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
Emma had never experienced the world spinning when her eyes were completely closed. It was a strange and very uncomfortable experience. She heard a moan, and it took a moment for her to realize it had come from her. She could vaguely feel something ghosting about her jacket, which was enough to get her to drag her eyes open. Yup, the world was still spinning, whether her eyes were open or not. She could see the figure in front of her, vaguely, unabashedly running their hands all over her.
She moved a hand and pushed it in their direction, and it connected with something but didn't prove to be much of a deterrent. She mumbled out some sort of direction to leave her be, but her company didn't pay much attention.
"S-stop," She said, moving her hand up from what she slowly decided was his neck to his jaw, using a grip at his chin to push it away from her. His head was forced away and his body followed, but only out of her arm's reach.
"Relax, lass." The voice told her, and Emma closed her eyes again, pressing a hand to her temple. Wow, that second fall had really not done her any favors. She felt ill, but was well aware that there was nothing to come up but stomach acid. She probably could have used a stop to a doctor, but she slowly remembered that wherever she was, it probably didn't have a medical professional capable of working with a concussed patient. Despite the voice's directive, she found it hard to 'relax'.
"Keep your hands off me," She mumbled, looking out through her lashes at the rifler. She wanted to reach for her gun, but she aimed wrong and her fingers brushed her ribs instead. Okay, yeah, that head injury had her really rattled.
"That was quite a landing, Emma. You need to stay still," Her company instructed. Hearing her name cleared her thoughts at least minimally. Right. She'd just been dropped from the sky by a one-handed pirate. Hook didn't look particularly guilty about it, either. Had he been trying to search her? How long had she been out? Had he been able to take anything yet?
"I'm fine," She responded, in a word that somehow come out too fast and too close together, coming out more like Ihmfin.
"Never better, I'm sure," the pirate said wryly. Emma slowly pushed herself up on her elbows, trying to sit up. It took her a moment to realize that Hook had helped her with a hand on her shoulder, pulling her forward. "Easy now. I told you to brace yourself, not plummet to the ground head first."
Indigence riled up, as she started to come back to herself. "Yeah, great timing. You might as well have warned me after I hit the ground, you ass." At this, Hook did seem to look a little guilty, which was perhaps something. It didn't ease the pain in her head, however. She was starting to regret sitting up. She was rather tired, actually. If only he'd go away, she could take a little nap...
Her eyes had fluttered closed, almost without her noticing. A sudden touch to her cheek startled them back open. Had he just slapped her? Well, it hadn't been hard enough to be a slap. But certainly, his hands didn't belong anywhere near her face.
"Stop that," She snapped, irritation edging into her tone. Well, more than it already had been. "Would you just go away already?"
"You don't know this about me, Emma, but I am a gentleman. I can't just leave a wounded lady alone in the forest. You might be eaten by an ogre, or worse." An ogre? Was he joking with that one? Well, he was Captain Hook, was it really spectacular that she could be eaten by an ogre?
"I told you I'm not a lady," Emma said sharply, wishing that she was not so vulnerable. "But if you're insisting on chivalry, get out of the way so I can get up." She would not ask for help, even if he would give it. Hook moved marginally out of the way, and Emma slowly shifted to her knees, and from there slowly made it to her feet. She felt a little steadier now that she was standing, maybe. Her legs only wobbled a bit. It took her a moment to notice the hand at her elbow. How did he keep doing that? She smacked it away, before pushing him away with both hands. He really struggled with maintaining acceptable distance. The effort was difficult while still maintaining her balance, but she managed. "There, duty done. Now, if you want to be helpful, direct me to an inn... or a town... or something. And then we can part ways, Captain."
His eyebrows rose. "An inn?" He repeated incredulously.
"Yes. A place where you rent a room and sleep in it," Emma deadpanned, her snark dead on despite her painful head injury.
At this, she noted that Hook was eying her quite suspiciously. Even through the fog of her head injury, she could tell she'd said something wrong. She didn't have a chance to worry about what it was, though, as her footing wavered. Before she could face plant, however, Hook caught her quite seamlessly, looping her arm around his shoulders.
"Hey-" She barked, moving to push him away with her free hand, but a grip tightened around her side.
"Lass, you can barely stand upright. I did this to you, so at least let me see you to safety, aye?" Emma faltered at this. It was a clear admission of guilt, and remorse, and a desire to make it up to her. He was a perfect stranger with no obligation. To say the least, it made her feel anxious. People didn't treat each other this way without motivation. What was driving him to offer her assistance? Especially considering he was a pirate, weren't they known more for pillaging and plundering than being good Samaritans?
"Where is safety, exactly?" She questioned, trying to ignore that he smelled pretty good for a pirate. Weren't they not big fans of bathing, and clean hair? That's what Pirates of the Caribbean had taught her, anyway. Hook started moving and she followed him in a less stable gait. The way he had her, she didn't have a lot of control over stopping the movement. He was carrying a lot of her weight, she vaguely realized. Was she really that unsteady?
"There's a farm a bit outside the forest," Hook answered, and despite her fuzzy head, it seemed like he was telling the truth. Her 'superpower' was mostly a combination of body language and vocal inflection, so it wasn't at it's most potent at the moment. But she had to hope he wasn't lying, trekking any sort of long distance sounded pretty much impossible right now. Emma lapsed into silence, focusing on not tripping over her feet or succumbing to exhaustion. It was probably the head injury talking, so staying awake was probably important. She was aware of how much she needed assistance right about now, and it was almost painful to accept it. The sooner she could get rid of this pirate, the better. When he spoke, it surprised her. Especially considering the question. "Where are you from, lass?"
Well, that was quite the question. And even though she wasn't sure how to answer, the more important fact was that she didn't want to answer. "Here and there," She answered vaguely, hoping he'd drop the subject.
His grip tightened on her waist. Clearly, he wasn't pleased by that answer. "I'm not talking where you were born, Emma. Where did you come from. What world?"
Wow, well, that was straight and to the point. She didn't know how to answer for a long second. Should she be honest? Was there a point in trying to hide it? Even if he seemed to have figured out that this was not where she belonged, that did not mean that she had to tell him exactly where she was from. What would he do with that information, anyway?
But if he was knowledgeable enough to know she was from a different world... Then maybe, just maybe, he knew how to get her back there. The little flip of hope that flopped about in her stomach was impossible to ignore. In the end, how much was she really risking? She needed the help of someone more knew what they were doing. And just because he knew where she was from, didn't mean that he could take it away from her or use it against her.
At least, she hoped not.
"It's a place called Earth," She confessed uneasily. Was that what her "world" was called? It was hard to say. She knew so little about this subject, that was a guess at best. It was hard to tell what his reaction was to that, in this position she couldn't see his face. Maybe he hadn't heard of it?
"And how did you get here?" He pressed. To say the least, this line of questioning was strange, and she was starting to get uncomfortable. She wasn't sure why. Probably because back home, a casual conversation about portals would have been incredibly strange. To her, it was still incredibly strange.
"What does it matter?" She said, frustration edging into her tone. "If you want to hitch a ride back with me, you're out of luck. It was a one-way trip." She didn't mention that she was bound and determined to get back. It wasn't any of his business.
She felt his grunt more than she heard it. That didn't seem to be the answer he was looking for.
"I gather you're trying to get there?" She attempted to clarify, wondering if he would be more open than she was.
"I'm not completely certain, but I need to go to a world without magic. And when I was there last, it certainly fit the bill." Okay, wow. So, yeah, he was more open than she was. That terminology threw her. Wasn't that what everyone said about the curse? That it had transported them to a world without magic? Was he trying to get to Storybrooke? If so, what in the world could he want there?
"I hate to break it to you," Emma said, faltering slightly (why was walking so hard right now?), "But there's magic there now. I don't know if it's the place you're looking for."
There was a long stretch of silence at that admission. But, it wasn't like she was lying. Gold had brought magic to Storybrooke, with disastrous results. Earth was no longer a world without magic.
"Magic there now?" He clarified sternly. "Meaning what, that there hadn't been previously?"
Emma stumbled, and Hook practically dragged her a couple paces before she could get back on her feet. "I don't know!" She snapped irritably, but that was more of a I don't want to talk about it.
They stopped quite suddenly, and with her support removed, Emma was painfully aware of how unstable she was. He was close enough to reach, but her pride didn't allow her to do it. She blinked at him warily.
"Look, lass. I'm helping you, you ought to help me. You want to get home, don't you? You don't seem like you were particularly prepared for this venture. You've no food, no supplies, no means of protection." She opened her mouth to protest, hand going to her hip to prove she had means of protection, but her gun was notably absent. What the hell...? "Whatever brought you here, it was not by your intention. Well, you're not going to find a lot in the way of assistance here. I'm the best option you've got, love, so unless you're planning on traversing the Enchanted Forest alone, you ought try to be cooperative."
Emma's hackles were raised. That was quite a monologue he'd just given her, with a lot of information to process all at once. She stooped slightly, resting her hands on her knees, trying to focus on keeping her head from spinning.
"Enchanted Forest?" She repeated, stunned. Enchanted Forest, as in the place her parents and most of the residents of Storybrooke had come from? Well, she'd come from there too, technically, but she'd been an infant and didn't exactly remember it. As far as she was concerned, this wasn't her home.
"The one and only. Seems you've heard of it, then." She looked up at Hook, disliking how he was taking advantage of her clearly impaired state. She could hardly stand up straight and he was pumping her for information? Not exactly the most polite way to deal with the situation. So much for that gentleman business. "Most of the populace was transported to a different world in a curse, a world-"
"Without magic. Yeah, I got you," Emma muttered. So it was Storybrooke he was aiming to find. What in the world was he hoping to accomplish there? She hadn't seen a Pan-like character, or any crocodiles roaming the ocean. "Why do you want to go to the world without magic? Which, like I said, has magic now?"
She could tell there was some amount of frustration and uncertainty at that revelation, though she couldn't say why. "There's something there I have to do. I've been waiting years for this moment, and I'm bloody tired of waiting." Emma eyed him skeptically; He was what, early thirties? Not like he could really have been waiting that long.
"Then why are you?" She pressed, slowly righting herself, and pressing a hand to sorest side. "Why not just find a portal and go there?"
"Well, lass, I wish it were that easy. Portals aren't quite easy to come by these days." Emma wasn't able to hide the absolute heartbreak on her features. No, that couldn't be true. She had to find one, she had to get home. She could not stay in this place separated from her family. She would get home, to Henry, to her parents... There was no other alternative. "I didn't say impossible. But if it were as easy as you make it sound, I assure you I would be there already."
Emma didn't know if she liked this Hook character, and she certainly didn't trust him. But as much as she hated to admit it, she wasn't sure she could make it to this farm he mentioned on her own. She needed his help. And it seemed like he knew about this place, enough to maybe get her settled. She wasn't sure how she'd pay him for the information but she'd find a way. She knew for a fact that most of the inhabitants of this world had been taken to a sleepy town in Maine, so she didn't doubt his claim that he was one of very few options.
"Can we get to this farmhouse before we talk more?" She said, an edge of weakness slipping into her voice. She hated being weak, especially in front of strangers, but at this point she wasn't sure how much longer she could remain standing. She was a fairly fit, athletic person, but she was too battered and her head was not made for that much rattling. She was going to have to have a couple hours recuperation before she could be of any use to anyone.
"Does this mean you agree to cooperate?" Hook asked, staring her down. His gaze was intense, and made her uncomfortable. Like he already knew things about her that she didn't want him to know.
"I'm not promising anything. But you have information I need, and I have information you need. I don't see why we can't help each other," Emma said begrudgingly. "Now, can we please go slower this time-"
Before she had a chance to finish her thought, Hook swooped in. She had not been expecting him to pick her up, and she immediately struggled.
"Put me down," She snapped venomously, trying to find a good place to land a blow. Even if it meant he dropped her, she was not some damsel in distress in need of carrying.
"Lass, if you don't settle yourself, I'm going to throw you over my shoulder, and that'll hardly be good for your head." Hook's grip was pretty strong. Emma wasn't exactly weak but she wasn't at her finest at the moment. Nonetheless, her companion would find she was nothing if not determined, sometimes to her own detriment. She landed a sharp and sudden elbow between his ribs, and he stumbled enough for her to clamber to the ground again.
She winced, not from a particular pain but more a combination of all of them. She hunched over again, but didn't let her stooped position stop her from looking out with a poisonous expression on her face. "Don't do that," She warned seriously, though the fact she was now breathless dampened the effect. "Don't touch me when you don't have permission."
Hook was rubbing the spot she'd hit him, but he looked back at her with a surprising lack of both annoyance and shame. "It's a lot less fun to touch a woman when you have to ask for permission every step of the way." He said with a grin. Ugh, why did his smile have to be so attractive? And his face too, while she was bemoaning unfairly attractive features? Instead of responding, she tossed him a look of utter contempt that brought her point across pretty clearly. "Believe it or no, I was trying to help you. It's close to a kilometer to the farm I mentioned, and you're already struggling just to stay on your feet."
She gaped at him. Even with the European measurements, she knew that was more than a mile. "How is that 'a bit' out of the forest?" She snapped, clearly annoyed. Hook shrugged easily.
"It's not a terrible jaunt, lass... At least, for the fully able." Oh, man. Emma bit down the desire to harm him. Who was he calling disabled? She wasn't a dog, she was standing right here and quite conscious of the insult! What an ass. If this were a cartoon, smoke might be coming out her ears by now.
But there was a voice in the back of her mind pestering her that he had a point. She was unsteady on her feet, every last part of her was sore, and her head feel like it was splitting in half. Was she really game to walk more than a mile to get to this supposedly safe place? She was sure she could get some sort of distance, but not that far, at least not quickly.
And if she pushed herself too far... She'd pass out. Then a whole litany of things could go wrong, and she'd have no control over it one way or another. Hook could loot her properly – she still wasn't sure he wasn't trying to do that earlier – or take advantage of her. Or worst of all, he might remember he had no responsibility or obligation to help her once she was unconscious, and leave her passed out wherever she had managed to stagger to. So someone else could do terrible things to her while she was unable to stop them. Or some sort of animal to devour her. At the most minimal end of the terrible spectrum, she'd walk until she was too sore to move, and he'd leave her behind.
As always, her mind was great at supplying all the ways things could go wrong. Preventing them was harder to reconcile. She didn't want to sacrifice the pride, but if she had any chance of getting there with minimal damage... Maybe hitching a ride wasn't such terrible idea. In a less extreme situation, she would never have agreed. She would rather take extra time and energy to be completely independent, just to spite the person who implied she couldn't do it on her own. But this was no ordinary situation. This was too important to let pride get in her way. This was her only chance at the moment, she was not going to let arrogance get in the way of getting home. Besides, he'd offered.
But he was not carrying her fucking bridal style.
"Just for a bit." She conceded painfully. Before he could swoop in again, she clarified, "But you have to carry me on your back." Hook seemed to have the sense to not mock her or further wound her pride, because it would only make her change her mind and they'd be back to square one. He turned around obligingly, stooping enough that she could get a secure grip around his neck. He slowly righted, bringing her with him. It took a moment to get them situated; After all, he had a hook to worry about, which was slightly more awkward than two hands. She didn't need to get stabbed through the leg, too.
It was hard to be in a position like this and maintain any sore of neutrality. She didn't circle her legs around him, he had a grip on her knees so she didn't have to, but straddling his back was hardly much better. Her arms tightened around his neck, just to keep herself stable. He settled into a steady clip, faster than she would have expected considering the fact he had pretty heavy cargo.
"If you wanted to wrap your legs around me, you could have just asked," Hook told her after a blissful moment of silence. She should have known better that she could be in a position like this without him saying something crass.
Emma took advantage of his proximity to slap him across the head. Offending him be damned, she couldn't sit by and let him spout that tripe without a clear message that she didn't appreciate it.
"God, you're disgusting," Emma chastised. "Do you really get girls with lines like that?"
"Well, love, for starters, I leave girls to the boys. I'm after the women, thank you." He couldn't see her but she hoped that he could sense the eye roll. "And yes, since most women don't feel the need to pretend they're disgusted, I'd say they quite enjoy me."
Emma scoffed at this. "Apparently, the women of the Enchanted Forest have all suffered severe brain damage." Hook wasn't exactly doing anything to help keep her up here, she noted. She had to cling to him tightly to keep from falling down. She hated that she had to do it, but she tightened legs around him, just desperate not to fall. That would only set them back further.
"Apparently," Hook mimed her exaggeratedly, "You're not keen to make friends with most of them."
"Are there that many left to offend?" She wondered, genuinely curious. Regina's curse couldn't really affect an entire country (Continent? World? She had no idea what the proper terminology would be here), could it? That was just insane. She was still having a hard time believing in magic, the idea it could transport thousands of people to a completely new world was just baffling.
Her head was still aching, but it was strange how comfortable this was. God, she was exhausted.
"It depends on how you look at it," Hook said evenly, breathing a little more strained, but far less than she'd expected. How strong was this guy?
"What does that mean?" She pressed, not noticing how her head had fallen to his shoulder as she looked at the landscape around them. The forest was behind them, now, and they were in a picturesque field. The place did not look cursed, that was for sure. She could certainly see this as a setting for a fairytale. Beautiful green grass, bright blue sky, interesting flowers and foliage, mountains in the distance and a hint of the ocean to the west if you squinted.
"There are those that remain, despite the curse," Hook explained slowly, following a flattened down path through the grass. He must have come through here, and was following his tracks. His voice was surprisingly soothing when it wasn't spitting innuendo. "But one could argue they are slowly losing what makes them human. The Enchanted Forest is a harsh place now, darling."
"Why's that?" She asked after a beat, her brain working a little more sluggishly now that she wasn't putting all her energy into staying upright.
"Life is not easy. Food is not as prosperous, nor is magic, and those who are left struggle for what remains." Emma could see that. People who were desperate to survive could easily lose their humanity in their single minded quest for self preservation. She was pretty sure she could do some messed up things if pushed to that limit – especially for Henry. She's not sure there's anything she wouldn't do for Henry. "The creatures of the forest seek to reclaim it. Staying alive is not an easy task."
Emma didn't answer, but she had heard him. It was getting harder to keep her eyes open, even though she knew she should. There was a sudden jolt, and she clung to his back, surprised. Emma's head snapped back to look behind her, trying to ascertain why they'd jolted like that. There was no obvious one, meaning...
"Don't do that," Emma snapped, aware that he'd jolted her on purpose. Her head didn't need any more shaking.
"You know, lass, if I'm going to carry you, the least you could do is provide conversation." Emma wanted to be annoyed, but he probably had a point. He was carrying her, she could try and not be dead weight. It would probably make the trip easier.
"I'm not that great at making conversation," Emma said honestly, using pressure from her hips to hoist herself a little higher.
"I find most beautiful women aren't," Hook offered, and Emma struggled with whether to be offended or flattered. She decided on offended, despite the fact he was only agreeing with her. He probably hadn't meant it that way, anyway. She wasn't hard on the eyes or anything, but she had to guess she wasn't at her hottest right about now.
"They probably just don't want to converse with you," Emma said darkly, finding she was feeling something quite similar right about now.
"Lass, you wound me." Hook said dramatically. He probably would have made a ridiculous gesture if his hands weren't full. "Am I truly so deplorable to speak to?"
"I've been around worse, Hook," Emma said after a moment of thought. Really offending the guy probably wasn't the best plan. And he wasn't the worst person she'd ever spoken to, that was the truth. Drunk neanderthals in bars were much worse, and usually the men she'd collected for bonds were not exactly the most charming conversationalists.
"I have a name, if you'd like to use it, you know. Killian Jones, at your service." Emma was surprised at this revelation – not so much that he had a name that wasn't Captain Hook, because really, even in fairytale nobody should be saddled with a name like that – but that he'd told her so openly. Emma wasn't sure how to respond to the statement, so she didn't say anything. The silence stretched long enough before Hook pressed, "You have a surname you feel like sharing?"
Emma's first inclination was to say no, she didn't want to share it, but she bit it down. After all, what was Hook going to do with her name, anyway? "Swan," She said in a stilted, uncomfortable tone. "Emma Swan."
"Swan, eh? Quite an odd name, that." Emma could hardly believe the comment.
"Coming from a guy who goes by Captain Hook? Really?" She shook her head.
"As I said, I'm Killian Jones, not a terrible name. But Swan? I've never heard of a person named Swan." He seemed quite serious. At first, she'd thought he was joking, trying to get a rise out of her. But apparently, he was just baffled at the concept of the last name Swan.
"You know the term 'John Doe'?" Emma asked, not sure if he had or not. She wasn't sure what kind of terms they had in Fairytale-Land, Enchanted Forest... Whatever. They probably didn't have terms like that, come to think of it. But, when a child was found and could not be identified, the state gave them a surname, and often it was a simple word. Such as Doe, Swan, or Green. That was how she'd gotten such an strange moniker.
"Aye... They used it back in London, for blokes they couldn't identify." It was a little strange to hear him talk of London. Did that mean he'd been there before? He'd talked like he'd been to Earth previously, so maybe that made sense. But when exactly had he been there? She was rusty on her literature, but she knew that Peter Pan was written at least a hundred years ago. That opened a whole slew of questions, but she wasn't so sure he'd answer them. "So, nobody could identify you, love?"
Emma hadn't thought she'd been revealing that much. Shit. He didn't really need to know that she'd been abandoned. She wanted to smack herself for being so stupid, if she wasn't too preoccupied hanging on for dear life (not to mention, avoiding further head injury). Or maybe slap him for being perceptive enough to see something in her admission she hadn't even seen.
"Something like that," Emma said bitterly, even though she knew now there was nobody around to identify her but August. She wondered if he'd wandered around telling everyone she was the savior from a different land. It probably didn't matter, because August had abandoned her before she'd even been old enough to remember him in the first place. The first of many to leave her, she thinks darkly, unaware of how she tightens her grip on the leather-clad pirate she's attached to.
Thankfully, Hook seems to read her reluctance to speak on the subject, and doesn't press further. She can practically taste his curiosity, but maybe he knows she won't answer, so he doesn't bother to ask. They lapse into silence, but while she's uncomfortable to start, feeling a little too raw about something so personal being revealed, it slowly softens into something more companionable. At least, not openly hostile, which seems to be an improvement. She does find that she's still tired, but any time she rests her head on his shoulder or her grip gets too lax, she finds him adjusting his grip or giving a jolting step, just to keep her awake.
She realizes it's because he probably knows enough to keep her from sleeping with her head injury. She wants to point out that rattling her poor head even more probably isn't going to help, but she has to admit he has few options available when it comes to keeping her awake. He doesn't have to go through the trouble, and does anyway. She knows that some part of it is purely selfish – he needs the information she has and thusly, has to keep her alive enough to tell it. But it still makes her feel strangely, that a perfect stranger is looking out for her.
He must really want to hear what she knows, she decides. That's the only thing that makes sense.
Emma is aware, painfully so, how much she has benefited from his help already. If he hadn't shown up, where would she be? Still suspended in a net? Maybe she could have gotten out on her own, or someone had shown up. There was really no knowing how that situation would have panned out, and she didn't want to waste energy on what might have been. She may not like Hook, but he knew his way around this place. Despite being born here, and technically the daughter of the monarchs, she knew nothing about the Enchanted Forest. She needed a guide that had an idea of what he was doing. She just didn't have the information to do this by herself.
At least, not yet. She hoped that she could get all she needed from Hook before he caught on she didn't have much information to share. As far as Emma was concerned, their separation was eminent. The thought of that made her reliance on him now a little easier to bear. He'd be gone soon enough, and she wouldn't have to think about how much she owed him or how he'd seen her at her weakest. She knew that as soon as Hook got what he wanted, he'd disappear. She was used to this song and dance, and she was ready for it.
She would get all she needed out of Hook before he abandoned her. She was good at that, after all. She'd been played too many times, burned too often, not to know how to play along with the game. She would get what she wanted, and she would find a way to get home. And she wouldn't let the pirate get close enough to her to betray her. Sooner or later, he would stab her in the back. She knew men like him, it was just their nature. They didn't understand anything else.
She wasn't here to make friends with the pirate, after all. All she cared about now was getting home to Henry and her family. Everything else beyond that was secondary. It was just a matter of being aware that at some point, he would betray her. It was knowing the signs, seeing it coming, breaking away from him before he got the chance.