The Prince and the Pirate
Early on a Saturday night, David Nolan walked into the Rabbit Hole. It could be said that he slumped in, but he’d been raised a farm boy with impeccable manners and had lived a few years as a prince with even more rigid protocols. David didn’t slump anywhere, bar or not. He strode forlornly.
Dark and smelling of spices with a base of liquor and cigarette smoke, the Rabbit Hole wasn’t very full for a Saturday night. A few tables were empty, and the bar on the far end of the room only had four occupants. A couple on the right side were a few more nibbles from eating each other’s faces off. A man sat on the far left, crying into his sandwich. The last one sat in the middle, in front of the beer taps. His back had been to David, but the cool glint of silver metal in the dim light gave away his identity.
David honestly should’ve seen it coming. It was a bar, for crying out loud.
They’d greeted each other in their customary manner:
“Your Royal Unpleasantness.”
They exchanged a few more pleasantries; Hook asked after the family before David complimented his attempt at adapting his wardrobe and offered to buy him a spiked collar and black nail polish. David ordered and finished his beer, which was then followed by a whiskey and then another. Hook grudgingly revealed his struggle to find something suitable to eat, which was followed by a small argument about misleading names of “hamburger” and “chili” and was concluded by David ordering him a bowl of spaghetti to keep things simple.
Once Hook got over his trepidation over eating a bowl of what looked like human viscera, David got a few (three) new refills of whiskey, which were consumed throughout an explanation of what spaghetti was, how “Ruebens” were not evidence of the society’s descent into cannibalism, and how walking around with a hook might not be the best idea these days.
That, of course, set off the hooked half of their little duo, who decided to broach the reason why David had forlornly strode into the bar, which up until then had been under an unspoken agreement to not be brought up. And since David was pretty much half a sip from hammered, he didn’t have much inclination to ignore the problem that’d been weighing on his bones.
“So what happened at home?” Hook asked.
David’s eye twitched. “I…don’t know what you’re talking about. Not everyone needs to wallow in their rim—mim—misery at a bar.”
“You’re in a pub on a Saturday night, mate,” Hook deadpanned. “You’ve finished off a beer and a few glasses of whiskey in about thirty minutes, and you are, in fact, about five years older than your daughter. Tell me, Your Gracelessness, is your crown made of gold and denial?”
David glowered at him. He was never going to live down the fact that he was the last to get his sea legs on the Jolly Roger. “No, it’s made from the bones of insufferable pirates.”
Hook chuckled. “I see she gets the sauciness from both sides of the family then.”
David wanted to punch him again.
“Which brings us back to the original problem of what happened to your family that necessitated a dip in the Seas of Inebriation,” Hook said.
David sighed and dropped his hand on the bar top in frustration, warranting a worried glance from the bartender, who’d been pointedly refusing to make eye contact with the pair all night. “And how did you come up with that conclusion?”
“You’re a family man,” Hook replied confidently. “You are only ever shoved out of your princely composure when your family is somehow compromised. And since nothing is on fire, exploding, causing earthquakes, or conjuring clouds of strangely-colored smoke, I’m hoping my assumptions of it simply being some sort of change in the emotional dynamic rather than any physical danger are correct. What say you?”
Hook: 3, David: 1. Damn it.
“I need more whiskey.”
“I’ll take that as a vehement ‘yes.’”
“Shut up, Jones.”
“I don’t know whether to feel complimented that we’ve graduated to the usage of my real name or if I should be worried that I’ve pushed enough of your buttons to necessitate it.”
“You’re not going to leave this alone, are you?” David sighed.
Hook smiled through a mouthful of spaghetti and shook his head. When David rolled his eyes, Hook took his turn to sigh. He dropped the smile and stirred the noodles in the bowl. “For all our talk of simple alliances, Your Majesty, I do consider you and your family to be my friends.”
David’s scowl slid right off at Hook’s earnest expression. Damn it. He should’ve stuck with beers.
“What happened?” Hook asked once more.
“The curse is what happened.”
“Barman! More whiskey for the prince, if you will.”
David leaned heavily against the bar, shoulders slumped as he raked his fingers through his hair. “I’m a failure as a father. Even before she was born, I did a crap job of fathering.”
Hook shared a pointed look with the barman, who’d come up with the whiskey bottle again. “Best leave the whole thing here. That’s a good man.”
“I-I know I shoun—sound—”
“—but it is what it is, you know?” David chuckled and held the dark golden liquid up to his eye. “I-I-I… Every scenario I had in my head while Snow was still pregnant got completely thrown out the window when I heaped this mac—mash—massive responsibility on Emma’s shoulders before she was even…born. Playing with her, teaching her things, spending time with her, watching her grow up—I just… I-I-I messed it all up. I can’t be the father I wanted to be ‘cause in trying to give my daughter her best chance, I put her through hell and built up the worst image of myself possible.”
“So you abandoned her to save her?”
David tore his eyes away from his drink long enough to look at Hook, who had a fairly normal expression. Dark eyes with the ever-upturned corner of a mouth that would always hint at the truly messed up person hidden under the deviously roguish personality. He looked at David like he always did: amusedly waiting and calculating any small detail or opening to somehow to use to his advantage. But his words and tone belied that expression, that mask.
Pirate, past, and pesky attitude aside, David trusted Killian Jones. He’d sailed under the captain, understood and respected the motivations behind decisions, and acknowledged that Jones was genuine in his newfound journey to distance himself from his quest for revenge. He was a good man, much like another pirate David had met long ago—when a trip over the ocean exposed him to a brilliantly insane drunk who dared to bow to the whims of the sea only to tie her shoelaces together.
And who was he—a farmer posing as his dead, prince-twin—to judge a man by his past rather than by his present actions?
“For all intents and purposes, yes,” David said. “I did. But I didn’t…mean to…” He sighed, trying to find the right words so he didn’t sound like a complete screw-up. “If your ship was under siege and your wife had just given birth to your daughter, what would you have done? You would’ve sent her off the boat because the…tempestuous seas are a lesser evil to men who would kill her on sight.”
“Tempestuous seas indeed,” Hook muttered.
“Snow and I chose to let her go,” David continued, either completely ignoring Hook’s comments or unhearing of them. “Even if Regina’s men weren’t trying to kill us, what kind of life would we have lived under Regina’s curse? She probably would’ve been separated from us, put with another family. All of us would’ve lived with this…gaping hole in our hearts, never knowing why. Just…lost forever.”
“Well, you seem to have made peace with this decision, mate,” Hook said, swirling his half-empty bottle of rum. “I don’t know why you’re having this…crisis.”
“It doesn’t mean that I like it.” David took a long gulp of his own drink. “Emma is…a miracle in so many different ways. Regardless of who I am in relation to her, I admire who she’s become—not in spite of anything but because of who she is as a whole, how she’s handled herself and how she continues to stand in the face of everything that’s happened to her and just…sucker punch it. Right in the face. Much like I did you, remember?”
“Yes,” Hook answered blandly.
“She’s… She’s my hero,” David concluded warmly, smiling down at his whiskey. And then it faded again. “But the thing is…I betrayed her. W-We set up a plan—Snow and I. We talked about it and we agreed to be her friend, to get to know her. But what… I can’t even… The entire basis of our friendship is essentially and unintentionally built on my inability to be a father. I-I screwed up, and I made her pay for it, made her suffer, and then fix it. She—She’s my daughter, and I love her with all my heart. I look at her and see this admirable woman, but I also see the broken little girl that I…betrayed.
“I don’t even know where she grew up, what school she went to, what kind of friends she had. I don’t know what her first car was, who taught her how to drive. Oh, my God, do I even know her favorite color? It’s blue, right? Or is it purple? I know it’s like a deep, vibrant color—royal blue or violet, either one of those. Damnit, what if it’s red? I don’t—what—I just… And what’s worse is that even before the curse, I heaped that responsibility of being our savior onto her shoulders before she was even born. What kind of—what father does that? What kind of man am I?”
Hook sighed and thoughtfully tapped the bar with the curve of his hook. “You said you were getting to know her as a friend. Why are you worrying about trivial details like school or…transportation?”
“Because it’s important! These were…milestones in her life, and we—her parents—have missed them all!”
“I highly doubt Emma would begrudge you for missing those—”
“See—but you couldn’t possibly know that!” David protested, fully turning to face Hook.
Hook threw his head back and laughed. “As if I have no idea what it’s like to be abandoned by parents? David, mate, prince or not, you’re a bloody idiot.”
David blinked, completely thrown. “What—”
“The fact that Emma is willingly living in the same place as you, talking to you on a regular basis without any bitter tones, and generally not rebuffing your attempts at friendliness—or, hell, not punching you every time she sees you—is a sure sign you’re doing well enough in your endeavor to rebuild your relationship,” Hook said. “Being abandoned—right from the very start—takes its toll on a person, yes. And while that hurts no matter the motive, knowing said motive does help.”
“Emma knows, but I really don’t think it makes a difference. She said almost the same thing before, when we first brought up a legitimate conversation as daughter and father and mother.” David threw back the rest of the whiskey and slammed the glass back onto the bar, barely even wincing at the burn; he was plastered.
“Did she really say that? Or did she simply react the way Emma Swan would react to finally meeting her parents? Emma bloody Swan who’s cynical enough about life on top of her disbelief of magic? Don’t make me reiterate my previous statement.”
“You’re an idiot.”
“I’m not an idiot!” David cried.
“Tell me, Deputy Nolan, Prince Charming, Prince James, Prince David, shepherd—whatever the bloody hell your name is,” Hook said pompously as he poured David a new glass, “has Emma ever called you her father? Has she ever acknowledged the fact that she is your daughter?”
David immediately relaxed and smiled a little. “She… She called me ‘dad’…back when, uh, you’d run off with the bean and we all thought Storybrooke was gonna implode.”
Hook flinched at the memory but pushed his point. “Then your problem’s sorted. She considers you her father, regardless of the heat-of-the-moment situation. Even if she may harbor some resentment over the past, it helps to know why you did what you had to and to have you there, caring about her now, showing her you do love her regardless of whether or not she’s in your arms as a babe or as a twenty-eight year old woman.”
David sighed, crossed his arms on the bar, and then dropped his forehead onto his arms. “I don’t know how I wound up talking to you about this.”
“You’re drunk,” Hook replied simply, taking a swig of his rum and then another bite of his spaghetti.
“So what did happen to your mother and father, Jones?” David asked.
Hook swallowed his food, and David lifted his head from his arms. They turned and stared at each other, one with disdain at the subject change and the other with commiseration.
“They’re dead and therefore irrelevant,” Hook answered. He took another long drink and forked up another bite. “And, once again, you are drunk and are therefore undeserving of such a tale.”
“Don’t make me punch you again.”
“There are many walls around you. Use those.”
“I’d rather deface you rather than private property. I’m still a deputy.”
“That means you should be protecting the community, and since I haven’t committed any crimes recently, I’m still in the percentage of people you should be protecting.”
“You’re off your bloody rocker.”
“I’m so drunk.”
“And somehow simultaneously more annoying and more tolerable.”
“Should I be worried that made sense to me? I probably wouldn’t have understood that if I was sober.”
“A testament to either your drunken state of mind or your lack of intelligence in your sobriety.”
“You’re still not allowed to date my daughter.”
“You need more of that whiskey. Barman! More whiskey here, please!”
“No, no, no, no, no, no.” David shook his head. “I’m already a few sips from slurring. That’s a bad idea.”
“I think it’s a brilliant idea.”
“It’s still not gonna convince me that you’re allowed to date my daughter.”
“The odds of me dating your daughter is low enough as it is without your input. You don’t have much to worry about, honestly.”
“You still identify as a pirate?”
“Then there’ll always be something to worry about.”
“I said ‘much to worry about,’ not ‘anything.’ Pay attention.”
“I’m drunk. The only thing I’ll pay you is the fifteen punches I must owe you at this point.”
“And we’re back to the punching?”
“It’ll always come back to the punching. Your face should be used to it by now.”
“Mate, I’ll never be used to your intense fascination with making contact with my face. Honestly—you need to control yourself.”
“And you need to get over yourself.”
“You need to get over me, sweetheart. I’ve got enough on my hands with the women in this town. Besides, what would the missus say?”
“She’d say, ‘Stay the hell away from my daughter.’”
“Oh, come now. Emma’s a big girl. If she wants someone to stay the hell away from her, she’ll damn sure put up enough walls to ensure her wishes are met.”
David sighed and began spinning the empty glass. “Those damn walls. I hate those things.”
“Those are some sturdy buggers.”
“Yep. And I’m pretty sure I gave her the bricks to build them.”
“Don’t take all the credit,” Hook said, patting his back and taking a long sip of rum. “I’m sure there are other men to blame.”
David scowled. “Fucking Neal.”
Hook nearly spat out his rum. He managed to swallow before bursting into laughter.
“Shut up,” David snapped, snatching the rum bottle and taking a pull. “I understand his aversion to magic considering his background, but that’s no excuse to leave my daughter in jail. And I know he didn’t know she was pregnant, but that just makes it so much worse.”
“He’s a ponce.”
“Whatever that is, I’m sure it’s—” Another sip of rum. “—spot-on.”
Hook plucked his bottle from David’s hands and took a sip of his own. “This town’s just full of extremely problematic people.”
“You have no idea,” David muttered, waving to the bartender for another drink. “I should buy her something.”
“What?” Hook frowned at the non-sequitur and slashed his hand across his throat at the bartender, who was two steps from refilling David’s glass.
“Emma,” David answered morosely. “I should buy her something. Spoil her a little—the way I wasn’t able to.”
“She’s a grown woman,” Hook said. “I doubt she’d want stuffed bears or pretty dresses anymore.”
“Which brings me back to the issue of me not knowing her well enough,” David sighed, scrubbing his face with his palms. “Apart from buying her chocolate ice cream, I have no idea what to treat her with.”
David scowled. “I don’t think she’d be very fond of that. Emma’s not big on jewelry, and what she has already carries some massive significance. I can’t just pluck something from a display. Besides, Snow is better at that sort of thing.”
“Well, what’s something you think she’ll like and appreciate?” Hook asked.
“I could buy her a new gun.”
“I would sleep better at night if you didn’t do that.”
“I could build her a house?”
“You are in no state to be handling anything even resembling an axe or hammer.”
David groaned and dropped his head into his hands. “I suck at this.”
“Well, don’t beat yourself up too much,” Hook said with a smile.
“It doesn’t even have to be something to be bought. I just… Out of everything else, all I want is for Emma to be happy. I want her to be at peace.”
“Sounds like you want to kill her.”
“Shut up, Jones! Peace doesn’t mean death! I mean, it could just be letting her take a vacation from sheriff-ing—”
“That’s not a word.”
“—or asking Regina to go take a vacation in the woods or…” He trailed off as his eyes glazed over and a small smile formed on his face.
“What?” Hook asked, waving a hand over David’s eyes. “What is it?”
David’s eyes suddenly came back to focus in a way that made Hook worry. “We could find the white stag.”
“If we find it, we could ask it give Emma the blessing of peace!”
“Won’t we need Emma with u—”
“We’ll find it in the woods and then bottle the blessing and bring it back to Emma!”
Hook’s eyebrows shot up. What the bloody f— No. No. He was a pirate. He was over three hundred years old. He had traversed many realms. Nevertheless, he still had lines that would not be crossed. Killian Jones was not nearly drunk enough for that. There was not enough treasure at the end of that journey, not enough amusement to be found in any of it, and while there was a beautiful woman in the mix, said gorgeous woman would probably beat him with a bedpost rather than rattle a few with him. Chasing after bloody deer with a drunken prince/deputy at night was leaps and bounds over his lines.
“Mate, you are drunk. I refuse to risk incurring the wrath of your wife and daughter by having anything to do with this.”
* * *
Hook pushed David into a booth and dove in after him just before Emma barreled into the Rabbit Hole, and as soon as the doors were blasted open, her eyes immediately zeroed in on him. As they always did and should, of course, but….you know. He’d prefer the passion in her eyes was less infused with rage and more saturated with lust.
“What—the—hell?!” Emma growled, stomping to their booth.
“Hi, Emma,” David said, carefully enunciating his syllables.
Hook smiled up at her sweetly. “Hello, darli—”
“Go nail your tongue to a floorboard.” Emma turned back to David, missing Hook’s grin and silent laugh. Her voice smoothed into a casual tone. “Do you know what I’ve been doing for the last hour?”
David cleared his throat and tried to sit up straighter. “Uh—”
“I’ve been on the phone,” she said, smiling down at them patronizingly. “Ruby called. She was a little worried about the two vaguely familiar men arguing over the lawn decoration displays at Game of Thorns. I couldn’t even hang up when Marco calls and says he caught sight of a pair of idiots buying giant bags of nuts and bouquets of wildflowers and were heading into Gold’s shop.”
Hook suppressed any inclination to act. He was torn between wincing in shame and bursting out laughing at the absurdity of the night itself.
“You know who calls me next?” she continued, lightly punching David in the shoulder—as if she was just relaying a funny anecdote. “Archie! Apparently, he was walking Pongo when he spotted a couple dark figures throwing nuts and flower heads all over the edge of the forest and singing some sort of sea chanty.”
Hook rubbed his face tiredly to hide the grin he couldn’t stop from spreading across his face.
“You know what happened when I called Gold and asked what these two unidentified boneheads bought?” Emma continued, chuckling and shaking her head. And then her good humor evaporated. She leveled a dark glare at both of them. “They apparently got some enchanted deer food to mix in with the flowers and the nuts and caused a stampede that nearly hit town!”
“What’s the problem here?”
They all turned to Leroy, who strode up with a pat on Emma’s back, a nod at David, and a scowl at Hook.
“These two idiots almost led a stampede onto our doorsteps.”
Leroy frowned, his head jerking back in disbelief. “What?”
“They’ve been here.”
“What?” Only she asked it in such a way that the intonation of the question mark was absent, so it sounded more like: “What.”
Leroy shrugged, and Hook was surprised David managed to hold it together. God knows he was about to lose it.
“Yeah, sister. Bitched at each other at the bar, then started making the rounds, asking every table who they liked better—nearly announced a swordfight to prove it, but we managed to stop that before they started whipping stuff outta their pants.”
Emma’s dumbstruck expression lasted two seconds before her eyes narrowed and shifted back to Hook and David.
“We haven’t lied to you, love,” Hook pointed out, easily picking up on what she was doing in spite of his drunkenness.
“Hey!” Leroy called over the din. “Who did we agree was better? Nolan or Jones?”
Some called out “Nolan!” Few called out “Jones!”
Emma could only stand there, blinking at Leroy, David, Hook, and the rest of the bar. None of them were lying, and she wanted to stab someone’s eye out. Granted, David and Hook weren’t lying ‘cause they hadn’t said much of anything, but the fact that Leroy wasn’t lying either…
She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and dropped her head. She was too tired for this fuckery. No one got hurt, nothing was damaged, the stampede was herded back into the woods. No laws were broken.
When she straightened up and opened her eyes again, she glared at David and Hook. “I hope the both of you got stabbed in the ass by some antlers,” she said flatly before turning and walking out. She didn’t look over her shoulder as she called out, “And I’m totally telling Mom!”
Hook grinned as soon as the doors shut behind her.
David sighed and slumped forward, his forehead on the table. “Snow’s gonna kill me,” he slurred.
David looked up at Hook, who continued to grin.
“She called her ‘mum.’”
Letting the smile grow and linger for a bit, David sat back and cleared his throat.
“Progress,” Hook said.
“You two idiots owe me,” Leroy interjected, sliding into the booth beside David. “Lucky you did that stupid competition before you left.”
Hook reached up and signaled to the bartender. “Oi! Three pints!”
“No, no more for me,” David called. “Just two.”
“Now you decide to stop,” Hook said, chuckling. “After we were nearly mauled by almost the entire deer population of Storybrooke.”
The two men glanced at each other before bursting into laughter.
“I should’ve let Emma lock you up,” Leroy grumbled.
“You would’ve been right there with us, trog,” Hook said, still laughing. “The flowers and nuts were your idea, after all.”
“Via phone!” Leroy protested.
“Still helped,” David chortled. Then he sighed again and patted Leroy’s shoulder. “We’re like a bad joke.”
Hook grinned, patting the table. “A dwarf, a pirate, and a prince walk into a bar…”
“And a pirate died,” Leroy finished, glowering at Hook. “I don’t know what kind of designs you’re trying to carve into our Emma with that Hook of yours, bilge rat, but I got my eyes on you—me and my brothers, all fourteen of our eyes.”
The bartender set the two pints on the table and Leroy grabbed his, got up, and walked back to his brothers.
“That took a menacing turn,” Hook said, taking a sip.
“But it’s true enough,” David said, narrowing his eyes at the other man, though the intimidating effect was absent due to his drunkenness. “I won’t actively try to hurt you anymore.”
“But the warning stands, Hook.”
“And we’re back to the moniker.”
“I know Emma can take care of herself, but that’s only gonna be the tip of the iceberg.”
“Flirt and make as much googly-eyes at her as you want, but know that if you take one step too far…Snow…will shove a sword so far up your ass that you’ll lick metal every time you swallow.”
“That’s a pleasant picture.”
David looked around, searching for something. “I should’ve ordered a drink,” he muttered. He picked up the ketchup bottle on the side and held it up. “A toast—for sturdier alliances and your terrible wooing skills.”
Hook made a face at the ketchup bottle and at David himself. “As if your skills are any better. You were robbed by your wife.”
“But I caught her.”
Hook smiled. “I won’t need a net.”
“Toast or I punch you again!”