prompt: Emma is confessing to Snow that she might have feelings for Killian and he happens to overhear it.
I approached this kinda loosely, but I thought it felt more natural!
— — —
"So, are we going to talk about it?" It’s the voice of Snow—or Mary Margaret, he supposes—filtering through the trees.
"Talk about what?" Emma’ returns after a moment, sounding annoyed. His lips twitch, turning his neck in the direction of their voices; they must not know he stands nearby, filling a satchel with berries.
This was only their second day in Neverland, but it had quickly become clear that the lot of them couldn’t agree on anything, even when it came down to meal preparations.
Regina had wanted to use magic, but Gold surprisingly argued against such, warning of the price of magic no matter the size of its use. The rest of the group agreed, to Regina’s chagrin, and decided to take turns to go foraging.
Emma and Mary Margaret volunteered to take the first round, and Hook, the only one familiar with the fruits and plants of the island, agreed to go along, despite being decidedly frustrated with having been reduced to a berry-picker.
Still, though he wouldn’t admit it, it did feel nice to be given a job to do. Even if it was only differentiating between which fruits would cause a rash, which would kill you, which would try to eat you itself, or the few that were actually edible.
The two women split off once Hook had determined the area secure, deciding on setting traps and luring animals in rather than trekking for miles. But he’d been following a patch of berries that had taken him in a full loop and now he is back where he started, listening to the two women prattle on with interest.
"Talk about—can you hold this for a second? Thanks," Mary Margaret continues, followed by the sound of grunting and the twisting of rope. Her voice lowers, but not enough that he can’t hear her. "Talk about…Hook."
Well, if his attention hadn’t been piqued before, it certainly is now.
"There’s nothing to talk about," comes Emma’s reply, after a noticeable pause. His heart slams wildly at that, and he stares down at his chest in surprise, possibly as if to scold it.
He already knows what Emma thinks of him, he should go before—Oh, hell, he thinks to himself, grabbing a nearby branch and hoisting himself up as quietly as he can. He shimmies across the bark until he’s angled above the two women, fiddling with their makeshift animal traps.
"That was interesting, back at the docks, is all I’m saying," Mary Margaret presses, tilting her head. Emma doesn’t say anything, but she does look off, breaking the gaze of her mother. "Especially given the last conversation you two had. In Rumplestiltskin’s jail cell, I mean."
Hook almost gives himself away with a laugh. He had been so inexplicably pissed that day; he distinctly remembers being angry with himself for not being angry with her. At least with Cora or Regina, he always knew why he was angry. With Emma, he never understands anything. Maybe it’s because he understands her a little too well.
"Yeah, well, people change. Or subjects do. Can we move on?"
"I’m just asking if you trust him," Mary Margaret says eventually, her voice careful.
Emma looks to her mother at that, eyebrows high on her forehead. “Yeah, I do. Don’t you?”
His chest swells at that, a smile digging deep into his cheeks. He can’t recall the last time he’s been truly trusted.
"Not really," Mary Margaret replies slowly. "Emma, honey, he’s a pirate.”
"And I’ve been to prison. People don’t change unless you give them the chance to." Emma’s hands fly to her hips. "I didn’t, until you and Henry. Besides…you know, this is kind of rich, coming from you."
Hook’s eyebrows are so raised they nearly reach his forehead—Emma Swan, defending his honor. Not that she ever would if she knew he was listening.
Mary Margaret looks up from the trap she’s nearly finished securing. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
"How many second chances have you given Regina?”
She sighs. “That’s different.”
Emma snorts, folding her arms as her mother stands, dusting off her hands. “Yeah, how?”
"When I first met Regina, she was different. She was happy, kind, generous…I know, underneath it all, that girl lives," Mary Margaret replies wistfully.
Emma is silent for a long while, her hands sliding up her arms as she considers her words. Hook wonders if she’s cold; he should’ve warned them that the temperature in Neverland is finicky. “The Hook I met is different, too, Mom,” Emma replies quietly. “On the beanstalk, I mean. He’s in there. I don’t know, I can’t explain it. But I do know that he gave up trying to kill Gold to help us find Henry. We didn’t even ask him to. That’s…worth my trust.”
Hook swallows, his chest tightening. Somehow, that’s simultaneously the most painful and the happiest thing he’s heard in nearly three centuries. Mary Margaret arches her neck, eying her daughter. “This wouldn’t have anything to do with—no, nevermind.”
"Have to do with what?" Emma snaps, suddenly sounding irritable.
"I said nevermind, honey," Mary Margaret says. Emma’s frown only deepens as she paces the jungle floor. "Well, just…the way you two look at each other. It…worries your father. And me."
Emma nearly trips at that, her neck whipping around so fast Hook thinks he hears it crack. His chest still aches, but a satisfied smile is tugging at his lips. “The way we—come on. This isn’t ‘The Love Boat’, okay?”
Mary Margaret emits an indiscriminate noise, nodding to herself. “I don’t have feelings for him,” Emma adds a moment later, sounding cross.
"I didn’t say that you did."
"You might as well have," Emma grumbles. "We should go, no animal is going to walk into our snares with us arguing around it."
Mary Margaret looks as though she wants to say something, but as if thinking better of it, closes her mouth and nods, scooping up her bow and arrow sling. The two women slip off, leaving Hook up on the branch, alone.
He lets out the breath he didn’t know he’d been holding, leaning back into the tree. He runs a hand through his hair, trying to steady his racing heart as he processes what he’s just heard. Emma Swan, defending him to her own mother, who thinks they look at each other in a certain way, a dangerous way.
A smile curls up his lips, he laughs quietly to himself, almost deliriously. Somewhere not far overhead, a bird takes flight.
— — —
Later, over dinner, he catches Emma’s eye as he passes the bushel of berries across the table to her. He smiles, and she raises an eyebrow.
"What?" She asks suspiciously.
"Yes, darling?" He replies coyly.
She licks her lips, narrowing her eyes. “You’ve been acting weird since we got back from the island.”
His grin grows, though she didn’t think it was possible. “Have I?”
"You’re looking at me funny," Emma hisses, lowering her voice. "You keep smiling. What gives?"
"Swan, you’re not telling me you don’t like the way I look at you, are you?” He replies just as lowly. Emma freezes, her hand hovering over her fork, mouth falling open.
"What did you say?" She whispers, leaning in closer across the table, as if suddenly afraid he’d heard her and her mother speaking. She glances to her parents, but they’re engaged in their own conversation, speaking in hushed tones. Next to them, Regina rolls a stray berry around on her plate, looking bored, while Gold, supposedly not hungry, stands off on the railing, his eyes on the shore.
"I can’t recall," Hook quips, eyes widening in mock surprise. "I had a feeling it was important, though.”
Emma opens her mouth and abruptly closes it, her eyes turning to slits. “Shut up,” she says finally, dropping her napkin onto her plate and standing up abruptly. He follows in suit, and the sound of their makeshift cargo-box-chairs scooting back against the deck attracts the attention of the others.
The two stand, faced off, as if waiting for the the hat to drop, breathing hard.
"Emma?" Her father tests, his tone hesitant. He flicks his gaze between the two, his lips curling.
A second too late, Emma shakes her head as if broken from a trance, and looks to her father. “It’s fine,” she says finally. “I’m going to bed.” And then, right as Hook’s mouth opens on cue, a joke poised on his tongue, she snaps her eyes back to him, a finger jabbed in his direction. “And you save it, buster.”
With that, she spins around, her hair flying wildly after her as she storms off, her stomping down the stairs below deck echoing up. Mary Margaret and David exchange nervous glances, but Regina only dabs her napkin to her lips, eyebrows raised with amusement.
They all watch her go, and a moment later, Hook too turns on his heel and crosses the deck, marching up to the helm with the grin that stays with him well into his later slumber. That night, for the first time in years, he sleeps soundly.