I want to tell him to wait. To come back. To simply let me touch him and look at him and make sure he’s okay. I need to know that everything’s all right with him and the world. I just need to feel the heat of him. But I don’t know how to tell him all this. That I’m scared and I don’t know how to be normal. I’m broken, just like him, and I’m not sure I can fix myself.
—  The Dark and Hollow Places

hollow bones by Brooke Shaden
Via Flickr:
Darkness is a place that calls out to us, asking for a light to be brought into her depths so that she might see what she is made of. Day 14 of my December self-portrait challenge.

Dark Hollow

The Neverland arc is really one of my favourite arcs in OUAT and one of the reasons is that it was there that I started to notice the possibility of romantic Swan Queen happening, when I was first watching the show. And even now, I think it’s a gold mine when it comes to unsubtle subtext and Swendgame hints - but as much as there were several scenes there that gave me pause, nothing struck me as hard as the Dark Hollow scene.

To summarise it quickly - Neal, Hook and Emma plan to capture Pan’s shadow with a magical coconut and so they go to a place called Dark Hollow, where they know it resides. For the trap to work though, they need to light the candle first - but as soon as they arrive, Neal and Hook get into a fight over a lighter.

It’s very obvious from the beginning that there’s more to this fight than just lighting the candle as quickly as possible – Neal and Hook are rivals here, one of them trying to prove to Emma that he’s better and more helpful than the other. When Hook wants Neal to hand over the lighter to him, Neal points out how ‘Now’s not the time to try to impress Emma’. He’s aware of what’s going on between them – as is Hook, since he’ll suggest it to Emma later, when they’ll leave the hollow.

Both of them take turns and try to light the candle – both of them fail. Eventually Neal attempts to snatch the ligther out of Hook’s hand, they start grappling and soon lose the lighter completely. Then, Pan’s shadow attacks and pins them against tree trunks, tearing out their own shadows, leaving them unable to help Emma in any way.

And that’s what’s interesting about that scene - here we have two Emma’s canon love interests, fighting over her, attempting to prove their worth - and both of them end up being shown as completely unhelpful, worse even, their actions had put all of them in a far greater danger than it could have been, had they not been fighting. Neal and Hook were parts of an obvious love triangle with Emma - and if this scene clearly framed their fight as a fight for her favor, then it’s curious why neither of them seemed to end up victorious here.

In the end, Emma was able to light the candle herself, without their help. She used magic while being in the same situation Regina was talking about when she was teaching her magic in the previous episode - where it was hard for her to concentrate. So it looks like the point of that scene was to show that Emma doesn’t need a man to save her, she’s able to do it herself. And I would treat it as such, if not for the short dialogue that happens at the end.

Neal asks Emma how she did that - and she could have answered that question in many ways. I personally expected her to go simply with something like ’I used my magic’, maybe later telling them that Regina was teaching her. Or maybe replying with a snark comment about their childish behaviour. Or anything similar really. I certainly didn’t expect the answer she finally gave him. She said one single word.


She doesn’t talk about her own actions here, instead she points out that Regina played an important role in what had just happened. She recalls that Regina is teaching her magic - and for some reason she has a very surprised look on her face at that moment. Maybe she didn’t expect Regina’s harsh advices to actually turn out to be so useful. Maybe she didn’t expect Regina, of all people, to be the one whose help turned out to be so crucial.

This particular writing decision sets up Regina as the person who is able to help Emma when others aren’t. And I think it doesn’t necessarily contradict the message that Emma is perfectly capable of saving herself - because Regina’s part in this was only to help Emma reach her hidden potential and teach her how to use it. In the end it was Emma who saved the group in the Dark Hollow but it wouldn’t have happened, if not for Regina.

This was the first time Regina was shown to be the one who brings out what’s best in Emma. It makes me think of 3x17 when Regina was also teaching Emma magic, this time by making the bridge collapse and saying ‘It’s inside you Emma. Save the bridge - save yourself.’ Again, not interfering and doing the work for her but instead helping her realise she can do it herself. And it also makes me think of the parallel with Snowing from 3x02, when Charming planted fake Excalibur in a stone because he wanted Snow to believe in herself and be the person he knew she could be - ‘You had it inside you the entire time. You just… needed some help to realise that.’.

So in conclusion - in this scene we saw Emma’s two canon love interests competing with each other, fighting to be the one who would help Emma defeat Pan’s Shadow and both of them failing miserably, since Emma was able to do that herself. However it was emphasized that there was one person without whose help it couldn’t be possible - Regina, who was not even present, and yet so important that her name was the first thing for Emma to say after all was done. It was Regina who turned out to be more helpful to Emma than her current love interests. In a way, it was Regina who ‘won’ this fight.

And damn, if this scene wasn’t the narrative framing Regina as Emma’s another love interest, the one whose story will play out after Neal and Hook’s, then I don’t know what it was. I believe it’s one of several examples, that can be found in 3A, of the show portraying Neal, Hook and Regina as Emma’s past, present and future.

This is the scene that made me think that maybe, just maybe, there is a chance for Emma and Regina ending up as a couple - and since I already loved their relationship up till this point and I anticipated their further development, I didn’t need much more convincing to ship them. It was like something just clicked in and I realised what a fantastic story it would make. ;)

The moment I started shipping Swan Queen was the moment I first noticed the real – imho – possibility of it actually happening.


Day 1 - The moment you started shipping Swan Queen

An uncanny silence
  The deepest of all
No sound, no air
   Not a physical space.

Dark, cold, a hollow place to stay
  So chaotic, a mashed pile of wet hay
Yet beauty blossoms from this place

It´s me again, let´s try it again

Not even I know
the content of myself
  A puzzle?
A cave!
 A tunnel from hell to Earth

Welcome to my head
 Where death and beauty date
and dance from moon to sun
  From ash to dust
From birth to death
from blinks till sleep

Perfect autonomous machine.

So. I was right to be anxious.

I may need to take some time to collect my thoughts. But once collected, I don’t think I’ll necessarily be okay

I dug myself this hole. I hyperfixated on a handful of things to the point where every other thought and emotion (some really strong emotions!) I had was about them, these stories, and everything was tangled up in them… And yet I knew they would eventually be ruined. I knew it was coming – hence the anxiety – but it was too late to fix things after so many months.

Imagine if half of the thoughts in your (flawed, neurodivergent) brain suddenly turned bad. Some disappear, some curl up like wilting leaves, some go dark.

All that’s left it this inescapable emptiness. This hollow place where I should have put all kinds of thoughts, I just had two fragile obsessions, and they shattered.

There’s a lesson to be learned here. I hope I do learn it. But for now, it’s pretty unsettling. I saw it coming a mile away but the axe has finally fallen. 

For anyone followers who have been keeping track of my mental state… you’re probably not that surprised, huh? This is exactly what was always going to happen.

Steve didn’t get sick.  Not anymore.

Mostly, it was a running joke, that Steve didn’t get sick.  They chuckled about it, when Clint was huddled under a battered SHIELD hoodie looking petulant and feverish.  When Bruce got up and drank a cup of tea, then promptly went right back to bed.  When Tony sneezed continuously through a meeting, ignoring everyone’s attempts to get him to leave.  When Natasha moved slowly from room to room, porcelain pale and with dark hollows beneath her eyes until she found a safe hiding place.  Even when Thor stomped from one end of the Tower to the other, the thunder rattling inside his head almost audible for anyone nearby.

Steve didn’t get sick.  He hadn’t since the serum.

And when they groused at him, when they muttered half-hearted curses at his immune system in half a dozen languages, he just smiled, and said that he’d done his time. He’d been sick enough, thank you very much.  His entire life, he’d been sick, and he’d gotten it out of his system.

Steve didn’t get sick.  It was only fair.  If life could ever be called fair, this was fair.

Sometimes, he wished he could, though.

Tony didn’t like to be sick, and he didn’t like to admit that he was sick.  During the day, he’d deny it with a few tense words, and swallow a pill or two when he thought no one was looking.  A few aspirin and a cup of coffee, and he’d be on his way, his jaw set and his eyes promising murder to anyone who dared to bring it up.

Steve brought it up anyway.  Tony didn’t appreciate it.  

Steve didn’t get sick, Tony grumbled about that, when he got sick, and Steve would just smile and get him something warm to drink that didn’t involve caffeine or alcohol.

But some nights, Steve would be awakened by the sound of Tony coughing, and he’d remember.

He remembered that, remembered it in a way that was still vivid, still terrifying.  He remembered the way a coughing fit could go on and on and on.  The way he would cough until there was no more air left in him.  Until the cough was not a sound, nor a exhale of breath, but just a rattling contraction of muscle and bone that shook him to the core.  The way that he would inhale, desperate and afraid, only to lose the hard won oxygen before it could do him any good.

He remembered coughing until his body was drawn up tight, his arms and his legs and his head all folded up, wrapped around his spasming, empty lungs.  He remembered coughing until his ribs vibrated like a drumhead, hollow and empty and about to split.

He remembered coughing until he cried, and until he nearly bled.  Until he did bleed, flecks of red like glitter across his pillow.  He remembered learning to bury his face in arm, his fingers clawing at whatever they could reach, just to keep things clean.  He remembered the way it would dry on his skin, bright red going dull, going dark against skin that was almost whiter than his linens.  It stayed there, because he was too tired, too weak to get up and clean it.

He remembered all of it, as he listened to Tony struggle to hide his cough, to muffle the sound in his pillow or a tissue.

The air wasn’t stained with coal soot anymore, and their bedroom was always warm, their bed was always clean.  There was no hint of black mold, clinging to the damp edges of building materials so substandard that they were probably illegal.  There was a doctor near, who would come if Steve called, there was medicine and care.  

Tony wasn’t going to die, because of a cough.

But Steve would lie there, in the darkest points of the night, and listen to Tony cough, ragged and hollow, and he would feel his own lungs empty.  In some half-rational sympathetic response, he would wait, unwilling or unable to inhale until he felt Tony do it first.

He’d spent years, unable to take a deep breath.  He was used to it.  He’d been sick for so long.

Steve couldn’t get sick anymore.

But sometimes, he’d roll over, curling close to Tony’s back, wrapping an arm around him, giving him something to hold onto as he coughed, as he shook, and wish that he could.  

Instead, he held on, and tried to breathe for them both.

So I just finished the Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan.

*may contain Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy spoilers*

When I got The Dark and Hollow Places, I was like “MUST READ AHHH” because I’ve been obsessed with the Forest of Hands and Teeth storyline for a long time.

At the beginning, I was like, “Yeah, this is going to be fun!”

And then Annah was all “I’m ugly” all the time and it’s super annoying

Then Catcher comes into the story and I'm like

And then I think Annah gets bitten

Then they all go to the Sanctuary and for a while it's boring

But then the Recruiters and the first death cage scene happens and I’m all “WTF?!”

And then the snow scene with Catcher and Annah and I’m all "Awww :)“ at first

But then he pushes her away

And I’m like

And multiple encounters with greasy old Recruiters trying to kill/molest Annah

And then Gabry and Annah are basically freezing to death

Elias and Gabry seem like they’re going to die

And then Annah gets thrown in the death cage

All the while I’m reading this, I’m bawling my eyes out, my body is tense, and I can’t stop cringing.

Catcher kills Conall

Carrie Ryan writes all these badass quotes

Annah is running and running and running…

And I feel like this by the end of the book:

My emotions are so worn out, but it was SUCH a good trilogy.