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High Seas Or Low Seas

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Lieutenant Killian Jones looked up to the sky taking in a breath of air, thick with salt. it was almost daybreak but there were remnants of the night’s constellations still shining, a wonderful day to start a voyage. he stepped onto the gangway and made his way onto the deck, seeing the silhouette of his brother Liam (this was his maiden voyage as captain) he felt pride not just in his brother but in himself, this was after all, his first voyage as an officer.

Killian joined the crew, diligently going about their business preparing the ship for departure within the hour, ensuring everything was in order. Despite his anxieties about his first official mission, any insecurities were trumped by the excitement and anticipation of adventure on the high seas.

**********************

It had been two days since Jewel of the Realm had set sail and while things aboard were always bustling, Killian found the boredom had set in rather quickly once the day’s duties were complete. He resorted to filling his spare time with studying his Brother’s books and maps and when that was not possible he would sit and sketch whatever caught his eye.

The third day aboard had been terribly uneventful, however the constant racket and hustle of the deck was driving him to insanity; so he had gone to find some semblance of a quiet place.

He was just about to begin a new book, something on astronomy; when a high pitched scream pierced through the general babble of the crew. springing to his feet, not out of fear, but concern; he was quick to reach the deck to see what the commotion was and began to wade through the tightly packed crew. Getting through would be a struggle and in his haste he may have elbowed one or two of them a little too hard.

When he broke through, the crew went silent. it took him a moment to comprehend the scene before him; two of the larger and rather more intimidating members of the crew, Wolfe and Grey, were backed against the port side rail, both coiled back defensively, Grey’s hands were covering his face in an attempt to staunch the flow of blood gushing from his apparently broken nose. Killian was stunned by the sight, he wouldn't have liked to fight this particular fellow on his best day, and yet someone had mustered the courage. If he weren’t an officer he likely would have congratulated the fellow who managed it.

Still processing the sight of the cowering and bloodied crew men, Killian shifted his focus to look for the culprit when he noticed the mass of long, gentle gold curls in stark contrast to the crew. he cleared his throat and the girl spun, fists raised to face him with such ferocity he had to step back to avoid her. raising his hands to show he meant no harm the girl ceased her attack

That was when he met her wary gaze, she had incredibly green eyes, sparkling like gems, he could have lost himself in the future they held. Snapping quickly back to reality and reluctant to leave the fantasy world he created, he realised he had to say something… anything! **Don't be a such a fucking codfish** he thought to himself.

 

“My name is Lieutenant Killian jones, pleased to meet you milady.”

**Was that the best you could bloody do!!! ** he chastised himself and hoped his awkwardness didn't show

Despite this, the girl’s expression softened a little realising the man before her really meant no harm.
“Pleased to meet you, sir,” she replied politely “I’m pri… Emma,” she stammered.

 

Killian savoured the sound of her name echoing in his head not paying attention to much else. But he knew now was not the time for any of that nonsense and he put on a sterner expression, hoping to hide how awestruck he was.

He quickly ordered the crew to disperse and they scurried away back to their duties. Turning his attention back to Emma, “please, come with me” he gestured in the direction of his quarters (he knew Liam was terribly preoccupied and decided it was best not to bother him yet)

As they walked he prodded her for information on what had just occurred, trying to stay as calm as possible.

“Well then, Emma; now that we have gone through introductions, what in Neptune’s name are you doing aboard this ship? How did you manage to one up Mr Grey, and lastly why was there a need to?”

They reached his quarters and he opened the door allowing her to step inside following her in, he offered her a seat and she began to tell her story;

“Before I tell you, I must thank you for being so kind… I don't think I could have fought off your entire crew, I got rather lucky with the big fellow and while I am terribly sorry about his nose, I am not sorry I did it in the least.”

Killian stared in disbelief, she was terribly refreshing, not weak and swooning like most refined ladies he knew and good humoured as well, here she was apologising for breaking the nose of a man even he was admittedly intimidated by.

“There is nothing to apologise for lass, they should have defended themselves better… though I am rather impressed you would have attempted to wreak havoc on the rest of the bloody crew.”

She giggled at his remark, and the sound of it was the sweetest thing he had ever heard, a cliché to call it musical but closest to describing her laughter. **all these sappy thoughts… how ridiculous! I need to snap out of it, it’s not as if I'm a boy who can’t control his feelings** he couldn’t help but feel like he was an idiot for falling so fast under her enchantment, it hadn’t been ten minutes!

composing herself a moment later she continued her explanation.

“As for what I'm doing here…”

She looked down at her hands ashamedly her cheeks flushing a lovely shade of rose, her voice shaking a little. Was it Anger? Fear? Maybe he was picking up both?

“…I ran away…there was something I was supposed to do but I just couldn’t, I couldn't bring myself to go through with it…so I packed a few things and went to the docks looking for a ship, I saw this one preparing to leave so I slipped into the hold while the captain was making his speech… he went on a bit so it was a very convenient distraction” despite her babbling pace he could tell how carefully her words were being selected, keeping her deeper secrets shrouded from him, though he decided he would not pry.

“I really am sorry to have caused so much trouble” she continued meekly
“I knew I’d be found out eventually but I had no other choice, any other way I would have been discovered… when one of the crew happened upon my hiding place, the superstitious fool started raving about how ‘a woman aboard is terrible bad luck and would doom everyone to the briny depths’…a few followed along.” Her impression of Grey was hilariously accurate and she smiled when he couldn’t hold back a chuckle

“This ‘Mr. Grey’ was trying to throw me overboard, a few of the other men tried to stop him so while he was momentarily distracted I struck him. Grey dropped me when I punched him and I tried to get away but Wolfe, as everyone called him; grabbed hold of me and I hit him as well; that was when you showed up… and I guess that’s it…”

She trailed off, and Killian took the moment of silence to quickly prepare what to say.

“Emma you really shouldn't have stowed away” he began, feeling awkward lecturing a girl clearly very close to his age and it didn’t help he was so attracted to her already.

“Most Captains would not be lenient regarding that particular offence and despite being in the navy, those men could have killed you had they succeeded in throwing you overboard. what you did was incredibly irresponsible…”

As he spoke, Emma reached down and his lecture was cut off with the abrupt clatter of a coin purse landing on his desk.

“I’m happy to pay for my mistake Sir, as long as I end up as far away from Misthaven as possible.”

He loved her sassy attitude and couldn't help but wonder what this wonderful lass possibly had to run from. She was a puzzle he just had to solve with her sky high walls and closely guarded secrets

Chapter Text

Killian stood up and headed for the door. He hadn't even realised their conversation had continued on through the afternoon into the later hours of the night

“Wait here love, I’ll be back in a moment.”

Emma simply nodded in response and he caught the slightest mumble of “I'm not your love”
Little she knew he scoffed

Despite being late he knew it was time to inform Liam, there would be fewer officers left in conference and he was in far more of a favourable position to argue on her behalf if need be. Not that his brother would be anything less of a gentleman towards Emma, he knew it was the rest of the officers that required some convincing.

Killian reached the captain’s cabin and knocked firmly on the carved door.

The heavy door creaked open and Liam grinned at his little brother.

“What can I help you with little brother?” Liam asked almost playfully

Killian shot him a look Liam had seen many times when he called Killian ‘little’. Truthfully he only kept doing it to ruffle Killian’s feathers.

Liam dismissed the officers and Killian began to explain once they had left, glad that his brother preferred to speak in private.

“Liam, it appears we have a rather unexpected guest on the ship… she's a stowaway, and I know that is an issue… but she has offered to compensate us for her passage aboard.”

Liam raised his eyebrow questioningly, pushing for more information

Choosing his words carefully, Killian obliged.

“She's had quite the ordeal after being discovered this afternoon by a few crew members. they attempted to throw her over board for… uhhmm... superstitious reasons…”

Liam, understanding his meaning was noticeably concerned, but they both had a good laugh when Killian mentioned Grey’s bloodied nose.

He recounted the rest of the tale and Liam reacted exactly how he had expected; at first Liam was annoyed at having to worry about a stowaway, however as Killian continued to report he knew he would be more than understanding.

Killian dreaded having to ask if Emma could remain from the moment he stepped into Liam’s quarters, all he could do was hope the answer was favourable for his agenda to get to know this mystery of a girl and not end with her being dropped at the closest port he knew to be a day’s journey away.

It didn’t take much convincing that it wouldn’t be wise to leave a highborn lady unaccompanied on land and Liam agreed Emma should remain. His heart practically leapt out of his chest, and he could not hide his smile from his brother who naturally and accurately teased him of a crush on their passenger of circumstance.

Killian practically sprinted back to his quarters like an excited child let out to play after lessons. After composing himself He quickly informed Emma she was permitted to remain aboard as long as she pleased, with free range of the ship: however, for her own protection aboard Liam had ordered he stay with her as a guard on the reason that “men stuck at sea for months could be likely to have malicious notions when starved for the touch of a woman”. While there were a number who would never dream of being ungentlemanly he couldn’t disagree with Liam’s reasoning.

He hoped to the gods he didn't make it awkward or say anything stupid over the next few months should she stay the duration of their journey. Ever the gentleman; Killian took the floor. Much to Emma’s protest that she was imposing and simply couldn’t see him uncomfortable. He’d organise a cot or a hammock the next day but he appreciated the thought.

***********************

Each day for Killian revolved around completing his duties and seeing Emma as soon as possible.

They became fast friends, often talking into the small hours, sometimes never managing to sleep at all, engrossed in their discussions. She had an incredibly intelligent way of looking at the world and a deliciously wicked sense of humour (almost as dark and filthy as his own) His adoration grew with each passing day and once he managed to get over his nerves to start a conversation it flowed like a gentle evening tide.

weeks passed at sea but with Emma’s company, every moment was made brighter; things smoothed over quickly with the crew and Emma made fast friends with all of them, even Wolfe had become fast friend and obliging chess partner on many occasions. Her wit and kind heart had the crew trailing after her and her insistence on doing her share of the necessary daily duties while aboard, garnered the respect of the men for a woman who wasn’t afraid to get her dainty hands dirty learning how to carry her own weight.

A number of the crew and officers were infatuated with her instantly. Will Scarlett, one of the other officers and a good friend to Killian over the years had professed to a number of the other officers that he planned to woo the lady and win her fair heart, however his liquid courage failed him by morning and Emma kindly let him down easy, his heart still intact. On the other hand, Will’s pride took quite the blow when the officers got wind of his rejection, Robin Locksley being the most energetic in his teasing, even going so far as to start a betting pool on who would win her heart. The only exclusions from the competition being married men like Locksley himself (and with a woman like his lovely wife Regina he had no need to pursue any other). Killian rather confidently betted on himself as the most likely victor.

After leaving the officers table a few coins shorter than before he went to find Emma, knowing that on a clear night like this she would likely be out stargazing.

Her mass of golden curls lightly illuminated by a nearby lantern were caught in the eddies of the salty breeze, tendrils floating gently around her face.

His heart skipped a beat on the sight of her at the railing (as it did every other time) and so as not to startle her he gently cleared his throat before approaching.

He came to stand beside her but realised he didn’t know what to say. He shouldn’t have spent so bloody long thinking about preventing frightening her

 

**You look like a right imbecile not saying anything to her, how could you be so stupid you know this always happens around her**

not wanting to stammer or seem ineloquent he remained mute

he was relieved when she was first to break the silence

“Do you believe in fate Killian?”

and odd question to be sure but he answered

“I'm a sailor, it would be difficult not to with all I’ve seen…”

 

“Can you explain?” she asked quietly

“Well I can only speak of what I know… but suppose you leave port a day later than you intended and miss a surprise squall, or the opposite occurs yet you manage to ride it out and come out the other side thanking the gods the morning brings a calm sea and a blue sky, perhaps that’s fate? the sea is a fickle mistress, and I suppose she is a good bedfellow for fate in their innate unpredictability. He mused.
“It all depends on how you want to look at it. Fate could be controlling everything or nothing, but if fate plays a hand in everything there would be no free will and human nature would be to rebel, so you’re right back where you started. I think if fate is real then it intervenes when it is most needed… a chance meeting when you needed someone most, a brush with death to remind you of life’s fleeting nature, or a kind act that restores your faith in people things like that…”

She stared out to sea a few seconds before thanking him for such an honest reply and when she turned to face him he noticed the shining tracks running down her cheeks, remnants of tears shed moments ago.

Realising she hadn’t removed the evidence of her tears, she turned from him and they went back to watching the sea, leaving the truth unspoken between them.

Instinctively he placed his hand over hers, hoping to offer comfort in any way he could without overstepping and when she shivered at his touch he removed his coat and placed it over her shoulders. Her thanks simply expressed by returning her hand to his with a light squeeze.

 

A considerable amount of time later they returned to Killian’s cabin. It had conveniently slipped his mind to mention that the arrangement could be changed to Liam. (Though he suspected his brother was doing the same, playing matchmaker).

Chapter Text

Another week went by and nothing was said about why she had been so upset, Killian figured that she would tell him when she was ready.

He woke not long before dawn and readied himself for another day aboard. It had been three and a half months at sea already with another 7 to go before they reached Arendelle.

Emma was still asleep on his bed, her golden hair a tangled mess spread across the pillow; how he hated to have to wake her. After he did, he politely announced he was going to find them something to eat and teased her about allowing her some privacy to fix the birds nest that was her hair. Her light peals of laughter followed him out the door.

By the time he returned she had changed and had indeed fixed her hair into a neat braid which she flicked over her left shoulder

They sat down to eat and found themselves more interested in idly chatting. They had just begun to discuss boredom for the thousandth time and Killian quipped about how dull long voyages could be and how difficult it was to fill the spare hours.

“Killian? I know you may not have time, but I would rather enjoy someone to fence with, you know… to pass the time? That is providing you can handle losing to a girl” she grinned playfully at him and his competitive side kicked in.

“I'm sure I can handle you love, question is; can you handle me?” he winked suggestively and added a cheeky smirk for good measure.

“This afternoon then Lieutenant? I’d rather like to see the look on your face the moment you lose”

Gods he almost didn't have a comeback for that but he had to make an attempt. so in his most suggestive tone he replied;

“I'm always up for a challenge milady, just know that when I jab you with my sword, you'll feel it”

the look on her face was priceless, a combination of shock but mostly pure amusement with his blatant innuendo.

And with that, Killian took his leave to complete his duties (as quickly as possible so he would have more time to spent with her).

 

Killian rushed back to his quarters, knocking hurriedly on the door. When it opened he was met with the most dazzling smile, Emma was very clearly excited for some entertainment they were alone on deck, he had made sure it was clear to allow them room to move

They stood awkwardly for a moment and he realised she was waiting for a weapon.

*You absolute git he thought to himself… How do you expect to fence with her if she has no bloody sword*

He excused himself, apologising for his stupidity; she simply laughed at his forgetfulness and he quickly fetched one from his quarters.

 

Once armed, they assumed position and began sizing each other up. Waiting to see who would strike first, how the other would react. Killian took his chances and stepped forward his sword moving in a flash, but she easily avoided it. She was incredibly skilled; he was truthfully only just managing to keep up and was rather taken aback by her abilities; surprised at her strength and talent he covered his admiration with constant teasing:

 

“Don’t trip darling…”

“Light on your feet aren't you love?”

“Graceful as a bloody swan you are dearest!”

“Swan! now there’s a fitting nickname!” he shot her a playful smirk
she blocked his oncoming attack and leaned closer to him, a sly grin on her face

“This is the part where I win Lieutenant Jones” she said with a wink

she had disarmed him before he knew what had happened, pinning his arm behind his back she placed a good-humoured kiss on his cheek. He barely had time to process that he had been bested by her, but the teasing kiss she had placed on his cheek was like a jolt of electricity regardless of its meaning.

Releasing him, she stepped back and bowed with a wide grin still on her face, clearly pleased by his loss. Smiling Killian returned the bow and collected his sword.

“Goodness Killian, you certainly handled me” her words dripped with sarcasm, perfectly matching the audacious grin plastered on her slightly reddened face.

That was the moment he lost his composure, the hilarity of it all catching up with him.

They laughed so hard they cried. Each time the laughter subsided one or the other would chuckle or they'd look at one another and more laughter would ensue; their sides hurting and the sky almost dark, they made their way back to his cabin arm in arm.

Something had changed between them today, Killian could feel it, but he wasn’t sure if she knew it yet.

*****************************
Back in the privacy of his cabin, the embers of the morning’s conversations reignited. their tête-à-tête was so natural, so easy it felt like home.

Not long after beginning their conversation Killian had opened up a bottle of rum and they shared in the additional merriment provided by the alcohol.

However, the mood of their discussion suddenly shifted and he sensed Emma was troubled.

“Swan? You doing all right love? Was it something I said?” Killian tried not to slur too much

“Perfectly fine…” she replied softly pinching the bridge of her nose clearly trying not to cry.

Killian was about to ask again to see if she wanted to discuss what had upset her and maybe find and answer to her crying the other week, but she began to speak, not requiring his prompt.

“you remember last week when I asked you about fate?”

“yes, I recall, rather a deep question I thought” his reply plain and simple, not letting on to his concern

“See, I was always brought up believing fate has some part to play in life and that one day it would lead me to a future I wanted for myself…” her voice now in a steady crescendo as she continued.

“So answer me, what kind of parents bring their child up on fairy tales of true love, magic and making a choice, then arrange a fucking marriage with someone she's never even met without asking?”

“I mean; they break the news ever so sweetly that he’ll be visiting the week before the wedding! Like that’s any comfort when you’re going to be forced to spend your life with someone you don’t know or love” her voice started to crack under the strain of outpouring emotion and after a pause she continued in a quiet, defeated tone.

“All because some stupid witch threatens that if the Princess doesn't ‘marry her son and form an alliance’, she’ll destroy their bloody ol’ kingdom?”

“How could my parents do that to me… betray me like that? Answer me that Killian.”

She choked on her words, tears starting to trace their way down her cheeks, light sobs echoing around the small cabin.

The weary, defeated look on her face and the odd lack of rage behind her recent words made his heart break for her. She had been holding all of this in and he recognised the amount of trust she must have had in him to even broach the subject, alcohol aside

He wrapped an arm around her and she rested against him and he held her tightly, instinctually knowing she needed consolation. Her sobs gradually abated and just as he felt he knew what to say in response, he realised she had passed out; her head still resting on his shoulder.

Not wanting to wake her, he laid down with her still in his arms, her head shifted slightly to rest on his chest. That was how they remained until the next day, rather worse for wear after the amount of alcohol they had each consumed.

That night was the most restful sleep Emma had in the months after being informed of her impending nuptials; while she had been drunk, it was Killian’s arms around her that made her feel so secure. Secure enough that all her troubles faded away with his comforting embrace.

 

When Killian awoke to find Emma still in his arms he was somewhat surprised, but he was truly just happy in that moment. He could have stayed like this forever with her curled against his side, her arm resting across his torso.

his sober mind now more alert, replayed some of the night’s conversation and the gravity of their last subject hit him full force;

She was here because she was part of an arranged marriage.

a marriage that her parents had saddled her with, an arrangement she didn't agree to

that’s why she was running, running as far away as she could get, why she was so terrified of being sent back…

…back to the palace.

It dawned on him why she had felt so betrayed by her family at being forced into marriage: her parents would have filled her head with stories of how their true love conquered all obstacles since she was old enough to understand.

Her parents were Queen Snow and King David, the ultimate example of true love; and they had tried to deny their only daughter her chance at finding it for fear of a threat from a dark witch who he could only assume to be the infamous ‘Lady Morgana Le fay who was known to lurk in the enchanted forest.

His thought process halted abruptly; the girl he was holding, the girl he knew he loved, was the Princess of Misthaven… oh god, what was he going to do now?

he felt his heart drop with yet another realisation. He was only a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy.

It wasn't like he hadn't figured out she was nobility, every mannerism proved his theory (except her fighting skills, no proper lady would ever engage in such a masculine past time) but he had never thought to ask specific details, assuming that she was at least a lady, or perhaps a baroness: now everything was much more complicated; he knew he loved her from the moment he saw her but he could never be good enough for her… Not now.

He looked at Emma, studying her face; he’d have done anything for her, anything to make her happy, even if it meant he could never be with her. She stirred slightly, as if she could sense his inner turmoil. Her eyes slowly fluttered open and she met his troubled gaze.

Chapter Text

Perhaps it was to do with the cliché that eyes are windows to the soul? From the first moment she had locked eyes with Killian that morning she could have sworn that the world had somehow shifted. For a second she had been so consumed by his piercing gaze she could have drowned in the stormy blue fathoms of his eyes.

propping himself up on one arm he looked down at her and in an attempt to hide what he had been thinking about, shot her a devilish grin that made her want to melt. her face reddened slightly and he knew it had worked. neither of them had said a word yet.

But Killian decided to break the silence; he had things that needed to be said, before he lost his nerve.

He moved to sit cross legged on the bed and she did the same.

“Morning Swan, how’s the head?” he asked impishly. Flashing another dazzling smile that did little to hide the shadows lurking in his mind.

“certainly in better shape than my inhibitions” she replied seriously

“I’m sorry for ruining the fun last night with my woe is me crap… I got a little bit too honest. but now the problem is I can’t remember exactly what I told you; would you mind giving me a recount, so I can at least explain myself?”

Killian was incredibly relieved she had brought it up first. Start with the easier topics first

“Aye love I’d be glad to; you were rather impaired last night, and I’d like to assure you I didn't take advantage of you, in case you had concerns about your honour.” He smirked at her and she rolled her eyes and exhaled sharply with playful exasperation (seeing through what he was trying to hide behind his humour, she wondered if he knew he wasn’t fooling her?)

they both knew that he was a gentleman to a fault, good form was vital.

“however you told me quite a few interesting things about yourself Swan, some rather by accident.”

“for example: you happen to be the princess of Misthaven, the daughter of Snow White and King David. That was quite the shock, but I s’pose it makes sense really.”

“you ran away because they accepted a marriage alliance on your behalf with a witch who threatened to raze your kingdom, should you refuse to marry her son whom you have never met. you felt betrayed because they led you to believe you would be allowed to find true love in your own time.”

“you passed out on me just after that” he added

her face turned pink and her eyes dropped bashfully
“oh… I said all that…” looking down at her hands self-consciously

“well so much for keeping my identity secret, I hope I can trust you with it until you inevitably force me to go home?”

he reached for her face and gently lifted her chin, cradling her face.

“force you to go home? Do you think I would be so cruel… that Liam would be?”

“I’d never return you to that place if it meant your despair, even if it means lying to my brother, I’d gladly go to the ends of the earth for you.”

Her eyes welled up at hearing his words, tears threatening to spill over. They were not tears of sadness but relief and joy and perhaps something more that she wasn’t ready to admit to herself.

She broke their contact, quickly wiping her tears away she resumed looking down, wringing her hands, a worried expression still carved on her face.

a split second later her fidgeting was abruptly interrupted

Surprised by his touch Emma flinched, looking down at Killian's hand resting over her own, her eyes flicked back up meeting with his again. His eyes held an expression Emma couldn't quite place, perhaps a combination of fear and tenderness? She wasn’t quite sure.

Before she knew what she was doing she shifted her hand in his, lacing their fingers together. he moved closer…He was magnetic and as much as her head tried to reason with her heart she was drawn in so quickly logic couldn't catch up.

**************************

He couldn't believe it, without even thinking he had reached out to her, wanting to ease her mind… her pain, and she hadn't pushed him away. Admittedly he had caught her off guard, but he had not been met with rejection.

Instead she had gripped his hand even tighter, as if she planned to never let him go. She was looking up at him with those emerald eyes, full of questions and doubt; he stared back at her intently.

With his spare hand he reached up and pressed it to her cheek, brushing his thumb lightly over her cheekbone. She leaned in to his touch and that was the moment he lost all sense.

Killian, still holding his hand to her flushed cheek, leaned forward and kissed her.

Brushing his lips tenderly against hers; he was certain he had found heaven on earth in such a pure moment. He stopped for a second to give her the chance to push him away or hit him for stealing a kiss, but she gently slipped her hand out of his grasp and placed it at the nape of his neck, pulling him back in.

Their lips met again, more ardently than before and they lost themselves. The world could have fallen apart around them and neither of them would have noticed. The once bottled passion between them could have set the ship alight but even that would not have distracted them from each other.

Needing to breathe for a moment Emma was the one who pulled back, her forehead gently pressed against his, her golden curls fell forward enveloping him in the cinnamon scent of her hair. Moving again she buried her face in his neck, her soft breath against his skin

“I’m sorry Emma… I don’t know why I did that, I…” he started to apologise

She looked up and silenced him with a quick kiss – he was stunned at how sure she had become, glad to finally know that she felt something for him, whether she knew what it was exactly or not.

In the seconds after, time slowed down and Emma’s mind raced, Killian loved her! loved her despite who she is and all the complications it caused; but she couldn’t delude herself, she was set up to be a commodity for her kingdom to use for its protection, there were too many what ifs in her life to allow herself to fall for someone, only to break his heart should she be forced to comply with her parents’ wishes.
What else could she do but halt things before they went too far? She knew that should things not work out, that no matter how much she felt for him it would break her heart to cause him pain. She had to push him away, tell him she felt nothing to protect his heart and even more selfishly; to protect her own.

“I'm sorry Killian, I was lonely and I shouldn’t have… I mean, I ran away from home to get away from romance and now I'm putting myself right back in the middle of it”
“you have to understand that I can’t do this, not with you, not now…”
“gods I should never have done that!”

‘not with you’ stuck in his mind and all Killian could think was that he was right. He wouldn’t be enough for her: A lowly lieutenant could never expect a Princess to accept his station, there was nothing he could offer other than his love, everything else would never be enough

“uhm never mind that then… I won’t bring it up again, I just thought… never mind, forget about it” scratching behind his ear awkwardly, a dejected look on his face.

he couldn’t even find it within himself to be outwardly angry with her! she wanted him to be angry, to say something to hurt her, but his silence was worse.

breaking through the tense atmosphere of the room a curt knock interrupted the awkwardness brewing between them

Killian unlocked the door and was astonished when Liam barged in, the door bolt barely moved across before the door was pushed open and bolted shut again. Liam wasted no time moving like a hurricane rummaging through the small cabin like a madman.

Killian sat down next to Emma on the edge of the bed and whispered “threes a crowd isn’t it love?”

She knew he was wounded and trying to conceal it from her, the little catch in his voice when he called her love was evidence enough of what she had done to him.

Liam relented in his search and sat down at the desk. Waiting for Liam to explain himself Killian shot his brother an irritated look.

“what on earth are you doing?!” Killian hissed

Liam said nothing, an unyielding look plastered on his face. Getting up, he stepped around the chaotic mess he had created and held out a sheet of parchment to Emma.

“I'm looking for the rest of these” he hissed venomously

Emma took the parchment Liam held out to her with a slight unsteadiness and held it so Killian could read it as well.

-~-
Dear Captain Jones,

This letter contains sensitive information regarding the Princess Emma of Misthaven, that may place her life in in danger. its contents must remain secret for her safety and that of the realm.

The Princess of Misthaven has been missing for the past three and a half months. We believe she ran away of her own volition and all land based attempts to locate her have failed thus leading us to attempt to contact every ship recorded to have set sail following her disappearance.

We have tried to send word to your ship of her disappearance multiple times however our communications have failed to reach you thus far. We kindly ask if she is either a passenger on your vessel or if you may have seen anything before setting sail?

For your own reference she has waist length, wavy blonde hair, fair skin, green eyes, and is of average height, she also has a flower shaped birthmark on her wrist.

If you know anything regarding her disappearance, we ask you to please send word, and if by the luck of the gods she is aboard your ship please implore her to write us as soon as possible, we have been so terribly worried and miss her more than she knows.

Any information will be greatly rewarded and comes with our endless gratitude

Kindest regards,
With hope,

King David & Queen Snow White of Misthaven
-~-

“’failed to reach you thus far!’” Liam roared
“Killian, be honest and tell me if you prevented me reading correspondences from the King and Queen!?”
Killian was truthfully a little annoyed that his brother didn’t trust him to have been honest but he understood that Liam recognised Killian’s love for Emma was enough to make him able deceive anyone for the sake of her wellbeing.

“I would never!” Killian replied firmly

“Very well then” Liam calmed his tone and resumed his seat at Killian’s desk

Emma had taken his hand at some point and he noticed when she tightened her grip (why would she seek contact when she wanted nothing from him, he couldn’t understand). It was like the world shattered around her and he saw the combination of uncertainty and dread on her face.

“Emma, I know you’ve been keeping something from me, and judging by the look on my little brother’s face he has kept your secret from me too. Now I don’t know why you decided to leave your family, but I would very much like for you to explain it to me… after I have a quick word with Killian that is.”

Liam stood and headed for the door gesturing for Killian to follow him and he obliged (Killian wasn’t even going to protest the ‘little brother’ comment, he didn’t care about it, all he cared about was Emma, knowing what he knew regardless of her rejection)

The door closed behind them and Killian knew he looked incredibly guilty. He began to babble, trying to apologise for his deception and protect Emma. He didn’t mean to sound like he was pleading with his brother but his desperation sounded through anyway.

“Liam, I'm sorry I didn’t tell you that I knew about who she was, I only found out last night, believe me… I can explain… please don’t be irate about it, she had very good reason… please, don’t turn her in when we reach port, I couldn’t live with myself if that happened.”

“Killian! Stop!... I couldn’t care less about her secret, I actually commend her for keeping it up this long, she was smart to hide it; nor do I care about explanations all that much. what I do care about is her safety now that I know.”

“Killian this might be a navy ship and my men are respectable and trustworthy enough but there are plenty of others who would gladly take advantage of who she is, and that reward the King and Queen offered for information is highly lucrative.”

“From now on, one of us will escort her wherever she goes, for her own safety. Especially when we stop to resupply next week. Do you understand Killian? I will not have anything happen to her. I suspect you are very protective of this runaway Princess so I entrust you with her continued safekeeping.”

“As for what will happen when we reach port. If I believe her explanation to be sound I will not turn her in; she seems a headstrong woman and my instincts tell me that she would have good reason, but if I am to protect her I need to know why.”

Killian's worry abated with his brother’s words and he was glad Emma wasn’t going to be ripped from him as he feared. His brother was a good man but he had a duty to the realm and made a point of following the rules (and yet if given good enough reason he would choose ignore the King and Queen to assist the Princess, thank the gods).

“Oh, and Killian… don’t think I don’t see how you look at her.”
“I have eyes and a gag reflex; if her departure would cause you pain, I could never entertain the idea of being the one to take her from you. And I'm fairly certain if I did I wouldn’t see another dawn.”

Killian's mouth dropped open a little and he felt his face burning with embarrassment.

“I know you love her brother, I’d be a fool if I didn’t see it, and from the looks of things, she feels the same. You’re very lucky to have found her, seeing the two of you together… it’s like it was designed by the gods.”

Feeling the need to correct his brother’s assessment of the situation Killian replied solemnly

“I agree with you on all counts but one; she doesn’t feel anything for me. I thought there was something more, thought she had felt it too but I was wrong… and I'm far worse off for my mistake it seems”

“worse off? How do you mean?” Liam asked

“She realised she felt nothing for me that way…maybe because of my position? I'm not sure, but in my heart I know I couldn’t be enough for her anyway.”

He noticed Liam was studying him, the cogs of his mind ticking over as he thought of how to reply

“I think you ought to just give it time Killian. She’ll figure it out and you’ll see, things will work out in the end… she would be a fool to reject you on status alone, and I don’t think she is that superficial.”
“She’s hiding the truth behind her reasons because it’s the easiest way to test your strength and will. Don’t give up on her yet brother, She’s a wonderful woman but she has walls as high as the castle she lives in and you have to understand that to win the heart of a headstrong woman like her, you must be in it for the long haul.”
“and if it’s true and she breaks your heart, you know I will be here with you.”

It sounded cynical but the meaning was comforting. Whatever the outcome his brother supported him and thought he still had a chance. It was the little boost of positivity that he needed and the assurance that his brother would be there to help him pick up the pieces should it come to that.

Killian stepped forward and hugged Liam tightly. Hoping to convey his appreciation for Liam’s kindness toward Emma and himself. The two of them went back into the cabin and Emma proceeded to confess to Liam why she had stowed away those few months ago. Her story was touching and Liam vowed to ensure she would not have to return to Misthaven until the arrangements were called off. He informed her of the measures that would be taken to ensure her safety now that her secret was out and then he left, as quickly as he had arrived, mumbling something about not wanting to interrupt the lovebirds, much to Killian’s chagrin

Chapter Text

Over the next week things seemingly went back to how they were before only it was like walking on eggshells when they spoke. Killian kept his word to keep an eye on Emma and still provided company on long and boring nights. However, it was as if the two of them had become anemones around each other, closing up as soon as conversations became more than small talk. It was constantly one step forward two steps back for Killian; just as he thought they were becoming more comfortable with each other she distanced herself again.

Instead of allowing himself to feel the extent of his heartache, Killian threw himself into his duties, trying to numb his mind to the girl who was managing to avoid him in the middle of the ocean.

Eventually they reached port and upon docking Killian couldn’t have disembarked faster. He knew Emma was to accompany Liam to send correspondence to her parents and inform them she was alive and safe (but not planning to return until the arrangements were called off). All he planned to do with his leave was drown his sorrows.

Will Scarlett had become a very welcome drinking partner and they spent most of the night in the tavern choosing not to think of anything except what was at the bottom of their tankards, eventually a young lass came by with a keen interest in naval officers and Killian decided that a tavern was no place for someone who had no want to be merry or boisterous. Taking the bottle from the table he went to find someplace to be alone with his thoughts and as ever, ended up near the sea discovering a small patch of sand not too far from the harbour where he stayed until morning.

***********************

In the early hours of the morning, not too long before dawn, Killian made his way back to the ship, having sobered up a little he began to feel the effects of the hangover to come.

On his approach He heard the commotion coming from the Jewel before he had even reached the gangplank, he noticed some of the crew rather distraught and found it odd that his brother wasn’t around. But then much to his concern he discovered the reason for the unrest aboard was simply that his brother and Emma had not returned.

Wolfe had managed to keep his composure and was doing his best to explain the situation to Killian

“Sir, they sent no word they would not be returning, as ye’d well know that is unlike our captain and the men have taken it to mean something has prevented their return. The lady Emma bein’ the princess wouldn’t help the matter should anyone else figure out who she is”

Killian was shocked Wolfe knew Emma’s secret and ordered he explain.

“put simply I attended ‘er coronation ceremony a few years back with my wife who works in the palace… didn’t realise who she was at first but I kept it to myself when I did.”

Killian had expected someone would figure out her identity eventually and in many ways he was glad it was Wolfe, being a friend of Emma’s he knew Wolfe would be invested in helping him search for her.

“Very well then, good man. I thank you for your loyalty and silence, but being the only other who is aware of her identity you and I will need to be the ones to search for her and our Captain… is there anyone aboard you trust enough to leave in charge? Have any of the officers returned yet?”

“the officers haven’t returned, but I’d say Mr. Smee would be trustworthy enough to leave in charge. He’s a sensible fellow.”

“Very well then Wolfe, inform him while I address the crew.”
Killian called the attention of the crew and confined them to the ship until his return, an order which was to extend to all others who returned through the day. Anyone found to have disobeyed was threatened with a few good lashes; he announced Smee was to be left in charge and thankfully he was liked well enough that there were no complaints from the crew.

After ordering them to get about their duties he motioned to Wolfe and they walked down the gangplank to begin their search.

Their first port of call was the harbourmaster, having been the last person to have definitely have seen Emma and Liam it made sense to question him first. Unfortunately, the only direction he could provide was that Liam had mentioned if she was to remain aboard she would need to be better disguised and outfitted properly with a weapon (considering she knew how to use one).

Wolfe had a better idea of the town’s layout and led the way to the smith. Killian could feel the worry building like a band tightening around his chest making it harder to breathe. but he set it aside and soldiered on.

The smith had seen Emma and Liam and went so far as to show Wolfe the sword, dagger and arrow tips he and his apprentices had begun to craft for her. But he had no further information for them, other than that they had left, with the intent of returning when word was sent the items were ready.

Feeling disheartened by the trail going cold, Killian stepped outside, closely followed by Wolfe.

“What now sir?”
not knowing what to answer he avoided it entirely, choosing to change the topic for a moment for a chance to collect his thoughts.

“You can drop the ‘sir’ Wolfe, I’ve never really liked people calling me that.”

But the answer of ‘I don’t know what to do next’ was inevitable and Killian not wanting to give up was thankful Wolfe suggested they check the inns, he knew there were about ten to search, being a port town it would be the most logical place to look so they made their way to the closest one and worked their way systematically through the first few finding nothing in each.

It wasn’t until they reached the ‘Jackals Head’ (the eighth inn they had visited and one of the more respectable in town) that a barkeep revealed he had spoken to Liam the previous evening about arranging a week’s accommodation for a lady, he showed them to the room intended for Emma and made a point of mentioning the maid had no reason to clean the room as it had not been disturbed.

Yet another dead end in their search, Killian was not going to allow himself to think that perhaps Liam had managed to find immediate lodgings for her on a ship headed back to Misthaven. But there was something lurking behind the scenes that made him feel uneasy. It was fleeting thought that felt like having a word caught on the tip of the tongue, he couldn’t seem to pin down exactly what his instincts were telling him.

Wolfe and Killian split up to check the last two taverns on the off chance of any further information however they both came up empty and began a defeated walk back to the Jewel.
However it seemed they were not destined to make it back and came across none other than Will Scarlett passed out in an alleyway beside a rather well known brothel. Killian approached carefully in case Will was still drunk enough to attack whoever tried to wake him.
Gods above he had to shake the man something fierce before he roused from his slumber, upon which he promptly lost the contents of his stomach.
“gods you reek! What have you been doing man? Taking a bath in horse shite?” Killian was half yelling half laughing thinking it was a simple matter of Will having been passed out long enough to have rolled around in the general muck of the street. But it was far from simple

“mmph, I didn’t pass out, some fucker hit me from behind ‘n took ‘em” Will grumbled, rubbing the back of his head with a wince.

Killian's laughter died instantly.
“took them?”
“took who!? Tell me what happened quick or I swear to the gods I’ll knock you into last week myself!!”

Will’s eyes widened at the threat and he couldn’t seem to get his words out fast enough;

“cap’n Liam and Emma! Some chap came up to us on our way to the Jackals Head in the wee hours of the morn’ and asked her who she was, t’was like he knew anyway. Liam told him to leave well enough alone but the fellow wouldn’t take no for an answer and that was when three others jumped us. One of the bastards hit me from behind, and the last thing I remember before he hit me again was seeing Emma with a pistol held to her head and Liam with his hands tied.”

Fuck! There was no amount of cursing that could equal his emotion Killian hated that his gut instinct had been right: Emma being forced to go home wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened and he felt like he might be sick with fear for the both of them.

“Is there anything you know, anything you could have left out that could lead us to them?! Please! tell me you know something useful!” Killian was so frantic he hardly cared if he sounded insulting

“Calm yourself mate, I'm not good for nothing… the one giving the orders got real mad when one of his men called him ‘Morgan’… threatened to cut him out of the profit… threatened to cut out a few other things too…”

“Get on with it Will!!!” Killian couldn’t get the information out of him fast enough

“one of ‘em had a key hanging out of his pocket with a 5 on the tag and he had a real fresh tattoo of a compass on the back of his hand. that’s it though I'm afraid.”

Taking a deep breath, he tried to take Will’s advice and calm down, but his heart raced like a hummingbird’s wings.

“you’ve done well Will, it’s not much but it might be enough… can you stand mate?”
offering his hand to help Will out of the gutter he pulled him up once he grabbed hold.

The key was the best clue Will could have given. And hopefully the number corresponded with a room somewhere in town. They’d have to retrace their steps, but it was a lead nonetheless.

Killian hastily ordered Will and Wolfe to search every tavern and inn respectively, anywhere with rooms to rent. It wasn’t until the two of them had left that Killian realised that ‘anywhere’ also included some not so respectable establishments
“fucking hell, good thing I didn’t leave Will to search the bloody brothels.” He mumbled to himself.

Chapter Text

They each searched through the night, meeting up once or twice to report their coming up empty. Killian didn’t want to let himself think about how much worse things could get and in his haste to find another place to search, he almost missed the glint of the brass key catching the lamplight as a tall wisp of a man walked past him.
A key, with a number embossed on the tag… a five !! but where was the tattoo!?? Please, gods above, let me find her… and there it was, just peeking out from under the man’s ragged coat sleeve, the unmistakable point of a compass.

He could have jumped for joy at finally having something concrete to follow. And follow he did; all the way to the sirens den, a brothel off the main promenade.
He’d owe Will more than a few drinks after all this was done: hell, he’d owe him his life.

Walking into the establishment offended every sense he had. He wasn’t really one for places like this (not that he was any kind of saint). One of the seedier brothels he had entered in the course of his search, he was almost enveloped in the scent of ale, opioids, tobacco and the typical invasive tang of sweat and other bodily fluids. The very out of tune band played some kind of bawdy shanty and he made his way across the main hall blending in easily with the young sailors enjoying their time onshore.

He found the stairs easily and walked past each room number, right to the end of the hall, where number five was situated. He stooped hoping the key hadn't been left in the lock and was thankful when he peeked through and was given a view of the table at the back of the room. Two rough looking men were sitting across from each other arguing in hissed tones as if not to wake another occupant. There was no sight of Emma or Liam and even though he had no idea who else may be inside and how well armed they were, he hadn’t come this far to stand by and do nothing.

He stood, removed his coat, checked his pistol was loaded (tucking it safely away as a last resort) and drew his sword. Lining up the right spot to kick the door he knew he had to be swift and successful or he may as well just knock. He kicked with everything he had in him, the door snapped out of place and Killian was immediately met with the sight of four men, all considerably larger than himself.

To take on four brutes at once, good lord he could never win…he felt a pang of fear at being so outmatched but tried to drown it out with bravado

“at least this’ll be a challenge eh gents?” he mocked, eyeing each of them trying to spot a weakness or a sign that one would attack

they stood firm and Killian felt if he didn’t make a move soon he might freeze in place. He lashed out with his sword and the metal flashed in the candlelight upon his stroke. The one he struck happened to be the one with the tattoo and Killian had managed a sizeable gash across the man’s face and neck, the man let out a gurgle, choking on his own blood. Killian realised he had swung with enough ferocity to open his windpipe (horrible way to go he thought). The other three stepped into action and things became a blur of slashing and punching.

A few seconds later he heard a sickening crunch and felt blood trickling over his lip, but fortunately the draw back the man took before he hit Killian again was just long enough for him to run him through, the floorboards now slick, glistening with blood.

Two down he thought grimly.

The onslaught was relentless and he was taking a beating, he could hardly breathe and was sure he had a few broken ribs. But he fought smart, conserved as much energy as he could and despite his injuries managed to even out the fight, killing the third with a thrust through the spine. Killian found the sound of metal hitting bone nauseating and the resulting spinal fluid leaking from the wound was far worse a sight compared to blood.

The final assailant was the largest of the four and based on Will’s description, this one was Morgan.

“ye fight like a demon from the pits of hell, but you’ll nae be likely ta best me boy!” Morgan spat his words out viciously.

Morgan was playing with him like a cat toying with a mouse. Killian knew the only thing keeping him going was the need to see his brother and Emma safe. After that he didn’t care. He’d die here if that’s what it took but he would see them safe, gods help him.

Sizing Morgan up, he tensed his muscles ready to lunge with all he had left. Before he could even make a move Morgan had drawn and cocked his pistol.

“ye move; ye die… simple as that. Don’t reach for your pistol Boy, you’ll be dead before ye touch it.”

So after everything I still can't win Killian thought.

‘NO!’ his inner voice shrieked… FIGHT! You have no other chance! They have no other chance!

Morgan was a man of his word. As soon as Killian charged there was a resounding ‘BANG’, and a puff of smoke from the gun. But it didn’t matter; Killian's blade had pierced through Morgan’s abdomen so violently that he had been pinned on the wall in such a way he looked like a gruesome addition to a butterfly collection.

That was the last thought Killian had before everything went black.

 

*********************************

The gunshot was deafening and Emma’s scream when Killian fell was stifled by her gag. Liam’s own scream froze in his throat as he strained against his bonds trying to break them. Oh god don’t let him be dead.
Liam was regrettably rather useless in the moments that followed and by the time he had come to his senses, Emma had already moved her way across the room to fetch a dagger that had been dropped on the floor. Her skirt was covered with blood and she was moving the dagger closer with each crawl forward. His hands had been tied in front and when the dagger was within reach he cut Emma’s free from behind her back, she did the same and they each cut the ropes tying their ankles.

Emma moved at a blinding speed once she was free. Clearly having some medical knowledge, she switched her emotions off and got to work. She tested his state of consciousness first and he when he failed to respond she checked his airways and breathing. Liam heard her sigh with relief and thanked every god for each breath Killian took thereafter. She turned Killian on his side and he seemed to breathe easier. So began the arduous task of tending his injuries. She immediately tore the hem of her skirt and used it to bandage the defensive wound to his forearm (thankfully it wasn’t deep enough to hit any major blood vessels but it was still bleeding profusely) she then did the same to the gash across his chest and the bullet wound between his shoulder and collarbone. the only other visible injury was the small knife sticking out of Killian's right thigh. Emma didn’t pull the knife out as Liam had expected, she used more material from her petticoat to create a ring which she placed around the blade and then bandaged around the entry point to hold the blade steady.

“where’s the nearest healer!” her voice commanding

It took Liam a moment to realise that she had spoken to him and his recall moved slowly until he finally reached the answer

“the apothecary… down the road” he stammered.

“Alright then… we’ll need to carry him. I need to keep his leg steady, that knife could have hit an artery so I need you to take the rest of his weight, but you need to be careful and watch his breathing for any changes, he may have broken a few ribs.”

He couldn’t seem to be able to form a reply of any kind and stood still as a statue until he heard Emma screech his name

“Liam!! Liam!!? I know you’re going into shock but I need you to focus! please! we have to get him help or he might die here on the bloody floor!”

He had to do the impossible. He had to detach himself from his brother’s peril, he couldn’t fail Killian now… there was no room to be cowardly. He forced a deep breath and moved towards Killian's head and lifted him from beneath the arms (Emma lifting his legs at the same time).

They walked in a slow shuffle. The hardest part was getting down the stairs but eventually they made it out onto the street and headed straight to the apothecary. Liam had seemed to snap back into action and led the way.

They reached the wooden porch of the apothecary and Emma kicked the door to knock rather than setting Killian down. Being so late in the night the owner and his wife came down to answer the door still in their bedclothes.

“we’re so sorry to disturb you at this time of night, but we are in dire need of your help”

who could turn Emma away? They’d have to have a heart of stone he thought.

The owner introduced himself simply as Sanders and showed Liam and Emma where to set Killian down. Sanders' wife busied herself preparing salves, hot water and fresh bandages while Emma and Sanders himself discussed his little brother’s injuries.

**********************************************
Emma could have collapsed with relief the moment the apothecary door opened, but she had to stay strong. Killian was far from being out of the woods and she didn’t know how advanced the owner’s skills were compared to her own.

Once Liam had been left to the care of Mrs Sanders, Mr Sanders (like most medical men She dealt with) tried to suggest she stay away and let him work, but she was having none of that and he accepted that her abilities were enough to serve as his assistant.

After resetting his nose without an issue, Sanders suggested once again she leave him to his work and when she refused again she realised it was simply due to the fact that he planned to remove Killian's bloodstained clothes to see the true extent of his injuries.

Once his shirt and breeches had been removed, Emma and Sanders made fast work of cleaning the dried blood from his skin. With each swipe of the cloth the underlying bruises became more evident. His wounds now cleaned looked far worse.
Sanders assessment of Killian's condition was satisfactory in comparison to Emma’s own and taking the lead she suggested that while he was stable they stitch each smaller less threatening wound so there would be less chance of infection.

Emma had only just started to worry that Killian hadn’t woken yet as she searched for the tools they would need to repair the damage; however as soon as Sanders poured alcohol on Killian’s injured forearm, he shot up with a bloodcurdling scream. Emma dropped her leather bundle of instruments with an awful clatter and ran out of the back room, straight to his side. Sanders was trying to hold him down and it wasn’t until Killian caught sight of Emma that he stopped trying to throw punches.

“Killian! oh sweetheart, it’s all right, you’re all right, we’re all safe… we’re trying to help you, I need you to be calm while I get you something for the pain.” She fretted over him and was caressing his forehead trying to comfort him.

His eyes met hers and he managed a pained smile and a ragged breath before managing to whisper;
“Did you just call me sweetheart?”

Emma’s cheeks flushed bright red and considering how awkward things had been between them lately, had it been any other time she might have slapped him. Instead she only managed an indignant huff before going to find the Ozian poppy seeds.

Soon after administering them, Killian slipped back into unconsciousness. Sanders handed Emma a needle and thread and they began the gruesome business of stitching each cut deep enough to require it. Killian woke a few times during the process and passed out again just as quickly, his mind unable to process the pain despite the poppy seeds. Eventually they had stitched every wound and decided that the knife embedded in his thigh needed to be dealt with next.

Emma picked up the thick leather belt on Sanders medical tray and applied it as a tourniquet above the wound and then prepared to apply pressure once the blade was removed.
In a few seconds the air of calm was broken… Sanders had slowly extracted the knife but the blood which followed once she loosened the belt was clearly arterial and he struggled with the internal stitches needed to mend the nick to the artery and not wanting to see Killian lose any more blood she moved Sanders out of the way and stitched it herself stopping the bleeding.
Sanders completed their work by cauterizing the knife wound and the laceration to his forearm and applying the salves his wife had prepared. They then bandaged each wound they could, ensuring there was enough pressure to contain any further bleeding.

 

~*~

It had been hours since they had arrived at the apothecary and there was one thing left to do. Remove the bullet. Emma couldn’t risk giving him more poppy seeds and he was becoming more lucid by the minute so they had to work quickly. When the time came to sterilize the wound Sanders gave Killian a piece of wood to bite down on and his muffled shrieks broke her heart.

Then came time to remove the ball and once again her smaller, more delicate hands were needed. She admired how brave Killian was, he tried so hard not to scream each time she edged the bullet closer to the surface and she saw involuntary tears roll down his cheeks as he bit down on the wooden piece anticipating the end of the extraction.

When it was all over, Killian had tried to speak but it came out as a pained wheeze; Emma simply shushed him and when he held out his hand she took it and held on like it was the last thing stopping her from floating away. Eventually Liam came in and sat with Killian for a while before Sanders returned and suggested they move Killian into the guest room where at least he would be more comfortable.
After carrying him upstairs, Emma took up vigil near his bedside. Every few hours she checked his bandages for signs of bleeding and watched the laborious rise and fall of his chest. She must have fallen asleep at some point because she found herself lying on a small cot in the corner; Liam now seated in her place beside Killian’s bed.

He looked half dead while he slept. His pale skin looked clammy and was mottled with neatly stitched cuts and masses of bruises in shades of purple and green. His face was a little swollen and he had two black eyes (a result of the broken nose) and after a secondary examination Emma suspected at least three cracked ribs. She thanked the gods her mother had fostered her interest in healing from such a young age or Killian might not have survived.