A Place to Hide – Chapter One
Summary: Lieutenant Duckling/ Captain Swan AU (pre-Neal) - Emma is transported to a magical colonial land wherein she meets mild mannered officer, Killian Jones. Looking to escape her juvenile life on the run in downtown Portland, Emma loses herself in the first true adventure she's ever had.
Word Count: 3, 089
Rating: T (for now, muahahaha)
A/N: This is dedicated to all those who sent me lovely messages of encouragement last night (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE)! You're amazing and I love you. I'm sort of using this series as a way to help me get over my anxiety around writing. The captain swan fandom is so supportive, so I know it will go well. Happy reading, and don't forget to let me know what you think! :)
Emma's heart pounded heavily with each quick pump of her legs, black boots falling loudly with each step. She dipped and darted around every street corner, attempting to lose the team of security guards hot on her tail. The wet sidewalks of downtown Portland did little to aid her escape, puddles splashing underneath her feet, kicking water up her black stockings. At least she had the cover of a cloudy night and the thick shroud of her hood to shield her identity from her pursuers.
This was the third time that week she'd been chased by the city's authorities, all of which had been very close calls. Part of it gave her a thrill – brought an excitement to her life that she couldn't get anywhere else – but it was only the most desperate of measures. Seventeen and on her own, Emma needed food to eat, clothes to wear and a place to live. The few shifts she was able to get at the truck stop diner outside of town hardly gave her enough for rent, let alone food in her belly. And the guilt she felt in her stomach told her she was only days away from being fired. Being mouthy with the more grabby customers and rude with the notoriously bad tippers hardly gave her warrant for employee of the month.
Lately the shelters were driving her insane. She had no idea where she belonged, jumping from place to place her whole life, but she knew it couldn't be with the likes of the criminals, drug addicts and the odd disparaged youths that frequented those places.
She could do it. And she'd do it on her own.
As she'd always done it.
But as she rounded the block's final corner Emma definitely knew something had to change. Her aching legs and heaving breaths were a clear sign that she couldn't keep this up for much longer. Right then she'd decided, tomorrow it was time to find a getaway car. She'd keep it non-descript, something easy and reliable. Emma had been spending the last few nights staking out the area and had a couple options in mind.
With a car she could go anywhere, with limitless possibilities. Emma liked the sound of that.
Finally, Emma jogged as quietly as she could to the end of a long alleyway to catch her breath. Her fingers clung tightly to the bag she held at her chest, the contents of which were poking her roughly through the purse. But she didn't care, Emma just grasped it tighter, hoping to wait out her followers in the dark.
After a few minutes of standing, her body plastered to the rough bricks behind her Emma sank down to the ground, her body hidden behind a tall trash bin. Letting out a deep breath, the smile that she held on her face during her escape fell fast. Opening her bag, Emma looked at the contents of her mini raid and sighed. This was it? For some reason, Emma thought she'd grabbed more, but instead was left with crackers, some fancy cheese she couldn't even pronounce the name of, a twelve pack of spearmint gum, an Apollo chocolate bar and some instant coffee. Emma shook her head. She didn't even have a kettle. Grocery stores often brought her mind back to a time when she had a family – or at least a pretend one – and all the conveniences that went along with having a home.
What was worse was that she wasn't even really craving coffee. Emma craved a cup that was hastily drank in the diner's back kitchen before rushing back to serve customers, one that wasn't sipped amongst strangers in the early hours the morning, her surroundings makeshift and sterile. She wanted a kitchen table at sunrise, someone to wake up with, a respectable job to go to – a home that smelled of coffee, and cinnamon, and hope in the morning.
Shaking her head and focusing on her stupid mistake, Emma unwrapped her candy bar and took a bite. The chocolate did nothing to numb the loneliness of the moment, as she had this strong and indescribable desire to be found, even though she was constantly hiding. She wanted someone to care enough to look – not just look, but search – Emma desperately wanted to matter that much.
But she knew she never would. She never had.
Even the cops gave up on her quickly, like they knew she was a just a lost girl, a lost cause.
Tears started to leak out the sides of her eyelids, and Emma stubbornly tried to beat them back, nibbling on the side of the chocolate bar in an attempt to dull the ache in her head and in her chest. Suddenly, large raindrops began falling on the top of her hooded figure, tinkling noises caused by the alley's metal railings and dumpsters surrounding her. The logical part of her brain told her to get up and find her way quickly back to the nearest shelter or community centre, but instead she just pushed off the heavy hood and let the rain soak through her skin and tied back blonde hair. She didn't get up, didn't move, just let the fresh water wash over her, her face tilted towards the sky.
Sitting soaking wet in that alley, Emma felt like she could escape. The thick droplets added an almost comforting weight to her clothes, and she felt just heavy enough that the ground might open its jaws and swallow her up. The thought was a welcome one.
Her foiled grocery excursion had gotten her enough for the night, but Emma knew she'd be back to stealing leftovers tomorrow morning during her 6am shift. She didn't want this life for herself, and she thought that her only way to avoid it must be to stay in this safe little puddle, water seeping out of her dress and onto the dirty cement around her. Perhaps if she stayed in one place long enough, like they taught children on tv sometimes, whoever was out there would finally find her – they'd chastise her for making it so difficult, but not really mind – Emma was all that would matter.
Her very own happy ending.
The sides of her lips tipped up at the fantasy and she decided to live in it a few moments longer.
The soothing thoughts were stolen from her at the sound of screeching tires on the slick pavement of the adjacent intersection. Emma heard several gasps and a quiet rumbling of voices from the crowd she could see gathering.
Without thought, she stood up and slung her bag across her body. Securing it tightly on her right hip, she cautiously exited her temporary hiding place, stepping out into the street. The scene before her was completely absurd.
People had gathered in the middle of the intersection, hesitantly surrounding a manhole cover which appeared to have blown off. What was weird however, was the bright green glowing that emanated from the ground, swirling dangerously and looking very out of this world. Emma couldn't believe her eyes as the growing winds threw up her ponytail to fly around her face. It was like a helicopter was touching down in the middle of the crowded street, but coming instead from beneath them, slowly rising up. Either there was some serious nuclear waste hanging out in the radio-active sewers of downtown Portland, or her eyes were playing tricks on her.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw an old school red convertible peel away from the scene, the wet streets spraying up around the spinning wheels. It looked like two men sat in the car's front seats, but Emma couldn't be sure. She tried to read the license plate through the now heavy downpour, but they'd gotten away too quickly. They all stood there entranced by the scene, and Emma took several tentative steps toward the treacherous vortex.
All of a sudden she had the strangest, most inexplicable urge to jump. It was crazy but Emma felt this desperate tug from every cell of her body, and her arms shook from the sensation. She clutched the strap of her bag tighter to try to release the confusing desire. Her green eyes stayed wide, mesmerized by the constant spinning pool, of – of nothing. Nothing from this world at least. Emma wanted to reach down and grab a handful of the green nothingness, to try and hold a piece of the enchanted emptiness.
Emma's ears perked up at the sound of shrill whistles being blown in the distance, her eyes darting to the approaching sounds and then back to her hiding place, the odd moment interrupted. The police were coming to clear the scene. They'd notice her instantly. Emma casually removed herself from the throngs of onlookers and shuffled back into the shadow of the alleyway, staying on her tiptoes in order to see over the crowd.
One block down another manhole cover was shot out of the ground, cars coming to a halt in each direction, as the green light overtook the next block.
Everything around her seemed to hold the bright green glow coming from the growing whirlpools, faces and shop windows reflecting the magical hue. Most of them held an awe-like fear that kept them back from the swirling colours, and parents kept their children behind them and away from the unknown danger. Despite the utter confusion and the sharp twinge she felt in her heart from watching the protective mothers and fathers, Emma felt a heavy relief. This could be the distraction she needed to get out of there.
But to go where? She didn't know, but made her exit anyway. Reporters would be there within minutes with their camera crews and the last thing Emma needed was to be caught on tape and broadcast across the city.
Checking that her pathway was clear of cops, she headed south down the street and threw her hood back up over her head, the waterlogged raindrops running down her neck, making her itch with discomfort. Walking just fast enough that she'd get out of there quickly, Emma tried to keep a casual pace. Up ahead, more commotion erupted as another green vortex opened up, cars swerving to avoid a collision. An air of panic began to settle over the previously awestruck pedestrians as people ran to avoid the chaos in the streets. Emma decided to run.
But, rounding a corner east away from the distress, Emma ran straight into a large body heading in the opposite direction. Her body froze when big white letters invaded her eye line – security. Keeping her face cast towards the ground Emma muttered a quick apology.
"Oh, sorry," she mumbled in her sweetest, quietest voice, shuffling to his left to pass him without notice. Emma made it a few steps before being wrenched backwards by the strap of her purse.
"YOU!" The heavy set security guard yelled, yanking her towards him. Emma struggled against his tight grip. "You are heading straight downtown miss," he started dragging her back in the direction she came, towards the police cars that surrounded the unnatural scene. "We've been looking to get you for weeks," he gloated, his tight fist on her jacket pulling her kicking feet out from under her. Emma tried to get a good punch in, but the vest covering his already thick belly made it hard for her to land a good blow.
Emma's fingers then tried to gain purchase on his face, but the guard was able to shake her off.
"Now miss, you just co-operate now and I'll be looking to get a promotion outta you. We'll hand you over to one of these nice gentlemen and I'll be sittin' pretty for the rest of the month. No one's gonna fucking believe it."
The stupid grin on his face made Emma want to scream - just another person wanting to hand her over. Another person looking to make some money off of her, like every foster family she ever had. She couldn't take it anymore.
With a quick jab Emma was able to grab a piece of his dark, thinning hair and tug on it so hard that he finally released his grip. She kept a hold of him as she whirled around to his front, bringing one quick knee up and making him fall to his knees. She took off running but the guard's cries of agony alerted everyone around her.
"Get back here! Somebody stop the little thief!" he wheezed out before she got too far.
The streets were now empty of bystanders, however swarming with police officers, and all eyes were trained on her thwarted escape. Emma was in a pickle, darting to each visible exit before they were blocked by the surrounding cops and she had to skid to a sudden stop on the slick pavement, the rain still coming down fast. Her heart beat wildly. So strong she could feel it in her fingers, hear it in her ears.
She took a quick glance around. She was completely surrounded. The security guard was slowly getting up and moving towards her, reporting something into his walkie-talkie.
This was it. The day they proved to her that she couldn't do it. She wasn't meant to succeed, to matter.
Suddenly, the strange feeling took over her again, her heart tugging towards the abandoned green light. Its vibrancy was fading now, the swirling hues slowing down and the winds calming. Without thought, Emma glanced back her darkened alleyway, her temporary hiding place, and knew that's what she wanted. Emma wanted an escape from this world – this cold hearted world – where she could be free to hide away. A place where she could let the ground swallow her up, and keep her safe.
With one more glance around at the approaching officers Emma stole herself to the impossible. She took off towards the upended manhole. Shouts of warning bounced off of the concrete of the city's streets but didn't register in Emma's thoughts. The closer she got to its light, the harder her blood pumped, the louder her heart sang.
She didn't stop, not once. She just kept pumping her feet, as she had done her whole life, until she felt the ground give out beneath her, the world going dark as clenched her eyes shut. Emma didn't even stop as she felt her feet jolted back to solid ground, her steps wobbly as her eyes opened to clear blue skies and the sound of seagulls calling overhead. She shielded her vision from the brightness, but just kept running, unable to stop her momentum.
Casting a quick glance behind her, Emma's stared in awe. Ancient ships crowded the skyline with their tall masts and white sails as they sat along the seaside, docks lining the stone walled beaches. Beaches?
Emma turned back around in confusion, her pace slowing, but it was just as a group of men were exiting a small building and she crashed right into them, knocking several over. A pile of limbs spread on the bumpy roadside.
One in particular caught her under round the back of her crown and around her waist, stopping what could have been a serious head injury. Or maybe it was what she needed in order to snap her out of whatever twisted dream this was turning out to be. The man's heroics did however leave him in a compromising position on top of her, their bodies touching in a quite intimate way with his arms surrounding her frame, but all Emma could do it stare at him. His face was right above hers, foreheads almost touching. His blue eyes were piercing and inquisitive, and his breaths came out in short huffs, fanning over her cheeks in the most pleasant way, his lips parted. Emma lost her breath altogether.
The sunlight peaked through between two ships on the horizon and lit his face so perfectly, his brown hair glowing red with its warm light. He smiled down at her face, eyes wrinkling at the corners.
"Well you're quite real, aren't you?" his sweet and unassuming voice stunned her silent.
Emma was just about to smile back at him and say thank you, when she glance at the men lingering around this perfect moment. They were in uniform – some sort of military getup – and Emma looked back her fallen savior. He wore the same insignia, metals and badges covering his chest. Panic set into her veins.
She had to get out of there. As soon as they knew who she was, what she'd done, they'd hand her over instantly. Stealing her face back to one of fierce determination, the man looked down on her in the cutest confusion. Emma shifted underneath the solider before throwing up her knee once again with a quick blow to his groin, taking him by surprise.
With a manly cry he doubled over in pain, just enough that Emma could wiggle out from under his embrace. She took off running once more, but not before she heard his shouts coming from behind her.
"Wait!" he said, before she got too far away. "Come back!"
Emma turned around too look at him once more and gave him a cheeky smile, thrilled with yet another escape, and she watched him struggle to stand. And just before she disappeared from his sight round the farthest corner, his voice echoed through Emma's entire body. Four little words caused her heart to race, her veins to ignite.
"I will find you!" he shouted with a cheerful, accented laugh.
All the breath left her lungs, but her legs kept running, searching, for a new place to hide.