GOD ONLY KNOWS
...what I'd be without you.
I may not always love you
But long as there are stars above you
You never need to doubt it
I'll make you so sure about it...
God Only Knows, The Beach Boys
Her entire body ached. That was the first thing that registered in her muddled brain. She felt a little bit like she'd been thrown down a rocky hill, and had battered her way down unimpeded. Opening her eyes was a struggle in and of itself. It made her eyes burn in protest, not so much from the light as much as the painful process of being open. It took a couple tries before she could even convince them to stay open. Once she had gotten that down, she closed them again, waiting a beat, before trying again.
Okay... Why was she in the woods? She has woken up in some pretty strange places before, but this was near the top of the list. She had been drunk for most of the previous entries. Despite her stinging eyes and screaming head, she was pretty positive she hadn't been drinking. She slowly dragged herself to her feet, an accomplishment in and of itself, mind reeling as she tried to piece together what had happened before she woke up sore and confused in the woods.
Regina. They had been protecting Regina from a Wraith that was trying to steal her soul. Sounded crazy, but not that much crazier than saving a town of cursed fairy tale characters with true love's kiss, or being the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming. As much as the skeptic in her was revolting, it was hard not to accept these things when they unfolded in front of her eyes in irrefutable clarity. They had scared the wraith off for a night, but after that they had made a plan to suck it into a new world with Jefferson's hat to get rid of it for good.
And that had worked. She could remember that much. It was slowly coming back to her. Regina almost being sucked in; her making the stupid decision to push the Evil Queen to safety, and getting herself pulled into the portal in the process. She could remember Mary Margaret screaming after her, and after that it all went blank.
"Mary Margaret?" She tried, leaning against a tree and scanning the clearing she had found herself in. Her fingers ran across her forehead, as that was where the pain was the worst; she came back with blood on her fingers. She must have hit some branches on the way down, but the ache was probably from a concussion from the landing, not the wound.
After all, she could see a sizable dent in the ground from where she landed (no wonder she was so sore), but there was just the one. She had no way of knowing if Mary had fallen through with her or if she was still in Storybrooke, but it was clear that she wasn't here at the moment. Emma sighed, closing her eyes and weighing her options.
As nice as it would be for her to have woken up in the same world she'd left, it was doubtful. The whole point had been to send the wraith away. If getting him to the woods would have been deterrent enough to stop the wraith, they wouldn't have used the hat in the first place. She was somewhere else, though where exactly she didn't know. For a moment, she was understandably worried that she'd been tossed into the exact same world as the wraith. Emma didn't know much about it, except that it sucked souls and marked its next intended victim. She didn't have a mark, so she wasn't on its hit list just yet. She did wonder, faintly, where it might be. But it wasn't in her current proximity and she would like it to stay that way. Emma could recall someone telling her the creature rested during the day, so hopefully she could put distance between it and herself before it recuperated.
She considered, for a moment, shimmying up a tree to see if that would help, but her aching body rejected that idea pretty quickly. Emma had always been better at climbing fences than trees, anyway. Besides, unless there was a notable landmark like Pride Rock or something, seeing the landscape wouldn't help her place what world she was in to begin with. At least she could rule out Wonderland and Neverland. The woods she was currently in didn't seem quite fantastical enough to suit either of those locations; at least, not in the way she knew them. Disney apparently didn't know the half of it.
First things first, she had to find a way out of the forest. Then, she would try to find people. Hopefully this world had magic, or getting home would be infinitely harder. Finding a portal back home sounded impossible enough, if she was stuck in a place where she was the most knowledgeable inhabitant when it came to portals and magic, it would be even harder. Her understanding of portals was limited at best. She had no clue how she was going to find one. Her only hope was that she could find someone who did.
Or, maybe, that Gold and Regina could be coerced into helping find her. If the hat had opened the portal to here, maybe it could do it again, and then she at least wouldn't be facing this strange new place alone.
Though, she was pretty accustomed to doing things alone. She'd had a family for less than a week - it wasn't like she'd already forgotten what it was like. To be her against the world. Really, Emma wasn't sure she'd ever be able to forget.
The fact was, leaning against this tree and feeling sorry for herself wasn't helping. She needed to get out of this forest. She would decide on her next move after that.
Setting herself moving wasn't as easy as she would have liked, but Emma dragged her feet until her body followed the direction she set herself into. Her body still hurt but luckily, it seemed to lessen a little with movement. The sun was slightly behind her, and sinking slowly. She guessed it was a little after midday, and hopefully she could make good progress before she ran out of daylight.
As she walked, she cataloged what had fallen through the portal with her. Her sorest side had her gun still attached to her hip. A ghastly gun shaped bruise adorned her side, so she had to guess that she had landed on her side. She wished she could show Henry. No doubt the kid would be impressed. Despite their rough landing, the gun didn't seem any worse for the wear. The safety was on and the chamber was full at eight rounds. However, she wasn't carrying any extra ammunition. There was little need in a sleepy town like Storybrooke. Well, it had been pretty quiet before the curse was broken, anyway.
Other than that, pickings were slim. She had a set of keys, all to things that were literally a world away. She had a small flashlight on her keychain, but it wasn't even close to being strong enough to be useful. It was a flashlight intended for finding the correct key in dim lighting, not for illuminating a path in the complete darkness. She had what remained of her cell phone, but it was not as sturdy as her gun, and the thing was toast. Cracked screen, couldn't even turn the damn thing on. She wasn't sure what that would be good for, but she didn't have the heart to abandon it. Her wallet, full of a collection of cards, cash, and other likely useless items, was in her jeans pocket. She had a set of handcuffs in her jacket, and...
Oh, thank Jesus, some painkillers. Unsurprisingly, the stress of her job wore on Emma, and resulted in a lot of headaches. Especially lately. So it was hard to find her without a stash of pain relievers squirreled away on her person. She paused long enough to pop a couple of tablets, though that wasn't the easiest task without water. Despite the bitter taste lingering in her mouth, she had to count her blessings. The bottle was at least half full, so it should last her awhile. She had to make a promise to herself not to waste it on little headaches as she did at home. She didn't have that luxury now.
The last item she had was a small bottle of hand sanitizer. That was only slightly less useless than the destroyed cell phone. Oh well... Maybe this world would prove to be unsanitary.
She walked for at least two hours before finding anything of interest. The painkillers kicked in, leaving her body at a dull ache rather than an ambient throb. The boots she was wearing, while quite cute, weren't exactly built for hiking. Her feet were incredibly sore and her adventure had barely started.
The first landmark she found was the best she could have asked for, barring a cabin with running water and power, along with a copy of Portals for Dummies. Emma stumbled across a stream, which she eagerly drank from. Not exactly Aquafina, but she had experienced worse tasting tap water. The water was cool and calm, and not very deep. Emma rested there for a bit, soaking her already screaming feet. This was good. She could follow the river until she found a way out. Maybe further. Animals and food sources were often close to bodies of water. And towns often materialized around them. This was another lucky break.
As much as she wanted to, Emma knew she couldn't rest forever. She wouldn't have daylight much longer, and getting as far as possible before she tried to hole up for the night was a must. She continued on, keeping an eye out for something to eat. She wasn't disappointed, either, soon finding berry bushes containing recognizable blackberries and raspberries, more than she could possibly hope to eat by herself. She ate as much as she could stomach, and then stowed more away in her jacket pockets. Not a perfect solution, but the best she could offer at the moment.
She liked to think she covered a lot of ground. It certainly seemed like she did, anyway. Emma walked for at least eight hours, and by the time she stopped the sun was noticeably starting to sink behind her, and the sky darkening. The blonde was aching from head to toe, but she resisted taking more painkillers. When she finally stopped moving, she would be out like a light - so there was no need for any.
Emma didn't have a lot of options in the way of shelter. The best she could do was tuck herself under a tree with really low-hanging branches. If she lay on her back, the pine needles wouldn't prick her skin too badly. She didn't have a blanket (or a pillow, god how great would a pillow be right about now), but she had her jacket, and the weather wasn't too cold. Certainly not the start of winter she'd left behind in Maine.
For once, she wished she hadn't given up smoking. She had smoked when she met Neal; At least, when she could afford to buy them. Even back then, cigarettes were behind the counter, so they were hard to pinch. She had to give them up in prison, though, getting her hands on them in the big house required more than her pride was willing to sacrifice. Besides... she'd been pregnant. She'd owed it to the baby to make sure he made it out as healthy as possible. But she distinctly remembered the beautiful Zippo lighter she'd once had. Oh, how wonderful that would be, if it was nestled in her jeans pocket where she had kept it back in the day.
Emma knew that flint could cause sparks, enough to start a fire. However, she honestly had no clue what flint looked like, and doubted any was conveniently lying around. According to boy scout lore, one could start a fire with friction and some wood, but she was too sore to give that a shot. She could make it one night, she told herself. By the end of tomorrow, she'd find better shelter than the forest floor.
She had no way of knowing that she could achieve that goal, but that didn't stop her from making it.
Emma didn't even bother eating some of her berries. She crawled under her tree and laid down on her back, and fell asleep pretty quickly, gun in hand. Just in case. The safety was still on, but it gave her a small feeling of security to have it in her hand.
She woke up with the birds, which was far earlier than she would usually wake up. Emma felt like the Tin Man, creaking out from under her tree. She popped a couple more pills, knowing she'd need the assist to be able to move today.
"Coffee would be great about now," She told the empty forest. A pack of bluebirds had collected in her tree, and they chirped at her in answer. "You're not helpful," She informed the birds, who didn't seem too flummoxed by that revelation. Despite their lack of productiveness, Emma stupidly tossed some of her berries in their direction. They were the only life she'd seen so far, and they weren't openly hostile. They were comforting, and if handing out some berries kept them around, she'd spare the berries.
God, she really was Snow White's daughter. Making friends with the birds.
Emma had a breakfast from what remained. It wasn't entirely filling, but it was her only option. The stream had widened and deepened by the time she'd stopped, and beyond the birds, there was nobody to see her. So she stripped completely, and washed off in the water. It was cold but relaxing, and feeling clean always did wonders for her mood. It was easier to catalog her bruises this way, too, but she didn't spot any more than she had suspected yesterday. The gun-shaped one was turning a charming shade of violet. Wonderful. Washing her head wound made it bleed a little again, but at least it was a small cut. Not anything to worry about.
She stayed in the water longer than she probably should have. After that, she crawled under her tree again and dozed while she dried off. It was markedly warmer by the time she shrugged back into her clothing, warm enough that she left her jacket off, tying it about her waist instead of wearing it.
Once again, she set her feet into motion. It was hard to keep moving when she had no clue if she was making progress. Not for the first time, she considered clambering up a tree to try and scout, but the idea of climbing a tree was still quite daunting. No, if she didn't see any improvement by midday, she told herself, then she'd see how skilled she was at climbing.
The birds that had taken to following her, chirped at her pleasantly, flying about easily. "Show offs," She accused, but the birds didn't seem particularly put out by her sour attitude.
She did note with pride that she seemed to be getting closer to the end of this forest. It felt like the trees were getting less dense as she walked. Emma was pretty sure that meant that she was getting near the edge.
She didn't have much in the way of proof. After all, she didn't know much about forests. Maybe they had less dense patches scattered throughout. Hell, she could have been imagining it at first. The further she went, though, the more obvious it was. The trees got smaller and farther apart the longer she walked. The stream had widened, too; at least twelve feet across now, and much deeper. She hadn't tested it but she would guess it had a current now, too, thanks to the visible movement in the water.
She knew full well she hadn't covered as much ground as she had yesterday. It wasn't so much that the terrain was more difficult - it was just she was so sore. Her feet were screaming, as these boots she was wearing were not made for walking. At least not long distances. Compiled with falling from the sky and running on only berries for fuel, her body just wasn't as up for the trek as it had been yesterday. All and all, she estimated she had gotten a little more than half as far as she had trekked the day before, even though she had started out earlier. It was pretty hard to tell, though, a rough estimate was the best she could do. If only forests had mile markers like highways.
It was a mid afternoon when she finally saw the edge of the forest. She couldn't help it; she was so excited to feel sun on her face and maybe see where she was, she even fell into a jog. Her body forgot its pains, probably because a helpful jolt of adrenaline had run through her at the prospect of finally making it out of the woods. She was so close; she could almost feel the sun on her skin and the breeze on her face... Maybe, for once, something would be as easy as it looked.
And then, of course, she felt a sudden weightlessness as she was suddenly hoisted into the air. She gave a startled cry, but nobody was around to hear it except her new feathered friends. The blood rushed to her head as she struggled to right herself. What in the world...?
"You've gotta be kidding me," she said to no one in particular, hands closing around the rope of the net she was currently suspended in. As if things had not been bleak enough beforehand, whatever power was running this universe had seen fit to trap her even more literally.
It was a large net, and the rope was thick and heavy. Emma searched for at least an hour for a weak point or a hole, and was disappointed on both accounts. She was frustrated, to say the least. The birds that were following her were perched on a tree across from her, and kept tilting their heads, as if they were confused as to what she was doing. Hopefully they wouldn't send her mother a birdy message that she'd been swearing up a storm. Knowing how useless they were, they probably would tattle on her, but neglect to mention to Mary Margaret that she was stranded in a net, in a currently nameless world, with nobody to help her.
What the hell was she going to do now? She could try shooting herself out, but that sounded like a pretty harebrained idea. This rope was thick, three inches round, she'd have to be incredibly accurate and even still, she wasn't sure how well it would work.
Well, this trap had to have been set recently, she decided. The rope was in too good of shape for something that had been set up and abandoned. Someone had put it here on purpose... So maybe, they'd come back to check on it. Not exactly how she'd intended to come across other humans, but she'd wait until morning. If nobody came by then... Well, she'd have to try to shoot herself out.
Being stuck suspended in the net was not exactly fun. She had a couple of hours of daylight left, and she had not intended to spend them in one place (still in the forest, she might add). She didn't have any berries left, and there was not a lot to keep her occupied, excluding the birds. She found if she whistled to them, they would come closer, perching on the rope of her suspended cage. None were brave enough to try and make their way into the net with her, even if they were small enough to fly right out again.
She tried singing to them, too, what she could remember of Someday my Prince Will Come (it seemed fitting) but they seemed to like the Beach Boys better. Emma wasn't exactly the best singer but she could follow a tune. One of her foster parents had been extremely religious, and even though she'd hardly been six at the time, she'd been expected to follow along with the hymns. It was a lesson she learned quickly, after the first few Sundays, when the ruler had been brought out because she didn't sing along.
And that was one of her better foster care experiences.
As the sky gradually began to darken, she tried to tell herself that she should stay awake. If someone did come, then she would want to be alert. Obviously, she'd probably wake up if someone cut her down, but the rude awakening would give them the upper hand, to say the least. But surprisingly enough, being suspended in the net was more comfortable than the forest floor had been. It was like snoozing in a hammock on vacation... Not, exactly, that she'd know what that was like. She'd been in a hammock before, certainly, but never on vacation.
It was weird to think about that. Almost thirty years old, and never on vacation.
She felt herself slowly losing her battle of trying to stay awake. The birds, as always, were the opposite of helpful, all puffed into feathery puffs as they went to bed themselves. Despite herself, Emma fell asleep.
Her dreams were scattered, and of home. It was comforting; to see the faces she missed so desperately. She saw Henry, reading his book. Mary Margaret was with him, and David too. They seemed happy and peaceful. All together, hot chocolate in hand, a family. She ached with wanting to join them, but it was like she was outside the window, looking in. She couldn't reach them, no matter how desperately she wanted to. She was left excluded. Alone.
At least watching them was a small comfort.
The dream ended with the warmth of a sunrise on her face. Probably reality pushing into her dream, as she could feel the sunshine, despite her refusal to wake up. Her feathery friends had begun their cheerful singing, but Emma refused to listen, letting herself sink back into sleep. This time, thankfully, it was a dreamless, quiet sleep. As much as she loved her family, it hurt a little to dream of them knowing she couldn't be with them.
Until, of course, she bolted awake. Startled, Emma gripped her net, wondering what in the world had woken her. She was a light sleeper, granted; any foreign noise, she was up, whether she liked it or not. She noticed that her entourage of birds had dissipated, and no matter how stupid it was, she felt a little betrayed. Was that what had woken her? The lack of birds chirping? No, that was strange. Why would that wake her up?
"Oy, lass, I asked you a question." The voice startled her, and the net spun with her jerky movements. It was enough to make her dizzy. That wasn't in her head, was it? She looked down (a good twelve feet, this trap really had her suspended), and saw a male with dark hair and blue eyes looking up at her. It was hard to see him perfectly, with the thick netting between them, but she could see that he was outfitted with scruff that would make August jealous and enough leather to make even her a little envious. And... Was that a hook for a hand?
"You're lucky looking is free, lass," He informed her, tilting his head. Well, okay, she deserved that one. She'd been doing more starring than talking. Emma didn't have enough sense to look ashamed. She was rarely ashamed. "Are you mute, love, or do you just not feel like talking?"
"I can talk," She answered, voice betraying the fact that she'd been asleep not too long ago. She desperately wanted to rub her eyes, but that would only make it more obvious. "I didn't hear the question."
"I asked if you had a reason for hanging about in a net, or if you'd been captured for one reason or another," The man informed her, peering up at her. She was tempted to roll her eyes. Yes, she'd chosen to trap herself in a net, that made a lot of sense.
"I can't get out. I didn't notice the trap until it was too late-" The net spun as she shifted, and she waited until she could see the figure below her again before she continued, "To stop it. Are you going to get me out of here, or just keep asking stupid questions?"
At that, he gave her a sly grin. "That's no way to treat your only chance at getting down, now is it?"
What an ass. Disgust clear in her features, Emma let her pride get in the way of her better judgment. "Well, fuck you then. I'd rather stay up here." If he walked away, she knew that she wouldn't call after him. Was it dumb? Oh, certainly. But pride was a cruel mistress.
"My goodness, lass, that's not proper language for a lady," Her tormentor said with a jeering tone, circling her net, though his eyes were not on her. He was looking for where the rope was suspended, no doubt.
"I'm not a lady," Emma responded sharply, keeping a close eye on him. Despite his less than helpful attitude, he was a human being. Well, as far as she could tell. Having some kind of human contact was preferable than trying to stumble through this strange world alone. However, she wasn't sure how much she could trust him. Trust wasn't something that came easily to her in the first place, and his general temperament didn't really scream trustworthy. Not to mention, even if he got her down... He had no obligation to let a little mouthy blonde follow him around. Hopefully he could at least get her feet back on land. After that, she'd figure something out.
"That so?" He wondered, turning his attention back to her. "Well, ladies are never much fun, are they?"
Was... was he flirting with her? Emma let that sink in, slowly. Well, if he had enough interest to flirt, she could probably convince him to get her down.
"Ladies are boring, and they don't get much done," She told him. "Now, please, will you help me down?" Using please on a guy that grated her nerves wasn't easy, but maybe it would show more results.
He evaluated her slowly, long enough that she wasn't sure if he was going to answer. "Lady or otherwise, women stuck in nets don't get much done, either. You ought not be so judgmental." If looks could kill, this leather-clad asshole would have a nice unnamed tombstone to call his own. "What do I get if I help you down?"
Emma gave a sound of frustration, even though revealing how annoyed she was probably wasn't the best plan. "You're really going to demand payment for cutting me out of a damn net?" She asked, tone rising.
"I'm a pirate, love, we demand payment for everything," His response came easily. "I'm sure you have something I might like..."
Despite the fairly blatant sexual reference, Emma's attention was more caught by his claims towards being a pirate. "You're joking. A pirate?" Well, come to think of it, that made the leather a little less ridiculous. "Let me guess, Captain Hook?" He was outfitted with a rather gnarly looking one, after all.
He blanched, clearly surprised. He reared his hook in what might have been a menacing way if Emma wasn't currently suspended far out of his reach. "How do you know who I am?" He accused.
Oh, shit. Of all the luck, she had to run into Captain fucking Hook. He was a lot better looking than the dude dressed in red with a twiddly mustache, she had to admit. God, she was not going to think that way about Captain Hook. Emergency break on that thought process, stat.
"Hate to break it to you, but you do have a hook for a hand," She informed him evenly. A good save. Hook eyed his hook for a long moment, as if just remembering it was there, before he dropped his hand.
"Well," He said, clearly a little ruffled. There were some flaws in her logic - she had no way of knowing he was a Captain, for starters - but he was too befuddled to question it. "Yes, Captain Hook, at your service. If the price is right, that is."
"Where's your ship, Captain? I didn't realize one could sail a forest," She snarked, ignoring his pressing for pay. She had jack-shit, and she wasn't going to sleep with him, or agree to any other sexual favor. She'd rather shoot herself out, or hope for someone else to come by.
"She's docked in water, love, thanks for the inquiry," Hook's responded wryly, clearly not delayed by her misdirection. "Now, since you have my name, give me yours, and we'll consider it payment. Savvy?"
Emma wasn't sure how to respond to that. It wasn't asking for much, and she did want down... But a part of her felt nervous, handing out her name in a world she didn't understand. She'd been so sure this wasn't Neverland, but she had run into Captain Hook. Maybe Neverland wasn't as fantastic as she'd been taught.
He seemed to notice her hesitation. "This is a short term offer, lass, take it or I'll leave you hanging, so to speak."
Oh, god. He made puns too. Emma rolled her eyes, but despite the fact she didn't have much interest in making friends with the pirate, she did want to get down. Her name wasn't exactly going to break the bank. "It's Emma," She finally supplied. Hook watched her, as if appraising the answer. He must have found it satisfactory, because after a beat, he answered.
"Emma." He said the word as if he was savoring it, testing the sound of it aloud. It did strange things to her to hear her name coming out of his mouth. He probably got a lot of women that way. "A pleasure, Emma," He told her, tipping a nonexistent hat in her direction. The desire to roll her eyes returned.
"Yeah, sure," She responded dismissively. False bravado would get him nowhere. "Are you going to let me down or not? A deal's a deal."
"Aye, lass, aye. You're a demanding one, aren't you?" The pirate returned, the cheeky grin on his face making it clear that he meant it in more ways than one.
"Get me down already," Emma bit back. Hook waved his good hand at her, as if he couldn't be troubled to respond, before moving to a tree, and scampering up it surprisingly quickly for a guy with one hand.
"Brace yourself, love, you're in for a hell of a fall," His voice warned her from somewhere above her. How, exactly, was she going to do that? Before she could ask, however, a sudden sensation of weightlessness hit her, and she fell, net and all, the long drop to the forest floor. The second drop in as many days, and unfortunately, she'd not been particularly ready. Her head was already boasting a recent injury. The impact of falling again...
She was out like a light.