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Honestly, she’s probably dreaming – or hallucinating, or has just gone full-on psycho.  Because the only other way to explain this is some kind of crazy parallel-dimension, magical-world bullcrap, and Emma knows better than to let herself believe anything like that.

But at the same time, if this is real then playing along can only help, and if it’s a dream it won’t hurt. And although in her own world she knows better than to trust anyone, here – here, she saw a fairy flying around, and no one knows what a phone is and they’re saying this little harbor town is just out of the “Enchanted Forest” and to stay away from the woods because there are wild griffons there.

Emma is practical enough to recognize when she’s out of her depths.

And she knows better, she does, but this guy – he’s got the most ridiculous hat and a freaking ponytail, but his uniform is spotless and his eyes so blue, soft and concerned. He’s got an accent, his hands are warm on hers, he’s calling her miss for god’s sake, and he believes her instantly when she blurts out that she isn’t from here, she doesn’t belong, she wants to go home.

“I – I have a ship,” he offers, so hesitant and earnest ever since he stumbled upon her crying in an alleyway, and Emma wants to yell at him to just stop already, she doesn’t need his concern, doesn’t need anyone, just go away – “Well, my brother’s ship but – I’m sure he’d… I mean. We can help you get home, just tell me where you need to go.”

“It’s not that simple,” Emma says, shakes her head and sniffs and tries to get herself together goddamnit, this is just a dream and she refuses to let some stupid dream about being even more lost and alone than she usually is get the best of her. “I’m – I’m not from this world.”

But he just smiles, just – smiles and grips her hands harder, squeezing tight and warm and here. “Please, miss. Let me help – I promise I will get you home.”

It isn’t real, it isn’t even real at all and Emma knows better than to trust anyone. Everyone she’s ever trusted has left her and hurt her and there’s just no point to it, no point to relying on anyone but herself. Her wits and quick fingers have gotten her out of every scrape she’s ever been in, she can do this too, she can.

But he’s staring at her, looking so stiff and straight-laced and worried about this dirty little thief of a girl crying in an alley. He’s obviously got some kind of duties to follow with a uniform like that but he still promised and he meant it, he hasn’t lied once, and – fucking griffons.

Honestly, she’s probably dreaming. This is like something out of a storybook – a book with magic and ships and handsome men with accents and uniforms who mean every word, a book with people who aren’t like those in the real world, people who don’t actually want anything more, who only want to help, legitimately just want to help. The thought is like a punch to the gut, it hurts because a storybook world or a dream is the only place with people like that, heroes. Or at least, it’s the only place a hero would ever bother with someone like Emma.

This isn’t real. And… if it isn’t real… maybe, for once, it won’t hurt to trust in someone else, to rely on someone else. Just for a little while. Just while there’s still magic and her stomach is empty and people use donkeys instead of cars. Just while this sailor keeps looking at her, so soft and gentle and just decent

and this is not real, it can’t hurt her, he can’t ever hurt her and she’s so damn tired of solving everything by herself, just for this once

“Okay,” Emma whispers, and lets him pull her to her feet. “Okay, I – help me. Help me go home.”

His bow is low and smooth and fit for any Victorian movie, gallantry practiced to perfection.

His smile’s a blinding thing, wide and hitched a bit at the end, and heroes exist in storybooks, handsome loving kind men are real in a world like this, she can trust him, she can trust him.

“I swear we will do this,” he says, and for the first time in her life Emma is not alone.

Chapter Text

There’s always been something familiar about Hook, something in him that urges Emma to trust him, an urge so strong that she ended up doing the exact opposite because she didn’t know why she felt that way and she was afraid that she could be wrong. But he’s proven himself, again and again since bringing them to Neverland, proven that despite herself Emma can’t help but trust this man when he’s standing by her side, supporting her, constantly watching her with his earnest blue eyes –

And suddenly, it clicks.

No way,” she gasps out loud, and the entire group glances up at her in alarm from where they are gathered around the campfire. Suddenly, Emma is far more conscious of Hook sitting next to her – which is saying something, as ever since their kiss she’s felt his proximity in waves of fire, terrifying and welcome in equal measures.

“What is it, Emma?” Snow asks, a slight edge of worry to her tone.

“Is everything okay?” David echoes her.

Emma can’t even spare a glance at them; she whirls to face Hook, staring at him, reconstructing the memory in her mind. God… it could be, it’s been years and she only ever thought it was a dream but the resemblance is uncanny

“You said you and David were searching for something your – your brother dropped on this island.” Hook nods slowly, expression wary, and Emma’s breath catches. “He was in the Navy, right? And… and you too?”

The nod this time is much longer in coming, and Hook glances around at the rest of the group before replying, slowly and with a raised eyebrow. “Aye… until I took up piracy. Is there a reason you ask?”

Emma’s breath feels short, her heart pounding. It had been a dream, it had been nothing more than a dream, but even his voice is familiar, now that she’s looking for it, it seems so obvious– “Your brother was the Captain. And you – you were a Lieutenant.”

Hook’s eyebrow rose further. “How –”

“Your uniforms,” Emma blurts, frantic now, “they were white, weren’t they? And… and blue coats. And you –” she snorts, the images finally lining up in her mind’s eye, all doubt evaporating even before he reacts to her words, “you had a ponytail.”

Hook’s entire body seems to lock in place. “What the bloody hell.”

“I met you,” Emma laughs, “I don’t know how, I have no idea how but – do you remember? You took me to your ship, you said you’d –”

“Help you home, bloody hell,” Hook repeats, eyes wider than she’s ever seen, expression utterly stunned. His tone goes from questioning, to sure, as he too clearly relives the memory and matches the puzzle pieces together. “That was? – that was you.”

“How is that even possible?” David asks loudly, and Emma jumps, startled to find that she’s drawn closer to Hook throughout their conversation. In fact, she’d forgotten everyone else was even there; let alone staring at them so openly.

I don’t know, so stop looking at me,” Regina snaps, when they all turn as one and do exactly that – except Hook, whose gaze has not left Emma. “That sounds like… time travel, something I certainly don’t have any experience with. Not to mention world-jumping at the same time – I’d call it impossible, if they didn’t both remember it.”

“But… what could it mean?” Snow asks. “Emma, what – what happened?

David leans forward, aiming a glare at Hook. It doesn’t really have the intended effect because Hook is still staring at Emma, his mind apparently blown beyond recovery.

“Nothing,” he says in a low, rough voice. “She was gone when I woke.”

“Not like that!” Emma rushes to clarify, when David actually starts to stand up, fuming. “It wasn’t like that, I was… I was sixteen, okay, and he… he let me sleep in his cabin, he was in the hall – but when I woke up, I was back in the shel– in my world. I thought it was all a dream.”

“I wondered the same myself,” Hook admits, still staring at her in something akin to awe. “I was outside the only exit, there should have been no way for you to leave without waking me, but – you were simply gone.”

“Like magic,” Emma whispers, biting her lip.

“Maybe it’s a Savior thing,” Regina suggests with a roll of her eyes. “Honestly, does it matter? This little romance doesn’t have anything to do with saving Henry, so it’s not what we should be focusing on right now.”

“She’s right,” Emma agrees before anyone else can argue. “It was… weird, I’ll give you that, but it doesn’t have anything to do with now. We should be thinking about how to get Henry back – we can worry about how I time-traveled after.”

And she holds them to that, dismissing her parents’ every attempt at bringing the subject back up. Hook – Lieutenant Killian Jones, good god how did she not recognize that name instantly – doesn’t say a word; but he hardly looks away from Emma for the rest of the night, even more so than usual.

Of course, she can’t help but think of it – stumbles off a short ways into the forest after everyone else has gone to bed, with the express purpose of thinking about it. It’s impossible to ignore, this is – this is huge, and not even because of the time-and-space travel she apparently managed twice in her sleep as a teenager. This is huge because it happened when she was sixteen, right after she dropped out of high school and ran away from her last foster home. When she was sleeping in homeless shelters and hitchhiking as far as she could from everyone she’d ever known, when she’d started stealing.

She’d been so lonely and angry and frightened and tired, living in a world that had never shown her even an ounce of kindness, and she’d just wished so desperately that there could be people out there who were trustworthy. She’d dreamed and begged and wished so hard without ever saying a word for someone who would just help her, no questions asked. Just help her, just be kind without any ulterior motive or self-serving agenda, she just wanted proof that decent people even existed because she’d been losing all hope of ever finding one.

And then she’d had that dream, that wonderful, simple, uncomplicated dream. It had felt so real, so right, and when she’d woken up she had just been happier, more hopeful. It felt like proof that there really was good in people – even though Emma knew it was just a dream, a figment of her own imagination. Even though she knew people in her world, in reality, weren’t ever like that, the memory of Killian Jones had… softened her. He’d given her strength, for that brief period in her life when she thought she needed it most, and –

“I trusted Neal because of you,” Emma says – not loudly. She knows Hook is right behind her.

“Did you?” he asks, ambling around to stand facing her. He’s standing too close, but she doesn’t move away.

“Yeah,” Emma breathes. “I – you were kind of... god this is so weird – kind of like a hero to me.”

Hook jerks slightly. “Me?

She laughs a little, just a soft huff of air. “Crazy, I know. But… yeah, I just – really needed someone to just be kind to me, and you were, and. It, I don’t know, I felt like maybe I should try trusting people after all.”

Hook draws in a sharp breath, looking far from pleased. “And then he left you.”

“What?” Emma asks, surprised.

“Or hurt you or – lass, you can’t expect me to believe your time with Neal ended well. And you’re telling me I caused that. I… I’m sorry love.”

He’s stepped a little closer, staring down at her with such guilt and pain and – and caring, in those familiar blue eyes, it’s like it was back then, Emma realizes, it’s like it was back then.

She can’t find a hint of malice or duplicity or even lust in his gaze, just concern, just the genuine desire to help her, and although she knows how much they have gone through to get here, it’s like no time has passed at all.

She feels breathless.

“No,” Emma says, “No – I mean, yes, he hurt me, he left me but – if I hadn’t met him, I would never have had Henry, I’d never meet my parents, I’d never – no. Don’t be sorry for that.”

Hook – Killian Jones, she can’t look at him now and think this is anyone other than the man she met in that village so long ago – blinks, clearly stunned once again. He swallows a little, but can’t seem to drag his eyes away from her, his eyelids dropping to half-mast.

His lips twitch up, just slightly, as they had when David thanked him.

“No,” Emma breathes, closing the distance between them. “No, I – I should be… Look, I have no idea what happened, if it was some sort of magic or destiny or whatever else, but –” She licks her lips nervously, reaches up and lightly grips his collar – and she isn’t sure which action makes him shudder, his lips parting slightly on a shaky inhale, but he does.

Thank you, Killian,” Emma whispers, before pulling him down into a soft kiss.

He groans, relaxing into her touch; and where last time he’d been as eager as she, devouring her mouth, this time he’s much slower, sweeter; more kind sailor than cocksure pirate, more devoted than desperate, more emotion than technique. Their tongues slide together slowly, his hand comes up to cup her cheek like she’s something precious, slides down her neck, her side, flattens on her back in a tight embrace, his hooked arm at her hip. Emma doesn’t limit herself to gripping his collar this time; she freely slides her fingers into his hair, cups his face in her hands, drops her arms over his shoulders and just presses in closer, hot and slow and hopeful.

When they break apart, they have to take a moment simply to breathe. Much like last time, they don’t separate right away. Much like last time, Hook speaks first.

“Emma,” he breathes, voice growing rough when her fingernails brush against the back of his neck. “Emma, Emma, love – don’t thank me.”

“I would’ve thought you liked my thank yous,” she hums just against his lips, and feels it going through him again – a miniscule shudder, a momentary hitch in his breathing, setting off a matching frisson sparking across her skin.

“Oh, I hope you know just how much I like them,” he growls, tilting closer, breathing into her, teeth scraping just slightly against her lip, and it’s Emma’s turn for her breath to catch, her pulse to leap. “But – I haven’t done anything worthy of your thanks. I think it’s rather I who should be thanking you.”

For just a moment – just a single, horrible moment – Emma thinks of the last man she kissed. The man with kind soft eyes and stubble and an accent, who kissed her so soft and thanked her and – was gone, just like that.

She steps back without even thinking about it… and keeps stepping back, retreating towards the camp. Hook – Killian – Hook straightens, arms dropping back to his sides. She can clearly see him swallowing back his disappointment; can see the quick double blink before he pulls his lips up into a pitiful attempt at a smirk.

“What, no reminder that this is just a – well, it’d be a two-time thing now, wouldn’t it love?” He calls after her, bitterly sarcastic. But Emma feels dangerously calm this time; she can hear the edge of hurt, of want there, the attempt to engage her again.

And it feels dreamlike, how easy it is, it feels like Emma is sixteen again and a handsome storybook hero is offering her what he can, making promises and keeping them, returning twelve years later just to help her once again when she needs it most – and she knows, she knows  it isn’t really that simple. Hook’s not really that guy anymore, she certainly isn’t that girl, and Emma has seen it proven again and again lately that storybooks aren’t really all that happy, yes. But even so – even so, his eyes are so blue, so full of emotion she can’t even name except she knows it’s all there for her, it’s all –

And this is Neverland, if there were ever a place to feel young and trusting and hopeful again can’t Neverland be it? Can’t she just – believe once more, that maybe there’s someone out there she can trust, someone who will be at her side when she feels most lost, someone who only wants to help?

“No, no reminder,” she says, arching her eyebrows challengingly at Hook. “I thought it was your turn to be thanking me, after all.”

She turns before he can react, and quickly starts walking back to camp. Her heart is racing, her limbs trembling with nerves despite her outer calm – but it only takes a moment, before she hears him.

“Bloody hell,” he says, not quietly enough, and his voice is all sorts of broken, raw and joyful and Emma rushes faster to return to her pallet, to lie down and press her face into her makeshift pillow and try to hide her smile.