oh my god this is one of the dorkiest things i think i’ve ever written why did it get so ridiculous
AND I HAD ENTIRELY TOO MUCH FUN SETTING UP THE BEACH SCENE JUST PLEASE SOMEONE DRAW THAT
also i’m sorry for posting this at ass o’clock
—like seven inches from the midday sun
It was unseasonably hot, and to make matters worse, the air conditioning in the apartment had gone out a couple of days before, meaning that Emma had started the day covered in sweat, a problem that only promised to get worse; she’d spent several minutes that morning staring in sorrow at the weather forecast, where the sharp-dressed meteorologist person had declared that today would be another hot one, folks, and not a cloud in sight.
She’d spent the last two days living in the sheriff’s office or the diner, but Regina had pitched a fit at her regarding last month’s electric bill — of all things to suddenly become a real mayor about, it was funding for the police department she went with? — so she was forced to set the thermostat around 77. She would’ve fought it, but Regina would poke around if she got annoyed, and if she found out that they had no air conditioning at the moment, she would use it as a reason that Henry had to come stay with her.
(In fairness, Emma had given Henry the option of staying with Regina until they got the air fixed, but he hadn’t been especially thrilled with the idea. The amount of ice cream they had purchased — to “lessen the horror” — immediately before the discussion definitely had nothing whatsoever to do with it, she was sure.)
"Oh, screw it," she sighed, using the condensation on her water glass to cool her forehead down. "Let’s go swimming." Henry brightened up a lot at that, but Mary Margaret made a strange noise. “What?”
"Nothing, it’s just…" she started, glancing at David in a way that made Emma deeply suspicious, “well, the beach? Are you really sure?”
"What’s wrong with the beach?" Henry asked innocently. "It’ll be fun!"
"Yeah, but," David said, but couldn’t seem to come up with a legitimate excuse. His wife stepped in.
"We don’t have anything to wear to the beach," she said hastily.
"Really," Emma replied flatly, and rolled her eyes, standing up and gesturing for Henry to come with her. "I guess you’ll just have to sit this one out, huh?"
David almost managed to hide the flash of panic on his face before Emma could see it, but she and Henry left before he could backtrack.
(Parents. None of them had any reason at all to think he would even be at the beach, for god’s sake, let alone interested in joining them! Was this what it felt like to be a teenage girl going to her first dance?)
"Not so fast!" she shouted, catching Henry by the shirt as he began to careen into the water, and tossed a bottle of sunscreen at him. He heaved a great, melodramatic sigh but applied it anyway, grumbling about her delaying his swimming, and slipped away like an eel the moment she had finished with his back. "Hey, wait, you have to let it dry! Henry!"
She gave up halfway to the water, because he was already diving in.
They weren’t the only ones who had decided that the day was just entirely too hot; she spotted Dr. Whale (obviously, she thought, he would be where the half-naked women are) with the previously-MIA Ruby, Mother Superior and the nuns-slash-fairies in hilariously conservative bathing suits, six of the dwarves (who had meshed with the nuns’ group due to Leroy and Astrid), and even — winning the award for ‘most ridiculous swimsuit of the year’ — Mister Gold. (Emma was reasonably certain he’d stolen it from the set of Sweeney Todd.)
She also couldn’t miss Henry’s current playmate in the water, Jefferson’s girl — Paige? Grace? She couldn’t remember which one was real — as well as the Mad Hatter himself, watching in more terror than she felt was strictly warranted.
She absolutely positively definitely wasn’t looking for anyone else in the crowd.
(They had been in Neverland, at sea, for how long, and she’d never seen him take off his — )
(That was a crime, somewhere.)
She growled at herself, tossed the beach bag down and pulled off her oversized t-shirt (stolen from David), throwing it on the cooler as a mark of her territory, and running full-tilt into the surf to make Henry’s immediate future miserably embarrassing.
While he was, officially, Not An Outsider anymore, he still felt a whole damn lot like one, especially when he followed the noise around to the beach and found a picturesque scene of half the town frolicking about, swimming and sunbathing and making sand… pickaxes with each other, not a care in the world.
He was already in a bit of a grumbling mood, and imagining what their reaction would be if he walked in — probably, he thought sourly, akin to the way they’d react to a shark — didn’t help it any.
He had just decided to go back to his ship and pretend not to hear any of it when he spotted them.
Emma and Henry, in the surf, playing a sort of game that involved him being on her shoulders and wrestling with someone else on someone else’s shoulders; he stepped closer to see who they were with, and physically flinched.
He had met Jefferson both before and after he’d been sent to Wonderland, and it was nice — really, it was! — to see that he’d been reunited with his girl. It was much less nice to see him playing a game with an Emma Swan who didn’t appear to, from this vantage point, be wearing anything.
Part of him wanted to go back to the ship and start drinking, part of him wanted to barrel in there and hit the hatter, and part of him wanted to go down to the beach and show her how much he definitely didn’t care if she had a thing for basket-cases like Jefferson.
(As opposed to basket-cases like himself.)
He chose option three.
It had been a long time since he’d gone swimming just for the hell of it anyhow.
Emma was torn. On the one hand, it was nice that Henry was opposed to hitting girls; on the other hand, Grace and Jefferson were slaughtering them at Chicken because of it.
Did she coach him into attacking a little girl, or did she give up and let them win?
The answer became moot when she glanced back at the beach to see the person she had definitely not been looking for in the state that she had definitely not been hoping he’d be in, talking to a slightly-dazed-looking nun; Grace, already a ruthless fighter (Emma had already made a mental note to take her under her wing), took the advantage and shoved Henry forward, unbalancing Emma and knocking them both down.
When she came up for air, Grace was cheering loudly and even Emma’s cold, hard, competitive heart warmed a little at the way Jefferson was looking at her. All other things about the man aside, he did really love his kid, and she could respect that.
"All right, all right, fine," she growled, shrugging to her feet, "we just got our as— butts kicked, didn’t we, kid?”
"Yeah," Henry replied, but didn’t look at all put out about it. In fact, he was looking at Grace in roughly the same way Jefferson was.
(Oh no, she thought. Henry was about to hit puberty. Oh, no.)
She decided that she needed a breather, leaving Henry and Grace to tag-team Jefferson, and went back to her campsite — she was pretty sure she could trade some of the grapes in her cooler for one of the beers in Whale’s — via a route that accidentally just so happened to take her by the nuns’ cluster of umbrellas.
(It was adorably easy to spot Astrid’s: among the austere blue and black umbrellas, there was one giant Betty Boop winking at her.)
"You really don’t know how to swim?" he was saying, and a bit of high-pitched, nervous laughter — the sort that was reserved for kids in middle school, not nuns! — replied.
"No, I mean, you see… we were fairies in the Enchanted Forest, so…"
"Ah, I see," he said, as she rounded the corner of the umbrella forest. He was holding out his hand to the nun. "Care to learn?"
The poor girl looked absolutely overwhelmed.
And so Emma had to rescue her.
(She was the sheriff, he was a pirate, he was harassing innocent civilians, and so it was simply her civic duty to interrupt.)
"Careful there, I hear Whale takes his position as Town Lech really serious,” she said sardonically, and the way he turned to her was suspiciously not-startled. “He’ll fight you for it.”
She tried — really, she did! — to tell herself that she didn’t like the way his eyes raked over her body. It might have worked better if she hadn’t been giving him a slightly-better-hidden version of the same look.
"Oh, will he?" he replied jovially, smirking. "You’d love to see that fight, wouldn’t you, Swan?”
Do not picture that, she told herself.
"I really wouldn’t love having to arrest both of you," she countered, but it didn’t faze him.
"So quickly you go to the restraints," he quipped, leaning in a little bit. "All you need do is ask, love, I’m accommodating.”
Emma was saved from coming up with a response by Mother Superior’s pointed cough, which caused both of them to jump. She glanced sideways to the little nun he’d been chatting up before, to see her looking crestfallen, and winced.
"I was on my way to my things and I — um — got sidetracked," she said quickly, wincing again. What was it about conversations with Hook that always made her forget about everyone else?
(What a stupid question.)
"My apologies," Hook said, bowing slightly to Mother Superior and not even bothering to come up with an excuse. To the little nun, he winked. "Another time, perhaps?"
Her only response was a little, faint nod.
"So," she declared, making for Whale and Ruby (having decided to forego the trade altogether and just beg), "what brings you out of your cave?"
He gave her another one of those looks, those thirty-second-long glances, like he was a pane of glass away from an array of jewels. “Terribly nice day it is,” he replied, smiling in a way that may have been genuine or may have been teasing. “I’m of the belief that one should always go out and… experience the sights on such a day as this.”
"Mm-hm," she said, crossing her arms. "And harassing the nuns?"
"Who said I was harassing them?" he countered quickly, with feigned confusion. "Delilah seemed to have no quarrel whatsoever with me."
"Because she’s a nun,” Emma blurted out, “she’s not used to the outside world, you can’t just spring — ” she cut herself off.
"I can’t just spring what?" he asked airily, but went on anyway. "And if she isn’t used to the outside world, well…" He grinned like a shark. "Someone has to teach her, doesn’t he?”
She blinked at him. “You know nuns can’t have sex, right?” she deadpanned, and he laughed.
"There’s a difference between what is allowed and what is possible, darling,” he confided, but shrugged. “But, to be honest, I’d rather not take a virgin, if it’s all the same.”
"They tend to fall in love with you?"
"They tend not to be very good, to put it bluntly,” he replied honestly, and she opened her mouth to protest, but a surprised laugh came out instead.
"Well, you can’t blame her for that,” she cried.
"Absolutely not," he said, shrugging, "but the fact remains. There is also the, as you said, danger of a young, inexperienced girl falling in love with me, but I find that’s less common than you’d suspect."
"Not all young women are so gullible?" she asked, smirking.
"You know," he replied dryly, in a much lower voice as they were almost to Ruby’s umbrella, "I am capable of being honest. If a man has to lie to bed a woman, he needs to re-evaluate his status as a ‘man’.”
The conversation was cut off as they reached Ruby’s umbrella and almost ran straight into a wide-eyed Dr. Whale.
"Well, hello," Whale said blankly. "Emma. Didn’t expect to see you here.”
It took her a moment to process how to react to Dr. Frankenstein — who had slept with her mother — openly ogling her. Before she could, Hook coughed pointedly, much like Mother Superior had, and Whale jumped, turning to him, blinking rapidly.
She rolled her eyes at the both of them and took a seat in the shade next to Ruby, who had watched the entire scene unfold with an unhealthy amount of amusement. “You have beer, right?” she asked, determinedly ignoring the glare-fight that was occurring right beside them and absolutely failing (again!) to banish the mental image of Hook and Whale duking it out right here on the beach. In the sand. All… shirtless, and… sweaty.
"Yeah, in the cooler," Ruby replied, waving at it without taking her eyes off the two of them. "Ten bucks on Hook," she whispered.
"Please," she answered, rolling her eyes again, "that’s such a sucker’s bet."
"I dunno," she mused, "Vic is scrappy, he’ll surprise you.”
"Hey, I’m just saying," Whale said, cutting off their discussion; he was shrugging and trying the ‘adorably earnest’ look she’d seen him try on David once or twice. "I’d have to be blind.”
Hook’s reply was that same cold glare, but Whale seemed determined to either make an ally out of Hook or else dig his grave, because he kept going.
"Yeah," Ruby whispered, "that is a sucker’s bet, isn’t it?”
"You’re rather ungrateful to someone who took it upon himself to defend your honor,” he muttered darkly.
"You assaulted the doctor,” she told him, smirking as he attempted to uncuff himself from the lifeguard stand. “Be glad I’m not taking you back to the station.” She grinned at his unamused glare and stalked back to the water.
Maybe she could get Whale and Ruby involved in another round of Chicken…
"No, I do not bloody know what bloody sunscreen is, you daft idiot!”)