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Farm Boy

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Emma grew up in a cottage in the countryside with her parents. She cared nothing for clothing and hated having to sit still each morning while her mother brushed her long blond hair. When her father died leaving her and her mother to manage the farm alone her mother hired a farm boy named Killian. Emma spent her days riding her horse, shoving her work onto Killian and teasing him. She refused to call him by his name, only addressing him as ‘farm boy'.

 

No matter what Emma said to him, how she teased him, or how much work she made him do, all he would ever say to her was, ‘As you wish'.

 

At first, she found it irritating and teased him harder hoping for a different response. Then over time without realizing it she began to like it. Every time he said ‘as you wish' she felt a thrill run through her. She grew to depend on him, seeking him out when she needed help. Over time as she fell in love with him she teased him less and started doing her fair share of the work.

 

----

 

As Emma came home from her daily ride one day she saw Killian chopping wood and looked around for an excuse to tease him. She spotted two empty buckets and picked them up sauntering over to him with false bravado.

 

"Farm boy. Fill these with water." She dumped the buckets at his feet and smirked at him.

 

Killian lifted his head and smiled at her. Emma's heart skipped a beat. His eyes seemed to look right through her. Her smirk fell.

 

"Please." She whispered smiling at him.

 

He nodded. "As you wish."

 

Emma was amazed as she realized when he said, ‘As you wish,' what he meant was ‘I love you'. She was even more amazed to discover that she welcomed his attention and if she was completely honest with herself she was just as much in love with him.

 

She stumbled backward having trouble taking her eyes off him. He watched her walk away his smile never fading.

 

It took her two months to confess her feelings to him. They had been in the stable brushing down her horse, each standing on one side. When their hands met on the horses back she had looked up to see him watching her with the same gentle smile he always looked at her with.

 

"I love you." She whispered. As the words tumbled out of her mouth she stumbled back from the horse, shocked she had voiced her feelings. She covered her mouth with her hand and made for the stable door. A hand caught her arm and she turned to see Killian's eyes full of concern."

 

"Emma?" He asked softly.

 

Suddenly afraid he didn't feel the same, she felt tears in her eyes. He pulled her to him and held her close, his face pushed into her neck.

 

"If you wish I will release you and we will never speak of this again." He paused, his gripping tightening. "But if you meant what you said I will tell you that I return your feelings."

 

Emma slowly lifted her arms and placed them on Killian's back. "Killian," she breathed.

 

His grip tightened again one of his hands fisting in her hair. Then he pulled back and smiled at her. Emma realized she had never called him his name before. She liked the way it felt in her mouth. She repeated it several times to his delight, apparent by his widening smile.

 

Killian leaned forward and pressed his forehead to hers. "I love you."

 

Emma had never been happier. In that moment, she thought her happiness would never end. She was not to know in six months she and Killian would be separated.

 

-----

 

Killian wanted to marry Emma but had no money so he packed his meager belongings and left the farm to seek his fortune across the sea.

 

Emma walked with him hand in hand to the end of the property not saying a word. When they reached the edge she stopped pushing her heels into the ground holding onto his hand with all her strength.

 

"Emma?" He asked turning to look at her one eyebrow arched.

 

"I fear I'll never see you again."

 

Killian smiled and put his free hand on her cheek. "Of course, you will."

 

"What if something happens to you?" She asked, pressing her face into his hand.

 

"Hear this now: I will come for you. This is true love, you think this happens every day?" He gave her the biggest smile he could.

 

Emma released his hand and threw her arms around him burying her face in his chest. When she pulled back she was smiling. Emma leaned up on her toes and Killian leaned down. They met in the middle their lips finding the others in the easy way they always did. They kissed until Killian pulled back. He pressed a kiss to her forehead, untangled himself from her, and headed off unaccompanied. Emma waited ‘til he was out of sight then let her tears fall.

 

Killian never reached his destination. His ship was attacked by the infamous Captain Hook, who never left captives alive. When news that Killian was dead reached Emma, she sat down holding the letter and refused to move even when her mother begged her. She sat for hours in the tall grass outside her home. Finally, in the early hours of the next morning, she allowed her mother to take her into the house. Her mother tucked into her bed sitting on the edge Emma looked at her mother, her eyes dead.

 

"I will never love again. Nor trust anyone enough to get close enough for them to hurt me."

 

-----

 

The next five years were hard on Emma. A year after losing Killian, her mother died leaving her all on her own. She managed all right with the help of the newly hired farm boy. Then Regina the Evil Queen (as she was called behind her back) arrived at Emma's door and told her she was a Princess. That her mother had run off with her shepherd father when she was young leaving the throne behind. The queen wanted to make Emma her heir. Not caring what happened to her Emma agreed.

 

For the next two years, she was paraded around in front of the people. She smiled when told to and danced with whoever the queen asked her to. Anyone who watched her long enough knew her heart wasn't in any of it. She played the part of the lost princess well but did it all without feeling.

 

Soon after the five-year mark of Killian's death news reached Emma that she was to be married. Angry that the Queen had accepted the proposal without her consent she sought her out to confront her. Emma reached the Queen's chambers and threw the doors open letting them slam into the walls.

 

Regina turned in her seat at her vanity and gave Emma one of her manic smiles. "Emma."

 

"I have done everything you asked of me since I came to live here with you. Why are you forcing me to marry someone when you know I cannot love them?"

 

Regina chuckled and stood slowly sauntering over to Emma. "The man you are marrying doesn't expect you to love him." She turned her attention to someone standing to Emma's left. "Do you Huntsman?"

 

Emma turned to see the Huntsman-leaning again the wall by the veranda.

 

"No, my Queen." He inclined his head slightly to them.

 

"I'm not marrying you off in the hope you will find your happily ever after. Though you could be grateful I picked someone who is at least attractive. You need an heir. Once you have a child you will be free to live your life as you wish." Her smile turned predatory. "Understand?"

 

Emma nodded and backed out of the room. When she was outside she turned and walked away as quickly as possible. Behind her, she heard the Queen laughing.

 

Emma's emptiness had long since consumed her leaving her a shell of her former self. Although the law of the land gave Regina the right to pick her husband she had hoped if she did well playing the perfect princess she would be left to live her life as she wished. She knew she was lucky in the choice of husband Regina had picked for her. The Huntsman was a kind man who would not ask more of her than she could give.

 

-----

 

-A month later-

 

Emma headed to the stable for her daily ride. The only time she felt really alive was when she was riding. She needed to clear her head so that at dinner she could smile for the court like she knew she had to. Emma rode out the place gate and into the woods needing to be alone.

 

"A word, my lady?"

 

Emma pulled her horse to a stop and looked to her right. Standing by the waters edge were three people. A small man dressed in green, a warrior with their face covered in foreign armor, and a giant of a man.

 

"We are but poor, lost circus performers. Is there a village nearby?"

 

Emma put on her best smile. "There is nothing nearby; not for miles."

 

The man in green smiled at her. "Then there will be no one to hear you scream."

 

The giant rushed towards her picking her off her horse and threw her over his shoulder. She fought him but he was too strong. He carried her along the water till the small band reached a boat. He walked up the gangplank and deposited her on the floor.

 

"Stay still I don't want to hurt you." The giant grimaced.

 

Emma stayed where she was. The warrior joined them on the boat and placed a hand on Emma's shoulder.

 

"What are you doing?" The giant asked his face turned towards the shore.

 

"I'm placing the fabric of the Army officer of Guilder on her horse. Once the horse reaches the castle the fabric will make the Queen and the Princess's fiancé think the Guidelines have abducted the princess. When they find her body dumped on the Guilder frontier their suspicions will be confirmed."

 

"You never said anything about killing anyone!" The giant yelled looking suddenly distraught.

 

"I've hired you to help me start a war!" The man yelled walking up the gangplank onto the boat.

 

"I don't think it's right killing an innocent girl." The giant said softly.

 

"I agree with Tiny." The warrior removed their helmet revealing a woman with long black hair.

 

"What happens to her is none of your concern. I will kill her." He moved to the front of the boat then turned, pointing his finger at the warrior. "Remember this Mulan when I found you were so slobbering drunk you couldn't buy brandy and moaning over the death of the woman you loved," his finger turned to address the giant, Tiny, "And you, friendless, brainless, helpless, hopeless. Do you want me to send you back to where I found you?"

 

Emma watched Tiny wilt under the scolding. When the man turned away from them and took a seat at the front of the ship, Tiny crossed the ship and pulled the gangplank up. Mulan joined him placing a hand on his arm, "Ignore Pan. You and I are partners."

 

Tiny lifted his head and smiled at her.

 

The next few hours passed by uneventfully, the sunset and the small boat sailed on with the wind. Tiny and Mulan chatted at the back of the boat. Mulan feeding Tiny words to rhyme with. Pan sat at the front ignoring them when they refused to stop even when he screamed at them. Emma sat silently coming to grips with the fact that she was on the way to her death. She found she didn't mind much. Her heart died years ago. Her body was just catching up.

 

When Mulan and Tiny went silent both Emma and Pan turned to look at them.

 

"What are you doing?" Pan asked.

 

Emma watched Mulan turn back from looking over the back of the boat.

 

"Making sure nobody is following us." She replied.

 

‘That would be inconceivable." Pan muttered.

 

"Despite what you think, you will be caught. When you are the Queen will see you all hanged."

 

Pan laughed. "Of all the necks on this boat, Highness, the one you should be worrying about is your own."

 

Emma turned her face away towards the back of the boat. She could see Mulan and Tiny looking behind them.

 

"Stop doing that!" Pan yelled.

 

"But something is there," Tiny said quietly.

 

"What?" Pan rushed across the boat and joined Mulan and Tiny at the back. "Probably some local fishermen out for a pleasure cruise."

 

Emma moved to jump off the boat while they were distracted. She knew she was going to die but she could at least die on her own terms.

 

A hand grabbed her shoulder and pulled her back. She landed harshly on the bottom of the boat. She looked up to see Pan glowering down at her.

 

"You're going nowhere!" Pan pulled a piece of rope from his pocket and tied her hands together. "Stay there."

 

Emma lay down. She was exhausted and starving. She let her eyes drift shut for a little peace. As she fell asleep she heard her three captures arguing over whether the boat behind them was following them or not.

 

------

 

Emma woke hours later when a freezing gust of wind whipped through the boat. She instinctively reached for a blanket that was not there.

 

"He's right on top of us." She heard Mulan call.

 

"Whoever he is he's too late. We've made it to the cliffs of insanity." Pan said.

 

Emma sat up and looked around her. In front of the boat were the most terrifying cliffs she had ever seen. They were sheer heading up straight from the water looking impossibly high. She could see a rope hanging down near where they were docking but didn't see how that would help them. The cliffs had to be far too high to climb.

 

As Pan docked the ship, Mulan shed some of her armor and Tiny started strapping a harness on. Emma watched the chaos from her spot on the floor. When Mulan pulled her up she didn't resist. She was strapped onto Tiny's right side while Pan was strapped to his front and Mulan was strapped to his left. Tiny took hold of the rope and started pulling them upward.

 

Emma gasped and squeezed the fabric on Tiny's shoulder.

 

"Relax Princess Tiny's done this before," Mulan said, her tone comforting.

 

Emma looked at her over Tiny's back and nodded.

 

Mulan looked below them and frowned. "He's climbing the rope. And he's gaining on us."

 

"Inconceivable!" Pan yelled, poking Tiny in the chest. "Go faster."

 

Emma took a deep breath and looked down. Climbing the rope at an impossible speed was a man dressed all in black. ‘He must be a blackguard', she thought. ‘Its possible it's the Huntsman', but he was too far away to see clearly.

 

"Faster!" Pan yelled again.

 

"I thought I was going faster," Tiny mumbled.

 

"And yet he gains," Pan said as he gave Tiny a pointed glare.

 

"I'm carrying three people. He's only got himself."

 

"I don't accept excuses." Pan shook his head. "I'm going to have find myself a new giant."

 

"Don't say that Pan," Tiny said in a pitiful tone.

 

They reached the top soon after, Pan berating Tiny the whole way. Mulan pulled herself out of the harness and pulled Emma up sitting her on the ground while she helped Pan and Tiny up. Emma looked around her and realized they were in the ruins of a castle. Pan ran over the where the rope was wrapped around a bolder and cut the rope. It slithered across the ground and over the cliff edge. Pan ran to the cliff edge a gleeful look in his eyes.

 

"He didn't fall? Inconceivable!" Pan yelled kicking the ground.

 

"You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means," Mulan said.

 

Emma chuckled earning her a glare from Pan and a smile from Mulan. Pan slapped her hard across the face then turned to look at Mulan.

 

"Whoever he is he clearly saw us with the Princess and therefore must die." He turned to Tiny. "You carry her." Then he turned to Mulan. "We'll head straight for the Guilder frontier. If he falls, fine. If not kill him."

 

Mulan nodded.

 

Tiny picked her up bridal style and followed Pan through the ruins into hills nearby. They moved in silence except for Pan muttering ‘inconceivable' under his breath every few minutes. Finally, Tiny stopped and sat her down. Pan turned and glowered at him.

 

"I need to catch my breath we've been running for an hour."

 

Pan nodded his head, "Watch her I'm going to see if we're being followed."

 

Tiny nodded and sat down one hand on Emma's shoulder.

 

A minute later Pan was back. "Give her to me. Catch up with us quickly."

 

Tiny stood and looked back in the direction they had come. "What do I do?"

 

"Kill him." Pan took hold of Emma's arm and took off, pulling her behind him.

 

They marched over the rocky terrain Emma stumbling as Pan pulled her along. Then suddenly Pan stopped and cursed.

 

"I'll have to face him," he mumbled.

 

Emma looked over her shoulder to see a man in black making his way towards them.

 

Pan led her along the path until he found a rock with a log on each side as if someone had made a table. He sat her down and pulled a blindfold out of his pocket.

 

"Stay quiet and your death will be painless."

 

She heard him moving things around then there was a knife at her throat. She flinched but the knife followed her throat.

 

"If you wish her dead, by all means keep moving forward." She heard Pan call out. Pan pushed the knife harder against her throat. She swallowed.

 

"Let me explain." A voice called to them.

 

Emma could have sworn she had heard it before but the face eluded her. It was not the Huntsman. In the back of her mind, she thought it sounded like Killian but she pushed that idea away. He was dead.

 

"There is nothing to explain. You're trying to kidnap what I've rightfully stolen."

 

"Perhaps an arrangement can be worked out."

 

"There will be no-"

 

Pan jabbed the knife against her throat cutting the skin. Emma let out an involuntary gasp of pain.

 

"How about I challenge you to a battle of wits?" The Man in Black asked, voice slightly strained.

 

"For the princess?" Pan pulled the knife away marginally. There was a beat of silence. "To the death?" Another beat of silence. "I accept."

 

"Then pour the wine." The Man in Black said much closer this time.

 

Emma listened to the sound of liquid being poured.

 

"I have here a draft of iocane power. It's odorless, tasteless, dissolves instantly in liquid, and is among the more deadly poisons knows to man."

 

Pan lowered the knife and Emma exhaled. All she could hear was shifting and Pan muttering under his breath about which goblet to pick.

 

"Where is the poison?" The Man in Black asked. "The battle if wits has begun. It ends when you decide and we both drink and find out who is right and who is dead."

 

Pan muttered under his breath for a few more minutes.

 

"You're trying to trick me into giving something away. It won't work." The Man in Black said.

 

"It has worked. You've given everything away. I know where the poison is." Pan said triumphantly.

 

"Then make your choice."

 

"I will. And I choose-" Pan pauses, "what in the world is that?"

 

"What?"

 

Emma felt movement next her and had the feeling that Pan had moved the glasses.

 

"I could have sworn I saw something. No matter," Pan chuckled

 

"What's so funny?" The Man in Black asked.

 

"I'll tell you in a moment. First lets drink, me from my glass, and you from yours."

 

After a minute of silence, she heard Pan laughing again. It started quietly and quickly turned into a roar of noise. Then she heard someone choke and felt Pan fall brushing against her as he tipped backward.

 

Her blindfold was ripped off. Emma blinked as the light hit her eyes. Standing over her was a man dressed head to toe in black. He even wore a black mask and a black bandana that covered his hair. His clothing was dusty in places and he had a tear on the left leg of his pants. He brushed his hand against her bruised cheek then reached towards her with his left hand. Emma saw that where his hand should be there was a hook. He used it to cut the rope binding her wrist and pulled her to her feet.

 

"Who are you?" She asked wondering who now held her life in their hand.

 

"I am someone not to be trifled with. That's all you need to know."

 

Emma looked down at Pans corpse and shuttered. "You poisoned your own glass." She whispered.

 

"They were both poisoned. I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder." He said in a smug tone. Then he took off dragging her behind him.

 

They ran for a while till Emma's feet felt like lead and she stumbled more than she walked. He suddenly released her letting her lean on a bolder.

 

"Catch your breath." The Man in Black stepped away from her.

 

"If you release me whatever you ask for ransom you'll get it. I promise you." Emma brushed her hair off her face so she could see her new captor clearly.

 

"The promise of a woman, what is that worth? He glared at her.

 

"I was giving you a chance. No matter where you take me there is no greater tracker then the Huntsman. He will find you."

 

The Man in Black stepped closer. "You think your dearest love will save you?"

 

Emma scoffed and glared at him, she could see by the tick of his jaw that he had seen her eyes go dark. "I never said he was my dearest love. And yes, he will save me," she spit out.

 

"You admit to me you do not love your fiancé?" The man asked a smirk played at his lips.

 

"He knows I do not love him."

 

"Are not capable of love." He spat back.

 

A fire lit in Emma as her anger took over. "I have loved more deeply then a killer like yourself could ever dream!"

 

The Man in Black raised his hand to slap her. She didn't back down and continued to glare at him. His eyes were dark with anger but after a moment they softened and he looked almost embarrassed as he lowered his hand.

 

"We should keep moving." He took hold of Emma's arm and dragged her forward.

 

They walked again in silence till they came to the top of a sheer ravine. The Man in Black looked down, sighed, and let Emma's arm go.

 

"Rest for a while."

 

Emma pulled herself away and glared at him. "I know who you are. You cruelty reveal's everything." The Man in Black simply watched her. "You're Captain Hook."

 

He bowed to her.

 

"Then I hope you die being cut into a thousand pieces."

 

He smirks at her. "Hardly complimentary your highness. Why loose your venom on me?"

 

The anger in her boiled over. She held onto it afraid if she let it go she would cry. "You killed my love."

 

She watched his jaw flex. "It's possible. I killed a lot of people. Who was this love of yours?" He sat himself on a bolder and crossed his arms over his chest.

 

The anger in her started to give way to sadness. "A farm boy." She said in a soft voice. "Poor and perfect, with eyes like the sea after a storm." She closed her eyes for a moment and saw his smile. When she opened her eyes she glared at Hook again. "On the night seas, your ship attacked and Captain Hook never takes prisoners."

 

"I can't afford to make exceptions," Hook said in a patronizing voice. "If word leaked out that a pirate had gone soft people would start disobeying him. Then it's nothing but work, work, work all the time.

 

"You mock my pain!" Emma yelled stepping towards Hook.

 

"Life is pain, highness," Hook yelled back standing up. "Anyone who says differently is selling something." He paused and stepped away from her. "I remember this farm boy you speak of. It would have been what, five years ago?"

 

Emma nodded fighting back tears.

 

"He died well, that should please you. No bribe attempted or blubbering. He simply said, ‘Please I need to live'. It was the please that caught my memory. I asked him what was so important and he said ‘true love'. Then he spoke of a girl of surpassing beauty and faithfulness. I can only assume he meant you. You should bless me for destroying him before he found out what you really are." He had stepped closer while he spoke till he was right in Emma's face. He glared at her as if she was a maggot on his boot.

 

"What am I?" She asked feeling the tears build in her eyes.

 

"Faithfulness he talked of, madam, your enduring faithfulness. Now, tell me truly. When you found out he was gone did you get engaged to your Huntsman that same hour or did you wait a whole week out of respect for the dead?"

 

"You mocked me once, never again. I died that day!" Emma's tears blurred her vision as she shoved him.

 

His mouth opened to speak his eyes had gone soft and he reached for her. Then he seemed to see something behind her.

 

Emma was too caught in her grief to notice much. She shoves him again and realized he was stood right at the end of the ravine. "You can die for all I care!" She shoved him again and this time he toppled over the edge of the ravine.

 

Hook called back up to her. "As you wish." Broken with each tumble his words spread out almost comically.

 

"Killian!" She whispered to herself. And then it hit her. His eyes, the way he had flexed his jaw, her instinct that it was his voice when she first heard it. Without thinking, Emma threw herself over the edge of the ravine tumbling down after him.

 

The fall hurt. Her body hits rocks and rough ground. She tried to pull her body into a ball but it didn't work. When she landed she was on her face her hair fanning out around her. She lay still catching her breath.

 

There was a hand on her back it, gripped her by the shoulder and turned her over. She grunted as her back hit the ground. Then she was looking up into Killian's eyes. His mask and bandana had been lost in the fall. She could see his face fully and his black hair. He looked at her with concern.

 

"Can you move at all?" He used his hook to brush her hair off her face.

 

Emma smiled. "You're alive. If you wanted I could fly."

 

He smiled at her and leaned in. Emma put one hand on the back of his head and dragged his head to hers kissing him with all the pain and passion she had stored up while he was gone, tears in her eyes again.

 

"I told you I would always come for you. Why didn't you wait for me?" Killian asked when they pulled apart. Their foreheads resting against each others.

 

"You were dead," Emma whispered back.

 

Killian smirked at her. "Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while."

 

"I won't doubt again." She smiled at him.

 

He smiled back. "There will never be a need."

 

He leaned in again and kissed her this one soft, gentle and loving. When he pulled back Emma tried to chase his lips.

 

"We have to go we're being followed."

 

Emma looked to the top of the ravine. She could see nothing but she let Killian pull her up.

 

They raced along the ravine hand in hand. Killian glanced behind them and smiled. "Is that your fiancé?"

 

Emma turned and saw the group of people on horseback looking down at them from the top of the ravine. She shook her head. "That's the queen and her personal guard. The blond is her guard Maleficent, but I don't see the Huntsman with them."

 

"No worries we'll lose them in the fire swamp."

 

"We'll never survive!"

 

"You're only saying that because no one ever has."

 

-----

 

They moved into the Fire Swamp, hands interlocked. Emma had heard tales of the place from her parents as a child. Some said it naturally formed to kill any human who entered it. Others thought it had been created by black magic. Giant trees loomed ominously over them.

 

"It's not that bad." Killian gave Emma a small smile as they stopped to take in their surroundings.

 

Emma looked at him, one eyebrow raised.

 

"I'm not saying I want to live here but it's not as bad as I thought it would be." He bumped Emma with his shoulder and gave her a toothy grin.

 

They continued into the swaps hands held as tight as possible with Killian leading the way. Emma heard a strange popping sound and then out of nowhere a giant spurt of flame leapt out of the ground at Emma's feet catching the hem of her dress on fire. She shrieked falling over onto her ass. She reached for the fire trying to smother it with the rest of her dress. Killian's hand joined hers. It took them several long minutes for the flame to die out, but not before burning half way up her calf.

 

With the fire out Killian pushed her dress aside and felt her leg. She watched him sigh in relief. He stood and held his hand out to her. When she was on her feet again he took the hand he was holding and kissed the back of it.

 

"Well, that was an adventure." His voice was anxious but he smiled at her. "Alright love?"

 

She nodded. "You."

 

He nodded.

 

A popping sound started at her left and Killian pulled her into his arms away from the sound. The fire erupted where Emma had been standing.

 

"This place certainly does keep you on your toes." He squeezed Emma's hand and started to lead her on again. "My ship the Jolly Roger is anchored at the other end of the swap. We'll be there soon and then this will all be but a memory."

 

"How are you, Captain Hook? His legend stretches back hundreds of years." Emma asked.

 

A popping sound started again and Killian picked her up setting her on his other side. Flames spurted up. He then took her hand again and started off.

 

"What I told you before about saying ‘please' was true. Hook was intrigued, especially by my description of your beauty." He raised his hook and sliced through the vines in front of them. "He said to me, ‘All right Killian. I've never had a valet. You can try for tonight. I'll most likely kill you in the morning'. Three years he said that. ‘Good night Killian good work I'll most likely kill you in the morning.' I spent my time learning to fence, fight, and anything else anyone on board would teach me. Over time, Hook and I became friends and then it happened."

 

"What?" Emma asked curling her other hand around his arm to draw them closer together.

 

He smiled over his shoulder at her clearly pleased. "Hook had grown so rich he wanted to retire. He took me to his cabin and told me his secret. ‘I am not Captain Hook,' he said. ‘My name is Ryan and I inherited this ship from the previous Captain Hook, just as you will inherit it from me. The truth is the real Captain died years ago and since then one of his crew has taken on his name and continued to carry on the legend'." He paused his story bent down and took her into his arms bridal style. He carried her over a small stream and sat her down on the other side.

 

"Hook explained to me that the name was the important part to inspire the necessary fear. So we sailed ashore, he cut off my left hand and we took on an entirely new crew. He stayed aboard awhile as first mate, calling me Captain Hook. I have been using the name ever since." He squeezed her hand again. "Now that we're together I shall retire and hand the name over to some else."

 

Emma's eyes drifted to his hook. Killian had gone through so much pain to survive and get back to her. Emma dug her heels into the ground stopping their progress. Killian turned to look at her. "Why did you never send word that you were alive? I would have come to you."

 

He gave her a ghost of a smile.

 

"And if you have been captain for two years now why not come for me on your own?"

 

"I wanted too. But while the Captain held my life in his hands I dared not do anything that would upset him. When I was finally my own man I sent someone to find you. When he returned he told me you had been crowned Princess and were living happily in a castle. At that time, I did not have the money to retire and wondered what kind of life I could offer you compared to the life of a Princess."

 

Emma released his hand and stepped away. "I wasn't happy!"

 

Killian opened his mouth to respond when the ground opened up around Emma's feet and she began to sink into the sand. She reached for him, screaming his name. Killian stepped closer, his hand and hook stretched towards her but it was too late, the earth had swallowed her.

 

Emma's lungs burned. The impulse to open her mouth and breathe hit her hard. It took all her willpower to keep her mouth shut. The sand around her was suffocating her. Her head was fuzzy. She felt a hand grab her own and then there were arms around her, pulling.

 

Emma clung to the body next to her own. When her head was pulled out into the open air, she gasped and pulled in a mouth full of much-needed oxygen. She could see that the person saving her was Killian. Together they pulled each other out of the sand onto solid ground. They held each other close their hearts pressed together beating the same frantic beat. Emma put her face in his neck relieved to be alive but more relieved to be in his arms.

 

"You're right," Killian whispered. "I should have gone to see you for myself." He pulled back enough to look at her. He wiped some of the sand from her face. "The moment I saw your eyes today, I saw your pain. You looked like the walking dead. I should never have trusted someone else to tell me the news. One look at you and I would have stolen you away." He looked away embarrassed. "I'm sorry."

 

"I lost everything. You, my parents" she closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

 

"Emma." He breathed, a distraught look on his face.

 

Emma reached up and brushed some of the sand from his face. "We'll never succeed, we may as well die here."

 

"No." He smiled at her and helped her to her feet. "We have already succeeded. We're together."

 

Emma gave him a watery smile.

 

"Besides what are the three terrors of the Fire Swap? The flame spurts. There's a popping sound preceding each so we can avoid that. Then there's the lightning sand. You discovered what it looks like so we can avoid in the future."

 

Emma smacked him lightly on the arm and he gave her another toothy grin.

 

"What about the giant rodents?" Emma asked trying to fight her own smile and losing.

 

"I don't think they exist."

 

Right after he spoke the words a giant rodent came flying at them from above. Emma screamed as the rodent knocked Killian to the ground and pinned him beneath it. It bit his arm eliciting a scream.

 

Emma looked around for something to fend the rodent off with and found a large branch. She turned and ran towards it. She had her hands around it when she heard Killian scream her name. She felt teeth dig into her ankle and screamed. She grabbed the branch and swung blindly behind her. The teeth released her and she turned to see where it had gone. It had lunged at Killian again. She rushed towards them branch in hand. Killian was punching the creature but it had its teeth in his shoulder. Emma slammed the branch into the rodents back. It released Killian and he lifted his hooked arm and drove it into the rodent's neck. It fell still and Killian rolled it off him.

 

They reached for each other and hugged. Emma pulled back enough to inspect his wounds.

 

"It's nothing." Killian breathed his expression pained as Emma touched his arm.

 

Emma took a deep breath her hand over Killian's shoulder.

 

"Emma?"

 

"Shh, I need to concentrate."

 

She had seen Regina practice magic over the years and discovered she had powers of her own. They were nowhere near the Queen's but she could light the candles in her room and heal small wounds. She knew Regina's powers came from a place of darkness but Emma's had always come from love. Now with Killian next to her she felt more love than she had in years. Even with her eyes closed she saw the bright light of her powers working. She slowly dragged her hand down Killian's arms. She heard him gasp but ignored it. When she felt her power leave she opened her eyes and inspected her work. The blood was still on his skin but the wound was closed. The wound looked at least a month old.

 

"How?" Killian asked clearly shocked.

 

She gave him a smug grin. "You're not the only one who's changed."

 

He gave her his widest smile yet. Then his eyes lifted from her face to over her shoulder. "Look."

 

She turned to see what he was talking about. Just beyond the trees she could see the beach and beyond that a ship anchored in the shallows.

 

"Almost there." Killian breathed in her ear as his arms wrapped around her waist.

 

Emma placed a hand over his hook and hand. "We did it."

 

"Now," Killian released her and took her hand again. "That wasn't so terrible."

 

They picked up their pace and reached the edge of the trees in minutes. As they broke through the trees, a group on horseback raced towards them. Killian drew his sword and tried to back them into the swap. Emma gripped his arm.

 

"Surrender!" Regina called to them.

 

Killian smirked "You wish to surrender to me? I accept."

 

Regina glares at them. "You're brave I'll give you that. But don't be foolish." She formed a fireball in her hand.

 

Emma looked around them. There were blackguards coming out of the trees behind them. They would never make it back to the swamp. Even if they did Regina would just set it on fire. She may be able to block an attack once but she wouldn't be able to keep it up.

 

"For the last time, surrender!" Regina yelled.

 

Emma watched as Maleficent placed her hand on the top of the staff she kept at her hip.

 

"Death first!" Killian roared back.

 

Maleficent's hand grasped the staff ready to raise it.

 

"Will you promise not to hurt him?" Emma yelled, stepping out in front of him.

 

Regina's attention turned away from Killian to Emma.

 

"What?" Both Killian and Regina asked simultaneously.

 

Emma held her hands out in front of her. "If we surrender and I return with you, will you promise not to hurt this man?"

 

"On my mother's grave." The fireball in Regina's hand dissolved.

 

"He is a sailor on the pirate ship, Jolly Roger. Promise to return him to his ship."

 

"It will be done."

 

Emma turned to look at Killian. They stared into each other's eyes. She could see the hurt and confusion in his eyes. She tried to be brave and gave him a look of determination.

 

"I thought you were dead once and it almost destroyed me. I can't bear for you to die again. Not when I can save you."

 

Killian opened his mouth to speak but she felt an arm around her waist and she was swept off her feet onto the front of a horse. She turned to look at Killian, the horse turned and headed in the direction of the castle.

 

"Easy it's only me," The Huntsman whispered.

 

Emma relaxed marginally into his arms.

 

-----

 

Emma wasted away once she returned to the castle. She could no longer smile and spent most of her time looking out her window to the sea in hopes of seeing a crimson flag flying in the distance. The guards around her increased till she felt smothered. She was no longer allowed to ride her horse alone and never far from the castle. She had nightmares each night. Sometimes of Killian dying, others of his face seeing her married to another man, the look of betrayal he gave her cut her to her core.

 

She counted down the days till her wedding with more foreboding than before she had been kidnapped. When she had no hope of a better life she could consign herself to a loveless marriage but now that she knew Killian lived, the thought of being with anyone but him made her ill. Deciding she could no longer go through with the marriage, she decided to confront the Queen.

 

She found her in her office going over paperwork. As she came in the Queen looked up from her work and gave her a patronizing smile.

 

"It comes to this. I love Killian. I always have, I always will. If you tell me I must marry in ten days please believe I will be dead by morning."

 

Regina sighed and put her quill down. "I could never cause you grief consider the wedding off." She turned to where Maleficent sat in the window seat. "You returned the pirate to his ship?"

 

Maleficent stood and gave the Queen a small bow. "Of course my Queen."

 

Regina nodded. "Then we will alert him." She gave Emma a curious look. "Are you certain he still wants you? You did, after all, leave him. Not to mention pirates are not known to be men of their word."

 

"Killian will always come for me." Emma stood straighter looking down on the Queen with a look that wouldn't be questioned.

 

"Then I suggest a deal." She stood and stepped out from behind the chair of her desk. "You write four copies of a letter. I'll send my four fastest ships one in each direction. Captain Hook is always close to the Enchanted Forest this time of year.
We'll run up the white flag and deliver your message. If your pirate wants you then bless you both. If not, please consider the Huntsman as an alternative to suicide."

 

Emma nodded and came around the desk to write her letters.

 

Behind her back, Regina turned to Maleficent and rolled her eyes.

 

-----

 

It was two days till the wedding and still there had been no word from Killian. Emma refused to give up hope. She found Regina in the throne room and made her way towards her. "Any news from Killian?"

 

Regina turned to her and looked at her sadly. "No yet my dear. But don't worry there is still time."

 

"He will come for me," Emma said more to herself than anyone else.

 

Regina nodded. "Of course."

 

Maleficent appeared at Regina side and whispered in her ear. Regina listened and stepped away with her. Emma hadn't finished she wanted to ask for more time. She followed Regina and Maleficent into the next room but stopped and hid when she heard what they were talking about.

 

"That's too soon. She can't be murdered on her wedding night she must first give birth to an heir." Regina sneered. "When I took her in I thought she would be a simpleton, easy to manipulate but she has proven to be more trouble than she is worth. Those idiots kidnapped her too soon. I suppose he thought he was being clever, the idiot. Hopefully, by this time next year, she will have a child and I will be able to kill her. The line of succession will be intact and I will retain my power." She turned to look at herself in a mirror, preening in front of it. "I can't wait to be rid of her."

 

Emma felt like she couldn't breathe. As quietly as she could she left the room. She had to escape.

 

-----

 

Things for Killian had been no better. In fact, they had been worse. As soon as Emma and the Huntsman had been out of earshot Killian had been grabbed by the Queen's black guards.

 

"Come sir we must get you to your ship," Maleficent had said looking down at him from her horse.

 

"We are people of action. Lies do not become us."

 

Maleficent smiled at him. "Well spoken."

 

Killian noticed her hand and his eyes widened.

 

"What?" Maleficent bit out.

 

"You have six fingers on your right hand."

 

Maleficent glared at him and he felt something hit him hard on the back of his head. Darkness consumed him as he passed out.

 

When he woke, he was strapped to a table with a man cleaning what they thought were his wounds. He had been told he was in the pit of despair. That once he was well he would be tortured. For days, he just lay there being treated then when he was deemed well enough Maleficent had come. He had never been in more pain. It went on for hours till he couldn't even remember his own name. The only clear thought he had was Emma and his need to get her back.

 

-----

 

Killian didn't know if it had been days or hours when the Queen appeared.

 

The Queen looked at him with a manic glint in her eyes. "You truly love each other and so you might have been happy. Not one couple in a thousand has that chance. So I think you should suffer."

 

She flipped the switch the machine Killian was attached to. The pain was so severe Killian almost passed out.

 

"Not that high!" He heard Maleficent yell.

 

It was too late the deed was done and Killian was dead.

 

------

 

Killian felt pressure on his chest and then a voice calling to him asking what was important. What did he have to live for?

 

"True love," he called back.

 

He could hear other voices now. They were arguing then he felt a hand on his forehead and a woman's voice.

 

"He said, true love."

 

He wanted to reach out to open his eyes and see the people around him but he had no strength. He could only lay still and hope.

 

With a sudden burst of strength, Killian opened his eyes to see the giant and the warrior that had kidnapped Emma holding him.

 

"I'll tear you both apart!" He yelled and tried to reach for his sword, only his arm wouldn't move.

 

"It worked!" The giant said.

 

"Why won't my arms move?"

 

"You've been mostly dead all day," the giant smiled at him.

 

"Who are you? Aren't we enemies? Why am I on this wall? And where the devil is Emma?"

 

"Let me explain," the warrior said. "I'm Mulan and this is Tiny. Emma is marrying the Huntsman in half an hour so we have to sneak in, break up the wedding, steal the Princess and make our escape. After I kill Maleficent."

 

"You just moved your finger.' Tine said triumphantly.

 

"I'm a quick healer. Right here's what we're going to do."

 

-----

 

Emma stood in front of the mirror in her bedroom staring at herself in her wedding gown. She had tried to run away but with all the guards watching her she hadn't made it far. Regina sat in the window seat watching her. Emma refused to look at her. She knew the Queen would see through her if she did. She had lost all hope of seeing Killian again and had decided that death was the only answer.

 

"You don't seem excited." Regina joined her in at the mirror and placed her hands on Emma's arms.

 

"Should I be?"

 

Regina shrugged. "Brides often are, I'm told."

 

Emma met her gaze in the mirror. "Killian will save me," she whispered.

 

-----

 

The wedding was brief. The Queen's elderly father walked her down the aisle. The clergyman went on for a while and then Emma heard shouting. Everything stopped as people looked around them in shock. It sounded as if the castle was under attack.

 

"Skip to the end!" Regina yelled. "Just say man and wife, man and wife!"

 

The clergyman did as he was told then Regina stepped between Emma and the Huntsman and forced their wedding rings on their fingers.

 

In a daze, Emma was led from the chapel with The Huntsman on one side and Regina on the other. She had failed. She knew the sounds had been Killian coming for her and yet she hadn't been able to stop the marriage.

 

"He won't care that I'm married, he'll still save me," Emma said her tone harsh.

 

Regina stopped and gave her a pitying look. "Your pirate is dead I killed him myself." She smiled at Emma.

 

"Then why is there fear behind your eyes?"

 

Regina slapped her then turned to her father. "Take her to her room we have to go."

 

The Huntsman gave Emma a pitying look and followed after the Queen. Regina's father stepped forward and took Emma's arms.

 

"Come on my dear."

 

He led her to her bedroom door and paused, smiling at her. She leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. As much as she hated Regina, she didn't hate her father. He was a good man.

 

The Queen's father smiled at her. "What was that for?"

 

"Because you have always been kind and because I won't be seeing you again." She gave him a soft smile and let herself into her room. She shut herself in and leaned her head against the wood for a moment. Then she walked to her desk and pulled out the box she had hidden in the bottom draw. She looked at the dagger inside it running her fingers over it. It had been her father's. She lifted the dagger and touched it to her chest.

 

"There's a shortage of perfect breasts in this world. It would be a pity to damage yours."

 

Emma whirled around to see Killian lounging on her bed the picture of sin. She dropped the dagger on the desk and bounded across the room to him. She flung herself onto the bed and into his arms. She covered his face in kisses holding his face to hers. When he didn't respond except to kiss the skin he could get to easily she pulled back and looked at him.

 

"Why aren't you moving?"

 

"Gently," he whispered.

 

"Is that all you can say?" She let his face go and it fell back against the headboard with a resounding thud.

 

"I wish I could love but I can't."

 

Emma lay back down with him tucking herself against his side. "I need you to forgive me," Emma whispered.

 

"What hideous sin have you committed?" Killian chuckled.

 

"I got married."

 

"Never happened."

 

"But it did. I was there the man said, ‘man and wife'."

 

"Did you say I do?" Killian raised an eyebrow at her.

 

Emma thought about it for a moment. "No neither of us did."

 

"Then you aren't married. If you didn't say it you didn't do it. Wouldn't you agree your Highness?"

 

Emma turned as Regina slunk into the room. "A technicality that will be remedied, which won't be difficult since you can't even rise from that bed."

 

"Perhaps, then again perhaps I have the strength after all."

 

Killian slowly began to move. He stumbled a little but was able to roll his body off the bed and plant his feet underneath himself. Once he was standing he raised his sword arm and pointed his sword right at the Queen.

 

"Stand down your Highness."

 

Regina moved her hand to make a fireball but Emma stood and stepped in front of Killian and made her own. Regina was too stunned to move. From behind her, a figure stepped forward and took hold of the Queen's wrist. Regina turned as the Huntsman placed a cuff on her arm.

 

"Now you can't use your powers," he said giving the Queen a smug smile.

 

The Queen looked at the people around her and tried to create a fireball. Nothing happened.

 

"Have a seat," Killian growled.

 

Regina did as asked.

 

"Tie her up." Killian nodded to a length of rope sitting on the floor.

 

Emma took it and tied the Queen to the chair. She watched the Huntsman step forward to help her.

 

"Don't." Killian ground out. He attempted to take a step forward but his body wouldn't move.

 

"Easy." The Huntsman held up his hands. "I was only going to offer my help."

 

"Why?" Killian again attempted to step forward but only stumbled. Emma turned and caught him and held him up.

 

"Because like Emma I was the Queen's prisoner. Now that she can't use her powers I can leave."

 

"Fine. Finish tying her up."

 

Mulan stumbled into the room a moment later clutching her gut blood pooling down her front.

 

"You!" Emma yelled, clutching Killian tighter.

 

"It's all right, she's a friend."

 

Emma looked between them then nodded. "Come here."

 

Mulan stepped forward and Emma placed her free hand on her wound. It took a moment but white light filled the room and when it was gone, Mulan pulled her hand away and saw the wound had closed.

 

"You might want to try that on him." Mulan tilted her head toward Killian.

 

"Why?" Emma asked her voice full of concern.

 

"He's been almost dead most of today. That's why he has no strength."

 

Emma took Killian's face in her hands. "Why didn't you tell me?"

 

Killian tried to smile but only managed a grimace. "Didn't want to worry you, love."

 

Emma shook her head and sighed. "If you had said something I would have done this." She stood on her tiptoes and kissed him softly their lips just pressed together. The white light enveloped them. When it was gone he was staring at her with a look of wonder and amazement.

 

"Mulan! Mulan, where are you?"

 

Mulan hurried to the window. Emma and Killian followed. In the courtyard below was Tiny leading four white horses behind him.

 

"Good job Tiny we'll be right down." Mulan pulled herself up into the window and started to scale her way down.

 

Emma turned to see the Huntsman standing by Regina watching them. "You could come with us." She told him.

 

He smiled and shook his head. "My home is in the woods. I have longed to return to it for years and now I have a chance."

 

Emma crossed the room and kissed his cheek. "Thank you." She turned to the desk where he father's dagger still sat. She tucked it into the belt of her dress and headed back to the window. Killian was standing there watching her as if she might disappear at any moment.

 

When she came close he picked her up and took her to the window. "Trust me?"

 

She nodded.

 

He leaned out the window and let her drop. Emma was about to scream when she landed. Two large arms caught her and she looked into Tiny's face. He smiled at her and she smiled back. Killian scaled his way down the castle wall and helped Emma onto her horse.

 

"It's too bad your other dress got ruined. I like you in red."

 

Emma gave him a flirtatious smile. "If you're good I may wear it again for you."

 

Killian gave her a flirtatious smile back.

 

Once they were all astride their horses they rode off in the direction of the beach.

 

"Do you have to retire? Emma asked once the ship was in sight.

 

Killian gave her a curious look.

 

"Only I think I might like being a pirate."

 

Killian smiled and reached for her hand. "As you wish."