're just waiting for it all to end, aren't you?"
He shifted uncomfortably under her forthright gaze but he was never one to back down and so he forced a grin to his lips and shook his head.
"I have no idea what you mean," he lied as he made a show of retrieving Regina's note from his inside pocket then holding it out to her, "I have simply been charged to fulfil this list."
Killian held her gaze as she continued to stare at him then gave an internal sigh of relief when she finally broke away and took the paper. The smile fell from his face as he watched her quickly scan the page and felt a sinking feeling when he saw her begin to frown.
"I have everything apart from the unicorn bone," she eventually said, looking back up at him, "They're very rare."
The pirate let out a small huff of frustration and scratched absently behind his ear as he realised he'd had a wasted trip. He would have to try and break into the castle again after all. Either that or he was beginning to think that maybe he should just go back to Anton and wait for the beans to mature however much it aggravated him to not complete his undertaking. A working permanent portal was more desirable than relying on a plant.
He sighed heavily then picked his coins up off of the table and gave Martha an apologetic smile.
"Thank you for your time but I need all or nothing on the list I'm afraid."
"I'm sorry I couldn't be of more help. I don't even know of anyone else that would have it," she told him regretfully as she handed back the paper to him.
"Well I do," he muttered aggrieved, "but it means gaining entrance into the castle and so far I have been unsuccessful." He paused then an idea struck suddenly and he looked at her hopefully before querying, "Unless…would you perhaps have something that could aid me in that task?"
Martha thought for a moment then she nodded.
"I think I might have something that could help you, but it will not come cheap," she told him as she looked pointedly at the moneybag he still held.
Interest piqued, he quirked an eyebrow then asked, "And what would that be?"
"A cloak that will render you invisible," she replied, "You would be able to get into the castle and take what you need undetected."
Killian mulled over her offer for a few moments, his mind racing at the idea. He still had a week or so before Anton would go back to Storybrooke. If he pushed himself he might be able to obtain the materials required and get back to him before he went.
"Can I see it?" he requested.
Martha nodded then went into the next room returning moments later with an innocuous looking black robe and held it out to him.
"How do I know if it works?" he questioned, eyeing the garment suspiciously.
The witch gave him an affronted look then dutifully wrapped the cloak around herself. His eyes widened as she disappeared before his gaze only to reappear seconds later when she took it off.
"Satisfied?" she challenged.
Making his decision, he dropped the money back down on the table with a nod and held out his hand.
"We have a deal."
The woman readily gave him the clothing then quickly picked up the money and deposited it into the pocket of her apron.
Laying the cloak over his shoulder, Killian gave her a brief smile then headed for the door with new purpose. His journey hadn't been a complete waste of time after all.
"Wait a moment," Martha suddenly called out just as he grabbed the door handle, "Are you absolutely certain there isn't anything else I can get for you?"
The pirate paused and turned to see her walking over to him carrying a small purple vial of liquid. He had a fair idea of what it was and damn it all to hell but he was sorely tempted.
"Even if I was interested, I have no more gold," he stated flatly.
The witch smiled and moved closer to him until the bottle dangled enticingly within his reach.
"Come now, we both know you gave me far too much for that cloak," she said wryly, "Consider this as part of the deal."
A flare of irritation sparked through his body and he glared back at her.
"If I want to forget I find rum works just as well and has the added bonus of not coming with a price I'm unwilling to pay…unlike your magical potion there," he declared, his tone harsh.
Abruptly, he turned away and tugged roughly on the door. It opened slightly but he stilled again when Martha spoke once more.
"Aren't you already paying a price whether you take this or not?" she queried softly.
Killian's heart clenched and he closed his eyes against the hollow feeling that settled deep in his chest. He wanted to deny her words, he really did, but he knew she was right. Every day he felt Emma's rejection more and more. Nothing was helping, there wasn't a moments respite, not a second that she wasn't in his thoughts or clouding his dreams.
Opening his eyes, he turned and looked at the purple bottle again then swallowed hard. His head said no but his heart, it seemed, had suffered enough. Unable to meet her knowing gaze, he reached out and snatched the vial from her grasp then shoved it into his pocket and pushed the door open wider.
Without a word he hurried out into the darkness and didn't look back.
"So, you have your magic back, Miss. Swan," came Regina's cool voice as Emma descended the stairs closely followed by her mother.
The blonde stopped at the bottom looked at the Queen in surprise.
"Yeah, how did you know?" she asked, puzzled.
"You took all the lights out, Mom," Henry exclaimed with a huge smile.
"Down here as well?" Emma queried in disbelief.
"Looks like I have to get a few more bulbs than I thought," Snow commented dryly from behind her daughter.
"Sorry," the blonde apologised awkwardly before moving out of the mother's way.
"Well, at least we now know the real reason you returned here," Regina continued icily.
Emma levelled her gaze on the brunette and tried unsuccessfully to damp down her irritation at the other woman's words.
"I came back because Storybrooke is my home," the blonde retorted with a glare, "Mine and Henry's."
"What a pity you didn't come to that realisation before you left taking my son with you," the Queen countered with heat.
"Mom…" Henry began to object only for his grandfather to speak up.
"Okay, that's enough," Charming interjected, holding up his hand as the Saviour took a step towards the other woman, "What's done is done and the main thing is that Emma and Henry are back with us now. So let's just all try and move past this and deal with the problem in the Enchanted Forest, agreed?"
"Agreed," said Emma with a nod, determinedly pushing her anger down. She was more than happy to stop squabbling pettily over something that couldn't be changed. There were far more important things to think about.
"Fine," Regina muttered although her demeanour fairly screamed that she was anything but.
It was good enough for Charming however and he finally relaxed.
"Good, how about we all meet at the barn in an hour?" he proposed, looking at Regina and Robin. "That should be enough time for us all to have something to eat and get together a few provisions to take along with us."
"We'll be there," the archer concurred with a nod.
"I'd like to spend the time with Henry," said the Queen looking at the boy and barely flicking Emma a glance.
The blonde bristled at her tone but couldn't find it within herself to object. Instead, she looked over at her son who gave her a smile and little nod. She did the same back to him and he walked over to give her a hug and a kiss.
"I'll see you later, kid," she murmured, ruffling his hair slightly.
"Bye," he replied then headed over to Regina and Robin and they all left the apartment.
Emma stared at the closed door a moment then turned around and let out a heavy sigh.
If anything brought home quite how much she missed Killian it was moments like this. If he were there he'd be by her side saying all the right things to make her feel better, help her calm down. The fact that he wasn't just seemed to fuel her annoyance with the Queen to a whole other level.
"Is there a reason Regina's coming with us?" the blonde queried irritably, "Because if it's just the magic thing, I got it covered."
Charming smiled then put his arm around her shoulders and led her over to the kitchen counter where Snow was beginning to make sandwiches while Anton watched.
"Robin volunteered to go because he knows Gisbourne and how he works," her father explained, "There's some history there I think and it seems that Regina doesn't want him dealing with it on his own."
"Lucky him," she muttered sardonically to which her father gave her his best look of reproof.
She rolled her eyes but remained silent as she sat down heavily on the stool next to Anton.
Snow pushed a plate of food towards her and also one to the giant then picked her own up and announced that she was going to feed Neal while she ate hers. Charming decided to go with her, wanting to spend the short time he had before leaving with his son.
Silence fell over the two in the kitchen then Anton cleared his throat a little and ventured apologetically, "I'm sorry I upset you earlier."
Emma turned to look at him and seeing his contrition waved off his apology and shook her head.
"Don't worry about it. It's not your fault you told me something I didn't want to hear," she replied ruefully.
"I assure you, had I known that you reciprocated Hook's affections then I would have offered a more hopeful outlook," he continued.
"What do you know about Killian's affections?" she asked with a puzzled frown, then her eyes narrowed on him as she remembered something he'd said earlier, "And when did you two become friendly enough that you'd let him stay with you? The last you saw of him, as far as I know, was when he brought you here against your will with Cora."
Anton looked a little unsure with her questioning for a moment then seemed to come to a decision.
"Hook came to me just after new curse was cast with offer of a trade for one of my beans," he explained, "I wasn't going to help him until he told me it was to find you again. He seemed so…hopeful, happy…it was obvious how he felt about you and I just assumed that when he gave me all he had in return for a bean that he was certain that you felt the same."
"All he had?" Emma repeated, feeling the guilt of her actions towards him since he'd found her weighing heavily in her chest suddenly, "That must have been a lot of gold."
Anton gave her a quizzical look then shook his head, his next words literally taking her breath away with the enormity of Killian's sacrifice.
"He didn't give me money, Emma, he gave me his ship."