The sea in the Underworld is stagnant yet it’s nothing short of chaos. Killian tries hard to focus on the still water, on the slight breeze in the air, or at the very least, the smell of salt from the sea, but all his mind registers is the redness of the sky, the eerie silence, the ever-present mist, and the feel of death in the air.
He notices a set of footsteps behind him – it’s not Emma, he knows, he can feel it – so he decides to ignore them, not in the mood to talk to any fellow dead person. Until that very much living person stops beside him, her shoulder lightly brushing his.
“Glad to see your brooding habits are still intact” Regina mumbles, a sort of forced snark in her voice as compared to the natural way it flows through her usually.
Killian turns to her then, catching her exhaustion in the way her shoulders are dropped, her eyes blearily staring ahead without the usual fire in them, and the frown lines appearing on her forehead.
A flash of guilt courses through him at the sight – knowing it’s this entire mission to save him which has caused her, Robin, and gods the lad down here. He wants to thank her, but also wants to call her stupid (the way she does) for coming down to save his undeserving arse, but he doesn’t.
Instead - “What is a sailor to do on his ship at night, but brood?” he tries to make the situation lighter.
“Oh really?” she quirks a perfectly shaped eyebrow, her painted lips forming a teasing pout “No beautiful company for the night?”
“Not when you’re on sea, love”
She nods to that, once again staring at the dull horizon and Killian can’t help but tease, “Aren’t you the one brooding right now, Your Majesty? You’re probably familiar with the habit; I’m sure it got lonely as the Evil Queen - all by yourself…plotting revenge on Snow White”
Regina huffs and then sighs, her voice dropping an octave when she speaks, “I never really brooded. Rage is a very powerful motivator”
“No argument on that” Killian tilts his head in agreement.
“It sort of numbs you” she continues, much to Killian’s surprise, “Filters your mind and corrupts your soul, whispering all these lies of how the darkness provides comfort when it truly just destroys you and leaves you empty”
Understanding and sympathy swarm through Killian, as he offers a shaky smile to Regina whose own lips lift up in a sheepish smile, realizing she just confessed so to the pirate.
Killian moves his hand to procure his flask and offers it to her, the feel of the liquid burning through her throat, he hopes, will help the self-loathing slip away. A bit.
She rolls her eyes at him and he gives her a pointed look. Snatching the flask from him she opens the cap, “I don’t do rum” she states before taking a swig.
When she catches the self-satisfied grin on his face, she shoves the flask to his chest and crosses her arm, looking the other way.
They stand there in silence for a few more moments, the two of them with such a complicated history – flirting (or rather manipulation), working as allies, betrayal, attempts to murder, torture, working together in Neverland, and finally, something akin to…something.
His gaze refocuses from the woman to how calm the water is down here, perfectly contrasting the inner turmoil which is currently eating him alive. He knows he made the right decision the night before - letting Liam move on and deciding to live out his future with Emma.
He’s also a step closer to forgiving himself for all the horrendous things he said and did to the people he loved under the influence of the dark curse, for feeding the whispering voices inside his head and for being weak.
They’ve all certainly seemed to forgive him, their presence here being evidence of that.
(The Charmings truly are a stubborn bunch)
But as forgiving and supportive Emma is of him, of seeing the good in him, she still doesn’t truly understand the kind of demons he fights with himself every day, the way the darkness is always at bay, trying to find a way to seep through.
“Why do we deserve to live?” he blurts out, turning his head just in time to catch Regina’s eyes widen.
“What?” she shakes her head.
“We’ve tortured and murdered countless people in the name of revenge; some of them who might actually still be here. Why is it then that we, who’ve destroyed countless lives, and even hurt the ones whom we love the most, deserve to go back up there and live our happy endings?”
Regina looks down, remembering the conversation with Gepetto in her office, After ruining everyone else’s happy ending, what makes you think you deserve one of your own?
Memories of the way bright red hearts felt in her hand, the beating of them against her palm just before she applied some pressure and crushed them, watching the way the life left in people’s eyes and they dropped in front of her. The way bodies piled up, the smell of rotting flesh and the ground painted in red as her eyes searched for one person.
The way Snow used to look at her, not anger or sympathy or rage, just disappointment and pity and sadness.
And finally the way Henry used to look at her – disappointed and hurt.