In the Velvet Darkness, Chapter 1

[SwanQueen] Emma Swan wakes up alone. Completely alone.
6 chapters. Maybe 7.

* * * * *

Friday morning

Stretching was the best thing ever, Emma Swan decided, as she balled her fists and rotated her shoulders, working the sleep from her tired muscles. She pushed her feet onto the mattress and arched her back off the bed, then flopped back down with a happy moan. She was considering drifting back to sleep when her stomach alerted her that it was hungry. The loud bubbling noise cut through the silence of the room and made her giggle. She pushed herself up and swung around, perching on the edge of the bed, listening out for her son, Henry, going through his morning routine, but she heard nothing. The house was dark and silent.

As she blinked herself into full wakefulness, she realised that there was no light at all in the room. Pushing the home button on her cellphone, she saw that it was much earlier than she’d thought, only 4.23am. Yawning, she looked around for something warm to throw over her thin t-shirt. Amongst the piles of clothes on the floor, she spotted a frayed college sweatshirt, a reminder of the person she used to be before Henry and Storybrooke and family. She’d liberated it from a one-night stand as she snuck out of a college dorm room in the middle of the night. She’d taken a couple of twenties from the girl’s purse for a cab, too. While she didn’t remember many names from her former life, she remembered places, and that had been Alabama, so nine years ago now. Time flies, she thought.

Leaving the bedroom, making sure to avoid the creaky floorboard by the door, she headed towards the kitchen, thinking about what she could eat which would be quick and easy. As she pulled open the refrigerator door, the lack of any light made her realise why it was so dark and quiet. Power cut.

She placed her palm against the milk. It was still ice cold. She put it on the counter, fetched a bowl and spoon, and looked at the array of cereal in the cupboard. When she lived alone, every box would have featured a cartoon character and contained enough sugar to rot her teeth. Now that she was a semi-responsible parent with a teenage son, she had only the good kind, the ones with fibre and wheat and fruit. She picked one at random, filled her bowl, poured her milk, and headed over to the sofa.

Sitting cross-legged, she reflexively picked up the TV remote before her sleepy brain reminded her that power cuts meant no electricity, not even for TV. She’d been in foster homes where the heat and power had been cut off for non-payment, and as an adult she’d illegally squatted in apartments with no utilities turned on, but she wasn’t sure of the last time she’d been caught up in an actual power cut. Boston, probably. And that made her smile, because it reminded her how good her life had become because she didn’t ever worry about making rent or paying the bills these days. She had a home of her own, a son, parents, friends, an on-off boyfriend who was a pirate in his spare time.

Killian. She would have to do something about him eventually. They’d been limping along for too long now, mostly because she felt like being with him was what she should do, but it was becoming increasingly awkward that he felt a lot more for her than she felt for him. When they started out, she had thought that she might fall in love with him in time, but that never happened. They were great friends and had been good fuck-buddies, at least in the beginning, and she did love him in her own way, but it was never going to be more than that. True Love needed two people, not one who was really, really persistent and sure of it. They were in an off period just now, the result of a huge fight over Henry. Hook had let him get drunk on rum, and Emma had reminded him that Henry was only fifteen and that Hook was not the boy’s step-father, and in fact had no real part in his life. That led to yet another fight about how Emma let Regina tell her what to do instead of Emma making her own decisions about Henry. Emma had ordered him out of the house, telling him not to return until he was ready to take back the accusation and apologise. That had been weeks ago, and she didn’t really miss Hook except as someone to have a beer with after work on the weeks when Henry was staying at Regina’s.

Regina Mills, Henry’s other mother. Another subject Emma didn’t want to think about at fuck-off o’clock.

Yawning again, she put her bowl down on the coffee table and let her head fall back against the couch. Now that her stomach was sated, she could afford a short nap before getting her son to school and heading into work and everyday life.

+

When she jerked awake again, it wasn’t daylight yet and the house was still silent. The digital display on the microwave was blank, so the power was still out. Spotting her cellphone lying on the coffee table, she checked its screen. 6.47am. Henry should at least be awake, but he used a clock-radio to get up in the morning, and the power cut would’ve silenced it.

Padding along the hallway of their single-storey home in her bare feet, she stopped outside his bedroom door.

“Henry, you awake?” No answer. She tapped lightly on the door. “Hen? There’s been a power cut, but you need to get up for school now, kid.” Still nothing. She pushed the door open and her heart rate kicked into high gear as she found his bedroom empty. The bed was perfectly made and there was no Henry to be seen. “Henry!”

Bathroom. He was probably just down the hall in the bathroom and hadn’t heard her over the noise of the shower. But the house was silent. No shower. She ran down the hall and pulled the door open, just to be certain. Other than the slow drip from the leaking shower head she had never got around to fixing, there was nothing. She peered into the sink. Completely dry.

“Henry!” She was starting to panic now. “Henry! Where the hell are you?” She went through the remaining rooms of the house, calling his name, even though her instincts told her he was gone.

Jesus, what if he’d run away? She was pretty sure that he’d been seeing someone—her money was on Grace, Jefferson’s daughter, but she wasn’t certain—so that was a possibility. She remembered what it was to be fifteen and driven purely by hormones. But, no, she reassured herself, her son would not stay out all night with a girl. Henry was raised better than that. Mostly by Regina, she had to admit. Their son was a good boy. Her heart sank. A good boy who had run away to Boston to find her when he was only ten.

Crap.

Think. Think. She’d been a bounty hunter. She could do this. She could track people better than anyone else in town. She could assess a person from a quick look at their possessions. Okay, so that was a plan. Check out his stuff, see what it told her.

She went back to his bedroom and did a quick survey. Backpack open on the floor, so he hadn’t left early for school which, given how hard he studied, hadn’t been entirely out of the question. Yesterday’s clothes thrown on the chair in the corner, so he’d got dressed again at some point, something clean. Sneaking out to meet a girlfriend was looking like a good bet. He was fifteen. Fifteen-year-old boys snuck out all the time to meet pretty girls and, when they came home, their mothers grounded them until they were at least fifty-three. Wait, cellphone on the nightstand. Okay, panicking a little more now, because no teenager went as far as the bathroom without their phone. Maybe he had a second phone, a burner for private texts he didn’t want anyone else to see. No, no. He wasn’t a felon. He didn’t think like a mark. He didn’t think like her, either.

Who did he think like? His mother. He thought like Regina. Nurture over nature. Her kid, but Regina’s son. Regina. She would have to tell Regina that Henry had run away, and she had no idea why because, last night, she had ‘helped’ him with homework, mostly by annoying him with questions about what he was doing, and then they’d watched one of the old X-Men movies and they’d been laughing and joking and he had been fine. He was fine. He didn’t drink—Hook incident aside—and he didn’t take drugs and he never got into trouble because he was their good, good boy.

The car. He could drive. She’d been teaching him to drive stick in the Bug ever since his birthday. She was going to give it to him when he turned sixteen, even though Regina thought they should buy him a compact automatic which would be safe and practical and boring. Emma raced through the house and yanked the front door open. The Bug and her police cruiser were in the driveway. And—shit, shit, shit—Henry’s bike, the thirty-speed, second-hand racer he’d saved up for from doing yard work (mostly for Regina) and loved more than any other possession, was still there.

Fuck this, she was calling Regina, who would definitely be up already because she always got up at six, she claimed, and Emma had always suspected that it was a lie because she’d seen Regina at the crack of dawn before, and no-one looked as good as that without serious time spent on clothes and make-up. Five-thirty, minimum, Emma thought. In any case, Regina would never mind being disturbed for anything to do with her boy, her little prince.

Maybe something had happened and Henry had run home to his mother. Emma wouldn’t judge if that were the case. Some things, he discussed with her, but other things could only be fixed by Regina because Emma was still more the best-friend-Mom than the Mom-Mom. That was okay, because they worked together. They were a team. Co-parents. Best friends, even. Their friendship was something Emma would never have seen coming in a million years when she first came to town, but shit happened. Shit like curses and Neverland and stealing Regina’s happy ending and being forgiven and there was no way in hell Regina would forgive her for this.

As her thumb hovered over Regina’s number on her phone, her stomach really lurched as she realised that the street, like her home, was completely dark and silent. And that wasn’t possible. Despite the townsfolk having once been fairytale characters and inhabitants of an Enchanted Forest, Storybrooke was a fairly regular small town. At a quarter to seven on a weekday morning, people should be on its streets, heading to work and school, walking their dogs, going about their regular, non-fairytale day. But no-one was in sight.

And the silence was too silent.

“Henry! Henry Mills, you come out here this instant!” she called out into the nothingness. “Henry!”

Phone still in hand, she marched out of the house, the dewy grass of her front yard cold and wet against her bare feet. Not only were there no people, there was a total absence of noise. No dog barked. No car passed. No bird chirped or insect buzzed. Storybrooke was completely silent in the gloom of the pre-dawn winter morning. For a second, she wondered whether she’d gone deaf, but that was a stupid thought because she’d heard herself call Henry’s name, heard her feet on wooden floorboards inside the house, heard the front door open. Reaching out, she slapped her hand against a nearby lamp post and felt both relief and dread as the sound of skin on metal reached her eardrums.

Something was very, very wrong.

“Henry!”

She sprinted to her neighbours’ door and banged loudly on it. Peter and Judy, an elderly couple who bickered all the time but loved each other desperately, were early risers. They wouldn’t mind the intrusion so that Emma could check that she hadn’t gone completely and utterly insane.

The door swung open as Emma pounded on it, a scene straight out of some crappy 1980s direct-to-video horror movie, and the same eerie silence greeted her. She didn’t have to go inside the house to know that they were not there. The cold sweat spreading across her body told her all she needed to know. But she went inside anyway. It was neat and tidy, as if its owners had simply cleared everything away and, instead of heading up to bed, just walked away, vanishing in the night.

“Henry! Come on, kid.”

She ran to the next house, and the next, and the next, and each of them was as empty as the one before. They were like show houses in the creepiest subdivision ever, offering the façade of a home with none of the warmth which came from real families living there.

“Henry!”

Oh God, this couldn’t be good, and her mind raced with serial killers and kidnappers and, worse, magic things that she didn’t understand. She wondered why she didn’t ever listen to Regina when she was trying to tell her magic stuff. Why was that a lesson that she never seemed to learn?

Think. Think. Deep, calming breaths.

She needed to get back to her house for her gun and her badge because she was the Sheriff and there was some serious shit going down. But, Henry. Where the fuck was Henry? She couldn’t worry about everyone else when she didn’t know what had happened to Henry. Fuck the gun and the badge. She ran to the end of the street.

“Henry!”

The intersection was as deserted as everywhere else. No matter what direction she looked in, there was nothing and no-one.

“Henry!” She was getting close to tears. “Come on, Henry! Don’t do this!” She leaned her head back and howled his name as loud as she could. “Henry!”

She was still carrying her phone, she realised. Maybe someone else was out there. But even as she speed-dialled Regina’s number, she knew that it wouldn’t be answered. She kept calling out Henry’s name as she tried other numbers—her parents, Hook, Ruby, the Sheriff’s station, Archie, Kathryn, every landline and cellphone in her contacts—but no-one answered.

She sank to her knees on the cold asphalt and let her head fall forward.

Maybe it was a dream. Yeah, that was it. She was having a nightmare, and Regina had been right about what would happen if they ate junk food at bedtime, and Emma would never do it again if only she could wake up and go through to her son’s room and find him lying there, late for school and snoring like nothing was wrong. Any second now, she’d wake up and they’d have toast for breakfast and she’d walk him the whole way to school, and she wouldn’t even care that having your Mom drop you off when you’re fifteen is the least cool thing in the world.

And then she heard it. Of course she heard it, because there was literally nothing else to hear in the oppressive silence except from her own ragged breathing.

It was rubber on road, the squeal of tyres moving at speed. It was coming towards her, so she turned her head in the direction of the sound and waited. And she actually did cry, fearful, laughing tears, as she saw Regina’s black Mercedes pull up in front of her.

Regina looked as bad as Emma felt, unkempt and wild-eyed as she yanked the car door open and dropped to her knees in front of Emma.

“Where is he?”

Emma shook her head.

“Goddammit, Emma, where is my son?”

“I don’t fucking know!” She squeezed her eyes against the tears and the anger and the frustration and tilted her head towards the sky. “I woke up and he wasn’t in his room and his bike’s still there and there’s no-one here at all except you and me and I don’t fucking know.” And she looked at Regina, who was rage and fear and desperation in a pair of incongruous silk pyjamas and a cashmere winter coat, and Emma shook her head, her shoulders heaving as she cried without tears. “I just don’t fucking know.”

Regina grabbed her by the upper arms, shook her until Emma looked at her. Emma braced herself for the onslaught of accusations, but the brunette just nodded.

“Okay.”

Okay? Was she insane? How the fuck was any of this okay, that they were on their knees in the street in a deserted town with no son, no Henry? How was that okay?

“It is not fucking okay!”

“No, it’s not.” Regina reached out with one hand and wiped Emma’s tears away with her thumb. “But it will be.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because I’m with the Saviour and she’s never let our son down yet.”

Although they were friends, they rarely touched because neither of them was comfortable with any display of affection. There were no kisses on the cheek when they met, or hugs when they parted. They only ever had physical contact when it mattered: to protect the town; to take down an enemy; or to hug their son between them. And that was why the feeling of Regina’s thumb still gently brushing her cheek felt like an invitation Emma couldn’t refuse. She leaned forward until her forehead rested on Regina’s shoulder. It was a few seconds before Regina’s hand moved from her cheek to the back of her neck. She had strong fingers, the pressure firm and reassuring, and Emma wondered if she had comforted Henry like this when he had nightmares.

“This isn’t a nightmare, is it? I’m not going to wake up, am I?”

“No.”

“It’s another stupid fucking magic thing, isn’t it?” Emma didn’t care that she sounded like a petulant child.

“Yes.”

“We’re the only ones here, aren’t we?”

“I think so.”

“And you have no idea how we fix this, have you?”

Regina’s fingers paused momentarily. “No, I don’t.”

Crap.

+

They walked back to Emma’s house, leaving the car where it was because there was no reason to move it. Emma suggested that Regina just poof them clothed and ready but Regina, always the strategist, the planner, had insisted that they shouldn’t waste any magic until they knew what they were up against, and Emma couldn’t argue with that.

She had a very brief and very cold shower, then she dressed, leaving her bedroom door open a crack so she could fill Regina in on everything that had happened to her since 4am. Meanwhile, Regina investigated Henry’s room and the house for potential clues.

Being clean and dressed, her badge and gun attached to her favourite leather belt, made Emma feel a little better, but it was having Regina there which allowed her to regain her confidence. She didn’t want to be alone in the silence again, and if she could have picked one person to help her face whatever was going on, it would have been Regina. Even if Henry hadn’t been involved, she would have wanted Regina by her side. She didn’t doubt for a moment that Regina would give her life to protect Henry and her. The fact that she didn’t believe the same of her parents or Hook was yet another one of those things she didn’t want to think about too much, because not thinking about them was what helped her get through a normal day. And today was so far from normal, even for Storybrooke.

She finished towelling her hair dry and headed into Henry’s room, where she found Regina sitting on the bed, sizing up the contents of his backpack.

“What’re you up to?”

“I was hoping that there might be traces of magic on his things.” She dropped his science textbook back into the bag with a resigned sigh. “There’s not.”

“Hey, any idea is a good idea right now, and we should explore every one of them.” She flopped down on the bed next to her. “Did you find any clues?”

“No. Whatever this is, I don’t believe it originated here.” Regina pulled her legs up, tucking them to one side as she leaned back against their son’s pillows.

“What about you? What happened to you this morning? When did you work it all out?”

“I woke up and could feel there was something wrong, so I came straight here.”

Emma’s sixth sense for when Regina was lying was having a five-alarm fire. It was after seven when Regina reached her which meant that, even if Emma believed that Regina didn’t get up until six, there was an hour unaccounted for. And Regina wouldn’t wait an hour if she thought there might be something wrong with Henry. She wouldn’t wait twenty seconds for that.

“Are you sure?”

Regina scowled. “I came straight here.”

Okay, old, defensive Regina. Emma hadn’t seen that side of her in a while, but no-one had more experience in dealing with it than she did.

It had taken them over two years to get to the point where they trusted each other again. Okay, not fair, it had taken two and a bit years until it had got to the point where Emma was over her guilt at stealing Regina’s happy ending from her by bringing back her boyfriend’s no-longer-dead wife. Regina, the woman whom some people still saw as evil, had forgiven her a lot more quickly than Emma had forgiven herself. Because, no matter how easy it was for people to see things in terms of good and evil, it felt like Emma’s ‘good’ actions fucked Regina over every single time. She couldn’t understand why Regina kept on forgiving her, when she was just a blundering fool who acted first and thought later and kept on destroying the one person she truly loved. But, man, Regina just took all the shit life dealt her. She took it and took it, never stopped trying to be better, and that kind of inner strength was something which Emma couldn’t even imagine.

She’d got so caught up in her thoughts that she hadn’t noticed Regina staring at her, waiting for her to say something else. She shook her head and grimaced. And then realised that Regina was back to looking breathtaking again. There was no scent of magic in the air, so how the hell did she do that? How could she sit there in a pair of pyjamas and no make-up and look like the most beautiful human being Emma had ever seen?

“When did you have time to freshen up?” she asked before her brain could tell her mouth not to speak.

“Pardon?”

“All this,” Emma waved her hand in Regina’s general direction, “hair and stuff.”

Regina looked confused. “I haven’t done anything.”

“But you—” Look so amazing, she wanted to say, but she couldn’t let comments like that out just because she was feeling over-emotional. Deep breaths. Act normally. “Never mind. Doesn’t matter. So, do we have a plan?”

“I think we should split up and search the town for clues.”

“Not happening.” Emma shook her head.

“Why not?”

“There is no way in hell I’m letting you out of my sight. I’m not having you disappear on me, too. From now on, we stick together, no matter what.”

“Oh. Well, I suppose that makes sense.” Regina twisted her hands in her lap. “But we still need to check everywhere we can. There may be others left behind, and someone might know something. Also, there may still be lingering magic at the site of wherever this spell was cast.”

“You think it’s a spell?”

“I’ve considered everything else and it seems the most likely option. We are the only two with the power to cast a curse or use blood magic, and it’s not a potion, because this is too real to be a hallucination or a glamour, so that leaves a spell. You don’t need particularly strong magic for that, just intent and the right combination of words and objects.”

“Right.” Emma knew next to nothing about spells, but she didn’t want to admit that out loud. “No chance it’s a portal?” She knew a lot about portals.

“No, I would have sensed a portal. There would be residual magic in the air all over town.” Regina picked at the bedspread. “Also, it would take hours for the whole town to pass through, and wouldn’t explain why people appear to have been plucked from their homes.”

“Sleeping curse?”

Regina rolled her eyes. “Do you see any flames licking at your heels, Emma?”

She really needed to pay a lot more attention in Magic 101 in the future, because she had nothing but questions, and no clue as to what they should do.

“So, can you, like, sense the other people with your magic? I know you said that we shouldn’t waste it, but that would seem like a good use to me.”

“You’re the only person I can sense.”

“But if I’m the only one you can sense, what’s the point in looking for others who aren’t here?”

Regina made one of her classic huffing noises. “If there were fifty people in town right now, I wouldn’t know. I could, however, detect you in a crowd of thousands in less than a heartbeat.”

“I’m not following.”

“Evidently.” Regina folded her arms and shook her head, but her tone was amused.

“Maybe you’re not explaining it right.”

“And maybe you’re congenitally hard of thinking.”

Emma chuckled. “You know that means you’re saying Henry’s stupid, too?”

“Thankfully, I had trained the stupid out of him before you got your hands on him.”

“Yeah, but I have him half the time now, so maybe I’m infecting him with my stupidity genes.”

“Impossible, but the fact that you think that genetics work through proximity is further proof of your denseness.”

She grinned at Regina, who had her you’re-an-idiot-but-I-don’t-mind face on. She liked that look. She considered it to be ‘her’ look. And then she realised that they were joking about their son, their son who was not there with them in his bedroom, who had vanished with the rest of the town. Her face fell.

“We’ll get him back, won’t we?”

Regina nodded. “We always have. I have to believe we always will.”

* * * * *

Next up: Chapter 2 [U]

4 Comments

  1. Jude
    Posted 20 May 2014 at 4.54pm | Permalink

    Ooh, the happy little buzz I get when I get a message that there is a new Dev or Clom fic, and the extra thrill when I find out it is either a OUAT or SON story. And this one is full of the usual delicious little details that mark the quality writing that keep me coming back, mixed with some ‘what the fuckery’ twilight zone suspense. Add in some zingers like “Thankfully, I had trained the stupid out of him before you got your hands on him” and I can only applaud from the sidelines and say I loved it and am desperately curious to find out what is going on. It never ceases to amaze me how generous you are in continuing to share your writing.

  2. Devje
    Posted 20 May 2014 at 5.31pm | Permalink

    I rarely comment on comments, but thank you hugely. Your appreciation is very much appreciated.

    PS I was totes going for Twilight Zone, so I’m glad it came across as that.

  3. Posted 21 May 2014 at 7.14am | Permalink

    (Thumbs up) Hurry up with an update already. Geez!

  4. Posted 21 May 2014 at 7.21am | Permalink

    What she said ^^^^^ (smiley)

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