“First beanstalk? You never forget your first."
Emrys didn't take his eyes away from the rest of the length of the beanstalk as Hook spoke. He gave a defeated huff instead of a reply as he realized that they still had a long way to climb, and the fact that he already had a previous fear of heights wasn’t helping. The wind whirled around the two of them, but his accented voice still cut clear above it.
"Most men would find your silence as off-putting, but I love a challenge." he continued with a wide grin as he paused to look at the other man. Emrys sighed and slowly turned his head, meeting his eyes. "I'm... concentrating,” he said simply, but he could see that he was still staring, expecting him to say more. “Besides,” he added, “I'm not one to make conversation with traitors." Emrys snapped and continued climbing. Hook raised his eyebrows. “Your words wound me, Emrys!” he said in a dramatic voice. "I’d never betray a prince. Such bad form.” Emrys gritted his teeth. “I’m no prince, pirate.”
He cocked his head to the side. “Your family line would say otherwise.” he remarked.
“That's not it, anyway. You're afraid to talk; to reveal yourself.” he mused as he climbed up to his level. “Trust me, things would be a lot smoother if you do." Emrys almost scoffed, but decided against it, figuring it would be best to tread carefully. "You should be used to people not trusting you."
"Right, the whole 'pirate' thing, as you’ve already mentioned. Well, I don't need you to share; you're something of an open book." Hook said with pride behind his words. Emrys chuckled in spite of himself. "Am I?"
"Quite." Hook replied, stopping once more to look at him. "Let's see: You volunteered to come up here because you were the most motivated. You need to get back to a child." He rolled his eyes. "That's not perception, that's eavesdropping." Emrys said as he grabbed a large vine for balance. Hook looked him dead in the eyes, his voice becoming a tone of mock pity. "Ah, but you don't want to abandon him the way you were abandoned." Emrys stopped, his eyes darkening. "Was I?" he said flatly.
"Like I said, open book." Hook responded. "How-" Emrys began, but stopped himself before he could ask the question. "Never mind. Just focus on getting up to the top." he said as he resumed climbing. Hook complied at first, but noticed that, as Emrys moved his foot over, he was about to place it on a loose foothold. "Wait, don't use that one. It's not sturdy enough; try the one next to it."
"I think I'm fine." Emrys muttered. Hook shrugged and continued to move, but kept a watchful eye on the other man as he prepared to step on it. "Suit yourself."
Emrys wrapped the vine around his hand to secure his place as he moved to the foothold. He yelped in surprise as the it broke beneath him, subsequently causing him to slip down and the vine to snap on his hand. He started to fall down through the air, but suddenly stopped and felt something else around his hand. He looked up, his eyes widening in surprise when he saw what- or rather, who- had stopped him. "Maybe this pirate is worth listening to." Hook said with a smile as he pulled him back up. Emrys quickly grabbed the nearest vines, his knuckles turning white from how hard he was holding on. "You’re welcome." he quipped before taking almost no time at all to resume climbing. Emrys grumbled, but followed suit. "Shouldn't be much farther now.” Hook said over his shoulder.
Emrys got down from the circular stone ledge with Hook close behind and landed on the cold floor, happy to be on solid ground again. He looked around at the small courtyard they were in, taking in his surroundings. The sky was now a dark, gloomy gray, a clear contrast between the light blue skies below. The horizon was dotted with dead, broken trees among the wispy clouds. Skeletons and bones were scattered among displaced stones and bloody swords on the floor, complimenting the already frightening setting. “What happened here?" he asked. "This is where the final battle took place." Hook said grimly. He looked back to Emrys when gleaming crimson color strewn across his hand caught his eye. "Give me your hand,” he said. "What?" Emrys asked, pulling it away from his outstretched hand. "Your hand, it's cut. Let me help-"
"No, it's fine." Emrys cut in.
"No," he said sharply as he pulled his hook around his wrist, "it's not."
He flashed his eyes but let Hook turn his palm face up, revealing a long gash from the base of his index finger to his wrist. "So now you're gonna be a gentleman?" Emrys sneered. "I'm sorry, which one of us saved the other one's life today?" Hook retorted with a smirk as he moved closer. "Besides, giants can smell blood. And I'm always a gentleman." he added before he returned to examining his wound. "Must've happened when that vine snapped around your hand." he murmured and took out a flask. He pried off the cork stopper and poured some of the flask's contents directly onto the gash. Emrys grimaced as his hand tensed upon impact. "Ah! What the hell is that?" he asked through gritted teeth. "It's rum," Hook explained, "and a bloody waste of it." He set the flask down and took one of the long rags he had been wearing before from around his neck. Wrapping one end of the rag around the base of his wrist to ground it, he started to wrap the rest of it around the wound and went over the plan.
Emrys felt his cheeks go red (mostly from indignation) when he realized that he was paying less attention to his explanation and more on the way Hook’s fiery, enticing blue eyes were trained firmly on his own green ones while he worked on the cut.
"...wait for the giant to fall asleep. And when he does, we'll sneak past him into the cave. That’s here the treasures are, and where the compass lies.” Emrys’ mind came back to the present as he realized the other man’s mouth was around the end of the rag, pulling on it to tie it against his hand. Emrys quickly closed his hand and pulled it away. “Thanks, but you’d better watch it next time.” Hook grinned. “Next time? Because trust me, mate, I don’t mind being even more coquettish with you.” He gave him a quick but noticeable once-over, his tongue grazing over his teeth as he continued. "Or did you actually mean you'd like me to bite more often?"
A heated, angry red blush crept up the back of Emrys' neck. He shoved him back with his right hand, but focused back on the plan before he could say anything else when he saw the sly smirk on Hook's face.
“We don't have time to wait for him to fall asleep. We need to use that powder Mulan gave us." Hook shook his head. “That’ll be risky.”
Emrys tilted his head with a questioning look. “Riskier than waiting for a giant to fall asleep?” he asked. A toothy smile crossed Hook’s lips. “Point taken. You may not be a prince, but you’re a tough lad.” he teased as he took the burlap pouch from his satchel. “You’d make one hell of a pirate.”
He grasped the pouch, his eyes wandering down his good hand, noticing the large, faded red heart tattoo on the underside of his arm. It looked like a sailor’s tattoo, except a vine from the heart’s leaves was entwined around the tip of the same curved dagger he’d seen in Gold’s shop, and the scroll had MILAH written across it.
The dagger was going straight through the heart.
As he took the pouch from his hand, he nodded his head towards his arm. “Who’s ‘Milah’ on the tattoo?” he asked, looking back up at him. He wasn’t exactly sure why he was in the mood for conversation with him, but any information would help, seeing as how Hook’s loyalty to any one group (apart from himself) was rather fickle. He expected another suggestive remark, but the other man’s eyes averted his as he quickly shook his sleeve down to cover it.
“Someone from long ago.” he said gravely, as if saying the name himself out loud would be too much. He started to walk away, his face dark.
Emrys turned, looking at him. “He took more than your hand, didn’t he?”
Hook was quiet, mulling over a response. He finally turned around but avoided the question. “For a distrusting lad, you’re quite perceptive, aren’t you?” he questioned.
Thoughts of Nell flooded his mind. “Maybe I did trust someone. Once.” he snapped before walking past him.
Emrys quickly walked towards the large pile of fallen rocks, his heart hammering against his ribcage.
(He had to admit- he had felt a little heroic holding Jack’s sword in his hand and the magic compass in his pocket. Plus, facing a giant and living to tell the tale was definitely another mark to add to the ‘Heroic Deeds’ column, right after slaying a dragon, saving his son, breaking a curse and subsequently reuniting his… parents.)
Right now, though, the only thing on his mind was the maddening, possibly dead pirate underneath the rocks. His breath caught in his throat when he noticed the arm poking out from underneath. He quickly grabbed it and pulled him out, breathing an audible sigh of relief when he started talking again, even if 90% of the things he said drove him crazy.
“You’re amazing- bloody brilliant!” he huffed with a large smile as he looked up at him. Whether he wanted it to or not, a similarly wide smile spread across Emrys’ own face at his praise.
“The compass, may I see it?” he asked after a moment. Emrys paused, but pulled the compass from his pocket and extended his hand out to his view, keeping his fingers wrapped around it. Hook’s eyes flicked about its surface with wonder. “It’s even more beautiful than legend,” he breathed.
He reached out for it, but Emrys pulled it back and hid it away in his pocket again. Hook looked back up at his face, but nodded. “Come, let’s go.”
The long, gold chain coming from the wall had already caught Emrys’ eye. He could do it quickly, just chain his right wrist and leave him. He knew he’d get out, but they just needed the head start. He’d already asked the giant to watch him for 10 hours, then let him go. It’d be easy. But, as annoying as he was, he didn’t know if he could just leave him. Hook had already risked his life twice- once on the beanstalk when he risked falling himself to grab him, and again when he drew the giant away when they needed to knock him out.
I can’t take the chance that I’m wrong about him. I can't take the chance that I'm wrong about him. Ican'ttakethechancethatI'mwrongabouthim. he thought repeatedly as he reached for the chain, doing his best to drown out other thoughts. Before he could detain him, a blast of white magic knocked the two of them off of their feet and onto the ground.
Shit, Mulan! he thought as he realized that she must have been cutting down the beanstalk.
They tried to get up, but a series of loud thuds shook the room as the giant reentered. “You tricked me!” he roared as he started running towards them. Emrys shakily got to his feet. “Wait, no! I didn’t-“
He was cut off by the giant’s hand swinging down and knocking him off his feet again, this time sending him flying through the air and crashing down onto the opposite side of the room. He painfully pushed up on his elbows and looked around, seeing Hook carefully making his way towards the hole in the wall leading outside to Emrys’ right. He saw red. So much for "bad form". The room continued to shake as the giant neared.
He whipped back around and reached out for the sword that had slid out of his grasp, but something pulled him back before he could reach.
In a sickening moment, he felt something around his leg, followed by the feeling of being lifted up through the air. He was again back in the giant’s clutches, this time being held upside down. After a futile attempt at escape, he only had one option left, and it had already failed. He raised his shaky voice in another attempt to reason with him. “L-look, I didn’t trick you! I already told you, I only want to save my son. Just let me go, and I can stop what’s happening. You said it yourself- you’re not the bad guy here. Killing me isn’t going to do anything for you.” The only way he had escaped before was when he’d bit the giant’s hand, and with no way to do it now, he was starting to panic. The giant, however, just laughed. It was an angry sound without a hint of humor. “Your kind are all just the same.” A wave of dread washed over him as his vision went fuzzy once more.
The giant roared and pulled his hand back, releasing Emrys and causing him to fall to the ground, landing on his back. He opened his eyes and saw the large and spreading red mark on his knuckle. Emrys looked around, his eyes settling on Hook, who was holding a flintlock pistol in his hand that also had Jack written in golden letters on its side. “I’d hate the thought of you losing your head- unless it’s over me.”
Huh. Make that three times. Emrys thought to himself, still dazed and struck dumb from having a close brush with death.
Hook threw the gun back to where he had found it near a skeleton by the hole and ran up to him, grabbing him by the arm and pulling him to his feet. “Now c’mon, mate, we need to go!” he said as he made a mad dash towards the beanstalk’s top. He didn’t need a second invitation before grabbing a vine and hurrying down.
“Stop!” Emrys shouted as he jumped from the beanstalk with Hook behind him. He picked himself up off of the ground and quickly brushed away the dust and stray pebbles that were clinging to his jacket. He looked up, noticing Mulan lying on the floor and Snow- Mary Margaret- running towards him.
“Emrys! Are you okay?” she asked as she reached out to put her hands on his shoulders. It was definitely a foreign feeling- being shown affection and concern from his mother- but it was unusually natural all the same. He must have been a sight, too. His face was bruised, his hair was disheveled, and his boots were speckled with giant blood. She sounded so happy that he was alive. “Two earthquakes, being thrown across a room and then held upside down, and a jump from a beanstalk.” he recounted with a small laugh. “I think my brain’s still rattling around a little.”
Mulan got up off of the ground and picked up her sword from where it was lying beside the beanstalk, which now had a large dent in its side. “I did what he ordered, nothing more.” she said firmly to Mary Margaret as she sheathed her sword. “Did you get it?” she asked, turning her attention to Emrys. He nodded and took the compass out of his pocket, extending it out to her. “Now that we have it, we need to move. Pack up. There’s no telling if that giant will come after us- or when.” he explained. Aurora and Mulan nodded and walked towards their makeshift tent.
Emrys was about to go after them towards his own tent when he felt a hand on his arm. He sighed and turned. “What is it, H-” He stopped himself when he realized that he was staring into Mary Margaret’s equally surprised green eyes. “Oh, uh, sorry. What is it, Mary Margaret?” he asked slowly, not sure if saying ‘mom’ was the right call yet. “You told her to cut it down?” she asked. Her voice held nothing short of anger, and it was clear that she already knew the answer. His face heated up from guilt. He knew that it was a brash decision, and a selfish one at that. She had just gotten her son back after 28 years, and now she could have lost him again after only a couple of days. He struggled for any kind of explanation that could justify what he did.
“Yes. I couldn’t risk-”
“We go back together. That is the only way. Do you understand?”
It was almost funny. She sounded exactly like a mother, even though he didn’t have any experiences or memories to compare her to. She had the same knowing, stern tone that he could still recognize.
He pulled her into a hug and said a simple, defeated ‘Yeah’, hoping that it would be enough of an answer. She sighed. “Good.” They released each other after a few moments. “Now, let’s go get that dust from Cora.” Emrys nodded in agreement. “And go home.” he added. He smiled as she walked towards their tent, but it faded when he felt eyes on him. He turned his head, noticing Hook standing a few ways away, staring. His hand quickly flew up behind his ear. “Sorry.” he said tediously.
“I’ll take the first shift.” Hook volunteered. Emrys looked Hook up and down, seeing that he was serious. “And I’ll watch you.” he said firmly. Plenty of adrenaline was still coursing through him, so he wasn’t too worried about sleep. He smiled with an amatory look clear on his face. Emrys' heart dropped when he noticed the look paired with the silvery moonlight that was casting down on his black hair and high cheekbones. “You just can’t keep your eyes off of me, can you, Swan?” he said. “I’ll be sure to have my fist on you if you try anything.” he replied angrily. Hook gave a small smile. “How kind.”
As the rest of the group settled into their tents at their new camp, Hook and Emrys sat on opposite sides of the small campfire they’d made earlier. The tension was palpable, almost awkward- something that Emrys didn’t think was possible for Hook. He kept going over the events of that day, thinking through Hook’s motivations and actions. They were mostly heroic; life saving, even. But the one question that kept crossing Emrys’ mind was: Where exactly does Hook’s loyalty lie?
Emrys looked up. The sound was so quiet, he thought that his mind had made it up, until he realized that it had come from the man sitting across from him. “What?”
“Thank you.” he repeated. “You could have left me up there, but you didn’t.”
Emrys tensed up. “How do you know-“
Hook scoffed, cutting him off. “You stared at that chain for a good 20 seconds, Swan. So unless you were ogling something else for that length of time, which I highly doubt, then I think you were debating leaving me behind.”
Emrys stayed silent for a few moments before continuing, “I suppose I am an open book, then.” he murmured, albeit a little sadly. “Plus, I guess I should be the one thanking you. You saved me twice up there. Leaving you, well, that’d be... bad form.” he teased.
Hook stared at the flames as he smiled. It was a happy, genuine thing, even if it were just for that moment and that moment only.
The two of them were quiet before Hook broke the silence once more. “I’ve been meaning to ask, what’s that rope for?” he asked with a nod towards the brown shoelace that Emrys had been keeping tightly wrapped around his wrist.
He looked down at it, his breath hitching in his throat. “It belonged to… a friend. A good friend, actually. Graham. But he’s gone. Now it’s just a reminder.” he said lowly. He knew what Graham actually meant to him, of course, but he certainly wasn’t about to go telling Hook that.
Hook met his eyes, his own full of understanding. Emrys slowly realized why.
He brushed his coat to the side and pulled something square out of his pocket and into the dark. Emrys’ fingers brushed the pommel of the sword Mulan had given him ‘just in case’, as she had said. He squinted, trying to make out what it was from the golden firelight. Hook looked up, seeing that Emrys was staring intently at what he was holding. “Stand down, Swan. This isn’t a weapon. Not the usual kind, anyway.” He held the item out to his view. “Rum?” he offered. “Is rum your solution to everything?” Emrys asked warily, but took the flask. “Certainly doesn’t hurt.” Hook said with a shrug. Emrys hummed a small laugh.
“To Milah.” he said before taking a sip and handing the flask back.
Surprise flashed through Hook’s eyes, but was soon replaced by a tired, somber look. He nodded and took a sip. “To Graham.”