You Had Me At Malfeasance is a collection of one-off fics set around various episodes of Once Upon A Time. Think of them as a “deleted scenes” sort of exercise.
In this chapter, Hook asks Emma to come along as he memorializes a fallen friend in, “Tribute.”
“Will you come with me, love?”
Emma looked up from the logbooks and pushed her hair back from her face. “Huh? Sorry.” She gestured at the book and papers in front of her. “Just trying to catch up with everything that went on while we were gone. It looks like it was mostly drunken dwarves and the occasional Merry Men and Pirate Crew squabble.”
Killian gave her a reluctant smile. “They do enjoy a good wager, the lot of them. When it doesn’t go their way, there may be fisticuffs.”
Emma shut the logbook and pushed her chair back. “You were saying?”
“I need to do something. And I’d appreciate your company.”
“Are we going far?”
“Just down to the docks,” he assured her. “It won’t take long.”
He held out his hand and she reached for it, letting him pull her to her feet. Her fingers twined around his, and once again, she reveled in the feel of that hand in hers, warm and alive. Their hands swung gently between them as they walked to the car, and once she got inside, their fingers found each other again. She knew he felt the way she did – neither of them wanted to let go.
She pulled up at the docks, and he gently led her up the gangplank and onto his ship.
“Are we going somewhere?” she asked.
“No. Wait here.”
She looked puzzled. “Where are you going?”
He forced a smile. “Only up the mainmast.”
Emma shrugged. “Sure. I’ll be right here.”
“One moment, love,” he said. “I need to get something.” He released her hand and walked brusquely to the upper deck, reaching behind the pedestal that held the wheel and pulling out a single arrow. He jumped back down to the main deck and clamping the arrow between his teeth, he got ahold of the lashings and began to climb.
Emma smiled up at him as he went. For a one-handed man, he could climb faster than anyone could imagine possible. His years on the sea had made him adept and it only took a few moments before he’d reached the top. She shaded her eyes to stare up at him, and watched as he carefully placed the arrow flat against the top of of the mast, where it stayed as if glued there.
He paused a moment, and his lips moved as if he were saying something, but she couldn’t hear him from down on the deck. Eventually, he hauled himself back down and landed on his feet next to her.
“There,” he said. “It’s done.”
She reached out, twining her fingers again with his. “Was that one of Robin’s arrows?”
“Yes.” He tried to smile, but it just wouldn’t come. “It’s an old seafaring tradition. When you lose someone that mattered to you, you put something of theirs on the highest point of the ship. To let them know that someone will always be looking to the horizon, and wishing for their return.”
He pointed up to where he’d placed the arrow.”I bought a spell from a witch long ago – anything put to the top mast will stay affixed permanently.”
“It’s a beautiful tradition,” Emma said quietly. “Do you have something of Liam’s up there?”
“Aye – the captain’s insignia from his uniform. He was fiercely proud to have earned it. There’s also a set of dice that belonged to Bae.”
His startled eyes met hers and she gave his fingers a reassuring squeeze.
“I put her favorite drawing pencil up there,” he answered. “She had such talent. She could have made her way in the world on that alone.”
“But she chose a life with you.” Emma’s eyes were soft, understanding.
“I didn’t get to know her long, but she seemed like a strong woman,” Emma said. “And she knew you were worth it.”
Killian shook his head. “You give me too much credit, Swan. I ended up getting her killed. And Liam – I should have argued with him more. Put my foot down and insisted we leave Neverland before we did. And now Robin is dead. Because of me.”
“Is that what this is about?” Emma’s face showed her concern. “Killian – all those people made up their own minds. They were adults and they made their own choices. You can’t own that.”
He didn’t answer her, and she stepped in, touching his face. “Robin went to the Underworld of his own free will. He knew you’d have done the same for him.”
“I would,” Killian affirmed. “Without hesitation. He was a good man who deserved a far better fate than he was dealt.”
Emma laid her head against his shoulder and he pulled her in, setting his chin against her forehead. They held each other in silence for a moment.
“I don’t know why you keep surviving,” Emma said. “I just know I’m glad you do.”
“Isn’t it obvious?” He pulled back to look at her, and tucked an errant strand of hair behind her ear. “No one can love you as I do. Someone, somewhere must know that. I just wish I felt as though I’d done something to deserve you. To deserve all the sacrifices that have happened to put me here.”
“You’ve earned your place in Storybrooke with the other heroes,” she said firmly. “And you earned your place with me a long, long time ago. I just wish I’d admitted it sooner.”
“You are a stubborn bit of baggage,” he agreed, kissing her lightly. A sudden gust of breeze lifted her hair and set the sails rippling.
Emma turned her head to look out to sea.
“Always looking to the horizon…” she murmured. “I like that. It means you’re always looking forward.”
“Aye,” he said, pulling her into his side as he looked out with her. She rested her head on his shoulder, and they stood in silence, thinking of love, and loss, and all that lies between.