One week ago…
Killian shifted his leg then grimaced and let out a grunt of pain as his injured ankle protested at the movement.
Until now he'd been able to ignore the constant ache while managing not to really aggravate it any further. Over the past few days, however, he'd been pushing himself to reach the castle as quickly as possible and his tender joint had not liked the continued punishment.
He'd been forced to stop more than he'd liked and it had hindered his journey no end but finally he had arrived and planned to break into the Queen's chamber the next night.
He'd found a clearing in the forest not too far from the road that afforded enough protection that he wouldn't be easily seen by passing eyes. After making a small fire to ward off the evening chill he had eaten some bread and cheese he'd purchased along the way and downed his flask of rum in the hopes of dulling the pain of his ankle.
The alcohol had helped somewhat; certainly easing the physical ache enough for him to lie down and try to get some much needed sleep.
Unfortunately, two hours later slumber was still eluding him as the rum had done nothing to quell the emotional turmoil that continued to rage within his head.
An owl hooted nearby and he shifted awkwardly again then finally gave in and pushed himself up to sit. Apart from the crackle of the fire and the intermittent sounds of creatures that kept just out of sight, all was quiet.
He glanced up at the moon that shone bright in the sky and eyed the resplendent stars that dotted the blackness above but Killian drew none of the usual enjoyment from such wonders.
The nights were always worst for him. A time to dwell on things that once were and could never be as the loneliness that constantly scratched at the edges of his soul during the day finally cut a hole deep enough to seep through.
It seemed harder to bear tonight, however, and he knew it was because of what had happened earlier that day.
Walking through a nearby town he'd caught a brief glimpse of a woman with gloriously long blonde hair. For a single, heart-stopping moment he'd thought it was Emma and had headed eagerly towards her. Deep down he'd known it was ridiculous, but that hadn't stopped the pure joy that had thrummed through his body for a few seconds nor the crushing disappointment that followed when she'd turned and it hit home it wasn't her.
He'd trudged away, footsteps slightly slower, heart definitely heavier and had fervently wished for the time when it wouldn't be so dammed hard.
With a deep sigh his hand went to his pocket and withdrew the tiny bottle that Martha had given him. Holding it aloft, he sat and stared at the small vial and rolled it between his fingertips in contemplation. The purple glass shimmered, reflecting the bright flickering flames of the fire. The liquid inside the bottle ebbed and flowed with the movement and he swore he could hear it calling out to him.
Every night it was the same and as yet he'd not given into temptation but he knew his resolve was weakening.
He was just so bloody tired of it all.
The hurt, the loss…the feeling of utter heartbreak that seemed to have permeated into his very bones making him bow under its demoralising weight.
First Liam then Milah and now Emma…all gone.
Whatever he did never seemed to be enough.
Wasn't three hundred plus years of pain ample sentence for any man to endure?
Wouldn't he be forgiven for trying to ease at least some of the agony he was going through?
It wasn't as if anyone would really care. Emma would never know and her parents would likely be relieved that he no longer had, what they probably considered, nefarious designs on their daughter any longer.
Emma Swan would just be a name to him and nothing more.
His heart missed a beat at that, the thought of him not knowing her almost as hard to bear as the knowledge that she'd gone.
A sudden burning in his eyes caught him unawares and he blinked rapidly then squeezed them tightly shut as an almost overwhelming feeling of desolation suddenly took hold. Curling his hand into a fist around the vial, he pressed the heel of his palm against the bridge of his nose and desperately tried to hold back the tears.
He had nothing to mourn except the demise of his own ridiculous hopes. Self-pity was a weakness he abhorred and indulging in it was a waste of time.
He took in a deep steadying breath then exhaled and took in another as he fought down the painful lump in his throat.
Letting his hand drop, he opened his eyes and brushed at the moisture that clung to his lashes. Mouth set in a firm line he opened his hand and looked at the tiny bottle nestled there once more.
All he had to do was drink it and then…
In one deft movement the vial was between his fingertips and he quickly removed the stopper.
His decision was made.
Emma strode quickly towards the barn, determination obvious in the set of her shoulders and tensely drawn face.
Her father kept pace with her but Anton lagged a fair way behind and she was pretty certain it wasn't just because he was keeping her mother company. Her reaction to his news that Killian had given up his ship for her hadn't turned out so well for him and she didn't blame him for keeping his distance.
Controlling her newly returned magic while going through an emotional upheaval was…challenging at best she was finding.
She'd just been so shocked by the revelation that Killian had given up his…well…everything for the chance of possibly seeing her again that nothing had happened at first.
It was only after she'd processed the enormity of what Anton had told her and had thought back to that time when the pirate had first turned up at her door in New York that the initial stirrings of energy had begun to hum through her body.
Suddenly she'd seen everything that he'd said and done with new eyes. It was almost as if she'd taken another potion to make her remember. The kiss on her doorstep, how he told her he'd come back to save her…how she'd left him to go and see another man. A man she had been thinking about marrying. A man she'd said she loved.
After everything she now knew he'd done to get back to her, that must have cut him to the quick and she hated herself for causing him so much pain even if she hadn't been aware of it at the time.
In hindsight, really, it was no surprise she'd inadvertently sent out a blast of energy strong enough to knock poor Anton clear across the room. Self recrimination laced with a healthy dose of guilt could do that to a person who hasn't the ability to restrain her magic apparently.
Even now her stomach twisted and her heart ached when she imagined the hurt Killian must have felt seeing her walk away like that. Knowing about the Jolly only made her own actions towards him seem a thousand times worse than they already were. She could hardly bear to think about all the harsh things she'd said and the countless other times she'd turned her back on him.
How had he put up with it?
Over and over again she'd hurt him but he'd never said a word to her, never made it about him, not even when she'd finally left. Not even when she'd practically ordered him to stay away from her.
If you love them, set them free.
That was the old adage wasn't it?
Well, if she needed any kind of confirmation just how true that was then by God she had it in spades now. Even her parents had been speechless when she'd haltingly told them. Their expressions had reflected their own personal dismay at the number of times they'd been less than kind to the pirate.
She just hoped that she hadn't missed the chance to make it up to him. The uncertainty of whether he was alive or not had her nerves jangling and magic buzzing as her desire to get back to the Enchanted Forest grew even more urgent.
She reached the barn and when she saw that they were the first to get there her agitation rose a notch. Her fingers twitched with suppressed power and she quickly shoved her hands into her jacket pockets so that she didn't accidentally blast someone else.
"Are you okay?" Charming asked quietly from her side.
She looked over at her father and saw the concern etched across his features just as her fingers closed around the wad of soft material in her right pocket. She pulled it out with a slight frown then smiled softly as she realised what it was…Killian's scarf. With everything that had happened that day she'd quite forgotten she'd put it there.
Surprisingly she felt herself begin to calm. Having something tangible of his was comforting and she suddenly felt her magic begin to subside to a more manageable level.
"I'm fine," she finally answered Charming, "Just want to get this show on the road."
"We will," he assured her as Snow entered the barn with Neal in his pram and Anton by her side.
The giant eyed Emma a trifle cautiously as he moved around to stand behind her father and she gave him yet another apologetic smile for her momentary lapse of control earlier.
He nervously smiled a little back and the blonde heaved an internal sigh of relief. She'd take that. At least he wasn't looking at her as though he thought she was going to annihilate the whole town any longer.
Looking back down at the scarf she held, she slowly wound it loosely around her neck then smoothed the soft fabric down. She vowed to herself that she wouldn't take it off until she gave it back to the pirate personally.
There was the sound of more footsteps approaching and they all turned to see Regina, Robin and Henry come into the barn.
Her son hurried over to her and gave her a swift hug and she kissed his head affectionately as she held him tightly back.
"Be careful," he murmured.
"I will," she promised as they parted.
"Good luck," he added with a smile before heading back to Regina and giving her a hug too.
"Don't worry, I'll take care of him," Snow told both the woman as Henry walked over to her and she placed an arm around his shoulders.
"I've left Roland with my men and told them that they could come to you should there be a problem. I hope that's acceptable to you, Milady?" Robin asked Snow as he approached her with a smile.
"Of course, Henry and I will be sure to check on him for you," she assured him with a nod.
"Thank you," he replied gratefully.
Once Charming had kissed his wife goodbye and hugged Henry too, all the travellers stood around the etching on the floor.
After a cursory glance at them, Anton took a step forward with bean in hand then tossed it up into the air.
A rush of wind lifted Emma's hair as the portal suddenly sprang to life. Green swirls of magic grew larger and larger and spun quicker and quicker as it rapidly became big enough for them to enter.
Anton jumped in first then off a nod from her father Emma walked forward to follow him through. With a deep breath, she clutched at the scarf around her neck then closed her eyes and stepped into the void.
No matter what she encountered when she got to the Enchanted Forest, Emma was determined that nothing would stop her from finally reuniting with the man she loved and who she knew, without a doubt, loved her in return.