Emma Swan was freezing.
She had never, in her entire life, known it was possible to be this cold. She thought she’d understood cold--had endured cold, had survived cold, living on the streets in Minnesota in the winter, camping out in the backseat of her unheated Beetle in Boston, shivering in a jail cell in Phoenix.
She’d been wrong.
“If I could just--lay down for a minute,” she panted, letting Elsa help her to the ground.
“Emma,” Elsa said. “Emma--talk to me. Tell me more.”
Emma wasn’t sure if she was going to survive this. She heard her father’s voice on the other side of the ice wall and knew that he would be disappointed in her. She tried to imagine him saying something supportive and ridiculous and cheerful and exhorting her to have hope, but she--she couldn’t. Hope had vanished at least 20 degrees ago.
Emma was too damn cold for hope.
“Parents don’t always help,” Elsa murmured, but Emma was having difficulty following the conversation from one end to the other. She could hear the static squelching on the walkie from the other side of the ice wall and knew that David Nolan was doing everything in his power to get her out of here. And Hook--
“That has to be very lonely,” Emma said, but the movement of her lips did little to help her stay warm.
Emma wasn’t going to think about Hook, about how she’d refused to let him break down her walls--metaphorically speaking--and how she was now trapped behind a literal wall, made of ice, and wasn’t that one hell of a metaphor?
But she knew that he was probably trying just as hard to break that one down, too. She tried to imagine the pair of them, the prince and the pirate, just to make herself laugh, to move her muscles, but it was cold--too cold for anything to be funny.
“Were you born with magic, or cursed?”
She’d seen some weird shit in her life, and even weirder shit in the year and change she’d lived in Storybrooke. She’d eaten chimera and killed a dragon and led a mutiny of Lost Boys. She’d seen a flying monkey in New York City. But when Elsa admitted that she had no control over the ice swirling around and seeping into Emma’s bloodstream, Emma knew fear unlike any she’d experienced yet.
Fear of loss--because, for the first time in her life, she had something to lose.
Her parents, her family. Henry. Hook.
“I’m very sorry I trapped us here,” Elsa said. “I didn’t mean it.”
Emma knew that, she did--she just wished that she knew everything was going to turn out all right.
That they were all going to live, happily ever after.
She was barely conscious and did not see the glow of the wishing star in the ice underneath her.
He came awake all at once.
Two hundred years shipboard made a man a very light sleeper, and in the years since, Killian Jones had been content to be awakened most mornings by the movements of his still-drowsing wife. She would breathe against his skin, tickling him. He would feel her lips against his back in light butterfly kisses along his spine or her fingers as she traced the designs inked into his arm. He would feel the gentle pressure of her body as she pulled herself closer to him, and hear her whisper: “For heat.” And then he would nod, allowing her the simple fiction and enjoying the way she fit perfectly against him as he watched the sun rise through the filmy curtains of their east-facing bedroom.
He was unaccustomed to the sight that greeted him on this morning, however. He was cold and stiff--”Getting old, babe,” she would say, giggling--and when he opened his eyes the first thing he saw was a portable heating device on the floor of the Charmings’ old loft.
The loft that no one in their family had occupied for years.
It came to him in phases: the awkwardness of sitting on the floor; the pain in his shoulder and neck; his arm, oddly positioned behind him and over his shoulder. He tried to move, but couldn’t. Something-- someone --was holding his arm in place.
Instinctively, Killian twisted--he needed to check, he needed--
When he tried to pull his hand from her grasp, she turned, though she didn’t wake. Emma Swan was curled up on the old too-small couch in the old too-small family loft, his old greatcoat pulled up to her chin and his hand wrapped tightly in hers.
He wasn’t wearing his wedding ring. Neither was she.
Killian examined himself in the mirror.
He was wearing one of his linen blouses and a pair of leather trousers, his waistcoat discarded on the wash basin. The boots lined up next to the couch had pointed toes instead of rounded and buckles instead of zippers. Though he always protested to his wife that he still ‘retained his youthful glow’, the reflection that greeted him was younger, and harder, and Killian suddenly missed the laugh lines and crow’s feet he had begun to accumulate.
With a sigh, Killian pulled his shirt up by the hem, already suspecting what he was going to see. His skin was largely unblemished, except for his tattoos; the scar he carried from Excalibur was missing. He had not yet been wounded. Killed.
He had not yet asked--begged, pleaded--she had not yet--
Killian closed his eyes and for an instant, he could feel his wife’s fingers tracing the pale silver line in the dark, the way she did on the nights where it still, sometimes, all felt like too much, when one or both of them was restless, when the only thing that kept the darkness at bay was the light they created together. He exhaled, scrubbing his hand down his face.
The sliding door separating the washroom from the living area still stuck--of course it did, he reminded himself, no one had ever bothered to fix it--but he maneuvered it gently, hoping not to wake anyone, least of all the baby. The cot was in its old spot by the alcove and if he had to postulate, his brother-in-law was--at most--three or four weeks old and still well into his screaming phase.
Killian would bet gold doubloons on unloaded dice that there was sleeping Arendellian royalty in the bed at the top of the ladder.
Which meant that the Emma Swan curled up on the couch, under his coat, was not his wife.
He examined her, taking in the gold of her hair in the early morning sunlight, and saw that the strands of silver that had begun to twine around the gold were missing. She appeared to be relaxed--he doubted anyone else would notice--but his Emma slept with complete abandon, and Killian could see that even in repose, in her family’s loft, this Emma was on her guard.
He wanted to touch her. His fingers practically itched. He wanted to smooth away the worry line on her forehead, to run his palm across her cheek, to wind his fingers into her hair. But this Emma still had walls that were miles high, and would not welcome his touch or his breaching of her carefully-constructed boundaries, no matter that he had, once upon a time, literally attempted to tear down a wall between them. He had bruised his shoulders, had blunted his hook on the solid ice and been rewarded with the feeling of the weight of her in his arms for the first time.
And when he’d carried her back to the loft, wrapped in his coat, she’d pulled his hand into both of hers and didn’t let go, clasping and unclasping their fingers, tracing the metal of his rings. He remembered it, they way her hand had felt, small and cold; the way her eyes had softened when she wouldn’t let him leave.
That was last night, unless he missed his guess, and just as he had the realization, she opened her eyes.
Emma startled very slightly--another thing that his Emma had not done in years--and relaxed infinitesimally as she saw him. “Hook,” she said, and smiled. Her eyes were sleepy but crinkled at the corners as she met his gaze; she laughed at him every time, but Killian always swore that the morning sun made them glitter a particularly vibrant shade of green.
And that’s when his breath caught, in that moment, when all he saw was the woman he had married. His True Love. (“Capital ‘T’, capital ‘L’,” she always said, as if he could possibly forget.)
“Good morning, Swan,” he said, kneeling to put their eyes at a level. He tried, and failed, to hold back, restricting himself to brushing a lock of hair out of her face. “Have you warmed up at all?”
The shower at Granny’s was worse than he remembered.
Killian wasn’t sure if it was the pressure of the water, or the fact that he missed Emma’s open shampoo bottles and the scent of her around him while he bathed. Maybe it was that the shower in their home was big enough for both of them, a circumstance they frequently took advantage of. Killian reached for his old black dressing gown that was still brand new in this time, and had not been appropriated by his wife. He stepped out of the bathroom, thumbing the scar on his abdomen that wasn’t there, and took in the room: the corners of the sheet tucked in with military precision, the hand-drawn map of Storybrooke tacked to the wall, his books stacked precisely on the wooden desk in the corner.
It was clean. None of the photographs Snow had started gifting them, which multiplied on what felt like a weekly basis, cluttering every surface. None of the detritus his Emma left in her wake wherever she went. When he’d walked through the door and didn’t immediately trip over Emma’s boots, which she would leave wherever she happened to take them off, it felt wrong.
She’d sent him “home”, and that felt wrong, too, but Killian knew there would be no changing her mind and no reason for her to think any other way. Especially not when she’d allowed his touch and then immediately pulled back into herself. Emma had merely thanked him for spending the night, shooing him out the door, and he had gone.
“I’ve slept in far worse places for less worthy reasons, love,” he’d said, conscious of Snow--of Mary Margaret--and David trying not to watch them from their alcove. They were destined to be forever watched, always interrupted, and they’d long ago given up changing the locks. “Far be it for me to deny a beautiful woman such a simple request.”
He’d been there for her, and she’d allowed it, and he had never forgotten how that felt.
But now, in the Spartan room he’d once maintained as his own, there was much else to consider. This wasn’t time travel, nor was it another reality--two things he, unfortunately, had practical experience with. He had not gone through a portal, or been transported by other magical means. It did not match Emma’s and Regina’s descriptions of waking up in the Wish world, or being sent through the looking-glass.
To his best approximation, he had merely woken up in the body of his younger self, on a day that he had already lived.
That left him with two questions: why?
And--perhaps more importantly--where was the Killian Jones that had been meant to live this day?
The bed was warm, and it was that as much as anything that alerted his senses and pulled him fully and completely awake. The bed was warm, and strange, and there was filtered sunlight coming in through flimsy window coverings. He was wearing neither hook nor brace--nor shirt--and he wasn’t alone.
Hook lay sprawled on his stomach, and there was on his back the weight of another person, their arm draped across his neck and a cheek against his shoulder. He tried to remember the last time he had woken up with someone in his bed in the daylight, and when he lost count of the years, he rolled over onto his back.
Emma Swan followed his movement, mumbling to herself as she re-settled her head on his chest, and Hook froze.
Bad joke, that, he thought to himself, when he had just last evening been surrounded by literal miles of ice--when Swan had nearly frozen to death in a spell gone awry.
She was anything but cold at the moment, her breath tickling his skin. Her hair was tied up at the top of her head in some kind of knot, and he had a delicious view of the skin at the back of her neck and the silver chain she wore. They were tangled together in a web of soft sheets and he could feel, from where she pressed against him, that she wore little or nothing beneath her sleeping shirt.
He didn’t belong here.
Though he had often fantasized about what he and Emma Swan could do, should they ever find themselves in bed together, her present reaction to this manner of company would likely end poorly. Emma Swan had carefully constructed boundaries, and this was a violation of all of them.
He didn’t belong here, and Hook knew this couldn’t be a dream. It was too real; he could feel the weight of her against him, and the softness of the mattress under him, and the warmth of the sunlight against his skin. There had been no portal that he was aware of, no other means of magical transport. He did not know what else it could be, other than a curse, and though he would happily kiss her--
Hook exhaled a laugh through his nostrils.
His previous attempts at curse-breaking had not been successful. He would rather enjoy this feeling for a few minutes longer than endure another knee in the groin for his efforts.
He had thought of her, every day of the year that they had been apart, and dreamed of her every night, and this was--
He remembered carrying Emma back into her parents’ loft last night, under the worried and watchful eyes of her family, and of Elsa. He had been easily persuaded to stay, just by the look in her eyes that told him she needed him. Hook knew she couldn’t verbalize it, not yet, but she needed him, and he could be there for her.
And now, Hook found himself in an unfamiliar bed in an unfamiliar place, with a very familiar yet unfamiliar woman pulling him closer with every breath she took.
Her hand moved, and he saw it: the slender silver band around the fourth finger of her right hand as she absent-mindedly traced the tattoo along his collarbone. Hook watched her, mesmerized by her obvious familiarity with the intricate design, the way the light reflected on the ring, and he noticed something else.
He wore one, too.
Killian stood in his rented room, letting the weight of his greatcoat settle on his shoulders, and realized there was another question he needed to account for.
Zelena was clearly not an option in this time. Regina was still avoiding as much of the Charming clan as she could as often as she could rationalize it. The crocodile was, for obvious reasons, out of the question. Mary Margaret and David would undoubtedly panic, and then work to convince him that his discarded solutions were viable possibilities, and all of these years later he still stayed away from the convent and its inhabitants whenever possible. They had forgiven him, but he still had not. Killian felt a pang as he thought of all of the ways he could attempt to change what was about to happen, and the chain of events that would follow.
Few knew better than Killian Jones the cost of meddling with the past, however. And there was too much that would be put at risk if he even tried.
But--in the meantime--what if he just enjoyed this quiet moment, and spent a day with Emma Swan? He was turning the key in the lock and on his way down to the diner before he even completed the thought.
“Good morning, Captain.” Granny Lucas greeted him with an appreciative grin, and Killian could not help but smile back as he ordered his coffee.
“Coffee?” Granny’s eyebrows quirked upward. “Finally starting to rub off on you, are we?”
“You know that you can...rub…wherever you wish, Mrs. Lucas,” he said, waggling his eyebrows in the way that she liked.
She flicked her towel at him. “You watch yourself, boy,” she said, the way that she always did, before turning to pour out a cup of coffee. “How do you take it?” she said.
“Ah,” he said, caught off-guard. Emma drank coffee, Emma and Dave, who made a pot every day at the station, and he had first gotten into the habit of bringing her a morning fix in the weeks after she had restored his heart to his body. “Black,” he said.
Before that, he had drunk tea.
He checked his phone for the time while he waited for Granny to hand the cup over, and looked up to see her watching him. “Sheriff won’t be here for a few minutes yet,” she said.
“Aye,” he agreed.
“You doing okay with that thing?” she asked, gesturing at the device.
Killian ran his finger over the keypad, hovering over the ‘Emma’ button. He shrugged. “Needs must, and all of that,” he said. “Have a hot chocolate ready?”
Granny smiled. “Sure,” she agreed, watching him take a sip. “You know I’m rooting for you two.”
Killian nearly spat out his coffee before turning to face her, one eyebrow raised.
The bell over the door rang and Granny gave him a wink. He put his mug down. “Faint heart never won fair lady,” she said, handing him a cup of cocoa doused in whipped cream.
He turned back toward the door. When Emma spotted him, their eyes met for a moment before she relaxed into a small smile and gave him a little wave, pointing to a booth. Their booth. The one where they ate breakfast every weekend, had family dinner at least once per week, afternoon coffee breaks after quickies in the restroom and the time he had persuaded Ruby and Dorothy to close early, commandeering the old jukebox and dancing with her in the middle of the diner.
Killian waited for her to sit before handing her the mug, careful not to spill, and mindful of the way her hands immediately encircled it and how she touched her pulse points against the heat of the beverage for warmth. “Still cold, love?” he said, wishing he could pull her hands into his, rub his own thumb across her wrist, trace the five-petaled flower tattoo with his finger.
“I’ll be fine,” she said. She gave him another small smile and a shrug. “Nothing I can’t handle.”
“Only mostly dead, then?” Killian smiled at her, affecting a calm he knew his other self had not felt.
Emma paused mid-sip and looked out the window. “Yeah,” she said slowly. “I guess I should be glad you didn’t go through my clothes, looking for loose change.”
Killian chuckled. He understood that reference--
--and he shouldn’t.
Emma noticed. Of course she noticed. Half a dozen emotions flashed across her face before she settled on the easiest one, and Killian would swear she was wishing for another dagger to hold against his neck--bad joke, that--as she asked: “Who the fuck are you?”
It was a wedding band.
It was a wedding band .
Hook sat up, dislodging both the dozing woman and the sheets. She muttered a curse under her breath and grumbled as she rolled over to the other side of the mattress, and he saw the ornament on the chain he had just been admiring, and he swore.
Colorfully, describing anatomically impossible acts in several languages and ending with an emphatic “bloody hell .”
She--Emma Swan--his wife --sat up immediately, her expression brimming with concern. “Killian?” She held her hand out, her right hand, putting her palm against his chest and spreading her fingers. She inhaled and exhaled, deeply, and “breathe, Killian,” she whispered. “It’s okay.” He felt himself falling into her rhythm, the metal cool against his skin, his eyes drawn to the ring between her breasts against the thin fabric of her sleeping shirt. They looked--she looked--different. Rounder?
Hook averted his eyes, embarrassed. She looked down at herself, her hand brushing her abdomen, and back up, guiding her face with his palm until he was looking at her again.
He couldn’t help it, couldn’t stop himself leaning into the pressure of her hand against his cheek.
Shaking his head, Hook found he wasn’t quite capable of speech.
His eyes closed. “Killian,” she said, her voice gentle. “Killian, look at me. Did you dream about Excalibur?”
He shook his head again, still uncomprehending. “I don’t--Swan--I’m not--”
“Come back to me, Killian,” she said, and it was a command. “Here and now, babe, look at me.” Her hand was back on his chest, her breathing rhythmic and soothing. “Tell me something you know is true.”
He looked at her. Finally, he said, “I think we’re going to have a bit of a problem there, love,” and laughed.
The sound was more than somewhat unhinged, and Emma’s hand fell away. “Okay,” she said. Her expression had changed into something he was more intimately familiar with: suspicion. “Tell me the last thing you remember, then.”
Hook caught her hand in his, finding himself suddenly unwilling to let her pull away. She surprised him by immediately lacing their fingers together. “It’s okay,” she said. “You can tell me.”
“The ice wall,” he said. “Last night, you were trapped in a wall of ice and you nearly froze to death. We took you home, to your family’s loft, with a woman called Elsa. I didn’t want you to be alone, so I stayed. When I woke up--” he shook his head “--I was here.”
Emma’s mouth was open. For a minute, she said absolutely nothing, until the confusion on her face cleared. “Oh,” she said. “ Oh, oh, shit--”
She took a few deep breaths of her own, closing her eyes before she looked at him again. “Hook?”
He nodded, and her fingers tightened around his.
“Our second date,” she said, and smiled.
Hook laughed; this time, there was a trace of humor in the sound.
“Aye,” he said, rubbing his finger against the silver ring she wore. “I don’t suppose you ever found the champagne?”
Hook bathed--showered--letting the hot water steam up around him as he chased his own thoughts in circles. The shower smelled like her.
It was distracting.
Though it was far less distracting than the ring he couldn’t bring himself to take off.
“Swan, we should talk,” he’d said, and Emma laughed.
“I find,” she said with a smirk, “that when my husband says that to me, I’m rarely in for a pleasant conversation.”
He glared at her. “Poor form, Swan,” he said. “Using a man’s words against him.”
She’d called him ‘Hook’ as if there was a distinction. Perhaps there was; perhaps that’s what happened when a man woke up years into his own future. That’s what she’d said: “Oh, shit,” in her typical state of eloquence. “That was real--you really--” She’d laughed until she was nearly in tears, until he’d needed to steady her with his arm and she’d smiled at him, as though she expected nothing else. “You’re in our house,” she’d said finally. “In the future.”
Perhaps, in that instance, he was no longer the same man he once was. Hook wanted to know, and yet he didn’t. He rubbed the ring again--”It’s real,” she’d said, “I promise”--and thought maybe that was all he needed to know. That, and the way she’d smiled, as though it was nothing out of the ordinary.
“I’ll make breakfast. We’ll talk after,” she’d said, his wife said, and smiled a smile that lit up the entire room. “You can use the shower. Pretty sure you’ll find everything you need.”
But he didn’t belong here.
Hook kept repeating that to himself, like a touchstone, but everywhere he turned, he was contradicted. There was his soap in the shower next to the open, flowery-scented bottles that were Emma’s. A razor on the wash basin, a straight-edge with a shaving brush, stood solitary amidst the cosmetics. Everything he needed, indeed. The soap was the same kind he’d gotten into the habit of using since the curse, from the washroom at the inn, with its clean scent of citrus and hint of spice.
It mingled well with the open bottles that smelled like Emma.
He wrapped himself in a towel, a luxurious sheet of soft fabric that covered him past his knees, and dragged his thumb against a six-inch scar bisecting his abdomen. The closet held boots and jackets and waistcoats; his brace and hook were on the table next to the bed. On the shelf was the chest he had carried with him on the Jolly Roger across the centuries.
And Emma Swan wore his brother’s ring on a chain around her neck.
There were pictures dotted on every surface, small miniatures depicting him or Swan or Henry or some combination of all three. Pictures of himself and Charming, of Snow White and Emma, of the four of them together, of the wedding-- his wedding. To Emma Swan.
Hook had never given much thought to the future. He had lived the majority of his unnaturally long life with only one goal and a single-minded focus on its achievement.
He had never seen a sunset so perfect.
Hook dressed himself, buckling his brace and selecting a blue shirt and a black waistcoat and, after a moment of hesitation, a jacket. Clothing was armor. It was the facade he chose to show to the world. He had never been less certain of what a day might bring in his entire life and he did not intend to face it in nothing more than the low-slung trousers of soft fabric in which he had awoken.
And a gentleman would never parade himself about in a state of undress.
“Hey, sailor!” Emma’s voice easily carried up to where he stood. In their bedroom. “Breakfast is ready!”
She was angry.
That was an emotion with which Killian was intimately familiar. Hers, and his--because the Darkness had left its mark upon each of them. Killian’s already-short fuse was, occasionally, shorter than it ever had been. Emma sometimes retreated behind walls that were taller than ever. They fought it as they had everything else--together--and kept the same rules, always: always talk to each other. If that didn’t work, then talk to someone else.
And when all else failed, there was Archie, who called it “post-traumatic stress disorder”.
“Fucking post-traumatic savior disorder, more like,” Emma always said, her body brimming with frustration. But her hand didn’t shake anymore and that was, itself, a victory.
Somehow, they got through it. Together.
But all of that was to come much later.
For now, Emma Swan was angry, and she repeated her question.
“Who the fuck are you?”
Killian watched her, calculating the best way to answer her question. Honestly, for a start.
“My name is Killian Jones,” he said, and her eyes narrowed, assessing him, until she nodded.
“Killian Jones who suddenly learned what Netflix is?” she asked.
It was her favorite movie. He could practically recite it as well as she could at this point.
“Killian Jones who has had more opportunity to familiarize himself with Netflix, yes.” He smirked. “And all of the pleasures of ‘Netflix and chill’.”
Emma rolled her eyes.
“I’m not the Killian Jones with whom you are currently acquainted,” he admitted.
Emma’s hand went to her forehead. “What the actual fuck?”
He wanted to reach for her hand. He wanted to, but he didn’t. “I can’t properly say, but I woke up this morning in our--in your family’s loft. That is not where I went to sleep last night. I fell asleep in my own bed, in my own home.” With his wife, whom he missed more and more. It wasn’t--
It wasn’t Emma , he realized. She was exactly as he remembered, and he loved her now just as he had done then. It was the way his fingers itched, and his sudden understanding of why.
“Holy shit,” Emma muttered. “You’re--”
“From the future,” he finished. “Aye.” He rubbed his finger against his ring--the wrong ring--to stop himself reaching for her hand.
“When?” Emma said.
“I really shouldn’t say,” Killian hedged. “Several years from now.”
“You’re still in Storybrooke? You--you stayed, in Storybrooke?”
It was the Darkness again, or rather the magic that had come with it. Though he had no aptitude and even less interest, he retained just enough of it that he could feel her, his Emma, because of the bonds they shared. Like a warm sunlight against his skin, nothing more, but he had gotten so used to it that he felt chilly in the shade. The feeling was enhanced by physical contact.
Only this body had not yet been subject to the Darkness.
And this Emma did not--yet--love him. Not the way she would; not the way she did .
“Aye,” he said, looking directly at her. “I’m still in Storybrooke. My entire life is here.”
His Emma loved to touch; she needed it almost as much as he did. Their fingers intertwined, her body flush against him as they walked, her hand splayed against his chest as they lay on the couch or in their bed, against his heart. As though she needed to remind herself--to remind both of them--that it was still there, and still beating.
Her eyes widened for an instant before she looked away. She seemed suddenly uncomfortable.
He cleared his throat. “Listen to me, love,” Killian said. “You and I, we’ve done this part before. Just answer me: Am I telling you a lie? Because I’d rather not have to do the whole bit with the flying monkey and the brig to prove to you I am who I say I am.”
“David doesn’t have bologna,” Emma said, and Killian could hear acceptance in her words, perhaps with a hint of a smile.
“A fact for which I remain eternally grateful,” Killian said.
“So,” she said. “If you’re here, then my Hook--” She blushed and cleared her throat and started again. “The Hook from this time is--where? There? Where you came from?”
He shrugged. It was the most likely explanation.
“And you’re not, like, I don’t know,” Emma said, “worried? Upset?”
He shrugged again. “Why should I be?”
“And that’s it?” She was incredulous. “You’re just going to, what, stay here?”
“I could give you a ‘hope’ speech, if you want. I’ve got a fair few memorized by now.” He laughed. “Let’s just say, darling, that you and I always get back to each other in the end.”
In New York, in Camelot, in the Underworld, in Neverland.
That’s what it meant to be True Love--capital ‘T’, capital ‘L’--to not give up, to never stop looking. To always make the choice, and choose each other.
“You’re wrong, you know,” Killian said. “He is yours. If you believe nothing else, believe that.”
She bit her lip and looked out the window. “I believe you,” she whispered.