Warning: Understandable confusion concerning Rapunzel's name in this chapter. We never DID get to know if Gothel called Rapunzel by the name of the king and queen, or made it up herself. Which leaves the possibility that 'Rapunzel' isn't her 'real' name. Hence this name.

Apologies if this feels like a slow start. I promise it's not ALWAYS going to be introspection and minor action. As the people in music may or may not like to say, the bass just hasn't dropped yet. :)

And so it continues.


Chapter 1

.Lucky.

The town was small. It was smaller than he remembered. And along the way, they had even managed to become impossibly, indecently decorated. It had past garish several miles ago and was rounding on ridiculous. Sweepers had not yet risen in the night to clean up the glitter covering the sensible stone floors. It wreaked of joy. Pitch's lip curled at a couple pressed against one another as he stalked by, their moans almost sinful in the childish surroundings. Banners waved at pedestrians in the gentle air drafts.

It was disgusting.

And it wasn't even slightly what it appeared to be.

Beneath all the energy was what he'd come here for. What he needed was here, oh and wasn't it just blooming! So much fear and anxiety just waiting to be harvested, fear for their children, a child's first taste of fear as their fragile minds finally began to understand the legends surrounding their quiet, shiny little hometown. Someone had been evil enough to kidnap a baby, had been quick and clever enough to do it inside the palace walls. Their humble homes were no patrolled estate. Would that person come back one day for their children? Would they one day have posters with their faces on it? Would they one day be an image lost to the world, a picture never continued, a novel never finished? Would they too one day cease to exist?

Oh and wasn't this just perfect.

Pitch found himself tracing lines along the walls. Sand oozed from the walls and curled around his wrists, around his head, following invisible currents in the air. It wasn't much, not even half of what he'd been but a month ago. It had taken some time to get here, more than he'd like to admit, but this was worth it. This- This fear- it was everything! It was everything he could've asked for! Oh, no, not really, not everything, but it was so much more than what he'd had in what felt like ages already and-.

His nostrils flared, the scent tracing his tongue and curling around nerves he didn't know existed. His whole body vibrated, muscles clenching as the smell turned towards a rather bold and familiar centerpiece.

"Oh, my dear Queen," he murmured, slowly stepping down the walkway and towards the less-than-subtle castle. "How I have missed you . . ."

He dissolved into the air, shooting around poles holding banners, drinking up the last remnants of any dream that had taken a natural turn for the worst. Even still it was only by sheer willpower that Pitch managed to make his way towards the castle. But his driving remained erratic, sending him veering continuously off-course and running into the various decorations. There seemed to be quite a lot out. An enormous, definitely new mural etched into the floor had caught his attention long enough for a streamer to catch his leg.

With a cry of surprise, Pitch partially materialized, taking a gut-strangling dive towards the floor before righting himself.

The result was a less-than-stellar landing.

He rolled until his head cracked against the wall and then lurched forward, ready to hurl. He hacked and spit once, glittering plastic suns falling to the floor instead of a technicolor burp. He huffed at his gracelessness. When he could stand to do so, he shook extra glitter from his hair and made his way to the foot of the Queen's bed.

"I've gone through much trouble to get here, Madame." He purred, leaning over her form as he sat down beside her. She snuffed once in her sleep. "You wouldn't believe the mess your people have made in town. It's atrocious. What are they up to?"

His hand reached out to caress her face, and sand fell off her skin like snow before absorbing into his palm. He breathed a heavy sigh of relief, drinking it in like water. He stayed his hand, pouring over the delightfully dark images. The emotionally absent mother was a fountain of energy for him. If the commute wasn't so lengthy and hazardous, he ventured he might have come more often. The woman's soft features fell into something along the lines of pain. She sniffed into the dark, a quiet sort of fear.

"Sssh, shh, don't fight it," he urged gently. "Tell me about your fear. Tell me what it is that plagues you tonight."

It was wonderful. Like taking a bath after years of being stuck in the mud. Why had he stopped seeking out natural nightmares?

"Yes, that's it," he purred as she whimpered again. "You fear you aren't a good mother, that you've failed your precious baby girl. You're afraid you'll never see her again, is that it? How does it feel to know that you weren't good enough? Tell me how the story of your heartache. Write me the lyrics of your sinful song."

Pitch's skin felt warm with the flush of fear, and he rolled his neck with delight, even shivering as he reached out to trace patterns on the sleeping King's hand. Together he rolled in their feelings, his mouth opening into a wide smirk, tongue rolling with unspoken ecstasy. So immersed he was in his own sultry feeding that the spike in peace came almost as a physical blow.

"Oh hello," he looked down to the Queen, the flood of black coming to an abrupt and wholly unwelcome trickle. "What is this?"

Brunette hair. The picture of a girl, maybe the queen in her youth, drawing in the sunlight. It left a thick film in his mouth; like drinking tasteless honey. It began to make his way down his throat, gagging him, until he finally regained his senses and jerked his hand away.

Too thick to be a conjuring. That was a memory. And as the same sickly odor began to consume the King as well, Pitch kept his hands to himself. He hissed at them and stood, backing into the wall. Something was wrong. Something terrible had happened; something terrible was happening.

"This isn't-."

Someone screamed.

And he was drowning in infinity.

Images. Horrible, awful things. A woman's sharp, murderous expression accompanied by the sting of betrayal, enough to fill lifetimes. A man's face without personality, with pallor. His lips were blue and once-attractive features had been distorted into something limp and morbid. Everything felt cold. Everything felt sore as shadows of people who he felt rather than saw slipped away from him. His heart screamed as he was left alone, isolated, surrounded by a warmth while his own chill kept potential friends at bay. He was alone. He had always been alone.

And Pitch Black had never felt so magnificently consumed.

When Pitch managed to blink the spots from his eyes, he was met with the sight of the queen shrugging on her robe and racing from the room. The king wasn't far behind. That sappy nonsense was gone completely, and with a feral grin, he sunk into the shadows and gave chase.

From chandelier to tracing the edge of a picture frame, rolling into the darkness created by torches. Guards lit lanterns one by one as their rulers raced down the hallway, each armored soldier scrambling to perform. It was havoc. It was perfection.

And all the while, the voice screamed. It screamed and shouted and sobbed until the door was slammed open, and other voices gave small shouts of surprise. The queen entered while the king shared quick words with his men, body subtly blocking the doorway.

Unholy glee intact, Pitch slipped into the room and materialized in an apparently unused plush chair. He situated himself elegantly to watch the scene being played out.

Maids were standing at attention, all of them looking strangely serene in spite of the situation. They were not fooling Pitch-he could smell their wariness- but he had to admire the professionalism. They were even dressed and combed appropriately. The queen hardly seemed to noticed them as she brushed the huddle aside, collapsing into the circle of bodies, and murmured soothing words. The screaming melted into sobs that fooled no one into believing she had recovered. Pitch hissed in unadulterated excitement. His toes curled in ecstasy and he tilted his head back, allowing the nightmare to soothe the aches in his bones and buzz in his head.

"Eu-EUGENE!"

"Ssh," the queen interrupted. "Hush. It was just a dream, my love. You're safe here."

Pitch rolled his eyes and contemplated taking his leave now. This was all so dreadfully systematic. But he really did want to get a good look at the infantile little monster shrieking so loudly. The maids continued to block his view, shuffling around, adjusting things he couldn't yet see.

Sobs did not properly describe the noises the child was making. The sounds that came out were strained, the result of a face contorted in emotional agony. It was the cries of trauma relived. The sound of a being gritting its teeth and squeezing its eyes shut, doing its absolute best to sink out of its body and die. It was trapped. It was hurt. It was alone. And it was so familiar to a man like Pitch that he leaned forwards in his seat, resting his wrists on his knees.

The king approached, and the maids parted and disappeared out the door.

Pitch's mouth cocked in a soundless, sadistic 'oh'.

"Not a child at all," he murmured to the air, cupping his chin thoughtfully. "My, my, sweet princess. What kept you so long?"

It wasn't difficult to figure out the identity of the strange, beautiful banshee. And she was beautiful. For centuries Pitch had maintained the appearance of a man in his mid-twenties, while this girl was far more freshly bloomed. Her introduction to adulthood was recent. And she was the spitting image of her mother. Beautiful indeed . . .

"Lucy," the king murmured softly as he embraced both of his girls. "Its alright, Lucy. You're well now.

"Lu-Lu," her mother sighed, tucking her daughter under her chin. She slowly began rocking her into peace. "My sweet baby Lu-Lu."

Pitch rolled his eyes and pushed himself from the chair. The night was quickly turning difficult and dull. Things had changed for the better in this grand household and he suspected the effect would soon leach into the town. Before long the purifying effect of natural nightmares would turn toxic; fear would be replaced by naivety once more. He wasn't strong enough to create yet, only leach. The sand would return. But he'd have to be patient.

"I'll be seeing you all," he said cheerfully, stalking towards the cuddly little family. He tapped the Queen on her nose, ignoring the fact that the edge of his finger went through her skin completely. "You've still a song to sing me, your highness. And I do hate unfinished business."

He peered at the whimpering girl who'd managed to subside into hyperactive pants. Her erratic breathing was the only thing keeping the room from falling into silence. Pitch leered at her, running a finger along her disheveled hair, licking his lips at the sight of cold sweat moistening her flawless skin. She looked rather sickly for a princess.

"Beggars can't be choosers, but I'd have thought royalty might be the exception," he leaned his knees onto the bed, hovering close to her face as she rubbed her knuckles over her tear stains. "You're awfully late to the party, aren't you, princess? What was it that kept you?"

His thumb brushed her cheekbone. If it felt just a little too warm, well, he hadn't been exaggerating her sickly appearance. It seemed even the offspring of kings wasn't immune to the crippling effect of depression. Sand leftover from the residual fear kissed everywhere his skin made contact, and greedily, he let his palms cup either side of her face carefully. No need to ruin the illusion by passing through her face.

"Who is it that plagues your soul, dear girl?" And he leaned closer, to the point he was breathing on her skin. His jaw opened, breathing a cool huff of air over her skin, tongue locking behind teeth before hissing, "Tell. Me."

She shivered, and Pitch could've sworn for an instant she met him in the eye. His face went slack as green eyes trailed the patterns of his cheekbones, his eyes. But immediately after he became infected by the delusion she closed her eyes, buried her face in her mother's side, and sighed. Her face was flushed from her tears, and her father ran a soothing hand over her aching forehead. The three laid together, the younger spooned into her mother's side as the elder woman ran her thumbs along her baby's cheekbones, whispering sweet nonsense. The girl continued to breathe as though she'd forgotten for a while, and was just remembering what it felt like as her father ran a palm over her back.

It was, in all, sickly.

Pitch shook his head of his thoughts and disgust, brushing off his cloak with the side of his palms. He felt filthy, and his tongue still felt a little swollen in his mouth. He curled it once, pressing the front flat against his teeth and sucking. It made a loud squeaky sound.

The girl bolted upright and stared.

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Pitch could've sworn.

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He would've bet his life that she did.

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She couldn't.

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She had to see him.

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She was looking right at him!

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"What is it, honey?"

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"Are you alright?"

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"Did you see something, Lucy?"

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"Lucy?"

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"No. I didn't."


A flower.

That damned flower.

Rapunzel wished with all her heart that it had never come to her mother. She wished she'd died. She wished that this had never happened She wished . . . she wished a lot of things.

Lucky.

Their world- her inheritance- didn't know the meaning of the word.

Luck was fortune. Luck meant never having to work for what you desired. Luck meant the world falling into place, in alphabetical order and neat little rows, shuffled into little gilded boxes that could be plucked up at her convenience. This life . . . she was not. Lucky. She was hardly anything as of late. And everyone who said otherwise was a fool and wrong. They were so. Very. Wrong.

So why am I the only one who can see that?

Rapunzel- Lucy stared at the world that was supposed to belong to her, would one day marinate under her rule, and feared. She was truly and honestly afraid. Fear was no new thing to her, no, not at all. Gothel had raised her on fear. Her safe, naive little life that seemed to be ages ago now had thrived on that singular, paralyzing emotion. Even now as Rapunzel watched the world pass her by, she knew that if she tried, even if she dared, she wouldn't be able to move. Her life was a picture, and she was hardly the focal point. It wasn't fair, but it was true, and that's what nearly scared her the most. Nearly being the key word, as up until last night, she had been utterly convinced her worst fear was inheriting the kingdom she was not fit to rule. Up until last night, she'd only been haunted by her past in her dreams.

Up until last night, she hadn't stared Death's leer in the face.

Gray skin and golden eyes seemed indented into the glass window, and, affronted, she turned away. But unnaturally handsome features twisted into a leer peered out at her from the swirling patterns on her floor and Rapunzel found she was breathing just a little too heavily.

She wished she hadn't opened her eyes. She wished that Death wasn't hovering around her, waiting to steal another loved one from her. The former blonde would be a liar if she claimed to have seen Its wicked face before the abrupt demises of her two loved ones, but much had changed since then. In the same way she wondered why It would reveal itself, she questioned why it wouldn't. Who better to flaunt your great power in front of then a princess who already bore the scars from dearly departed loved ones. Why not Rapunzel? Why not taunt her just a little bit more? Why not take one more thing from her microscopic collection of loved ones?

"I can do this," she hissed to herself. "I. Am not. Afraid."

She beat witches and death. She survived. Like her mother said, she was still here and she was safe. She was better than a phantom image. She was better. She could be better. She could do. Better. So maybe she hadn't showed it lately, and maybe her own actions had proved herself wrong. But in a rare moment of clarity, Rapunzel fisted her hands and stared down the etchings in the floor until they disappeared into nothing more than random, natural features of wood. And when that was done and she could pick out no fanged faces or gilded eyes, she stared down the window and found the image there too had disappeared. Her eyes rolled to the ceiling, the light of the moon not reaching far enough to illuminate the half-hearted, hand-drawn outlines of paintings she'd never begun.

A light breeze tickled her neck. Rapunzel's muscles seized of their own accord.

Better, she reminded herself. I can be better.

"I know you're there," she told the darkness, eyes darting around the room. "And I am not afraid of you."

Her skin warmed as the breeze faded. Rapunzel exhaled and ran her hand along the goosebumps of her neck. She was talking to floorboards and the moon. Awesome. If she didn't know better . . .

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. . . from the corner of one shockingly green eye . . .

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. . . a small shift of darkness, hardly important, barely noticeable . . .

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A bony hand slid to the back of her neck, and Rapunzel moved no more.

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"Are you sure?"

And she screamed.


Sorry for the ridiculously late update!