Emma didn't realize that she'd passed out until she woke. It was an odd awakening, curled against something soft with something hard and grating at her back. She might not have known her pillow was living if she had not been caught against his shoulder, tucked with her face against his throat, feeling him steadily breathing in and out. It was not as if he had a heartbeat—or, well, he did, but it was literally beating in her hand instead of inside of his chest. It took longer to realize how cold it was, the way her breath curled in the air like an impressive plume of smoke. It was freezing to the ends of her hair, and sticking to her skin. It felt like ages before she had the strength to pry her eyes open. It was pitch dark, only a scant bit of moonlight shining down on their heads, and they were slumped to the ground, leaning against a massive tree. Emma could hear the roar of traffic not too far away, and the snow biting at her ankles told her that the weather had decided to go through with the winter it had been hinting at when she'd left.
So many times in the Enchanted Forest, upon waking she didn't think it could possibly be real. To be fair, waking up on the edge of a Massachusetts highway leaned against Captain Hook with a heart steadily beating in her palm—it didn't quite sound real, now did it? His heart beat was an insistent hammer, sort of like an alarm set on vibrate. Surprisingly obtrusive, even though all she'd like to do was shut out the cold and the crazy and rest just a little longer, and no matter how she might have liked to, it was impossible. She let her eyes close anyway, allowing herself a few more minutes to pretend.
She should have moved sooner. Before a ringed hand could find the angle of her jaw, carefully draw a touch over her hair. Emma opened her eyes wearily, lashes skating against his skin, quietly spectating as Hook carefully stroked her head. She scarcely knew if she was breathing, didn't want him to think she was awake, because as much as she would have liked to pretend, she didn't hate his touch. She just couldn't comprehend why he was doing it—such a caring, considerate touch. It wasn't like he could be hallucinating again, losing his heart didn't mean he'd lose his grip on reality. Her head was still sluggish, still stuck on the action itself instead of why he was doing it.
"I had hoped to save you," he told her, tone quiet but not disoriented. Emma frowned, confused by the statement. She was still shaken enough that it took a bit of time to digest. Somehow the showdown in her nursery felt like it had happened ages ago, but in reality it couldn't have been more than a few hours. Depended on how long she'd been out and the pitch black sky above them offered no clues.
"Was that before or after you teamed up with a witch against me?" Emma asked him, not bothering to hide the bitterness in her tone. Yes, he'd had a change of heart, but she hadn't forgotten that he'd only had it with his hand heavy on her heart. Despite her ire, she didn't tug away from him, not yet. His touch on her hair didn't stall, didn't falter. It was oddly sweet and doting for Captain Hook. There was definitely something not quite right about him but Emma couldn't place just what.
"I would tell you I didn't have a choice, but I suppose I did." Hook sounded weary and exhausted, like every year he claimed to have lived was hanging on him like dead weight he couldn't escape. Cinder blocks strung on his arms and legs and throat, inescapable. Emma found herself a little baffled by the confession—Hook seemed to dodge any attempt at blame she usually tossed at him, after all. "Right and wrong... It's been so long since I was right, I scarcely remember how it feels." Emma finally peeled back to catch his eyes, incredibly troubled by the finality in his voice. Like last rights or a final goodbye. Hook didn't seem particularly shamed to look her in the eye, but his expression faltered at her face. The blood, probably, but Emma didn't have any way to wipe it clean. "Saving you, trying to. It felt right. I don't regret it."
Emma felt her confusion slip into her expression. She was too torn up to hide it. Why would he regret it, when he'd ended up securing a passage to the place he wanted to be? "I don't understand," she mumbled, unsettled by the way he was looking at her. Hook looked away first, turning his head and dropping it back against the trunk they were both leaning on.
"It was worth it. Failure or not. It was worth dying for." Emma's heartbeat panged a little faster at his words, an obvious reassurance to belittle his words. She wasn't dead, and inexplicably, neither was he. Even with his heart curled in her hand instead of in his chest. For a panicked moment, Emma considered the possibility. That she'd died. That this was some shitty end to her all together shitty story. That was it, she'd fought and failed. She shook her head a moment later, though—she wasn't dead. It didn't make sense. It wasn't just some ghostly refusal of facts, either. Her heart was still beating, her breath was still warm, she still felt the cold of the air. She wasn't dead, and neither was he, even though he seemed to have convinced himself to the contrary.
"Hook," she pressed, shifting away from him like she'd just realized how close they were, "You're not dead. We're not dead. There is no such thing as heaven and if there was, I really doubt you'd be joining me there." Emma was far from a saint but she wasn't scum of the earth either. The Swans had baptized her, she was pretty sure that was all it took. Surely she would have wound up with the heavenly chorus if it existed. Even if they were dead, what kind of afterlife was this? Stuck in a frozen forest, with Captain Hook. No, she wasn't dead, as weird as this was. Hook simply shrugged weary shoulders, as if he was humoring her for lack of better options.
"Seems like a brilliant sort of torture to be shown one of my mistakes," Hook pointed out sourly. Emma was instantly offended, but before she could decry him, he added, "The first good thing I've tried to do in centuries and yet I couldn't save you."
Emma huffed, placing her free hand on his shoulder and shaking him, none too gently, trying to break him out of it. "You're not dead. And I saved you, not the other way around." She felt a need to clarify that—she was no damsel. She saved herself! Hook had tried, sure, but some weird magical light had stopped the Queen of Hearts. Not him. He'd been crumpled to the floor at the time.
Hook refused to even open his eyes, simply reaching up to catch her hand. He tugged it across his chest and set it just under the fabric of his shirt. Emma tried to tug it back but stalled out when she realized exactly what he was trying to do. Oh, sure, she felt his heartbeat in her hand—but just under her palm? Nothing. Not even the slightest movement. It sort of made sense why he'd think he was dead. Her palm lingered, for just a moment, before she dragged it back.
"You're not dead," Emma insisted, rubbing at the dried blood under her nose, like it would make the odd way her skin was tingling a little less offensive.
"Cora stole my heart, Swan. Either I'm dead, or better off dead." Hook frowned, like he was puzzling through an idea he didn't quite understand. Emma didn't let him finish his (unspoken) thought.
"Would you just... Look?" Hook wearily opened his eyes, and Emma offered him the heart that was still beating in her palm. It was creepy, to hold onto his heart—to literally have his life in her hand. She wasn't sure she liked it, in fact she was certain she didn't, and would like to hand it back to him as soon as possible. His expression contorted, and his heartbeat raced uncomfortably. "You're not dead. You're fine." Except for his heart being outside of his chest but that was a personal problem. Emma absolutely could not help him there.
"How did you...?" Hook stared at her, eyes wide and piercing, like he hoped to steal the answer out of her expression. Emma shook her head, refusing to—answer? Let him look her in the eye? She wasn't even sure. She grabbed his hand with hers, curving it over and open and placing his heart in his palm.
"Just take it," she commanded, releasing his heart like a firm reprimand, and just like that he went from living and breathing to nothing. She'd assumed he had just held his breath, maybe alarmed by the fact he was holding his own damn heart. Only he kept holding it, even as he slumped over and folded to the ground. At least until he heavily hit his side—then his heart skidded from his limp palm to the dirty ground. Emma couldn't grab it in time, sudden panic thundering in all of her senses. "Killian? Killian?" She shook his shoulder ruthlessly, pressed a palm to his throat hoping for some kind of pulse, but there wasn't one. Of course there wasn't. She could feel unveiled panic crawling over her features, panic that didn't even seem fair. Why did she care so much if Killian Jones lived or died? For all he'd helped her he'd hurt her too. She couldn't afford to trust him, couldn't afford to care at all, and yet her heart was stammering in double time, like it could just do the beating for both of them.
She pulled him onto his back, considering CPR but she had no clue why he'd stopped breathing. Emma glanced to the heart that was laying abandoned in the dirt, and her breath was a sharp painful knife in her lungs as she noted it was no longer beating. She'd brought him all this way and just like that, he was gone? But why? Uselessly, she reached to reclaim his heart, not wanting to leave it on the ground, thoughts heavy with the thought that CPR couldn't help a man without a heart. If he was dead, she couldn't just leave his heart in the frozen dirt. She retrieved his heart, cradling it toward her own on instinct.
And suddenly it started leaping in her hands, as the pirate shot up with a ragged breath. Emma didn't know what to say, she scarcely even knew what to think, simply stared at him with a gaped mouth and wide eyes. What—How—he'd been dead. She'd seen it, she had felt it, she hadn't a question in her mind. She knew a dead body when she saw one. He'd been just like Graham, animated and living and then like a candle being snuffed he was gone. Hook pressed his palm where his heart was supposed to be, and when his eyes landed on her they were a mix of befuddled and a tinge of something else. Maybe even frightened.
"What the hell, Hook?" Emma snapped, but thanks to her own heart exploding in her chest, it was more breathless than she would have liked. His wasn't far off, pounding like a jackhammer trapped between her palms. She realized how closely she had it cradled and tried to shove it back into his hand, he grabbed her wrist before she could, stopping her. "Goddamit Hook, I don't want your heart. Just take it back." The words seemed woefully ironic spoken aloud.
"Emma," the pirate started, voice graveled and a little pained. "I can't. We are in the land without magic. Without my heart I can't survive." Uh yeah, she got that part, but it wasn't as if his heart was gone, it just wasn't in his chest. Her expression soured, tongue poised to tell him off for not making a damn bit of sense when he persisted, "I don't have magic."
"What does that matter?" Emma snapped, not connecting the dots. She couldn't just hold his heart for him, it wasn't like she had magic—oh. Her expression contorted, inner skeptic screaming. It didn't make sense, even though she might have done something mildly magical in the Enchanted Forest, he wasn't the only one in the Land Without Magic. She was too. Magic was confined to Storybrooke's limits, where she most certainly was not. There had to be another explanation—how many times had she been told there was no magic outside of Storybrooke? Hook seemed to catch onto her understanding without pressing the point. Instead he jumped to a new one.
"Just put it back in, then." Right, like slapping a man's heart back into his chest was so damn easy! Emma looked appalled, annoyed, and disturbed all at once.
"I... No, I can't. I'm not doing that." Emma barely knew what magic was, she was not going to experiment with someone's heart. As disturbing as it was to hold his heart, she was not going to risk anything trying to put it back. She didn't even know if she could.
"Why not?" Hook pressed, as if he were making a perfectly normal request and she was being rude and a little insensitive not to humor him. Frustrated by him and their situation and everything, really, she clambered to her feet.
"Because I don't know how and I don't want to half-ass the magical equivalent of open heart surgery, idiot," Emma snapped, and Hook winced. For a moment she assumed it was because of her tone, but the racing in her palm made her look down. Her tendency to clench her hands into fists when she was frustrated was a painful habit when she was holding someone's heart. She loosened her grip instantly, carefully cradling her palm toward her chest instead. She was literally holding his heart in her hand, and by the looks of things shouldn't be trusted with it. "Sorry," she muttered, because even if she sort of hated Captain Hook right now, she didn't really want to hurt him. His hand was pressed where his heart no longer was, but he shook his head.
"Trust I've had worse, Swan, and this very day to boot." Emma had no idea if he was trying to make her feel better or just sorry for him, but she refused to pity him.
"Yeah? Well, me too, sailor." And one of those times by his truly, so he should just consider it karma. At least Hook had enough shame to look guilty. She hated that it looked so genuine, too. He must have gotten better at lying between betrayals. He opened his mouth, possibly to apologize, but she shook her head. "Save it." She wasn't ready for that talk—hell, she'd like to avoid it entirely. Hook frowned at her, glowered was probably more accurate, but then looked away and heavily got to his feet.
"You realize this leaves us at a stalemate, then?" Emma stared at him, not sure exactly what he meant. Hook pressed a hand to his side for a fleeting moment before he stitched himself up to a posture he seemed more appropriate. Leaning against the tree like he was bored, instead of nursing cracked ribs. Before she could push him, he continued, "Either you let me die, or you bring me to wherever in this world has magic to sustain myself." Emma hadn't quite connected those dots yet, and distinctly disliked them. She'd saved Hook with every intention of abandoning him afterward. She couldn't take him straight to Gold and inflict—quite literally at this point—another heartless villain on Storybrooke. And yet she couldn't just hand him his heart and lose him in a world he wouldn't understand, either. Not when she apparently had to hold his damn heart or it wouldn't work.
She gave a frustrated noise at the back of her throat. She knew he hadn't planned anything that had happened, he'd have been a Sherlock Holmes level villain if he had. It still didn't change that he'd managed to win himself exactly what he wanted. "That's convenient, isn't it?" Emma snapped, and Hook shrugged.
"Personally, I would call it the opposite of convenient. For both of us." Her eyes narrowed, but really she couldn't argue. It wasn't going to be convenient to drag him around just because she needed to hold onto his heart, and it probably wasn't that convenient to be without his heart in the first place. It was just frustrating that her best intentions had resulted in him getting exactly what he wanted. What choice did she have but to bring him to Storybrooke? Exactly where he wanted to be, even though he had not been aiming for forcing her hand when he'd acted.
"I really can't think about this right now," Emma said, shaking her head. She carefully stowed his heart in her pocket, waiting for him to creak over because she wasn't physically touching it, but he (thankfully) kept his feet. She really couldn't handle physically holding his heart all the way to Maine, anyway. "I need to get back to Henry, and you…" God, she didn't know what she was going to do with him, but for now, "Just stay quiet and don't piss me off."
"That sounds like an impossible exercise, Swan, but I shall attempt admirably." Well, if his intention was to attempt admirably, he was off to a really shitty start. Though she was pretty sure he was being sarcastic, which was still not a great start at doing what she asked. Emma glared at him, but the cold was sinking in through her clothing and the time she'd spent away from home was weighing on her. She needed to worry more about getting back to Henry and less about the leather-clad carry on she'd unwittingly strapped herself with.
Emma didn't respond, instead glancing toward the road and starting toward it. The highway was kind of busy, but hopefully they could get somebody to stop and give them a ride. She had no idea how far they were from the nearest town. There was an uncomfortable pit at the bottom of her stomach, thinking that she was currently treading more of her past. Was this the same highway they'd found her and August on? She'd always remembered the story as just her, but now she knew better. She had just another man in her life that had decided to leave her behind, apparently she had so much precedent it was hard to imagine a man sticking around. Emma had only made it a few steps before a hand curled at her elbow.
She knew who it was, and shimmied out of his grasp instantly. "Hook," she pressed, turning back to look at him. Didn't matter that they were in a new world, her rules still applied. The discomfort on his features managed to slow her steps, however, a semi roaring past on the road behind her. "What?"
"I don't think we ought be so close to those devilish creatures," the pirate told her, eyes set on the road just beyond her. He said it so seriously, for a moment Emma was certain it was a joke. Devilish creatures? What the hell was he talking about? She glanced back to the road, not understanding, until another car screamed past. He was talking about the cars like they were living and breathing, but he had not had any opportunity to see anything like them. Was that at all surprising?
"They aren't creatures," Emma corrected, tone weary but not cruel. "Come on. They're not going to hit us. They're like … a modern carriage. You just can't see the driver until it's closer." She started moving again and Hook was still behind her for a pace before she heard him start to stumble after.
"What of the horses? I've never seen horses that could move so bloody fast." Emma shook her head at that. Sometimes people talked about there being 'horses' under the hood, but she wasn't sure that it would reassure Hook terribly much.
"They aren't run by horses, they have motors," she told him, hoping that his curiosity would not be so great that she'd spend all of her time answering questions. Had she not just told him to be quiet? It was harder to be annoyed about the rule breaking when it was something that seemed to unsettle him. She really couldn't blame him, anyway, in his shoes she probably would have been freaked out by cars too. If he knew what a motor was, he didn't say, but he didn't question any more as they dragged closer to the road, keeping his distance even as she trudged up to the asphalt. The road was not highly inhabited, sadly, the cars passing by few and far between, but she tried to flag down one that went past. Not even a glance. Thanks asshole. Maybe it was because she was all bloody? Depressing that looking like she was in trouble made people less interested in helping. She crouched down for some snow, wincing as she rubbed it over bloodied skin until it came away clean. Officially, the worst shower replacement she'd ever tried, but hey, maybe it would help. After she was remotely closer to presentable, she went back to waving at the passing traffic, limited as it was. Her attempts got her nowhere but more frustrated.
"What are you doing?" Hook was watching her from the ditch, looking bemused. Emma didn't even spare him a glance, starting to walk on the edge of the road, not bothering to worry about the fact Hook had to follow her from the ditch.
"I'm trying to hitch a ride. Surely you did that back in the olden days on occasion," Emma snapped, trying to keep her eyes on the highway and hope she could flag down the next one in time. Nevermind the likelihood of a car being willing to take not one, but two. Especially when one was dressed like he'd fallen out of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. And they both looked dirty and worse for the wear. Despite her insistent waving, the next car moved politely into the farthest lane, but that was about all the consideration she got. Figured that when she most needed some human decency, there was none to be found.
"Are you quite sure it's safe that close to those things?" Hook called, and to his credit, he did seem genuinely concerned about her safety. She sighed, trying to ignore the fact there were no more cars, not that she could see, and it would incredibly difficult to hail them down in the dark anyway.
"I fought a giant, I think I'll be fine," Emma muttered, crossing her arms to try and maintain some of her body heat. It was dark, it was freezing, and she was in the middle of a highway with Captain Hook. Even though she had made obvious progress, she still felt anxious, for some reason. She needed to get back, she needed to be back yesterday, and nothing was working out in her favor. "Speaking of giants, you–" She startled slightly as Hook's arm bumped into hers. He'd crawled out of that gutter practically silently. It always weirded her out how fast and quiet the guy could be when he put the effort in. "–you can't talk about that crap around people. Giants, or magic, or… being Captain Hook. They'll think you're crazy."
Hook was quiet for a moment, but he kept his attention forward, so it was hard to read his expression. "Suppose that makes sense," he muttered, and hopefully that was some sort of agreement with her plan.
"It'll be a bit harder when you're dressed like that," Emma sighed, eying his ridiculous coat and leather ensemble like she'd just noticed it. "Hopefully we'll get to Storybrooke quickly, and it won't be a problem." How she'd get from Massachusetts to Maine was another story, but Hook had saved her wallet from her kidnappers. Maybe her debit card would still work. If it did it'd only be as long as it took to find themselves a rental car place. Something told her it wouldn't be quite that easy, though.
"Storybrooke. Is that where we're headed?" Seemed like a fair inquiry, but Emma still wasn't sure she wanted to commit to bringing Captain Hook right to the battleground. She was supposed to be the sheriff, her job was to protect people. Not walk danger right into the middle of town and hope that nothing bad would happen.
"What else am I supposed to do with you?" Emma muttered darkly. She couldn't just hand over his heart and let the world deal with the dead body of a strangely dressed, unidentified man. Even if she could leave him with his own heart, which she couldn't, she couldn't really trust him to keep his identity a secret forever. He'd slip up or somebody would catch him and there was just too much of a chance that somebody would use him to find the rest of Storybrooke, or at least start looking for it. They needed as few people to know of the existence of magic and alternate worlds, and no matter how much she didn't like it, Hook had to go to the place he'd be just like everyone else. "I'm not going to leave you on the side of the road."
"Just at the top of a giant's castle, apparently." Emma shot him a look that could melt glass, but he seemed just as unaffected as always. A part of her was starting to wonder if he genuinely didn't find her looks intimidating, or if he just convincingly managed to pretend that he did. "Kind of you then, Swan," he told her, offering her a biting grin that certainly sold the devastating, dastardly pirate thing. She was annoyed despite herself, even though she knew that was exactly what he was hoping for.
"I could have left you to die in the Enchanted Forest with Cora, so don't make me regret choosing to save your worthless life," Emma said bluntly, not bothering to pull any punches. Hook may have played himself up as some sort of hero, because he'd tried to save her, but that was only after he knowingly betrayed her and hurt her in attempts to get his own way. One good act didn't completely change everything between them. "I don't get an option in bringing you to Storybrooke but trust me, if you try to pull any of the shit you pulled in the Enchanted Forest I will throw you in one of the two jail cells we have so fast your pretty head will spin. And I hope you like singing drunks, because Leroy loves to sing…" Emma paused, realizing exactly what Leroy liked to sing, and hum, and whistle, nearly constantly. Whistle While you Work. The songs were real? God, not something she'd needed to worry about…
"Aye aye, captain," Hook responded, even with a bit of a salute. She had no faith in his ability to listen to even the most simple of terms, but for now she really couldn't worry about what he'd do when he arrived in Storybrooke, they still had to get there. She saw another pair of headlights coming and waved both arms wildly, trying to catch their attention, as Hook leaned closer to note, "Think I'm pretty, do you? Next time, I think I prefer handsome…"
Emma stopped her signaling to glance at him, incredibly tempted on pushing him to see how well pirates rolled down ditches. "I was being sarcastic," she seethed, and the pirate took up her slack as he waved wildly enough for the both of them.
"Certainly, darling," he returned, and he was bold enough to even wink at her. Emma exhaled a loud noise, wishing that the stupid pirate could be a little less gifted in driving her absolutely insane. She opened her mouth to bite off a retort when she heard the noise of a car pulling off into gravel. She decided (quite wisely) to ignore the smug asshole in favor of the gentleman that had pulled his truck off to the side of the road.
"You two lovebirds in trouble?" the old man asked, leaning out his window and eying them carefully. Emma inwardly recoiled at the assumption she was with the weird guylined asshole, but if it meant she got a ride to whatever town was closest? She seized Hook's hand and twined their fingers, nodding.
"Our car went into the ditch and now it won't start. I told him to watch the road, but he never listens," Emma breathed, even managing a shadow of a smile to sell their story. Hook quirked both brows at her, but thankfully did not protest. The old man chuckled, shaking his head.
"My Edna says just about the same thing about me, every day." The old man looked between them, considered them for a moment, and then waved them closer. "Well, come on. The next town is at least twenty miles, I'll give you a lift. Mighty close in the cab, but you'll survive I'm sure." Emma turned sharply toward Hook, eyes intent and giving him a silent message: Don't blow this for us. Twenty miles was a long damn time for a perfectly normal old man to notice that her 'boyfriend' was strange, talked like he escaped from a renaissance fair, and looked visibly unsettled by cars, and the both of them were way worse for the wear than a simple tumble into a ditch, but he was going to have to figure it out. They were taking this ride, neither of them had it in them to walk twenty miles. "Might as well just sit on his lap, sweetheart, you'll have more room that way."
Emma wanted to glare daggers at their kindly escort for even suggesting it. Why couldn't they just toss the pirate in the back, who cared how cold it was? But he'd suggested it and now she didn't see any good way to wiggle her way out of it. She pulled Hook closer and released him to lug open the door, and despite a slight look of apprehension, he climbed in. She didn't give him much time to acclimate, climbing in after him and settling in his lap (carefully, she could tell his side was tender) and shutting the door quickly, like if she moved fast enough their ride couldn't think better of the strangers he was extending good will towards. There was probably no way to sit on Hook's lap without a small degree of awkwardness, but she curled one arm around his shoulders and clasped her hands, trying to keep him out of eyeline of their driver. To her surprise, Hook settled his arm around her as well, hook tucked into her jacket where it'd be a lot harder for their new friend to notice.
"All cozy?" The man wondered, pulling out onto the road. She could feel Hook stiffen underneath her, but there wasn't much she could do about it. It seemed pretty natural to be unsettled, considering it was her first car ride. Emma opened her mouth to respond, but Hook beat her to the punch.
"Can't say I have any interest in changing places," he told the man, which earned him a chuckle. Emma was annoyed, but couldn't actually admit it, but she let her arms cinch around his neck a bit tighter for a moment in punishment. Yuck it up, pirate, but there was no chance he'd get her in his lap again any time soon.
"I wouldn't either, if I were you," agreed their good samaritan, leaning forward to crank the heat higher. Something that Emma appreciated, but made Hook stiffen again. "Well, it'll only be about fifteen minutes, give or take. We'll get you two to town." Longest fifteen minutes of her life, no doubt, but at least it finally felt like progress. She was finally back, she was going to get back to Henry. Now it was just a matter of time. She could bear fifteen minutes on Hook's lap if it meant she got back to her son.