It snows the night they return from Neverland. It's the middle of December and it's Maine, so the sight of snowflakes swirling in the air and blanketing Granny's patio furniture doesn't exactly shock Emma; what shocks her is Hook, standing frozen on the sidewalk, his face tilted towards the sky.
"Haven't you ever seen snow before?" Emma teases.
He doesn't respond, and when she reaches his side she sees that his eyes are closed.
There are snowflakes gathered on his lashes and melting on his cheeks, glinting like stars in his black hair.
"Hey," she whispers, touching his arm lightly. "Are you okay?"
He opens his eyes then and looks at her, his face half in shadow. "What are you doing outside, love?"
Emma wraps her arms around her middle. "I needed some fresh air."
That, and she needed to get away from Neal and his smile and his not-so-subtle flirting.
"What are you doing outside?" she asks. She wants to add, It's cold, but he doesn't seem as bothered by it as she is, even with his shirt unbuttoned halfway to his belt.
Hook shifts, turning his body towards her and dropping his hand onto the pommel of the cutlass jutting from his hip. He regards her silently for a long moment, and his silence sends a jagged spike of fear through Emma.
He did what he said he'd do, he helped them get Henry back, and now he's leaving.
Emma guesses she should have known. Everyone leaves her. That's just the way it is, and that's why she never gets attached—and she's definitely not attached to Hook. She can't be. She knows better.
And yet, there's an ache in her chest, beneath her breastbone.
Suddenly, it's difficult to take a full breath. The ache is spreading, constricting her lungs.
"Hook?" she chokes out, because if he's about to tell her he's leaving then she wants it over with, she wants this feeling to stop, this feeling as if something vital is being stripped from her.
"I told Bae—" Hook visibly catches himself, lips twisting like there's a bad taste in his mouth. "I told Neal that I'd back off."
"Aye. I told him I'd give him a fair shot at winning you back. For the boy's sake."
"I'm not—" Emma bites down hard on her anger, the heat of it warming her neck and flushing her cheeks. "I'm not some prize you two get to fight over. I thought I'd made that clear in Neverland."
"I know, love. I just…" He looks away, jaw clenched tight. "Henry deserves to have his parents together. If that's what you want."
His voice is unusually flat, and it chills her, turns her anger from hot to cold in an instant, leaving nothing but one tiny, defiant flame burning in her center.
"It's not what I want," she says.
She thought she'd made that clear too, when she told him their kiss was a one time thing and then made a liar out of herself on the journey back to Storybrooke, when she met him in a dark cabin aboard his ship and let him press her against a wooden beam while Neal taught Henry to sail somewhere over their heads.
Hook meets her eyes again, his gaze bright, intense. Unblinking. "What do you want, Swan?"
The thought is unbidden, automatic—but the word sticks in her throat, impossibly heavy, weighed down by expectations, complications.
You is a word with strings attached, and Emma doesn't do strings, she doesn't do attachment.
"Not Neal," is all she can manage. His eyes narrow a fraction, almost imperceptibly. She swallows, heart stuttering. "What do you want?"
"I want whatever you want."
Hook's never been anything other than completely open with her—at least where his feelings and intentions towards her are concerned—but his response isn't entirely truthful. Emma senses something deeper there, an undercurrent of quiet yearning.
It sends a warm shiver vibrating up her spine. She steps into him, grabbing the enormous lapels of his coat and tugging his lips down to hers.
It's like their first kiss all over again. It's hunger and desperation and a bit of a competition, it's the scrape of teeth and her chin rubbed raw from his stubble, it's his hook brushing her bare hip bone, it's heat between her legs and his arousal pressing against her navel.
She could drown in this—in him.
Laughter erupts from inside Granny's, muffled but loud enough to startle her and for awareness to creep in.
She should get back to Henry. She should take him to the loft so he can rest.
(She should stop kissing Hook and take a second to think about what kissing him means.)
Emma breaks the kiss and glances at the diner, wondering if anyone's noticed she's missing yet. Hook, undeterred, merely pulls her closer, his nose brushing her cheek, tracing a line towards her ear—then he falls still as he realizes she's no longer participating.
His hook disappears from her hip, suddenly there's a gap between their bodies.
"Swan, I'm sorry—" He sees where she's looking, sees the diner with its windows ablaze and Henry laughing with Mary Margaret and David.
"It's Henry," Emma explains, wrapping her arms around her middle once more. "With what he just went through, I can't…I shouldn't—"
She bites her lip. It doesn't feel right to be doing whatever this is while Henry still has healing to do.
"I understand." There's still a gap between them. He presses a soft kiss to her temple, the barest brush of lips. "Go," he murmurs.
She jogs across the patio, the icy air pricking her overwarm cheeks; just before she opens the door she looks back.
Hook's standing exactly where she left him, watching her with a faint, sad smile on his face. She can't bring herself to turn away from him, so she calls, "Tomorrow night?"
"You know where to find me, love."
And then he's gone, lost in the darkness and the veil of falling snow.